The Number of the Beast

Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
Revelation 13:18

I’m too lazy to check the online subway schedule. I didn’t even realize that there was one until I’d lived in this city for like five years. Until then I always assumed the trains were just conjured up at the whim of some malevolent, underground spirit, whose sole purpose was to ruin my day. But through good old fashioned trial and error (mostly error), I’ve discovered that my morning train actually departs consistently at 7:58 am. On the dot. Every day. I guess that means I can stop sacrificing chickens to the subway gods now.

Now that I’m not leaving my transportation fate to the whims of the weather underground, I have more purpose in my morning stride. Gotta be on the platform by 7:56. There are probably other trains that arrive a few minutes before and after, but I don’t check schedules so who knows. To me, as I fumble with my shoelaces at my front door at 7:53, the 7:58 train is the only sure thing in this world.

Like a mad man, I limp down the sidewalk, pushing the young and weak aside. With my adrenaline-heightened senses, I detect a commotion on the tracks below. It’s the train!  I dive head-first down the stairs, and then I see it. It’s just sitting there, gleaming, fifty yards down the platform. The conductor’s head is out, waiting for the last passengers to exit. I rise to my feet and start pumping like Ben Johnson. I try to scream to the conductor, but I can only gasp. He looks me right in the eyes as the train lets out a groan and slowly pulls away, and disappears into the dark tunnel. I chalk it up to fate. No point in cursing the weather.

When I finally do catch a train, I take a seat and plunge my head into a good book as soon as I can before some nut-case has the chance to piss me off. There will be plenty of time for that once I get to school. This morning I kept getting distracted by a spooky voice talking about God. “It is my duty to spread the word. Now is the time and the day is fast approaching.” I’ve finally gone mad, I thought. The voices are here.

Luckily, the voice actually belonged to a frail Jamaican lady with yellow eyes. She had a homespun gray knit cap on her head, and her clothes were very simple and old-fashioned. She held a thick book in her hand with a shiny, ox-blood cover. She looked as if she could have been preaching at a crossroads deep in the lush Jamaican mountains.

“God will set a famine upon the Earth,” she shouted above the grating metal. “It will not be a famine of bread, nor will it be a famine for tussle of water. It will be a famine for the word of God.”

I kept trying to read, but she was winning the battle for my attention. I didn’t dare look at her lest I attract more brimstone than I could handle, but I tried to make out what she was saying.

“God is comin’ and judgement day is fast approaching! John stood upon Mount Zion and he saw a Beast!”

At this point it was getting interesting and even a little profound, in a theatrical kind of way. But then she couldn’t stop. She was fully possessed by the spirit now. She needed only to open her mouth and an endless procession of revelations tumbled out. By minute fifteen it began to get a bit frightening. And by the the time I was close to my stop, I wondered if I hadn’t been smuggled to a black-site prison and was being administered some new kind of pyschological torture.

“In the Book of Revelation!”
Clashing of steel.
“And the seven angels!”
Wheels roaring.
“Water and fire!”
Tracks rumbling.
“River of blood!”
Doors hissing.
“Babylon is falling, that great city!”

Lord Have Mercy, I thought as I stumbled toward school.

When I got there, word was circulating that the Dominican gangs were joining forces with the other Spanish gangs against the Crips, and now the Crips were going to make a move to try to send a message about who really controls the building.

Dean Dave scoffed at the news. “They want this place?” He laughed. “I’d be like, ‘No no no no! It’s yours! You can have it! This place is yours! Not ours!”

Chuckling, I reached for the phone to call the head of security just let him know what we had heard. He was in the Principal’s office.

“What’s her extension again?” I asked.

A voice from the other room responded, “6 – 6 – 6!”

You’ve gotta be kidding me.


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