Dire predictions swarm around today’s date — 6/6/06 — but we’re ready to pitchfork them all
June 6, 2006, Austin American-Statesman
In the dark art of doomsaying, everything is rooted in everything, all of it entwined in prophecy and proclamation, raving from pulpits and mountaintops, the Internet and badly lighted cable access studios: The end is nigh.
Apocalypse, now. The End Days rear up to spew biblical yuckiness across the globe, leaving a big ball of smoking gristle speckled with the remains of those not righteous enough for the pillowy penthouse of heaven.
It’s hell’s turn, and it has your number.
Well, we have its number, too. Three sibilant digits — 6-6-6 — a tidy speed-dial on fate’s mobile, with a ringtone clanging like a death knell. 666, the Number of the Beast, the Mark of the Antichrist, as introduced in rumbling prose in the book of Revelation, that merry little bedtime story that has begat no end of frothing street-corner seers and bar-code conspirators, creepy Hieronymus Bosch paintings and mullet-head tattoo art.
The number is everywhere, and while it doesn’t happen every day, it does happen today, June 6, 2006 — that is, (cue Bach’s Toccata and Fugue) 6/6/06.
Revelation 13:17-18 decrees it with sulfurous portent: The tag of the beast is a “human number,” which Satan’s followers will bear on the hand or forehead come Armageddon. Teased from an ancient Hebrew numbering system, 666 is the numerical value of the name of the Antichrist, though some biblical scholars dispute this figure as a mistranslation, opting for the totally nonevil 616, the area code of Grand Rapids, Mich.
So freighted with diabolic prestige and shivering paranoia is this trio of modest curlicues that Fox is releasing its remake of the 1976 horror movie “The Omen” today with the soothing tagline “You have been warned.” (The film, of course, chronicles the arrival of the Antichrist in the form of a cherubic child named Damien, forever ruining that name for parents worldwide.)
Other wily marketing moves on this most damned of days include the launch of devil-thrash band Slayer’s Unholy Alliance Tour and — get thee behind me, Satan! — the release of Ann Coulter’s “Godless: The Church of Liberalism.”
All hell is breaking loose, and with it, a lot of screws. Y2K, anyone?
Scroll the Web and savor the bounty of 666-related predictions scheduled for today (is that Pacific or Central time?). Hurricanes, terrorist attacks, a renegade comet smashing Earth. The Antichrist will reveal himself and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will gallop forth, sporting black hoodies in place of cowboy hats. If you see a horse shooting fire from its nostrils, run.
Colorado authorities are watching for “demonstrations or violent activity,” says the Denver Post, noting that 60 global terrorist attacks have happened on June 6 since 1970. Austin police are taking no extra precautions, because “We’re not expecting anything,” says police spokeswoman Toni Chovanetz. She asks anyone who sees suspicious activity to dial 911, the number of the peace.
Most newborns, purply and scrunchy, look like spawns of Satan, but some pregnant women in Austin and beyond are trying to avoid giving birth today, lest they deliver Rosemary’s baby. Horns — never a good look on a child.
‘‘I’m going to be induced on the 4th or 5th,” expectant mother Carrie McFarland of Dallas told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. ‘‘If my doctor had offered to induce me on the 6th, I wouldn’t have done it.’’
Jittery residents in San Marcos want to change the city’s ZIP code, which is 78666. It’s a lighthearted movement, one that made the U.S. Postal Service chuckle, smile and say “no.”
Divine augur, or occult folderol?
“People can get hypersensitive and read too much into things,” says Randy Phillips, pastor of the nondenominational PromiseLand West Church in Austin. “I’ve had friends who changed their P.O. box from 666 to another number. I don’t see any significance in June 6, 2006. It’s just another day. It’s like Friday the 13th. I still show up and have a good time.”
Calls to local psychics yielded mumbled disinterest, ignored messages and a hang-up. What does Madam Ruth know that she’s not telling us?
Like the good pastor, we’re ready to 86 this 666. The number pops up on license plates, expiration dates, credit card bills and the lyric sheets of Iron Maiden, yet few of us feel its promised burn. It’s a stigma given its own stigma by the anxious and superstitious, who seek meaning in the cracks of old parchment and the furrows of inspired speculation.
Here’s another diabolic number: 7734. Remember as a kid punching the digits into a calculator, then turning the calculator upside down, so they spelled “hell”? We were little Damiens.
As far as real links between 666 and war and destruction, we leave that to the Scott Paper company. It notes on its Web site that the Pentagon uses about — you got it — 666 rolls of toilet paper a day. That sound you hear on this wicked day is a whole lot of flushing.