The Underground Atheist: Chapter 1
Samuel had been admiring his reflection in the glass behind the bar. He was trying out his new close-fitting black suit with a very nice black button up and, yes, his new black silk tie. He prided himself on the way he dressed.
“All right, hit me with another one,” said a man sitting next to him at the bar.
Samuel inspected the speaker in the mirror. He was a weathered-looking man in his late thirties, a mechanic, probably, wearing his grey monkey suit and a worn black jacket.
“Come on, I don’t got all night,” the man complained. “I gotta take the kids to church tomorrow.”
“You’ve already had two, buddy,” the bartender said as he measured out exactly one shot of rum and poured it into a glass of what presumably was Coke. “You’re going to have to wait awhile.”
“What are you talking about? I’ve been sitting at this bar all night. I had my last drink over an hour ago. There’s no way I’m over. I think you’re losing it, old timer.”
“Hey, I don’t make the rules. God does.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Look, just give me the breathalyzer, will ya?”
“Sure thing, pal. I gotta pour these drinks first though. If that’s OK with you?”
“Hey, you don’t need to get rude over here.”
The bartender stared at his troubling customer for a second and then closed his eyes and softly prayed, “God, grant me your strength so that I can practice patience on one of your misguided children. Amen.” Then he opened his eyes and just walked away.
“Hey, do you want to finish mine?” Samuel said to the man.
“Excuse me?” The man said.
“My drink. Do you want to finish my drink? I barely touched it.”
“What is this? Some kind of trick?”
“No trick here. You just look like a guy who could use this drink a lot more than I could.” Samuel scooted up a little closer to the stranger. “Just take sips when the bartender’s not looking.”
The man glanced over and saw the bartender looking right at him from the other end of the bar. Then he turned back to Samuel.
“Ha! I’ve heard about things like this happening before. A guy gets cut off at the bar and then some undercover God-squad officer shows up and offers him the rest of his drink. They sit and have a nice time and chat for a few minutes and then all of a sudden the poor guy is getting arrested for body pollution and doing two months in jail. Thanks but no thanks, pal.”
“Suit yourself. It’s going to go to waste then. Isn’t wasting our precious commodities a sin in itself though? I mean think about all the less fortunate countries where it’s a blessing just to be able to eat a bowl of rice every day.”
“Believe me, I think about that all the time. In fact, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Why would God allow something like that to happen? It’s pretty fucked if you ask me.”
Samuel turned away from the guy and took a sip of his drink.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to swear.”
“Oh, no need to apologize to me.”
Samuel looked over at the guy and smiled. Then he leaned in to whisper in the guy’s ear.
“I fucking cuss like a motherfucker.”
The man laughed and shouted out, “Haha, no shit?!”
“Hey! Watch your language!” The bartender shouted. “There’s to be none of that trash talk in my bar, ya hear? One more peep out of you and I’m calling the cops.”
“Sorry, won’t happen again,” the man called out. Then he looked over at Samuel and smirked. “Man, I got a hundred dollar ticket for saying ‘hell’ the other day. Can you believe that?”
“Man, what the hell is up with that?”
They both started laughing, the stranger laughing harder than Samuel. Eventually, they settled down from their fit of laughter and Samuel took another sip from his drink.
“So you said you’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately?”
“Yeah just about life and who we are. I don’t know, maybe things I shouldn’t be thinking about.”
“Oh wow, those types of thoughts can get a man arrested.”
“Yeah I know. That’s why I’m really trying not to have them.”
“It’s all right though. I think about things like that sometimes too.”
Just then a glass shattered on the ground and Samuel looked to his left and saw a woman bending down. She began to pick up the pieces of broken glass. She cut her finger and immediately brought it to her mouth. She suddenly made eye contact with Samuel and he quickly turned away.
“Really?” the weathered man said as he captured Samuel’s attention again. “OK, good. I’m not crazy then.”
“No it’s completely natural to question your existence and where you came from and if you’re following the right path and what not.”
“Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about. But anytime I try and bring this up to anyone – even my wife – they all just try and change the subject or tell me to pray more.”
“It’s almost like they’re scared to talk about it because you might be right.”
“Exactly. It’s like you’re taking the words right out of my mouth.”
“Oh, shhh, crap, this is my song!” Samuel said. “I don’t know why but there is just something special about hearing the song you picked at a bar. It’s almost like you’re the DJ and it’s your job to entertain the crowd for those three or four songs you picked. Hopefully, I won’t disappoint.”
The man smiled and looked down at his glass. He stirred around the ice cubes and took a sip and chewed on some of the cubes.
“Hey,” said Samuel, “what if I told you there was a bar that didn’t cut you off after two drinks?”
“I’d say you were dreaming, pal. Places like that only exist in heaven. Haha.”
“Oh no, they exist. I’ve even been to one before.”
The man pulled in close to Samuel.
“You’re not kiddin’ around?” the man said with a tone of desperation in his voice.
“I never kid around about my booze,” Samuel said, then smiled at the man and took another small sip from his drink.
“Wait a second.”
The man pulled away.
“Yeah, I’ve heard of places like that. Aren’t those things run by the non-believers though?”
“Well, it’s hard to tell who is really in charge but I can tell you that the more open-minded types usually frequent these kinds of establishments.”
“I don’t know about that, man. I don’t want to get mixed up in that crap. Didn’t you hear about that kid who got shot the other day by the faith officers just for passing out non-belief literature? I mean, no trial, no jury. Just bang bang, problem solved.”
“Could you imagine living in a world where people could freely express their thoughts about anything and not have to worry about being fined or even shot and killed? Could you imagine living in a world where the man next to you doesn’t believe in what you believe and that’s completely OK?”
“You’re talking about complete religious freedom. Like the Brits have got.” The man grabbed Samuel’s drink and took a big swig of it. “I’d say you were on to something. But a world like that will never exist.”
“Because this is our society. This is the way things work and have worked since the beginning. It would take a war to change our entire nation’s way of operating and our belief system.”
“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! I’m not talking about a war. I’m just talking about getting our government to ease up a little on some of its laws.”
“You better watch what you say around here, man. You could go away for years if the wrong person heard you saying these sorts of things.”
“You’re not going to turn me in now are you?” Said Samuel as he playfully smiled at the man.
“No, no, no. That’s not what I meant. I’m just saying be careful.”
“Wouldn’t that be nice, though, to be able to go to a place where you could freely talk about things like this and not worry about getting arrested? Or be able to drink as much as you wanted and not be told when to stop?”
The man looked up and saw the bartender wiping down the bar with his back turned to him. He grabbed Samuel’s drink and quickly drank it until the ice cubes hit his front teeth. Then he put the glass down and took a deep breath.
“Yeah, that would be great. Hey sorry, I kind of just finished your drink. Let me get you another one.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. I told you I wasn’t going to finish it, remember?”
“That you did.”
Samuel pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and looked at the time.
“Oh wow! I must be going. But if you are really interested in an establishment like we talked about you should go to this address.”
Samuel handed him a card with an address on it.
“If you show up at midnight you might just find what you are looking for.”
“Oh, well, thank you. I don’t know if I can show up tonight but we’ll see.”
“Well the party is constantly moving so you better try and show up because you don’t know when you might bump into me again.”
“Well it looks like I have no choice then. Haha.”
Samuel stood up and straightened his jacket.
“Thanks for the tip. What was your name?
Samuel held out his hand. “Oh, I’m Samuel. And you are?”
The man grasped Samuel’s hand and they began to shake. “Nice to meet you, Samuel. I’m Mark.”
Samuel stopped shaking Mark’s hand and looked at him with a confused expression on his face. Mark tightened his grip and continued shaking Samuel’s hand.
“Oh, that’s strange,” Samuel said.
“Oh, nothing, it’s just that your work shirt says ‘Peter’.”
Mark continued tightening his grip while Samuel slowly started to try and pull away. They looked intensely into each others eyes.
“Oh, well, um, I forgot my shirt this morning,” Mark said, “so Peter let me borrow his. He’s a real swell guy. You’d like him.”
“I’m sure I would. All right, I have to get going,” Samuel said as he tried to pull away from Mark’s grasp. Mark smiled viciously at Samuel and pulled him close.
“We got you, Sam,” Mark said as he pulled out a gun from his jacket and pointed it at Samuel.
“You’re under arrest for seven different organized crimes against God. This is it, you’re done. You’re finally going to burn in hell for your sins.”
Beads of sweat ran down Samuel’s face as he stared at Mark. His eyes began to burn not only from the sweat dripping into his eyeballs, but because he hadn’t blinked in what felt like hours. He had to do something and fast. He knew what would happen if he were arrested.
Samuel slammed his forehead into Mark’s face and before Mark could react, Samuel grabbed hold of Mark’s gun hand and shoved him against the wall, knocking his gun out of his hand.
Taking a step back, Samuel pulled out his own gun and tried to bring it to bear, but Mark pushed his hand up out of the way so the shots went into the roof. Samuel then felt his nose break under Mark’s fist as blood exploded all over his shirt.
In a daze Samuel broke free from Mark’s grasp and started to make a run for it. Mark tripped him and he felt his chin fracture as he fell to the floor. Samuel rolled onto his back and as Mark came at him, he slammed his foot into Mark’s chest, sending him crashing into the jukebox. Mark screamed as glass shards from the shattered jukebox pierced his back.
Samuel quickly got to his feet. He reached down and picked up his gun and made his way to the back door of the bar. Around him, the other bar patrons were screaming in panic and running out the front door.
Samuel turned around just in time to watch Mark keel over onto the floor and cut open both of his hands as he braced his fall on top of the shards of glass from the juke box. Samuel aimed his gun at Mark and pulled the trigger. To his surprise he had shot his last bullet into the roof earlier.
“Well, looks like God does really look after his sheep. Most likely just coincidence, though.”
Samuel made his way out of the bar and down the street as police sirens began to fill the air. The streets were dark and fairly empty. That meant it was almost curfew.
Samuel slowed down and tried to blend in with everyone leaving the restaurants around him. By the time he had run at least three or four blocks, he was starting to feel somewhat comfortable in his surroundings. He was still a little bit uneasy with the sound of the sirens coming closer and closer, though. They had to be maybe a block or two away.
Afraid that someone might recognize him or be suspicious of the blood running down from his nose, Samuel tried to avoid the light from the street lamps. His heart skipped a beat as two cop cars pulled up out of nowhere. Samuel hid behind a few trashcans that were laid out on the sidewalk. Thank God it was trash day tomorrow. He heard both doors open suddenly.
“Do you see him, ma’am?” Samuel heard a police officer ask.
“No, I don’t see him,” a woman said, “but I swear to you he went this way.”
Samuel heard the car doors close and the police car sped off. A feeling of relief came over him as he quickly stood and turned down a dark alley. Only a few more blocks and Samuel would be at the rendezvous point with the others.
As he crept out from the end of the alley, he looked around and saw an equally crowded street ahead of him. Again avoiding the light and staying mostly in the shadows, he tried to blend in with the small crowds leaving the various bars and restaurants.
He started walking faster as he felt people eyeing him suspiciously. He tried to calm down and tell himself that he was just paranoid and no one was staring at him. No one could have gotten a good look at him in the bar. Well, except, there was that one woman that cut her finger on that broken glass.
“There he is!” a woman in the streets screamed. “That man is not a Christian! That man is not a Christian!”
Samuel looked back and saw the woman from the bar who had cut her finger She was in the back of a cop car that had its lights off. How could Samuel be so clumsy and not see the car?
He began running away as fast as he could as the hysterical woman continued screaming at him. The cop turned on his headlights and fired up his siren. He normally might be worried at this point but he saw two red flares spark up about a block and a half away. That was them. It’s a good thing the great Mathew had him wear that tracking device.
He pulled his gun out of his jacket and changed out the clip. The police car’s siren was blaring right behind him as he turned around and opened fire on the car. They were headed straight for him and didn’t look like they intended on stopping.
Samuel unloaded ten shots into the driver’s side of the car before it started veering to the left. He jumped to the right trying to avoid the oncoming car. Samuel barely made it out of the way as he jumped into a pile of trash cans that were lying out on the street.
A few moments later, the sound of the police car crashing into a street lamp startled Samuel. He leapt to his feet and then screamed out in pain as he put weight on his left foot. It must have been clipped by the car while he was jumping out of the way.
Samuel began to limp towards the flares up ahead as fast as he could. He saw the lamp post that the car had crashed into slowly falling towards him. He jumped out of the way and watched sparks ignite as the lamp came crashing down onto the street.
Just then the cop in the passenger side opened his door and spilled out of the car, gun in hand. He started firing at Sam as he lay on the ground.
“God grant me the accuracy to destroy this demon!” the Police officer shouted as he shot at Samuel. “Allow me to wipe away this evil from your perfect world my lord!”
The cop emptied his gun at Samuel without managing to hit him. Once he was out of bullets, he kept pulling the trigger as if in disbelief that God would allow his gun to be empty. Samuel hobbled up to the cop and pointed his gun at him.
“Looks like God called in sick today,” Samuel said as he pulled the trigger on his gun. Nothing came out. “Oh, God dammit! Not again. This is pure coincidence, I swear.”
“You will pay for your sins,” the cop said as a small flame ignited underneath the hood of the car. “Maybe not during this life but God will eventually punish you for the wickedness you’ve spread throughout our land.”
A feeling of panic overcame Samuel as he heard more sirens begin roaring in the distance. He started limping over to the dying flares in the distance. He hoped he wasn’t too late.
“Please don’t leave me here,” the cop pleaded. “I can’t feel my legs. Please, the fire is getting bigger. Please help me!”
Samuel continued walking towards the flares without looking back. He eventually made it to the rendezvous point and got into a white van that was hidden in some overgrown bushes. He opened up the sliding door on the side which had the words “God’s Crusaders” written across it: a perfect disguise for a group of non-believers. He crawled into the back and closed the door. He felt an overwhelming sense of relief and safety as he lay down in the van, at last hidden from view by dark-tinted windows.
“Where to, boss?” Samuel recognized the voice coming from the driver’s seat as belonging to the great Matthew.
“Take me to the tree of life. I need to lay low for a few weeks. I really fucked up tonight.”
“It seems I’m a little rusty at recruiting newcomers.”
“Well don’t worry. You’re not the only one who screwed up tonight.” Matthew said as he started up the van and began driving.
“Oh shit! What happened to Marry and Isaac?”
“They got nabbed, sir.”
“We have to go back for them.”
“We can’t, sir. They got nabbed big time.”
“The feds got em?”
“Yep. No point in the two of us going up against an army, sir.”
“That’s my wife we’re talking about, God dammit!” Samuel sat up and punched the headrest of the front passenger side seat. “I’ll take em on myself if I have to.”
“I’m with you one-hundred percent of the way, sir. Just let me know what you want to do.”
Samuel took a few moments to think before he replied. “Take me to Moses. We have to put together a team and go after them. We don’t have long before they realize that she’s not going to talk.”
Matthew tried to drive the van as inconspicuously as possible as they passed the burning cop car that was by then completely engulfed in flames. Even safely inside the van, Samuel could feel an immense amount of heat from the wreck. God had saved his man from the bullet but it looked like he couldn’t save him from the fire.