The story I'm filling in with today explores a question of faith, albeit not mine. It starts with a light-heartedness that descends into darkness. I hope you'll like it.
I don't have a set belief; what is important to me comes from my own personal journey, from the experiences and entities that have touched my soul.
I certainly feel kinship with pre-Christian paganism and have had more than my fair share of connection with beings I cannot, will not attempt to describe or explain. Oh, and I don't do New Age; spirituality is about light and dark - there must be balance.
Most of all I am highly respectful of all the different beliefs throughout the world - because I truly feel we all have the right to believe in what is important to us, whether it is through free-choice or inherited values. What I will not tolerate is one culture or person that dictates, or attempts to enforce religious rules and sanctions. All continents have groups guilty of this. Were they not so extreme I would be saddened by their insecurity and ignorance.
Whoa; heavy. Let's lighten things and introduce you to Clara. She's wearing pearls for Peter.
Truth and Lies by Lily Childs
Clara closed her old eyes and slipped away. She’d been waiting so long; all the hurt and pain and years of pills were worth it for where she was going. She looked down at her new naked body - that of a twenty, not ninety year old - curves where they should be, skin pink and firm. Her corporeal self glowed in perfect spiritual health and she clasped at the golden crucifix still hanging at her throat.
Holding her head high Clara began her journey, safe in the knowledge that a lifetime of prayer and supplication would deliver her with ease into the loving embrace of The Father.
It had been a week already, Clara estimated, unless time dragged on much longer on the other side. Standing proud and tall whilst the scenery never changed must be a final test, she decided.
Unkind thoughts flared and faded, Clara slapped them away as soon as they formed:
“Good job spiritual bodies don’t need food, drink or bowel evacuation.”
“How can a single tunnel be so long; where’s the bloody light?”
Resigned to an eternity of twilight and silence Clara couldn’t quite believe her still-functioning senses as the interminable voyage came to a sudden halt. Sparks and flames fluttered in her periphery, widening the vista to display a stark landscape erupting with pustules of lava. Heat blasted through the air bringing with it a sickly scent; a blend of foetid mould and ancient peat.
The heart Clara no longer had beat in fury. Fear spiralled with anger through expired veins. This wasn’t what she’d been led to expect. Where were the fluffy clouds, the pearly gates, St. Peter’s friendly face? Clara stepped onto the bare earth with invisible feet and ran, searching, calling out “Why have you forsaken me ?” in her best biblical voice until exhaustion brought her to collapse.
“Clara Elizabeth Rattinger.”
The young, old woman winced at the sound of her childhood name sung in the stern tones of all the nuns that had taught her, mixed with every one of Daddy’s harsh admonishments.
“OK. What’s going on here?” Clara looked about. Gradually, with 20:20 vision uncluttered by cataracts she saw him. Or, it. A giant skeleton maybe 30 feet tall, grinning and talking and holding an even taller flag pole with a tattered pennant that fluttered in the stinking breeze. Clara stood once more and marched to the laughing ghoul, a finger wagging at his impertinence.
“Now look you here. I’ve been waiting for this for a very, very long time. I don’t intend to be fooled by some interloping demon.”
The demon roared with laughter, globules of saliva dripped, hanging perilously low from its pock-marked jaw.
“You misjudge me, little Clara. I – we – know exactly who you are.”
Clara rammed ephemeral hands into an equally transparent waist.
“Tell me who you are. Right now.”
“Oh Clara. I am The Rock! You’ll know me as Peter, or more correctly Simon Peter; others call me Pierro, Pietro, Pierre – Peder.”
Clara held her own.
“You are not St. Peter. You are a self-serving creature from Hell.”
“Is that right? And how do you know that? Who wrote your histories?”
“Why, we did.”
Peter snorted, derision puffed from the skull’s nostrils as smoke.
“Indeed, Clara. Man wrote the book. Man didn’t ever come up here to witness for himself. Man just got clever-clever and wrote his own version.”
Clara crossed her arms, not quite managing to stop the essence of her corpse from wrapping the limbs around itself in a straitjacket of tendrils.
“Now that’s enough. If you are St. Peter, then where are the gates? Answer me that.”
Blinking, the nonagenarian stepped back as the ground rent open before her. A mercurial fence rose to the sky, filling every space within Clara’s vision. Thorns and ivy wove their way between the spokes, a Sleeping Beauty barrier. In the centre a perpetual river of darkest red rose petals rippled and fell from an interminable bloom.
“Would you like me to use my key to let you in?”
Clara hesitated at the question.
“How do I know it’s not a trick? For all I know this is Hell and you’re throwing me to the Devil.”
The Peter-thing bent to Clara’s face, its expression serious.
“There is no Devil. There is no Hell – except in the mind and at the hands of your fellow-man.”
Perfume filled every open pore of Clara’s being; a damask incense. She swallowed it down, the sense of extreme bliss overwhelming. Exhausted, she decided to trust the strange angel, and hung her head.
“Alright. I believe you. I don’t necessarily trust you, but I don’t see what other choice I’ve got. Let me in.”
“Impatient now Clara? It is not for you to give the orders. You must wait.”
Peter walked through the wall of petals, and was gone.
After such a build-up Clara felt let down. She walked as far to the left of the fluid gate as she could, headed back to it then traipsed as far again to the right. There was no way in. In the distance creaking metal screamed through the air.
Clara shot back to the river of roses. It stood wide open; Peter stood to one side, a circlet of keys in his hands.
“Enter, Clara Rattinger. You are expected.”
Suddenly nervous, Clara’s resolve faltered. Behind her, the angel Peter tapped skeletal fingers against the gate. Taking a chance, Clara stepped through the entrance to Heaven.
Heaven was dark. It was hot. It stunk of urine, of vomit and shit. The door behind Clara closed with a bang, and she heard Peter’s bones shuffle to a halt beside her.
“Prepare, Clara. He is here.”
The woman dared to raise her eyes, to stare through the dark at her maker. The sight filled her with rage; this was a trick. Horns of red pointed inwards from the creature’s head, a broken crescent moon. The hoofs of tradition stamped at the end of L-shaped legs framing a cock of throbbing enormity. A swishing tail droned back and forth.
“What is this?” Clara turned on Peter who stood, skull bowed before his master.
“You told me there was no Devil, yet here he is. And where else am I but in the realms of Hell itself?”
“You are wrong Clara. Remember, only humankind has depicted its imagined perception of Heaven and Hell. I told you before. There is no Devil. There is no Hell.”
The angel backed away. Slowly a low-pitched drone filled the vast chamber, hailing a monstrous, living black shadow. Clara turned toward the swarm; it attacked her face, tearing the lids from her eyes, crawling into her mouth. The plague invaded her ears, blocked her nose. Blowfly maggots dropped to the ground around her forcing the holier-than-thou worshipper to fall to once-arthritic knees. The old woman’s tears evaporated in the raging heat as she raised her blind gaze toward the cloven redeemer.
‘They lied,’ Clara said.
She stared, unseeing - into the thousand eyes of God.
Bio:Lily Childs' Feardom, where her demons dance in tutus.