Saturday, 6 October 2012

Another Preview

Because I'm writing all this stuff a week in advance, that means that I didn't have any Immortal Space ready for you. At the time of writing at least. Instead, I thought I would post one of the stories from my book. It's one I'm incredibly proud of, but wary of. I'm expecting a bit of a negative reaction to it because it deals with God. It is the story mentioned in the preface, A Conversation With God. Remember the preface when you read this, and direct all hate mail to Satan. Just write Satan on the envelope, he'll get it. No, really.

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Gabe was a good man. He kept his body in good shape by working out as often as he could, he donated to charity and the homeless, and he worked at his local homeless shelter when he found the time. At the young age of twenty two he was a role model to his friends and he would often encourage them to volunteer with him. He was serving at a soup kitchen today. He served a particularly shabby man and after taking his condition in to account he slipped a five dollar bill in to his hand as well.
“Bless you sir” the homeless man said.
“And you my friend. There but for the grace of God go I, right?” Gabe replied. The homeless man's expression changed at that.
“God? Look around you boy, ain't no God around here. If he can look after you, why don't he look after me?”. Gabe had no answer for the man. He simply shrugged and motioned for him to go own down the line so he could serve the next man. Gabe would have said that God had provided for the homeless man, and was keeping him fed, but he didn't think he would have appreciated it. Gabe would sometimes question his faith, but nothing had ever totally broken it so far. He believed that God helped people in different ways. Not everyone could be treated the same way. This kind of defied the omnipotence of God, but given his good fortune Gabe didn't feel like he was being punished for his supposed 'blasphemous' thinking. At least, not in any way he could see. He just tried to live his life in a good way and help his fellow man. He could worry about what afterlife might be waiting for him when he got there.

As he was leaving the soup kitchen he saw the homeless man he had given the money to earlier. He blocked the way out the door.
“Can I help you?” Gabe asked him, trying to keep his face indifferent.
“It's about what happened earlier Gabe” the man replied. Gabe relaxed a little. He was a regular volunteer and was known by and called by his first name by a lot of the people he saw there. If this was someone who knew his name, then he would give them the benefit of the doubt.
“What about it?” Gabe asked.
“Well I was wondering sir, if you'll pardon me, if you had any more money you could give me.” Gabe sighed and turned out the pockets on his coat to show that he didn't have anything. He had a cheeky grin on his face.
“Sorry buddy. I gave you all my spare money. I need what's in my wallet to get home and eat tonight myself.” The homeless man was smiling but he stopped when Gabe said that and his eyes narrowed. He pulled out a knife and pointed it at Gabe.
“I'm now demanding, and not asking. Give me your wallet.” Gabe motioned with his hands for the man to put the knife away.
“Now now, there's no need to get so serious, or desperate. If you need help that badly I'm sure we can find you some. What do you really want?” The homeless man growled and thrust the knife into Gabe's chest. Gabe was stunned and fell to the floor. He had already passed out from pain and shock and was helpless as the man rifled through his jeans pockets and took his wallet. He opened it up, took out the change that Gabe had left and threw the wallet back at him.
“Where's your God now man? God isn't here, and soon you won't be. Sorry it had to come to this.” the homeless man said before running out the door. The manager of the soup kitchen came into the room from the back.
“Strange.” he said, looking around. “I thought I heard something-” he noticed Gabe on the ground and ran over to him. “Shit!” he said when he saw the wound on his chest. Ripping out his phone he called for an ambulance and asked if there was anything he could do while he waited for them.
“Gabe, hey Gabe! Stay with me, man! Gabe!” he said while tapping Gabe, trying to revive him. Gabe was already slipping out of the world though, and it would take nothing short of a miracle to save his life.

Gabe found himself in an unfamiliar place. The ground was white and all around him he could see a clear sky. He remembered the last thing that had happened to him and quickly felt his chest. He couldn't feel anything that felt like a stab wound though, and when he looked down he saw that the clothes he was wearing had been replaced. He was wearing a white suit now instead of the shirt and jeans he had been wearing. He was even wearing a tie and he hadn't worn one of those outside work since the interview that got him the job. He looked around again and found what looked like gates in the distance. He started running towards them and felt that he was lighter than he had ever known himself to be. The ground was softer than anything else he had ever walked on too. When he looked down he saw that he appeared to be running on a cloud. He shook his head to try and dispel the illusion but it was still there. He was now almost convinced he was in fact running on a cloud to what appeared to be gates. His mind was starting to work it all out when he realised he had managed to reach the gates. It didn't take nearly as long as he thought. They were colossal in size and intricately decorated with carvings of angels and what appeared to be humans. They were golden and the arches themselves were some of the most beautiful things he had ever seen. At the top of each gate was a semicircle and he imagined that, when closed, the gates would have a halo on the top. They were open right now though and he tried to step through them when he heard someone clear their throat. It sounded male but when he looked around he couldn't see anyone. He saw a bright light and shielded his eyes from it. When he opened them again he saw what appeared to be an angel. It was a beautiful man with long golden hair, and majestic white wings on his back.
“I'm dead aren't I?” Gabe burst out. The angel nodded, but then shook his head.
“Perhaps” he said, with a soft voice that shocked Gabe at first.
“Perhaps? I can still live?” The angel once again nodded before shaking his head.
“That is up to you, and Him.”
“Him?”
“You would know him as God I believe. It is up to the two of you to decide if you live or die.”
“You mean I'm going to get to meet God? The man upstairs? The big guy?” Gabe asked, stunned. The angel smiled at him and nodded. This time, without shaking his head afterwards.
“Yes those are also what people call Him. Just God will suffice though.” Gabe thought to himself that no one would believe he made an angel laugh. Then again, no one would really believe that he had met God. There was also the chance he'd never live to tell the story anyway. Gabe nodded to the angel and there was another very bright light. Gabe shielded his eyes again and this time when he opened them he was sat on a chair and he could see a table. When he looked up a bit further he saw another chair and a man sat there. He was wearing a white suit much like Gabe's and hair like the angel's, but a pure white. He was also sporting a bushy beard Gabe noticed. The man held out his hand for Gabe to shake. Gabe did so with a shocked look on his face.
“Could you really be-” he started but he stopped when the man nodded.
“That's right.” he said, his voice deep and an accent that Gabe could not, and felt he would never be able to, place. “I am the one you call God. Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, The Big Cheese, the one and only Lord God in the...flesh, so to speak” he said with a smile, looking down at himself. “Well I suppose neither of us is flesh right now. I don't think you even have any blood. Right now it's busy leaking all over that soup kitchen. I feel bad for whoever has to clean that up, you know.” Gabe's mouth was open in total shock at this point and he just sat there staring. “Oh, the shock, right? It'll pass. I'm kind of used to it now. I'd make a point to remove that in humans but, well, why fix what isn't broken?”
“...you think we aren't broken?” Gabe managed to ask.
“You do?” God asked him with a smile. “Why do you think that humans are broken?”
“Well” Gabe started, running his hands through his hair, “Well...I don't think I do personally, but what about all the evil people there are in the world? All the people who make others suffer?” God leaned back in his chair and let out a booming laugh.
“Do you have any idea how often I get asked that? Now THAT'S something I wouldn't mind changing.”
“You want to make humans less evil?”
“No, not at all. Never in fact!” God said, wagging his finger at Gabe as one would a child. “I wish I could get people to stop asking that. I mean, jeez, it's so obvious I never got why not everyone gets it. Do you have any idea why Gabe? I know you think that your thoughts on me were different from the others.”
“Well,” Gabe started, contemplating, “I do get that humans need to be capable of both good and evil. That you need both, but I never got why other people were allowed to suffer at the hands of the bad people.”
“Have you ever seen what happens when people finally have enough of those who oppress them?” Gabe was, once again, stunned. He hadn't expected a question like that. “They fight back. They crush and punish the oppressors. They make them pay, and they fight for and attain their own freedom. If they do it themselves, they then truly appreciate the freedom that they have, and you have a whole group of people who will never oppress anyone, because they know what it is like. Suffering is painful, but it is only through pain that people can learn and grow. If everyone has something handed to them, then they don't care about anything, or respect anything or anyone. They end up like the oppressors.”
“What about the people who are suffering and dying in third world countries?”
“That one is a bit of a regret I must admit. You see, I expected people to be able to take care of their fellow man. Instead of helping the people who need it, by providing food and shelter and medicine for them, they go and ask why I'm not doing anything, or why it's happening in the first place. I made you as you are, I can not be blamed for you refusing to help your fellow man. If more people started caring about those who cannot help themselves, then everyone would eventually be happy and well fed. Don't you agree?” Gabe nodded and then he thought about something else.
“Okay well what about the people like the homeless I help? There are people who are living in the so called 'wealthy' countries who are still poor and destitute. What about them?” God leaned forward and pulled a pot of tea out of nowhere along with two cups. He served the tea and placed it on the table.
“Well,” God said, taking a sip of tea, “that's a bit of the previous problem, and a lack of humanity involved with the people who are in that situation themselves.”
“Are you saying that the homeless have only themselves to blame?”
“No, not at all” God said, shaking his head and producing biscuits this time. “I'm saying that once again, not enough help is being given them, but also they are not helping themselves enough. You work in homeless shelters and kitchens. You know that there are people who are keeping them as well fed and clean as possible.”
“But there's not enough help!” Gabe said, interrupting God. He realised what he had done and then looked down, motioning for God to continue.
“My point exactly” God said, smiling and lifting Gabe's head up with a finger. Gabe looked into his eyes and saw the universe reflected in them. He quickly looked away. “There isn't enough help for them. Someone could take these homeless, and give them jobs. Someone could help them work for a better life for themselves. I assure you Gabe that the majority of problems with the world are caused by a lack of humanity and caring by the vast majority of humans. Do you really think you can blame me for what's happening there?”
“Well, why don't you change things? Why don't you change how we work?” Gabe asked. God laughed and this time Gabe knew no one would believe that he had made God laugh. Especially if they didn't believe him about the angel.
“What, my child, is the point of that? Why should I do that? Why rob you of the chance to learn and grow? If I changed you, then I would make you less fun. I would make life more boring. You already have the potential to be amazing, why oh why should I take that away? If I just give you the ultimate goal, then why would you even want to live?” This time Gabe did have a comeback.
“Ahh but see I'm not alive now am I?” he said.
“Didn't you hear the angel? That's not strictly true. Right now the medics are fighting to save your life and it's up to you if you live or don't.” God replied.
“Why did I even have to die?”
“I fancied a chat.” God said with a smirk, setting down his tea.
“A chat?!” Gabe shouted, standing up and looking indignant. “You had me killed so that we could talk over tea and biscuits?! While I'm at it why are there so many people who die young?! When the evil bastards seem to live on!” God sighed and with a motion of his hand the tea and biscuits disappeared.
“Well now you've ruined that. Did you not just state with your questions that life isn't very good, and you even brought up another good point. Well let's look at the starving children in what you call Africa for a start. Is it not better for them to die than to keep living like that?”
“It would be better for them to be never born at all surely?”
“Not at all my young friend. I would not want to rob them of a chance of life. Besides, as I said earlier, if more was being done to help them, then they wouldn't be born in to pain like that, and they could live for a long time.”
“What about me? I was a good man, I was in good shape, why was I stabbed? The man who killed me is probably even going to use my money to live it up for a while, while I'm here dead.”
“By your own admission, with your questions and your thoughts, you seem to have come up with the conclusion that life, for some at least, is a series of pain and suffering. Do you agree?”
“To a point” Gabe nodded. “It seems to me that some people get to live life just fine, without any problems, no matter how many problems they give other people.”
“You mean the oppressors?”
“Again, to a point.”
“Well let's take the assumption that life is suffering. Don't you think that it's better for the good to die young, and be spared that pain? The sooner they die, the sooner they can know eternal bliss.”
“That isn't your choice to make!”
“I am God, is not everything my choice to make?”
“Not when it comes to our lives dammit!”
“So,” God said, stroking his beard. “You're saying that you want me to not interfere with your life, if it causes you pain, but you do want me to end the suffering and pain of others?” Gabe was struck dumb. He sat back down and stared at the floor. “You want me to stop people from being hurt? I stop them from being hurt. I free them from their pain. If they won't help themselves, and other people won't help them if they can't, then eventually I give in and spare them from that, and I allow them to come here. It is not my fault that no one does anything while people are suffering. Do you see my point now?” Gabe nodded and apologised. “Now, we come to the main attraction. Given everything that I've told you about life, about the way I work, do you still want to live? You admit yourself that there might not be anything down there for you but pain. Do you want to go back to that, or do you want to stay here?” Gabe sat and thought about it for a few minutes. God waited patiently and summoned another tea which he drank while he waited.
“I want to go back down. I want to live” Gabe said eventually. God smiled and nodded, and prepared to click his fingers.
“Before I send you back, tell me why. Why do you want to live in a world like that?”
“Because of what you told me” Gabe said, smiling. “I already do a lot for the people, but I could always do more. Besides, even if I can't do more, the world is robbed of one good person and it could end up even worse. I don't know if anyone will listen to me, but I'll do what I can to help ease the suffering. Life is worth living, and I want to offer as many people as I can that chance, like you I guess.”
“The day a mortal truly understands me is the day I give up” God said, laughing. “But, I think you're starting to get it. I look forward to meeting the man you will become Gabriel, as well as the people who you will touch and better along the way. You'll have to tell me all about it when you come back.”
“Won't you be watching?” Gabe asked.
“I have better things to be watching than what one man does, no matter who that man is.” God said, and snapped his fingers.

Gabe slowly opened his eyes and when they focused, and he could see properly, he saw that he was in an ambulance. He saw paramedics preparing to shock him with a defibrillator. He reached up and grabbed the paramedics hand before he could shock him.
“I've already died once today mate, let's not make it twice.”
“You're awake? Thank God, we thought it would take a miracle to save you” the paramedic said, setting down the defibrillator and checking his pulse.
“God? Miracles? Boy do I have a story to tell you...”

Somewhere outside the known universe God laughed. “Cats”, he said, “Now THAT'S perfect. Perfectly hilarious” he said as he watched a cat play with a ball of wool. “Cats, now they work how they're supposed to.” He spared a moment to look at Gabe and was not surprised at all to find out he was right. No one did believe him.
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That thing was the length of THREE Immortal Space updates.

You're welcome.

5 comments:

  1. Great post Mark, I love the Immortal Space series, you're such a talented novelist man, I reckon you can definitely go somewhere with this, like you famously said "I'm somebody. I am a writer!" That should go on a T-Shirt or something haha!

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  2. i like it! Can't wait for the book :) x

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  3. This is really a kick ass story. You address the problem of evil, and why humans are evil, and why bad things happen to good people, as good or better than anything I've ever read. One suggestion though. There was a best selling book called "Conversations With God", so you might wanna consider changing the title...though I guess there is nothing wrong with having a similar title. This story is really good, I can't wait to read some of your other short stories.

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  4. I enjoyed reading this, Mark. It's very well-written and thought-provoking. Thank you. :)

    -Barb the French Bean

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  5. I like the ending! Poor Gabe! Take care
    x

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