Playing God is a fictional short Story written by Alison Little. A section of the prose was read aloud at the North End Writers Christmas Party on Wednesday the 14th of December 2016. The illustrations accompany the text.
Where am I? I am in a tiny secluded office like room with no windows but two doors. Sitting on a large throne shaped chair my elbows rest on a solid mahogany desk from the era when furniture was built to last, where mortise joints were steamed and structures were for eternity. On the table, I have a small bell, some kind of brass doorbell embedded to the surface of the desk. In front of the bell, there is a copper sign with ‘Press to save’ engraved onto its surface. On the door to the left, there is a sign which says ‘Life Portal’ on the counterpart to the right the sign reads ‘Hell Portal’. The room is dark with only an old fashioned strip light with a bottle green glass shade. Muffling and voices can be heard from another room, anxiously, I wait looking for more indicators to what is about to take place.
There is a crashing of a security shutter being pulled up then through a small kennel sized opening comes two figures, my mother and an armed guard holding a knife to her throat.
‘Mum, are you Okay?’
‘Yes’ she exclaims, ‘Don’t worry about me’ Scared but putting a brave face on things. Through some kind of Tannoy system, I hear some kind of commandment;
‘Press the Button if you want to save her’
No question, no doubt no thoughts in the back of my mind, I press the button quickly and surely and say my goodbye’s to my Mother as she is escorted through the life portal.
The Guard then disappears back through the opening, as I hear the security barrier go up I am listening to a woman arguing about changing the time of the appointment and that it would be better if……………………The Guard returns with a rather small dark haired man with his hair swept to one side. A small narrow moustache and dark eyes with a fixated stare. Although the guard has a knife to his throat he is standing upright and very composed. Then, I recognise him, it is Hitler of course. The Fuhrer, the leader of Nazi Germany, the man at the centre of World War Two and the Holocaust. The Man behind the Genocide of five and a half million Jews, Nineteen Million civilians and Prisoners of War during the deadliest conflict in human history.
‘Press the button to save’
Is heard from the Tannoy. Well, I can’t possibly save him can I, it would be unethical. I leave the button as it is and the guard manoeuvres him into the Hell portal. The door has a kind of airlock, like a walk in fridge, no further sounds can be heard.
As the security barrier goes back up I hear the voice of the woman that was arguing before talking to one of the other prisoners:
‘I can’t believe how immature the Guards are.’
Then I recognise the voice, of course, it is my Sister-in-Law, the ultimate example of a Power-Crazed-Hag. The Guard pulls the next man in through the entrance, we have a Uniformed Police Constable standing tall and resolute with the knife held to his throat, not flinching or showing any real fear of the Guard. We have a PC who died on duty, a man who never stood a chance, a tragedy. A man who left a devastated family behind, two boys so young that they would never really know their Father. My chance to put a wrong right, no choice what so ever, I press the button satisfied that real good has been done.
Again, I can hear my Sister-in-Laws voice float through the opening barrier, seems to be some kind of discussion about how she had to pay for something. Next, we have someone I haven’t seen for over thirty years, someone I was barely able to remember before he died, someone who was wonderful, someone who was a joy; my brother Godfrey. He is smiling at me ‘ all grown up’ not like the four-year-old he had left behind. Godfrey had died when he was only just a teenager, he had been killed on the by-pass, a came of chicken turned fatal. Now it was my turn to save him, the other way round from when we are young. Press, press, press the button.
‘Go and see Mum’
I tell him as he goes towards the life portal. A tear runs down my face, another wrong undone, another good person was taken to quickly returned to the World which he should never have left.
I can hear a sniggering laugh, a kind of low volume giggle that resonates on the soul as opposed to simply an irritant. I can see who it is: Henry Pope.
I whisper quietly and slowly trying not to show I was arching my back. Henry Pope had live at the back of us on our Estate, the same year as my brother Graham at school, slightly older than myself. So who was Henry Pope? Two of the boys in my Primary school class had died before adulthood in tragic accidents, Henry Pope had been there on both occasions. The first had been Nigel, he had lived further down from us on the Street, his Mother Anne and my Mother were very good friends and still are to this day, a friendship formed on the shared loss of teenage sons in unfortunate circumstances. Nigel and Henry had been playing football near the train line, they had gone onto the tracks together to retrieve their ball. Henry had been following Nigel when the train had plummeted towards them, Henry was unscarred by the incident, Nigel made it to the hospital but he never survived the surgeon’s knife.
A few years later Henry was involved in another accident, this time, it was Mark’ turn to die. They had sloped off early from school as one of the lads had passed his driving test at just seventeen, literally a crash course in every sense of the word. The driven had been so keen to learn to drive it was pretty much all he had talked about for years, he had passed and got a car within a month of his seventieth birthday, all the lads had got in the car and they were driving out of town. Mark had been sitting in the front, Sam and Harry in the back. Adrenaline was pumping and the car had crashed not far from the main bridge over the River. Mark had died instantly, Ben the driver had almost died and spent three months in intensive care, then a further period of recovery before he came home from the hospital. Sam in the back had a broken arm a few facial cuts and was clearly shaken up by the whole thing. Henry Pope got out of the Car and he was fine, there was not a mark or a scratch on him. When the Police came to the scene of the accident and the paramedics were doing what they could the Officers had interviewed Gary about what had happened then they told him he could go, letting him walk home alone from the fatal accident. They had not wanted him getting in the car with them, to this day the Police are still scared to nick him and try to avoid having to put him in the back of a squad car.
I kept a look out for Sam for a few days after everything had happened until I bumped into him in the close where he lived. He was clearly devastated, I wanted to know the details, if Gary Henry Pope had been messing around banging the chair of tightening the seat belt around the driver’s shoulders, that would make sense: being in two similar accidents if he had been fooling around. HE HAD NOT BEEN DOING ANYTHING AT ALL. Now that didn’t make sense, there was no logical explanation other than Henry was fated, the Omen. Sam felt responsible but I reassure him it wasn’t his fault there was no other explanation than Henry had something wrong with him, then I managed to make him smile I flashed him a tiny little smile till he smiled a little bit, then I gave him a full smile and he returned the gesture. At that point in time, he didn’t think he’d ever smile again, but he had managed it.
Henry Pope then became known as the Omen, everyone tried to avoid being around him and it lasted for years, until this day with everyone who knew what had happened. If you found yourself on an usually packed local train when you asked why it was so busy it would turn out Gary had been on the earlier train and everyone had waited for the later train, edging on the safe side. Everyone in his form class at school had started avoiding coming into school and others were thinking about transferring. When he was older Pubs would empty when he came in. So should I save Henry Pope? Is it the same as Hitler, unethical to save him. But, then there is a difference: Hitler’ actions were Evil, Gary Monks is the embodiment of Evil in the human form. If I don’t save him he will go through the hell portal and my main concern is that Earth will de-combust into a hundred thousand pieces and sink to the bottom of the Universe, the end of eternity. So-it-has-to-be-a-save, I-press-the-button-very-slowly. I look away as he thanks me and I say ‘Sorry Mum’ under my breath as she will have to sit with him.
Again, the Belfast accent spoke from my power-crazed sister-in-law asking if she can re-arrange the appointment…In comes the guard with another girl, thankfully not my sister-in-law. She has flaxen blond hair, Saxon in heritage, pretty and very afraid shaking as the guard holds a knife to her throat. Attractive even with her mascara streaked over her face, around her mid-twenties, then I recognise the girl. It is Bea Richards from my degree course; a damsel in distress, a maiden at the hands of a merciful killer. With the fair skin of Snow White, the fragility of sleeping Beauty but without the ability to look after herself shown by Princess Zelda. Minor Aristocracy, a modern day lady from the famous Hogarth painting where the wealthy gentlewomen are being protected from the sight of a peasant woman being attacked. There must be no choice but to save this girl from the fires of Hell? I simply must press the button…
Then I doubt crosses my mind when I remember that Bea had been employed as an undercover Police Woman. She had fallen under the remit of a thirty-year policy of the British Police to actively recruit weak, feeble girls to play the live at home student part they plant on every degree course. Girls that can gloss up as being from a wealthy background, girls that are intended to function as ‘Posh Totty’. Clean cut good girls, wide-eyed for morning lectures while everyone else is recovering from getting high the night before. Girls that functioned in a role where they could have walked off the cover of a 1950’s edition of Women’ Realm: Prim, proper and correctly poised while adorning tools of perfect domesticity. Modelling tea trays, following the instructions of knitting patterns and making perfect jam, girls that represented role models in the pre-effection contraception generation of 1950’s Britain. However, this decade had passed, so the inevitable happened and these girls were to be knocked out of the way by the courage of the modern women, girls that were young free and single, the girls who were there to embrace the liberation of third generation feminism at the turn of the Millenium. Perfect smiles were outdone by sexual poses, cake makers were ignored to focus on those drinking wine and larger, searching for a perfect fiance were pushed aside by rock star behaviour.
Undercover Policewomen socially engineered to function as the ‘One’ that everyone fancies, but then despite being an attractive girl Bea had failed in this capacity. In the way of so many daughters of High ranking Police Officers she had not been written down as being an attractive girl, she had been written down as being a stunningly beautiful girl, a girl which if she was put next to one of the most glamorous Hollywood actresses she would be unquestionable as gorgeous. The ‘Posh Totty’ credentials were exaggerated, claims to being Aristocracy seemed to amount to little more than if the family were of that classes the Nobility would really rather have preferred it if that was not the case. So instead of the Police assigning Bea to a course where she could play her part as the ‘Pretty Posh One’ she was sent into another course, one where the other girls were every bit as attractive and equally as well spoken.
To some degree, it was not Bea’ fault, if she had been assigned to a course where the other girls were ugly and common she may have been able to function as desired. Her credentials were not entirely her fault, if she had been a recipe in one of the Women’s Realm magazines it would have read:
Take two ounces of week, combine with three ounces of feeble using an outdated spoon. Add some bottle, don’t worry about using too much as none of it will ever show up. If it seems a little slow on the uptake don’t concern yourself as it will probably get there in the end. Ensure you store in a safe place so as it remains sheltered.
However, what else did she do in her capacity of working for the Police? She was slow on the uptake, always the last to find out about anything that was going on, on overhearing a dirty word she would then go and write a lengthy Police report about disgusting language leading to her course mates being checked unnecessarily for extremely explicit language. She had managed to interpret a victim of childhood sexual abuse clashing with an abuser as:
‘They had to be the one getting chatted up’
She had failed to try and find out what had happened in a Rape case when the predator was later to strike again. After the final exams when everyone had been out to celebrate they had been attacked on leaving the bar, Bea had stood there and done nothing while the other girls thought them off. The last act in her undercover capacity on the degree course had been after she had been informed about her former partner engaging in the services of sex workers, a matter the Police Woman was unable to determine for herself, was the write a lengthy, tear stained Police report about herself ‘Being Copied’.
So, the dilemma is she doesn’t deserve to die, but in view of her actions does she deserve to be saved?
In struts her Father, a buffoon of a Man who is a high ranking Police Officer;
‘This is preposterous, you must save my daughter.’
As I begin to simulate questions in regards to how have her actions justified saving we are interrupted by a knocking from the inside of the life portal. The Police Constable from earlier comes through the portal:
‘Take me instead’ he insists.
‘Yes take him instead and save my daughter, it’s what those people are for.’
directs her Father.
‘GET BACK INTO THE LIFE PORTAL’
I insist, again satisfied that I had made the right choice in saving him, forever the hero. I then question her Father in regards to how Bea’ actions could justify her being saved?
‘My daughter is not supposed to be capable of doing anything of value, despite which you were jealous of her because she is the most gorgeous girl in the whole word and besides which I didn’t like you using bad language in front of her.’
‘But she didn’t try and find out anything in a Rape case.’ I respond.
‘She not expected to be able to do anything about that, that’s not what Policewomen are for and she was very upset when you copied her.’
He spits out.
At this point I realise that there is no point in arguing with the Buffoon of a man further, I must make up my mind in regards to pressing the save button. A solution to the dilemma, I address the Tannoy;
‘How many times are you allowed to press the save button?’
‘Difficult to determine’ It responds blankly.
‘Can she be taken back into the holding cell then if everyone who deserves to be saved, has been sent to the Life portal then she can follow those that are worthy?
There is a kind of snuffling through the Tannoy, my direction seems to have been taken as she is guided back through the security barrier. Her Father is still murmurs about it being preposterous but seems to disappear.
The guard leads in a man massive in bulk, looming above and across him, no real fight in him but a clear physical winner in any battled which is to be presented to him. Sharp in his movements, almost overacting when he steps forward or moves his arms, like a performer in a silent movie trying to over emphasise his movements so the audience will understand what is going on. He looks through me like I am nothing, not there, not anything, no recognition, no internal doubts in himself to question his actions, any thoughts that his actions might have been wrong. We have a serial rapist. I speak very, very quietly to the Tannoy:
‘I-can-not-save-him’ I whisper.
The Tannoy instructs the guard towards the hell portal. Suddenly he speaks:
‘I assume that’s over there.’
He could see and hear everything the whole time, almost dismissive in his actions, no fear of Hell, no arguing with my choice…..After a pause which feels like it lasted for eternity the Tannoy then addresses the Man:
‘Do you have any fear of going to Hell, any apprehensions at all?’
‘Not really’ He dismisses the question ‘Wait, will my Mother be there?’ he asks.
‘Yes your Mother is there, has been for years, will be there for eternity.’
‘I don’t want to see her again’ he responses.
‘Well, you have no choice. GO’ the Tannoy directs.
A vision emerges, the giant lobster enters a man size stockpot of boiling water, as the water bubbles through the steamer basket the creature becomes motionless. And he is gone from the World I inhabit, no longer free to harm others, I don’t know how to feel. Emotionless, no gratification through my actions, no sense of redemption, nothing….
In front of me stands a warm and welcoming man, a grandad type character, larger than life and full of cheer. Red faced from whisky, beaming a wide smile from above his windspeed flowing white beard. Tubby with a wide dark belt strapped around his red, fur trimmed suit and accompanying hat; we have Santa Clause.
‘Why are you here Santa?’
I ask, surprised at being sent a fictional character.
‘There has been a lot of objections to myself during the last decade.’
Santa then begins to outline the reasons he has been objected against. People are now saying that it is wrong for parents to lie to their children, the whole Chris Columbus thing is being considered engaging in this process. Others are claiming that Santa over commercialises Christmas, Religion is knocked out of the way in favour of accessive gift giving. Faiths outside Christianity are saying they don’t like him and he’s nothing to do with them, in a modern politically correct culture we can’t be seen to be upsetting marginalised sections of society. Some say Santa is patriarchal, a man at the reigns, bringing the toys to provide for the children while his good wife stays at home. His pursuits, drinking whisky and flying sledges are said to be male dominated and women have started to find ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’ offensive.
‘So what will happen if I don’t save you Santa, will you burn in Hell for eternity?’ I question.
‘No, I have to do the equivalent thing for Hell that I do for Earth. The reindeer are ditched; I get a collection of hyenas and a maroon fire-proof suit. Then I fly around hell coming down to surface level to set fire to anything which could be considered pleasant: the odd wild thistle or a nice nature miniature lizard.’ My beard becomes blood stained, my skin is grey and weathered and I have a red hat with a devils fork at the end of its tail. An air of Krampus is created, absinth is present on the breath, the hand has been replaced by a hook. The sack of presents have gone and there is to be a rodent in controlled of a fire blowing automatic weapon.
I think we best save Santa, I press the button.
‘Life portal Santa, it was a pleasure and by the way, I don’t mind you being a little patriarchal…..’
Santa saunters off, full of joy to join the others, a myth worth saving.
And now we get the final person, she has stopped arguing, the re-scheduling queen, a woman who exists simply to re-arrange everything and everyone to her own convenience. A woman who amounts to the ultimate example of a Power-Crazed-Hag: the sister-in-law. A social worker by profession, also on the Police’s books giving her warped interpretations of what has happened through Police reports backed up by an endless queue of false expenses claims. Women who will stop at nothing to escalate her own importance and gain dominance. A woman who is married to an abuser, a woman who’s former partner is also an abuser. Women who misled a rape investigation to satisfied her overweening desire to be in-charge of everything. A woman who is no victim, a woman who is an accomplice in evil.
She says in her social services you are obliged to put up with me whether you like it or not tone. I refuse to make eye contact and don’t respond, talking to her is simply beneath myself or anyone else with any real values. I address the Tannoy;
‘There is no way I am saving her!’ the Tannoy responds to ask if I would like more time, I decline to offer and as she goes through the Hell portal I surmise it’s simply for the greater good for those on Earth that she isn’t there to do any more damage. After what feels like an eternity of waiting, unsure of what is to come next I hear a faint knocking from the Hell portal. I am presented with the Devil, but as opposed to being inflamed and demanding he is polite and forbidding in his manner. He stands in front of myself, almost bow like with the fork of his tail tucked neatly over his poised arms.
‘Will you take this woman back?’ he asks.
‘No’ I respond.
‘I don’t want her’ he continues.
‘Neither do I’ I finish off with.
‘Can I leave Hell if I promise to be good?’
‘No, do your Job!’