While I’m in Montreal singing with the Montreal Chamber Orchestra, I’ll be reposting some classic Scintillations for your amusement. Enjoy!
This is an idea for a short story that I had a while ago, but never actually wrote. Somewhat NSFW for swearing and blasphemy.
Two-page story: The Exodus
Some people dislike leaving. I’ve always found it rather a relief, personally; that moment when all the goodbyes are said and you can turn around, sling your bag over your shoulder, and walk away slowly but buoyantly, like the adolescent hero of a coming-of-age comedy getting on the bus to go to college and a life of new and more adult responsibilities. I like it, but then I’m a bit of a freak, I suppose.
No one made me go there. That was the other part. Being unconstrained by most of the things that tie most intelligent beings down certainly helps one cultivate an easy attitude towards parting. I have the freedom of all space and time, and I have no ties to anything other than a few simple bodily functions. Trust them to get me into this mess.
I had stopped by a little podunk place, nowhere I’d ever been before; just a backwater, barely civilized enough to herd a goat or two and write down how many you’d got. Nothing exciting about it, but I had to go. Like I said, having a few vestigial bodily functions can be a pain. Anyway, I was behind a bush, doing my business, when some beardy goat-herder came along.
“Holy shit!” he yelled.
This wasn’t fair. “Fuck off,” I said. “Don’t you know who I am?”
“The bush is burning but not consumed,” he said. “You must be – forgive me, oh powerful one,” he said, taking off his simple little sandals. “You – you must be -”
“I am who I am,” I said, irritated.
“He who is,” the dude with the beard said reverently.
“Anyway, do you mind?” I said. “I’m kind of in the middle of something.”
“No, no, forgive me,” he said, bowing and backing away. “Thanks be to Him – I mean, You – all powerful one!”
“Right,” I said, and he went away.
I went away too, and thought nothing of it. At least not for a while, until I was passing by again.
This time I’d heard about some weird shit going on. Not just the wars and bonfires and genocides – those were all par for the course, and it’s hard to get worked up when you’ve pretty much seen it all – but a bunch of the guys who usually hang out there were telling me stories, and they were pretty pissed off.
“You know,” one of them said to me, pulling me aside one day, “it’s not the burnt offerings, and it’s not the human sacrifices. You know I don’t really care about that stuff. But it’s nice to have your own little corner of the universe. It gives me some satisfaction. I’d have appreciated it if you’d told me you were going to set up in that area, OK?”
“Don’t play dumb. There’s a whole whack of bearded losers going around burning stuff in your name.”
“Really? What sort of stuff?”
“My followers, mostly, but each other and forests and cities and all sorts of other shit.”
Huh. This needed some looking into.
I’ve never gone for that whole worshipping gag. It just ties you down. You have to pop by every now and then and work some magic, or else people forget about you. You have to listen to all their entreaties and pleas and sometimes even show up for a ceremony every year. Way too much responsibility for me. It’s just not my scene. So I decided that, if this was true, I needed to nip it in the bud.
I finally found my bearded acquaintance shivering on a mountaintop. Beneath him on the plain a whole crowd was feasting and celebrating and having a grand time. But he’d clearly been fasting and praying for WAY too long.
“Dude,” I said, “you look sick.”
He fell to his knees and praised me, weeping. “Oh great one,” he sobbed, “oh powerful one!”
“Yeah, about that,” I said. “What’s all this I hear about you burning down shit in my name?”
“All the world must glorify you,” he said. “You alone are the most high.”
“No I’m not.”
“Oh, yes you are.”
“No, I’m really not. Don’t you think I’d know?”
“The people need you,” he said imploringly. “Shine your face on them. Lead us from here. Teach us how to act.”
“Well, for starters,” I said, “stop killing each other. That would be nice.”
“OK,” he said, scratching it on a rock. “No killing. What else?”
“Stop taking shit from other people. Stop even WANTING to take shit from other people.”
“No stealing and no coveting,” he said. “Alright.”
“Uh, take care of your parents,” I said. “Be nice to them and respect them.”
“Honour your father and mother,” he said.
“And don’t tell lies about each other,” I said. “It sucks when people spread rumours about you.”
“No false witness,” he wrote.
“And stop fucking like rabbits,” I said. “Honestly, do you people ever stop? Have you seen what’s going on at the bottom of the mountain?”
“What’s going on at the bottom of the mountain?” he said.
“Anyway, if you’re going to keep fucking all the time, just stick to one person at a time, OK?”
“Oh, so no adultery,” he said.
“Yeah, that would do it. And take a day off every once in a while. You have to chill out sometimes.”
“Honour the Sabbath,” he wrote. He scratched for a while longer on the long, flat rock, then looked up at me. A smile broke across his weathered face.
“All glory to you, forever and ever, amen!” he cried, then turned and ran down the mountain, clutching the stone.
And we all know how THAT one worked out. Well, what could I do? Any bit of magic – raising the dead, causing thunderstorms out of a blue sky, earthquakes etc – that I could do would only confirm the poor boob’s idea that I was a completely megomaniacal asshole who only wanted to be worshipped all the fucking time. So I stayed away. No more miracles, no more floods, no more random acts of mercy. I figured eventually they’d give up on me and go for someone else who’d actually do something for them. Don’t get me wrong, I felt kind of BAD about it; but I never signed up for this shit, and I’m not going to let it run my life.
Going back to the mountaintop, though – I watched my emaciated friend with the beard run down the mountain, waving the stones in the air and shouting, then I turned and left. Like I said, most people don’t like leaving. But for me it’s always been a relief. I turned around and walked into the stars, and that was that.