A Matter of Perception -
10-22-2012, 09:10 PM
Crystal Rathbone gazed goggle-eyed at the neon wonderland that was the Las Vegas Strip, the constant changing panoply of light and color dancing and flickering before her pale blue eyes. Never in her fifteen years growing up in that one-horse town in southern Nevada had she seen such brilliance, such enticing attractions for entertainments (half of which she could never see because she was underage), and such glamor this side of Hollywood.
But there was only one attraction she wanted to see above all else, and that was Criss Angel, the hottest magician ever to grace the TV screen. She had seen him only on the small screen of her family's nineteen-inch set, with headphones on so as not to wake her parents. They didn't exactly hate Criss Angel, they just couldn't understand what she saw in him, so they simply chalked it off as a schoolgirl crush, puppy love as it was. They simply didn't understand how she truly felt about him. He was her Prince Charming, her Angel of Light bringing joy to her humdrum life. It wasn't a crush (Mr. Sylvester in junior high school--that was a crush), but genuine, adoring, unselfish love, the kind that leads to marriage and a happily ever after. She had scrimped and saved and went without a lot of little luxuries to afford to come here and see him, riding with her friend, Hayley, and chaperoned by her nineteen year old sister, Courtney. Haley was as big a fan of Criss Angel as Crystal, but Courtney was a hard-core skeptic, always cutting Criss down, blowing off his illusions as "camera tricks", grousing all the way to Vegas.
Now she was here, in Las Vegas, and down aways was the big black pyramid where her beloved lived, the Luxor Hotel. She and Hayley sat in the back seat of the car, keeping a sharp eye out for it. With the blinding bright apex and racing lights up the corners, it was not too difficult to spot.
"There it is!" Crystal squealed. "There's the Luxor!"
Hayley squealed in reply, jumping up and down on the seat. Courtney whipped her head around from the driver's seat. "Will you two get a grip?" she snapped. "It's not like we're going to be staying there! We can barely afford the room we got already!"
"But Criss is going to be there!" Hayley pointed out.
"Criss! Criss! Criss!" Courtney sneered. "It's always about Criss, isn't it? If I hear that phoney's name again, I am going to scream!"
"Criss isn't a phoney!" Crystal shot back.
"SHUT UP ABOUT (BLEEPING) CRISS!" Courtney shrieked. "The guy's a (bleeping) phoney and a fraud!"
She swerved around a corner and up the drive of a more modest motel off the Strip, slingshotting into the nearest parking space. She bolted out of the car, grabbing her purse from the front seat. "You two stay here while I check in," she ordered, and marched into the motel office.
Relieved that Courtney was gone for a while, Crystal and Haley pulled out their itinerary for Criss' latest demonstration to take place the next day, poring over the computer printout like generals strategizing for battle. They were going to be front row center even if they had to camp out overnight. It was going to be squeetastic!
Cole Shoope rode his dirt bike across the California state border towards Las Vegas. From his previous trips to Vegas, he had learned to stay off the main highway, stay on the side streets and cut across the desert so as not to be spotted. He was only thirteen, though tall for his age, and if the Highway Patrol caught him, he'd be up (bleep) creek without a canoe, let alone a paddle. But to see Criss Angel, his idol, it was well worth the risk. Criss Angel was the MindFreak, the immortal, the man who could bend and break the laws of nature at his whim. Criss Angel was God.
He had to keep his devotion a secret from his schoolmates, those upright, uptight cliquish All-American snobs at the private school his parents forced him to attend. They wanted him to be a lawyer, like his father and grandfather before him, but the very thought of being cooped up in some office writing legal briefs filled Cole with revulsion. No, his destiny lay with Criss Angel. He dreamed of being his protege, his apprentice, to study at the feet of the Master himself, as Criss studied under the legendary Houdini. His parents dismissed his interest in magic as a passing fad, though his lawyer father rationalized his impromptu performances as a way to develop public speaking skills and to be at ease before groups of people, a benefit for a future attorney. He was way off base as far as Cole was concerned. He just didn't understand--no one did.
Cole stopped before the sign on the desert road: LAS VEGAS 26 mi. He was almost at his destination. Tomorrow he would see his idol in action, performing another death-defying demonstration to prove yet again that he was the greatest magician who ever lived. As if he actually needed proof; his record spoke for itself. But Cole wanted to be there, to see Criss live in person. He had to witness it for himself, to learn from it. It was the only way.
Randy Winterfield, a long standing member of the Gideon society, stood on the corner of one of Vegas' busiest thoroughfares with a large cardboard carton filled with small New Testaments, handing one out to each passerby. Some took them, others turned him down, thinking he was a Jehovah's Witness or something. They didn't know that the Gideons had no affiliation with any particular denomination, but was a separate organization who spread the Gospel by placing Bibles in prisons, hospitals, military bases and hotel rooms. Today, Randy was handing out their pocket sized New Testaments to all who wanted one, smiling and greeting each person he met with "The Lord be with you!" He was doing God's work, and was happy as a clam.
A grungy looking character wearing heavy silver crosses around his neck came forward, a couple of cameramen in his wake. Randy smiled at him. "The Lord be with you!" he said.
Criss Angel stopped in his tracks. "And also with you," he responded in kind.
Randy handed him a New Testament. "We're giving out the Word of God for free today. No charge."
Criss took the small book. "Thank you," he said, looking at the green covered book no bigger than an iPod. "Say, would you like to participate in a little demonstration?"
Randy looked quizzically at Criss, but nodded all the same.
"Now, we never met before, right?" Criss asked him.
"Okay, all you have to do is open this book at random and pick out a chapter and verse," Criss instructed him. "But don't tell me what it is."
Randy did as he was told while Criss turned his back. "Found it," he said.
"Okay, is it...the Book of...Matthew, is it?:
"Is it verse...no, chapter seven, right?"
"Yes, it is."
"Book of Matthew, chapter seven...the first verse."
"Okay, show the camera."
Randy held up the small book in front of the lens, pointing out the verse Criss predicted. Criss shook Randy's hand.
"Have a blessed day," Randy said cheerily.
"Back at you, bro." Criss walked away, sticking the little book in the inside pocket of his leather jacket and thinking no more about it. He had to get to the Magic Castle for his scheduled afternoon performance, and he hated to be late.
Randy stared after Criss, then turned to the cameraman still remaining. "That was incredible!" he exclaimed. "It would have been even more impressive if he said the actual verse. It's 'Judge not, lest ye also be judged'. Still, it was pretty amazing how he did it--I mean, his back was to me all the time."
Mario Mendoza loaded his camera for the afternoon's shooting. He had caught some minor celebs on the Strip and got a few pix, but they weren't anything to write home about, or to the paper, either. He needed some real action--a fight, a celeb couple, someone cheating on their spouse--anything to make it worthwhile. This was Sin City, for crying out loud! Strippers, gamblers, mobsters! The day he was having, it might as well be Mayberry, RFD. Where was the action?
Mario looked around. Nothing. Maybe he should go back to his office, wait until nightfall. Maybe then things would start perking up. The nightlife always bought out the best--or worst, depending on your point of view--in people. Even a photographer for VERVE! magazine could have a slow day.
Wait a minute, hold the phone! There was Criss Angel coming up the street. Mario readied his camera. Wait for it...wait for it...aw, geez! He went into the Magic Castle, alone. No girls, no drunken behavior, nothing! Criss Angel going into the Magic Castle was like a priest going into a church. Big deal! Mario lowered his camera in defeat. He would wait until nightfall after all. No sense wasting his time chasing celebs when they wern't doing anything or with anyone else.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
It was right there, in black and white, plain as day, Hiram Block thought to himself, yet this wicked city continued to indulge the evil practices of that minion of Satan who dwelled in that pagan black pyramid in the heart of it, surrounded by heathen idols of the Pharoah who had been destroyed by the Hand of God Himself with the Seven Plagues. The city had forsaken the One True God for that sorcerer!
There would be a day of reckoning, he told the people. The Lord would smite down the armies of the Anti-Christ and raise up the true believers, casting the rest into eternal damnation. This modern day Babylon was doomed to perdition. Save yourselves, he pleaded. Save your souls! Repent, for the Day of the Lord was at hand!
They would not listen to him, Hiram Block, devoted servant to Christ. His warnings went in one ear and out the other with nothing to block traffic. They were too caught up in their gaming and flesh-peddling to heed him. But he would not give up. He would not succumb to the sin of despair. He would continue spreading the message of the Second Coming as long as there was breath in his body.
But lately, he'd been thinking, maybe it was time for a change of tactics. Words were easily ignored, but actions spoke louder. If he could find a way to rid this wicked city of the source of all its sin, then the road to redemption would be easier to trod. Cut it off at the root and throw it in the fire which there was no quenching.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. The answer had been in front of him all along. He'd been a fool not to recognize it before. True, the Bible forbade killing itself in the Ten Commandments, but when it came to witches, even the Lord made an exception. Yes, for the good of the city, for the good of America, for the greater glory of the Lord, Criss Angel must die.