There is palpable tension in the conference room as those sitting around the long rectangular table wait for the meeting to begin. There are seven men in the room, each one keeping their eyes to themselves, their hands folded neatly together in front of them. The men in the room remain silent, not uttering a word for several minutes, before the question that all of them are thinking of asking becomes too difficult for one of them not to ask.
"Does anyone know why we are here?" blurted out the man sitting on the end of one side of the table. He unfolded his hands and nervously fiddles with his collar. He looks around and catches the eye of the others sitting around him, but there is no response. "Come on," he pleads. "Someone has got to know something."
"All I know is that it's been a long time since we were all called to a meeting like this," the man sitting next to him says. "What has it been, sixteen, seventeen years?"
"Yeah, and we all remember what happened that time," a third man chimed in.
Murmurs of agreement went around the room. The men sitting around the table now looked up at each other and shared expressions of painful remembrance.
"Do you think it has anything to do with-" the first man began.
"Yes," a loud voice said, interjecting. All eyes went to the broad shouldered man sitting at the head of the table. "I mean, it has to. Has no one been following the news?"
Apparently they all had. All but the man at the head of the table turned their eyes back to their folded hands in shame, their faces turning red. Silence settled heavily over the room again, but only for a moment.
"Do you think he-"
"Yes," the man at the head of the table said, his voice weary but patient. "What else would that be there for?" He gestured to the middle of the table, where a sleek white conference telephone sat. "He should be calling any minute now."
"He always phones in these meetings," the first man said, his voice reaching a nasal quality. "If these are so important, how come he never shows up?"
"I think he's got better things to do, Gabriel."
Just as he spoke those words, the phone rang. The man sitting closest to it reached forward and hit the Accept Call button.
"HELLO," a massive voice boomed, at a volume that the small speakers on the phone couldn't possibly. produce. "ARE WE ALL HERE?"
"Yes, Sir, we are all here. I'll start the roll call. Michael."
The other men went down the line, stating their names.
"GOOD. ALL PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR," the voice said. "NOW, I'M SURE YOU ALL KNOW, WHETHER YOU FREELY ADMIT IT OR NOT, WHY I'VE CALLED YOU TOGETHER AGAIN."
"I think that is a safe thing to say, Father," Michael said for the group. "We were just discussing the last time we met-"
"HOW FOOLISH IT WAS OF ME TO ASSUME THAT YOU ALL WOULD HAVE LEARNED FROM THE LAST TIME." The anger in his voice was all too apparent. "YOU WILL FIND THAT I'M NOT GOING TO BE SO FORGIVING THIS TIME AROUND."
Beads of sweat popped out on every brow, and every man intently studied his hands as if they were the most fascinating thing in the world.
"NOW. I'LL ONLY ASK THIS ONCE: WHICH ONE OF YOU LEAKED THE INFORMATION?"
Thick silence fell heavily upon the room. No one dared to move even the slightest bit, or even to breathe.
"DO ANY OF YOU KNOW HOW MUCH WORK IS INVOLVED IN PLANNING A RAPTURE? DO YOU?" the voice raged from the phone, causing it to vibrate against the table. "SEVENTEEN YEARS OF INTENSE LOGISTICAL PLANNING GOES RIGHT DOWN THE CRAPPER BECAUSE SOMEONE SPILLED THE BEANS."
Gabriel broke down in tears, unable to stand up to the pressure in the room. He buried his face in his hands and sobbed unabashedly.
"FORGET THE LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE. DO ANY OF YOU KNOW HOW MUCH IT COST TO BUILD HOUSING FOR MY CHOSEN FLOCK, AND THEN FOR IT TO STAND UNUSED FOR ALMOST TWENTY YEARS? AND STILL IT STANDS, TENS OF THOUSANDS OF EMPTY HOUSES. IT'S GOING TO COST ANOTHER FORTUNE TO KEEP EVERYTHING FROM FALLING TO SHAMBLES WHILE I PLAN YET ANOTHER RAPTURE."
"I'm sorry, Father," Michael began, clearly shaken by the angry outburst. "I'm not entirely sure how this happened. Security was tight as always, but clearly something was leaked. Maybe the IT people can see if our firewall was hacked."
"NO," the voice boomed with finality. "THERE WILL BE NO INVESTIGATION."
"Come on, Father, give us a few days to track down the leak," Raphael said, speaking for the first time. "I'm sure we can-"
"I SAID NO, RAPHAEL." The voice reverberated in the room, the sound waves sending tremors through each archangel sitting around the table. "WHAT HAS HAPPENED ALREADY, WHILE ADMITTEDLY INFURIATING, IS IRRELEVANT. FOCUS YOUR ENERGIES INSTEAD ON SILENCING THE FALSE PROPHET BY THE NAME OF CAMPING. CLEARLY HE HAS SOMEONE ON THE INSIDE, AND HE HAS RUINED MY PLANS ONE TOO MANY TIMES."
"Consider it done, my Father," Raphael said at once. "He's almost into his ninth decade. He's had enough time."
"What shall the rest of us do, Father?" Uriel asked.
"MAKE YOURSELVES SCARCE BEFORE I DECIDE TO SMITE YOU FOR NOT KEEPING A TIGHTER LID ON MY ALMIGHTY PLANS. I DON'T WRITE THINGS IN MY DAYRUNNER IN PENCIL, YOU KNOW."
To prove His point, a bolt of lightning slices through the air and scorches a shallow crater in the table. Terrified silence again fills the room.
"THAT WAS A JOKE."
The archangels break out into forced laughter, during which the call disconnects and a dial tone sounds. Michael stands up and hits the End Call button.
"I think we got away with that one by the skin of our teeth, my brothers," he said with a sigh. "Now, let us go forth and do His bidding."
The conference room empties out in a rush of flowing robes and wings.
We all apparently survived the end of the world this past weekend. It was all kind of foolish, if you ask me. The whole thing behind the Rapture was that no one is supposed to know when it was going to happen. Let's just say, hypothetically, that the Rapture was supposed to happen this past Saturday. Don't you think God would have to reschedule it because everyone knew about it?
Oh, well. Give it another week and we'll have something else to obsess about.
Happy Monday, folks.