Y'see, when they rescued Howard, I was actually filled with a little hope when it turned out that he had the Zod-mark, so we didn't have to go through the inevitable scene where Judd and Vicki try to rack up another one for Zod. Even though, Howard clearly hadn't internalized the respect all RTCs have of hierarchy, at least, we didn't have to go through another conversion scene.
But I should have known better. Even though Ellanjay spared us a conversion scene, of course, they wouldn't dream of sparing us from the inevitable "How I came to love Big Brother" scene. Because remember, Ellanjay love money almost as much as they love the Gospel According to Supply-Side Jesus so of course, they look for any excuse to pad this series out.
So yeah, let's get to this and get it over with. I will apologize, but you've probably already guessed that Howard's actual backstory is a lot less interesting than the ones I made up for him last week.
But enough delays, let's put on your montage music of choice and get to this.
The first paragraph features some action that even the Amish would consider incredibly mild, but the RTCs would probably pop their monocles at the raciness of it all. Y'see Judd and Vicki, aka a pair of unmarried adults of the opposite sex, actually huddle together as the sun goes down in order to keep warm, because it gets cold after sunset. We can only hope that Vicki at least had the common courtesy to wear gloves so the sight and feel of her bare hands wouldn't fill Judd with carnal thoughts. Though maybe the fact there's another person with them (Howard), would be enough to appease the RTCs. With Howard there, they don't have to worry about Judd or Vicki committing the heinous crime of pre-marital sex or Onan's sin. Because RTCs know that two adults who aren't related through either blood or marriage, can't be in the same room/general area without immediately jumping each other's bones.
I know, I probably shouldn't make so much hay out of the opening paragraph, but I love any excuse to make fun of how repulsed RTCs are by the horrific act of consensual sex between two people who love each other.
Apparently after sunset, they start hearing noises aside from the cackle of flames
At night, however, the city seemed to come alive. Dogs barked, motorcycles whined, and people shouted in the distance. But the worst sound was the cries of people who had lost family and friends. The high-pitched wails of men and women in pain echoed through the smoldering ruins.
And if you guessed Our Sociopathic Heroes respond in an appropriately sociopathic fashion to all these people wailing about their dead relatives, again, congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay tropes. Too bad you can't even get a latte or really any reward for your hard-earned knowledge.
“I feel so bad for them,” Vicki whispered. “If they’d chosen God instead of Carpathia, they wouldn’t be hurting.”
YEAH VICKI, IT'S ALL THEIR FAULT FOR NOT IMMEDIATELY EMBRACING THE GREAT ASSHOLE IN THE SKY! RATHER THAN SIDE WITH THE GUY WHO IS DOING HIS BEST TO TRY TO SAVE PEOPLE FROM REPEATED HORRIFIC DISASTERS, THEY SHOULD HAVE SIDED WITH THE ASSHOLE CAUSING ALL THE HORRIFIC DISASTERS!
Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, I should probably admit that I really shouldn't be shocked by all this, given how far I've made it into this series. But I believe certain points need to be driven home, over and over again. Just remember that the only objection Ellanjay would have to that sleazy New-Age woo called The Secret is not the sleazy or the woo part, but the New-Age part. If Rhonda Byrne had merely substituted "Jesus" instead of talking about the laws of the universe, they'd totally be all over it.
All you have to know about Ellanjay's repugnant philosophy is that anything bad that happens to you, especially if you're female, it's all your fault. You should have been more humble and submissive, you shouldn't have let your smile drop for a second and gotten sad or mad about even the slightest offense. Not to mention, blatantly advertising how female you are, what with wearing those ankle-length skirts, and in doing so, tempt a man to sin.
Okay, I probably shouldn't linger so long on their obsession with the sins of women and the filthy sex they represent. They probably have an equally repugnant attitude when it comes to male sinners as well. After all, we all remember Pat Robertson's compassionate response to the earthquake that hit Haiti.
More and more, I start to think I probably shouldn't have created the "Our Sociopathic Heroes" tag. Because there seems to be no way I can avoid overusing that tag until it loses all meaning.
But anyway, Judd is all "So tell us your story?" to Howard. Howard, who probably hasn't read the script/outline given to him by Ellanjay, is all "You don't want to hear it." And Judd responds by saying "Look, you're a background character in the hands of shitty writers who decided it wasn't enough to have a solid-gold Humvee, if they couldn't have a diamond-studded swimming pool to go with it. Just keep your head down and accept your fate, so we can move onto the next plot point already!" But I freely admit that I may have substituted some of my own dialogue there.
Anyway, turns out that Howard and his mom clearly weren't good RTCs, because after Howard's father walked out on him when Howard was four or five, they were always poor. Howard's mom had to work two jobs in order to take care of her kid, which forced her to neglect her duties as a mother and leave Howard alone for all hours of the night. Remember, women, if you accept food stamps or other assistance in order to keep you and your kid from starving to death, you're lazy and entitled and therefore, a bad mother. If you accept whatever work you can get and work your tail off in order to keep food on the table and a roof over your head, you're a selfish woman for neglecting your primary duties in life, which is your family.
I know I'm belaboring the point, but I have a feeling that if you were to ask Ellanjay some pointed questions and if you somehow managed to cut through all the weaselly BS they're fond of using in order to soften their horrible rhetoric, they'd probably say something similar. I can't help but think that if I asked why Howard's dad walked out on them, assuming they even thought to fill in that important aspect of a character's background (even if Howard's dad never actually appears onscreen, by merely existing, he has an affect on the thoughts and feelings of Howard and his mom), they would probably blame Howard's mom for not being a good enough wife or something like that.
Of course, I realize that I'm making a pretty big assumption in assuming that Ellanjay would bother to go beyond step one and fill in that aspect of Howard's background. Given what we know about their love of avarice and sloth...yeah, I don't think I need to say any more.
Anyway, because Howard's mom was busy
As you probably guessed, there was the Token RTC that Howard and his friends should have listened to before it was too late! This one was named Kirk. In a rare show of basic workmanship, they do actually assign Kirk some traits beyond being the RTC friend whom they should have listened to before it was too late!
“He could do stuff on a skateboard you wouldn’t believe. No helmet. No fear. He was skinny, like me, with a pointy nose. He kind of looked like a bird, come to think of it. His hair was always sticking up in the back, and his body was always moving. You know, even if he was standing still he was moving, cracking his knuckles, crossing his legs, snapping his neck. You just couldn’t stop the guy.”
I know I shouldn't heap too much praise on this, but given how rare it is that Ellanjay bother to give any physical description of the characters (because the only thing that matters is their Saved or Unsaved status), I feel a need to point this out. Especially since in this descriptive passage, they actually succeed in not only describing the character's physical attributes, but providing us with some idea of his personality. Again, it's basic level writing, but given how rarely that shows up...
Anyway, one day Kirk got this scooter and wanted to show it off. After which he was struck by a car and killed.
Howard and his friends go to Kirk's funeral. And if you guessed, the funeral, rather than trying to provide comfort to friends and family going through a rough time, turns into an altar call, again, congratulations, you could have spent your time on so much worthier causes.
Anyway, like I said, the youth minister, who is described as having a high-pitched voice, forcing me to picture him as sounding like Frankie Valli because it amuses me to do so, gives the standard altar call speech. If you talk to many Atheists or Agnostics or just anyone who didn't subscribe to the deceased's specific brand of religion in general, most will talk about how they really hate it when someone hijacks the memory of a loved one and uses it as an excuse to rack up converts for Jesus.
I imagine though, if you were to call out a minister on taking advantage of someone's grief to try to get them to take home a brand new spanking Jesus today! They would cite or give an example akin to that of Ezekiel 33's Watchman. We've talked many times about how despite Ellanjay claiming that they totally read the Bible literally unlike all those dirty liberal socialists and their insistence on the Social Gospel, Ellanjay don't. Again, like I said, Christianity is akin to spell-casting for them, where all you have to do to get the results you want, is say The Prayer with the precise amount of sincerity demanded. After which, you just sit around and wait for your reward in Heaven. All that stuff about how you should take care of the poor and what not, the prophets were actually referring to some not too distant point in the future when TurboJesus returns and slaughters his enemies. Or in other words, you don't actually have to visit those in prison or clothe the naked or feed the hungry.
But if you subscribe to the kind of sociopathic, unyielding Cthulhu-esque God as preached by Ellanjay, can you imagine how anxiety-provoking Ezekiel's passage about the Watchman can be? What if a good RTC kid takes it to heart and tries to convert his Jewish best friend only for said friend to refuse to take the bait? What is he supposed to take from that passage? That not only is his Jewish best friend going to suffer and burn for all eternity, but because he wasn't sufficiently sincere or pious enough, God's going come for him as well?
Fred already touched on this in one of his posts, even citing the infamous "Letter from Hell" glurge that RTCs like to circulate, but I believe I speak for everyone when I say that is pretty fucking sick to place that amount of responsibility on anyone's shoulders, especially a kid's.
Especially since it's very unlikely that the RTC kid could possibly ever reach all 7 billion+ humans on this planet and will have to face the fact that many of these people, regardless of whatever virtues they may possess, they're going to wind up in Hell for the terrible crime of being too poor to facilitate the distribution of tracts or access the information needed to get saved online.
So yeah, we shouldn't be too shocked whenever an RTC kid or someone raised in the fundie culture, winds up a basket case. With those kinds of messages, we should be shocked if they don't wind up a basket case.
I've probably asked this several times already, but I keep wondering how Ellanjay would respond if I brought up the people of North Sentinel Island. I imagine they'd employ their usual weaselly tactics to avoid giving a straight answer, but if I managed to cut through their BS and get them to actually admit something, what would they say if I asked, "So are the people of North Sentinel Island going to burn in Hell for the crime of having spent their entire history cut off and isolated from outsiders?"
Anyway, after the Rapture, Howard realized just how wrong he'd been and admits that he's screwed up even now. Judd's like "If we all had to live perfectly after God forgave us, we'd be screwed," which leads to kind of a weird passage.
Y'see I was under the impression that Howard was already an RTC and therefore, we'd be spared the part where he is made to KNEEL BEFORE ZOD! but then we get this:
“God wants to change you from the inside out,” Vicki said, “but you have to let him.”
“I want that… .”
“Then tell him,” Vicki said. “Pray right now and tell God you’re giving him the rest of your life to use however he wants. Thank him for saving you and making you a believer, and ask him to help you grow. He’ll do it. He really will.”
Howard bowed his head, and Judd saw his lips moving.
Like I said, I was puzzled by this passage, because it seems to be the type of thing seen in so many scenes where a character finally comes to love Big Brother and like I said, Howard did have the Zod-mark as mentioned in the previous chapter, but then I remembered that old RTC belief where if an RTC falls away from the faith or does anything wrong, it's a sign they were never really an RTC. Also affectionately referred to as the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.
Anyway, after all these long periods of characters talking, Ellanjay once again, try to stir up suspense. Turns out since the sun has gone down, the GC is on the move again and Judd and Vicki and Howard must flee! Because if they are captured by the GC, they will be executed for refusing to accept the Nicky Mark, after which they'll suffer the horrific fate that awaits all RTCs: dying and spending eternity bathing in the golden bliss of heaven. But then again, I'll just make the obvious joke that Judd and Vicki don't want to die and miss out on sex forever, because Ellanjay believe that there will be no sex in heaven, so no doubt, their self-inserts would believe the same.
Again whenever I hear about the RTCs creepy obsession with purity and virginity, aside from the obvious "What is an RTC kid supposed to think if they're raped, after hearing so many lessons on the importance of saving it for marriage?" question, I find myself wondering about all those RTC kids who do everything their parents and pastors tell them and make it to their wedding day having done nothing more racy than hold hands or give side-hugs. Because as many will tell you, your first time is rarely as magical as it's hyped up to be, so I imagine there are quite a few disappointed RTCs on their wedding night. Can picture them going, "The Hell?! This is what my parents/pastor made such a big deal about?!"
So Judd and Vicki and Howard are scrambling around, trying to avoid being captured, but I'm bored to death and you're all probably bored to death from all the lectures I've given, so I'll just say that the chapter ends with Judd's cell phone ringing, thus providing the GC a potential clue as to their location.
As you probably guessed, this will be another one-chapter-snark, but I will briefly mention that at the beginning, Judd turns off his phone and advises Howard and Vicki to do the same. Yeah, anyone want to tell Ellanjay that even if your characters turn off their phones, even if they steadfastly refuse to call anyone, law enforcement could probably still track them down, using the pings given off by nearby cell-towers? Because cell phones don't function on air and light like plants; they require a well-maintained infrastructure that law enforcement could probably easily take advantage of, if they have a reason to be looking for you. And we all know what a bang-up job the Tribbles do of staying below the radar and keeping their heads down so as to not attract attention.
Though given how badly they suck at being a rebel or a terrorist threat, I can't help but wonder if Nicky is just punking with them. Doing enough so they can indulge their martyrdom fantasies and have a big circle-jerk about how they're totally sticking it to the man! While Nicky can take advantage and get shit done while they're distracted. That's my head canon and I stand by it!
One last thing before I wrap this up: I will be on vacation next week, so I'm afraid if you want to continue the exciting adventures of the Heroes Who Don't Do Anything Remotely Heroic, you'll have to wait. Take care of yourselves until then.