Short Story (Work In Progress): The Priest

Brother Vinny

New member
Hello, all.

The following is the rough draft of the first part of a story I'm writing. It's a sort of sequel to Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star," which can be read here. Clarke's story raises some theological questions and provides no easy answers. I highly recommend reading his story before reading mine.

I, in no way, can even begin to compare myself (yet!) with Clarke. But I have begun writing this sequel to answer for myself some of the issues raised by "The Star." So, without further ado, I present part one of three of "The Priest."



The Priest

By Paul DeYonghe

(with apologies to Arthur C. Clarke)

-- to Ol' Brass-Ears (1 Corinthians 13:1), on his 30th birthday

". . . can be no reasonable doubt: the ancient mystery is solved at last. Yet, oh God, there were so many stars you could have used. What was the need to give these people to the fire, that the symbol of their passing might shine above Bethlehem?"

The crestfallen priest, having finished dictating his journal entry on the Pheonix Nebula to the Mark VI computer in his quarters, instructed the computer to save the entry and then powered it down. The findings at the nebula, and at the planet which would now and forever be known as "Vault," had left his faith in shambles, so much so that his prayers as he prepared for bed were little more than a perfunctory Sign of the Cross followed by a silent plea that somehow his interpretation of the data was faulty.

As he lay awake in bed, his mind turned over and over again the findings at the Vault, and the old atheistic maxim--

If God is God, he is not good;
If God is good, he is not God.


-- intruded itself upon his thought, repeated itself like a mantra. His mind and heart circled each other with swords drawn, and the mantra became the music to which they danced. He wanted in his heart to truly believe that there was a benevolent God running things from behind the cosmic scenes, but his mind kept displaying images of the doomed people of what was then the Pheonix system.

Tired, he rolled over and closed his eyes, willing sleep to come.

He opened them again. The digital wall clock read 11:45. He closed his eyes again. When he opened them again, the clock read 00:04. Then 00:33. Finally, at 01:10, when he realized he wasn't getting any sleep, he sat up in bed and powered up the lamp at his bunkside. He rubbed his eyes. Finally, he came to a decision, partly as a concession to his body's need for sleep, but mostly due to his inability to reconcile his faith with the reality of the billions of lives lost in the Pheonix supernova.

Tomorrow, upon awakening, he would tender his resignation to the Society of Jesus.

He nodded curtly to himself, as if in confirmation of his decision. He searched his heart for the tremors of discomfort he'd felt earlier, and was relieved to not find any. Considering the issue settled, he powered down the lamp, laid back down, and closed his eyes.

* * *

When he opened his eyes again, he was in Hyde Park, in London, England, and sitting on a bench by a fountain. The sky above was vibrant and blue. I'm dreaming, he thought, and he looked down at himself. He was surprized to find himself in priestly garb, and not his ship's uniform. This must be a dream. But the clothing felt real enough. He rubbed its pleasant roughness between his thumb and forefingers. Then he rubbed his fingers together without the cloth in between. Sure seemed real.

"Father, you seem to have fallen."

The priest looked up at hearing the voice, and found himself staring into the face of Ignatius Loyola, the long-dead founder of the Society of Jesus.

Now I know I'm dreaming!

"What was that, you say?," the priest asked.

"I said, 'You seem to have fallen.' In your faith, I mean."

"Are you--?"

"Ignatius Loyola? No. You're dreaming."

The priest nodded silently at having his suspicion confirmed.

"Yep," Loyola said, "you're dreaming. All you see about you, including me, are images vomited up by your overactive subconcious." Loyala shrugged his shoulders. "Of course, God can use dreams. He used dreams with a guy named Joseph in Egypt, and then with another guy named Joseph in Israel. God's pretty resourceful." Loyola winked.

The preist looked at him with open-mouthed incredulity.

"Are you saying you've been sent by God?"

Loyola shrugged his shoulders again.


"Maybe. Or maybe I'm just a product of your subconcious, which I imagine has resources of its own.

"Come with me."

For the first time the dream felt like a dream, as his body stood and his feet walked of their own accord. The priest turned to follow Loyola, who led him across the grass to a white door attatched to a white doorframe which, in turn, was attatched to nothing at all. Picnickers and frisbee enthusiasts went about their activities, taking no notice of the door whatsoever.

"Where are we going?," the priest asked.

"We need to talk," Loyola said, and he opened the door and went inside.

The priest, slave to his subconcious, could but follow.

* * *

"The problem of evil," Loyola began, drawing about himself the air of a schoolteacher, "has been a hot topic among theologians for millennia now."

The door from Hyde Park had led to long, blindingly-white corridor, of the type used in science-fiction movies from the 1970's. Loyola had waited for the priest to enter before closing the door and proceding down the corridor. Now, Loyola walked with a slow, determined stride, and the priest followed alongside and a little behind, out of respect.

"Yeah, so?," the priest said, a tad impatient. The priest was hoping Loyola's ghost hadn't intruded upon his rest for the sake of discussing theological trivia.

"So? Hasn't it ever occured to you that the Holy Scriptures say next to nothing about it?"

"No, not really."

"Well, they don't. They do mention evil quite a bit, but on the problem of the exisence of evil? Nada. Zilch. Do you know why?"

The priest thought about it, intrigued.

"Because the existence of evil is a foregone conclusion in a fallen world?"

"Precisely!," Loyola beamed. "Not only that, but the fight against evil took so much effort and was so vital that it was pointless to debate its existence."

The priest nodded, not precisely in agreement, but in understanding.

"So, why are we in a corridor, talking about the problem of evil?"

"Because," Loyola said, "you have seen fit, in your heart, to judge God."

The priest stopped short.

"What?"

"You have passed judgment on the Lord Almighty and, in doing so, you have judged unrighteously."

"Maybe so," the priest conceded. "Maybe I think the Lord was a bit uncharitable in his destruction of a species, all in order to provide a sign for the birth of his son. I don't see how that's an unrighteous judgment, and I certainly don't know what that has to do with why you're here walking me down this corridor."

"I'm here," Loyola said, "to show you what evil truly is."

* * *

"Where are we?"

The room was hot and squalid. It was night, and the only available light came through a barred window from a weak sodium streetlamp. A doorway led out into a dingy hall. In one corner of the room was a bed with filthy sheets, and handcuffed to the headboard of the bed, was a young Asian boy, eyes glazed as he stared into some unknowable middle-distance. The boy was perhaps eight years old, and was naked.

"I think," Loyola said, "an equally pertinent question is, 'When are we?' The where is a brothel in Bangkok, Thailand, and the when is the late 20th or early 21st century. This particular brothel caters to sex tourists-- child molesters who find the child sex laws in their native lands a bit too prohibitive, and so travel to lands where such laws are lax or practically non-existent. Thailand was one such place.

"In a moment, an adult-- probably a male, but by no means is that definite-- will come in here and, having paid a considerable sum, will have his or her way with him."

The priest knelt in front of the boy, waving his hand in before the boy's eyes. "Can he see us?"

"No," Loyola said. "In the boy's case, that's a blessing. We can't help him."

"Can I touch him?"

Loyola said nothing, only shrugged.

The priest reached out to touch the boy's forehead with his fingertips. Hot. Too hot. Alarmed, the priest used his wrist to check the boy's forehead.

"This boy has a fever!"

"Yes," Loyola said. "AIDS-related illness, I'm afraid, and decades before any cure will be found. In a few months, this boy will die. Ah, I believe I hear our moles-- er, tourist coming now." There was the noise of footsteps from the hallway. "Care to stay and watch?"

"No, I want to leave this place, now."

"Are you sure?," Loyola asked. "After all, you're about to throw away your faith in God! Without him, your morality-- indeed, your reality-- is naught but a house of cards-- no, worse: it's a game of 52-Pickup trying to look like a house of cards!"

"I think I can tell evil without any help from God!"

"Really?" Loyola sounded amused by this. "Are you sure? Very well, then."

At his last words, the white door appeared again. The priest didn't even wait for Loyala this time. He opened the door, glared at Loyola, went though the doorway, and slammed the door shut.

Loyola grinned. He was enjoying this. He opened the door and went through it himself, a hound of heaven in hot pursuit.

* * *

"Child molesting is evil."

"Really? How do you know?"

The conversation continued against the priest's will. He had picked up his pace after hearing Loyola enter the hallway, but after having walked down the corridor for a while, he had looked behind him. Right behind him, walking with his slow, imperturbable gait, was Loyola. The priest had broken into a run. About thirty seconds later, he looked behind him again. There was Loyola, walking, his distance from the priest uneffected. Resigned to the fact that real-world physics didn't apply here in dreamland, the priest had settled back into a walk, keeping his pace fast enough to stay ahead of Loyola.

"How do I know? How do I know? I just do."

The priest stormed ahead. Somehow, Loyola came alongside the priest, although his gait didn't seem to change. The priest shook his head. I can't wait to get out of this world of Warner Brothers physics.

"How is it evil? Without a lawgiver, how can there be any violation of law?"

"It impinges on a human being's personal freedom, that's how!"

"All you've done is push the argument back a step. Why is human freedom necessarily a good thing? Is it necessarily a good thing?"

"Well, of course it is!"

"Is it now? Why is that?"

The priest stopped short. Loyola came around in front of him, facing him.

"I tell you now that hell is filled with people who thought human freedom was the highest conceivable paradigm.

"Come with me, Father, and I'll show you a thing or two about freedom."

* * *

END PART ONE

* * *

Now, everyone feel free to let those tomatoes fly!
 

Gerald

Resident Fiend
A sharp piece of work so far!

I'm not a believer, as you well know, and I can see something of where you're going with this, but that is in no way an indictment of its quality.

I enjoy a tale well-told, no matter who writes it.
 

Prisca

Pain Killer
I hope we don't have to wait too long! Very interesting, Paul. Get those fingers a typing!
 

Brother Vinny

New member
"I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by."

--Douglas Adams

Patience, mon capitan, patience.
 

Nathon Detroit

New member
Originally posted by Paul DeYonghe
"I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by."

--Douglas Adams

Patience, mon capitan, patience.
What happened to you? You didn't get killed again did you? ;) :D
 

Justin

New member
Judging by the language he's using, it sounds like he got recruited into the Q continuum... ;)
 
Top