Paul typically wore jeans and jumpers whenever he was out in public, however, today he felt his lunch date, if that was what it was, with Deaspara required something a little more formal. He was dressed in a white shirt with a red tie and a pair of his father’s pants, which were noticeably too short for him. He arrived at the restaurant, and was guided to a table for two and commenced waiting for his date to arrive. Although, he wasn’t entirely sure if it was a date, he was sure he had seen a wedding ring on her left hand, but was it perhaps on her right hand and he had gotten confused? He would definitely check today, and besides, even if it isn’t a date, the soup van desperately needed some more money to pay for the food. The demand for food from the homeless only grew bigger each year; it was already beyond what the small parish could comfortably afford.
Deaspara was watching him from the balcony of a neighbouring building with the single minded focus of a bird of prey. Syndi was not far from her cigarette in her left hand, and a beer in her right.
“Awww, the boy has dressed up for our little lunch date! I forgot how sweet these innocent young lambs can be,” snickered Deaspara.
Syndi burped loudly before responding, “You reckon you can break his faith in god? Telling him how scared you are of god probably didn’t get far with him last night.”
“Oh it will be easy. I have destroyed the faith of many Christian men in my career. That line I used about being scared of god, it messes with men’s heads. Men have a longing to rescue and protect women; the image of a controlling oppressive god picking on a helpless small woman is just to work a little bit of doubt into his heart. It creates a crack in their armour. Today, I will start hitting hard at that crack to create a small cavity of doubt and see if I can’t get him to swallow some good old fashioned religious ridicule in the process,” she paused for a moment to take a sip from a straw delicately, “I never get bored of doing missions like this. Whenever I see those dim pitiful eyes as their souls plunge into the depths of nihilism I feel an exquisitely wicked joy running up and down my spine. Our gods are clever and strong, and by Tagora’s name their god is silly and weak.”
Syndi chuckled, “Meanwhile, that girl Kelly, she’s taken a fancy to this monk Kent. I encouraged it knowing full well Kent couldn’t reciprocate her advances hoping it would create a fracture in their relationship. Guess what? Some dumb girl falls into a pit while she’s out walking with Kent and he rescues this girl. She is now convinced he’s in love with this girl because he spent the whole night taking care of her and Kelly’s not happy about it. Not one little bit!”
Deaspara smiled, “What’s your plan?”
“I’m taking Kelly out tonight and I am going to get her so smashed she won’t remember her name. Then lead her into bed with the filthiest sleaze I can find.”
“Good idea, she will need a sympathetic drinking buddy. This other girl though, the one she thinks Kent fancies, you had better find out who she is so she doesn’t interfere with our plans. In the meantime, I have kept Paul waiting long enough, I had better go down there and start clawing at this faith.”
“May I watch as you cut him up?”
“My dear Syndi, you must hear everything, it’s necessary for your Tyranni education. Have you got your DI handy?”
Syndi pulled a black object from her pocket. It looked like just a regular smart phone, similar to the devices that Kent and Suvarin carried around with them. It was called a DI, which stood for Dark Instrument, but it was essentially a smart phone with only a handful of additional features that most spies probably used too. Both the Tyranni and the Aeshir had gone to the trouble of creating their own unique models of smart phones that while often lagging behind technologically, they were nonetheless completely invisible to the rest of the world, and therefore completely secret along with their contents. Using these devices both groups were able to network and co-ordinate their activities without the governments of any country aware of what they were doing. While the intelligence and police agencies of most countries knew of the existence of these two religious groups, even after decades, they had no idea of the scope of their membership or activities. Historically, small religious groups often manipulated governments for their own interests without the public knowing any better because officially groups like the Tyranni and Aeshir didn’t exist.
Deaspara set her DI to eavesdropping mode, “Here, set your DI to eavesdrop on mine. You will hear our entire conversation. Now, I had better get down there and start pouring the despair and ridicule into that young man’s heart. My greatest weapon? My breasts. I bet Paul hasn’t even looked at pornography once in his life, the good Christian boy he is. He’s going to be blown away!”
Deaspara handed the binoculars to Syndi and hurried down to the restaurant where Paul was waiting for her patiently. She was wearing high heels, black gloves, and her favour long blue skirt. The neckline of her top plunged steeply down the centre of her chest revealing the entirety of her cleavage. What she liked about this outfit was that because it covered everything else up so comprehensively people often thought it was modest at first glance. They were seldom prepared for the sting she could deliver below her neckline when she wanted to. It is the great weakness of men and women to treat delightful things as good on face value alone.
Sitting down across from Paul, she made a scene of tugging at her gloves, the vigorous movements she made reverberated through the rest of her body. Paul started to sweat, for he had noticed the jiggling and was trying to pretend he hadn’t when his eyes felt as though they were being pulled up to gaze at her. Sensing the unease of her victim, Deaspara felt more at ease. She fluttered her long fake eyelashes enthusiastically and thanked Paul emphatically for meeting her for lunch.
“O Paul, what a morning I have had! The hospital just eats up every moment of my life. I can’t stand the place. It’s so lovely to be able to get away from it to be with you.”
Paul blushed from the intensity of Deaspara’s expression, which he took to be sincere.
“First of all, I must apologise for being so rude making those comments about religion last night.”
“Oh, that’s fine Deaspara, that didn’t shake my faith at all.”
“Call me Dee, and of course it didn’t hurt your faith, if you believe in regular acts of communal cannibalism are a good thing how could I harm a faith like that?” Said Deaspara her eyes and lips seductively animated.
Paul was so distracted that he smiled and nodded along with her comment before what she had meant fully settled into his consciousness. Then noticing her mischievous smile assumed that she must have been joking. So he decided to just agree for now, no point rocking the boat for a simple joke, because then he would just be embarrassing himself for not being good humoured enough to take a joke.
Syndi across the street chortled and texted her mistress, “Did he just passively agree that cannibalism is an acceptable thing?”
Deaspara glanced out the window and made a point to nod her head in Syndi’s direction while smiling. At this point Paul had started to suspect that what she said wasn’t terribly funny and asked her to explain it, even though he did feel silly asking.
“Well each week at mass, you have a Eucharist right? Isn’t that meant to be the body and blood of Jesus himself?”
Paul was stunned and before he could answer Deaspara interrupted him by taking a bread roll from the table, holding it above her eyes with both hands and declared, “this is my body that I have freely given up for you!” She snapped the bread roll in two and giggled, “Oops, I just snapped god in half.”
Paul chuckled along with her nervously, unsure what to say, as despite feeling uncomfortable, he could see how silly the ritual might look to an outsider.
“I had better snap God apart again so we have the trinity,” she continued, and winked at him flirtatiously.
Paul laughed more enthusiastically this time, sensing an opportunity to win more favour with her.
“It’s so silly isn’t it? Christians pride themselves on not being pagans but what could be more pagan than human sacrifice and eating the flesh and blood communally?”
Paul felt like he should push back against her but his mind seemed to be all fog. He told himself he didn’t want to be too wooden and boring. This beautiful fun woman in front of him was talking about getting some much needed money for the soup van. He told himself that he needed to be more relaxed and not to allow himself to get upset too easily. I am not betraying my faith, I am being diplomatic and this was for the greater good. He told himself.
“I always thought it was funny how he had twelve Apostles that he travelled around with,” continued Deaspara, “It’s like he’s some pagan sun god and the Apostles are just the months of the year. Also, get this: Judas betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver. 30 pieces, so that’s one for each day of his month.”
Paul gasped audibly, “Twelve Apostles, twelve months, I never noticed that before.”
“Well he is the Sun of God isn’t he?”
“Wow, I actually hadn’t noticed all these pagan elements before. I remember in Sunday school being told all the time about the dangers and evil of the pagans,” Paul could feel his knees growing numb and start shaking. He thought to himself that these were good points she was making, because he didn’t have a good explanation for them.
“It’s really strange isn’t it? Did you know there are roughly nine months between Easter and Christmas? Because that’s the gestation time for a baby. He’s born at Christmas, dies at Easter, and then is reconceived before being born again over and over again for eternity: it’s more pagan symbolism.”
Paul was speechless. Pagan had always been an insult, something used to mock other religions especially the ancient Romans, Greeks, and Norse. Syndi messaged her mistress, “He looks quite pale, aren’t you afraid of pushing him too hard?” Deaspara considered this carefully, it was true, she could push him too hard that has happened before to her, so she changed tact, the laughter dried up from her eyes, and was replaced with concern and warmth. She took his hand with both of hers asked him sympathetically what was going on for him while she was leaning across the table.
“Well, this is going to sound silly, but I never noticed all this paganism in Christianity. I knew that the Church adopted some pagan festivals like the Easter and the winter solstice, but those are some other big aspects of paganism you are pointing out right there that I hadn’t noticed.”
“How old are you Paul?”
“When I was your age, I thought Christianity was the most amazing religion there was. I mean, it had the son of god in it: god came down and impregnated a human woman. That’s got to be special and unique right? But then I realised that’s exactly what Zeus and the other pagan gods did too. They slept with humans and created demigods. Sometime in my early 20s I just came to the conclusion that Christianity was just a pagan cult that was jealous of people worshipping other gods and drove away all the other cults to become monotheistic.”
Paul’s mouth dropped open and he stared wide-eyed into the space just in front of Deaspara. Zeus came down from the Heavens and impregnated the woman Alcmene and she gave birth to Heracles, the greatest of Greek heroes. Yahweh came down from heaven and impregnated the woman Mary and she gave birth to Jesus, the greatest messenger from God. He was so shocked by the similarity between Greek myth and Christ’s conception that when he noticed the wedding ring on Deaspara’s hand he did not care, all he cared about was the warmth of her touch and the deep warmth he perceived in her eyes.
Paul was silent for a minute before responding with, “how old are you, Dee?”
Deaspara’s DI buzzed, looking down she read a text from Syndi, “Typical man, his faith is under attack but he’s more concerned with a woman’s age!”
“How old do you think I am?” she said, the warmth in her face effortlessly transitioning into a cheeky smile.
“24, no, wait, 23.”
Deaspara beamed mischievously, “oh how sweet of you to say, I am actually 26.”
“You look beautiful Deaspara, so beautiful I never would have guessed you were over 24.”
The two of them locked their eyes together and Despara leaned closer ever so slightly.
Syndi messaged, “26! Lol! If only he knew the truth!”
The conversation ventured off religion for a while Paul, all the time Deaspara was touching or even stroking his hand. Paul felt the skin on his neck tingling from the influence of her affectionate rub.
“Actually, I don’t think that stuff about Jesus’ life and the Eucharist is all that important,” he changed the subject, “What matters is that god gave his one and only son for us.”
Deaspara froze and instantly Paul felt like he had made a terrible mistake. Deaspara released his hand and withdrew from touching him. Under the table she crossed her legs and put them to one side. He already felt silly and embarrassed before she spoke. The sudden withdrawal of her touch conjured up in his mind the image of him lying in a grassy field touching Deaspara’s long slim body, but then she rolled away from him and he could not reach her. A flare of pain flashed through his chest. Looking up at the woman in front of him at the table he could read the expression on her face telling him that his chances of ever touching her body were drying up quickly for she was displeased with him.
“Paul,” she started, “that’s actually the most stupid thing about Christianity. Jesus is god right? He can’t die. He’s omnipotent and omniscient. He knew what was going to happen; he allowed it to happen, then he ‘died’ for a couple of days and came back from the dead. He basically just gave up his weekend for us. It was no big deal for him. He made no real sacrifice. Besides, how could he possibly die for our sins, when they’re ours? God just comes across as irrational and narcissistic in the way he over inflates his accomplishments. The Christian god is a petty attention seeking god who only pretends to care through insignificant and largely symbolic sacrifices that literally mean nothing for an omnipotent god.”
The sternness of her voice frightened Paul, he could see in his mind’s eye the opportunity to be alone with Deaspara on that field drifting away from him. Right now nothing mattered more to him than rekindling that possibility of touching her. He swallowed hard, and looked into her eyes.
“Yeah, it’s all a load of childish nonsense,” he eventually croaked.
The light had faded from Paul’s eyes and he looked down on the table in front of him morosely. “It’s a silly doomsday cult that only an idiot could take seriously.”
Deaspara opened her mouth wide, and underneath the table she leaned in towards him parting her legs underneath the table. Her hands reached out to grasp Paul’s once more but then she separated his hands and moved each hand to the edge of the table. To Paul it looked like her entire body was opening up to him like a flower, and then drawing him into it.
“Paul, I am so impressed with you. You are such a brave, sensitive, and intelligent young man. I wish I could have met you earlier in my life. Men like you are so rare in this world.”
Paul drew in a deep breath and gazed dumbfounded into Deaspara’s eyes. Shockwaves of pain and pleasure reverberated through his mind. The rest of Paul’s lunch date was shrouded in the haze of a romantic lens flare; while Deaspara felt relaxed, confident, and focused. Paul volunteered to pay for Deaspara’s meal and drinks and Deaspara used the opportunity to send a quick message to Syndi.
“The wound in his faith has festered. Now to let the gangrene of nihilism set in.”