Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Trial and Retribution

© Denis Fitzpatrick. 2014

For Elizabeth Bell, my One True Love.

     ‘Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning. . . . But the hands of one of the gentlemen were laid on K.’s throat, while the other pushed the blade deep into his heart and twisted it there, twice.’ Franz Kafka, The Trial.

Someone must have deeply loved and fervently prayed for Joseph K. for he suddenly found himself in Paradise one fine morning. He quickly checked himself: no hole in his shirt, clothes generally unruffled. Yes, thank God, he appeared to be whole.
     He checked his surroundings.
     A nicely appointed bedroom with what looked like an ensuite. He was lying atop a white quilt, woollen by feel, and without a cover but still pristine white.
     There was a knock on a distant front door. On the way to answering it K. noted that the rest of the apartment was as well appointed as the bedroom.
     ‘Hello?’ said K., opening the door.
     ‘Joseph, K.! Welcome, welcome, and welcome again to Paradise!’ This was said by an Old Man, with a long, grey Goatee and long, grey Hair, in blue Jeans, an orange Shirt, and Barefoot.
     ‘Excuse me?’
     ‘Welcome to Paradise! You remember dying?’
     ‘Yes.’
     ‘Well, you’ve made it to Paradise. Heaven.’
     ‘Paradise?’
     ‘Yes. You’re life’s aim has been achieved.’ K. considered this. It explained a lot.
     ‘Why me?’
     ‘It was only fair. There were Very Eldritch and Arcane Forces involved in your death. Or slaughter as some would say.’
     ‘Who are you?’
     ‘God.’ K. looked at the Old Man and his open, generous Smile convinced him that the Old Man couldn’t be gainsaid. The Old Man most certainly appeared to Believe himself to be God. ‘Don’t worry, everyone’s disoriented when they first arrive Here. But you’ve been chosen for Paradise because the preternaturally Dark Forces involved in your demise can’t be allowed victory. We have to get Our own back! Paradise is all supreme for a reason. I’m sure your natural tenacity will see you through the next day or two. Just have a cup of tea and a biscuit, a bit of a think, and you’ll be as right as rain. Any questions, just call over to My Place, anyone Here will guide you.’
      K. thought for a moment, then replying, ‘Thanks. I’ll have a tea and a think.’
      And over the tea it was quite easy for K. to reconcile his apparent death with his apparent rebirth, hale, whole and hearty. He had successfully pinched himself, and he was obviously alive to all of the benefits of Paradise.
     But who had lied about him, who had taken away all of his future earthly pleasures and the greater earthly goals he could have conceived? Who had killed him, howsoever directly? Retribution was dearly due.
     Whoever it was was a confirmed murderer and bound to either Purgatory or Hell, or so K. considered over another tea and a biscuit. Doubtlessly too whoever the culprit was would want immunity for revealing his/her crime. K. would have no trouble in finding the villain, after all he had endless time in front of him, but to enact his retribution would mean he had to visit Purgatory or Hell. Once entered There though could he leave? Those darker, nether regions don’t after all encourage visitors, simply able to leave once one’s job there had been done.
     Well, just ask God who is malefactor was, the person who had so blatantly lied to the law about him. Didn’t He say, ‘Any questions, just call over to My Place . . .’? Well, Joseph K. had questions.
     Joseph K. eventually decided seeking a straight answer from God was best sought tomorrow morning, after he had better adjusted to Paradise.

*

After helping himself to the porridge from his full pantry, Joseph K., the next morning, earlyish, knocked upon God’s door. And like God had said K. was easily directed there. The Old Man Answered the Door.
     ‘Joseph!’ He exclaimed. ‘I hope you’ve had a good breakfast.’
     ‘Yes, thank you, God. Porridge.’
     ‘And a fantastic breaking of one’s fast in these cold months.’
     ‘Do you have a spare five or ten minutes to answer some questions?’
     ‘Certainly, certainly, most certainly. Come in.’ God Stepped aside to let K. into His Abode. ‘Nothing serious I hope?’
     ‘No, no,’ replied K. walking down the Hallway to what must lead to The Sitting Room. ‘Just a small matter of justice. An eye for an eye sort of thing.’
     ‘I’ve always Resolved matters of Justice for those Here in Paradise.’ God extended His Right Arm to Invite K. into His Sitting Room. ‘Just let Me Put on a cuppa for the both of us to have a good talk.’
     ‘Thank you,’ replied K.
     God had the teas brewed up quickly and brought them in.
     ‘So, Joseph, what is your question? Or questions?’ Asked God, Seating Himself.
     K. took a sip of his tea. Nice and lukewarm. Then he asked,
     ‘Who was my slayer? And why was I singled out from amongst my fellows for my horrible end?’
     God Took a Sip of His Own tea, and cheerfully Replied,
     ‘Morningstar.’
     ‘Sorry?’
     ‘Lucifer Morningstar.’
     ‘You mean, Satan?’
     ‘Yes.’
     ‘The Devil?’
     ‘Yes. My Rival.’
     ‘But why me? I’m just a humble citizen, rarely been in trouble, always avoided debauchery, intoxication, slovenliness, and similar sins.’
     ‘It was nothing personal Joseph, Morningstar simply chooses a life at random to ruin, and his dire eye unfortunately fell upon you.’
     K. took another sip of the cooling tea.
     ‘So I was just a number, a barely thought out outlet for his Dark Fancy?’
     ‘Precisely,’ replied God.
     K. took another sip of his tea.
     ‘Is that why I was allowed into Paradise? Because I was a victim of Satan’s indiscriminate Dark Urges?’
     ‘Again, precisely,’ replied God. ‘There are many such Here and they will always be welcome. My Rival must not learn to indiscriminately ruin any of My Creations.’
     K. took another sip of the tea.
     ‘Well, Thank you, God, my unjust slayer is known. May I seek vengeance as I may?’
     ‘Most certainly. And all of My Resources are available to you for such.’
     ‘Thank You,’ replied K. He finished off his tea and made his goodbyes.
     ‘Thank You again for Your Honesty,’ he said upon God’s threshold.
     ‘You’re welcome. I’m always Here.’
     Joseph K. headed home to consider God’s words.

*

After a dreamless and restful sleep Joseph K. awoke the next morn to realise that he could not reasonably enact vengeance upon Satan, The Dark Lord, the Master of all Wiles. If God could not keep The Dark Lord from wreaking his ill fancies upon randomly chosen people, could not further chastise more That Dark Rebel than he had already been punished for his original Rebellion, then what chance did the humble Joseph K. have? None.
     Well surely, thought K. over the morning’s porridge, we can meet wiles with wiles? Surely Joseph K. could simply spread a false rumour about Morningstar?
     Why not, conjectured K., simple mudslinging; no costs and potentially all benefit.
     But what rumour?
     K. realised the answer immediately, laughing to himself over a spoonful of breakfast,
     ‘Amnesty.’
     K. could spread the rumour, to eventually reach Morningstar’s ears, that his Rebellion will be Forgiven should he perpetually hand over his soul to Christ’s proper Keeping. God Had Come to this Considered Conclusion after eons of Pondering the matter. It certainly sounded reasonable and plausible to K.
     But Christ was bound to deny the rumour the instant He Heard of it. Such an upright and noble Figure could not in the least be expected to howsoever slightly Participate in any chicanery.
     K. washed out his bowl and spoon, completely feeling Christ was the only thing stopping him in his retribution.
     Is Christ open to negotiation? Trading? Bargaining? Could K. offer Christ something to overcome His reticence to deceive?
     ‘It’s worth the try,’ he said to himself.

*

     ‘Hello?’
     ‘Hello, I’m Joseph K. God Told me that Christ Lived Here?’
     ‘Yes, that’s Me.’
     ‘I need help, my Lord. May I come in?’
     ‘Certainly,’ genially Replied Christ. The wood shavings of a current job were apparent about His dark, leather Boots. His blue Shorts and red check Shirt were fairly clean though.
     They were promptly seated.
     ‘As Thou art integral to The Trinity,’ began K., ‘Thou must Know how I arrived here in Paradise?’
     ‘Certainly.’
     ‘Well, I have conceived vengeance upon Morningstar.’
     ‘Howso? Our Rival still wreaks his destruction apace in Banishment.’
     ‘A simple lie, my Lord. Morningstar will not expect your deceitfulness. I offer you Morningstar’s willing soul if Thou Whilst Accede to my falsely broadcasting his return to Paradise, unconditionally pardoned, in return for his soul being abdicated to Your Divine Self.’
     Christ laughed.
     ‘Morningstar is not unwise. How think you he will fall for this ruse?’
     ‘It has never been tried before, at least that is my assumption. Am I right?’
     ‘Yes,’ replied Christ, now Looking genuinely piqued. ‘All of Paradise has Dealt openly with Morningstar, despite his continued abominations.’
     ‘So let’s change tack, fight his lies with lies: the reward is so much greater than the risk, my Lord.’
     Christ ran His Hands through His Hair for several seconds, Gazing into possibilities up and off to His left.
     ‘Verily!’ He exclaimed. ‘We will Outwit The Dark Lord at his own game of simple deceit.’
     ‘Thank you, my Lord.’

*

Joseph K. celebrated his first year in Paradise by springing from bed, despite the cold, in utter jubilation. A champagne breakfast had been prepared the night before and after warming the roast chicken and popping the cork on Paradise’s most expensive bottle of champagne (a gift from God for his, Joseph K.’s, sterling contribution to Paradise) Joseph K. sat down to breakfast in front of Morningstar’s soul, securely encased in a small, generic jar. It was a pinkish-orange and its colour grew brighter and then receded rhythmically, slowly.
     ‘A year at my place,’ he said to it, and bit into the juicy thigh.
     ‘A year at Christ’s Place.’ The leg was extra succulent.
     ‘A year at God’s Place.’ And that fine champagne was a nice, invigorating counterpoint.
     ‘And so on throughout the rest of time.’ Hallelujah!

~~~

If you've been enjoying Denis' stories here you may also enjoy his debut novel, This Mirror in Me. It tells the story of Tonia Esqurit Ailbe, a mathematics professor, and her unusual manner of making her home a social hub, her life's fundamental aim: sitting at her dressing table mirror and imagining socialising with friends and family. It seems the only way, for one reason or another, that she can achieve her deepest aim. It is available on Kindle at http://amzn.to/1gXGF9h for US $4.14, and via Smashwords, whom cover most of the other ereaders, at http://bit.ly/1k7DEIV for US $3.99. If you don't have a Kindle or other ereader you can download one for free onto your smartphone or tablet.
    

     

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