I got home a little after midnight, I guess. We’d had a tremendous night in the Village Hall, singing and laughing, and a chap I had recognised as the Head Teacher at the local junior school had dressed up as Santa and made a big performance of giving out Christmas presents to the folks from the old peoples’ home. Nothing sensible, really, or expensive - just jokey presents, silly things. I have to say, really, I had never laughed so much in all my life.
The Teacher, myself and two other fellows then went on to The Pennant Arms for a few drinks. I shouldn’t have been there, really. Seventeen years old is too young by law to be in a pub – but what the hell. I’d already done enough that night.
It turned out that these people, whom I had been taught all my life were Satanic and Evil, people who Great Uncle Jehovah had always declared to be “only fit for bird food” were just regular folks, just people, the same as me, and really good company, too. The Teacher, in particular, was a really nice guy - very funny to be around.
I let myself into the darkened house, and crept upstairs. My folks were sleeping.
I silently opened my bedroom door. I turned on the light.
Mum was sitting there, on the bed. She had been waiting.
“Duncan. We have been praying for you.”
“When did He leave?”
“Doesn’t matter. He’s always here, in a sense. You know, He knows everything? You can’t hide anything from Him.”
“Yeah. Well, makes it easier, doesn’t it? No point pretending.”
“Oh, Duncan!” She began to weep, quietly.
Well, things seemed to move pretty quickly after that. The following day, in the afternoon, I was visited by two of Great-Uncle Jehovah’s men. I was familiar with them, I’d known them since birth, practically – John Position-Holder and Mike Handler. They seemed keen on getting me to sign bits of paper, formally stating that I would no longer put in any voluntary hours working for Great-Uncle Jehovah.
“Look – it’s all unpaid work, anyway. Why do I need to sign these things?”
“Oh, it’s just a formality – keeping our records straight. Great Uncle Jehovah is a stickler for Order and Discipline, you know.”
“Alright, alright. And if I sign these, what then? Will you leave me alone?”
“Of course, of course. We are REASONABLE people, Duncan.” Said John. “ We are reasonable and peaceable people, just like Great Uncle Jehovah, as you know. So…just sign here, and we’ll be out of your hair.”
I picked up the pen. “And Mum and Dad?” I knew they were just behind the door, listening.
“Well, of course, They will never be able to speak to you again. Ever.”
“WHAT?” I could hear Mum start to cry in the hallway.
“Oh, and… uhmm…. Great Uncle Jehovah will want to kill you, of course.” Said Mike. “Ahhh… goes without saying, really” Great sobbing and wailing, now, from behind the door.
“Listen. Why don’t you blokes just leave?”
“Makes no difference, Duncan. We’ve heard enough.”
I knew well enough where He lived, although I’d never been there. A great big Stately Home in the English Countryside, set in thousands of acres. I’d seen pictures of it. It had always looked to me just like a big golf course, only with all these crazy smiling people standing around, offering heaped platters of fruit to each other. Well, them and all those tame lions.
It was quite famous, Great Uncle Jehovah’s place: it was called: Kingdom Hall. It was said that the entire Estate, with all its servants and drones and workers had a population of 144,000. I didn’t doubt it.
I had made my own way there, by bus, and then hitch-hiking; the final stretch on foot. I approached the main gates and looked through. There were all the crazies in National Dress, and there were all the lions. This was undoubtedly the right place.
The gates posed no problem at all. They opened as I approached, and in a second, I was in the grounds of Kingdom Hall.
I had decided there was no point in waiting for Him to come and get me. I might just as well go and face Him myself.
I followed the smoothly paved roadway up to the Main Residence. All along the way, the inmates, grinning inanely, offered me the most delicious-looking grapes, passion fruit, peaches and oranges. I saw the biggest bunch of bananas I had ever seen in my life – as big as a man. In the end, I succumbed and picked up the most rosy, juicy looking apple I had ever laid eyes on.
I bit down hard, and found myself a moment later retching in disgust. What the hell was it? Wax? Plaster? Paper Mache? Whatever it was, it was completely disgusting, phoney and totally uneatable. I spat the pieces on the ground.
“Jesus Christ!” I said “What was THAT? It was fuc-”
“Now then, Duncan! Let’s not go taking my name in vain, eh?”
I looked up to see Jesus approaching me, smiling all over his face.
“Look, Jesus. I have no quarrel with you. I always thought you were okay – I mean the stuff I heard about you, and everything. I really want to see The Big Boss.”
“Okay. Come with me.”
I looked at him a moment. “Alright. But what IS the deal with this fruit here?”
“Oh, Duncan. LOTS of things here are not really what they appear. Come on.”
“Through that door.” said Jesus. We were outside a door marked “Holy of Holies”
“What, Just me? None of this taking-through-you nonsense?”
He smiled a smile, and gestured me through.
I walked through, and left Jesus behind. I was shit-scared, walking through that door. The door closed behind me.
And there he was, Great Uncle Jehovah, same posture as before in His armchair. He was, just like before, staring out of the window.
“Uhh, … Hello Great Uncle Jehovah.”
“You think you’re so clever, don’t you?”
“Uhhm. I dunno. Cleverer than my folks, a little bit, maybe, but - ”
“Without me, Duncan, your life will mean nothing. Nothing. You’ll have no direction, no purpose, no guiding principle at all. You’ll drift aimlessly and without purpose. You will end up in a wretched sinful state. It is I – what I stand for – that gives your life shape and meaning. You can’t live without me.”
“No, that’s not true.”
“Oh, but Yes! What people need – and you are people, Duncan, don’t fool yourself - what people need are Limits. Confinements. Boundaries. People are small, Duncan, people need rules. I provide them. I AM Rules, Duncan, I am Order. I make life bearable to small people.” Now, for the first time he looked at me. “And you think you can do without me.” He smiled an assured smile.
“Join the Organisation, Duncan. You’ll love it. You can have Power, too. A measure, anyway. I’ll take care of you.” Another smile. Two in a day, against none in a previous lifetime.
Now, I guess, I must have got mad.
“People might be small! I might be small. My Mum and Dad might be small. We ALL might be small! deleted that!. People CAN be big. They only need to believe in themselves. They only need to believe that they can be big enough, and to have the confidence to grow! I don’t want your rules! I have HAD it with your rules, your suffocating, stifling, idiotic, petty, life-denying, stupid, controlling rules.deleted your rules!”
“ And deleted YOU, you miserable piece of shit!”
As I approached Him, he seemed to shrink, and for some reason, I wasn’t even surprised at this.
I moved in on him. I didn’t even know what I was going to do. Shake Him? Hit Him?
It never got to that.
He shrank away as I approached. He shrank to nothing. He WAS nothing. There was no-one there. Just me. Great Uncle Jehovah was gone.
I was in a closed room. Alone.
I stood there and thought about this a moment. Quite what did this mean for Kingdom Hall, for the whole Estate? What had I done? Would any of it still be there when I went back out through that door? Would the fruit-bearing crazies be there? The lions? Jesus?
I had absolutely no idea.
I smiled, and shrugged, pushed the door and went out.