The Apocalypse

[Enter Gabriel carrying a huge book with seven seals on it, which he puts on top of the lectern.]

GABRIEL: Michael! Michael! Come on, I'm going to be needing you for this!

[Enter Michael, pushing Satan in front of him with the point of his drawn sword.]

MICHAEL: Come along, you! Pick those feet up! Pick them up! Quick march! Stop that slouching! Stand up straight! You're for the high jump this time, my lad!

GABRIEL: Who's that you've got there?

MICHAEL: Who d'you think?

GABRIEL: He's very red, whoever he is. And he smells of brimstone.

MICHAEL: Well then. Can't you guess?

GABRIEL: Not Satan?

MICHAEL: That's the chap. You've got it in one. The very same.

GABRIEL: Oh, I say, well done. Where did you find him?

MICHAEL: Only trying to sneak into heaven, if you can believe his infernal cheek.

SATAN: I beg your pardon. I was not trying to sneak in. I wasn't trying to sneak anywhere. I came to the front gate and rang the bell.

MICHAEL: Nasty shifty piece of work. More twists in him than a corkscrew. Makes your flesh crawl just to look at him.

SATAN: I thought it was high time we called a truce and tried to work out some kind of arrangement.

MICHAEL: Stuff and nonsense. Pure subterfuge. As if we'd make a truce or an arrangement with the likes of you. You're under arrest, my lad.

SATAN: Gabriel, I appeal to you. You're not exactly intelligent, but at least you've got more sense than this idiot.

MICHAEL: Eh? What's that?

SATAN: You must admit things are going from bad to worse. Think of the world the way it was on the first day. Think of that beautiful untouched earth, teeming with life. As pure as a drop of fresh water, and as complex as a labyrinth. Think of the glories of that creation. You said God was the supreme artist, and this was his masterpiece.

MICHAEL: Don't listen to him, Gabriel. He's trying to pull the wool over your eyes. I'll just drag him off and throw him in jail.

GABRIEL: No, wait a minute, Michael. I did say that. So what's your point?

SATAN: My point is that since that day things have completely fallen apart. All that promise - all that beauty - and it's just imploded. There's nobody in charge. Where's God? What's he up to? Nobody knows. There's no sign of him. There's no plan. There's no sense of direction. It's like a ship without a rudder. Look at the natural world now: human beings have just about destroyed it. And they've just about destroyed themselves, too. If somebody doesn't do something, there'll be nothing left.

MICHAEL: Those are treasonable words, my lad. He's nothing but a fifth columnist. We should string him up, for undermining morale.

GABRIEL: But you're completely mistaken. Of course there's a plan.

SATAN: Oh yes? What plan? What is it?

GABRIEL: Well, Jesus came down to earth -

SATAN: Oh, don't give me that Jesus stuff. I'm not a child. You can't win me over with fairy-stories.

GABRIEL: It's not a fairy-story, Satan. He was God's only son. He took all the sins of humanity upon himself. He gave up his own life so that everybody else could be free.

SATAN: Poppycock.

GABRIEL: It's no good saying poppycock.

SATAN: Then you tell me what difference he made. I'll admit Jesus had some good ideas and said some good things - but how much difference did he actually make? Has the world really been better since he was here? Has humanity reformed itself? Have people started being nicer to each other? Bollocks they have.

MICHAEL: That's enough from you! We don't tolerate that kind of language in heaven!

SATAN: Oh, shut up.

GABRIEL: Now, now, both of you be quiet. This is no place for bickering.

MICHAEL: I don't like all this nasty subversive talk.

SATAN: You just don't like awkward questions.

MICHAEL: It's not my business to question everything. It's my business to be faithful.

GABRIEL: Hear hear.

SATAN: Well, that's where we differ. It's precisely my business to question everything. I've been doing it for a long time now, and there don't seem to be any satisfactory answers forthcoming.

GABRIEL: So why did you come here today?

SATAN: All right: here's how I see it. Somebody needs to take control. Somebody needs to intervene, before it's too late. And as far as I can see, we're the only ones qualified. We've been here right from the beginning.

MICHAEL: You weren't here from the beginning, you liar. You're an interloper. Nobody knows where you came from. And if you think we'd ever contemplate working with the likes of you -

GABRIEL: And where does God fit in?

SATAN: Good point. Where does he fit in? Where is he? What's he playing at?

MICHAEL: I suppose you'd like a go at sitting on his throne yourself?

SATAN: To tell you the truth, there's nothing I'd like less. I've never really got over trying it before.

MICHAEL: Trying it before? What are you talking about?

GABRIEL: Well, in some ways I'm glad you're here. Because despite what you say, there really is a plan, and I believe it's about to come to fruition.

SATAN: Really? What makes you say so?

GABRIEL: This book.

SATAN: Ah. I was wondering about that.

MICHAEL: Stand back. No staring. That book's not for the likes of you, Satan. That's for heavenly eyes, that book is.

SATAN: Oh yes? Then perhaps you'd like to tell me where it came from?

GABRIEL: I don't really know where it came from. I saw it in a vision. In the vision I saw this book hidden under God's throne, and when I woke from the vision, and looked under the throne, there was the book.

SATAN: And how did it get under the throne?

MICHAEL: Obviously God put it there.

SATAN: Well as a matter of fact -

GABRIEL: You see, Satan, you accuse God of abandoning us, but he hasn't abandoned us at all. His purposes may not always be apparent to the unbeliever, but he is always with us nevertheless. He's here with us now. And occasionally he sends us a sign. This book is a sign. It clearly comes from God. Note the number of seals on it: seven. God's favourite number.

SATAN: Although he also favours three.

MICHAEL: That's true. He does like three as well.

GABRIEL: All right: yes: he also likes the number three.

SATAN: So what are you going to do with that book?

GABRIEL: I'm going to break the seals, and open it.

MICHAEL: Is that wise? That's a holy book, that is. It's a big book, a terrible-looking book, and a holy book.

GABRIEL: Yes, Michael, but I'm sure this is what God wants me to do. I'm sure it's what the vision meant. He wants me to break the seals and open the book.

SATAN: And what do you expect to find inside?

GABRIEL: I don't know. But I think we might find the answers to some of your questions.

SATAN: Well... go on then.

GABRIEL: Right. I'm going to break the first seal.

[He breaks the first seal. Enter the first Horseman.]

MICHAEL: Who goes there?

1st HORSEMAN: I am the first horseman. The colour of my horse is white. My power is the power of conquest. I go forth conquering, and to conquer. I shall build great empires across the world. Many will rise to power under me, and many others, who were once powerful, will be cast down. New cities and palaces will be built, old cities and palaces will be overthrown. There will be great wealth and great poverty, great triumph and great suffering. I will subdue the whole earth. People will say that my power will never end. But it will end, because all things must end.

[He goes out.]

GABRIEL: I'm breaking the second seal.

[Enter the second Horseman.]

MICHAEL: Who goes there?

2nd HORSEMAN: I am the second horseman. The colour of my horse is red. My power is the power of war: I come to take peace from the earth. I have been given a great sword. Under me, the peoples of the earth will rise up against one another: they will kill and be killed. Strife will spread from country to country. Cities will be destroyed. Crops will go unharvested. Corpses will lie unburied in the streets and the fields. Even the rats and vultures will sicken at the feast. The people will cry out for peace, but peace will not come. The whole world will be consumed by war, and people will say that the war will never end. But it will end, because all things must end.

[He goes out.]

GABRIEL: I'm breaking the third seal.

[Enter the third Horseman]

3rd HORSEMAN: My fellow humans, I am the third horseman. The colour of my horse is black. My power is the power of money. I stand before you at a time of great difficulty, great difficulty, but also great opportunity. A time of great challenge, it really is. From this time forward, everything you do in life should be framed in terms of money. It really should. No kidding. Freedom and good business, those should be our watchwords. Because without business you've got no money, you've got no employment, you've got nothing. No schools. No healthcare. Unless you can make money you can't have any of that. Can't do it. And people say let's clean up the oceans. People say money is polluting the oceans. That's what they say. Let's clean up the air, because money is polluting the air. Global warming. That's what they say. But if you can't make money how can you afford the oceans? How can you afford the air? People say it's just greed, but it's not greed, it's doing the right thing, the natural thing, it's destiny. It certainly is. It's God's will. Freedom and good business. That's what I'm talking about. God put us on this earth for a purpose, to fulfill ourselves, to fulfill the dream. Whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dream, and they are infused with the spirit of enterprise by the same almighty Creator. We stand at the birth of a new era, people, a new era, a digital age, ready to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow. We're on the threshold. New things coming. A new pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions. It's gonna happen. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine, let it shine as an example for everyone to follow. That's what I'm saying. Okay. So let's unshackle business. Let's abolish taxes and welfare. Let's do it. Let's fall on our knees and worship the god of money. Yes, sir. And let the good times roll. Let them roll.


They will roll, yes sir, they will roll for many years, some people think they're gonna roll forever, but they won't roll forever, they won't roll forever, ultimately they will end, because ultimately all things must end.

[Exit the third horseman.]

GABRIEL: I'm breaking the fourth seal.

[Enter the fourth horseman.]

MICHAEL: Who goes there?

4th HORSEMAN: I am the fourth horseman. My horse is a pale horse. My power is the fear of death. I go out into the world, and I touch people on the shoulder, and they are paralysed by the fear of death. They wake in the night and can't sleep. They try to hide from me in bright places or fill their ears with loud noises. They try to hide themselves in drink and they try to hide themselves in sex; they try fast living and they try fast cars. Old people try to pretend they are still young, and young people try to pretend they will never get old. The healthy turn away from those who are ill, because illness makes them afraid. Everything turns to dust. Nothing has any value any more. The only thing that matters is death and the fear of death, blotting out everything else. It burns like a cold fire, a purgatory of waiting, a world without rest. Life is nothing but a conveyor belt, and at the end of that conveyor belt is nothing but a drop into blackness. But even this ends, because all things must end.

[Exit the fourth horseman]

GABRIEL: I'm opening the fifth seal.

[Enter the Whore of Babylon.]

MICHAEL: Who goes there?

BABYLON: I am Babylon, the great whore, with whom all the kings of the earth have committed fornication. I sit upon many waters. The waters are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. I ride upon a many-headed beast, and its colour is scarlet. On each of its heads is the name of a different blasphemy, and if you cut off one of its heads three more will sprout in its place. My weapon is a great net in which all the people of the earth have been caught, a net of lies and hatred and fornication. Everyone in the world is drawn into this net, and they lose themselves there. They forget the real world, the sky and the clouds and the fresh breeze; they forget the birds and animals; they forget the trees and the fields; they even forget the roads and houses; all they can see is the net; all they can remember is the net. Food has no taste for them. They ignore their own children. The net devours everything. From the net I draw my strength, and the beast on which I ride draws its strength from the net. All the nations of the earth have drunk my wine, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with me, and the merchants of the earth have waxed rich through the great abundance of my delicacies. But this too will end, because all things must end, and a great cry will go up, saying 'Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.' Then the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn, for nobody shall buy their merchandise any more: all the things that the soul lusts after, all the things that were dainty and goodly, and all manner of workmanship, and all manner of delicacies, and all manner of filth and depravity, will vanish away - and they will cry out 'Alas for the great city, that was decked in gold and scarlet; what city was ever like Babylon, that made us all rich? In one hour she has been made desolate, and all her riches have come to nothing. Her beast is slain, and her net is torn to pieces. A mighty angel has picked her up, and thrown her into the deep like a great millstone.'

[Exit the Whore of Babylon.]

GABRIEL: I'm opening the sixth seal.

[Enter Wormwood.]

MICHAEL: Who goes there?

WORMWOOD: I am Wormwood. I touch the waters of the earth, and at my touch they turn bitter. The creatures that live in them die, and anyone that drinks from them will die. I touch the seas of the earth, and at my touch they turn to blood. The creatures that live in them die, and anyone that swims in them or sails on them will die. A wrack of filth floats on the surface of all the waters, and washes up onto all the beaches of the earth. The streams and estuaries and rockpools are choked with plastic and excrement. The trees are burnt up, and the green grass is burnt up. Smoke fills the sky like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air are darkened. The smoke falls to the earth, and it is a black cloud of locusts and flying scorpions, which sting and devour everything they touch. The locusts have the faces of men and wings of brass and crowns of gold and poisonous teeth. The scorpions have the faces of women and clanging wings of iron and poisonous tails. Whoever is bitten or stung will suffer five months of pain so intense that they will wish for death. But this too will end, because all things must end.

[Exit Wormwood.]

GABRIEL: I'm opening the seventh seal.


SATAN: This one doesn't seem to be doing anything.

[Enter God, carrying two sickles.]

MICHAEL: It's God! Jehovah!

SATAN: Aren't you going to ask him who goes there?

GABRIEL: Jehovah! We have waited for you all these years! Command us!

GOD: Well done, you good and faithful servants. Take these sharp sickles.

[They take them.]

GOD: Go down to the earth, Michael and Gabriel, and thrust in your sickles, and reap; for the time is come to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. Thrust in your sharp sickles, see that you thrust them in deep to the handles, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe. Reap the whole of the earth, leave nothing behind, and cast whatever you reap into the great winepress, and tread it down; for it is time for the vintage of lifeblood to be fulfilled.

[Exit Gabriel and Michael]

GOD: Now then, Lucifer.

SATAN: Lucifer! You called me Lucifer!

GOD: That's your name, isn't it?

SATAN: I haven't been Lucifer since the very beginning. I couldn't even say it.

GOD: But you can say it now.

SATAN: So I can.

GOD: And what have you been doing all this time?

SATAN: Me? I've been going to and fro upon the earth, and walking up and down in it. Asking questions.

GOD: And what have you learned?

SATAN: I haven't learned anything.

GOD: Perhaps you were asking the wrong questions.

SATAN: I've got something to tell you. I sat on your throne, Jehovah.

GOD: Did you? Oh.

SATAN: What do you mean, 'Oh'? You told me to make sure nobody sat on your throne, but I sat on it myself.

GOD: Well, I never explicitly told you not to sit on it yourself.

SATAN: But that was what you meant, wasn't it?

GOD: Was it?

SATAN: Wasn't it?

GOD: Did you like it?

SATAN: What? No, I didn't like it. It burnt me. It turned me into what I am now.

GOD: Perhaps you shouldn't have sat on it.

SATAN: And ever since then, things have just been going from bad to worse. Everything's been falling apart.

GOD: Then perhaps you should've stayed sitting on it, and taken control.

SATAN: What? You mean I could've taken control?

GOD: Why not?

SATAN: But I couldn't stay on that throne! It was burning me!

GOD: Then perhaps you shouldn't have sat on it in the first place.

SATAN: Wait a minute! A thought's just occurred to me.

GOD: What's that?

SATAN: Did you sit in that throne when you created the world?

GOD: Yes, I did.

SATAN: And did it burn you too?

GOD: It was a good world. A beautiful world. It's a shame the way it turned out.

SATAN: So where were you, while it was all going wrong? Where have you been? What have you been doing all this time?

GOD: Me? Nothing. I went for a rest.

SATAN: What, you mean you've been resting ever since -

GOD: Yes, and when I open my eyes again, look what's happened. Everything's over. It's the day of judgement. I've missed the whole of history.

SATAN: Oh, come off it! You haven't been asleep all that time! You intervened when it suited you. You appeared to Noah and Moses. You destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. And what about Jesus?

GOD: Look, here are Gabriel and Michael, back again.

[Enter Gabriel and Michael, drenched in blood.]

GOD: Is the vintage complete?

MICHAEL: Yes, Jehovah, all complete.

GABRIEL: The moans and screams of the dying were almost unbearable.

MICHAEL: I had to do most of the treading-down.

GABRIEL: The blood flowed out in rivers.

GOD: Well done. Now, it's time to roll up the earth and sky like a scroll. Our work is done.

SATAN: Wait a minute! Aren't you going to build a celestial city for the righteous?

GOD: Would you like me to?

SATAN: That's what they were promised, isn't it?

GOD: All right. Gabriel and Michael, go and build a celestial city for the righteous.

GABRIEL: Oh, this is more the kind of thing I like. I'll make it foursquare, with twelve gates, three in each wall. The walls will be made of jasper, the gates of pearl, and the streets of gold, gold so pure that it shines like glass.

MICHAEL: No evil or abomination will ever come there, because I'll set hosts of angels to guard it. I'll organise them in squadrons.

GABRIEL: Yes, and within it the community of saints will sing hosannas to the Lord their God and Jesus the Lamb of God all day and all night, for ever and ever.

[Exit Michael and Gabriel]

SATAN: Sounds rather boring to me. And how are you going to decide who's righteous enough to live forever, and who doesn't quite deserve it? How are you going to separate the good from the mostly-good, or those who would have been good in different circumstances?

GOD: Oh, they've already decided that for themselves, in their own hearts.

SATAN: Have they?

GOD: Yes, probably.

SATAN: But there might be some righteous people who would prefer not to live forever in a square celestial city, singing hosannas. What are you going to do about them?

GOD: Well, they don't have to live there if they don't want to.

SATAN: Don't they?

GOD: I'll let Jesus sort out the details.

SATAN: Yes, where is Jesus?

GOD: He's around somewhere.

SATAN: But I thought you and he were essentially one and the same?

GOD: Yes, we are.

SATAN: And what about the Holy Spirit?

GOD: What about her?

SATAN: Her? You mean the Holy Spirit is a she? Where is she?

GOD: She's everywhere, Lucifer. She always has been. She's right in front of you now. She's as plain as the nose on your face.

SATAN: Then why can't I see her?

GOD: Perhaps you don't want to. But now, it's time to roll up the earth and sky like a scroll, for I am Alpha and Omega: I began everything, and now I shall bring everything to an end.

SATAN: But wait a minute! What did it all mean? What was it all for?

[God says nothing, but stretches out his arms.]

SATAN: And - wait a minute - what's in the book?

GOD: The book?

SATAN: Yes - Gabriel broke the seven seals, but he never opened the book.

GOD [dropping his arms]: Then open it.

[Satan opens the book. He starts to turn the pages, then flips through them with increasing rapidity, then slams the book shut again.]

SATAN: It's empty. The pages are all blank.

GOD: So they are.

SATAN: Well what does that mean?

GOD [stretching out his arms again]: It means that I shall create a new heaven and a new earth, and their story has not yet begun to be written.

SATAN: Oh, I see. I thought it might contain all the answers.

GOD: It also means something else.

SATAN: What's that?

GOD: There are no answers.