‘Joshua’s last stand’

‘THE WORLD IS CHANGING FAST, BUT I HOPE …’

Joshua was dying.  But, there is nothing unusual about dying , is there?  Yet, why was he dying so young?  Because he had plunged a carving knife into his middle.  Why had he done that?  Because of his mortification;  he had been identified as a paedophile.

As he lay dying, he thought how unfair it all was.  Now, if he had been a priest … …!  And he could have continued to give pleasure (he was sure of that) to youngsters, but in another district.  And, in the olden days, one could seduce a servant, service the wife of a brother or other relative, and generally have one’s way without all this sanctimonious fuss and bother.  So he communed with himself even as he sought to combat the physical pain he had inflicted upon himself.

As he lay dying, he thought that he could feel the eternal flames of hell nibbling at his toes and warming his feet.  As an upright man (his peccadilloes aside), the flames had surely to start with his feet.  Given his origins, he had to fear death – even as he had hastened the end of his life through social pressure.

This fear of death had been inculcated in his ancestors by the priests religiously attached to the trading marauders from the Iberian Peninsula and parts of the globe further north and east.  The traders had been in search of those spices which would cover the stench and terrible taste of the rotting meat that was normal fare for their peoples – that is, when they could find a kill.

Because of their superior weaponry, they had managed to acquire control some of the harbours which had given them succour;  and to build trading and wenching posts in the hinterland.  They had soon begun to feel racially and culturally superior to the coloured peoples (now described as natives) they had so easily dominated.  Their priests were ecstatic.  Here were so many sinners (they said) awaiting conversion to the one and only faith.  Their souls would be saved.

Joshua’s ancestors did have their souls saved, but they were not sure from what;  their life of desperation remained unchanged.  Their souls, on the other hand, were mighty pleased:  they sang of salvation with silent satisfaction.  Little did they realise that the priests were on an ego trip, blind to the reality of the origins of their founding authorities and their man-made doctrines of salvation with superiority.

At birth, Joshua had been a sore disappointment.  He was as puny as the rest of his community.  Centuries of living a life of hardship and deprivation, the inheritance of the masses in any part of the world, had resulted in weedy specimens of mankind.  The injection of solid Scottish (or, was it English?) genes, blood and whisky two generations back  had done little for his stature – both physical and social.  The pure of blood are normally not inclined to respect the genetic  infusion received by those who had been the beneficiaries of foreign infusions; often, the recipient had been under some duress.  Yet, the whisky was acceptable by one and all, as the local liquors were never of competitive quality.

As he lay dying, Joshua said to himself, “The world is indeed changing fast.  The oh-so-superior priests are facing strong competition from faiths which deny human intermediaries.  Colonial so-called powers have been forced to withdraw to their own borders.  A few nabobs had, however, established mansions at home, with assets seized from the colonies, matching the mansions of those money changers whose faiths allowed such a business as honourable.”

“As for my alleged sin, surely giving pleasure should not be seen as a sin.  How many men-of-god have given pleasure to lonely wives.  As well, when my ancestors were converted in their faith, they were promised salvation.  I know that the world is changing fast, but I sincerely hope that salvation will not be denied me.  Even as I feel the eternal flames seeking to devour me, I hold tightly to this hope.  For, without hope, life and death is indeed meaningless.”  So said Joshua as he took his last breath.

(Fiction by Ratnam)

On one’s knees (fiction)

It was a night of terror. Not a terror of the unseen – with ghosts and hobgoblins silently sneaking into the subconscious of superstitious sleeping souls. For, that is when the terror of the unknown takes hold of those whose minds are not fixed firmly on terra firma. It was indeed the terror of the visible, the audible, the kinesthetically palpable.

Whilst the terror of the intangible arouses a silent scream, the terror of the visible, the audible and the kinesthetically palpable causes, despite a probable rigidity of all human muscles, very loud and frightening screams. Whilst such screams frighten the listener in a certain unsettling way, they frighten the screamer in a different and horrifying way.

On that night of terror, the question on everyone’s lips began with a simple anxiety-laden “What’s happening?” As the ground split in an apparently random fashion, the next question, uttered in a terrible fear, was “Which way do we run?” This was followed by a desperate “Is there anywhere I can hide?” as one’s bed, bath and, indeed, house fell into the ravines now forming. People fell into the ravines, and the simultaneous slippage of soil and other debris followed the path of gravity, burying the fallen.

A sudden and peaceful death was the good fortune of those whose trajectory was gravity-driven. If their religious leaders had spoken with sound knowledge, then the souls of the buried would sit at the right hand of God, or on Her knees; or wait to be recycled, in time, for yet another sojourn on Earth; or frolic in Heaven surrounded by music and the sound of fountains; or wait to be chosen for a reward of something or other. It would not matter. They were out of harm’s way.

For those who were required to live with the terror of the sounds and consequences of earthly destruction, there was no salvation. They would, with their broken bones and maladjusted minds, die slowly of cold, starvation, severe illnesses caused by polluted water (if there was any water available), criminal activity by fellow humans driven by greed of one kind or another, and lax recovery efforts by those of their rulers who were capable of remaining in office.

When Earth had finished rupturing, and parts of the countryside had simply sunk into the neighbouring sea or moved out into the ocean to form new islands, the survivors would discover that all the known volcanoes had blown their tops. Whilst this outpouring would enrich the soil for the centuries to come, the volcanic ash thrown up into the atmosphere would block the sun over all of Earth for decades. So, more people would starve to death, societies would disappear, and Gaia (the Soul of Earth) would rejoice!

Whilst the human population of Earth needed a drastic pruning, I did not want you to die. But I could not see you. Did you survive the night of terror? Regrettably, I still cannot help you, as I am sitting on the right knee of Herself!

(This piece is an extract from my book ‘Pithy Perspectives: a smorgasbord of short, short stories.’ The book has been reviewed most favourably by the NSW State President of the Federation of Australian writers, and by the U.S. Review of Books. Available as an ebook for $2.99 from Amazon Kindle Direct. The last story, ‘A parable for adults,’ offers an unpredictable and uplifting ending.)