An excerpt from the chapter “The Secret to Being a Tough Guy” from The Book of Paul, where Paul begins instructing (corrupting) his young apprentice, Michael Bean:
“Let me cut right to the point,” Paul said, sweeping his arm like he was erasing a cluttered blackboard. “Have you ever wanted to kill someone?”
Michael’s mouth hung open, but nothing came out.
“C’mon, lad. Like I said, we don’t have much time, and no time at all for bull crap.”
“Yes,” Michael said, not believing he admitted it.
“Good boy. That’s the only honest answer any man could give, because there’s not a single breathing one of us that hasn’t thought about killing someone at least once in his life. Now here’s the more important question: Why didn’t you?”
Michael laughed. He thought Paul was joking. Until he looked in his eyes. “Fuck, dude! Because I don’t want to go jail!”
“Of course not!” Paul roared back. He seemed so happy that Michael smiled along with him. “But what if you couldn’t be caught? What would stop you then?”
“Because it’s wrong, dude! You don’t go around killing everybody you’re pissed at!”
“I do,” Paul said quietly. Then he corrected himself. “Well, not everyone. I’ll need a nuclear arsenal for that. Everyone I really want to.”
Michael swallowed hard. “Dude, I’m out of here,” he said, jumping from the couch.
Paul slammed him back down to the couch like he was swatting a fly. “Could it be you’ve abandoned your pledge so quickly? In my clan we take our vows with the utmost solemnity. To break an oath is unthinkable, and those that do suffer the harshest of reprisals, dealt by the very hand of destiny itself!”
“But I can’t…I don’t want to kill anyone!” Michael sputtered.
“Of course, you do,” Paul said with a finality that left no room for further argument. “You just need to give yourself permission. I told you we don’t have any time for nonsense, Michael. So sit, listen and learn.”
Michael sat, freaked out of his gourd at the direction their conversation had taken—and the vow that loomed over his head like a gleaming guillotine blade. He hadn’t thought that one out too carefully, had he?
“Here’s another way to look at it⎯” Paul continued, his smile back in full bloom as he rose from the couch, pacing in long strides as he spoke. “Let’s say you were drafted into the army and sent halfway around the world to shoot, stab and drop huge, fiery bombs on people you didn’t even know, much less have any grudge against. Worse yet, let’s say your virtuous government actually made up a great big pack of lies to justify why it was so necessary for you to risk your life and claim the souls of all those completely innocent victims. Even with all that bullshit, it would still be okay for you to march over there, point your rifle at someone’s unlucky head, pull the trigger and blow his brains out, right? And why? Because you’re a soldier! You’re under orders! It isn’t just okay for you to kill those people! It’s your duty!”
“Yeah, that’s some pretty fucked-up shit,” Michael agreed, his smile slowly returning, though much shakier with the reminder of his promise still ringing in his ears.
“Fucked up, indeed! What gives your not-so-freely-elected government the right to tell you when it’s your duty to kill someone…and then, using the same false claim of authority, command you to die in the electric chair for having the gall to pick your own battles, to wage wars of your own choosing, against your own enemies, against the people who threaten your life directly, not in some abstract sense, veiled with obscene notions of honor and righteousness—real people—who mean real harm to yourself, your family, and the noble principles of your own calling! What if you had a new country, with its own rules and regulations, its own mandate of authority? What if you were a soldier in your own war and not a foot soldier either—a general? Would it be okay for you to take a life in the due course of achieving your own strategic objectives? Or would it be even more than okay? Perhaps it would it be your divine right…your duty!”
Michael sat mesmerized, more terrified and excited than he’d ever felt before. What Paul was saying spat in the face of every conventional notion of morality that had been stuffed into his brain since he was old enough to think. Yet it made so much sense!
“Aye, son. Freedom is a terrible responsibility,” Paul said kindly. “But don’t be afraid. Least not of me. I’m here to help in a way that no one else in this awful world can.”
“What are you saying, man?” Michael implored, his anxiety mounting by the second.
“What I’m saying is this: The world is a very scary place for all of the sheep. But for the wolves…it’s paradise.”
Licking your chops for more? Paul awaits you here.