I stare at the Multitude gathered before Eve, here in Hades’ Box at the End of the World.
Waiting to tear us limb from limb.
Adam: Fear not, my son. I did. I AM!
She stares at us.
Fear and anger declare a cease fire to the war they had been waging across her face.
What is there now?
At least curiosity?
Eve: You… you aren’t here to take me away?
Despite her earlier venom at that thought, she sounds more disappointed than relieved.
Adam smiles the smile of the damned.
Yet his eyes glow with a heavenly light.
Adam: Eve, my love, I wish with all my heart that I could again be with you in Paradise.
And before this Day ends, I believe we will.
But this one has shown me (nodding in my direction) that the only path back to Heaven runs through the Gates of Hell.
I have much to atone for.
He turns to face the Multitude.
A shiver runs up my spine.
He can’t be serious.
Ernie: Adam, no! May this never be!
Despite the gravity of his face, he turns to me with a twinkle in his eye.
Adam: Ernie, my son, have you been with me all this time, and yet still don’t know me?
These are my children, too.
Yes, they and the ones who abused them in my name.
You have given me a great gift.
Few men have the privilege of finding out just how badly they failed their children.
No man has ever been able to make such a sacrifice to secure the woman he loves.
Ernie: But don’t you realize where we are? This is where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
Once you surrender to the Multitude, there can never be an end to their vengeance.
Eve herself can’t stop them.
Adam: That is why I need you here.
Ernie: What? I can’t stop them.
(I look down at my feet)
I… I’m sorry.
You know I’d do anything on earth for you.
I braved Hell itself to find you.
But this… this is beyond me.
I… I can’t…
I am interrupted by his laugh.
I expected it to be hysterical.
Or bitter, mocking.
But it is rich, alive, joyful.
Adam: Ernie, Ernie.
Do you still not see?
Are you really so consumed by your shame that you can’t see mine?
Or my glory?
You are not here to save me.
You are here to save Eve!
I glance over at my ultimate Mother.
Then back at Father.
Ernie: Ummmm… how?
You do know I gave up the Master Key of St. Peter.
And frankly, I’m not so sure she even wants to be saved.
Adam turns and grabs my shoulders.
Looks me straight in the eye.
Adam: You just have to trust me.
I know you don’t understand what is going on.
I realize this seems like a horrible disaster.
I can see that deep down, you fear that this is all your fault.
But I declare to you today that the fault is not yours.
Let it be mine!
He turns to the Multitude.
He roars it out like a battle cry.
Adam: Let all their faults be mine!
I AM the one who sinned.
They were merely deceived.
Grant them the vengeance they crave.
Let them show me exactly how much I hurt them!
I stare at him.
He is the First Man to truly be sane.
He turns to me.
His grin is a grown up version of that saucy child’s smirk I saw in the Garden.
An Eternity ago.
Ernie: Adam… you can’t!
You don’t need to do this.
Hasn’t Jesus already paid the price for your sins?
This is too much!
Like Ananias, you have shown me just how much I must suffer for the name of Christ.
I receive it gladly!
It is but a pale shadow of what He did for me.
Which itself was just an echo of how Our Father bears our sins for all eternity.
I am blessed beyond measure to be able to share in the smallest part of His suffering, to win for those I love a part in His resurrection.
It is altogether right and fitting that I do this.
Because I too was once called a Son of God!
I am struck dumb.
He takes my hand and leads me to Eve.
Who also seems beyond words.
Or even emotion.
He places my hand in hers.
He releases us.
Did he just wink at her?
We stare at him.
Like statues in a nativity scene.
He turns to face the Multitude.
He stretches his arms out.
He lifts his eyes to Heaven.
Adam: Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.
Into their hands I commit my flesh.
He bows his head, just for a moment.
Then with step so joyful I almost think he is skipping.
He takes a running leap forward and hurls himself into the Multitude.
Beside me, I hear a gasp.
I want to look to Eve.
But cannot tear my eyes from Adam.
O Father, what have you done?
To be continued…