Some sort of parable...
I’d been down into these tunnels before, under the city, for reasons of my own. I thought I knew my way around, but I had never been this deep before. The air was becoming fetid, and my torch was dimming. I was beginning to think I’d been tricked, when I saw a faint glow ahead.
A man in dirty overalls sat at a battered oak desk, reading a skanky copy of ‘Hustler’ by the light of a crystal candelabrum. He looked at me, rolling a stogie from one side of his mouth to the other.
“Got a ticket?”
I handed him the small laminated card. He looked at it, scratched his stubbled jaw and nodded.
“Where’d you get this?”
“I bought it on eBay. It was listed as a joke. You know, 'Ticket To See God – Good for one visit'. Couldn’t resist. I, ah, just followed the directions.”
“Fuck me, no respect at all. Not like the old days…” He took out a set of clippers and punched the ticket.
“Um, are you… God?”
“Do I fucking look like a Deity?” he snapped. “Straight ahead, you’ll know when you get there. And don’t touch anything!”
I walked in near-darkness for another half hour or so, when I emerged without warning into a lush, well-tended garden. It was peaceful, serene, filled with the sound of birdsong and the smell of horseshit. A large, pale blue unicorn grazed by a pond, near a long oak bench. Occasionally it scratched its rump with its horn. I approached, thinking perhaps it was God, but it ignored me. Everything glowed as if lit by the midday sun, yet there were no shadows cast and the sky was black and starless.
“Nice, isn’t it?” asked a slightly croaky voice behind me. I turned, to see a large orang-utan sitting on the bench, eating a Chupa-Chup.
I looked around. I couldn’t see anyone else.
The ape waved at me. “Here, dumbass, on the bench! Welcome to Eden.”
I walked over to him.
“Are you… are you God?”
He stood up, bent one leg and spread his arms.
He looked like Al Jolson in a fur coat.
“No offense, but you’re an ape.”
He sat again, licking his Chupa-Chup cheekily.
“None taken. Remember, I created you guys in my own image. And I don’t really like that name, a bit generic. Call me Frank, if you like. Buddha does. So, anyway, what do think of the Garden?”
“It’s not very big.”
“It was only built for two people.”
“Who? Adam and Eve?”
He nodded. “Had to start somewhere…”
“Are you saying Adam and Eve were real? I thought all that Old Testament stuff was, you know, metaphorical?”
He rolled his eyes back in his head – right back, so that for a second they were peeking out of his ears.
“Allegorical, actually. You humans, you’re so gullible. You’ll believe anything. A Universe in seven days, rain floods the whole planet… hey, like the unicorn? I got that idea from the Simpsons.”
“He’s nice, looks really placid. You ride him?”
“I tried, but he gave me a rash. Think I’m allergic or something. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. Adam and Eve were a couple of protozoa – you know, alphabet noodles in the ol’ primordial soup. Bit o’ hydrogen, bit o’ carbon, couple of lightning bolts and Whammo! Evolution. What a doozy! From ooze to Uzis. Protoplasm to plasma screens. I just fired up the old cellular mitosis thingy, and away it went. Pretty clever, doncha think? ” He was jumping around on the bench, acting out Creation as if it was a dance craze.
“But God… I mean Frank, I thought Evolution was against everything you stand for. I thought you created everything. Don’t you mark the sparrow’s fall, and all that stuff?”
“Oh, suuure I do… like I’ve got the time and inclination to sit around making blades of grass, feathers, skin, putting little beasties together one by one. It’s a labour saving device. You’ve got food processors, I’ve got Evolution. I thought it was one of my better creations, personally.”
“The religious right don’t. They’d like to hang Evolutionists. They’re very powerful at the moment.”
“Fucking fundamentalists,” Frank snorted, scratching his anus and grimacing with distaste. “They think they know everything. Think they know me. They’re like those other self-appointed zealots, over in Camel Country. They have no doubt about anything, that’s what makes them so dangerous. Fuckers!”
He smacked his fist into his palm. The Earth shook, just a bit. I thought I’d better change the subject.
“Is there, you know, a meaning of life, a Great Awful Truth?”
“Is there a Great Awful Truth? Well, of course there is! You want to know it? The Great Awful truth is… that there is no Great Awful Truth. Everything just is. Time is a curved continuum, which is impossible, and infinity has an ending.”
“Hubble’s Radius,” I added smugly. Frank looked at me for a long moment.
“That was the Universe, not Infinity. Never mind. Hubble was a smart bastard, no doubt, but his maths was way out. Einstein, now he was onto something, he was one clever dude, just couldn’t see the whole picture. The Universe isn’t expanding, and it isn’t contracting either. It’s more like… well, imagine a slinky boinging around inside a hamster wheel. It’s more like that.”
“You got a better word?”
I didn’t, and I began to realise that for someone with a Ticket To See God – Good for one visit, I was being a bit of a prick.
Frank, being omniscient, read my mind. “Yeah, but don’t worry, all humans are dickheads. Goes with the ‘self-awareness’ thing. Always striving for perfection… Like those arrogant doobs who leave ‘deliberate errors’ in carpets and things, to show that they’re not really capable of perfection, as if they were. Wankers!”
“But, you’re… you know, God. Aren’t you perfect?”
“Do you know anyone who is?”
I shook my head. I didn’t even know anyone who was sane.
“Then how can I be? How can I be perfect if I created imperfection?” He sat back, grinning, and rolled the Chupa-Chup down his tongue.
He had me there. I guess people just had to believe in the idea of perfection, otherwise how could they believe in God? The funny thing was, I had never actually believed in God, or Frank, until a few minutes ago. For all I knew, I might in reality be laying on some sweat sodden dance floor, hallucinating wildly. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. Perhaps I would wake up in the Recovery Ward again, and this would all be a fading memory. Frank leaned over and pinched my arm with long, apey fingers.
“Ow! Shit, that hurt, Frank!”
“Pain is the only true sign of life. One of Buddha’s, only he says it better.”
“I thought Buddha was only a man?”
He chuckled. “He thought so too. He was my favourite, you know, out of all the prophets. Didn’t go around starting cults and pointing the finger at others.”
“I thought Jesus was your favourite. Wasn’t he your only son?”
“See, there you go with that parochial doctrinal thing. Can’t seem to get that out of your systems. They were all my sons, all my daughters… all my children.”
He gazed off for a moment, looking at the unicorn. There was a tear in his eye.
“You know, don’t you, that you really are alone? In the whole universe, the whole shebang, there is no other intelligent life. You can go on looking, and good on you for trying, but there ain’t nothing out there but bugs, slime and a few creepy things you don’t want to know about. You’re an accident. Your brain, it wasn’t supposed to happen. My bad, I guess. But even I can’t turn back time. I do love you, you know, but I can’t live your lives for you. I don’t answer prayers, or forgive sins. It doesn’t work like that. I just wish you’d learn to love each other, it’s the only way forward.”
I had to ask him. “John Lennon… was he one of yours?”
He turned to me, shaking his head slowly. “He was… one of yours. Wanna know who ordered the hit?”
He told me. I wasn’t surprised. The music industry was full of people like that. He offered me his Chupa-chup. Was I going to pass up a chance to suck on God’s own lollipop, just because it had ape-spit all over it? I took it and put it in my mouth. Mmm, cola.
He brightened up a bit, gave me a friendly slap on the knee.
“Look, I’m happy to talk cosmic shit with you all night,” he said, “But you must have some burning questions, some mysteries you’d like cleared up. Where do you want to start?”
I thought for a moment. So many questions…
“Well, there is something. What’s the deal with pubic hair?”
He smiled, and tapped the side of his flat, apey nose. Then he slowly pushed his index finger into his left nostril, right up to the second knuckle. He withdrew it and contemplated the outcome.
“Sorry, sport. There are some things which must remain a secret.”