Will it not be a relief to all of mankind to have this dreary question settled once and for all, proved or disproved? Imagine! We shall no longer have to listen to preachers haranguing unbelievers about God’s existence, and professors haranguing people about God’s nonexistence and mythic structures?
But I’ve always been suspicious of the word “love,” what with its gross abuse and overuse. There is no cheaper word. I can’t say tell her I “love” her, because I don’t really know what “love” means . . .
Now when she finishes a Pentecostal service, she loves everybody with a swooning melting tearful smiling love which scares hell out of me. Is that love? Count me out.
The very persons who spoke most about “people’s democracy” or “the freedom and sacredness of the individual were most likely, he was convinced, to be possessed by demons.
Who else but a madman could sit in a pod of rock under a thousand feet of mountain and feel better than he had felt in years, feel so good that he smiled again and snapped his fingers as if he had made a discovery? I’ve got you both, he said aloud, God-seekers and suicides, I’ve got you all, God, Jews, Christians, unbelievers, Romans, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Yankees, rebs, blacks, tigers. At last at last at last. It took me a lifetime, but I’ve got you by the short hairs now. One of you has to cough it up. There is no way I cannot find out.
Even if worst comes to worst, he thought with a smile, to suicide, it will turn out well. My suicide will represent progress in the history of suicide. Unlike my father’s, it will be done in good faith, logically, neatly, and unobtrusively, unobtrusive even to the Prudential Insurance Company. Moreover, I shall arrange to be found.
What is more, it will advance knowledge.
His plan was simple: wait. The elegance of it pleased him. As cheerfully as a puttering scientist who hits on a simple, elegant experiment which will, must, yield a clear yes or no, he set about his calculations. The trick was to devise a single wait which would force one of two answers, not more, not less. If a yes, then to be able to leave and act on the yes. If a no, then to act on the no and at the same time euchre the Prudential Insurance Company out of the money he felt coming to him, to leave Sutter one million richer, and so to be found with the Placidyl gone from the floor of the cave but gone also from his blood. Lewis would find him eventually—
—Ah, to make doubly sure, drop a note down the chimney. He did: Help! he wrote. With tiger, fifty feet above. He frowned. That’s confusing. They might not know which tiger. He wrote another note. I’m fifty feet above this place and can’t move. I think I’ve had a small stroke or an arterial spasm.
Vance Battle had told him about arterial spasms. They could mimic a stroke yet an autopsy would show nothing.
The second note he folded and dropped down the shaft.
Ninety-six capsules. Three a day could give him tranquillity for thirty-two days. Then he’d be too weak to move anyhow and yet live long enough to get rid of the drug.
This way everybody wins. God, if he exists, is not affronted. If he doesn’t, Sutter gets the one million.
There will be plenty of time for asking God—that is called prayer!—between knockout drops. I am no hero! to sit here for a month and starve without a drug is too much of a bore to consider.
Speak, God, or be silent. And if you’re silent, I’ll understand that.
O ye mystics who go out in the desert and see visions, o ye old men who dream dreams, who believes you?
O ye suicides who go not so gently into that good nothing, you can’t tell me either. But I’ve beat you both. In either case I’ll know.
Speak, God, and let me know if the Jews are a sign and the Last Days are at hand.
If the Last Days are at hand, one shall know what to do. I shall go to Megiddo with Sutter and wait for the Stranger from the East.
If you do not speak and the Jews are not a sign, then that too is an answer of sorts. It means that what is at hand are not the Last Days but only the last days, my last days, a minor event, to be sure, but an event of importance to me.