Ch. 6 The Fanatic and the Atheist

"Atheism and fanaticism are two monsters which may tear society into pieces; but the atheist preserves his reason, which checks his propensity to mischief, while the fanatic is under the influence of a madness which is constantly goading him on." – Philosophical Dictionary, Voltaire

"You poor excuse for a human being!" screeched one of the men as he dealt the other a sound blow on the nose, "how can you believe in such poppy cock?! Can't you see that it's all just a big lie to hide from the unknown? You coward!"

The other man already flushed a deep beet red, blushed an awful shade of purple. "How dare you!" he sputtered letting go of the man's hair and spitting in his face. "How dare you deny the almighty? I hope you rot in HELL!"

The man, who was rather short compared to his red faced opponent, wiped the frothy spittle from his face, a look of consternation and rage twisting his otherwise handsome features. "But, there is no Hell to…" he started then turned away in disgust, "oh never mind." He looked at the shocked face of the scientist with appeal, "You see what I have to deal with! This…." He gestured to the man, "lunatic!"

The "lunatic" was tall and lanky with spade like hands and feet that shook with an impassioned anger. His hair was cut close to his scalp and his eyes bulged with what Noah and Moses mutually agreed upon to be insanity. In fact compared to him, the other man looked quite calm and collected, despite the bitter contempt that radiated off of him like a freezing winter chill.

"I have to admit, I quite agree with you," said the scientist composing himself and shooting the magician a triumphant glare. "That makes two against one. Beat that!"

The magician opened his mouth in indignation to reply but then eyeing the heavily breathing man turned towards him and asked, "Why, you do believe in the after life don't you?"

If the man's already buggy eyes could bulge out even further, they did. "You!" he hissed pointing a trembling finger at the magician. The magician drew back away from the overgrown, yellowed nail. "You heretic! Why you don't even deserve to live!"

The magician cowered in horror. "I was only asking…" he squeaked, but was cut off by a vicious gesture from the raving man. "You are worse than him or him," said the man pointing to the atheist and scientist who looked equally aghast. "How dare you speak to me!"

The magician mouthed wordlessly and then fell back to hide behind the stunned scientist. However, the atheist stepped forward. "You have no right to judge!" he said angrily.

"I have every right!" screamed the man balling up his hands for a fight. "I have every right that you do not have, you atheist!"

"Better an atheist than a fanatic! At least I do not live a lie!" said the atheist.

"Why you!" shouted the fanatic and he leapt at the atheist, tackling him in a ferocious bear hug.

Noah and Moses hung back, wondering just how "mad" these two men might be. Moses turned to ask the magician why these men were so fond of fighting only to discover him embroiled in yet another heated argument with the scientist.

"I told you I was right!"

"This has nothing to do with it!"

"A heretic, hey?"

"You wholly-warted scientist!"

"You befuddled old man!"

And so on and so forth. For Noah and Moses, this was all getting quite confusing and none of the bickering had answered what questions the two most desired, where was 'here' and why where they 'here.'

They stood watching the scrabbles until Moses, quite fed up shouted "STOP!"

The magician and the scientist paused to stare quizzically down at the small cadaverous children, while the atheist with one last punch to the fanatic's bulbous nose, extracted himself from the tangle of arm and legs and tripped over a protruding tree branch.

"Can't we all just work together?" asked Moses and was met with a series of derisive snorts and a sarcastic laugh from the atheist. "I mean, we don't even know where 'here' is or what it is….I'm so cold…" he mumbled shivering in the warm, balmy air. "I'm so cold all the time and I don't know why."

"Well, I already told you the answer…" sniffed the magician, "and no one believed me."

"Why you fool…" started the scientist.

"Oh shut up," said the atheist standing up, "Why can't you all just be quiet for one minute and let me think."

"More of your corrupted thoughts?" mumbled the fanatic, who was mopping up blood from his nose onto his shirt sleeve.

The atheist glared at him threateningly and then turned to look at the two shivering children.

"We are here, because this is merely a dream, a figment of our minds turned reality. We make it reality, you see, by believing that this 'here' as you call it is a real, tangible place. We have to embrace that this place, this 'here' is actually not here at all and that it is in fact a nothingness that follows life. There is no…after life, or Heaven or Hell. It's all just a make-believe story so as to comfort ourselves from inevitable passing into nothing. We are merely here, because we wish to be here nothing more."

"So what you mean is that we aren't here?" asked Noah confused.

"Precisely," said the atheist as if this answered all the questions in the world.

"You liar," said the fanatic his eyes glinting with hatred.

"I'm not lying," replied the atheist his voice raising several octaves. "You must believe me," he pleaded, "it's the truth, I know so."

"But how do you know," asked Moses.

"I…" the atheist faltered. He looked lost, almost afraid as if this simple question has pull the buttresses out from under all of the his beliefs and left him floundering in a sea of uncertainty.

"Do you hear that?" said the scientist.

They cocked their heads in silence listening. It drifted out from the pale shadows of the trees, a simple melody pleasant yet indescribably melancholy. They stood still, mesmerized by the tune. Walking through the trees was a man clothed in brilliantly white robes that seemed to soak up the suns rays. He was humming contentedly while latching together a fresh daisy chain. His eyes were pleasant and vacant and he smiled kindly at the four men, who seemed to cower before his gentle gaze.

Noah and Moses however, felt a heat radiate from their hearts to the tips of their frozen blue fingers and they felt for the first time in this mysterious 'here,' happy.

The man sits alone by the boy's bedside. They are inseparable, one caught in the icy clutches of death while the other holds onto life. His hair over the years has long since lost its color and his face the firmness of youth. In his speckled weathered hand, he clasps the small ivory-blue hand of the dying child. He doesn't have much time now. The doctors informed him. The virus has killed an entire generation, young men and women and children lay in mass graves, piled up on doorsteps. The dead overrun the cities and it is not much better in the countryside. Not enough coffins or soil for that matter. If life could spare one person, the man prays that it can be this boy, the small baby he resurrected on that cold winter's night so long ago. He sits there alone thinking of the boy and where he might be now caught between life and death and wonders if he is trying to find his way back…or if he wants to.