Spying On Heaven
Spying On Heaven
Published by Edgar Million at Shakespir
Copyright 2016 Edgar Million
“Quit questioning God and start trusting Him!”
― Joel Osteen
“God is a vicious little fucker,” a voice announced, waking Bogumil with a start, dark eyes blinking in the hot urban sun, trying to work out where he was and who was speaking with such a voice; deep, booming, seeming to shake the tarmacked roof which he sat upon, then it continued, “and on the odd day he can be be honest with himself, he knows it.”
“Will this be one of those days though?” asked another voice, gentle, foreign sounding.
The boy twisted and looked around, reloading his surroundings. Two empty tins of beer, snuck out of the box Dad kept on the floor by the fridge, crumpled onto the rough surface, a Gregg’s sausage roll, the wrapper anyway, discarded on the floor, along with a magazine borrowed from a box Dad kept on top of the wardrobe, the one he thought no one knew about; pictures of plump naked women printed on thick matt paper; images maybe thirty years old, surrounded by writing he couldn’t read, wearing poses he hadn’t experienced yet.
He was sitting on a flat roof, The Roof, Bogumil’s favourite hiding place when he wanted some space, some freedom from his two brothers and their fists and their taunts. The space was accessible through a gap in his back fence, up a series of plastic drain pipes. It was his secret kingdom.
The voices were drifting up through a thin slit of open skylight, so he crept across, fragments of the tarmac cracking and scraping his bare legs to sneak a look.
There were two men standing by the sink in the little community hall where all the alkies and druggies met for their support groups. One, was the biggest, toughest looking bloke Bogumil had ever seen, and he towered over a fat little Asian fella, for some reason wearing a thick knitted Christmas jumper on a hot day in June.
The fat man, Bogumil thought from his perched, had a pleasant face, with an expression like a calm day in Spring.
“He’s hard work,” the man-mountain continued. The fat one looked sideways at the big guy, and Bog could tell he agreed, but he said nothing.
Bog pressed his head onto the glass and could just make out the scrawny figure they called God, who appeared to be more concerned with trying to make himself comfortable on the hard plastic chair than with their discussion of his failings. It seemed to be prodding and stabbing his bony rear no matter how he arranged himself and he looked agitated and volatle.
The community centre echoed with the sound of cups and saucers clinking, coffee and tea being prepared by a strange, grey looking figure, who Bogumil couldn’t quite make out, partly because of the posts and sections of roof obstructing his view of the show, and partly because he just seemed hard to focus on. Bog just couldn’t seem to focus on him properly.
He busied himself, or herself even, with the refreshments table, moving bourbons and ginger nuts about a tray, picking off custard creams here and there.
“Okay dearies,” called a voice originating from a person Bogumil couldn’t see, “time to join the circle of trust.”
Bogumil, Bog, to his school friends, liked these little sessions. You heard so much life discussed, all the things grownups normally kept secret, their loves and their weaknesses, their fears and their desperation. Often they would talk about the worst things in their lives, their lowest ebb.
He heard the expression ‘rock bottom’ again and again, and was baffled by some of the stories, strange almost demented encounters and betrayals.
But he’d never seen this lot before.
They were new.
They tramped over to the centre of the room, so Bog tiptoed across to the main skylights for a proper view of their circle, of ten or eleven figures, mostly men, but a couple of ladies as well.
They were healthier looking than the usual types who held meetings like this, not ravaged by their addictions and he wondered what their thing would be.
“So,” said the woman in a plummy, lilting voice which made Bog think of rivers and orchards and flowers, a plump, friendly looking lady in a summer dress, “who is going to kick us off today.”
There were murmurings, but no one seemed keen to go first.
“In the absence of a volunteer, maybe I could ask you to speak first please, God, it’s been a while since you joined us.”
Bog peered through glass streaked with the dust of a city which had known no rain for weeks and made out the shape of a skinny figure, scrawny even, who appeared to be wearing some sort of a shop assistants uniform, who started as if stung, looked unwilling, but spoke as requested nonetheless in a flat monotone voice.
“Hi, my name is God, and I am attending this group because I need to learn not to be so violent with my world.”
“Welcome back God,” the group chorused.
“And please remind the group why you come to these sessions.”
“To try and learn how to treat Her, my woman, my world, right again. Because if I don’t, well She’s not going to take it much longer,” the man ran a hand through thinning hair, a little greasy, “look, I didn’t really want to come, but She insists, and unless I want our trial separation to be made permanent, I attend. And I don’t, I really don’t.”
“I love her, you see,” he told them, looking to a green cloaked dwarf for reassurance, “even if she never knows how much, I do love her.”
God lifted a chipped cup coffee to his lips, breathing in the sour aroma of instant coffee, then sipped, wincing as the liquid touched his lips.
“Part of the problem is I just get so jealous when I think of her,” He said, “that I find myself just dishing out these little punishments, even when I knew deep down she’s done nothing to deserve it.”
“Little punishments?” someone asked.
God shifted again, muttering about the “bloody chair” to no one in particular.
“Nothing really,” he told the group, “a tidal wave here, a nuclear explosion there. She’s, my planet, so She needs to know who’s in charge. But She says I need to ‘respect’ her more.”
“You judge these, er, correctives, to be small transgressions then?”
“It was nothing really,” his voice rising, just a touch, “the global equivalent of a black eye, but the problem is, the beatings, well they’re not having the right effect anymore. More and more she doubts me.”
God lifted his slender arms towards the ceiling revealing damp patches on his nylon shirt, then explained that the “bacterial cells which formed her had become sentient and less forgiving of his whims and his admonitions. Look out the window, see what they’ve built. They’re losing faith.”
Bog glanced over his shoulder at the city of London in the distance, new buildings springing up all the time. It was an impressive sight.
The fat man leant back in his own chair, looking comfortable on the small plastic despite his enormous girth, closing his eyes, as the Christmas jumper strained, the snowman adorning his stomach growing enormous.
“You will not be punished for your anger,” he told Him, “you will be punished by your anger.”
“Thanks, Buddha, that’s deep. Did you get it off of the Deep Thought For The Day on Twitter?” the man shook his head, “seriously, the grownups are talking now.”
The man he’d called Buddha cracked his knuckles, the noise echoing off of the bare walls of the community centre.
“God, you know I preach peace, it’s the only true path, but you do rather test my patience, old chap.”
God glances at Buddha, looking surprised at the sharpness of the rebuke, then he continued.
“Look, back in the beginning…” God continued, but stopped, his eyes clouding over for a moment, other worlds and places visible in them, “ha! how I love that phrase. In The Beginning. In the beginning, I was a God.”
“We all were dude,” said an American guy in a shiny jumpsuit, “no biggie.”
“Don’t dude me, you were a minstrel, there was no glory in that,” then, ignoring the man’s wounded expression, he continued, “you know what it’s like with a woman. Early on, you promise her everything, to take care of the her. Of the little cells which form her. The ‘people’ She call them. I gave her so much, a beautiful garden, lovely food, livestock in the millions, trust in me. I’ll see you alright. Just do as you’re told.”
“Sounds like a fine deal,” the big man agreed.
“I did my best,” he told the room, “sure sometimes she was forced to go without, in life, well the extra sweet chocolate topping on the mocha would be life everlasting, if She put up with it. Mansions. Clouds. Re-unions with long lost loved ones. The whole kit and kaboodle.”
“She bought it then?” Thor asked, shaking his head a stupid grin on his face, “yep, that’s the girl I remember. Very trusting.”
God looked up at the big man, a nasty look in his eyes, but he didn’t say anything, just continued.
“I made her a promise see, unbreakable, a life after death deal. I promised Her, and the cells, that if they were good, obedient, then they would all come back, live forever, with us in heaven, then She touched my face and told me She trusted me. That I had a truly kind heart. I wept that night.”
God lifted his coffee cup back to his lips, discovered he’d drained it then placed it onto the floor with a clink.
“I was committed to the promise too. I’d bring every single one of those creatures back, I told her, well, the ones that worshipped me at least. I was certainly going to try my best.”
The plump woman frowned.
“How does that, work then?”
God stared down at the linoleum shaking his head.
“Dunno. Still trying to work out the details. Not had time to work out the technicalities of the retrievals yet,” he said, then grinned, a mean piggy look in his eyes which reminded Bog of his dad on a Friday night, after too much beer at the club, “well, since I’ve not set the date for what they call, Judgement Day, well, I’ve got some wiggle room.”
“It sounds very clever,” the fat one said, “I was trying to instigate a cyclical system along similar lines, how are you going to manage doing them all at once?”
“Dunno,” he repeated, “to be honest, I can’t totally remember where they all are. Some days I can barely keep track of the living beings, let alone the location of dusty, decayed remnants of the long dead.”
“Another coffee,” the big man asked, patting him on the shoulder.
“Thanks Thor, four sugars please.”
The one he’d called Thor disappeared then returned with a couple of fresh mugs of instant coffee, and some sachets of sugar and milk.
“Most of things I promised her were just shit I made up after I let her down again,” he admitted, “a way to wipe the look of sadness from her eyes.”
“Where does that sadness come from God?” the plump woman asked, and God glanced at her, twisting again on the hard plastic chair, not answering the pointed question.
“It’ll all come right, I told her, though I warned her not to rile me up so much – she knows I’ve got a bit of a temper. Way back when, back in the beginning, She would have said sorry, said She hadn’t meant to upset me, but now she just stares me down, this cold look in her eyes which makes me want to weep.”
“Thor,” he said, looking at the big man, “you understand right? You had a few rage issues yourself in the past, you know it’s not easy.”
“These are different times now,” he responded, “I’m a different god, these days. This group has helped though.”
“God,” said the woman, “have you got anything that you’d like to add? How have you been treating her recently.”
“I gave her a new disease last week.”
God stared at the floor, looking both guilty and proud.
“Did she do something to cause this?”
“What happened? Did she hurt you somehow?”
“Some of the minions,” he looked round at the group, “the cells, well, they keep putting videos on this YouTube thing saying stuff like: I don’t exist, and even though a whole other bunch of them say it’s wrong, and say I’m there for them, just have faith – I get so mad, so I made AIDS airborne. It’ll take a while to kick in, but they’ll get the message.”
“To love only me, I suppose. I’d had a few glasses of brandy see,” He concentrated hard on the lino, like He was gathering his thoughts and looked over at Thor, “you know I get a bit maudlin after I’ve been drinking, and I’d had a couple of spliffs, and I was just so sick of Her shit.”
“So you blame Her for the non-believers?”
God took a sip of the coffee.
“Well, she could do more to keep them in line – in the old days, when She believed I’d created them, She’d have never put up with people bad-mouthing me, but then She started going through my jacket pockets, in a manner of speaking, and found all this stuff out about the dinosaurs and evolution and everything, and suddenly She’s considerably less certain of me. Little Miss Doubtful.”
“What does it matter though, if the atheists don’t believe? She still loves you, even with all the shit you’ve pulled.”
God shook his head from side to side.
“It bugs me. I guess, I worry I’m not enough for Her. I mean, back in the day, She had a bit of a rep,” looking accusingly round the room. “Half you guys took her for a spin back then. So I made the rules clear. Me and me only, and for the longest time she understood the deal. Me and me only, and I’d look out for her. “
“True, but you still put Her through some things even then,” interjected a well-dressed man, “floods, pestilence and the like, and She was on her knees, just trying to please you.”
“Spare the rod, Rama, spoil the child,” God responded gruffly, “that’s what my old man used to say. Don’t I know it too?”
God appeared to reflexively put a hand to his back as if remembering some long ago ass-whooping, and Bog had a sudden flash of his own father, in a Friday night fever, stinking of Whiskey, black leather belt gripped in his bony fist and rubbed his own back on sympathy.
A pudgy, dark haired god spoke up, and tried a different tack.
“Have you considered that you might start to see other worlds again? Or even be non-exclusive? I’ve seen the way you are with that little planet on the horsehead nebula, She seems nice.”
God smiled at this, and Bog had a sense that this woman had been more than nice to him, but that he was less keen on the missus sharing the same freedom he had to roam.
“She just needs to do as she’s told,” he said blankly.
One of the others spoke up, the grey one with the custards creams, who from this angle appeared to have more arms that the usual, probably a trick of the glass distortion, “look, from what you’re saying, I’m not sure she’s the ‘exclusive’ type. Hung for a long time with Zeus and his mob, not to mention,” here he glanced nervously over at Thor, “well you guys were pretty close back in the day. She’s a very friendly girl.”
God, clenched his nicotine stained fingers tightly into a fist, as though he was considering pounding it into the man’s face for reminding him that Thor had been there first, but appeared to think better of it.
“What do you care if the atheists don’t believe?” asked Thor, “you still hold infinite sway over their lives and deaths, you’re still all omnipotent, and omnipresent, though that’s a bit of a headache at times, don’t know if you’re coming or going half the time – so what do you care if even half don’t believe? Screw them.”
“Dunno. It makes me feel good when they all like me,” God looked sadly at the faded linoleum floor, patterned with green and flecks of what might once have been white, but which now was more yellow or grey, “and I worry that maybe the atheists are right, I am nothing – well, they just make me anxious…”
“Dude, you’re all three major religions on the planet,” a shabby street drinking, bearded figure told him in a growl, “she still loves you to bits man, even with all your shit, but if you keep whoopin’ her she’s bound to lose faith.”
“How ‘bout a good visitation?” Thor suggested. “Get your holy ass down there and find a nice prophet to spread the word. Always did it for me.”
“It’s not so easy though these days. Time was I’d pick out a nice prophet, sincere, receptive, and present myself to him so he could spread the Word.”
God waved a hand to demonstrate the ease with which this used to work for him, “then, he’d go off to spread my Word and all would be cool again. But now, when I present myself to one of the minions, he goes off to tell everyone of my decrees, and quick-smart they lock him up in a mental hospital dope him up to the eyeballs, start taking pictures of the inside of his brain.”
God stopped for a second, as if contemplating this development.
“Did you know they can do that now?” he asked the group, “take pictures of the inside of their brains, so they can almost see what each other is thinking. I don’t really know how they…”
God trailed off looking impressed despite himself at the level of education and independence his planet had achieved.
“Don’t you think that’s amazing?” the woman asked, “the things they’ve achieved, doesn’t that make you proud?”
“It should, Momma E, I know it should, but it doesn’t,” He said, eyes wet with tears, “but it just makes me think the day when She doesn’t need me, or any of us is getting even closer. It scares me.”
Bog watched this strange conversation from above. So he wondered, what was their thing? Not booze or gambling. The usual wife-beaters group met on Thursdays, and the meeting for the victims of spousal abuse was on Mondays, but this lot, they were something else again with their odd delusional asides.
“I even sent Jesus back, you know,” God told the group, and Bog saw a tall and ancient looking African man and Momma E exchange a knowing glance, as He continued, “not that the ungrateful little shit wanted to go.”
“Well they did nail him to that cross thing,” the man said in a precise Nigerian accent, wincing, “and you wouldn’t help him; he was in counselling for years after that. What happened when he went back this time? Did they nail him to something else?”
“Well, Shango, I picked a nice religious country called America for the second coming, and I warned the little hippy, none of that peace and love shit, not like last time, hellfire and damnation is the message I want you to take back,” he waved his hands in the air dramatically, “tell them this time we’re back and about to go all Old Testament on their arses unless they fall into line.”
“The Feebies, the American police, they shot him.” God had retracted into himself and begun to pick at his fingernails with a small pearl bladed flick knife he’d retrieved from his shirt pocket with a click, click, click sound, just audible up on the roof of the community centre. “Then they burned down his compound then made it look like an accident. Bastards.”
“But surely he was a martyr?” asked Shango, that’s a big deal, “they used to love all that stuff.”
“Barely anyone even registered it. The news reports just said he was a nutter. A cult leader, they called him.”
God looked off into space for an age, and the group was about to move on to the next member when he continued.
“The boy, my boy, he hasn’t spoken to me since. Says he’s got his own life to live and that he’s met this nice prehistoric planet who he thinks he’s got a future with. Says he wants to learn from his Daddy’s mistakes and treat her nice.”
“Seems like a nice sentiment,” said Momma E.
“Seriously, maybe She’s not right for you,” said Thor, “maybe you should both see other, er, people.”
“You would say that, wouldn’t you? You never got over her anyway,” God stared with building rage at Thor, but then seemed to simmer down when he noticed Thor bristle and flex his muscles.
“Jesus, God, are you still on about that?” Thor shook his head, “I’ve moved on already.”
Then Momma E interjected, “really God, oh seriously do I really have to keep calling you that, look, God, She was a very friendly girl in her formative millennia. She had a number of acquaintances, but She trusted you implicitly. Then you had to fill her head with all that nonsense. Everlasting life eternal. Like you could do that anyway. Like any of us could.”
God muttered something the group couldn’t hear.
“You need to stay in the comfort zone man,” said a handsome green skinned young man in speedos and a Hawaiian shirt. “Don’t promise what you can’t deliver; what we do, with these planets, it’s all smoke and mirrors, and eventually, if we’re not straight with them, they work it out. A woman will take the odd slap or two, because she loves you, and some, like your girl, will put up with it longer still, but they all get there in the end and if you don’t at least consider treating her nice, then Thor there will be the least of your worries.”
“She loves me, though, She loves me.”
“Anyway,” Momma E spoke up now, “I’d like to thank Joe, I mean God, for being so very open with us here in the group today, and would like you to give him a big round of applause, I think he’s made real progress tonight.”
The circle clapped warmly and the surfer dude patted him on the shoulder and they moved onto some of the others. The surfer dude talked about trust issues, and Buddha complained his new squeeze kept trying to get him on a diet, as if being vegetarian wasn’t bad enough.
Thor stared at God throughout the rest of the meeting, silent as a tower block, as the rest of the gods shared their own woes, and Bog wondered what he was thinking about. From the expression on his face it he thought it might not end well for this man who called himself God.
The group finished and drifted about the room, readying to leave, and when God popped into the toilet leading off the room, Bog heard Thor whisper to Buddha about how he reckoned She still burnt a candle for him.
“They even made a film about me recently. The guy in it was a bit ugly, compared to me, but still, it shows She hasn’t forgotten.”
“What do you reckon about his boy?” Buddha asked, “seems a decent sort of a chap to me.”
Thor looked at Buddha like he was thinking little Jesus might be just as bad as his Daddy.
“Chip off the old block,” he said, “might come across all ‘peace and love’, but there’s something in his, manner, which tells me it’s only a matter of time before he follows in Daddy’s footsteps.”
“You’re too hard, he’s a lovely guy.”
“Trust me, all that ‘me and only me’ shit’s unhealthy, there’s something about him, you’ll see-”
Buddha hushed him as God returned, then Mother Earth spoke the closing address to the group.
“I am really grateful you agreed to convene here today, I do like Earth, although we must pick somewhere different next time. Thanks for the venue God-”
“Thanks God,” the group chorused in agreement.
“One thing though, God,” called a scratchy, animalistic voice, a voice from underground, and Bog was surprised the see the indistinct grey figure, the one he still couldn’t make out, had spoken for the first time.
God looked surprised, “yeah?”
“The boy, up on the roof listening,” it said, and Bogs stomach threatened to empty at mention of him, but held his nerve, “well, since it is your planet you need to decide what happens to him. Is he allowed to tell what he saw? If this world is as sceptical as you claim, then it’s not too much of an issue, I suppose, but it is your decision.”
Bog leapt back from the window, but knew in his heart the game was up so he crept back to peer over the rim onto the gathering. He saw a look of grim satisfaction on God’s face which made him long to be small again, away from all of this, wrapped in his mother’s embrace one last time.
“It’s already in hand,” he said, “he’s going to fall from the roof when he tries to get down. The fall will break his neck.”
Buddha spoke first, “now really, God, is that entirely necessary?”
“Not really,” he shrugged and would entertain no further discussion of the matter.
Bog stood in the edge of the roof and watched the ‘gods’ disperse in the street below, disappearing into the coming shadows of night without a glance back up at his hiding place, transporting themselves by various means, all seemingly unworthy of the of their deified status.
Thor was on a skateboard for pities sake. Although, Bog thought he could probably have used it as a surfboard, such was the size of the thing. It raged and clattered along the uneven East London street as he disappeared into the distance.
God himself, appeared to be reattaching some kind of corporate name badge to his shirt and Momma E seemed to be trying to force him into a hug, but he writhed and resisted.
Bog wondered about God’s prophecy.
“What a load of rubbish,” he told the coming night. He had climbed down from his kingdom numerous times without even a scratch so he knew he shouldn’t worry too much about what God had said. He’d be fine.
He gave the heavy plastic piping which he used to descend a sharp tug and it felt solid enough. He grabbed his Dad’s dirty mag; he’d truly be murdered if that didn’t go back to its hiding place, gripped the edge then lifted himself over the edge.
Hanging in space.
Pawla knelt ahead of the altar and looked up at the cross, the smelt of burning candles sharp and chemical in her nostrils.
She’d been here almost every day now since the fall, weeping for her boy, dear beautiful Bogumil, her baby, her little one, the one she had so wanted so much to be a baby girl.
He’d been thirteen last birthday.
He’d be thirteen forever now. No wife of his own. No babies of his own.
She looked up at the altar, face drenched with tears and she cried out in pain, filled with the deepest misery, “why God, why did you take my boy from me.”
She cried out to God, she screamed at his son, pinned and wretched on the cross. She asked him why, why, why, but nobody answered.
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Bog often sits up here on the roof of the community centre. It’s his haven. His safe place. Away from big brothers and daily strife. He sits up here and listens to the community groups which meet there through the dirty skylights, discussing grown-up woes and worries which thirteen-year-old Bog only half understands. Today though, there’s a new group meeting at the centre. A small crowd of misfits claiming to be Buddha, God, Thor, Momma E and a range of minor deities are meeting to talk through their worries and their anguish and Bog is witness to their strange delusion. Because they must be deluded. Right?