Siren lights were flashing but of course we couldn’t just move. Maybe they should call it a traffic peanut butter instead, but in any case, they weren’t going anywhere with all four tires gummed up. Christ! Our breaths were caught in our throats, you could feel the tension in the air like a fairy in a spider web, the arachnids licking their chops and tying their kerchiefs behind their cephalothoraxes. She (the fairy), was hanging over him, thrashing desperately but only tangling herself further in the sticky strands, his breaths growing shallower and shallower and shallower. Ole Finnegan sure took a tumble now didn’t he, from lively stirring song onto a flat printed page… albeit a page springing with life and twisted with many a meaning, the doors of possibility thrown open before him. All his dear friends were gathered around him there, panicking, praying, and fading. He doesn’t hear you, he whispered, and He never did.
We mourned and the Mayor gave the eulogy, in which he indicted the ambulance for its tardiness that, he said, cost Ole Finnegan his life, with the approving roars of the funeral mob drowning out the pleas and protests of the Paramedics. Put them in prison, he shouted to the people prodding the air with pitchforks. Someone mentioned execution and soon everyone was calling for crucifixion. Still the paramedics protested, but the mob could not be dissuaded, and at the Mayor’s behest three towering titans were raised in the city square with the final date set for Holy Thursday.
Jesus visited the Paramedics in a dream. They moaned and whimpered in their sleep as he told them that he knew of the innocence they claimed, and he said, my Word is Life. When they awoke they refused to eat, claiming that they had seen a vision and that they had been forever touched by His Hand. The members of His Hand denied that their music had inspired such neglect of duty, but the mob, furious and thirsty for blood, crushed them alive and screaming on stage. We would have stopped it if we could, but, hidden away beneath the city, we could only watch through the sewer grilles and hear the screams of the dead and dying echoing through the pipes, lapping the blood that dripped down from heaven on occasion but always wincing at its bitter taste.
Sometimes, because of our thirst, we collected the blood in jars and cut it, making subterranean cocktails that disgusted and intoxicated us. If it were enough, we would sleep peacefully, but sometimes our eyes would remain open until the sun rose and planted itself through the cracks in the sidewalk. We let it happen — what choice did we have – everything was draining nothing from us and we didn’t know how to handle ourselves but for the cocktails and for the library that we built and filled with books that we wrote and which the Oracle took to heart, shuttered though he was in his own private segment of sewer that none of us had ever seen.
The Mayor erected a monument to Ole Finnegan and won reelection the following fall. Skyscrapers crumbled and huts were erected in their place as the doctors and lawyers became farmers longing, they said, for the simple life. A return, cried the Mayor, to our Founding Principles, and a return, cried the Preacher, to the Word. They stood before the mob, smiling and waving and kissing babies before dipping them in the gold-plated baptismal fonts, from which the babies emerged screaming and crying. What about us, we muttered, but none of us had seen the sunlight since our pilgrimage from our still-jammed cars to the notorious Underground.
The Friends of Finnegan were asking the same thing, and the Mayor and Preacher invited them to join in the monstrous melding of Fort Manteau. North, South, East, West, each in his wing, settled in, and there was disagreement on where would be held the Wake. North erected a tower, South dug a valley, and between East and West a wall was erected, soon spreading until Fourt Manteau became a Fourtress, ruled by the Mayor and Preacher from the central room into which there were no doors. The Wakes were thrown altogether but no one showed due to confusion and because none could boast the body, which at some point had been lost. That was unrealized, and soon the town was divided into concentric quarters, secretly united. Empty spirit bottles were hurled from room to room, but threats remained dormant. We peeked our heads out from underground, but despite being trod upon, we went unnoticed.
Christ descended on Holy Thursday, and the Paramedics wept and praised God. Forgive these men in your hearts, he said, for they repent their crime. The mob listened, restlessly but having no choice (they had come, after all, to see the crucifixion), until the Preacher bound his hands and said go fourth, with another cross erected. Christ, sent to save, became instead the antichristi, weeping as the nails were driven in, and as he was hoisted on high he wept, I’m afraid, I’m so afraid of dying, but the mob laughed and the Preacher took his place beside the Mayor with an identical smirk of contentment. Anticlimacti, yes, but a siren strangled by the blow of horns and traffic peanut butter was enough to turn heads, if not cheeks. Sent wise, Christ was otherwise, and upon being stabbed in the side he gave up the ghost.
Traffic: in a peanut butter jelly jam came the would-be rescuers, perhaps they were taking care of their own, but perhaps they were just doing their job, and in any case they would never make it in time. The spirits flew through the air and shattered on the glass, with the mob licking their lips, and us, starving but resigned to our fate, wincing again at the bitter taste as we watched the entire scene. The Mayor gave a speech, the Preacher gave a sermon, and together they gave the eulogy, damning though it was.
Wait, said the Oracle, who, though blind, rose up from behind us in full light and Irishness, determined to set the record straight. Total silence: he tapped the pavement with his cane, existing only in our eyes and his own mind, and, cautiously, we followed him from the depths in his confident steps as the mob watched with puzzled awe. The rumors were true! So they murmured, and even the Mayor and the Preacher stepped aside as the Oracle took the stage. He gripped the podium with hairy palms and spoke, but we did not remember his lessons because we could not understand a word; they were delivered in his own language, never before heard or spoken, and after he was finished he took a tumble from the stage, falling from grace to the ground with a sickening thud. The Paramedics acted fast but, chained to their posts, they remained still and couldn’t hear the Oracle’s final breaths as he died, reflecting at the life that he had lived entirely in the molement. No one did but the Friends of Finnegan, looking sheepishly at one another. The Mayor pointed, furious and acting the part, to the Paramedics, asking when, when would their Reign of Terror end, and the mob whipped into a frenzy on the bloody backs of the victims and their successors, in time. We crept back to our subterranean society and pulled from the library the Oracle’s great treatise, drawing from it the plans for a great city that would belong to us and be made in our image. Blind ourselves underground, we roamed, searching for his lodgings which we hoped to convert into a temple and museum, but it was never found, and, as the years passed and memories faded, we ceased even to pray to him, worshiping instead his treatise, which, I believe, is how he would have wanted it.