Monday, September 30, 2013

The Gospel of Lazarus - an audio horror

History’s first zombie, Lazarus of Bethany, debates with archangels, Raphael and Lucifer, over whether or not Lazarus should create more zombies.
Present, behind the flood-wall of the Mississippi River, under moonlight.

Lazarus, a zombie. Male.
Light zombie effect face-makeup, especially dark shading on the temples and hollow eyes. Contemporary clothes.

Raphael, an archangel. Male or female.
Dressed in jeans and a hoodie.

Lucifer, the Fallen One. Male or female. African-American.
Dressed like a Jazz musician. Fedora, pencil-thin beard, and an awful Hawaiian shirt partially unbuttoned to reveal a tropical colored wife-beater tank top.

Goth kid, a willing victim. Male. Boyish looks.
Dressed in black shreds with sparkly, white mica powder on his face and heavy black eyeliner like an Egyptian pharaoh.

Small gel packs of blood for Lazarus to bite.

Under a cone of blue moonlight, the archangel Raphael stands powerless (on an apple box?) above Lazarus and his young victim, unable to prevent a murder.
Raphael:  Brother, restrain your hatred! El Azar, please, stay your hand!
Lazarus:  (panting from dragging the drugged body of his victim) Get thee hence! Or stay my hand yourself, if you have any meaningful power. First Clarion of the Order of Seraphim! Ha! Despite your exalted title, Raphael, all you can do is lecture, beg, and nag. Go ahead, stay my hand! What's that? You can't physically interfere in the affairs of humans because you have no corporeal body? Angels--even Archangels--cannot touch. (Grabs the boy’s throat.) Only God can stop my revenge. But he won't!
Raphael:  Do not commit this mortal sin!
Lazarus:  But without a soul, Raphael, how can I sin? Ever since my “miraculous resurrection”, I can only recall the memory of morality. I know my actions are destructive. But why should I care? I do not die, Archangel. What Hell is there to fear?
Raphael:  A Hell of your own making.
Lazarus:  God created Hell. It says so in the scriptures. And His son created my Hell on this Earth. That, I know. I was there when he did it.
Raphael:  Do not kill this boy!
Lazarus looks down at the pale face cradled in his arms, sparkling in the moonlight with a white mica powder that Goth kids use to imitate the latest Hollywood vampires. Kohl-blackened eyes, like a pharaoh of long-dead Egypt, see only Lazarus, looking up at him with complete trust. 
Lazarus:  But this one wants to die. Why should I deny him the blessed (pronounced bless-sed) rest the Creator intends as reward for surviving life? Why delay his reward? 
Raphael: His people will grieve. 
Lazarus: For him? New Orleans overflows with his kind. Homeless, by the stink of him. A run-away, 14, maybe 15? Easy to misplace. He's like me. Forsaken. (Scrapes his teeth over the boy’s face. The boy pants eagerly.) Should I kiss his cheek or bite it off? Look at him, Archangel. He knows he is about to die. He is eager to give up the struggle. To give up his ghost. Look how he welcomes me! I am his Messiah! (to the boy) What kind of squalid life do you live, Friend, that you choose the damnation of suicide? 
Lazarus: This is not suicide! This is murder! 
Lazarus: I may be the instrument of his destruction. But this boy longs for death. As do I—ah, but God will not let me to die, right? (to the boy) Stupid animal. I am not your Redeemer. I will destroy you utterly. 
The boy smiles with beatitude.
Raphael:  Your argument is with God. Not one more victim to your hatred for God!
Lazarus:  (Looks up from the boy’s eerily calm, sparkling face to taunt the archangel) But Raphael, I am God’s victim. Even the betrayer, Judas Iscariot, died by his own rope. He was allowed—by God—to rest. Oh that simple sleep enjoyed by all God’s other creations, from the humble single-celled fungi to these stinking apes I feed on.  Judas Iscariot! The betrayer who led Christ to his killers, he no longer suffers among the living! But I do. For what crime am I punished to wander eternity with no destination, no end, not even a rope to hang myself? Was I nothing more to God than an object lesson, a demonstration of His infinite power?
Raphael:  The symphony of ocean waves, the flight of birds, and all the natural wonders of His divinely-wrought world demonstrate the infinite power and glory of the Creator. Amen.
Lazarus: Then is the son so insecure in his divine parentage that he must curse a servant, a loyal friend, with undying life? I was made a monster by the son of God!
Raphael:  El Azar, how you blaspheme!
Lazarus:  My whole existence is blasphemy! (To the boy, who remains non-responsive to the conversation happening around him, happily drugged.) You understand what I mean. (The boy nods dreamily.)
Raphael:  Then you both misunderstand the purpose of your existence. Your apparent immortality must be part of His grand design. God does all things according to His own inscrutable logic, for His own divine ends.
Lazarus:  I have yet to see any evidence of “Intelligent Design” at work in my life. But plenty evidence of neglect. For all practical purposes, God is the absentee dad of the whole world. And for the past 2000 years, God has certainly been dead to me.
Raphael:  Foul blasphemy!
Lazarus:  Lightning never strikes. I can blaspheme all I want. Shout blasphemy from French Quarter rooftops! God is dead! God is dead! (To the boy.) See? The stroke of Grace never falls from on high.
With a shrieking of cats and saxophones, Lucifer enters, dressed as a Jazz musician with fedora, pencil-thin beard, and an awful Hawaiian shirt partially unbuttoned to reveal a tropical colored wife-beater tank top.
Lucifer:   Well said, Cuz. But don’t just kill that skinny boy. Turn him. Make him into another one, like you, Laz. Eat of your flesh. Turn him. We all know you are lonely.
Lazarus(to the boy) An angel on one shoulder and the Devil on the other, eh?
The boy only has eyes for Lazarus, his Redeemer, oblivious to the angels.
Lucifer:   Raphael baby, alright. You look well. Maybe a little tired around the eyes.
Raphael:  Fallen One.
Lazarus:  Lonely! I have not felt lonely since my resurrection.  Loneliness is a sickness of the soul. Without a soul, I can never feel lonely. What does the Devil know about loneliness?
Lucifer:   Hey man, I am lonely for God. For true. You lonely for God too, if you just admit it.
Lazarus:  Don’t be perverse, Lucifer. I hate God! (Out of spite, starts to bite the boy’s skull, but stops himself. Anticipating his imminent death, the boy is disappointed.) I was at peace. Four days, I had been dead. My sisters, Mary and Martha, a week ago had sent word to Jesus the Nazarene. “El Azar, whom you love, is ill.” But instead of rushing to Bethany, Jesus—who supposedly loved me—remained where he was for 2 more days before he even began the journey. After 4 days in my tomb, the entire village assumed my soul had departed from my body, welcomed into the bosom of Abraham, and could surely never return. But then, He arrived in Bethany, Son of the Almighty, thronged by crowds of followers, his apostles, and villagers. And then, in history’s most shameless public relations stunt, Jesus the Nazarene commanded my corpse to walk out of my tomb. “El Azar, come forth!” Jesus was my friend! He was my Messiah! I did as the Messiah commanded. I came forth. I stumbled out of my tomb, out of death, blinking, tangled in my grave-clothes. The entire village of Bethany beheld the miracle and wondered! But afterwards, my public usefulness complete, my role in his passion play over, Jesus the Nazarene forgot to kill me again. And the writers of the Gospels never mentioned my name after that event. Forgotten. Jesus used me to aggrandize himself; but Old Lazarus is the one shunted from history, an embarrassment in afterthought!
Toward the end of the preceding speech, Lazarus chokes the boy’s throat with two hands. The boy’s face tenses, but he is delighted. The boy’s lips gasp, “Yah…!” But Lazarus will allow no air. With leaden gaze, Lazarus stares into the boy’s bulging eyes.
Raphael(distraught over the murder) There is no shame in longing after God!
Lucifer:   On this, Archangel, we agree. (Adjusts his fedora, smoothing the brim, mildly entertained by the choking happening right in front of him.) I may be guilty of over-reaching pride, but I am not too proud to admit that I am lonely for God. Cuz, you cannot imagine what it was like for me. I began my existence in God’s own presence, basking in His divine light. But then, hello!, abruptly I was cast aside, thrown down from Heaven, pearly gates all locked on me, forbidden even to glimpse the magnificence of His hem. What theologians write is true, Laz. Hell is the absence of God. No lie. An unquenchable thirst, a longing that goes eternally unanswered. The kind of loneliness that turns easily into hatred.
Lazarus(Releases his choke-hold.) I am not like you, Satan.
Raphael(relieved) The Fallen One knows the true meaning of Hell.
The boy wants death. He tries to wrap Lazarus’ hands around his throat again. Lazarus is too caught up in his argument with the angels to notice.
Lazarus:  The true meaning of Hell?! For 2000 years, I have been the wandering Jew, forsaken, forgotten, undead. In this world, but not of it. But never a word from God. Cursed by his absence! So I curse Him back, Raphael. I curse all God’s creation. If God won't kill me, then I will kill all that He loves!
Enraged by 2000 years of rejection, Lazarus bites into the boy’s skull. The boy whimpers, screams a little, but is entirely compliant. The boy shudders and moans sexually as his blood spurts hot into the zombie’s mouth.
Lazarus:  Ah-ah-ahhhh… (Breaks a gel-pack of blood inside his mouth.) Holy Manna!
Lucifer:   (cold laughter during the murder) Turn him, Lazarus! Before he dies full out, make that skinny-ass boy eat a tiny morsel of your flesh!
Lazarus feeds, ignoring his surroundings, hypnotized by the ambrosia of gore. But he manages to wrench his bloody mouth away just in time to catch the fading light in the boy’s eyes—the look Lazarus lives for. The boy is smiling in quiet gratitude.
Lazarus:  See how the light fades. The miracle of death! These are the moments when I see myself best, in the mirror of newly dead eyes, the inescapable reflection of my monstrousness. My own eyes are cold metal. They reflect no light. My hair and nails continue to grow, dead cells in a perpetual state of dying. (Wipes blood from his lips onto the boy’s white forehead.) And when the Angel of Death passed over Egypt, Moses commanded that all the Israelites should wipe the blood of lambs over their doorways, as a sign that Death should pass over. This is the true meaning of blessed (pronounced bless-sed). To be marked by blood.
In a huff of thunder, the archangel leaves, disgusted once again. Definitely not for the last time.
Lazarus:  He’ll be back to pester me soon enough, when the hunger seizes me again. But I don’t care. I have done what I have done, and I am proud of it. I destroyed another of God’s favorites. And if God won't stop me, then no one can. Not even myself. (The limp corpse of the teenage Goth boy slips from his grip, thumping onto the stage floor. Lazarus starts, worried someone might have overheard.)
Lucifer:   Relax, Cuz. Nobody but “First Clarion of the Order of whats-it-whos-it”, yawn, and Ol' Scratch are witnesses to your murder-slash-suicide. You always manage to elude detection. For 2000 years! Damn, Cuz! Always choose your kill spots with care, hidden from public view, behind this flood wall of the River. You got skills. 
Lazarus picks up the body again, and step-by-step turns and drags the corpse upstage, out of the cone of moonlight, toward “the industrial pier.”
Lucifer:   Be careful to avoid the searchlights of the Harbor Patrol. Oh they won’t find this one for days, way on far downriver. The churnin’ currents of the Mighty Mississippi are awaitin' his splash. If you real lucky, that paddle wheeler might dismember and grind up the evidence for ya.
Lazarus(calling back, over his shoulder) He’s dead, Lucifer. Why are you still here?
Lucifer:   I enjoy a senseless slaughter now and then. Most excellent technique. Eating brains? Never thought of that one. You know eating brains don't mean you're eating his soul. That's just an old wives tale. Ah but such a waste! Now Lazarus, why didn’t you turn him, like I told you?
Lazarus:  Because you won’t be content with just one! (Leaving the body, steps back into the cone of moonlight) He might eat of my flesh and maybe become like me, cursed to wander the Earth, undead, undying, soulless. But then you will want more of us, and then more, until we become an army of the undead, outnumbering the living. You just want my help to accelerate the End of Days and bring on your precious Armageddon.
 Lucifer:  Lazarus…Cuz…we both want the same thing. To bring down upon God that same powerful sorrow He brought down upon us. To crush God’s favorites! Oh I am so feeling ya, for true, y'all! So why not accelerate the End of Days with companions like unto yourself? And ease your loneliness while you’re at it? Start with one, and double your kill rate.
Lazarus:  No!
Lucifer:   You front like you hate God and all humanity. Shit!
Lazarus:   (Remembers the corpse and steps back out of the light. Stands over the body, facing the audience.) Jesus had been long dead, resurrected, and already ascended into Heaven. His apostles and their apostles spread his fame over the entire known world, as far as Rome, then Britannia, then this new continent, and eventually the entire planet. But after the first 200 years, still there had been no message from God, no revelation or illumination that would explain His silence or my persistent existence. I was bitter, Lucifer! And what about his followers? The souls he had Redeemed? In the streets of Cairo, followers of the Christ tore each other limb-from-limb…over the doctrine of the Trinity! Is God one with 3 aspects, or 3 Gods? Over this debate, followers of the Christ slaughtered each other with bare hands. In the Coliseum of Rome, martyrs threw away their lives with gleeful abandon over splintered, conflicting perversions of His original message of love. I saw the universal church grow to became a tool of political corruption wielded by Caesars and then bishops. In only 200 years, I had witnessed murders, abuses of influence, and even war in the name of the Christ. I was disgusted. Food became loathsome. I lost all appetite for human food. Instead, I craved the lives of humans. I craved their souls! I craved their brains, where our souls reside.
Lucifer:  Wives tale.
Lazarus:   I ate my first human brain, a bricklayer from Corinth. Then I became a plague upon Europe, a red death.
Lucifer:   The miracle of death is wasted on these primates! You know it. I know it. But it's not enough to merely kill them. Curse humanity to the same walking death as you, Lazarus. Rob them of their lives, yes; but rob them also of the peace in death which God in his inscrutably wise, grand plan denies you. The dead shall walk the Earth, Laz. (sings a Gospel ditty) Armageddon train is a'coming! Is a'coming round...
Lazarus:  (interrupting) I don’t want any part of your Armageddon! I will not create your army of undead killers just because the Devil and his demon minions cannot touch humans. Stick to what you’re good at, Lucifer, whispers. Topple an economy here. Corrupt a generalissimo there.  If you need Armageddon so bad, bring it on yourself.
Lucifer:   But you and I, we should join forces, combine our talents. Now it is just plain wrong not to use the gifts that God has granted us.
Lazarus:  I refuse to be counselled on right and wrong by anyone who claims moral authority over me, angel or devil.
Lucifer:   Hell no! I don't claim no moral authority. I just been at this game a few more eons than you. Together, we can hasten the end. I mean, the end of our subjugation under the foot of an uncaring God. End our suffering. And start our own dominion over Creation.
Lazarus(shouting to Heaven) Are you even listening?! (to Lucifer) I don’t want that. I don’t want dominion.
Lucifer:   Then what do you want, Fool? I offer you death, Lazarus. Finally. For true.
Lazarus:  Slither back into that Godless Hell of your own making! You don’t have that kind of power, Prince of Lies! Only God can take or give life. Humans believe they take a life in war or create a new life through sex. But it is God who lights the candle and God who blows it out. The lives I steal, God allows it. God never stops my hand.
Lucifer:   Then what do you hunger for, for real, “El Azar”? Ha! “God is my help!” What do you want?
Lazarus:  Get thee hence, Satan.
His dignity offended, the Devil buttons his shirt front.
Lucifer:   The Devil travels abroad like a roaring lion, wherever he wills. I leave you now—because I will it, not because you command. (muttering) Get thee hence, my ass. Think on what I said, Lazarus. End of Days. Oh, it's on like Donkey Kong! In the meantime, while you mull it over, I shall savor s'more of that French Quarter nightlife. Bask in its rituals of debauchery.
And with a shrieking of cats and saxophones, Ol’ Scratch splits.
Lazarus talks to the corpse he is dragging down-stage center, back under the cone of blue moonlight.
Lazarus:  The Fallen One and that nagging First Clarion are gone, finally. Now I can admit to you, Friend...I am lonely. The only one of my kind, a man who rose from the grave but cannot die, the original, true substance of horror stories. I am lonely.
Directly under his spot of moonlight, Lazarus lays down the corpse.
Lazarus:  But I dread Lucifer's idea. It’s unthinkable! Eat of my flesh?! Would my flesh re-animate another corpse? I will never try it. No matter how hard I discriminated among the elite of the freshly dead, my children would create more undead children. And so on. Eventually, they would become sloppy. Corpses in all manner of advanced decay would roam the world, suffering for eternity the pain of rotted organs, rotted eyes, brains devoured by worms. These revenants, they would lack a soul, like me, but they would also lack a mind. They would endure blind, perpetual, inexpicable torment. Their weird shrieks, their growls would inspire a whole new breed of nightmare. But, Friend, they would never truly be like me, not merely another man damned by God. Something more horrific. A greater abomination than I am.
Cradles the dead boy like Mary cradles the dead Christ in Michaelangelo’s Pieta.
Lazarus:  I cannot deny I am lonely. But not, as the Fallen One wrongly asserts, for God.  (shouting to the sky) God is dead! (Nothing happens. To the corpse) The danger is denial, in pretending we do not feel hunger at all, that we don’t all hunger for Holy Manna. Peace is what I want. Silence. The stroke of Grace that never falls.
Lazarus eats more of the dead boy’s brain, grunting and smacking (and bursting another blood-gel packet), as the moonlight fades to blackness.

** End **