Hark! Turn your eyes, if you will, to the lone stone abbey in the mountains. Situated on an elevated cluster of hills between two small valleys, known less than affectionately by the monks as, “The Gutters”, it stands proudly and in isolation as the only sign of civilisation this side of Adrian’s Fence. Around it, the fields stretch, the hills roll, the trees sway and the rocks cover the rest of the yoga routine.
In the skies and heavens above, the gods play havoc with the weather. It is often said to be “pissing down”. As leading theologians have proven, this is untrue. Last they checked, God had great plumbing. In fact, they firmly believe the vast quantities of liquids pouring down from the heavens can in fact be attributed to a long, complicated cycle involving an intricate and wholly natural recycling system in which the oceans are evaporated into the clouds and redistributed through condensation to make the lands fertile, before finding their ways back to the seas, thus completing the cycle. Society as a whole wonders what they’re smoking.
Certainly not water vapour; that would be silly.
So frankly, it’s chucking it down. Despite this, the narrative camera zooms and pans around the old stone building, choosing at last to focus on two vague figures standing in the archway, staring out into the monsoon from the warmth of the structure.
“Brother Jeffery, did you forget to turn the central heating on?” said Brother Geoffrey.
That’s a bold-faced lie. He didn’t in fact say it, having undertaken a vow of silence at the tender age of two, which made for interesting tantrums, involving muted hunger strikes and picket signs. Instead, he delivered the message through an intense, and unique, variety of interpretative dance. However, for the sake of convenience in the narration, I shall continue to refer to him as speaking directly.
“Y’wot bro?” said Brother Jeffery, quite plainly and clearly.
“I said (danced), did you forget to turn the central heating on?” said (danced) Brother Geoffrey.
“Nuh, blud,” replied Brother Jeffery, “got a point though, I’m shivering my bollocks off.”
Brother Geoffrey rolled his eyes and slammed the great doors closed.
“That was a bit daft mate,” said Brother Jeffery, “you’ve just locked us out.”
Realising his mistake, Brother Geoffrey slammed his palm to his head.
“No need for language, bruv!” said Brother Jeffery. He raised a fist and knocked on the door.
After too long, it was opened by Brother Fingers.
“What in God’s name are you doing out here?” he asked.
“Wotcha! Wanna learn about Jesus?” asked Brother Jeffery.
“Hilarious.” said Brother Fingers.
“Serious blud, we gots all sorts of lit-rer-sher and everyfin’.”
“Get inside already, it’s pissing down out there,” said Brother Fingers, as Brother Geoffrey and Brother Jeffery splashed, sopped and plodded their way inside.
“Actually…” began Brother Geoffrey.
“AHA! Here you all are!” boomed a voice.
The three monks turned as one man to see the big cheese, Abbott Costello staring at them from the hallway. Abbott Costello was an interesting one. He’d spent all of his younger days in the military before retiring to the police force. One day it had occurred to him, after years of heavy smoking and drinking, that he hadn’t died yet, so he decided to repent for all his sins in an all-in last minute atonement by annexing the nearest holy building and taking charge. He still hadn’t gotten rid of some old habits though, he just kept the nuns in a separate building.
“Sir, yes sir!” shouted Brother Fingers. Brother Geoffrey saluted.
“Sup sir.” said Brother Jeffery.
“If you ‘orrible little maggots would be so kind as to join the rest of us in the Great Chamber, maybe we could begin? Double time, ladies! Hup hup hup hup”, he shouted, jogging away. He almost reached the doorway before falling over his robe.
Hastily, the three monks followed, finding themselves in the familiar lengthy nature of the Great Chamber. The Chamber itself was apparently the oldest part of the Abbey, originally built by ancient druids (they came forth from the womb with the biggest and whitest of beards) in order to summon the spirits of the dead, the animals and “some o’ tha harder stuff”. It was vast and very long, somewhat like a football pitch, with ornate decorations carved into the stones covering the walls, floor and ceiling. It was dully lit by candle, concealing the faces of their fellow monks in the white robes, with their hoods pulled over their faces. They saw the Abbot limp to the centre of the room.
“Right then worms,” began Abbott Costello encouragingly, “do we all know why we’re here?”
Brother Geoffrey raised a tentative hand.
“You, Twinkle-toes!” barked the Abbott.
“Because God brought us here to assist in educating the men, women and children of this accursed land, in order to cleanse any satanic…”
“Shut it, nerd!” shrieked the Abbott.
“Do we know why he walks backwards, scraping his soles, when he mentions children?” Brother Fingers discreetly asked Brother Jeffery. There wasn’t time for a response.
“I meant this room, fool,” said the Abbott, “No. We are here today because we’re going to try something new.”
He paused for effect, allowing for several obligated “oohs” and “ahs”.
“We are going,” said Abbott Costello, “to summon a holy being.”
“Y’wot sir?” said Brother Jeffery.
“An angel!” barked Abbott Costello, “or someone to that effect. Thought with the way the world is it would boost morale, so to speak.”
“But I fort we needed one of them fings sir,” Brother Jeffery shuffled awkwardly. “Y’know, to summon otherlandly stuff.”
“What the hell are you dithering about, man?” said the Abbott.
“I fort we needed to have a sacrifice, sir. A uh…” he flushed, “a gherkin.”
“Why on God’s earth would we sacrifice a gherkin?”
“Tradition innit,” Brother Jeffery fumbled, “Gotta offer up one of them unmarried nice young-lady people. They must be a gherkin.”
The ensuing silence was eternal.
“Do you by any chance mean ‘Virgin’, brother?” asked the Abbott, finally.
“S’pose I do, sir.” He paused and thought about this for a moment.
“Todays lunch menu makes a lot more sense now, sir.” he concluded.
“If you are quite finished,” said Abbott Costello irritably, “we only have two prerequisites for summoning an angel. According to the sacred text, we must have the order of ten monks assemble the correct formation and recite the appropriate words. Gather round, men!”
Somebody coughed, awkwardly.
“What is it now?” moaned Abbott Costello.
“There aren’t enough of us, sir,” said one of the monks, timidly, as if just by opening his mouth he was taking personal responsibility.
“What in blazes do you mean, priv-Brother? I did a head count just the other day!” shouted Abbott Costello.
“It’s Brother Popsicle. He’s not here sir, on account of his trouble.”
“Why was I not informed of this earlier?” spluttered the Abbott.
“With all due respect, sir, we did,” the monk gulped, “the lads had a bit of a whip-round to buy him some flowers or grapes or something, and we asked for your contribution, sir.”
“I don’t remember this at all, Brother!” said the Abbott.
“Well, no, you were awfully drunk at the time, sir,” said the monk, “but you did give us some money for biscuits.”
What is wrong with me? thought the Abbott, spending time with these buffoons is driving me insane. If I bloody well know these men as well as I think I do, I know this insubordinate is about to try and make me feel better.
“Brother Popsicle said they were delicious, sir.”
“Did he now?” snarled the Abbott. “Regardless men, wartime spirit, a concession must be made! I was intending to stand out to coordinate, but I shall wade into the fray so to speak! All fall in!”
The monks and the Abbott co-ordinated themselves into four lines. Four at the back, three before them, two before them, and the Abbott up front.
“This will have to do,” shrugged the Abbott. “Now men, I want you to repeat these sacred words after me. ‘Through it all, they offer us protection.'”
“Through it all, they offer us protection,” chorused the monks.
“A lot of love and affection,” continued the Abbott.
“A lot of love and affection,” echoed the monks.
“Whether we’re right or wrong.” finished the Abbott.
“Whether we’re right or wrong.”
“-wrong,” said Brother Jeffery, because there’s always one.
At first, nothing seemed to happen. After a while, nothing continued to happen. Finally, nothing happened.
“Well, that was shi-” began Brother Fingers.
The blowback from the explosion caught everybody at once. It started as a ball of oddly black light, which in a second shrank to a pea and then expanded out again, sending a vast, deafening and blinding shockwave through the room and sending them all flying at speeds reached only by politicians running from an expenses scandal.
Groaning irritably, the assembled brethren gradually struggled to their feet. The ball was fading as fast as it had come, however, it was not quite done yet. As it faded away, laughter, accompanied by the word “Strike!” could be heard.
It is said that the gods play games with humanity, who knew that it was quite so literal?