Gospel Redux

Gospel Redux

All Ever Again


Literary fiction


Brian Armour (Australia)

“I just can’t understand how you could get it so eff'n wrong!” The man was definitely annoyed and paced the stone floor in his old sandshoes shaking his head. The presence of the man here at this time surprised the Pope, as did the outburst. He crossed himself out of habit, and the man gave him a withering sideways glance. He saw his correspondence assistant, Cardinal Alostina cross the expansive marble floor to intercept the fellow. Nearing the man, abruptly he turned away from his course and head down returned across the floor toward him. As he passed by the plinth he looked up with a worried face.
“Your Holiness,” he intoned, before leaving in rustle of purple silk.
“What part of no graven images didn’t you understand?”
The Holy Father wondered if he should entertain discussion with this fellow, Alostino would no doubt be back shortly with another pile of paperwork. He was unsure, because here, deep inside the Vatican, he was without his guards, but none-the-less he took a step down from the plinth. “There are no graven images here.”
“Then what is all this for?” With a sweep of his arms he took in all about him. He leant back to better take in Bernini’s massive baldachin. He pointed a long boney finger at the bronze canopy. “Are they not my bees, Barberini acquired?”
He swung around and pointed up at the statues of saints. “And are these not the men who retrieved physical, material bits and pieces – relics of my existence in human form?”
“These are to support faith, inspire faith, my friend.”
“What is faith?” the man asked him directly.
“Belief in the unsubstantiated, belief beyond fact. You can’t expect people to believe in nothing?”
“Have a mind, man. Nothing? Nothing? You are trying me. Is this nothing?” He stamped the floor. “Are you nothing?”
“But I am only a man.”
“Only a man! Are you thick or what?” The man looked at the floor and shook his head. “Three billion years of existence, to reach the complexity of self consciousness and you are only a man, give me a break.”
“But couldn’t you say . . .” proffered the Pontiff.
“You've already built your bridge of explanations from the rock to nowhere, or rather here, which amounts to the same thing."
“But the congregation need these aids to worship, to focus their belief.” The Pope found he was appealing to the stranger.
“Do they? Or are these molded bits of metal they clutch, and these statues they bow to, your aids? For power through ignorance. Is it that your lack of conviction, your lack of faith, your lack of demonstration of faith requires you to provide these icons and talismans? That you can only express your belief with mechanisms of control?”
“Their faith is reinforced by these things.”
“No, we just end up with a whole bunch of people who think they have faith, but really don’t, because they have corrupted pure belief, by physical trinkets.”
"Who are you?” asked the Pope.
“A man.”
The Pope's face twisted and his head inclined. “Perhaps, but I believe you are more . . ."
“Certainly, I should hope that recognition is subliminally conveyed.”
The Pope crumpled to his knees and bowed his head. “Forgive me, my Father.”
"You have created barriers to me. All these things come between the faithful and me - they are the veil, an unnecessary filter to the wonder of existence. Did I not say, no one will know the Father but through me? Did I say they had to embrace, worship, sift through a thousand artifacts to know the real me?”
“But what can I do?”
“Tell them God has told you that all the trappings and artifacts of the Church are to be sold . . .”
“Sold!” The Pope dipped his head and was about to cross himself again, but managed to stymie the action in time. “They will not believe me. They will never go along.”
“Why not? You are the Pope, the head of the church, ostensibly selected by God. `Infallible', you say. What conceit!" said the man through clenched teeth."Is it that you and your church have woven an unholy tryst with capitalism?”
“It has offered security, wealth, progress – a better life for everyone.”
“For everyone? Up to a point, and that point was reached some time ago. Mammon now is your god, not I. Millions starve and die of disease every second, yet you reside here in your rich robes, while your bedfellows rape and pillage my garden, destroy my creation. You are an anathema to me.”
The man shook his head. “You must correct the situation.”
“Situation?” The Pope frowned, considering current wars, pedophile priests, the Global Financial Crisis.
The man looked down at him. “The situation on this world.”
“We do our best, Lord.”
“I am not your lord, and you haven’t. You allow these abominations to exist within my sight. You have encouraged my children to forgo their God, for images, emblems, dogma. You have wrapped a simple belief in me in the garb of material things. You have constructed edifices to reinforce your power, not mine. And having this power you do nothing at the pace of a snail with as much effect. You only act where there is an opportunity to increase your power. You have billions, yet my children starve and suffer. At least twenty more have died while we waste words.”
"We inspire others to good works," said the Pope. “I am trying to understand.”
“Then forget what you believe, and go with what you know. Stop your endless speculating and use reason. You have never sought the meaning of life, only death.”
“Only through death, can one gain Heaven, be with God, yourself.”
“And where and when did I mention Heaven?”
“Mathew, Mark . . ."
"All Greeks to me. What of Thomas, and my brothers who you discarded - because they didn't share your world view? Ah, the flaw; my faith in men."
"But Mark . . ."
"Mark, Mark. Who is Mark? No disciple of mine, yet he did get one thing right - the Mystery, the basis of faith."
"But Lord, your miracles revealed . . ."
"In re-writes, interpretations, refinements, as if you could not help yourself."
". . .engendered faith in you."
"Why would I wish that? Didn't I censure those I aided? Tell me what faith has a basis in fact?"
"But, . . .I . . .we . . .ah . . ."
"Oh, I give up. It would have been better if I’d never come here in the second place. If not for sensitivity to initial conditions I wouldn’t have turned up at all."
"Lord . . .?"
"Stop calling me that." The man cast his eyes on the prostrate cleric, his white silk and gold garb spread across the floor in the shape of a collapsed butterfly, and pitied him.
"You believe there is an end, a judgment day, an apocalypse as John described?”
“It is written . . .”
A sigh issued from the man. "And God is the Word?" The man snorted. "The Word is God. Everything you have is God. God is Everything. You exist in the body of God. This world is your heaven, and you are part of it. You have denied it. There is nothing evil in the distractions it provides. Is it not fine enough? And must I tell you it is finite and humans have become a plague. A pestilence infects the planet, designed and abetted by you and your kind. A man infestation. Through you, Earth is held in disdain for some mythical higher plane. Through you, it has been degraded and neglected. For it suited you to deny the kingdom of God within. I am here to tell you there is no escape clause to life's contract."
"Mercy, Lor . . ."
"Any man can be a son and a father and contain the cosmic spirit. Get up." The man bent and assisted the old man to his feet.
"Thank you."
"Have compassion for your fellows." The man patted his shoulder and smiled. "Dismantle the edifice of artifice you have created and permeates civilization. Free them from your corruption, allow them to live and care more for each other and the planet they are part of."
The man turned from him and walked away, the sound of his sandshoes slapping the stone echoed through the vault.
"Where are you going?" the old man called after him.
"I feel like a toasted, tasty cheese and asparagus sandwich." The man chuckled and waved the back of his hand. "Make of that what you will."
"Will you return?"
The man slowed his stride to speak over his shoulder. "I suppose that is up to you. Out of chaos comes order, there is no mystery."

Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1


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Review 1:

Compelling hook?


Strong characters?


Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The build-up was intriguing and I felt the tension mounting with each word.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Great stories, nowadays, start with a powerful opening line and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
What can I say besides excellent! This does what every great book should do, make you think, and hunger for more!