“They are manufacturing Armageddon,” he shouted loud. “Behind a shroud of wispy smoke, and stories passed on down through the ages.” I watched him talk and I watched the few who took notice. They kept their distance from the man, and moved on their way. But not me, I was fascinated, by him. He was draped in cardboard hanging from his shoulders by thin ropes. His megaphone had long since run out of batteries, but he held it to his mouth anyway for show. His voice was getting scratchy and horse from the yelling but the words continued to pour out ceaselessly.
“Rex Mundi walks, and twists the minds of the feeble sheep. He is the dark king that rules from the shadows,” he said. I noticed he had nothing to drink by him, or food to eat. He wore a beige button up with a pocket protector where his black markers and pens sat peeking out from behind the sandwich board. His trousers were black and faded and his loafers gave him the look of Sunday church. But it was Tuesday in Chicago, and the streets were a bustle and blur of sound and motion. He stood in the center of the passing crowds of pedestrians, who stepped aside from the plain preaching madman, as if h e were a beggar. He held out no hat for tips, nor asked for any.
I sat on a stone bench in front20of the old Marshall Field’s building eating lunch. I sat there every day at the same time. Today was different though with the arrival of the prophet. This prophet did not speak of religion like the others I have seen from time to time, preaching fire and brimstone, and eternal damnation to the sinners, no, this man was different. His cardboard bulletin had strange things written all over it like (The pretend end is nigh, or, I am sorry I was mislead but I was text messaging). He never noticed me looking. I don’t think he was here for attention. His eyes were so full of purpose that they demanded a listener though, but there were none who listened except for me.
“Fear feeds the fire and blood oils the cogs of the great wheel of history. We are doomed to repeat what we ignored the first times around. And, repeat we will, for we walk into it woefully ignorant. My fellow sheep stop and look at the sky for a moment. Do you notice that it is blue? Do you see the thunderclouds on the horizon? Look!” He pointed upward without looking. Instead he watched, as I did, the unreceptive, trudge on trapped in forward momentum. His eyes were sad and he bowed his head low, pausing his serm on for a moment. He looked like a statue in a dying garden. His head lifted and his lips pulled over his teeth in controlled fury. “These buildings you rush too are but dust in the cosmos, as are we. In t he river of time, do you think that any of this will be of any importance? No, I say, it will be washed away in a torrent of time’s infintesitude. Do you think the minutes you live by add up to a pile of gold? They are barely a breath.” He would not be beat by indifference, I noticed. He was not a slave to what people’s opinions of him were. He was a simple man with a bad dream.
I felt weird checking my watch right then, after what I had just heard, but I was already late caught up in the reverie of my musings. I stood up and dusted my pants and de-wrinkled. I walked towards my building and right past the man who sort of had his back turned towards me. As I passed him I connected eyes with him. It was as if a magnet was turned on inside my cells. His eyes locked on mine, as he continued to speak and I continued to walk, unable to look away.
“Remember my friends, my words today,” He spoke and I was walking slowly backwards listening. “They are manufacturing Armageddon to trap our minds. Fear is a fire kept behind glass. It is allowed enough air to breath, and enough fuel to last. It must not be allowed to spread for it burns down the house. And no one can live in a burned down home.”
He turned his eyes away, and continued to shout, as I made it to my building and went back in to work feeling empty. What did he mean by that last thing he said, No one can live in a burned down home?