They wanted him to be a good Christian and it’s my fault that they failed.
It’s my fault that they are dead.
The suicide was obvious, the evidence clear. But the police never figured out his motives.
I know the motives.
I know the meaning of his scribbled message, the message that no fourteen year old should leave before he pushes a shotgun against his head.
“Save yourselves now. Join us in heaven before it is too late.”
The police thought he had gone insane; that he had brought them down into the bunker and that he shot them there for a personal reason that only seems significant for a fourteen year old. Maybe bullying or parental pressure or a punishment he thought unfair.
But all they wanted was to make him a good Christian.
They were certainly a bit extreme, maybe, but they were never bad neighbors and although they judged me for being a sinner I judged them for being naïve believers. That’s the balance. We still had barbeques together and they still introduced me to “attractive and good Christian girls” and once in a while they regretted somewhere in the middle of a “thank you for lending us your lawnmower” that I was such a nice guy and would still go to hell.
To their credit, they didn’t like to see me talk alone with Marcus, but they never stopped him from coming over. They told me, quite clearly, not to let him play violent or sexual games or to access websites on my computer, but they never forbade me to talk with him about religion.
Marcus was the one that asked me. He was always the one to initiate those conversations; I would swear on my life that this is true. I didn’t want to convert him or interfere in how they were raising their son. But he was curious and I think curiosity needs to be rewarded with answers.
I’m not sure why he always came to me with those questions. But if I had to make a guess it was because I was willing to offer answers while his parents offered “because God made it so.”
He asked the things any teenage boy would ask. First, of course, about the important things in life. Kids want to understand why animals look the way they look and even for a child it makes more sense that the leopard’s pattern helps him hide in the bushes than just God’s will.
Of course I sent him to ask his parents about the rather delicate questions and afterwards I listened to how he explained to me that it was because of Adam and Eve and that it was sinful unless sanctioned by God through marriage. That’s okay. Not my job. Not my duty.
But I didn’t think that it would be a problem to explain to him the apocalypse.
“It’s written in your parents’ bible,” I said. “It’s the end of the world as we know it. There will be earthquakes and fires and your parents believe that God will save all the faithful and good and that all those that have sinned will suffer.”
“Oh,” he said. “Now I know why dad keeps talking about it. He’s really scared of it, you know?”
“Sure,” I said. “I’d rather not be alive if that really happens.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Dad says that sinners will cause the apocalypse.”
As said, they wanted him to be a good Christian. In their beliefs they were doing the right thing. They just wanted to teach him a good lesson.
The night before it happened he was over at my house, asking me for books about philosophy because his parents said that philosophy was a work of the devil. And, or at least that’s what he told me, he wanted to be strong against the devil.
It took him not even an hour to read through Descartes’s “Meditations” and when he dropped it Marcus said it was the worst thing he’d ever read.
“That’s how he tries to prove God?” he asked.
“Man, this guy is ridiculous.”
“That’s totally circular.”
“Yeah, I don’t like him either.”
“Anyway,” he said. “I have to get going. Big day tomorrow.”
And he winked.
“Remember the girl I told you about?”
“Sure,” I said.
“We have a date tomorrow.”
“Oh,” I said. “Do your parents know?”
“God, no! Don’t tell them! They will go crazy!”
The next night I heard them screaming next door, that he was a sinner.
Marcus father rang my doorbell just before midnight. He asked to borrow some of my documentaries. He said he needed them to make Marcus a good Christian.
“Sure,” I said. “Take what you want.”
Seventy two hours later the police broke into the bunker to retrieve their bodies.
The bunker had come with the house; a remnant of World War II that they had transformed into a comfortable second living room with a few inherited guns.
The police found not much more than a stack of food and a TV with tapes and DVDs about natural disasters.
And next to the TV, on the sofa, Marcus’ parents: His mother with a bible in her hand, turned to the Revelation of John, and his father with the TV’s remote clenched inside his fist. Both with their heads blown to bits.
Right to their feet, between TV and sofa, was Marcus.
Marcus with a piece of paper at his side and the shotgun, with which he killed his parents and that he then pushed against his head, still resting on his chest.
They just wanted him to be a good Christian.
They wanted to teach him a lesson.
They wanted to teach him that sins have consequences.
And so they showed him the apocalypse.