Suffer The Children

I wrote this for a “Doom and Gloom” themed fictional short story entry on a forum i frequent.  Thought I would post it here as well:

Bill stood there, attempting to go through the motions of dancing with his wife.   He shuffled his feet slightly out of sync with his puzzled partner, and ran his right hand awkwardly across her lower back as he tried to fulfill his obligation to the woman he loved to “take her out for a change”.  When he made the weekend getaway date earlier in the week, never could he have imagined the Friday afternoon he would have had.  How every bit of his being could have been shaken to the very core.

Raised by a puritanical southern minister, and his equally puritanical mother, Bill had a strong Christian upbringing that shaped the man that he grew to be.  With the influences of his childhood, it is not entirely surprising that he would undertake a life of ecclesiastical study.  And it was this lifetime of ecclesiastical study that brought him to this point, where all that he knew was being unraveled like a cheap, thrice regifted sweater.

As the first few chords of Anne Murray’s “Could I Have This Dance” played through, Bill composed himself more and more.  The smell of his wife’s most recent choice of shampoo was intoxicating to him, as was the increasing heat from her soft breath on his chest.  The song choice was the first song they had ever danced to, and his mind began to fill with the memories of the 23 years that had passed since that first dance.  Each of his two daughters births, that time in Boca Raton that they had taken a weekend getaway, the tradition of dressing up for the family dinner on Sunday…a life full of memories predicated on his Christian family values.

And now it all seemed like a sham, like a cruel joke.  His body grew taught, once again, as his life long love faded from his thoughts, replaced by the more recent memory of only three and a half hours ago.  It was only three and a half hours ago that the stranger entered his office, with a book wrapped in what seemed to be ancient leather.  Bound with what looked like copper, the “pages” of the “book” were of a rough hewn tree bark, and were at the point of literally crumbling.   While ancient, he estimated the book to be no more than a few hundred years old.  Regardless, what this decaying tome related to him was  a life changing, or even more accurately a reality changing revelation.

His reflections on his day were suddenly interrupted with a whisper from his wife.  “Honey, is something wrong?  You seem so tense.”  As Anne Murray continued to play on the Rockola, he quickly gathered himself and replied hoarsely, “Nothing at all, dear.  Are you having a good time?”  Of course, this was as fake as he could be, as there WAS something wrong.  The very thought that there was no God, that is something that he had grappled with in his life already.  It was a notion he was familiar with, living in 20th Century America.  There was no shortage of smug scientists and philosophical artists proclaiming varied reasons and reflections on how God could not exist, and then laughing at the poor morons who chose to believe in him.   His life of ecclesiastical study had armed him with no small  arsenal of powerful pro-Christian arguments.  And he had never before so much as doubted the existence of his God, the God of his mother and father.

Being a loving husband, dedicated to his family, Bill forced himself to refocus his attention on his wife, who he had recently neglected while working through his studies of the Indian yogi’s, and their stories of “St. Issa” (often reputed to have been Jesus).  As “their song” continued to play, he focused on the swaying of her body.  Those hips, broader now after all these years but never more beautiful.  The hips that had bore him his two beautiful children.  The way they pull on her dress as they moved across the dance floor created an upswelling of erotic memories, spaced over the wide range of intimate moments seen through their 23 year courtship/marriage.  Since the day they had met, she was the most intoxicating object in the world to him.  She was a drug to him, a living and breathing narcotic that had him hooked from his first dose.  The love that had grown between them early on had created a lifelong passion that had excluded virtually all thoughts of pain.  In their love, there was no suffering.  Only transient moments of struggle marked by their unwavering emotional and spiritual attachment.   With such a relationship, any misfortunes or agony was seen as minimal in comparison to the brilliant light of their pure and untainted love for each other.

And this was really a problem for him now.  Never before in his life had he considered new knowledge to be unwanted.  The shock of finding out that what had always been called “God” in western culture was actually more akin to Satan was almost too much to bear.  Almost enough to dim that brilliant light of pure and untainted love he shared with his long time bride.

As a Christian, he had always noted that there was no shortage of suffering in the world.  He had always done his part to help alleviate this suffering, through avenues such as civic duty, community leadership, and counseling based on his spiritual study (in much the same way that a priest will counsel his congregation).  And, based on his Christian ideals, had always attributed this suffering to either some form of karma (punishment by God), or to some test by God to ensure worthiness.

But never, ever in a million years could he have considered the concept that suffering was actually a drug, an intoxicant for God.  Or that “God” was actually just a spiritual being that created a world full of suffering so that “He” could get high.  The abstract nature of the emotions created by suffering actually being able to intoxicate any beings is almost beyond belief.   Had he not seen the proof with his own eyes, it would be completely beyond belief.  A cheap science fiction story penned by some amateur.

It was at this point that the second refrain of that famously clichéd song began.  Bill snapped to, and realized that he had once again been reflecting on the days revelation, ignoring his wife while they danced to “Their” song.   His wife, feeling his body tense slightly once again, looked up at him and their eyes met.  Her beautiful brown eyes, framed by an angelic face with olive skin and curtained by locks of wavy, raven colored hair.  As he reflected on the first time their eyes had ever met, he was once again becoming intoxicated, locked in her gaze and reveling in the high of being in love.  Surely it was unusual to consider oneself “head over heels” after 23 years together.  But Bill had never shied away from being unusual.  He leaned in slowly and kissed her softly.  First on her lips, then on her cheek.  Slowly he moved over to that spot on her neck, just beneath her left ear, that was the catalyst to so many of those passionate moments.

Then it suddenly occurred to him:  HE was intoxicated.  Not in the way you would be with a fifth of rum.  Rather, this was more like an emotional high, strong enough to create physical changes such as racing heartbeat, butterflies in  the stomach, slight vertigo, and of course a stirring in the nether regions.

As he softly kissed her, the song ended.  Somehow, the worries of just a few minutes ago seemed so far away.  He was still aware that the only reason for human existence was to suffer, so that our “God” could get drunk from the emotions created by our pain, agony, and suffering.  He was still very aware that this would, in essence, mean that God is actually more like Satan, and that Earth is actually Hell.  But all of that seemed so unimportant now.  The sheer pleasure of being in his wife’s arms, of feeling her soft skin on his lips made such things trivial.  In this moment, there was no suffering.  There was no concept of pain.

As his wife looked up into his eyes, she asked him, “Penny for your thoughts?”  While he answered with a simple wink and a cheeky raising of his eyebrows, in his mind it occurred to him that regardless of the nature of God, his own personal choices and morals would not have to change.  He had found a way to cheat the system, to deny our evil creator a source of the emotions of suffering.  If God was Satan, then as a Christian he would take up the fight against Satan, by robbing him of his suffering.   He would redouble his efforts to disallow the pain of suffering in his life, by taking his own intoxicant.  Instead of the emotion of pain caused by suffering, he would continue to intoxicate himself with the love of his beautiful wife, and the two fruits of their love.  In so doing, he would do his part to reduce suffering and to rob God of his drug.  He would stage the first ever divine intervention, despite how ludicrous this may sound.

And with this thought in mind, he strode with his wife hand in hand out of the hotel bar.  They were headed back to the room for the night.  He was off to, for the first time in his life, willingly deny God.

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