6 Feb


Imageous was in what might be called a state.
After the weird giant bird had left him a message (on paper, so it could hardly be put down as a bad dream even though he had always been subject to such nocturnal illusions) he had cause to sit and worry.
He knew that it was his bed time. The lights had all gone out, which informed him that if he wasn’t already asleep then he would surely be booking himself a place in Hell in the Afterlife because wakefulness after lights out was a sin in that it allowed evil thoughts to fester in the mind. This consideration didn’t deeply trouble him, though. As has already been established, Hell was his preferred destination in the Afterlife. He didn’t have the stomach for Heaven and all that singing.
He knew there was only one thing for it. Next morning he would have to go to the Father Superior and beg for advice.
He didn’t like doing that because the last time he’d dared approach that august individual and begged to be told the purpose behind the influx of so many short-skirted prostitutes on the many extremely long open passageways of the Monastery (which troubled him greatly even though he had no dislike for prostitutes, his own mother having been one) he’d been told to wash his mouth out every morning for a fortnight with dog turds. He’d followed the order to the letter, obviously, but he knew that his breath still stank of the punishment several years later.
But needs must, he decided, and the very next morning he booked a session with the Holy Father and waited to be seen.
The Holy Father was an ancient individual. He’d been ancient for as long as Imageous could remember, and never seemed to get any more ancient. His face was double-lined with the wizening of the ages he’d served in the monastery, and he was clearly doubly incontinent, as witness the little piles and puddles combined with the stench inside his cell.
“I was visited by a bird last night,” whispered Imageous, vomiting on a crusty pile in one corner of the large aromatic cell.
“Was it black?” asked the Holy Father, “Did it have a cruel hooked beak? And did you kill it?”
The answer to all three questions was clearly affirmative, but Imageous was reluctant to admit to the last rather unpleasant part. Killing birds must surely be as wrong as killing women who weren’t prostitutes, which happened from time to time both inside the Monastery and on its doorstep. Killing prostitutes, on the other hand, was totally forbidden on pain of death and certainly best avoided if a brother wanted to enjoy a long and fertile life.
“I see you did,” disapproved the Holy Father. “Then you’d best follow the written instructions it brought with it. There are always written instructions, and they need to be followed to the letter.”
“Then I must cross the desert,” sighed Imageous, “and soon,” he added.
The Holy Father took a long and blood-stained switch from its place on a hook and started beating himself across the thighs and back until rivulets of blood ran down his cloak and dripped onto the floor.
“Ah, that’s better,” he purred as he replaced the switch. “I was going to thrash you, but thought better of it. We can’t send a scarred brother across that particular desert, can we? The wounds might get infected and he might die before he’s done his duty.”
“What is the duty, sir?” asked the brother nervously, aware that the drops of blood fouling the stone floor of the cell might well be joined by his own if he asked the wrong question. And it was easy to do that. The Father Superior was always the arbiter of what was right and what was wrong, and trying to prejudge his judgements was notoriously difficult.
This time Brother Imageous was relatively safe.
“Ah, that is simple,” came the reply in a distant kind of voice. “You must cross the blasted desert until you come to its very centre where you will find a harlot’s den in which, lying on a bed of soft mosses and softer feathers, you will find your Maker…”
This came as a shock to Brother Imageous. In truth, the last personage he wanted to meet, on this world or basking on the clover fields of the next, was his Maker. It was sufficient for him to believe with a small corner of his mind that there was no Maker and consequently no chance of ever meeting so severe a character, and he was quite happy spending his life in the Monastery basking in that minuscule corner of his own mind.
But to meet him? In the flesh and trolloping on a harlot’s luxurious bed? It was unthinkable in much the same way as flying unaided to the moon was unthinkable. He didn’t want to do it. He had never wanted so much as to share the same continent with his Maker. And anyway, what was a desert?
Imageous had never had the best of educations. He’d had a little history thrashed into him, especially those elements that centred on famous whores of the past, and he’d quite enjoyed the whore bits but not the thrashing encouragement to learning. And he’d been forced to imbibe huge amounts of religious education in which wars in Heaven figured prominently, along with the absolute need for God’s chosen people (|in this instance the inhabitants of monasteries, particularly this one) to pray with such a frequency he doubted any deity’s ability to concentrate on so much barely audible muttering. But who was he to question tradition?
“So what exactly is a desert?” he asked, aware of the gross insolence of the question, which thankfully appeared to pass the Father Superior by.
“A desert is a land of sand, sand and more sand,” intoned his craggy superior, farting. “A desert is a place where it never rains unless it pours once in every other century, where sands blow into mighty hillocks called dunes and where your Maker lives with his chosen Jezebels who have made the ultimate sacrifice of refusing underwear, in a pink and red harlotery where they can practice their harlotry.”
“And I must cross a desert like that?” stammered Imageous.
“That you must. And a word of warning. You must not robe yourself as you would at home, for the sun beats mercilessly down onto the dry land and would soon cook you if you wrap up as warmly as you are obliged to do here. No, you must wear a much lighter and less … less enveloping robe. You must wear a mini-robe. It will be provided. And a wide-brimmed hat, the sort worn by ancient wizards. You must wear one of those too, or the sun may send you balmy, and that would never do, a balmy Brother facing the omniscience of his Maker!”
“Oh dear…” began Imageous, and paused.
“And you must go this very day to the turn-style, which is the very entrance to the long desert road,” continued the Father Superior, ignoring him. “You’ll need some coins for that or it won’t let you pass. So go and prepare, and count your blessings…
“Yes, your holiness,” muttered Imageous, but his superior was busy crouching in the corner and dismissed him with a wave of his masterful hand.
© Peter Rogerson 26.01.17


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