For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth and the flower thereof falleth away. But the world of the Lord endureth for ever.
Chapter 1: Swirl
"This is a lovely place, Rob. Dirk and I have never been here. Dirk doesn't care for restaurants. He likes home cooking. But I love Italian food."
"Yeah. My mom and I come here all the time when my dad's out of town. The Olive Garden is my favorite restaurant. When we lived in California, we used to go to the one there all the time. When I can't eat hamburgers, I really like Italian food. Especially the bread."
"It seems like we haven't sat down and talked in such a long time. Are you still thinking about the desire to lose desire?"
"It's funny you should ask me that. I had a dream. Or something. When I woke up, I wasn't worried any more. I knew what I was supposed to do. You're probably going to think this sounds crazy."
"Well. You know me. You know my philosophy. About desire. About how we all desire to lose desire. But even the desire to lose desire is a desire. So we can't do it. It's all a fake. All those religions that claim to free you from desire, they're just feigning desirelessness. What they really do is give the practitioner an excuse for his or her desire, sort of like ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away. It doesn't. But there has to be a solution. The solution to the problem of desire is the end of everything. Not just the world. Not even the universe. Everything. It's just like Ben's story where they blow up the sun with a toilet seat. It's so stupid. But it's what we have to do. Because if God is desirelessness, and the purpose of human existence is to find God, then the only way we can fulfill our destiny is by destroying everything. It's so obvious. As long as anything exists, there is desire. So everything has to go. Maybe not in my lifetime, maybe not for thousands of years, but that's what has to happen."
"I think I understand. How did this help you feel better?"
"Because I know now what I have to do. I'm the messiah of desirelessness. I have to go to college and get a degree and spread my philosophy. It's God's will. So I don't have to worry about killing myself, because my life has meaning, even though everything is meaningless. That IS the meaning of my life: to help convince the world that life is meaningless, so that everyone will agree to destroy everything. Of course, there'll be wars. Not everyone will immediately agree with me. People will die. I have to accept that because of my philosophy people will suffer. I have to come to terms with this. The important thing is that it will happen. Compared to this, the lives of a few million people don't matter. Everyone is innocent. Everyone has desire. Everything Must Go."
"Ah. Well. You're right, this is quite a revelation. Have you told anyone else?"
"Oh, no, not yet. But I need to know - will you be on my side? Will you stand shoulder to shoulder with me on the battlefield? Even though you understand that this is a selfish philosophy, and no one cares about anyone but himself?"
"Well, Rob.... You know I want the best for you..."
"But will you be on my side?"
"Yes, Rob. I'll stand beside you. I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea of causing all that suffering, but I understand why you believe it is necessary."
"That's great. Just remember, you're not causing their suffering. It's like having a splinter in your finger. It hurts. It hurts all the time. You know you have to pull it out, but you're afraid, because you know it's going to hurt a LOT when you pull it out, but you have to do it or your finger can never heal."
"Yes. I understand what you mean."
"I had a sign. You remember you were telling me about angels? About how you thought sometimes maybe you could see an angel? Well, I think I saw one."
"Yes. When we were at the Edge of the Looking Glass. I had to go to the bathroom. There was this guy. He said, 'I know where you're going. You're going to have trouble. People won't believe you, but you have to stick to it. At times it may even hurt, but one day they'll see you're right. You'll get to the end of your line eventually.'"
"Yeah. We talked for a long time. He told me four things. I wrote them down. The main thing was that even though people wouldn't believe me, I still have to stay with it. I'm sure he was an angel."
Before Janet could reply, her beeper went off. "Oh, Rob, please excuse me. I have to find a phone."
Janet walked to the front of the restaurant in search of a telephone. She was both surprised and annoyed to find herself dialing her home number. Dirk answered the phone on the first ring.
"Yes, hello. I got your message. What do you want? Couldn't it wait? I'll be home in an hour!"
"No, it can't wait! Nick's disappeared!"
"Oh, no! How long has he been gone?"
"I guess he snuck out while I was putting Brittany to bed. He left a note."
"What's it say?"
"This is what it says. Maybe he can get through to you. Everything I've said has fallen on deaf ears. I - "
"Just read me the note."
"Ok, this is it: `Mom, what the heck has gotten into you? Why aren't you home anymore? You're always out with those guys. You never cook me dinner anymore and I have to eat dad's eggs that taste like rubber. I'm tired of taking care of Brittany. She stinks and that's your job. Everybody yells at me all the time and I don't like school. Mrs. McCloskey won't let me draw. Why don't you ever talk to me? You are really changing. You used to be a perfectly normal parent who would do perfectly normal things. You and Dad fight all the time. It's like you don't care about me anymore. I can't take it. I'm going to run away. You probably won't even notice. Signed, your former son, Nick.'" Dirk drew in a deep breath. "Well, Mrs. Famous Dr. Dawson? What do you have to say to that?"
"Did you call Steve's house? Did you call Derek's house? Did you call Andrew's house? Have you called the police or the hospital?"
"Yes yes yes. The police are looking for him now. I think you should come home."
"I can't see what more I could do. It sounds like you're right on top of the situation."
"So, just like that, you're going to abandon you own son? Your own son! What's the matter with you? Don't you have any feelings?"
"I'm kind of in a sticky situation with Rob, It's difficult to explain, but I am somewhat occupied."
"`Occupied!' Janet, have you lost your - "
"Yes, of course. You're right. I'll be home as soon as I can."
"Fine. Good bye."
Janet hung up the phone and walked back to the table. She sat down and took a long, slow sip from her coffee.
Rob looked nervous, "Is everything ok?"
"I'm sorry to say that I have to go soon. It's a family matter. So, as you were saying?"
Rob set his fork on a half empty plate of food. "It's all become so clear. I know my mission. I'm not sure exactly how I'll do it. That's the next step."
"Have you given that any thought? What exactly will you do?"
"As I make more converts there will be more people to take care of all the details."
"I have to go to the bathroom. Please, excuse me." Rob left Janet to her coffee.
Ten minutes later, Rob returned, a few drops of sweat beading his upper lip.
"Are you feeling all right, Rob? You look a little flushed."
"Oh, I feel much better, thank you. Are you ready to go?"
"Yes, I probably should."
Janet turned at the door and waved as Rob pulled out of the driveway. The house was quiet and Dirk was sitting alone in the living room.
"It's about time," he snapped.
Janet sighed heavily. "I came as soon as I could. There were some delays in the restaurant."
"Aren't you going to ask about Nick?"
"I haven't even hung up my coat yet. Is there any news?"
"He's here. He's upstairs in bed."
"Everything's fine then. Where was he?"
"At McDonald's. It was one of the first places the police looked. The officer said a lot of runaway children go to McDonald's."
"I'm glad to hear it worked out so smoothly. Did he offer you any explanation?"
"I think it's obvious. The note says it all. He ran away to get your attention because nothing else would work. Maybe I should run away, too."
"Oh, Dirk. I'm tired. You're tired. It's been a long day. Let's not get into this now. Tomorrow I'll call Mrs. McCloskey. I expect there's something going on at school that we don't know about."
"Blame it on the school. Blame it on anybody but yourself. You've got this all inside out. You're the problem. You need to change. You need to give up this crazy life and get back to normal."
"Dirk, can we talk about this some other time? I'm very tired. So are you. Let's just get some sleep."
"Go ahead. I'll sleep down here."
"As you wish. With or without you, I'm going to bed. Good night."