©2009 Michael Skywood Clifford
Jesus had arrived in Eastbourne on Monday at eleven o’clock in the morning.
Earlier that day he had been happy sitting on his dependable garden chair in Heaven surrounded by his favourite four cherubs. Each one had a different face: a man, an eagle, a bull and lion and they all sang beautifully. He had looked at the happy people walking by in their grey robes inhaling the air as if it was music. He felt their joy in catching the aroma of roses which swirled in the musical ether. He lived in a house of many rooms, neither indoors or outdoors, where the atmosphere was sublime. Since the beginning of time it had always astonished him, it was always fresher than it had been the day before.
But happiness had left him later that morning, for when he looked down the stairway between heaven and earth where angels continually ascended and descended, he saw and heard how in the world of men things were changing. He had spent his earliest hours sending out love and healing but now he fell to weeping and was savagely reminded that after the fall of mankind, thorns or thistles had grown voraciously on Earth. He felt a deep pain of sorrow in his heart. “Forgive them for they know what they do,” said his mother, but he could see his mother had tears in her eyes too.
He looked more deeply and his sense of grief overwhelmed him. It seemed that men’s open hearts had been clamped with black padlocks. Greed, avarice, a lack of compassion and a motivation was exacerbating in human activity bringing greater and greater greed and consumerism? He knew the answer but spoke not.
A deep resonant voice suddenly came down from the depths of infinity: “I will watch and wait but I will not be prescient. I will boom and send a thunderbolt.”
“Thank you, Father,” said Jesus.
Then rays of light came from above, emanating from a bird flying overhead. “Is this to be the second coming?” it asked in series of loud squawks.
“That you shall see,” said Jesus, looking up and catching a white and grey bird out of the corner of his eye as it flew off.
Jesus ‘s heart was smitten with pity and sadness. He saw a cosmic golden ball of wool unraveling. He was shocked and upset to see that so much previous good work was being undermined. He had to act in a very direct way, yet was concerned because this was something he very much wanted to avoid.
* * * *
At around half past eleven, in the cellar of Nicholas Partnership Estate Agents in Eastbourne, a strange unearthly creature sat at a bench boiling pots of multi-coloured liquids, scrutinising them with great intensity. He was a demot, a creature who differed from a small naked man only in that he was covered in long black hair from head to foot, more in the way of a cat than a monkey. His ruddy face fought off black whiskers on either side, invading its central features which also shared feline qualities. He had little ironical eyes lost in fat that always looked as if he was squinting.
The demot was safe here, but when he went out into the streets he disguised himself to look like a short human by using spectacles, a long coat and a scarf.
Evian, a tall young woman sat across from the demot on another table. She was conversing on the phone. “That’s right, pull the plug, we don’t want that hospital. And make sure the Post Office and library are closed down too…”
“He’s here! Christ has come to Eastbourne!” said Moloch the demot excitedly in sniffy sort of voice. “I knew he would come eventually, didn’t I say?” He leered at Evian and swept back his black whiskers that were entangling his nose.
“I wish you didn’t make so many smells, Moloch, when you are casting spells,” said Evian looking askance at the demot. “It’s foul – and don’t be so ridiculous…” Then holding her nose, she returned to her phone call, “..and make sure those satanic metal groups are coming back into fashion and getting TV time. Okay, call you tomorrow.”
“It’s true!” Moloch screeched, becoming so animated at not being taken seriously, he pulled a boiled sweet from the copious supply in his shoulder bag and rasped and ground his teeth into it.
“Oh you are such a vile creature,” said Evian.
“I must do something! He’s really here! Look!”
“I think we have a few more decades before the apocalypse,” said Evian sighing as she got up.
Moloch crunched on his boiled sweets again and pointed to a flask of blue bubbling liquid as if his proof lay there.
“No, I’m going out to the shop. I can’t stand your stench in here.”
After she had gone Moloch stood up. “He’s so close, he could be standing outside in the street. I have to do something. I’ll put my coat on and go hunting. I’ll take my camera bag.”
* * * *
Jesus walked along the busy Eastbourne street and sat on a bench by the library. Two little boys and two slightly older girls, came and sat near him on the seat and began talking to him. He told them several stories before their mothers came over. One gave Jesus and his strange dress a withered look and took the children away. “Must be an actor or something?” she said to her companion as they walked off.
A clock struck the half hour of twelve so Jesus got up and crossed over to the Timeout Cafe. He ordered tea. He had milk but refrained from sugar.
He knew that Satan’s agents were already onto him; he had been photographed already by a strange creature near the library.
He sat at the cafe window table and continued to be entertained at the activity in the street: cars, buses, pedestrians, shoppers. Everyone moving about with such great intention in Terminus Street.
At the back of the cafe, by the stairs, a door opened and a tall youth with a birth-marked forehead came out. Jesus immediately turned to the young man and beckoned him.
“You want me, mate?” The young man was about nineteen or twenty, with a spiky hair cut. He accent had a pronounced London twang.
“Do you think what you do is the right thing to do?” asked Jesus
“What do you mean, mate?”
“You know exactly what I mean.”
The young man looked uncomfortable.
Jesus began talking to him, and soon ‘Street’, for that was what he called himself, had joined him at his table.
“Extortion, I didn’t know it was called that,” said Street. “It’s about making money. You ain’t the police is yous?”
“No one will employ me, see. I can’t read or write. I lost my parents when I was young and have to fend for m’self. People talk to me about minimum wages, but they’re crap. Who could survive on those? It’s ‘spensive out there you know.”
“Come, I will buy you a book called the Bible.”
“I said, I can’t read,”
“You will learn to read it, I promise you.”
“You’re weird. You’re not some sort of perv are you?”
“Well okay then, I ain’t cared. I’m walking down to the Arndale Centre.”
“The shopping centre?”
“We will go in there, and after I have given you this gift, I will address the crowd,” said Jesus.
* * * *
Tony Newham couldn’t believe his luck. He wrote a column for the local paper and also worked as a scout for local community TV. Amazingly he had stumbled across a man dressed up in biblical clothes sermonising to people in the Arndale shopping mall. Tony couldn’t quite understand how the man’s voice communicated so crisply and audibly in the drowning reverb of the shopping mall’s corridors. He was also wondered how this man had collected such a mass of shoppers. He decided he had to talk to this chap.
* * * *
Evian was still making her frenetic phone calls, pleased to be in the cellar on her own.
“Yes that’s right, if we could get the Jerry Springer Opera on for the whole season we would be very pleased.” Suddenly she felt a door slam upstairs and she jumped up. She cut the call short. “Must go, boss is back. Taataa.”
She could feel the dark energy as he paced the floorboards above her. Didn’t sound like he was in a good mood. She thought for a moment, and then went up the stairs to the Estate Agent’s shop.
Satan stood alone in the shop. He was an extremely big man, six feet four and broad across the shoulders. He wore a purple shirt, tie-less but with black braces, although these were hidden on this occasion by his voluminous black jacket. His head was solid and block like, full of solid bone and his Doberman jaw warned of a dreadful bite, should he ever decide to restrain you. His eyes, which were now burning into Evian, were horizontal slits of bloodshot fire. He fingered nervously his somewhat overlong and over groomed moustache as he looked at her.
“Hello, Prince of Darkness.”
“Not right, something is not right!” he barked.
“I’ve managed to sell of a lot of old people’s homes off this morning, and much else.”
“What’s happening? Something’s happening? Where’s Moloch?”
“Our mission to replace the Virgin Mary in the hearts of young men with botox bimbos on page three of the tabloids seems to be going well.”
“He was here earlier. He left me a note that he was going out with his camera.”
“Look at me.” He came close, gripped her shoulders and stared into her eyes. “I am the sweet thing you desire. You want to make love to me but as you do you discover I am devouring you, like a preying mantis. Now tell me what’s afoot…”
“He said something about… about… Christ arriving in Eastbourne.”
Satan’s head suddenly jerked up, he stepped back and let her go. Then there was a slight convulsion all the way down his body, like a minor nervous earthquake.
“So that is….” He became quiet and paced the floor.
“This I will not put up with!” he suddenly shouted enraged, slamming his fist down on the counter, making several house leaflets float to the floor. “What is he after? Surely not… A CONFRONTATION! …by his very nature he could never win it.”
Evian thought it best to say nothing.
“A confrontation…” he said more to himself than to Evian, and then the nervous tremor repeated itself. “I would say it’s most unusual, but I can feel him.”
“You mean it’s true? Christ really has come to Eastbourne? I thought Moloch was making it up this morning just to get some attention.”
Just at that moment the shop door opened and in came Moloch. He came quickly round to face Satan. He got down on his knees and spoke to Satan’s kneecap: “Oh my lord, the accuser, the evil one, the tempter, the old snake, the great dragon, the prince of this world, and the god of this world… Oh my lord, who seeks to hinder the establishment of God’s dominion through the life and suffering of Jesus Christ. .. the time has come.”
“Get up you snivelling stenchball. Tell me what’s happening about this arrival!”
Without getting up, Moloch looked up with utter devotion at the seething face of his master and said, “It is true. He is here. I have seen him. I have several photographs of him sitting on the bench outside the library talking to children. I did some predestination spells this morning and the fates told me his arrival was writ. My spells rarely fail me, and I felt it must be right, but it was so difficult to believe. But now I know! I have had the terror of actually seeing him!”
“Where is he now?”
“Not far away, I think. I came here as soon as I had the photographs to confirm to you my lord that we must act.”
Satan curled his moustache in his finger, “I see your thinking. The photographs will be useful,” he said.
The shop door opened again. This time it was Street.
Satan was horrified. He recognised the Bible in his hand at once. “Take that out of here!” he shouted, his face purple with rage. “That book is for the damaged, the handicapped, the sick, the weak, the misshapen, the ugly, the ill fitting. I – I- I -” he fell to stammering in his rage, “I am for the rich, the beautiful and the have-it-alls. Jump on MY back and you will make money and be successful – all for the bargain basement price of leaving me your hopeless soul. Read that book and be a poor failure who pursues hopeless struggles hopelessly. That is for those who sweep the factory floors, I am for the kings and rulers of the world! That book is for masochists, I am for sadists!”
The Street – who had only come in pay some money he owed – terrified, turned to leave but Satan called him back.
“HAVE YOU SEEN HIM?”
“Seen who?” he said shaking.
“The man who calls h-h-himself…”
Satan was too emotional to speak.
Evian spoke for him: “…Jesus.”
“Does he work for the police?” asked Street.
“Tell us where he was.”
“I met him in the cafe. He bought me this book, which I told him I can’t read, and then he started talking to the shoppers in the Arndale Centre. He gathered a large crowd. As I left him he said, ‘Go and sin no more’. He was a weird guy.”
Satan rushed at the Street in fury. Grabbing him by the throat with one massive hand, he opened the door with the other and physically threw him out of the shop. Street dropped the book in the process, but picked it up and ran off.
“The Street’s got money belonging to us,” said Evian.
“Money is not important now,” said Satan. “We are in the mother of all wars and we are going to win it.” Suddenly his eyes lit up. “This is my greatest opportunity to completely dominate the universe. We need the kryptonite of sin to finish him off. Get those photos printed.”
* * * *
But Satan was in for another shock. At 5pm he had a phone call from the President of the Chamber of Commerce.
“Who on earth is this man on the local Community TV channel? Why is he talking down consumerism? For Satan’s sake get him off, he’s bloody persuasive. How did he get the rubber stamp to get on local TV? Get him off Satan, you can pull the right strings. You invite all the councillors to your New Year’s Eve party. So use your influence old chap.”
Satan quickly replaced the receiver and grabbed the TV remote. He was horrified to find Jesus talking on full camera. He quickly turned it off, finding it too painful and odious to bear. He shivered and rang the police superintendent.
“There’s a guy on Community TV network and he’s upsetting me. He has been loitering around Terminus Road all day, he’s a Communist, and has been seen chatting up children, of which we have photographic evidence. Make out he’s a terrorist and bang him up for 28 days. Do it now!”
The Superintendent quickly switched on the television. There was a man there, dressed like Jesus from the New Testament, taking up the whole screen and in full flow…
“…What does it profit a man to gain the world and to sell his soul? And when the soul is dead, what does it profit a generation to consume their whole world?
“While you live in the garden, you eat from the apple of knowledge to service your comfort, and in the process you destroy your garden. How much comfort does a man need? How many beds can one man sleep in, or how many cars can one man drive? Is the man who only has two cars a tramp? How many distractions do you need to avoid the facts that what I say is true and has always been true?
“The public words your generation say are good, bountiful and spiritual, yet your lips are at the service of the prince of darkness because you do not believe what you say and you do not do what you say you will do. You do not believe that what you say is good and you do not do the good that you say you will do.
“Once only corrupted rulers spoke with forked tongues, now the whole nation, young and old, are reared to believe in the lie. The lie is now at the heart of selling. The lie is at the heart of creating false needs where there is no need. Beware of the wrath of God. I will not have thieves in my father’s house!
“There is absolute truth and I will declare an absolute truth: the garden is finite. The garden is being destroyed by avarice, greed, gluttony, wealth, sloth and lust and a plethora of public and private broadcast and published lies. Within the lie, the system you have created will merely make a mere mustard seed of people rich and destroy the habitats of the multitudes as you rape the world.
“Everywhere man is born free to love his God and love his neighbour but he is in chains. He is a slave. His heart has no life. Does one sign one’s soul away to a strange organisation for 50 years to get goodies like a fitted kitchen, air miles and a flashier car than the neighbour?…”
The Superintendent had heard enough.
* * * *
On Tuesday, at 3pm, thanks to the Superintendent’s intervention, Jesus stood in the dock of Eastbourne Crown Court. He stood there staring into space, the pupils of his eyes looking at some place far distant of the courthouse walls.
In the public seats at the back of the court sat Satan, who in contrast to the defendant’s tranquility was highly animated. He vacillated between sneering at the dock and breaking into one of his six-foot shivers, which made Evian and Moloch, sitting either side of him, rather jumpy. Apart from reporter Tony Newham and a few court addicts, most of the public seats were empty, as it had been decided not to over publicise the court trial.
“Now I’m informed that the accused is charged with terrorist charges, for which he will be remanded for 28 days,” said the judge, as if he was asking himself a question.
Send him off to Guantanimo Bay,” shouted Moloch. “Put him on a plane for rendition!”
“Be silent at the back there or I will have you removed from the court,” said the judge.
But Moloch was still talking, leaning across to Evian: “Now when the judge says to the court, ‘do you want Jesus given bail or do you want consumer comforts?’ we all know what to shout.” Evian started giggling.
“Quiet I say.”
“Your honour, could I step forward before this case is heard,” said the defense attorney, with a pleading look on his face.
“You may,” said the judge.
“And may I?” said the prosecution attorney.
“If this is going to take a while, gentlemen, I suggest you come into my office.”
* * * *
“This man is innocent. He has done nothing apart from air his views,” said the defense attorney when they were seated around the judge’s desk. He continued: “The whole prosecution case is nonsense. First they tried to trump up a conviction with loitering with intent, which we rubbished. The paedophilia thing is also ridiculous. And now incitement to riot because of the things he said on television. Again, a non starter.”
“He should be banged up for 28 days,” said the prosecution attorney.
“This is a hot potato for you, judge, because the press will bury you. Reporter, Tony Newham, is not happy about this at all and will be writing a condemnatory report of the way this man has been treated. I’ve never seen a man brought so quickly before the courts in the whole of my professional life.”
“Take no notice, judge, this man is a terrorist. He’s a religious fanatic, I can see it in his eyes.”
But the furrows on the judge’s forehead displayed he was not entirely comfortable. He looked down at his desk and thought for some time. “I really don’t know what to do about this. I really don’t see how I can punish him, he really doesn’t seem to have done anything illegal, and from my brief meeting with him he doesn’t come across as a terrorist.”
He thought for a moment and then picked up the telephone. “Send the defendant in here will you please.”
The judge looked up waiting for complaints but neither lawyer spoke.
Jesus was brought in and seated around the table.
“Now your name is Jesus Christ, is that right?”
“And what is your address?”
“Wherever I lay my hat that is my home,” said Jesus.
“I like that song,” said the Judge.
“That means he’s admitting to being a vagrant,” claimed the prosecution attorney quickly.
“This man has done nothing illegal,” countered the defense attorney.
“Never mind about that. Now, Jesus, what gives you the power to say buying consumer goods is bad? What gives you the right to take away peoples’ livelihoods? Are you some kind of communist?”
“You’re a religious fanatic, aren’t you?” snapped the prosecution attorney
“I ask the questions around here!” snapped the judge.
“Sorry, your honour,” quickly whimpered the recalcitrant lawyer.
“Now sir, answer my questions.”
“Which one?” asked Jesus
“What gives you the right to criticise global capitalism?”
“It’s a corrupt system. If you should cut it in half, like a stick of seaside rock, the word C-O-R-R-U-P-T would run all the way through it. The system, whatever you call that system, has become designed to lead the people into sin to finance the pockets of the corrupt. The people’s real needs are subverted. All of its values are against my values.”
“I told you he was a Communist,” said the prosecution lawyer.
“I’ve told you once before -“
“For example,” said Jesus, “the only reason I’m here in court is because a network of influential and powerful people find it uncomfortable that I should have the normal freedoms of any human. That is a form of legal corruption. I am refused freedom of speech, freedom to wander where I will and freedom to gather with people. Surely if anything is tyrannical around here it is the restrictions that you have placed me under. I am being withheld against my will despite having done nothing wrong in the eyes of other people and nothing that is considered illegal in this country.”
“The judge scratched his nose. “He’s right you know. I’m throwing this case out of court.”
“You can’t!” whimpered the prosecution attorney.
“You just watch me.”
* * * *
When Satan heard the judge proclaim there was no case to hear, and that the case was being thrown out because of an insubstantial charge and a lack of evidence, he became very solemn indeed. Evian and Moloch instantly froze in seriousness. They knew heads would roll because of Jesus’s release and were keen to get out of Satan’s space as quickly as possible because those heads were likely to be theirs.
“Where’s he gone?” said Satan gruffly when the three of them were standing outside in the dying sunshine.
“From what I was told he was released minutes before the judge notified the court,” said Evian, “he could have gone anywhere.”
* * * *
Jesus had, in fact, been offered a lift by the reporter Tony Newham, but Jesus declined and said he was going to go for a walk. He wandered down to the pier and enjoyed its painted signs, seaside amusements and its strange architecture. He occasionally looked down through the floorboards to see the sea beneath his feet, and he realised how high up and how precarious was the state of man. He was in a strange place.
At the end of the pier were many fishermen, most of them had assembled on a platform down some steps, perilously close to the crashing waves licking the pier. Many were beginning to pack up, and he went over to one lone bearded fisherman and tapped him on the shoulder. The man turned to him and looked at him with an equal measure of wonder and of fear.
“You’re Peter aren’t you?” said Jesus.
“Yes, that’s right. I know who you are. I saw you on the telly.”
“Perhaps you would like to come for a pint?” said Jesus.
“I know a good place, help me pack up and we’ll go in my car.”
* * * *
Several minutes later they were sitting in the Wetherspoon’s of Eastbourne, each drinking a pint of Harvey’s Sussex Ale.
“There’s such waste in society,” Peter was saying. “There’s a Chinese place here where you pay a set fee for one and a half hours and you can eat what you like from a massive buffet range. So if you eat quickly you can refill your plate over and over again. If that isn’t a recipe for gluttony and waste I don’t know what is. And look at Gambling and gaming casinos. It becomes an addiction for distraction and avoiding depression. The winnings are never enough.”
“Yes,” said Jesus, “I always thought tax collectors and drunkards were better than gamblers. I’ve seen with my own eyes how man turns to the casting of lots to divide property. I remember when Roman guards threw knucklebones to win my own garment. But what I focus on today is not the sinner, but the people who set up the machinery that suck people into sin. These sinners astound me, it never used to be quite as bad as this.”
* * * *
He’s in Wetherspoon’s with a fisherman,” said Moloch on his mobile phone to Satan.
“I’ll walk down. Follow them if they leave, if they split up, follow Jesus. Where are you?
“In Cornfield Street. Just across the road.”
Satan thrust his mobile phone into his pocket. He stood tall looking out of the shop window.
“I gradually steal into people’s heads and hearts. If a man does not believe in me then how he can he see me sitting on his shoulder? How I enjoy this. The minds which don’t believe in absolute truth, minds that believe evil is just some random commonplace misfortune, are the easiest of prey. I destroy a mother’s love and hope by having her child murdered. Then she loses all faith and grows embittered, resentful and vengeful. No one is as strong as Job these days.” He rubbed his hands with glee. “I make people too scared to love, too timid to fight, too cowardly to tell the truth. I’ve subjected humans to terror in order to defeat their belief in any form of goodness. Gradually I poison their hearts. In so doing I plant a seed inside them to hate God and humanity and to do to others what I’ve done to them. And you must remember: he cannot win! It is not within his capacity to fight!”
He stood there like a black monolith, now motionless, and then suddenly a distant roar came from his throat, and he shivered again, but this time the effects of it rolling down his body was electric, convulsive, and shocking. His face convoluted like it was made of melted plastic.
* * * *
Jesus bade goodbye to Peter outside of the pub, turning down a lift in Peter’s car to anywhere he might want to go.
“No the hour beckons, I need to be alone.”
But as he walked along Terminus Road back up to the library he knew he was not alone. He knew he was being followed. He also knew that someone who had been walking towards him had suddenly turned back in the opposite direction. He was walking into a trap, but it was the trap he knew he must enter.
Nothing had happened nor anyone had approached him by the time he passed Catch a Snack and turned into York Road.
Evian, who had come up from Seaside Road, could see him approaching. “He’s going along on the side of road near the bookshop” she whispered into her mobile phone, “he’ll soon be at the police station.”
“I’m near there, I will cut him off”
She silently skipped across the road to join Moloch who was following someway behind Jesus.
As Jesus crossed the Mead Road in the falling dark a figure came out from the right. “Hello Jesus. I want a word with you.” It was Street.
But Jesus had slipped into a doorway.
Satan had now accidentally interposed himself between Jesus and Street, and Street was closing in on him. He decided to hide. Best not to reveal himself yet.
“Wait, Jesus!” shouted Street, “I’ve still got your book,” waving the Bible high.
The sight of the Bible was too odious for Satan to bear, and as he had no desire to be discovered yet, he slipped to his left and opened a nearby door and hid inside.
“I think he’s gone in that door,” said Evian.
“He must have. I can’t see Christ at all now,” said Moloch.
“No, it was Satan who went in the door.”
“So where’s Christ gone?”
“I don’t know I can’t see anyone now.”
The two of them eventually came to the wooden door, opened it and went into a dark corridor.”
“I hope this place isn’t what I think it is,” said the Moloch beginning to shiver.
“It is,” said Satan, leaning against the wall shivering. “Help me get out.”
But as he said this, they heard a key turn in the lock.
“We’ve been locked in. There’s another entrance round at the front,” said Evian.
“I can’t possibly go through a church!” whimpered Satan.
“We’re in Our Lady of Ransom, that’s where he’s lead us.”
“Moloch, use your spells to open that side door.”
But suddenly it was raining, drops of water were coming down from above them. “It’s..it’s…get me out of here!” screamed Satan.
“It’s i-i-incense!” squealed Moloch.
Above them a bird flew along the corridor, a seagull, holding an incense stick, splashing incense down on them. Now shafts of light were beginning to emanate from the seagull, one shaft spreading downwards and illuminating the evil trio. They ran along the corridor into the waiting darkness hoping to come to an open door. Shivering with pain and disgust Satan and his cronies ran into the main aisle of Our Lady of Ransom Church. In front of the altar stood Jesus. Satan, covering his eyes, hustled past him. He passed several pews but his energy was utterly depleted by the time he saw Street in his way holding out his Bible. Moloch and Evian had gone round the perimeter of the church and managed to pull open the heavy front door and escape out into the street.
* * * *
Satan turned away from The Street, and found himself facing Jesus.
“Who is it in my father’s House?” asked Jesus.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” said Satan trying to regain his composure. “I am Satan. I am the destroyer of worlds; I am the serial killer on the dark moor; I am the young psychopath with baseball bat; I am the con-man knocking on the house of the elderly; I am the stockbroker embezzling pension funds; I am the demon’s face at the window of every child’s nursery.”
“I thought it was you.”
“Who asked you down here! This is my world! I am better than everyone, especially you, and don’t I let you know it. Cain, Judas, Delilah and Salome are my disciples.”
Suddenly a bolt of lightning flashed down from across the roof and hit the confessional to Satan’s immediate left.
“Shock and awe, eh? We can all do the fireworks, I’m not intimidated.”
“I’m sure you’re not.”
Jesus put his hands together and began to pray the Lord’s Prayer.
“No, no not that. I’m getting out of here,” said Satan, but instead of running away, he sank to his knees, and gradually as the prayer continued, fell forward, outstretched, prostrate on the tiles, his hands only inches away from Jesus’s feet.
“I need you to hear my c-c-confession,” he stammered.
“Don’t listen to him,” squawked the seagull, “It’s a ruse.”
“Rise and go to the confessional,” instructed Jesus.
Satan grabbed a pew and hauled himself up. With Jesus following behind, he headed to the confessional, as he did so the seagull now continually flicked Holy Water on him causing him to regularly flinch. He groaned outwardly as he passed the Stations of the Cross.
The aged door creaked as he pulled it open and Satan knelt down on a red cushion. His face was adjacent to the veiled opening where he would speak to his confessor. “I don’t think there’s any need for a veil to hide my identity if I’m to confess my sins to you,” said Satan.
But the veil remained in place because Satan was wrong. It wasn’t Jesus that went into the priest’s cubicle but the seagull. Yet Satan heard a young adult voice, not the squawk of a bird, to ask him to confess his sins.
“I always wanted to be the best,” he began, “yet I have rained troubles on people’s lives, I have brought misery and misfortune to people, I have destroyed good people and brought them low to be laughed at, derided, despised, abused and brought down. I have sent good people mad.”
“I have turned good hearts bad and relish when black hearts succeed. I have sought to degrade the human race, to crush its decency and to and bring it down to the level of a gross animal.”
His voice began to strengthen and warm up to its task.
“In my world I am ubiquitous. I am the Lord of atheism who changes the culture by massive persuasion. I run the newspapers, the TV stations, the magazine press. I am the boss who creates all the bosses, especially the psychopathic bosses, the ones who have more desire than exists is in the entire universe, the big egos who only know control. After all, I’m a man of wealth and taste. I am the ultimate controller, the lord and master of all lands, kingdoms, realms and reigns and much more besides.
“And the most amazing thing I’ve created is the infrastructure of sin: the gambling casinos, the stock exchanges, the weapon factories, the brothels, the drinking houses, the pharmaceuticals, the tobacco fields and the opium dens, and the profiteers and finances behind these,” The speed of his voice was now accelerating. “I have created corrupt legislation, child abuse, paedophilia, abortion, scientific aberrations and monstrosities, pollution, outrageous power and wealth, animal cruelty and…..” He stopped to gather his thoughts.
“And what of this?” asked the faltering voice.
“I have changed the culture by using the media to drop gradual drips of persuasive poison in peoples minds to believe it is good to gorge yourself, to take substances that remove you from responsibility to yourself and others, to treat other individuals as chattels for your sexual pleasure, to murder babies if they are inconvenient to you, to murder the weak, the infirm and mentally ill in hospitals in the name of tax-saving euthanasia. But the thing I’m proudest of is that I have created unquenchable desire. An addiction that can never be satiated. Ha ha!
“I persuade rulers to go to war and mutilate and kill innocent civilians, that by destroying vast areas of land, and decimating cites and towns, their industries will grind again to create buildings, waterways, roads, infrastructures, and everything else, so that the warlord’s industries will turn faster in reconstruction and profit. The four horsemen of the apocalypse, war, famine, plague and death are my creations; The sick, the orphaned, the widows and young children have reeled with my disease, hunger and wounds. I inform everyone that life is utterly meaningless, they are meaningless and that they are not even important enough to be a small cog in a big machine. Soon everyone learns that war is the greatest for making money. I have established that a man’s worth is measured by how much money he has or how much he owes, certainly not by how he acts, thinks or believes. I tell everyone to consume, consume, consume despite knowing the world is suffocating from over production, and all of our land for growing food becomes landfill.
“But you show little remorse?” queried the voice.
“Ha! Ha! You have it right there! I am no shrinking violet. I am proud of all these things. I have so much filth inside me, the filth I am and have done is eternal, I cannot confess it all. In fact I cannot confess at all! It is not in me. By the power of blood, puke, bile, vomit, sweat, snot, excrement, I am DONE with this farce! Why do I confess? I can never be forgiven. I loathe myself so badly I could never forgive myself in a trillion eternities!” and so saying he grabbed the veil and pulled it away to reveal the intensely disturbed face of a young angel.
Sinner and confessor looked at each other with considerable recognition and terrible shock. Satan instantly recognised the young angel. It was himself at a young and impressionable age. The face of young Lucifer was contorted with dread at the image of what he was to become. Satan, who had been boasting of his sins, was confronted with remembering that once he had not only loved God, but he had been God’s favourite angel.
“I never EVER want to become that!” screamed the young angel. “Ever! Ever!”
Satan jumped up and ran out of the church, out into the dark streets, howling all the way.
The seagull danced out of the confessional.
“I was going to forgive him, but he hopped it,” it squawked.
“Satan seeks to seduce man into sin,” said Jesus. “He tries to disrupt God’s plan for salvation; and he appears before God as slanderer and accuser of the saints, so as to reduce the number of those chosen for the Kingdom of God.”
* * * *
The next day, Wednesday, in the early hours of the sun, Jesus walked along the sea shore. As he stood watching the tide come in, a massive image slowly, gradually formed in the entire blue sky, visible across the entire northern hemisphere. A cross, more than a cross, a crucifix. The body of a broken and twisted Jesus Christ hung from it, yet strangely the image was not tragic, but of more a conclusive nature. Across the sea could be heard myriads and myriads of angels singing praises to God.
Jesus, dressed in a golden robe, knelt on the stones and looked up to the cross with considerable veneration. “My father has come,” he said. After several prayers he said aloud to the empty silent beach, “Satan has not gone, only subdued for a short time. This is not yet the time for my actual reappearance, so this will be writ in a story for people to take heed,” he said.
* * * *
And gradually as the months passed, all men’s hearts began to liven, turn red and to beat with normal human blood, and they all felt relieved that they had regained a sense of priorities. They needed each other. They needed natural weather not a scientist’s version. They needed clean soil and land. They needed good earth to grow healthy food. Now, they needed IKEA furniture, Tate Modern prints and Cosmopolitan magazines like they needed toxic landfill. They no longer needed adverts that told them they were out of date or that they were inadequate should they fail to buy certain products. Much more important was home grown food, good company, working on the land, camp fires, looking after their locality and enjoying their short time on the raft of life.
No longer did they feel inadequate because they didn’t own a castle with a heliport, or have a need to go to the wine bar and boast about the enormous amount of holiday excursions they went on (even if it was by the seaside).