1 with apologies to Adam West, Ralph Nader, and the authors of Left Behind.
It is 2006.
Noah enters the famine factory. He’s wearing a baseball cap and he’s carrying a notepad.
“I want famine to be safe, ” Noah says.
Judd Stevens, his guide, looks uncomfortable.
“More than fifteen thousand workers have died at your factory in the last year,” Noah says. “Most companies would have taken this as an opportunity to review their work conditions and precautions. You—”
“My dear Mr. Childe,” Judd says.
“You took it as an opportunity to count them against production.”
The apocalypse machine is running all around them. It is black and burning red and rises as far as Noah’s eyes can see. Workers cling to the machine like insects to a cliff, climbing, tinkering, a seething hive of men. They are emaciated. The famine radiation has melted the fat from their frames.
“My dear Mr. Childe,” Judd says again. “You must understand that each of those fifteen thousand starved to death. It’s purely in alignment with the code.”
A worker loses his grip and plummets. Noah makes a check mark on his notepad.
“Starvation?” Noah says.
“They work until they die,” says Judd. “Poor dears. We would feed them more, but even ‘Hungry Man meals’ do not help.”
Noah rubs his finger along the machine. It comes away grimy. The grime makes him feel hungry.
“They are ‘over one pound of food,'” Judd says. “Yum.”
“This is unsanitary,” Noah says. He tastes his finger. “And hideous.”
Judd grits his teeth. He turns to Noah. “What makes you think I will not leave you here?” he says.
“I believe the consumer can check shameless corporate power,” Noah says.
“This is the belly of the beast,” Judd says.
But Noah makes a call.
His new life began almost two years ago. Bush and Kerry earned millions of votes, but only 144,000 people turned out to vote for Nader.
Noah had not been one of them. He believed, truly he did, but he was seduced away from Nader by the siren call of brand-name whiskey, and, later, by a hangover. When the Rapture came on November 8 and 144000 Nader voters ascended bodily into Heaven, Noah realized his mistake.
Cars went out of control.
Minifridges sat empty.
Swivel chairs spun in silence.
Nader’s picture presided over empty beds.
Without the guidance of strong consumerist principles, the world fell overnight into savagery. And Noah saw what would come.
“These are the days of the Tribulation,” he said. “When Antichrist, Inc. shall rise to rule the world. Its subsidiary companies shall churn out war, bloodshed, famine, pestilence, and death. And the people shall be alone.”
And so he made his devil’s bargain.
It is 2006, and Noah is starving. He is also on hold.
“You can’t be lax just because you serve evil,” Noah says. “If you don’t respect your workers, they won’t respect you.”
“My dear Mr. Childe,” Judd says. “People will starve overseas for a quarter of what we must pay them in America.”
Judd is not sure whether to sneer triumphantly or look nervous. He doesn’t know whom Noah is trying to call.
“You’re not competitive overseas,” Noah points out. “They can manufacture their own famines better and more efficiently than Antichrist, Inc.”
Judd strokes his goatee. “Granted,” he says. He looks down. “I suppose that after I forge your favorable report, I should think upon your principles.”
“Hello?” Noah says into the phone. His stomach rumbles with desperation. “I must speak to Nick Squamous. Immediately.”
In 2004, Nick Squamous was nothing more than a handsome multimillionaire playboy obsessed with his parents’ death. Some people, in his position, might have put on a batsuit and become a crime-fighting furry. Nick Squamous’ path differed. He prevailed on his connections in the Skull and Bones society to become the Antichrist, instead, selling his soul for immortality.
“Why should I hire you?” he said, to Noah, shortly afterwards.
“Because the Apocalypse is consumer-driven,” Noah answered.
Nick toyed with his Antichrist-a-rang. “Go on.”
“‘Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production,'” Noah said, “‘and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.’ Adam Smith.”
“Naturally,” Nick said, “I studied his work in the Mysterious Orient.”
“You can generate war, bloodshed, famine, pestilence, and death,” Noah said.
“Also,” Nick said, “hail, fire, blood upon the earth, a burning mountain falling into the sea, and the Wormwood star falling on the rivers and streams.”
“It’s in the second stage of the business plan,” Nick explained.
“You can generate these things,” Noah said doggedly, “but only insofar as there is a market for them. In short, you rely on the very population you’re killing for the efficiency of your services.”
“Hm,” Nick said, examining a can of Antichrist Shark Repellent for possible inclusion in his utility belt. “And, since there is no mortal force external to Antichrist Inc. capable of imposing regulation upon us, you suggest that I should impose it internally.”
“But why you?”
“I am the last of the Naderites,” Noah said.
Nick arrived at a decision. He stood. He offered his hand. “You’re in.”
It is 2006, and Judd is quite clearly beginning to sweat.
“Yes, sir,” Noah says into the phone. “No, sir. Yes, quite hungry, sir. Just one or two sizes, sir. No, sir. No, he’s not, sir.”
Noah holds out the phone. “He’d like to speak to you.”
Judd takes the phone. He looks unhappy.
“I’ll be waiting outside,” Noah says. And he walks out the door of the famine factory, whistling to himself.
In 2011, Ralph Nader shall return, twenty feet tall, to banish the sinners and usher in a thousand year consumerist reign.
In the meantime, there are only men like Noah, small, feeble, and fallible, but keeping the flame alive.