Sketches based on art by Bethany Murray, Alan Carlyon Smith, Alban Low.
Available at http://collectconnect.blogspot.co.uk/
He wandered the earth for a few weeks after The Great Comeback. He met up with old mates, his parents, his disciples. Well, eleven of them, anyway. Everyone who met him felt calmer, surer. Everyone felt a little less angry. He seemed, for a while, like a bit of a force for good. A mate of mine - a PA to Pontius Pilate - said even The Prefect spoke well of him.
We weren’t all so impressed though. Some of us wondered why he didn’t do more. He could have done anything he wanted - anything. He could’ve made a real difference. But no. He had A Cunning Plan, apparently. And one afternoon - forty days after - he gathered a few of us together on a hill and we watched him Ascend. Just like that. That grief-stricken night, he called me and I followed him Upstairs: what else could I do? I was a little flattered, to be honest. And a little scared. And a little ecstatic. He was so, so lonely. Always had been. I think the sharp, dark anomie he’d always carried with him like a sack of rocks finally got to him. What do you do after you’re Resurrected? After you’ve made your point? After you’ve made The Point? I knew what I’d done, what we’d all done. That too helped me make the decision to join him.
Time nodded past us. Years, decades, centuries. We sat, the two of us, in his father’s place and talked and sang and watched what was happening down there and reminisced. I apologised. I apologised so much.
Together, we watched acts of kindness, of sweetness. We watched The Inquisition. We watched games of Scrabble and stand-up comedy. We watched The Holocaust. We watched love-making and cheese-eating. We watched The Trump War. And then, one day - October, 2035 - He announced he was going to go back. He asked me if I wanted to go with him. But it felt wrong. ‘I’d rather not,’ I said.
I watched him. I watched him Descend and announce Himself. Some laughed when they met him. After a week or so wandering, chatting and sunbathing in The Secular State Of Israel, he took The SpaceHopper, for some reason, to The Free And Proud Kingdom Of England (c) (TM). And people there told him to go back to where he came from.
And then he went to Greater Russia - to Moscow and to Krakow and to Ljubljana - and to the Beneath-The-Wall Southern States - to Texas and to Louisiana and to Mexico. He spoke to people, performed miracles, started delivering speeches, sermons - in ShopMalls, on the MindWeb and in Insert.
I think I saw what was happening before he did. They were interpreting. They were twisting. They were skewing his words. All dully predictable, of course. They started to wrench his words to fit their ideas, their hates, their desires. Some said He was the reincarnation of The Great Boris. Some that he was the new Martin Luther King. A group in France said that he was Johnny Hallyday.
He stuck with the stuff that had always (sort of) worked: be kind, be nice. But I watched him getting older, tireder. He did a lot of bathing of sinners, men and women, boys and girls, and he was soon ‘exposed’ as a sex pest (#Christperv). They started a campaign to have him banned from universities.
I wondered for a while if I should - if I could - go Downstairs and help. But I knew that what was happening was all part - consciously or unconsciously - of his plan. One night - after an expose on BBC MindWeb’s ‘CrushACeleb’- he spoke to me from a motel room in Carolina. ‘Too much. Time to die,’ was all he said. In Aramaic. And I watched him open a bottle of whiskey and I watched him open a bottle of pills and I watched him die a second human death and I watched them bury him, bury him as one of them. I cried. I cried for days.
There was no Ascension this time. I gradually realised he knew all of this would happen, knew the message this time would be so much more powerful without the party tricks. And I decided then: I needed to go down there. I knew what I had to do.
I think you do too.
We look back to freedom
And the short years
Of sweet balance.
We leap back to the mornings
We censored nothing
And consent was not funny.
We once walked into minds
Which caressed bodies
With all the hope we had.
Sex. Is it possible to fuck without either love or abuse? For years we clung hopelessly to nuance and to complexity and to the kisses of uncertainty. Now we reminisce endlessly about the clothes we wore and the tingles we felt and the laughing and the larking and the love we exchanged before they occupied us from left and from right, filled us with twittering hate and a million selves defined by pitch-forked opposition. Now we yield to the self-theft of freedom from desire and to the absence of bridges that once took us from man to woman and back again.
Once upon a time there was a difference between acceptance and approval.
It started with The Burning Of The Tower. A new way of being seemed possible. They told us they were sorry. Many of them meant it. They told us, ‘Change Will Happen’.
Our external world had always been Kindness v Money. And Money had always won. Because within each of us the battle is between Need and Desire. And Desire had always won. Night is always stronger than Day. Or was.
After The Burning Of The Tower, for a while we were breathing loud and wheezy, but we were breathing with possibility.
They tried at first to close the gaps, patch up the wounds, cover our mouths, fill the lung-holes with bullshit and Strictly and post-post-truth and my-identity-is-more-important-than-yours and splitting and spitting and hate.
Yet they could never fool us completely. And as we began to learn how to ignore them, we began to rebuild. First, the government went. Then all governments went. Then we set about looking at our darknesses, holding them out to others, holding them *for* others. The cladding was stripped away. We could be who we were, hiding neither our black nor our white.
Soon, we were raw and hurt and joyous and unbound. Many died. A God came, a Saviour. Then another and another. Some fell under their spell. But others - the majority - started to regain their curiosity, their love of truth, their open-aired doubt, their willingness to say, ‘I don’t know.’
Corporations began to slice themselves into small pieces, to turn towards communities, to sink themselves gently back into the people. And the people were happy. Most of them. Or - rather - most people were accepting, more whole, more aware, no longer striving for happiness or avoidant of pain. The new century, we agreed, would be a great one.
And then - in 2101 - came The Second Burning Of The Tower.