THE BUS IN THE TUNNEL

27 Sep

“What I hate more than anything,” muttered God, twiddling his thumbs and wringing his hands (not at the same time, of course) “is when the bus is late. It’s always irritated me, and I hate being irritated.”

He and Bernard must have seemed an odd couple as they stood at the bus-stop at the increasingly murky end of Heaven not so far from the tunnel entrance, one every bit like a celestial saint and the other an elderly and rather timid naked man. Bernard had only travelled down that tunnel once before, but that once had been enough to convince him that he hated it more than he had ever hated a mode of transport before. The bus had seemed too large for so narrow a tunnel.

“What time’s it due?” asked Bernard, innocently.

God scowled in the way that only deities can, and when he spoke next the trees in the neighbourhood all trembled as if a storm was about to brew, and the skies darkened a shade. That’s the way things get when gods get angry.

“There is nothing like time in the Afterlife,” he grated loud enough for all the devils in Hell to hear (and remember, the two of them were still in Heaven). “I commanded the bus to come, and come it has not!”

Bernard was about to suggest that the driver had got the time all wrong when he realised that time wasn’t the issue because it couldn’t be, and he kept his mouth clamped shut. God’s anger, it seemed, was best avoided.

It was before he could make any further comment (or anger the deity in any other way) that the bus arrived, a rickety and ancient vehicle that rattled even over bumps that were invisibly in the miroscopic range.

“A fine vehicle,” murmured a suddenly calm God. “We’ve had it for years, you know, and it’s only used on the rare occasion when I want to make this run. I don’t treat so many sinners to a day like you’ve had, Bernard my lad. Not at all! But your sins are of the, what shall I call it, the negative sort. You’ve omitted love from your life which is very different from doing any of the dire things some of my inmates have managed to sin about. Take that rotund little kick-about fellow with the moustache, for instance. He came up here to the Hell side of my Afterlife and I saw at once that he would suffer much more in the Heaven side, so I transferred him. It didn’t take long for armies of those who he’d murdered and tortured to round up on him and sing particularly spiky madrigals straight into his ears until he showed signs of becoming even more insane than he already had been in life. And there have been others, too many to mention individually… but climb aboard, old fellow, and let’s be off before the bus melts or the driver goes on strike or something equally horrible happens…”

The two of them heaved themselves aboard the ancient vehicle and it set off with chunter, the driver muttering audibly about inadequate rest times and his tachometer and the importance of staying within the law, and he managed all that whilst reaching for a celestial mobile phone and attempting to compose a text to his Union headquarters and simultaneously driving off at break-neck speed into the tunnel.

“Go easy, fellow!” commanded God.

“This is easy,” came the surly reply. “I need my rest, you know, and I was back there on the golden meadow trying to make it with a young blonde filly with a smile to die for, and she was busy making a mile-long daisy chain whilst singing about an old man river in the sweetest bass voice you ever did hear when I got the message that you wanted the bus immediately. And I’d not had a moment’s rest, but I had to pull my non-existent pants back up and drive the bus like there’s going to be no tomorrow for fear of losing my driving job…”

“There isn’t going to be any tomorrow,” smirked God. “Hadn’t you noticed, fellow-me-lad, that there’s only today? For eternity? So what what would a fine young chap like you want to be worrying about what’ll never come? And why worry about one sweet young thing when there are so many? Now be a good fellow and take me to the darkest of all places in time for tea and I’ll arrange a dozen blondes for your over-active virtual loins to get excited about later!”

“That’s a deal, squire!” almost yelped the driver, and the bus rocketed forwards into the tunnel as he put his foot down.

“I hope he knows what he’s doing…?” ventured Bernard.

“So do I!” grinned God. “Now where was I? I know, telling you about some of the sinners I’ve had to deal with. History is littered with them, many achieving a high status amongst mortals. Take royalty, for instance, seeing as you’re a British Spirit. That fat king Henry with all the wives … he was a brute if ever there was one. Almost as bad as the moustachioed football back there, the one with the testicular deficiency…”

“So it’s true?” interrupted Bernard. “When I was a lad we sung a corny little song about him only having one you-know-what. I say we, but I really mean all the other boys. I didn’t like to because singing about you-know-whats seemed a little too close to sinning, and mummy wouldn’t have liked it.”

“You missed out a lot because of that matriarchal bully of yours,” sighed God. “It’s why you’re in Hell now. None of your fault, that much is clear … but the decision was made and as you know all decisions are irreversible except for the odd dispensation like that football.. You never had a lover of your own, did you?”
Bernard shook his head. “Mummy said that girls, and later when I was a bit older women, were the cause of all the evil in the world because they were responsible for original sin,” he said quietly. “And I still believe her. She knocked that lesson into me alright, and she could be so harsh with a whole variety of painful punishments that left me with bruises for my sinfulness for most of my young years. So in my heart of hearts I know it’s wrong for a man to go anywhere near a woman.”
“Such thinking paved your way to Hell,” sighed God. “Wouldn’t you be happier plaiting daisy chains or singing sweet harmonies with the other chaps in Heaven?”

“Like back there? Goodness me no! It all looked so mind-numbingly boring!” exclaimed Bernard.

As he said that the bus lurched with a suddenness that even made God jump.

“Blasted thing!” shouted the driver, “the steering’s gone and gorn!”
Then everything happened at once. Lights flashed, a roaring sound seemed to penetrate to the very centre of Bernard’s brain and something heavy, really painfully heavy, crashed against his chest as the Afterlife flickered out and Bernard’s spirit knew no more.

© Peter Rogerson 27.08.16

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