Bolt from the Blue

This is a short story from Reedsy

“Are you there God? It’s me.”

I was kneeling on a red cushion in a pew in the cathedral with the soft light from the stained glass bathing me in a rainbow of colours that contrasted with my white shirt, black trousers, and grey jacket. My long nose touched my fingers clenched together in a determined hope for help. My thumbs were leaving blemishes on my chin. The echoes of far-off footfalls from the other visitors to this immense interior reverberated up and down each of the thirty rows of seating behind me. I looked up at the altar and made eye contact with the figure. The faint whiff of candles from a side chapel moved past steadfastly. 

“We are currently experiencing longer than normal wait times. Your wait time could be as long as 6 days, please consider contacting us at a less busy time, perhaps on the 7th day.”

I looked around furtively for a familiar figure playing me for a fool or for a ventriloquist practising their dying art, not needed now in these times of sophisticated amusement available at the single touch of a sensitive screen.

The voice continued “Say 1 for God, 2 for the Holy Ghost, 3 for Jesus Christ, and 4 for Desmond Tutu. Otherwise stay silent and a representative will be with you shortly. Please understand we can’t guarantee you an archangel of your choice.”

Again I looked around, but saw no one close to me. I looked at the eyes of the statue and whispered “1”. I might as well aim high although I then realised that this was a heretical thought as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are consubstantial and co-eternal.

A sound of static assailed my ears before a voice said “Earth”. A squishing sound followed. The voice continued.

“Hello caller – the Babel Bible Aid has been applied. I will able to understand you no matter which language you speak.”

“Good, I’m glad to hear it. Who am I speaking to, please?”

“You chose option 1 did you not?” said the voice in a slightly exasperated tone.

“Yes, I did, so are you God?”

“I am,” said God, “pleased to meet you.”

“It’s Thursday, though,” I replied, “I thought you’d be busy creating part of a universe today? Unless Thursdays are the 7th Day where you are.”

“We don’t really do Thursdays here,” said God, “there’s no calendar, but it is the 7th Day, so I’m having a rest, my finger’s sore from pointing at things and bringing them into being. Anyway, what can I help you with today?”

“How do I know you’re God? Anyone can say they’re God, but how do I know you’re the genuine article?”

“What proof do you need? You’re in one of my many houses on Earth are you not?”

“A lightning bolt perhaps?” I suggested looking around again to make sure no one else was close.

“A grand gesture, you’re one for a grand gesture are you? Well I will do as you ask, but outside, not indoors.”

“No, I can understand the reasoning, the insurance for these older buildings must be expensive.” I glanced at the priceless stained-glass windows and intricate wooden carvings on the choir stalls.

“They are, especially when the insurance doesn’t include Acts of God such as is the case of the cathedral you’re in right now. That’s irony for you.”

“That is ironic, most impressive.”

“Thank you. Anyway, young man, how can I help you?” intoned God. I looked into the eyes of the statue on the altar and whispered very gently.

“Firstly, it’s good to talk to you and to know you’re there. I work for a charity and we’re concerned about the future of the planet, what with the recent Covid outbreaks across the globe and the imminent arrival of Global Warming, we despair that we’re making a difference to the people of the planet. People don’t seem to care about the future.”

“Yes, I’ve spoken to Desmond about that since he’s arrived here and I’m most concerned about what I’ve heard. You were all doing so well until recently. I will be helping you and your concerned friends and charities in ways that you might not appreciate until later. Trust me many people are concerned and you will be surprised by the multitude who will help. No one wants the planet to be spoiled for their children.”

“Thank you for saying those things,” I replied, “I really appreciate it. Anyway, I should let you be, there’s probably many people wanting to contact you.”

“There always is, my friend, and I should speak to Francis from the Vatican next, he has a problem he wants to talk about that is vexing him greatly. I think it’s related to the activities of his priests. Take care and don’t forget about the signal you wanted.”

“I won’t and thank you,” I replied, “goodbye.”

“Well, not goodbye, more like Au Revoir, I’ll be seeing you and you’ll be seeing me and my work soon, very soon.”

I stopped kneeling and sat on the pew looking straight ahead. The colours from the windows were vivid and pure.

“I couldn’t help overhearing your prayers,” said a voice. I looked to my right and saw a tall man wearing a black leather jacket and denim jeans sitting on the same pew as myself with his arms folded tightly.

“How long have you been there for?” I asked.

“2 or 3 minutes,” said the man, “long enough to realise you’re one of these doom mongers who believe in Global Warming and Climate Change. One of these people who wants to destroy our economy all because of some non-existent threat from Mother Nature based on data models that are inaccurate, because you can’t model the climate as it’s too complex.”

“Ah, I see you’ve been indoctrinated by the usual suspects,” I replied, “I think you’ll find that the climate is changing with heat domes, high winds, and rising seas all threatening our existence.”

“All absolute rubbish, all part of the natural heating of the planet because of increased solar activity, sunspots, and solar radiation.”

“Why are you here?” I asked, “did you come into the cathedral for a specific reason?”

“I was lighting a candle for my mum and dad, who were devout Christians,” he replied, taking off his sunglasses to reveal a pair of piercing blue eyes. I thought I detected a hint of a tear.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, “how did they pass away?”

“They were in their car. It skidded on a slippery road and landed in the river, a river swollen by heavy rain. They drowned because they couldn’t get out of their car in time.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, that must have been a shock.”

“It was. Doubtless you will blame Global Warming.”

“I don’t know the circumstances well enough to comment on that. Anyway, I would just like to contemplate what I’ve heard by way of answers to my prayers.”

“You do gooders, you make my blood boil,” said the man glaring at me before leaving the pew and heading towards the exit doors.

I stared straight ahead and thought about what God had said. I was gathering myself to leave when a lady wearing clerical vestments came bustling towards me.

“Excuse me, excuse me,” she said, readjusting her glasses, “I couldn’t help noticing you were talking to a man a few minutes ago.”

I nodded to her by way of acknowledgement – “Yes, he was lighting a candle to his departed parents.”

“He did no such thing, he was a troublemaker, accosting people who were in here for purely religious reasons. Was he a friend of yours?”

“Oh…no he wasn’t,” I stammered, “he actually tried to start an argument with me about environmental matters. Why do you ask?”

“Well, he’s met with an unfortunate accident and who would have believed such a thing could have happened on such a bright, sunny day.”

“Why what’s happened?”

“He was hit by a bolt of lightning, in broad daylight, who would have thought it even possible?”

I turned to the statue and for once its eyes didn’t seem to meet mine. I smiled and addressed the cleric.

“Well, I think we all know the climate is changing very rapidly and this is another example of that. Unexpected, severe meteorological phenomena are happening all the time.”

With that I bowed to the altar and headed out of the cathedral. 

Published by Julian Worker

Julian was born in Leicester, attended school in Yorkshire, and university in Liverpool. He has been to 94 countries and territories and intends to make the 100 when travel is easier. He writes travel books, murder / mysteries and absurd fiction. His sense of humour is distilled from The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. His latest book is about a Buddhist cat who tries to help his squirrel friend fly further from a children's slide.

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