“Ok,” said the Devil, “you got me. What is it?”
“That, my dear Lucy”, said God, proudly holding up a fist-sized gem, “is
our passport to salvation!”
The two were sitting on sunloungers on a tropical island beach, complete with palm trees and scorching sunshine. Only it was as far from any beach…or anywhere else…as Heaven was from Hell.
Here and there, the deep blue sky was interrupted by small fluffy clouds...and the occasional squalking seabird divebombed the calm sea, fishing for lunch.
God had a cool Helter Skelter Mixer in a frost-rimmed glass with an umbrella in one hand, and a gem the size of his fist in the other. He took a sip of his drink and tossed the gem at the Devil, who very nearly spilled his Double Miracle Mash ( with coconut slice ) all over his chest, as he caught the rock.
“Oh, well held,” said God, saluting him with a raised glass.
The Devil glared at him, put down his drink on the bamboo side table next to his lounger and looked closely at the sparkling rock, turning it over in his hand.
“ Looks pretty much like a bloody great diamond with a teeny weeny black speck right in the middle of it to me,” he said, almost dismissively. “This why you yanked me here when I was just settling down to a nice nap?”
God frowned. “I yanked you here,” he said, “because that thing you’re holding will save our backsides one day.”
“Yeah, right,” said the Devil, scornfully, tossing the gem into the air and trapping it with the catcher’s mitt that appeared on his right hand. Then, remembering that his companion had an uncanny knack of not only knowing all that was to come, but also arranging it in the first place, he added, “who from?”
“Mankind,” said God.
He sipped his drink, then reached under his lounger for a small bottle of extra-protective sun tan lotion. Unscrewing the top, he squeezed a blob onto his left palm, then rubbed it all over his face. Not that he needed to. But he had to admit that there was a certain primitive enjoyment in spreading the slippery substance over his skin.
The Devil laughed and tossed the gem in the air again, this time a little higher. “That lot?”
“Oh you better believe it. Sure...right now they’re all split very nicely between the Godlovin’ and the Devilworshipers. But what happens when the balance gets tipped and they start worshipping me more than you…or, worse still, you more than me?” The thought made God momentarily frown.
A sly gleam crept into the Devil’s eyes and his mind went into overdrive at the prospect of a terrifying, but exquisite, opportunity.
“Don’t even think about it,” said God, throwing him the lotion. “Put some of this on. Your face is as red as a monkey’s backside.
Putting the crystal temporarily in his lap, resting on his bright red Bermuda shorts, the Devil shook the lotion bottle then proceeded to squeeze a blob onto his hands and from there onto his face.
“What would you say if I told you that one day, all that carefully structured balance will start to disappear. Just drift away like smoke in the wind. Next thing you know they’ll start believing they can do without us. What would you think then…eh?”
The Devil, whose thoughts had been on monkeys’ backsides, stopped rubbing lotion furiously all over his face and turned to God. “You think?” he asked softly.
God nodded his head. “You missed a bit at the end of your nose,” he said. The Devil quickly slapped some protection on the errant patch of naked skin and they both lay back on their loungers, looking at the sky, momentarily lost in thought. The Devil felt the weight of the crystal balancing on his naval and absent mindedly shifted it a couple of inches to the left. It sat there. Waiting.
Like a portent of things to come, first one small cloud…then another…then a whole bunch of fluffy invaders arrived on the horizon and threatened to bring gloom into an otherwise uninterrupted blue sky.
God shook his head sadly and a salty bead of sweat dropped off the end of his nose and onto his upper lip, before sliding into his mouth. He stared pointedly at the clouds, particularly the one nearest. It definitely looked a little more feisty, more daring than the others.
The cloud, however, was feeling neither feisty nor particularly daring at all, given the fact that it was falling under the gaze of its creator. In fact the only reason it was there at all was that it was too small to argue with the much larger clouds behind it.
‘Go on,’ they had said. ‘See if you can drift over and find out what’s going on down there. It might be something important.’
The small cloud had tried, vainly, to explain that covert operations were not really its area of expertise. It was much better at strategic planning and working behind the scenes, it said. It was rubbish at this spying stuff, it said.
‘How would you like a swift kick where the sun doesn't shine,’ they said.
And so it went, as slowly and inconspicuously as it could. A small, white blob, trying to blend in with the stark blue sky above it. Life as a dimensionally-challenged cloud really sucked, it thought.
Down below, God’s gaze on the little cloud intensified. “If you think for one second that you can just waltz over here and put the mockers on our day of rest and relaxation, you’ve got another think coming, you little squirt!”
“HEY…it was you who invited me!” blurted the Devil, who sat upright on his lounger, confused and a little angry. He put a slightly oily left hand on the crystal, ready to hurl it at God, in self-defence of course, should the need arise.
“Oh, calm down,” said God. “I wasn’t talking to you.” He pointed to the little cloud which, by means of a clever series of zig-zag movements, had managed to sneak closer, and was now threatening to come between them and the warming rays of the sun.
“You’re talking to a cloud?”
God shrugged. “Why not? I talk to everything. Animal, vegetable or mineral. In fact there isn’t one thing or person that I haven’t had a good old chat to at some time or another. It’s called ‘being caring and friendly’. I’m a very caring and friendly kinda guy, in case you hadn’t noticed. Maybe you could learn a thing or two.”
The little cloud, meanwhile, began to feel decidedly brave and adventurous. ‘So,’ it
thought, ‘this is what it’s like being an operative in the field. Forging ahead and paving the way for the rest of the guys to follow. Going behind enemy lines in the dead of….well okay…in the bright blue of the day. I wonder if….’
Just then, God’s words of warning came wafting up to it from down below. Well…come to think of it, they came more like from everywhere around, inside and out. It couldn’t understand the meaning at first. Then, with a shattering clarity, it knew exactly what God had said…and, more to the point, who he had said it to.
Suddenly, all its new-found heroism and gung-ho bravery seemed to count for nothing. If it could have shaken in abject fear it would have. Instead, it drifted a little from side to side very quickly which, for a small cloud, was as good a portrayal of terror as it got. It didn’t even have enough water in its molecules to pee itself.
‘That’s it,’ it thought. ‘I’m off!’ And, with a concerted effort, fuelled mostly by fear of imminent non-existence, it charged across the sky, putting as much empty space between its creator and the other bloke…and the mass of large, ugly looking clouds behind it.
‘Blimey…Tiny’s done a runner!’ said a solid looking, puffed up, cumulus at the front of the pack. The whole cloud formation came to a dramatic and very shambolic halt in mid air…apart from a little swaying amongst a few elderly and widespread members of the stratus clan.
‘Maybe it knows something we don’t!’ offered a smaller but quick-thinking cumulus, who was beginning to feel a little edgy.
After a bit of fast talking and a lot of mumbling, the general consensus of opinion was that Tiny was too valuable to be lost to the collective. With him gone, they would have to pick another unfortunate cloud to scout ahead. This generally involved a fair amount of bullying.
‘Quick, after it!’ yelled someone from the rear. And, with a lot of pushing and shoving, bumping and nudging, the whole sea of cloud wheeled round and began to move off in the direction the little cloud had taken.
“Well, there’s something you don’t see every day,” said the Devil, down below.
“And don’t come back!” growled God. At this, the clouds seemed to pick up speed and, like a sea of fluffy white cotton wool, disappeared over the horizon.
“Now…where was I…” said God which, for an all-knowing being, was a bit of an admission.
“You were at the ‘them starting to think they could do without us’ bit,” offered the Devil, helpfully.
“Aaah, yes,” said God, smiling. “That’s why I fixed up a bit of insurance.”
“What do you mean ‘insurance’?” asked the Devil.
Before God could answer, there was a soft scuttling in the undergrowth behind them...and a strange looking feathered creature emerged, heading slowly for the water’s edge.
“What the blue blazes is that?” said the Devil, turning round and eyeing the creature at it walked awkwardly over the sand, fluffing its feathers and looking at them suspiciously.
“Oh, just something I’m playing around with. New species. I call it a Rayce.”
“But...but...it’s got three legs!”
“I know,” said God, tugging at his beard. “You should see it run.”
Almost on cue, the Rayce decided to make a dash for the water. It hitched up its feathers, stuck its long neck out, gave a startled squeek and put its three legs into gear.
The legs were arranged like the wheels on a three-wheeled car. Two at the back, one at the front. As the back two dug into the sand, the front one (thicker and stronger than the other two) propelled it forwards and into the air. The rear two then took the brunt of the landing, and the whole cycle of motion started all over again. It looked ungainly, but the Devil had to admit there was a certain unique style to it. And it wasn’t slow.
“Wow,” exclaimed the Devil, clearly impressed, as the Rayce put on a spurt that propelled it into the waves and under them in a flash. It reappeared a moment later with a wriggling creature that looked like an overgrown black slug with four legs ending in flippered claws, stuffed half in and half out of its gaping hooked beak. The slug creature obviously had no desire to end up as a cold snack, so it was doing its level best to extricate itself.
“If you think that’s impressive,” said God, “just watch this.”
The Rayce, thinking it had successfully nabbed its next meal, had unfortunately no idea of the consequences of its actions. As it relished the prospect of feasting on its fat, juicy catch, it failed to notice a small opening appear at what seemed to be the rear of the slug creature, which then proceeded to break wind. The effect was spectacular.
On smelling the evacuated odour, it squawked in alarm, waded backwards a step or three out of the waves, and promptly collapsed in a heap on the sand, twitching and moaning.
The slug creature, having slid ungainly from the Rayce’s foaming beak and plopped onto the sand, grabbed its unfortunate and much larger ex-captor and proceeded to haul it, semi-conscious, towards the water’s edge and into the sea, where both eventually disappeared under the waves.
God turned and smiled at the Devil.
“Oh, I get it,” said the Devil, with a penny-dropping look on his face. “This is one of those damned metaphor things of yours. The slugs fart was its insurance, right?”
God’s smile grew wider. “And that’s ours,” he said, nodding towards the crystal, which was still in the Devil’s left hand. “It’s called The Eye of God.”
“Surprise, surprise,” mumbled the Devil, sarcasm dripping off his tongue.
“Hey, it wasn’t my idea,” said God, holding his hands up defensively.
The Devil wasn’t so sure. “Okay,” he sighed. “What does the damned thing do?”
“It’s a warning device.”
The Devil sat up and stared at him, unblinking. “Where did you get it?” He was starting to feel the beginnings of bad news.
“Well...you know Azriel?”
The Devil’s smile froze on his face and his eyes took on a ‘thousand yard stare’ as he remembered only too clearly the dark angel. “What...that maniac?”
God dismissed the comment. “He’s just misunderstood, that’s all.”
“He’s just missing a few vital brain cells, that’s all!” said the Devil, making circles round his right temple with an index finger.
“Lucy...” said God in a menacing tone.
“I’m listening...I’m listening!”
“Well Azriel has a cousin called Zaphir, and...”
“He’s another weird one. A geek and a nutter rolled into one!”
“Well, he might be a bit on the peculiar side,” admitted God, “but he knocked up The Eye Of God in a couple of hours - and the damned thing works like a charm!”
“And it doesn’t need batteries or a plug of some sort?” said the Devil, looking at the gem closer.
“Nope. Works all on its own. Damndest thing I ever saw.”
“Okay,” said the Devil, intrigued. “Tell me what it does.”
“See that dark spot in the middle of it?” said God.
The Devil brought the gem up close to his right eye and concentrated all his attention on the dark spot in the centre.
“Aaaaargh,” he yelled, and dropped the gem onto the sand at his feet. “The damned thing looked at me!”
“Yeah,” said God, laughing. “Did that to me, too. Azriel said we could have two trial runs. You’ve just used up the last one.”
“It’s a bloody eye!” said the Devil, looking at the crystal, which was staring up at him. “There’s an eye...right in the middle. It opened its lid and looked right at me!” The Devil felt a strange fuzzy sensation, coupled with a powerful urge to evacuate the contents of his stomach.
“Of course it’s an eye. It’s The Eye of God. What did you expect it to look like...a nose?”
“Of course not..but...” spluttered the Devil. Looking at the gem sitting in the sand, staring up at him.
“Well pick it up, man...pick it up,” said God.
The Devil reached down, picked up the gem and this time held it at arm’s length.
“It’s still bloody looking at me,” he said, alarmed and feeling queasy.
The Eye of God, almost as if it could hear his words, closed itself slowly.
The queasiness and fuzzy feeling began to disappear, much to the Devil’s relief. “So it’s gonna save our bacon by staring at folk?” asked the Devil.
God downed the rest of his Helter Skelter Mixer in one large gulp. “Well of course not!” he said. “Zaphir said as long as Mankind believed in us then the eye would be nothing more than a black blob in the middle of the gem.
“Then...when they started believing in technology more that it did in us... The Eye of God would open just like it did then. And it would stay open until someone called The One looked upon it. Then it would show them the way to get Mankind back on track and us back on top! I think.”
“You think?” asked the Devil, blinking, and wondering whether holding The Eye for any length of time would be bad for his health. “Anyway...what the blue blazes is technology when it’s at home?”
God looked slightly unsure. “Well it’s all very complicated,” he said. “But Zaphir mumbled something about steam engines and mobile phones.”
“I think I need another drink,” sighed the Devil. The glass on the table at his side miraculously refilled itself with another green, foul-smelling Double Miracle Mash, which, like God, he downed in one.
“So...” he added, wiping a green drip off his lower lip. “Where you gonna stash it?”
“Well first...” said God, patting the box at his side on which his drink and cheese sandwiches were resting, “...first, I thought I might shove it inside this Ark thingy. It’s only got a few bits and pieces in it...those ten stone tablets I told you about last week with the funny writing on them...and some spare underwear.”
“Doesn’t sound too secure,” said the Devil, looking at the box suspiciously.
“That’s just what I thought,” said God. “Which is why I’m going to stash it on Earth…with The Pope.”
“Right! Emmm…what’s a Pope?”
“The head of the Catholic Church!”
“Okay...what’s a Catholic Church?” asked the Devil, confused.
“Aaah...haven’t told you about Junior yet, have I? No matter. Take it from me...some time in the future I’m going to have some offspring. And then a bit later in a place called The Vatican, some guy with a funny pointed hat will have billions of believers hanging on Junior’s every word.”
“Wow...that’s a pretty powerful guy!” said the Devil.
“Well, actually there will be lots of them, and the beautiful thing is, what they say goes. So, if they say you and I exist...then we do! No questions asked.”
“Aha!” said the Devil, holding up an index finger. “What happens if the great unwashed start to stop believing?”
“No problem” said God. “You see...these Pope people and all their friends will do absolutely anything to stop that happening. That’s why they’re the perfect guardians of The Eye of God. Soon as that little eye pops open, they’ll start running around like mad, looking for The One, who can help bring all those non-believers back into the fold.”
The Devil looked at the blue sky and folded his arms behind his head. “So...where is this ‘One’?”
“Zaphir can’t remember,” said God, almost apologetically. “Oh, he’s tried everything. Hypnosis...regression...the lot. But the fact is that the poor boy just plumb forgot who The One is...or will be!”
There was an awkward silence between them, during which the Devil scratched his stubby horns. “So, what do we do now?”
“Well, we can’t do anything at the moment,” said God, “because The One won’t become known until things start going wrong. That much Zaphir could remember! So we’ll just have to sit tight until The Eye opens and we start losing our powers!”
The Devil swung his legs over the side of the lounger and glared at God. “You never said anything about losing our powers. That wasn’t the deal. Fifty-fifty, you said. Split it right down the middle. Top half for you...bottom half for me. Everything in the middle fair game as long as it works out even in the end…you said!”
“Yes. And I also said that the powers we have are dependent on the ability of Humanity to believe that we exist in the first place! And the moment they stop believing...we start the journey up the proverbial creek without a paddle!”
The Devil took another large gulp of the green stuff. “Okay. So what do we do if, and when, they stop believing?”
“Then, my friend, we’ll have to help the poor souls out,” said God. “And I just happen to have a cunning plan.”