Clootie's CoverRobert James Tootell / Humor
Robert James Tootell
©2012 Robert James Tootell
All rights reserved
Published in 2012 by Robert James Tootell
The Golden Gates swung open and St. Peter and God walked out to see if anyone was there. White clouds lolled in the air, the stars of the heavens shone brilliantly as they always had, but there wasn't a soul to be seen.
'Tsk, tsk,' muttered God, shaking His head, 'what on Earth's happened?'
St. Peter looked at his notes.
'According to my calculations Number One, and not putting too fine a point on it, we're a couple of million heads short.'
God clapped His hands decisively. 'This is no good! Peter, you must go down and see what's going on.'
'Me?' Peter said, 'what would I do down there?'
'Observe! Find out why the flock are snubbing their Holy Father.' God kicked at a loose piece of cloud and thrust His hands into His pockets. 'Take a short nap and look what happens! All hell breaks out! You must be as quick as you can. Something is up down there! We'll decide what's to be done on your return. If my hunch is right, the sweet Fallen Angel himself is at the bottom of this. And Peter, it goes without saying, you must promise not to get involved, it's no longer the Golden Age on the third planet. Our old friend has perfected countless ways of trapping the good.'
He gazed at St. Peter with compassion and pride.
'Just to be on the safe side,' He added, 'leave your keys with me.'
God clapped His hands once. Immediately there was a blinding flash of light, a great flapping of wings, and St. Peter was gone.
Peter found himself sitting on a rock in a large field. Ominous red clouds, like monstrous beasts, swirled above him. An animal screamed in the distance. Down in the valley lay a small village, smoke rising from its chimneys.
He picked up his skirts and walked along the stony path towards the village. After a short while it struck Peter that there were no flowers in the fields, only thistles and weeds, and in the trees no birds sang. He stopped to take notes. The earth seemed dry and infertile. The closer he came to the village the more uneasy he felt. Bones were sticking out of the ground and deep scratches had scarred the trunks of old trees. His skin was bristling with goose-pimples. He came to an old sign. Daubed in an ancient script were the words, Clootie's Cover, All Welcome.
He arrived at the village and fell upon total devastation. The wooden houses were collapsed and defiled, the streets teemed with garbage. The town's chimneys emitted acrid smoke which bore strange fragments of matter - slithers of fabric that fluttered in the air.
'Dear Lord,' Peter muttered, 'what has happened here?' He was just about to take out his notepad when from behind him he heard the sound of screaming. He turned to see a young girl with long black hair running towards him, her arms flailing in the air.
'Please! Please!' she was wailing.
Peter stepped back in alarm.
'They want to kill me, oh you must help me!'
She ran up to him and he caught her in both arms. Peter heard the shouts and jeers of an angry mob. He froze in terror. What to do? The words 'don't get involved!' flashed through his mind. He shook himself to. No, he couldn't let her be killed! Picking up his skirts he took her by the hand and ran with her across the street into an old wooden shack. He bolted the door and stood in the doorway holding his chest, hardly able to take in what had happened. He glanced around at the walls and ceiling. Everything was smothered in black paint. At the back, a shutter was closed over a window. Strange symbols had been daubed on the wooden beams, apparently in gold. The girl was chattering like one possessed, digging long nails into his back.
'...you see, I refused to marry the old man of the village and now they want to punish me! He already has umpteen wives, not to mention his mistresses and slaves. Oh, it's horrible.'
She was trembling and sobbing. His gown became wet with her tears. Peter was overwhelmed with compassion.
'What's your name?' he asked.
Something stirred in the room. The old wooden shack itself seemed to groan. Lili stopped crying and laid her head on his chest.
'And what's yours?' she asked, stroking his arm.
'Peter,' he said in a small voice.
As she spoke a strange sensation swept through him. His heart started pumping wildly. He felt something was pulling him out of his body. He held on to the girl fearing he might fall. Outside a sinister darkness had descended over the village. The girl's bare feet were touching his, they were icy cold.
'Peter,' she whispered, looking deeply into his eyes, 'I must thank you...'
Just then, a blinding flash of light lit up the inside of the room. There was a wild fluttering of wings, a loud bang, and God Himself appeared before the two of them, coughing. The girl uttered a cry of surprise and fell faint in Peter's arms.
'Well well, that didn't take very long, did it?' God muttered, folding His arms. 'I can see already the spell of the Evil One is rampant here on Earth.' He sighed and looked round the walls.
'Dear me, what happened to good taste?'
The girl came to. Her eyes grew large and fearful. She stepped away from God.
'Don't worry,' Peter reassured her, 'it's not the old man - it's only God!'
But she carried on stepping back. Her face scowled and she turned away, burying her head in Peter's armpit. As they stood huddled together in the corner of the room, God narrowed His eyes at her and lifted a finger as if in thought - could it be?
Meanwhile the mob had gathered outside the building. Angry shouts were heard. Someone tried the handle. Then an eerie silence fell, and against the wooden door, three mighty knocks, followed by a chillingly dull thud.
'That is the knock of the Devil!' cried God, and the door burst open.