The channel between you and God
Right from the start I want to point out that I am the channel between you and God. Only for as long as you choose to be in the world of this story, which may or may not be my story, but which we hope will be part of your story. I don’t know much about God in other worlds, but God in this particular one is as familiar to me as an author to a narrator. That is, I know a little bit about God, even though God knows everything there is to know about me. So far, this is not very much, since I only came into existence six lines and five minutes ago. By the time you read this, I will have been in existence for a much longer time, but not for any more space. Except for the space which hasn’t happened yet, but will have happened by the time you read this. You can see that I have an interest in quantum physics, previously known as metaphysics, in the old language, when science and philosophy used to have different epistemologies.
Enough about me. As narrator, it is better if I present you with a character. It is a much better storytelling device, to start with the character in action, and in conflict. This way you can identify with the character, right from the start, particularly if the conflict is universal in some way, as most conflicts are. I could offer you just one character, and dramatise their (a non-sexist and wonderfully non-specific, universal word) inner conflict, but even inner conflict is usually more interesting if presented through interaction with at least one other character, or at a bare minimum, the landscape-as-character. This is because no-one learns much from going round and round inside their own heads (or should that be head?), and so neither will you.
I presume you are reading this in order to learn something? I base this presumption on the fact that you have read so far, and therefore you must be the type of character known as a literary reader, otherwise you would have put aside this gobbledegook once you got to the space and time stuff (or even before, the title might have been enough). However, even the literary reader expects Entertainment, it’s just that they want it simultaneously with Enlightenment.
I’m sure God can manage that.
Isn’t it nice to have a channel between you and God? That is, indeed, a nice example of a universal conflict, most characters would like to have a reliable channel between themselves and God, and the poor character in this story is definitely a case in point. It would be so much easier for her if she didn’t have to keep wandering, lost in confusion, and someone popped up and said, ‘don’t worry, this is the way to see things’, but then there wouldn’t be much of a story, would there? There might be a fraction of Enlightenment, but almost no Entertainment at all, and then this would be non-fiction, and there wouldn’t be a God, and then I wouldn’t exist either, and since we must all agree by now that I do exist (having made it through a whole page and at least twenty minutes now – it takes longer to write than read, you know), that proves there must be a God in this world at least, and this God is committed to Entertainment as the means to Enlightenment, so I’m afraid our poor character is going to have to meet someone who will make things worse for her, rather than better. Because that’s how Entertainment works. That’s how stories work, and for us readers and viewers and gameplayers, story is Entertainment.
Unless you are exceptionally unobservant for a literary reader, or drunk, you will have picked up on the fact that our character is female. I’m sorry if this has led any of you men to consider stopping reading, because really this isn’t secret women’s business. I’m sure that most of our character’s conflicts can be seen as universal, Everyperson, you know, if you look at the right level. I’m as sure as God will let me be, anyway. On the other hand, I am happy to encourage any women to identify even more strongly with our character – just because something is universal, doesn’t mean it isn’t also gender-specific.
God is shying away from letting you know more about this character. It is almost as if she doesn’t exist (the character, not God, we’ve already established that, and I refuse to give God a gender and alienate even more of you). We think it might be best if she lives in a fantasy world, as this will exclude fewer of you, although God will need to be careful to avoid any specifically European (or even New Zealand) references.
It is very dark in this place where she is. (You all know about darkness).
I will butt out of this story now for a while because God is letting me know that I am interfering in the creation of the world, just because I’m pointing out that almost every detail (and details are good in a story), but that almost every detail runs the risk of alienating some of you. God suggests that my constant intervention runs the risk of alienating everyone, so I could stop trying to be helpful and shut up. All righty then. Get on with it between you. You see? You didn’t really want a channel after all. You want to stumble around in the dark. You think it’s Entertainment, and you call it fun. Not much fun for poor flagellated Sara, is it? Poor Sara with the blood dripping from the raw weals on her back, the weals that are ripped open to spurt again even before the blood thickens enough to crust. She would love to have the opportunity to butt out of this story. But no. She has to stay there, trembling, tied to the rack, her body shrieking although her mouth is silent, caked dry with blood, praying only to lose consciousness, to escape.
You’ll agree she’s in a very bad way – very dramatic, an enormous conflict, universally identifiable with, we are all in horror and terror of such extremes of pain, and we do all want her to escape – but God – and you – want it to get worse before it gets better. I don’t pretend to know why. My guess is that you want to see if she is like you in some way, and if she is, how she escapes, so you can prepare for how you will escape next time you are in so much pain.
Or maybe you just like pain.
Okay. Stop alienating the readers.
It is not the man that is whipping Sara who is the character she is in conflict with. His straining muscles, his sweating skin as he wields the lash – he is nothing but an instrument, and for our purposes, has no feelings at all. We could describe whether he is disgusted, or perfunctory, or excited, or even aroused (that would be the best one, perverse erections are intrinsically interesting, especially if large, and ideally would appear earlier in the story, the first line for example, and be closely described in sensual and physically evocative language), but that would be getting off the point.
It is the one who sits behind her in the darkness who has ordered this. The one who watches and nods to the flagellator to strike again and again and again, even though he has to be careful in his run-up not to slip on the pools of her blood on the floor. The watcher’s face is shrouded in darkness, so we cannot see if he is vengeful, sadistic, simply cruel – or kind, and suffering with her for a purpose beyond us all. And can he be all of these at once? Or, worse for Sara, might he lose interest in being any of them at all, and go off to do something else, perhaps he’s getting hungry, and absent-mindedly slips away to have lunch, forgetting to call ‘cut’ (cut, in the cinematic sense, as in stop the action, rather than in the more common sense of slice into something, such as the flesh of the victim in front of you – an ambiguity that could leave Sara in a lose-lose situation, even if he did speak).
It depends on how strong the bond is between Sara and the watcher. I think she tried to love him. I think she has always loved him, passionately, with all her heart and all her soul and all her mind and all her body too – always wanted him above all else. Or, at least, she would have loved him, if only she could have seen him there in the dark, or stumbled over him before she was tied to the rack, or if he had at least spoken to her, whispered, breathed.
And this is what she gets for it.
This is very distressing to anyone with any decent level of human sensibility and I personally can’t see how you and God are going to get out of it, now that you’ve gotten yourselves in. Perhaps you think that it is only in extremes of pain that we can begin to divine the reason for any pain at all? Divine. Now, there’s an ironic word. In context, anyway.
The thing is, I, and I hope, you (because literary readers are meant to have a decent level of human sensibility), would like Sara to be freed. Or at the very least to faint or something, die, even, not hang there forever on the edge of consciousness, tortured past the peak and pitch of pain, because if there is any other way to be in extreme pain (and we all know there are very many other ways), it really wouldn’t have much effect to add them in, since her nervous system is on maximum pain perception already. I think we can take that as given, even though close, sensual and physical descriptions of suffering are popular and increase emotional responses of one sort or another, and therefore involvement in the story world, in readers, viewers, and gameplayers. Writing the close, sensual and physical description of additional tortures would only have an effect (and I doubt a salutary one) on you and God, not on Sara, so I refuse to participate in it. Even a mere channel can have standards.
Which brings you then to the fictionally critical point of finding an ending which must be satisfying on at least some level, even if it is, fashionably, not a resolution as such. It must be satisfying, not to me, because I don’t count, but to you and God, you are the ones who must sort it out between you, and reach a mutual outcome or agree to go your separate ways, in which case I will have failed completely. Not that I expect either of you to care about that, since I’m not in nearly such a bad way as poor Sara. Being a failed channel is hardly a universal concern, and only narrators and mediums (I’m sure the plural of these psychic (usually) women can’t be ‘media’, that word is taken), would identify with the problem at all, which is much too obscure a group for the rest of you to bother to make the immense effort of reading something through all the way to the end.
But what will happen now is that God is going to allow me to step into the story. For as you can tell, I love Sara.
This is hardly fair, since I just abdicated responsibility for this to you other, more casual, participants in this world. However, I know God well enough by now to see that there is no escape for me, and I do love Sara so very much, I always loved her, even when she was just wandering, lost in confusion, even before she was tied up and tortured. In fact, my love for Sara is all I have ever cared about, all I ever will care about, until the end of time. And it turns out that this makes me the most powerful of us, after all.
It makes me an angel. Or even a messiah. Something like that. Powerful, anyway. Powerful enough to step into the darkness with my sword of flame and wipe away the torturer with the large erection, as if he had never been. And now, my darling, my beauty, my poor suffering Sara, I dissolve your bonds, I kiss you and your wounds close and vanish, and you are whole as I always knew you were, pure and perfect, and I wrap myself around you and you embrace me and there is a moment of bliss, of physical ecstasy, before we become again what we always were, one being, one creature.
But behind us still is the watcher. What does he make of my sudden appearance and the dramatic disappearance of those he was watching? Could he, even, merge with us too? Could I bear to let him?
It’s still hard to see him. But I think he’s laughing.
Maybe he always was. Right from the start.