Hello all, another new story is below. I quite enjoyed writing this one. I think this is the style of story I enjoy writing the most. Slightly absurd situations that can easily have humour derived from them.
Anyway, not much more to say this week so without further sod, as suggested by Jonathan S. Cromie: ‘A priest dies, but instead of meeting God in heaven, they are confronted by a pagan deity of some variety. Awkwardness ensues.’
2014 – A Year In Stories
Along Came Polytheism
“Father Mulcaney, come quick!” the sister called down the corridor of the cottage. “Father James is near to death and calls for you.”
The priest ran as fast as it was possible to do so whilst simultaneously keeping his robes from getting beneath his feet. Skidding to a halt as he reached the door, he bade the sister stand aside with a gesture.
“Father James,” he said in a soothing voice as he entered the room. “What nonsense is this that Sister Mary tells me that you’re at death’s door. By The Lord, you’ll outlive us all.”
“I fear that on this occasion His wisdom has failed you,” Father James replied from his sickbed.
His skin was pale, and his cheeks, drawn more tightly than normal, gleamed slightly with a hint of dried sweat. The pallor of the features betrayed a man who was very ill indeed, and Father Mulcaney was inclined to believe his old friend and colleague this time.
“Tell me, Father, what can I do to help ease your passing?”
“You can pour me a glass of the 18 year old single malt you keep in your desk,” Father James replied, with a laugh. It was a hoarse, tired, bark of a laugh that quickly descended in to a fit of dry coughing.
Father Mulcaney grinned wryly. “You always were a sly one,” he said.
His friend’s face took on a more serious demeanour. “You must read me my last rights, for I have not much longer to live.”
“Very well, my friend. For you, it is the least I could do.”
Half an hour later Father Mulcaney moved his hand down over the eyes of Father James, closing them for the last time.
He embraced Sister Mary, who had broken down in tears.
“Weep not for him, sister,” he said, “for Father James is now in a better place than us all.”
Father James awoke. He sat up from his resting place with notable ease. He had not felt this good in a long time. As his eyes cleared of sleep and focused on his surroundings, he realised that he was somewhere he had never been before. Yet somehowe, it seemd utterly familiar to him.
He was surrounded by white, as far as the eye could see in all directions. It was as if he was riding on the back of a giant sheep, with only the blue sky above him, not a cloud in sight…
“Oh,” he said, as the realisation dawned on him. “I finally croaked, didn’t I?” he posited, to no one in particular.
His suspicion was confirmed as he looked at his clothes to find that he was clad in a robe of pure white, a choice he would never make outside of his duties as a Catholic priest.
Father James brought himself to his feet and shielded his eyes from the sun. “It must be around here somewhere,” he muttered as he cast about.
After a moment he found what he was looking for, as the sun glinted off a construct some distance away. Father James picked up the trailing white robes and wandered off towards it.
About five minutes later he came up to the construct, a large set of gates that glimmered with all the different colours of the rainbow. Cherubim hovered above the gate poles, playing beautiful music on golden lyres, and the sun’s reflection on the pearl facade intensified as the gates opened on his approach.
Father James clasped his hands together and smiled, waiting for his first meeting with the gatekeeper. A robed figure approached through the glare.
“St. Peter!” Father James declared.
“What? No.” the figure replied. Throwing back the hood of the robes it revealed a green face that boasted nine eyes, two noses and several other features of note besides. “Wait. Did you say Szimttpetarr?”
“No…” Father James said, a look halfway between bemusement and horror on his face. “I…I said St. Peter.”
“Oh, easy mistake to make,” the…thing said. It consulted a sheet of paper that appeared to be nailed to the other side of one of the gate posts. “No, St. Peter doesn’t work Tuesdays.”
“What do you mean, he ‘doesn’t work Tuesdays’? He’s the guardian of the pearly gates, the warden at the entrance to heaven. How can he take time off?”
“Well I hear he likes fishing,” the beast said, from one of its many mouths. “Can’t go fishing if he’s at work, can he? He’ll be back in tomorrow if you really want to talk to him, though Lazarus says he can’t half go on a bit about the benefits of live bait.”
Father James stood in stunned silence for a moment.
“Are you quite sure he’s not here?” he managed, eventually.
The beast checked the sheet of paper again.
“Yep, says right here on the rota.”
“Then who are you?”
“I told you, I’m Szimttpetarr. I fill in when St. Pete has, shall we say, scarpered.”
“I am afraid I just don’t understand.”
“I’m a god. Well, an ex-god. Mayan. Everyone who works here is. Thor reads people their judgements. They stuck me here because my name is similar to Pete’s and a lot of people think I’ve just got a cough or something.
“They’re one step away from a ‘You don’t have to be omnipotent to work here…’ sign, I swear. Even Zeus pulls shifts on one of the other gates. He’s got the beard you see, people pass him for Peter…”
“Wait, there are other gates?”
“Well yes. Approximately 154,889 people die every day. We would have a line a mile long and then the rest if they all had to come through one,” Szimttpetarr said, rather pointedly adding “Particularly if people dilly dally about the whole thing and start asking questions.”
“154,000?” Father James asked in disbelief. “That many Christians die every day?”
“Christians?” Szimttpetarr replied. “No mate, we get all sorts up here. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, pagans, Buddhists. We’ll take anyone in. Like I said, I’m Mayan. One if the minor ones. But I’ve had nothing to do since some of your late came over and did for them so I’ve been doing odd part time work on the gates to keep me sane.”
“But I’m a Christian. No, I’m a catholic priest. I was taught that ours was the only true god.”
“You and the Muslims, and the Hindus, and the Greeks and the Romans and the Vikings and the Aztecs and the Mayans before you. Belief is a powerful thing my friend. Belief breeds existence, and once we all exist we all had to go somewhere.”
“So there’s more than one heaven?”
“Sort of. Or at least, there used to be. The older guard; my lot, the Norse, the Greeks etc, they used to like to keep it separate, to prevent fraternisation and whatnot, but when our flows dried up they petitioned your god, Allah and a couple of the other new breed to bring it all together in one, to keep things efficient.”
“So, what? Can I go and see my Lord?”
“If you want,” Szimttpetarr said, and began chewing on an apple he had produced from his robe. “He’s got a big office over in the western annexe, but he’s generally booked up for a few months at a time. Popular guy, you know?”
“Oh, I see. What about Jesus?”
“Oh he’s on holiday down on earth at the moment. He heads down for a couple of weeks every hundred or so years to spook up some locals. It gives him kicks.”
“You talk about our Lord and Saciour as if he was some kind of frat boy!” Father James protested.
“Well he basically is. Look, is this going to take much longer?” Szimttpetarr asked. “I know this must come as a surprised but I’m supposed to be on my lunch and thanks to this game of 20 questions I’m already several people behind quota for the day. I don’t mean to be rude but do you think we could wrap this up?”
“Oh yes, of course,” Father James replied, looking dejected. “I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”
Szimttpetarr felt a pang of guilt. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Look, it’s pretty good in there. It’s still the heaven you expected, it’s just a bit more crowded than you were counting on. And hey, as a catholic priest you’ll have a lovely suite in one of the towers. They save the best ones for the priests. All your old mates will be in there. You’ll have a blast.”
“I suppose I’m just still getting used to the whole ‘more than one religion is right’ thing.”
“Yeah, I can imagine that would take some getting used to.” Szimttpetarr threw away the finished apple core and began rummaging around behind the gates. “Here, take these,” he said, emerging with a bunch of leaflets in his hand. “They should help make the transition easier.”
“Oh, thanks…” Father James said, taking the literature. He began to walk through the gates and off in to the kingdom of heaven.
“Oh, Father?” Szimttpetarr called after him.
“Yes?” the priest replied, turning back.
“If you come back around the same time tomorrow, I’ll have a word with St. Peter, see if I can get him to give you a do-over. You know, so you have the authentic experience?”
Father James smiled. “Thank you Szimttpetarr, that is very kind of you. You are alright for a heathen devil pagan.”
The Mayan god watched as the priest trudged off before shutting the gates behind him. He pulled out a sign that said “CLOSED FOR LUNCH” and then retrieved a copy of a book from a bag hidden in the fluffiness of the clouds.
“Right,” he said, sitting in an armchair that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. “Fifty Shades of Grey. Where was I?”