THE BLASTED DESERT Chapter Six

11 Feb

THE PRISONER
Brother Imageous was more confused than a huge Doberman might feel when faced by a very threatening kitten and feeling the need to run away. Everywhere he looked the world seemed strange enough to be part of his worst nightmares and everyone he saw was clearly totally insane.
How long was it since he’d had a bath? What sort of question was that? And anyway, what was a bath? And why shouldn’t he wear his little kilt if he was heading for tropical climes where the sun might scorch him like the Father Superior had said? And what was wrong with the healthy smell of a healthy body such as his. He’d hardly been ill in his entire life, and he smelt like it.
At least to him, he did. It was what he was used to.
The shower was, thankfully, warm, though its temperature didn’t help him much. As the water trickled over his many sores and pustules it irritated them and made him want to squirm with almost unprecedented vigour. It even brought tears to his eyes, and then, adding insult to a great deal of injury the soap was lathered on him by a police constable wielding a long-handled brush complete with bristles. How that stung! Why were they torturing him? What hasd he done to displease them?
The pain was unbelievable, and the smell (of lavender and violets) was even worse. It obliterated his own beautifully healthy aroma with the artificiality of flowers the like of which had never flourished in the Monastery’s small and overgrown garden which was largely dedicated to the cultivation of cabbages.
It was when he was sure he’d never felt as bad as this in his life, not even after a severe thrashing by the Father Superior when he was caught wickedly touching his own parts, or a fight after dark with a long-deceased Brother who had decided that he hated him and spent a great deal of time beating him up (all of sixty-odd years ago, but it still gave him nightmares) that he decided to get away at all costs. This was no place for a Brother like him to be.
Life, he reasoned as warm water trickled into his sores and created havoc in them, should be simple. It should involve worship, prayer, the odd psalm and a great deal of time spent in solitary contemplation. It shouldn’t require any water, hot or cold, and certainly not the bubbling stinky stuff they were washing him with. He needed this like he needed a hole in the head, and he was sure he didn’t want anything like that.
Getting away wasn’t going to be easy because these odd people with the tall blue pimples on their heads seemed determined to watch him every moment of every hour that passed. An almost sympathetic man used a pad of white wadding to gently massage something unpleasant into his skin where it was most erupted, and although he knew that whatever it was must be unpleasant it actually felt quite good. In truth, he’d lived with constant pain for seventy years and when it was made to abate by the judicial application of a medical salve the feeling was almost tolerable.
Night fell. He could tell because there were windows in the place he was in, and they showed a distinct fading of the light to darkness. That didn’t matter, though, because he was put into a cell, given a white tee-shirt, which was quite the wrong colour for a man of his faith, and his kilt and a pair of striped boxer shorts. They returned the kilt to him because, they said, it didn’t seem too dirty and they didn’t really have anything more suitable, and then told him that he would be taken somewhere or other tomorrow, that it was too late today to do anything about a non-emergency, whatever one of those might be, and advised him to get some rest.
How could he?
The simple bench with a mattress on it was far too comfortable for sleep, and it smelt all wrong. But he was a cooperative soul if nothing else, and he lay down on it. If he were to close his eyes, he thought, he might wake up dead. He’d heard that it can happen. Years ago another brother had done exactly that, woken up dead which meant he hadn’t actually woken up at all.
He decided that the answer must be prayer, but he had no prayer book and the only prayers he had ever uttered had been via the gift of reading from a prayer book. That’s what prayers were: words inscribed ages ago in a book for the brotherhood to read from.
“Hey! Man!” he shouted loud enough to waken most nearby dead, “Hey! I need something!”
He heard the padding of feet and a blue-clothed man minus his pimple appeared.
“What’s up?” he asked, “What’s all the row about?”
“I need … prayer book…” stammered Imageous, suddenly frightened because the corpulent individual in blue looked capable of quite a lot of mindless violence. There had been, long ago, Brothers like that in the Monastery, but they had gone away. Maybe they had died, maybe they had been flogged to death (that was known to have happened when the Father Superior was in a disciplinary mood), but they had, thankfully, gone away.
“There ain’t nothing like that here, so shut bloody up!” growled the man in blue, and he padded off the way he had come.
Then Imageous made a monumental decision. He decided, there and then, that if there wasn’t a prayer book at hand he would make his prayers up. After all, he’d spent most of his life reading them and knew some of them almost by heart.
The trouble with reading from prayer books is you don’t actually take any notice of what you’re praying, he thought, quite rightly. But he decided to have a go despite his own ignorance.
“Dear Father,” he mumbled, then a little louder (though not loud enough to upset the corpulent one in blue), “Dear Father, you majestic creature in the skies with a heart made of death…”
Yes, that’s good, that makes sense because didn’t the Brothers, when there had been more then there were now, say that we die and go to the Big Father in the skies? Or Hell-fire and that dominion, if that’s our preference … it’s mine, I don’t fancy too much singing…
But he continued, as loud as he dared, which was really quite quiet.:
“And dear Father of the rosary, marshal your warrior angels and send them to this place to rescue me, for I am alone and frightened, and although I’ve been alone for most of my life it’s only been the Father Superior who has frightened me…”
That was some entreaty in wonderfully convincing words and he was almost expecting the walls of wherever he was to crumble away and an army of spirits come for him, but nothing happened except, being uncharacteristically comfortable on his thin mattress, he closed his eyes and let sleep overtake a brain that basically wanted to resist it, as a voice from another cell, slurred with drink, bellowed for silence.
TO BE CONTINUED….
© Peter Rogerson 30.01.17

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