“Judgment Day, Judgment Day, ten days to Judgment day,” the woman said, clutching a stack of brochures. Everyone else sitting on the train station benches hunched down and ignored her.
“Judgment Day? Really?” I said. “I had no idea. Please, tell me more!”
Walk around Market East in a fluorescent yellow shirt that says “Judgment Day!” telling everyone that they have ten days to turn to Jesus, and I just can’t help myself.
The woman looked at me warily. “If you read the Bible, it be right there in it. God is coming to destroy the world in fire. 200,000 will be taken up and billions and billions will burn in torment.”
“Why would God do that?” I wondered.
“It is in the Bible,” she said. “200,000 are taken up by Jesus. The earth will open in fire and earthquakes. God is going to destroy the world because of all its sins.”
“200,000, wow, that’s not very many,” I said.
“The world has six billion people,” the man on the bench next to me roused himself. “And the rest are all just going to die?”
“It is the judgment,” she said. “God is going to smite the world in torture and fire. You read the Bible, you see it there.”
“Me, I’m a humanist,” said the man. “All you need is love. But boy, I guess you hope you’re one of the 200,000.”
She raised a palm to the ceiling. “I pray, I pray.”
“How did we get this 200,000 figure?” I asked.
A train pulled up to the platform. The man got up. “Nope, I’ve got time for this,” he declared, and sat back down.
“God says in the Bible that the Judgment is coming in ten days, and the 200,000 will be taken up,” she replied. “It is because of his anger because of all the man trying to marry man and woman trying to marry woman.”
“Here we go,” the man said.
“I see.” I said. “Is it just all those bad homosexuals who are going to burn in the rapture, or are some of the good heterosexual people going to be sucked into the earthquakes with them, just because God’s so pissed?”
“There is still time to turn to Jesus,” she answered. “Pray, pray to Jesus. It is in the Bible that the great rapture is in ten days. Seven billion people will burn, they will all burn.”
“Six billion,” the man corrected.
“Please tell me – so, are all these earthquakes and tsunamis, like in Japan, are they just like a little free sample from God about what he’s going to do to us after next week?”
“Now you be mocking the word of the Bible,” she said.
“Well, I just want to know, how are you preparing?” I asked. “I guess you’re not worried about the June rent?”
She walked away, declining to give me the pamphlet which I assume held some tips on joining God’s chosen. I wanted one, but I lost her in the crowd until I saw her boarding the very same train that the man and I were boarding. She was silent.
“Have a great night,” the man called to me as he entered another car.
When I got home, I Googled “May 21st, 2011” and was soon engrossed in a website titled “Judgment Day!” and featuring a giant hourglass trickling its last grains of sand.
The opening quote was a riveting one: “And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.”
I caught up on the real history of world. “The Bible’s calendar of history is completely accurate and trustworthy,” I learned. How do we know the world is ending next Saturday? “It was in the year 4990 BC that God revealed to Noah that there would be yet 7 days until the flood of waters would be upon the earth. Now, if we substitute 1000 years for each one of those 7 days, we get 7000 years. And when we project 7000 years into the future from 4990 BC, we find that it falls on the year 2011 AD.”
Need more proof? “The amount of information available is far too abundant and complex” to explain here, the website says. But it is important to know that God left all churches on May 21st, 1988 and Satan took his place – perhaps God couldn’t stand all the acid-washed jeans and fingerless gloves.
Never mind, on to the good stuff. On May 21st, “true believers elected by God” will be “raptured”: that is, taken up to be with the Lord in the air.
The other “billions” will begin five months of the worst tortures imaginable, including mass earthquakes. Then, just when you thought that at least you’d get to go Trick-or-Treating while all the goody-goodies are floating with Jesus in the candy-free air, the Earth itself will be destroyed on October 21st. “God is tenderhearted and full of mercy,” the tract finishes. But “there is no possibility that God will not follow through on His intention to destroy the world in 2011.”
This leaves me to consider what I will do on May 20th. I think I’ll stomp on my calculator, since I’ll no longer need to figure out whether I can meet my student loan payments and still pay the electric bill. Then I’ll write a few e-mails without bothering to read them over for typos. Next, I’ll spend all the money that would have gone towards June bills on a flight. At the airport, I’ll eat two Auntie Anne’s cinnamon sugar pretzels and a Cinnabon. Once I arrive in the U.S Virgin Islands, I’ll go to the nearest store and buy an umbrella, a cooler, and six cartons of Häagen Dazs ice cream, each one a different flavor. I’ll sit on the beach and eat them one after the other while reading “Pride and Prejudice”.
All this makes me realize that Ms. Judgment Day did not cut a very convincing figure. If I truly believed I had less than two weeks left on Earth, I would not spend it riding SEPTA trains in a bulky neon-yellow T-shirt with a foot-high stack of brochures in my arms. I noticed the woman’s hair: it was beautifully braided. My sisters-in-law are African and I know how many hours it takes for them to get their hair done. Personally, I wouldn’t waste that kind of time in the face of the Rapture, unless I thought good hair would give me a leg up with the Lord.
As the train reached my stop and I stood up to exit, I saw the woman’s shirt glowing in the back of the car. She was watching me with narrowed eyes, watching me fall into the fiery pit and writhe with scorpion stings.
I’m sure it’s just the attitude God is looking for, come next Saturday.