In the box seats J. Edgar Hoover plucks a magazine page off his shoulder, where
the thing has lighted and stuck. At first he's annoyed that the object has come in
contact with his body. Then his eyes fall upon the page. It is a color reproduction
of a painting crowded with medieval figures who are dying or dead—a landscape
of visionary havoc and ruin. Edgar has never seen a painting quite like this. It
covers the page completely and must surely dominate the magazine. Across the
red-brown earth, skeleton armies on the march. Men impaled on lances, hung from
gibbets, drawn on spoked wheels fixed to the tops of bare trees, bodies open to the
crows. Legions of the dead forming up behind shields made of coffin lids. Death
himself astride a slat-ribbed hack, he is peaked for blood, his scythe held ready as
he presses people in haunted swarms toward the entrance of some helltrap, an
oddly modern construction that could be a subway tunnel or office corridor. A
background of ash skies and burning ships. It is clear to Edgar that the page is
from Life and he tries to work up an anger, he asks himself why a magazine called
Life would want to reproduce a painting of such lurid and dreadful dimensions.
But he can't take his eyes off the page.