Most of us will be familiar with the idea of the Antichrist from popular culture and films. In Monty-Python terms, if Jesus is a very naughty boy, the Antichrist is very naughty indeed! There seems to be some confusion over the nature of the Antichrist however, with some suggesting it is a metaphorical reference to the sin in every man. If we supposed that the Antichrist was indeed a man (or woman), what might he be like? What might motivate him? What makes him fit for the job? Does he ever have doubts? Does he like ice-cream?
‘Ladies and gentlemen, today we have a special surprise on the show for you! It is my dubious pleasure to present the man we all love to hate, self-proclaimed Antichrist and philanthropist, Damien Thorn!’
The interviewer’s teeth glisten pearly white in the spotlights. In the shadows of the studio, men in dark glasses and suits scan relentlessly for trouble. The audience responds with a mixture of cheers and boos, as Mr Thorne walks steadily out of the wings and into the limelight.
They exchange pleasantries, joke about the traffic on the way and settle into the furniture. Damien flashes a smile to the audience, and spreads his arms over the back of the sofa.
‘So, Mr Thorne, do you mind if I call you Damien?’
‘Go right ahead Neil. All my friends do!’ Chuckles.
‘Ha ha – of course. Damien. First off, thanks for agreeing to come on the show tonight. It must have been tricky to juggle your hectic schedule!’
‘Not at all. In truth, I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to meet my people. Press releases can be so impersonal, so I thought it would be fun to give you a peek at the real me.’ He grins at the audience again.
‘Absolutely. Once again, it is an honour to have you with us. Now, would you mind if we start at the beginning? Can you tell us a bit about your childhood? What made you the man you are today?’
‘It’s a good question Neil. I don’t think anyone can get to being a spiritual leader without a little soul searching. To be honest though, there’s not much to tell; but since you asked, I’ll give it a go!’ Smiles and light laughter from the audience. His face takes on a sombre cast. ‘I have to be somewhat vague I’m afraid, as giving out too many details might actually place some of my family or friends in danger. There have been some issues with… extremists trying to influence me.’ Shaking of heads and murmers. Damien takes a moment to sip the water next to him.
‘I’m sure we’ll all very sorry to hear that. We’ve read a bit about it in the papers of course. Well then, what can you tell us?’
‘I grew up exposed to a variety of cultures and traditions. My family travelled a fair bit, so I came to appreciate nature’s diverse tapestry pretty quick. Exotic foods, smells, music and foods. Between you and me, I absolutely adore curries!’ Laughter. ‘Nothing too spicy, mind!’ He holds his hands up in mock surrender. ‘I had excellent schooling, and an excellent moral upbringing from my parents’.
‘Now Damien,’ interrupts the interviewer. ‘This is one of the points that confuse a lot of people. How can a man claiming to be the Antichrist reconcile that with a decent upbringing? I mean,’ he spreads his hands with a nod to the audience, ‘you’re supposed to be the bad guy!’ The audience chimes in on cue with boos and whistles. The security guards note a cluster of particularly loud boos, and with a couple of nods and gestures they shift slightly.
‘It’s a fair cop, as they say.’ Damien smiles, almost ruefully, then flashes a mischievous grin. ‘Without going too deep for this time of the evening, I’m sure you can appreciate that to be the Antichrist, or indeed any spiritual authority, you need to know what you’re talking about. I could hardly presume to speak about something I didn’t understand!’
‘True, true, but many people fail to see how you can be a moral authority, but also – well – immoral?’
‘Let me clarify a couple of things first, Neil.’ Damien raises a hand for attention, then it relaxes back onto the sofa. His eyebrows raise earnestly. ‘I wouldn’t have said I was that immoral for starters. It’s true that I’m working to refine a lot of the religions we have today, but I think anyone who knows me would say I’m actually a decent guy.’
‘Your charitable work is certainly well known. You surprised a lot of people when you “came out” as being the Antichrist.’
‘Yeah, and frankly I surprised myself too.’ Neil starts to say something, but stops as Damien’s hand lifts for a second. ‘Before I talk about that, I’d like to finish speaking about my work, if I may.’ Nods and hands clasped. ‘You see, one of the things I realised about life, mankind and religion was this. Man needs faith like a fish needs water. There are issues with the language sometimes, and people can really lose it when you suggest that they take a lot on faith in their daily lives. I think it all comes from trying to distance themselves from all the negative press that the major religions have gathered for themselves over the years. Set that aside and you’ll find that faith hiding in the quiet moments of introspection; filling in the gaps of certainty, albeit in a rather basic, primal state.’ He stops for another drink of water. The interviewer nods thoughtfully.
‘So, what is your refinement of religion supposed to achieve?’
‘Actually, if you understand the manner in which faith is such an intimate part of our lives, you’ll see that my project is actually about self-image.’
‘Yes – the importance of a good barber!’ With a smile, he turns his head from side to side to trace the faint stubble along his chin with a forefinger. Burst of laughter from the audience, and a moment for it to calm. ‘I can give you his number if you like!’ Neil grins, shakes his head and declines with a wave of his hand. ‘Seriously though, if you think of me as trying to hold up a mirror to mankind, I’m trying to show people what we ARE like so we can decide what we want to become. One thing I learned from Art college, if you want to create something beautiful you need to learn your medium. Whether it’s paint, sculpture, photography or… people.’
‘We gathered you were talented. I suppose your artistic streak just echoes your sensitive and compassionate side.’ Laughter.
‘I guess it does,’ Damien nodded, looking down in a bashful manner. ‘I guess it does.’
‘So – tell us more about “coming out” then. What made you think you were the Antichrist?’
‘Funny you should use that turn of phrase, as the process was actually quite similar. There were moments of doubt. Confusion about my identity. Wrong turns along the way. But at the end of it, it was simply something I couldn’t keep ignoring. In a sense I could have just left it unsaid, but my whole opus here is about honesty.’ At this, a burst of outrage and boos erupts from some of the crowd. It takes about 5 minutes for security to round up and expel the troublemakers. Damien remains quite calm throughout, and can be seen speaking closely with one of the guards before order isrestored.
‘Sorry about that, Damien. Controversy does seem to follow you about!’ Nervous laughter from the audience.
‘No worries, Neil. All publicity is good publicity, eh?’
‘It seems that quite a few people have a problem with your “honesty”.’
‘It’s true. I’ve been called many things, from “Delusional” through “Deceitful” and worse. Aside from the bad press from the right wing religious hard-liners, it’s rarely a pleasant experience confronting your true self.”
‘I mean, I spoke of holding up a mirror. Some kinds of spiritual pain and brutality can’t be masked by, say, plastic surgery!’ Some applause from the audience. ‘When I confront people with their prejudices, ignorance, pettiness… I’m sure we can all relate to those times in school where we got embarrassed in front of the class. It’s not nice realising you’re mistaken, or not the cool person you thought you were. Still, sometimes the truth is more important than remaining incognito.’
‘Were you bullied in school?’
‘Ha ha ha! Good question! Yes I was. In fact most people are, and it often continues into adulthood. Strange how some things are hard to grow out of.’
‘How did it make you feel?’
‘Honestly? I hated it. I hated them. I wanted to make them suffer as much as they made me suffer, but then I started to realise something important. They were just kids. We were just kids. Stupid, ambitious, playful, insecure kids. Whenever I encounter an adult acting in that way, I can’t really get annoyed any more! Frankly, it seems more ludicrous when an adult acts that way anyhow!’ Damien mimes challenging Neil to a fist fight, and they both laugh.
‘Well then, Damien, before this turns violent, can you tell us a bit more about your role as… Antichrist. Some of your detractors have claimed that you are, and I quote, “Poisoning the minds of the innocent, and drawing them away from God’s truth.” Is that true?’ Neil turns a wry smile to the audience.
‘Funny that, I never saw myself as a poison. Possibly some kind of laxative!’ Uproar of laughter. Interviewer calls for calm. ‘I’d like to think I’m helping people to get rid of some of the crap they’ve been putting up with most of their lives. Lighten the load and all that.’
‘How does that work?’
‘First thing is to encourage people to disagree. With me. With each other. With the things they have been told. Be critical, and to make up their own minds. Do the right thing for the right reasons, whatever you decide they are, but give it some thought.’
‘Damien, once again I’m going to have to say that this doesn’t sound like the sort of advice the Antichrist would be expected to give. Pardon my ignorance, but shouldn’t you be bringing about the doom of mankind rather than helping us?’
‘You need to understand that the Antichrist is a particular Christian bogeyman, and like most fairytale monsters they become bigger and nastier with each retelling. My methods may be in opposition to the Christian church, but we are all actually after the same thing.’
‘Simply put, for mankind to fulfill its destiny. In my case, I’m not telling people what that is.’
‘That doesn’t sound much like doom, though, does it?’
‘Well, to be perfectly honest with you, if mankind actually decides that it wants to self-destruct in a nuclear holocaust I’m not going to stop it. I have faith in mankind to make the right decision however.’
‘And what would that be?’
‘Ha ha! That would be telling! I’m not wanting to influence things in any particular direction, but personally I try to live a good life. Love one another in a manner that is more than skin deep. Work together to make the world a better place. You know – pretty obvious stuff!’ His face becomes serious. ‘It can be difficult to teach people some of the most obvious things. Different people learn at different speeds and respond to different methods. When they are ready to listen, they will come.’
They pause for a drink of water and a brief commercial break. Fitness videos and the latest blockbuster have their say, before our attention is returned to the studio.
‘So, Damien, we’ve come to the part of the show where we get some questions from the audience and viewers at home. Are you ready?’
‘I’ll certainly do my best! For reference, be gentle with the maths questions. Was never my strong point!’ Laughter, and a sea of hands erupts in the audience seats. A girl is selected, and stands up looking shy, holding her hands.
‘What’s your name then young lady?’
‘Anna. Pleased to meet you!’
‘And you! What was your question for Mr Thorne?’
‘Um. Can I ask whether Mr Thorne enjoys his work?’ Attention shifts to Damien who finishes sipping his water.
‘That’s an easy one, Anna. It’s a resounding yes! After all, I do what I do because I firmly believe it’s for the best. I feel it’s about making a real positive difference. Is that what you meant?’
‘Yes. Thanks!’ She sits, and an elderly gentlemen is chosen next.
‘Henry Grody. What makes you think you are the Antichrist, and not just another arrogant whacko?’ Nervous laughter.
‘Tricky one. I believe… that sometimes people are chosen for a greater purpose. They can spend their lives denying it to themselves, but when you feel it – right here in your chest – the doubt just melts away. I’m sure there are other people who may well have been qualified for the job, and there will be more like me in the future, but for the moment I have to fill this spiritual gap. It needs to be done, and someone has to do it.’
‘Aren’t you just being sensationalist?’ At this rejoinder, Damien smiles.
‘A little! I’m sure you wouldn’t blame me for taking advantage of media interest to spread my word a little!’ Laughter, and clapping from the audience as a different questioner is sought out.
‘Mr Thorne, do you have a girlfriend?’
‘How delightfully forward! I have to answer in the negative, but before anybody gets their hopes up I have to tell you that I’m currently in a long term homosexual relationship.’ There is a moment of shock, then uproar. The lady who asked the question slumps back into her seat, face pale and hand to her mouth. A mixture of applause and boos sweeps through the studio. Neil motions for calm and restores order. A smile plays over Damien’s lips as he drains his water glass and motions for a refill.
‘We apologise for the disruption, Damien. I think it’s safe to say that we were all somewhat blind-sided by your… by the fact that…’
‘That I’m gay?’
‘Technically, I’m bisexual, but the person I am in love with is a man, yes. For his safety I can’t tell you any more than that.’
‘How long have you been seeing each other?’
‘About 8 months now. It’s going well!’
‘Does he find it hard to be the secret partner of such an international and controversial celebrity?’
‘It does have its toll, but together we’re working through it. I’m proud to say that he’s a very special person, and we’re managing to make it work. Very well in fact!’ Damien gives a suggestive smile for emphasis, and a resounding wave of laughter and cheers issues forth. ‘Seriously though, there are days where I don’t know where I would be without him. Sometimes the negative pressure gets too much, and we just take some time out to ourselves. He means a lot to me.’
‘Well, on behalf of us all, we wish you all the best. And special thanks for giving this network an exclusive insight into your private life!’
‘Not at all.’
Neil hears something over his earpiece, then turns back to Damien.
‘I’m sorry to say that we’ve run out of time. Once again, many thanks for agreeing to some and talk with us tonight, and the best of luck in your endeavours!’
‘It has been a pleasure Neil, and the audience have been wonderful!’ He shakes hands and flashes a smile to the crowd. ‘We must do this more often!’ Laughter.
‘Absolutely! Goodnight!’ Damien stands and walks off stage into a bevy of waiting security. As he leaves the spotlights a shadow passes across his face, just for a moment, and then is gone. He is escorted out of the studio, downstairs and out to a waiting limousine. He gets in, and as they drive off into the night he sits sandwiched between guards but looking at the man facing him.They lean towards each other, and hold hands.
‘How do you think it went from out here?’
‘Looked good to me, love. Are you ok?’
‘Yeah. I’m still coming down from the adrenaline high!’ They lean close and kiss gently, once.
‘I’m proud of you, you know. For saying it all.’
‘I’m proud too. I’m very lucky of course!’ Damien grins.
‘Damn straight. And don’t you forget it!’ They part and sit back in their seats. The guards sit silently. The world flashes by outside.
‘They’ll destroy you, you know.’
‘Perhaps we could just leave it all behind…’
‘I thought I was supposed to be devil’s advocate!’ They laugh. Serious face ensues. ‘I do wonder sometimes, but somebody has to do it.’
‘Does it have to be you, though?’
‘Yes. Sadly, yes.’
‘Let’s get you home, and out of those clothes. Make the most of things. I bought some of that cherry and chocolate ice cream you like.’
‘Honestly, love, that’s the best suggestion I’ve heard all day. I swear, that interviewer’s cologne was making me want to sneeze throughout!’ They laugh, and hold hands for the rest of the trip. They keep in touch for hours.