Monday, April 23, 2007

The Prophecy.

An update on Capra--in the Meet John Doe vein.

A fake-out beginning. We start with the lives of assorted losers and sad-sacks. They suddenly turn their lives around at the end of the first act, and they end up on an infomercial for a new self-help movement bordering on religion.

It's run by a fellow nicknamed 'The Teacher' who espouses a philosophy centered on what he calls 'The Prophecy.'

There's some sense to it: a bit of existentialism, a bit of Dale Carnegie, a bit of NeuroLinguistic Programming. Nothing new. But there's also much in it that's specious, if not absurd.

He disclaims mystic powers yet performs things people take to be miracles--they're almost more like magic tricks.

A tenacious female reporter (whom we've met early on) takes him on. She's hell-bent on exposing him as a charlatan. She's sure there's something bad about him, though she doesn't know why.

Midway through, the Teacher's team digs up dirt on her that throws suspicion on her motives. She loses her job.

Eventually, an underling of The Teacher exposes him as a kind of mild pervert. People are grossed out, and he loses his following.

Also, he's juggled the books of his organization and actually gets sent to prison on a short sentence. He's sent to a rather bad prison, too--not the typical white collar country club type, to prove the local D.A. is 'tough on crime'--he's running for mayor soon--and because everyone feels embarrassed they ever trusted this guy.

The reporter gets her job back, plus a promotion. She's receives an award for her reporting career, although it's given by exactly the weasels responsible for firing her and who failed to speak up for her.

All's unwound. The story's run its course: just another 'exciting new phenomenon' that's really more of the same ol' same ol'. This guy isn't Christ or Mohammed or Mary Baker Eddy, just another snake oil salesman, a con man of a not very elaborate sort.

Except that then, strangely, one of his 'prophecies' comes astoundingly true.

The reporter and others run back to the Teacher. What does he think of this astonishing fulfillment. But it's too late. The Teacher has been killed in a prison riot.

Was he something important? We'll never know. Everyone wants to forget. It's all reduced to a footnote--an old bargain bin paperback sold for a quarter.

Those whom the Teacher helped are bereft.

They gather together. By now, more prophecies have come true. There are no more bees. Several major species of fish have suddenly, unaccountably died off. Not a single bird still graces the earth.

One of the followers' children spots is found playing with a bird. The followers gather round in wonder. The bird flies away. An ominous sound grows all around: like the buzzing if thousands of insects.

One follower cries. Another laughs. Some hold each other. They wait.

Cut to black.

--Edward R. O'Neill

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