THAT STRANGE OLD ROAD
When a man’s lying in his bed with bandages around his head and a pretty nurse hovering not so far away, inside his mind he might be anywhere. But the Reverend Josiah Pyke wasn’t anywhere. He was somewhere most precise. In that head of his he could see, with an almost unbelievable clarity, the road he was plodding down.
And when he start wondering where the road might be leading to he came, magically, upon a sign pointing to the way ahead, and that sign read DAMASCUS. Then he looked at the other long white-painted wooden pointer indicating the way he’s come. CRICKLETON, it read.
He had a conversation with himself, inside that old head of his.
“Crickleton to Damascus,” he murmured. “What a wonderful road! From home to the fantastic township of Damascus where, no doubt, I’ll meet myself.”
“So you might think,” came a strange voice. “I mean, look at your collar! Any man with a collar like that has every right to meet himself and get generally rebooted!”
“Hey! This is my head! Who in the name of goodness might you be?” he demanded.
“I’m the voice of my people.” The other suddenly sounded sombre as though the weight upon his shoulders was more than any one man might be expected to bear.
The Reverend Josiah Pyke was in a strange place. On the one hand with he could see the road he was on and the signpost, but on the other he could see no stranger anywhere and when he tried to peer through the world his eyes were met by an inscrutable amorphous blank.
“Who are you?” he repeated.
“Call me what you might, preacher man! It was your sisters who brought sin into our land.”
“Then you’ve got me wrong,” protested The Reverend Josiah Pyke. “I was an only child: I had no sisters, not even a little one with pigtails and a runny nose, though back then I might have wanted one sometimes when I was curious…!”
“Silly man,” chided the voice, “I mean the black-cloaked white-wimpled old women with weary eyes and books. Loads of books. Books that taught us sin.”
“You mean nuns?” he asked.
“That’s what they said they were. They taught us all about sin in the guise of helping and healing. They did that all right. They made the sick rise from their beds and live useful lives when they maybe should have been dead and no good to anyone. That was okay. But then they taught us to read their blasted books.”
“Could be. Dreadful books filled with lies. My people have never been as daft as they took us for and we’d worked stuff out for ourselves. We knew all about the sun and its magnificence, the way it pours light and life onto the world, and we were well versed in the purity of its power. And their Bible tried to replace that mighty and magnificent power with a gnarled old man and Adam and Eve.”
“What was wrong with Adam and Eve?” he queried, although he was uncannily aware that the voice he was debating such high matters with was, in a way, reflecting some of his own doubts.
“They’re codswallop! First man and first woman! Who begat them, pray? And if it was the gnarled old man, who begat him? That was the trouble with the books the black-cloaked old hags brought us: they spoke of beginnings, of words that created light and shape, of firmaments, of ribs turned into women. My women weren’t ribs, not ever! My women were seeds in a man’s milk, they had a father in the flesh, they touched and could be touched. My women were sacred!”
“But we believe…” protested the Reverend Josiah Pyke.
“You believe in the garbled meanderings of ancients with too much time on their hands and not enough thoughts in their heads!” snapped his companion. “Old tales, created in the vacuum of ignorance! That’s what you believe in! And those mental oddities, the lies you have built around the complexity of life, you take them to the four corners of the world and tell we who know better that they’re real!”
“Men had visions…” muttered the Reverend Josiah Pyke. “They saw with bright eyes how the world was created. Their visions were pure and holy! They saw the wisdom and the heart of God!”
“Of course they had visions! Mad visions! They ate too many bad mushrooms and smoked too many potent pipes!” growled the voice.
He was quiet for a moment.
“I think he’s waking,” muttered the other. “I think he’ll open his eyes soon. That silver-topped cane can’t have done too much damage. He’ll be back to normal…”
“The road to Damascus…” he sighed, a whisper of a sigh really.
He opened his eyes and focused. His sign, the one pointing to his already fading destination, was gone. Instead he was in a bed and the nurse standing smiling at him, no wimple and a heavy chest, so pretty her proximity caused a stirring in his groin.
“He’s back,” she smiled, her white teeth as perfect as white teeth ever were. “Hollywood teeth,” he thought.
Then he shook his head, dislodging a headache.
“We were so wrong,” he whispered, “so bloody wrong… what have we done to the world?”
The distant, very distant, voice returned, fading to silence, a last bleating entreaty, “You have wrecked our world, our peace, our innocence…” it whispered, “you and the other men of gods, Muslims and Jews and Christians and all … you have stolen our innocence…”
And the whisper was silenced.
The Reverend Josiah Pyke had reached his own Damascus. He smiled, and sighed.
© Peter Rogerson 21.01.13
I seem to be creating another of my characters. That’s the trouble with me: I set a scene and then want to get my teeth into it! So here are links to the previous parts.