Shadowed: Chapter 15, Part 2: Felicia Hates

Felicia Thompson hated working late, but that was nothing compared to risking her life to join the resistance.

“Of course, all that was nothing compared to losing her son 48 hours ago.”

Oh wait, Felicia doesn’t actually say that.

For years she had thought working for Paul Stepola in a high-security-clearance job in the Chicago bureau of the NPO was the very definition of stress.

“Then her son died, and she truly learned the very definition of stress.”

Oh wait, Felicia doesn’t say that, either.

Okay, so she does have this to say:

Losing a son—a bright, beautiful, overachieving, in-love twenty-seven-year-old—had doubled her over with grief.

Though not so much that she hasn’t stayed at work almost from the moment it happened.

When was Felicia so doubled over with grief that she couldn’t answer Paul’s phone calls, or call him herself?  Or do his dirty work for him?

To top it all off, Sensitive Felicia is afraid her husband, a middle school teacher named Cletus, will commit suicide, he is so grief-stricken.

But she’s still at work.  But don’t worry, she calls Cletus to tell him that she’ll be home in only a few hours.  So you can see how devoted to her family she really is.

And in between doing Paul’s dirty work for him, she’s been pestering him on how to convert.  Because now that God has shown himself real by murdering her son, she wants to make sure she ends up where her son isn’t, and be able to worship the being that murdered her son, ASAP.

What a great mom.

Paul, in a odd little surge of foresight, has left a secret file at work, just in case he ever can’t make it into work but still wants to instruct a coworker on how to convert.

Of course, I suppose Paul could just tell Felicia over the skull phone, but I guess he doesn’t feel like it.  Instead, he leaves her a skull phone message to tell her how to find it.

“It appears to be random notes about the crazy believers,” his message said, “but it is a prescription for receiving Christ.”

This prescription is a short three paragraphs, condescendingly ending with this:

People “receive” Christ by what they call the A-B-C Method.  Accepting this truth.  Believing in God and Jesus and what he did on their behalf—dying on the cross for the their sin [sic].  And Confessing this, or telling someone else.

I get that this ABC thing is a Thing, but that doesn’t make it any less silly.

(Although there seems to be some disagreement on what the A, B, and C should stand for.  This site, for example, has the A as Admit and the C as Consider.  (And they have a D… for Do.))

The transaction, as some like to call it, happens when they acknowledge this in prayer—that they are sinners, need God’s forgiveness, and receive it and Him.

Transaction alert!

And I’m sorry to keep harping on this, but it seems to me that it’s God that has just committed the truly unforgiveable sin, by offing all those men, little boys, and little babies.

Reading this file in her car (Sorry, Suicidal Cletus, I guess you’ll just have to wait a bit longer to see the mother of your dead son!), Felicia admit to herself that she had always really believed in God, “until it had been all but shamed out of her in elementary school.”

Really?  The same elementary schools where “God was simply never mentioned“?  Okay.

Felicia checked her rearview mirror [she has pulled into a random parking lot].  The last thing she wanted was to attract attention, particularly of a cop.  How would she explain sitting there in the dark, reading a top-level-security-clearance federal file by the tiny car ceiling light, and weeping?

Well, first of all, I can only imagine the cops have more important things to do right now.  There are (respectfully) naked, dead corpses and stolen cars to deal with, after all!

Secondly, I can only imagine that that two days after the incident, the sight of people breaking down and weeping in public would be an all-too-common sight, and not something that would shock anyone, let alone a cop.

Finally, how would the cop or anyone else know, just by looking, the clearance level of the paper Felicia is reading?

Gotta love the priorities of our newest (almost) RTC!

Felicia further reflects on how she doesn’t really want to go home (even though her son didn’t die at home, but at his own home, in his fiancée’s arms).  This is a sentiment that strikes me as understandable, but still self-serving in the way it always feels self-serving to me when people claim, “Oh, I hate hospitals!” or “I hate funerals!”  Because the rest of us love them so much.  You may not want to go home, Felicia, but your son is dead and your husband needs you.  Get your ass home and quit stalling!

Yanno, I’m a big enough evil atheist to admit when I’m wrong, and I was wrong in my recollection that this chapter actually contains Felicia’s transaction.  She actually comes only so far as “no more pretending God didn’t exist,” but demands in prayer an answer as to why he would kill her son, since that act doesn’t exactly seem one of a god who loves her.  Go figure.  She considers this question a “sincere challenge,” so she figures it’s only fair that God will answer it.  Then she’ll make her decision.

I’ll say this for her—ridiculous as the whole thing is, that’s still way more thought than Paul or Jae put into their conversions.

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Posted on March 1, 2015, in Shadowed. Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. OT, but BTW, could you fix the typo in the title of the post for “Chaoter 14”? It grates just a little bit every time I see it.

  2. Poor Felicia. I can’t imagine this God will have a significantly more positive reaction to being sincerely challenged than the one in Star Trek V did.

  3. “It appears to be random notes about the crazy believers,” his message said, “but it is a prescription for receiving Christ.”

    I think that sentence sums up everything you need to know about Paul’s religion.

  4. Something tells me we’ve just begun to see all the whitesplaining and mansplaining in Felicia’s story. I knew it would happen. Awful writers like Jenkins love to have stories in which the white guy patronizingly explains stuff to women and minorities.

  5. That Other Jean

    Cletus? Really? A name that peaked in popularity in 1892 and is vanishingly rare today is likely to make a comeback in the near future? Tin-eared author strikes again!

    • Yeah, say the name Cletus to most people and their immediate thought is of the hillbilly incestuous redneck character on the Simpsons named Cletus. They’d be shocked that his wife isn’t Brandine. Cletus definitely sounds like a white trash kind of name.

      • There’s also the Dukes of Hazzard’s Cletus Hogg, a slightly dim relative of Boss Hogg. Jenkins is evidently not in touch with popular culture.
        However, there are also several 20thC sportsmen named Cletus – and wasn’t Jenkins a sports writer? Or maybe he thinks that its another fancy-dancy Greek name, like Atticus or Virgil, that a liberal teacher-type might be called.

    • It’s the same as with Ranold. When Jenkins creates an old character, he gives him an old-sounding name, forgetting that he’s trying to write a story set in the future so he should use names common to people now in their twenties.

      • Has Cletus been checked for anagrams? I’m starting to look, and there are some doozies (“Slut Comes Nth Op”, “Compel Nut Shots”), but nothing strikes me as likely deliberate yet.

        • “Compel Nut Shots”

          As in “drive people to attempt swift kicks to his (or the author’s) testes”?

  6. I give Felicia a plus for seeing the death and devastation wrecked by god and at least comming to a semi-reasonable conclusion, to wit: “This supernatural slaughter proves there is a supernatural being of some sort. But I’m gonna need to see something that actually proves this being is worth worshipping, considering his first introduction wasn’t loving at all.” I give her a minus for being a bit too open for the idea that god could prove his benevolence, right after he killed her son and (seeing how he’s 27) send him to hell. And I give her a big minus for doing all this soul searching and listening to tapes while she thinks her husband is alone, conteplating suicide which would send him straight down to hell with her son. The whole point of this religion she’s joining is that nothing is more important than preventing that.

    In summary, she’s on the narcistic sociopathy scale, but still many notches lower than Paul.

  7. Speaking of things likely to upset Cletus, I wonder how many of the boys in his classes have been struck dead?

    With the official line now being that God only struck down only males with no older siblings, the percentage of boys with unbelieving parents killed is a simple 1/n, where n = average family size. So if the average Atheistopian family has 2.5 kids, about 40% of the boys he was teaching are now dead. Assuming a balanced gender ratio, about one-fifth of the seats in his classroom will be newly empty. No wonder he’s a wreck.

    I’m weirdly reminded of the prison psychologist and his wife from the Watchmen comic – coincidentally, also a black couple. He wants to help pretty much anyone who’s broken or hurting, while she wants to flee to a gated community and let the outside world go to hell. Typical of Jenkins that the latter impulse shows up repackaged as “Christian faith” while the former might as well not exist.

    • Patrick Phelan

      Granted, given that the psychologist was seen on the streets of New York on the second-last issue, the fate of someone who wants desperately to help others without necessarily slathering that in Christ is the same in both Jenkins and Watchmen.

      • But the villain not only had a better explanation for why his murderous actions were necessary*, the story also didn’t treat him as a morally perfect beacon of righteousness. He managed to blackmail the other characters into letting him get away with it based on the fact that they couldn’t undo the evil he’d done and punishing him would probably undo the good. But they didn’t drop at his feat to worship him. And of course, the last page suggests that it may have all been for nothing after all.

        *Well, kinda. I’m not so convinced that the immediate response from all the world’s nations that the villain predicted and wanted was a mathematical certainty. For all he knew, America might’ve panicked or Russia might’ve figured that America was weakened, and there’d still have been a war. It’s one reason I disagree with Linkara that the movie ruined the ending. It had its downsides, but it did also show that all nations were hit, so they would be more likely to join forces.

        That, and it didn’t ruin it’s premise that there was only one being with superpowers by suddenly going “Oh yeah, psychic powers are real too, and so well understood you can just clone yourself a massive psychic brain and program it with any information you want. What? No, we totally didn’t just pull that out of our ass in the last chapter, despite it never mattering or even being mentioned at any point in the story. See, there’s one line in one of the side-documents between the chapters from a clearly unreliable newsrag that speaks of an alleged psychic who’s head was stolen post-mortem.” Seriously, there’s mentioning a gun on the wall in the first act, and then there’s a footnote in the appendix mentioning there may be a mechanical object of some kind in the building.

        • I’m fine with the movie changing the details of the villain’s attack, the massive cloned psychic brain was plainly ridiculous. My main beef with the movie is that in cutting all the civilian “side-stories”, it also cut out all the stuff that showed society breaking down (which was one of the big things the villain wanted to fix) and also made it so the attack only killed pixels and nameless extras, not anyone we’d gotten to know or care about. The comic’s dozen-ish panels of two civilian characters having an actual conversation for the first time, interrupted by the attack incinerating them both as one futilely attempts to shield the other, are a bigger gut-punch than anything the movie has to offer.

          • I agree, that is one of those downsides of the movie. Admittedly, the first time I read the book I was wondering what the point of especially the newsreader and the Black Freighter stuff was until the end. Seeing how long the movie already was, I understand why they couldn’t fit those side characters in anymore, but it does create the “a million is a statistic” problem, especially since the flash-of-light isn’t nearly as gruesome as the book’s version of the villain’s plan.

            My solution to this dilemma: Hollis. He was in the movie anyway, he lived in the right place, and his earlier murder by a group of angry junkies was one of the things that got cut in the movie version. If they’d fleshed him out a bit more, showing his everyday life, then put him prominently in the scene where shit went down, I think it’d help immensely. And it would take a lot less screen time to do so than to introduce all the missing side characters.

          • @Ivan, since we’re reached the maximum depth of replies,

            Definitely wasn’t room for all the civilian stuff, but IMO they could totally have cut some length off that horrible sex scene and spent a bit less time showing artful spurts of blood in slow motion to make room for more character. Also, I liked Newspaper Stand Guy talking to everyone who’ll listen about the impending war quite a bit more than Old Nixon in his war room – plus, if you replace Nixon with NSG you can have muggings and other street violence in the background to illustrate the decay of social order.

            Hollis would work well too, though, especially if his heroic instincts kick in so he can steal the “tackle someone else in a futile attempt to shield them from the explosion” scene.

      • I was about to say, well sure, but Watchmen paints that as a bad thing.

        Then it occurred to me – does Jenkins ever even write any characters who genuinely make helping others one of their top priorities? Even Christians who serve up that help with a healthy topping of Jesus? I’ve been reading Slactivist’s Left Behind posts and this blog’s deconstructions for ages, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a character mentioned in a Jenkins work. There are plenty of Christian characters who want to convert everyone else, of course, but I can’t recall any who thought feeding the hungry, tending the sick, etc, were important goals in and of themselves.

        • There was a bit in one of the Left Behind books, shortly after some disaster or another, maybe the Rapture itself, when Chloe was comforting (& proselytizing to, natch) a dying fireman in New Hope Village Church’s converted patient area. So, there’s that, at least.

          • That was in the movies only. In the books, New Hope Church was never turned into a field hospital. Unspecified horrible scenes of devastation and carnage are often said to be happening, but none of the allegedly sympathetic characters ever consider helping anyone (culminating with the doctor who fixes Buck’s head wound he received when exiting the plane because he’s bored sitting in the air plane terminal… while the entire airport is surrounded with car- and planewrecks).

            The movie was smart enough to realize that, once you’ve portrayed loads of injured people, your protagonist look more likable if they do something about it. Though it introduced plotholes, because the church alternates between being empty, filled with worshippers, and servicing as a field hospital from scene to scene.

          • In the LB series, there are multiple opportunities for the “heroes” to either help OR evangelize those left behind, and they never take it that I can remember, except when their death is already 100% certain within the next few minutes (Chloe converts a woman when they’re both in line for the guillotine).

            One of the nastier examples I can think of is post-worldwide-earthquake. Buck is trying to find Chloe, and visits a makeshift hospital/morgue. He bothers the doctors, disturbs the patients, and interrogates an older lady who saw Chloe escape. All without lifting one finger to help anyone, or even mention the name of Jesus.

            The characters really are just interchangeable parts. When has Paul Stepola ever (and I mean EVER) lifted a finger to help another human being? I mean, he gave that homeless dude a dollar bill in Soon, but it’s also implied that the homeless guy is actually Jesus, so I’m not sure even that should count…

          • @Ivan, but for some reason, can’t reply directly: Damn, I knew I only remembered that scene clearly from the old movie, but figured I didn’t remember it from the books proper because I know them pretty much entirely via Slacktivist, and if it had been in there, I’d have read that part almost a decade ago. Thanks for clearing that up.

  8. This is the Bible of Strength: if a man shows he can beat you, you should respect and obey him: what he does is right. He will respect and obey the man who can beat him. You can command anyone you can beat, because you are right in any decision you make about them. And God is the toughest man of all.

    Regarding names: the target audience for this stuff are not habitual SF readers, so they may well assume that “name for an old person” should be “name that sounds to me like an old-person name” and get thrown if they meet something else.

  9. inquisitiveraven

    Re: the name Cletus

    Am I the only who thought of this guy? Now he’d have an interesting reaction to the deaths of all the first born. Decent people probably wouldn’t like it, but at least he’d be honest about his motives.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Roundup for March 6, 2015 | The Slacktiverse

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