14 Sep

This is Part 9. The previous 8 parts have been posted here.

The air was suddenly more sulphurous as fumes belched from somewhere deep underground and filled the cathedral-like place where Bernard was standing, close to tears.
“What do you mean… it was her idea?” he asked. “She loved me. She always said she did. She wouldn’t want me to rot in Hell!”
“You’re not rotting, sunshine,” grinned the devil. “You’re being preserved by beautiful sulphurous gases! And I know it was her idea because she told me!”
“But she’s in Heaven and you’re here!” protested Bernard.
“Phooey! Wait until you’ve been here a bit longer and you’ll know more about how things work,” almost grinned the Devil. “I move about, of course I do, go from here to there and back again, side to side, however you want to look at it! When I’m here I choose to wear a trendy set of horns and a fetching tail and while I’m there I sit on a golden throne with nymphs and angels at my feet and plait daisy chains to the sound of sopranos singing Bob Dylan songs!”
“You mean you… you’re the Devil and God at the same time?”
“Of course I am, silly! Think of the crazy power struggle if there were two omniscient beings fighting over the souls of the dead! We share things quite equitably, thank you very much, and the whole scheme works like clockwork.”
“And Granny Frost mentioned me to you?”
“That she did, laddie! She told me how disappointed she was not to be a great-grandmother, how heart broken she was that you have brought her branch of the family tree to an end and how it all seems to have made her life into a waste of effort. She was most definite about where you should end up when your time came. In Hell, she said, in the deepest depths of Hell. So here you are.”
To say he was shocked would be to underestimate the way Bernard felt about the way events were apparently going against a lifetime of certainty and the constant battle against sin that had dominated it, and he was about to elaborate on his feeling when the gigantic looking-glass started to clear again, the rolling mists slowly taking shapes that he recognised.
“Now pay attention,” smirked the Devil gruffly.
And reflected in the satanic glass Bernard could see himself as a teenager, in the front room of his home and looking out of the window at a removal van outside the house next door. That house had been empty for several weeks and at last somebody was moving in … more than somebody, it seemed, but a family. And amongst that family was a girl of about his age, a pretty and well-dressed girl with beautiful long dark hair that teased passed her shoulders and cascaded half way down her back. For a brief moment she glanced towards the window behind which Bernard could probably have been seen, and seemed to smile at him.
“The slattern!” hissed his mother just behind him, also straining to look past him at the new arrivals as they moved into the house, delivery men hauling their luggage and calling to each other in loud and instructing voices.
“What, mum?” he asked.
“That creature with the long hair and short skirt!” she replied, still hissing, and Bernard couldn’t help wondering in what universe the girl’s skirt was actually particularly short. “She’s out to ensnare you, my boy, that’s plain to see,” continued his mother. “Ever since Eve picked the evil apple in the Garden of Eden the females of the species have been condemned as evil sinners, and you can see it in that trollop, just look at her sickly smile and the way she walks, the jaunty heave of her oversized chest, the way her very feet are beckoning at you, a mere boy ripe for the plucking, as she walks.”
“But you’re a female, mother…” he dared to say, and he ducked a moment too late as her hand smashed against the back of his head, leather gloved and painful.
“And don’t I know it, wretched child!” she shouted, loud enough for those emptying the removal van next door to hear. The girl, long hair, tidy skirt with swinging pleats, obviously heard as she glanced up a second time.
“Yet I kept myself from sin,” his mother continued, as she swiped him a second time. “Knowing that I had the devil’s spores inside me, that I was of the gender that caused the fall of mankind as he was slung by a justified Lord out of the Garden of Eden I have never had anything to do with a man! Their disgusting parts, filled with sin and stench, they can keep to themselves and away from me! Ask your father and he’ll tell you! I call him your father, but….”
“I know the facts of life, mother,” he said, and stepped to one side in order to forestall any more painful swipes to his head. “We do that at school, don’t you know? And I know what you and dad must have done for me to be born. It’s the same in all of nature, from the smallest creatures on God’s Earth to us humans!”
“How dared you!” shrieked his mother, “how dared you liken the noble God-crafted mankind with dogs and mice and rats! We are superior. It says so in the good book! It is for us to control the wild creatures of the world, not join them in an orgy of copulation! And when it comes to you, sonny-Bernard, have you never heard of virgin births? Have you? And if you have you know how you were conceived, away from all that is evil and sinful. And if you don’t believe me that’s something else you can ask your father!”
His teenage self turned away from the window.
“You’ve told me before and of course I believe you,” he said quietly, “there’s no need for you to hit me! I mean no harm.”
Then, in a sudden change of mood, she wrapped her arms around him and, with tears in her eyes, told him of course she had, he must know the truth, mustn’t he, because wasn’t he her very special son?
“And dearest boy,” she added, “that girl out there… have nothing to do with her, not now and not ever. I can tell by the look in her eyes that she means nothing but evil. Look at her legs! And the evil smile on her face! I can see that she wants to turn you, my darling Bernard, into a sinner. And that is what you must never be … you must never sin!”
“I know, mother,” he said, loving the way she wanted him whilst at the same time gently massaging his face with her bosom as she wept.
© Peter Rogerson 14.09.16


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