Saturday, April 4, 2020
As We Know It - Chapter 37
Hamish was not up in the field. Sarah had called until her voice was hoarse. Katherine and Mrs Shoe had finally persuaded her to turn back when she slipped on an uneven piece of mud and came close to twisting her ankle. It jarred her shin and she suddenly felt angry.
By the time they met back up with Frank and Jesus almost the entire village had joined the men. I’ll say this for an apocalypse; it is an excellent means of bringing people together. There had been so little to do in recent days that everyone had jumped on the chance to get some fresh air and partake in a good old activity.
“No luck?” called Frank across the group of villagers.
“Not yet.” Sarah was steady; determined to stay positive about the situation. Hamish would turn up… what’s the worst that could happen? It was already the end of the world.
Hamish sat still in the aftermath of the angel’s summary. She was right in many ways and Hamish knew it, but he also knew he disagreed, he just didn’t quite know how to say it very eloquently.
“You are right,” he began magnanimously, “but I don’t agree totally.” Then his brain stopped providing words again and he thanked it silently and sarcastically for its assistance in the conversation. The angel seemed in no hurry to prompt him and so he let the ideas ferment further for a few minutes before continuing. “I don’t know what God’s like, but if he’s anything like Jesus then I think the Bible must have come off course somewhere. Jesus is so relaxed, he’s so human, it just feels like he’s a lot more open to a conversation than Christianity would have you believe.”
“A religion is only ever what humans decide to do with the knowledge that there is a God.”
Now that they were all amassed it felt very difficult to know what to do with themselves. Sarah nestled under her father’s arm and waited for either him or Jesus to come up with a plan. She didn’t have to wait long before Mrs Shoe took the reigns.
“Right,” the tiny lady bellowed at the group making them all jump. She may have used slightly more volume than was absolutely necessary but nobody could say it hadn’t been effective.
“Thank you all for coming out this afternoon to help us find Hamish. It’s best we don’t jump to conclusions about where he might be, but as he’s not prone to disappearing, it’s imperative that we work as a team to track him down.”
The crowd made agreeing noises in her general direction and each set of feet seemed to try and make off in a direction without first deciding which direction was best. It gave the impression that they all needed the toilet. Mrs Shoe continued, “Now, we’ve had a pretty thorough comb of most of Norton Fitzwarren and there’s not been a trace of him. I think it’s time we looked further afield.” she glanced across to Jesus who nodded his consent and she carried on, “I know this might be daunting for some of you as you’ve not left the village since the beginning of the Apocalypse.”
“Some of us even longer, ain’t that right Mr Baxter?!” Shouted Martin Young jovially and a few people tittered.
“Quite.” Mrs Shoe smiled thinly, “Well done Mr Young, now please be quiet, this is serious. I suggest we split into a few groups of not fewer than 4 to a group for safety reasons and head off in separate directions to look for Hamish. We should all turn around and aim to be back here by fairly soon after dark so we know we’re all safe. Agreed?” There was a murmur of consent.
“Excellent. Right, if you could split yourselves into practical groups, I’ll come around and give you a direction to go in. Once you’ve been given a direction you can go, try and make the most of the light.” She bowed her head to indicate she’d finished addressing the crowd and they chatted amongst themselves and began separating out into groups like oil on a frying pan.
Jesus was as confused as he’d ever been. He knew he needed to warn the villagers but he didn’t know how to. He felt horrendously guilty and the thought of admitting that guilt in a warning only compounded the sensation. But he knew that letting them go unawares would only make him feel worse later and so he bit his lip and opened his mouth.
“In which case it should be fine for me to know there is a God and to be a decent person, but still not have to follow the man made details.”
“It is fine.” said the angel simply.
“I don’t need to go to church to go to heaven?”
“Church is only a tool to keep people on the right path. If you don’t need it, you don’t need it.”
Hamish considered this. He had so many questions, and the more they formed properly the angrier he realised he was feeling. What was it all, if it wasn’t what it all had been? If church didn’t matter, and you didn’t have to go and beg and plead with God, then what had it all been about? History looked very different once you knew about omnipotence.
“What is the earth?”
The angel half smiled in a strange, sad way. She looked Hamish in the eye. “Clarify exactly what you mean?”
“God exists. He is real. He created the earth and all the creatures on it. Yes?” Hamish’s temperature was rising as he struggled to print his thoughts clearly in his mind’s eye.
The angel nodded.
“But there is tragedy, there is death and there’s so, so much suffering and there’s someone up there who could just vanish it all and he doesn’t… So, what is the earth? Are we a toy? I don’t understand. If it’s an exercise in humans learning it’s a horrible way to go about it, there’s been so much loss.”
The angel opened her mouth to reply but left the words where they lay.
“You don’t know, do you?” Asked Hamish.
“Just, before we go…” Jesus called. Those nearest him heard but people towards the back of the group were still shuffling into groups and trying to spread the reliable map readers out amongst the slower walkers and the people who were good with berries.
“QUIET!” yelled Mrs Shoe. At least four people in the crowd paused to admire her lung capacity.
“Thank you, Iris. Er, Mrs Shoe.” said Jesus, “Just, before we go, I wanted to wish you all luck. And… I need to tell you to take care. I need to warn you that there may be something out there more dangerous than you could possibly imagine. You won’t necessarily see it, so, just be careful.” He nodded and tried to smile in a heart warming way but he felt it wasn’t cutting any mustard at all.
“There’s an invisible beast?” came a nervous voice from the crowd.
“What kind of beast?” asked someone else.
“Most likely a hell beast, I expect.” Said Martin Young.
“Martin!” snapped Mrs Shoe, “I will not tell you again.”
“You haven’t told me anything!”
“You are stirring and you know you are.”
“I am not, I’m not the one who said there’d be an invisible beast.” complained Martin Young bitterly.
“I didn’t say there’d be an invisible hell beast either!” whined Jesus, momentarily forgetting his divine status in the panicked rush to avoid an undeserved telling off from Mrs Shoe.
“So it won’t be invisible?” Queried Martin Young, brows furrowed.
“It’ll have horns won’t it?” Said Mrs White, matter of factly. “Red skin and all.”
“Might have those fluffy legs - you know. Like in Hercules? What was Danny Devito?” Called Angela Norman.
“He was a goat.”
“Half a goat,” corrected Angela.
“He was a satyr.” Said Mr Baxter, and half the village turned to look at him surprised. “What? I like Disney.”
“A goat satyr?” Said Angela, “Doesn’t sound right.”
“I prefer chicken satyr.” Said Martin Young to a predictable groan. Even Jesus rolled his eyes; and he’d been alive when that joke was written.
“So, it’ll be a goat with horns?” Said Angela.
“No…” tried Jesus, failing to regain control.
“Oh thank heavens,” said Angela, who hadn’t liked goats ever since a childhood visit to the Big Sheep had had more goats than the name suggested.
Jesus regained his composure, “I don’t mean there are any kind of beasts out there, visible or invisible. I…” he stopped again. “Truth be told I don’t know what I am warning you about; I cannot give you any more details of the dangers you may face other than that they may be there and they may be terrible and that I have every faith in you that you will triumph. May the Lord bless you and keep you.”
“Why can’t God save us?” Hamish demanded, “What is he waiting for in this lesson for us? And, what is the point of this lesson if it has already missed so many billions of lives? Seems like a cruel master to sacrifice so many to make a vague point to those still to come. Are we a toy for a spoilt child or does he not have the power to do anything for us after all? Has all our flattery been in vain?”
The angel’s smile was turning at the corners of her mouth, morphing from something inherently melancholy into something resembling victorious.
“Well that’s the question, isn’t it?” she whispered. “That’s always been the question… what is he playing at? But it doesn’t always do to question too loudly, does it?”
“Is that a threat?” Hamish’s hackles raised.
“Not from me, my boy.” the angel laughed, “I don’t need to threaten you. I like you. Take it as more of a warning, from someone who learned a long time ago that it doesn’t always do to question God’s “almighty” plan.”