Shadowed: Chapter 3: Not Laid Plans

If Paul was trying, I doubt he could waste more time than he does in these first crucial minutes after the slaughter.  Ranold has confirmed Berlitz is dead—he knows what’s going on, knows Paul is a believer, and has the whole force of the NPO at his disposal to capture and kill his son-in-law.

You’d think man’s man, military veteran, Ph.D., prodigiously intellected Paul would have a plan.  He’s the one who penned the manifesto, he’s had a few days to work this all out in his head.  After all, he blames atheists for not coming to belief within 40 hours, so why shouldn’t he have an airtight plan ready in the same amount of time?

But he doesn’t.  He messes about with suitcases and whose car is whose*, when you’d think his primary concern would be getting his hands on money and one or more weapons.  He lets Margaret and Jae fuss back and forth like the silly women they are about who is going and who is staying, when he should have just loaded everyone into a car and gone, knowing exactly where they were going.

But no.  Your average 19-year-old has a better plan for when the zombie apocalypse comes than Paul does for when God’s wrath, that he begged for, descends.

*Cars—Ranold, either accidentally or on purpose, took “Paul’s rental” to get to Berlitz and Aryanna.  Which makes the “only car left” being Ranold’s company car.  Unless, of course, you remember that Jae has a car, with which she transported herself and the kids to Washington, D.C., in the first place.  Jenkins does not remember that Jae has a car.

Everyone’s finally in Ranold’s car (wouldn’t Paul fear that such a car would have bugs/tracking devices so the NPO would always know where it is?) and Margaret’s in the kitchen, like a woman should be.  Jae begs Paul to go back to talk to her, and see if they maybe should take her with them.  Yanno, because they have tons of time to decide these things and weigh all the various options and—


The funny thing about this is that I am on the side of just-do-what-Dad-says, not let’s-talk-out-all-options-and-discuss-our-feelings.  Which makes me seem much more RTC right now, I suppose.  But, c’mon, this is an actual emergency we’re dealing with!  Christ!

Margaret, who lost her only son mere moments before, wants to talk about exactly what you would expect: Paul.

“I saw the letter from your father, you know,” she said.  “The one he sent you to open on your twelfth birthday.  Jae showed it to Ranold and he showed it to me.  He thought it would infuriate me, make everything clear to me.  I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.”

“Why, even the death of my own son hasn’t distracted me from it!”

“It had the most profound effect on me.  Your father was devout.  He truly believed.  And oh, how he loved you.”

“He did.”

Too bad he didn’t love other people enough to believe they didn’t deserve an eternity of torture for not thinking the same way as him.  Oh well.

Margaret agrees with Ranold…

“That Connor is alive proves you are a believer.”

“Actually, it doesn’t, Mom, in spite of what Ranold thinks.  By ‘firstborn male,’ we think the Scripture refers to a child that is both male and born first, not simply the first male born in the family.”

Wait, what?


Also, there is even more significant risk to everyone now that this little tidbit has been revealed.  (Well, it’s been sorta-revealed, since how are we to know that Paul’s interpretation of this phrase is the correct one?)

If Paul or other believers don’t set the populace straight on this point, a lot of atheists with second-born-children-who-happen-to-be-boys are going to find themselves in a heap of trouble, being suspected of being Christians and all.

Also, this still doesn’t explain why Ranold, apparently the firstborn son of atheists, is alive.  And it doesn’t explain why Paul is alive, though I suspect it’s because God doesn’t give a damn that his evil atheist mother was an evil atheist.  Because moms don’t count.

Anyway, Margaret looks upon all this with typically RTC selflessness:

“I don’t know what it’s all leading up to, but I want to be on the right side of it when it happens.  I’ve already lost my son.  I don’t want to lose my soul.”

Your son is in Hell right now, Margaret.  I’m pretty sure my own evil atheist mother would happily travel to Hell to get me back.  But hey, who gives a good gorram about Berlitz, anyway?

But Margaret is in good company, only thinking of herself and all…

Part of Paul wanted to just stay and have it out with Ranold, to challenge him, dare him to take his grandchildren’s father out of the picture.

I…wouldn’t “dare” that if I was you, Paul.  Ranold just saw his only son dead before his eyes.  He’s hated you for years.  And to top it all off, for half his life, he’s blamed Christians for causing the deaths of “his entire army.”  This is not the tiger you want to tease, Paul.  Just sayin’.

Also, Paul says “have it out” like it’s a typical sort of family dispute, not a case of one family member praying that another family member be struck down by God…who then complies.  Ranold might be more inclined to shoot than to “have it out.”

But it all comes to nothing, because Jae bursts in (leaving the kids in the car, alone) to tell Paul and Margaret that she is staying.

The primary caregiver of the nine-year-old and the six-year-old is staying behind while the abusive father is taking those kids on the run.


Worst parenting ever, this bunch.

Oh, and it gets better.  Jae actually says:

“Paul, I know you have some plan…”

“…so take the kids and put it into action.”

Has Paul ever been alone with his kids before in his life?  I wonder.

“Send for me or I will come to you, whatever you concoct.”

Great idea.  What could possibly go wrong?

“Just go, Paul.  This is your life.  You’ll make it work.”

“Screw our kids!”

So Paul goes.  He just goes with his kids.

What a freaking idiot.

Connor is all but catatonic in the backseat, but Brie is alert enough to notice the carnage.

“What happened, Daddy?” Brie called out.

“Lots of accidents, huh?” he said.

Yeah, how ’bout that.  Go figure, eh?

“Yeah, but why?”

“Remember, you’re going to find out later.  Daddy has to be on the phone for a while, so you be patient, okay?”

“Just stare at the mangled corpses and people keening in the streets, princess!  Don’t distract Daddy, now.”

Paul is, indeed, doing some important stuff on his skull phone: “trying to connect with Straight, his faith mentor.”

He wouldn’t have to worry about this, I must point out yet again, if he had had a plan in the first place.

But with no plan, he can’t get in touch with Straight (even by skull phone!).  But someone gets in touch with Paul: “tall, black, and direct” secretary Felicia.

She’s calling Paul to let him know that Bob Koontz, their boss, is a firstborn son, and is dead.

Kinda sad, since Bob was in charge of the Cone of Silence and all.

Meh, enjoy Hell, I guess, Bob.


Posted on January 10, 2015, in Shadowed. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. It’s a bizarre world you’re building when the guy who wants to murder his son-in-law is the only reasonable and sympathetic adult in the narrative.

  2. By ‘firstborn male,’ we think the Scripture refers to a child that is both male and born first, not simply the first male born in the family.

    All right, this calls for some research. Wall of text incoming…

    Paul is actually semi-correct on this. The term used in Hebrew scriptures is “bechor” which is the masculine form of “firstborn”, and according to my cursory internet research a boy cannot be a bechor if he has an older sister. (He also has to be born naturally, so a family where the first child is a male born by C-section will just never have a bechor no matter how many subsequent sons they have. This rule may only apply to the requirement that bechors inherit a double portion of their father’s estate, though.)

    On the other hand, a Jewish pre-Passover holiday called the Fast of the Firstborn calls on both male and female firstborns to fast in commemoration of God sparing Israelite firstborns, because the Midrash (which is essentially a massive collection of official commentary upon the Hebrew scriptures) states that the 10th plague actually killed firstborn children of both genders. (Though you can also find sources saying only firstborn sons are called on to fast.)

    Furthermore, if you read further in Exodus to see the actual effects of the plague, it says every Egyptian household lost someone, and while presumably the term “household” in premodern times included a bit more than a modern nuclear family it’s also not difficult to come up with an extended-family household where nobody qualifies as a bechor, meaning the plague has to be a bit more extensive if every household is going to be affected. And not only by killing female firstborns – apparently there are additional Jewish commentaries that say if a household had no firstborn then the plague would kill the “greatest in the household” instead.

    TL;DR – While Paul is correct on the letter of the text, the idea that the plague of the firstborn would spare lots of atheist households on a technicality most definitely does not agree with the spirit.

    • inquisitiveraven

      I admit that I know nothing about Hebrew, but in the languages I am familiar with that gender everything: if you don’t know the gender of an entity, it’s masculine. If you have a a mixed gender group of a type of entity, you use the masculine form even if only one member of the group qualifies as masculine/male. I’m thinking specifically about French and Spanish, both romance languages, here.

      • Entirely possible – the text uses the singular form in the key line about how every firstborn will be killed from the Pharoah’s down to the slave girl’s, and there doesn’t seem to be a gender-neutral singular form. Some sources do claim that the plural form, bekhorot, which is also used to refer to the plague overall, encompasses both male and female firstborns, though of course others differ.

  3. Naked, right now, Hitler comes across as more sympathetic and reasonable than Paul “I seriously have no redeeming traits” Stepola. I’m totally on Team Ranold with you.

  4. So Margaret became a believer simply by reading the letter from Paul’s father. Because naturally. Why bother reading anything else on the subject, after all? Obviously Paul’s dad made the most persuasive arguments in favour of Christianity the world has ever known. As I recall, the letter was rather dull. But it doesn’t really surprise me that Paul’s dad would be GAWAT (Greatest Apologetics Writer of All Time).

    “By ‘firstborn male,’ we think the Scripture refers to a child that is both male and born first, not simply the first male born in the family.”

    1) I’ve said this before, but Paul is awfully cavalier about his lack of detailed knowledge on how these miracles work. “We think smearing blood on the doorway won’t be necessary.” “We think it only affects males who are also the first child of the family.” This is like serving a mushroom dish cooked by someone who thinks they know which ones are poisonous.

    2) How does the scripture even have anything to do with this? Bible mentions one case of God killing firstborns. This is an entirely new and separate instance of firstborn killing. Is Paul saying that God can certainly kill firstborns, but only in one specific way and no other? God is incapable of any variety. His spellbook has exactly one firstborn slaying spell, and it must be cast the same way every time. Jesus can’t turn orange juice into wine, because the scripture says he turns water into wine.

    Of course, it is pretty obvious by now that the god Paul worships is utterly lacking in personal initiative of any kind. This is not a god with a mind of its own. This not a god one could have a “personal relationship” with. What we have here is a god as a vending machine, offering a limited selection of pre-packaged miracles in exchange for the correct type of prayer tokens.

    • Paul’s dad made the most persuasive arguments in favour of Christianity the world has ever known

      He truly believed. Atheists — being shiftless and rudderless — don’t know what it’s like to really be devoted to something.

      • Again, that’s actually true, we don’t know what it’s like to be so devoted to something that that Something can murder and torture our loved ones and we’ll go right on singing its praises. The only problem with that particular one of Jenkins’ premises is that he puts “and that’s terrible” in the wrong place.

  5. “It had the most profound effect on me. Your father was devout. He truly believed. And oh, how he loved you.”

    In all her decades of life, Margaret has never once seen a written text in which a man said he believed something, nor a written text in which a man claimed to love someone. That’s why Margaret assumes everything Paul’s dad claims in one single piece of writing must be true. Or maybe this is a nod to Margaret’s monstrous nature. Unlike Ranold, she seems to have stopped caring completely about her dead son and she’s snapping at her daughter. Maybe she never loved her children, and assumed no-one else did too until she read a letter from a guy who said he did.
    In case anyone wants to see if there is anything in that silly letter that just expresses so much more emotion than the combined literature and poetry of the world, here’s the post

    how are we to know that Paul’s interpretation of this phrase is the correct one?)
    It’s Paul’s. Nuff said.

    Sooo… Jae is staying… and then Paul should contact her so she can come to him… Exactly what is the point of that? Bad parenting and unjustified faith in Paul’s prodigious intellect and his sorting through of myriad possibilities*, what exactly is the alleged benefit of this splitting up? Cause it sounds only marginally less stupid than when characters in a haunted sanatorium do it.

    *”What to do? Uhmmm… no idea I’m stumped. I should call someone and have them tell me what to do. Who to ask? Well, I have only two friends, Angela and Straight. And Angela is a woman, so obviously she doesn’t have any worthwhile ideas, so Straight it is. Whew, thank seemingly-spiteful God that my prodigious intellect could sort through those myriad possibilities. Straight isn’t answering? But… no, I can’t…. what… NOOOO! Seemingly-Spiteful God and prodigious intellect, why have thou forsaken me?”

    Hmm, I wonder which I can keep up longer in these comments. Referring to Paul’s prodigious intellect and its myriad-possibility-sorting-abilities, or Paul’s seemingly-spiteful god.

    • “…what is the alleged benefit of splitting up?”

      Paul and Jae are also forgetting the cardinal rule of RPG-ing (which is no surprise, since RPGs are of Satan)…

      You NEVER split the party!

      • “We can take more damage that way”

        Seriously though, does Jae ever mention an alleged advantage of this split-up-then-regroup plan? Or is it just “Paul, I just talked to Jenkins, and he wants me to stay so I can see Ranold use his mourning as an excuse to justify his hatred. And I think Jenkins wants me here to get beat up by Ranold for a bit too, as punishment for still thinking god is spiteful. So, see you after I’ve learned to rationalize why atheists torturing those who disagree with them is proof of their horrible nature and god torturing those who disagree with him just an expression of his senses of justice and righteousness and judgment.”

  6. Fortunately for Paul, Ranold is just as incompetent as him. But sadly Ranold doesn’t have access to an ontological terror weapon.

    “Great idea Jae, I’ll take the kids. There are two of them, right?”

    Ooh, I can see this working well:
    Angry Mob: “He’s an oldest son! He must be a Christian! Get him!”
    Paul: “By ‘firstborn male,’ we think the Scripture refers to a child that is both male and born first, not simply the first male born in the family.”
    Angry Mob: “Oh, right you are. Never mind then.”

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Roundup for January 16, 2015 | The Slacktiverse

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