Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Great Hall Of Gloom

His Royal Lowness, Lord Everett Flyblown, sat restlessly in the Great Hall of Gloom, with its huge sable pillars and inky forecourt. In the thick, black darkness, he was almost invisible. Ima Slimebag stood uncertainly before him, barefoot on the frigid tiles. The gloom surrounded him like a dense, liquid fog. When he moved, he could almost feel it moving with him, so bleak and grim was the air.
It was a night waiting for a dawn that would never come. Not a single light was to be seen anywhere. Black dust covered everything and a black pall hung over all.
Lord Flyblown’s figure, once so glowing with glory, but now so tarnished and stained, blended with the ebony atmosphere. He drummed his metallic fingers with impatience on the arm of his imperial throne.[1]
Slimebag had spent so long in the enfolding tenebrosity that, like a bat in a cave, he could distinguish the objects around him, black as they were. His vision could penetrate the impenetrable. But in the murky gloom, Lord Flyblown’s facial expression was impossible to read, even for him.
‘So,’ began Lord Flyblown, ‘you claim to have had some success in counteracting the seditious activities of Enemy agents i-Plod and e-Pray. Tell me more.’
Slimebag’s blue-black skin sheened faintly like the carapace of a small lobster. He felt a shudder ripple through his skinny frame but it wasn’t from the cold.
‘I tracked them closely, Your Venomness, as you ordered me to do,’ answered Slimebag as confidently as he could.
‘Well, things were looking pretty promising  at the beginning, Your Despicableness. I am glad to report they failed miserably in their overseas mission trip. They had little opportunity to engage with the locals and made no significant contact with the underground movement.’
Slimebag lifted his shoulders, and looked up at Flyblown, his eyebrows raised, hoping for commendation for his efforts. He squinted, trying to read his master’s mood, but although he could readily distinguish his figure in the pervasive gloom, it was impossible.
‘Is that all?’ barked Lord Flyblown. ‘And you call that success? According to your report—and to information from other sources—i-Plod spoke at ten meetings of enemy slaves. And both he and e-Pray spent long periods of time in discussion with a significant number of international agents and were actually entertained and dined by senior Government officials.’
‘Well, yes, Your Lowness,’ mumbled Slimebag, suddenly grateful to be half-hidden in the darkness. ‘I do admit there were a couple of glitches. But on two occasions, when e-Pray addressed meetings, they were so interested in what she said that i-Plod was ignored. I thought that was gratifying. He is such a know-all. He is always trying to hold the floor. And I did distract them with some tourism and they had to endure below zero temperatures.’
‘Enough!’ Lord Flyblown interjected, his steely hands held high in mock astonishment. ‘I am awestruck by your achievement!’ He stood to his feet and took a step forward towards his young protege.
‘Maybe he’s going to pin a medal on me,’ thought Slimebag excitedly. ‘Wait till I tell Fishrot about that!’
Lord Flyblown stopped and gazed down at Slimebag. Then his eyes narrowed and there was menace in his voice. ‘Haven’t you worked out that the way to deal with human pride is to build it up, not break it down! Will you ever learn?’
Slimebag’s excitement vanished like a lizard under a rock. His eyes widened with fear. ‘And don’t you realize,’ hissed Lord Flyblown, ‘what would happen if people actually did believe that the Enemy’s story is true? What if they were convinced the Enemy really did love them so much that he sent his one and only Son to save them from our clutches?[2] What if millions of people were to start loving each other (ugh) and caring for each other with that soppy sentiment they call kindness? What if they came to think that love, integrity and forgiveness were more important than money or sex or power? The very thought of it is sickening.’
Long inured to the icy texture of the furniture, Lord Flyblown looked around grimly at the dismal, grimy walls and the arid, frozen floor. Those foolish humans imagined he ruled a kingdom of fire. He hated fire. Hated it even more than the pervasive chill of the sinister depths of the Abyss.[3]
He leaned forward, glaring at Slimebag. ‘I hope you fared better during the rest of the year,’ he remarked.
Slimebag wrung his hands together obsequiously and spoke rapidly. ‘Oh, yes, Your Degradedness, certainly,’ he sneered. ‘They both ran short of money.’
‘And you call that an achievement?’ blurted Lord Flyblown, savagely. ‘Do you really understand your job, Slimebag?’
‘Certainly, Your Mendacity,’ responded Ima Slimebag, quoting defiantly from his training manual.  ‘My most important task is to tempt humans and to lure them to sin.’[4]
‘Well, I do confess, Your Coldness, I didn’t do too well there. Plenty of small victories, of course, but little of major consequence to report.’ He went on anxiously, with the hint of a catch in his voice, ‘I mean, I try hard enough. I steer enticements right into i-Plod’s path; I do appeal to his pride; I apply stress to e-Pray in her work; I get them both over-tired—but… Well, I mean, that e-Pray, she can’t help herself, always giving things away and caring for people in need. And i-Plod, he is so naïve. Try getting him to do something dishonest. He doesn’t know how. And when they do get something wrong, they simply ask the Enemy to forgive them and—and—he actually does! I can’t believe it.’
‘Mm, they are an objectionable couple, I do agree. Nauseating.’ Lord Flybown paused. For a moment he almost sounded sympathetic. Suddenly he raised his voice. ‘But so what!’ He glowered at Slimebag. ‘What did you expect? Instant reversion?’
‘I—I—er—did get them too busy to pray sometimes!’ Slimebag urged eagerly, his skeletal toes scraping a pattern on the cold, dusty floor, like worm-tracks ‘And I did give them some health problems! Especially e-Pray. She’s a dangerous Enemy agent. I stopped her in her tracks.’
‘I’m afraid not, Your Scurillity.
‘And i-Plod?’ asked Lord Flyblown, more wishfully than hopefully.
‘Oh, him? Unhappily, Your Arrogance, he’s OK.’
‘If I am correctly informed, you egg-brained wimp, recently at some of his meetings people were infected by that pestilential Enemy Spirit. You thought they would just go away and forget everything as people at church usually do, but they wouldn’t leave. They spent hours calling on the Enemy, many in tears (in tears!) and others crying out as if they were in pain.  At other times they sang, they laughed, they celebrated, they stayed late.’
‘Well, I guess—‘
‘If you don’t tell me something good, Slimebag, I will have you grilled and toasted before the day is out!’
Slimebag trembled at the thought. He looked out through the twisted ebony pillars around him at the wide, waterless waste. Not a single tree, not another living creature, not the faintest cry of a bird nor the merest hint of song. All was bleak and barren, frozen and dry.[5] The thought of a fire filled him with dread.
‘I really did try to stop them,’ he blurted pitifully. ‘But they are so…so…fixated. I can’t seem to divert them, no matter what I do. I manage occasional slipups, I make them stumble, I even trip them over, but they just get up and get going again. They are incorrigible! They just do what the Enemy tells them to do.’[6] Slimebag hung his head. Then he had an idea. His face brightened and he looked up and said, ‘But, really, compared with most other Enemy agents, i-Plod and e-Pray have done hardly anything.’
‘And neither have you, you…you…miserable wretch!’ snarled Lord Flyblown. He stood to his feet, his large frame looming above Slimebag like a huge, black, walking stingray. ‘I’ll have more to say to you later.’  He stormed off leaving poor Slimebag alone and silent in the gloomy, desolate Hall.
He trembled and waited, slouched in the nausea of failure… Absently, he contemplated the faint shadows at his feet. Strangely, the configuration of the pillars had given them a rough Cross-shape.
He recalled the nonsense the Enemy agents blathered about the Cross. Total idiocy, of course. He snarled softly… But what if it were true? What if the Enemy actually had taken human form and died for humankind on a Roman Cross? The thought shocked him. What if that was the problem all along? That Enemy agents did what they did because they really believed He had given His own Son for them? That He had got rid of the cold darkness in their lives?[7] That they really were reborn? That the biblical story was not just another fable but actually a fact of history?
Nah! Of course not. It was impossible. It had to be, didn’t it? If it really was true, his whole existence was a mockery. But what if it was? Could it change even him?  Might it even make him good?
In panic, like a cockroach suddenly exposed to the light, he ran wildly from the Hall and fled into the vast, silent, lonely wasteland, terrified by the thought.
1549 words

[1] Jude 1:6, 13; Job 10:21-22; 24:17.
[2] John 3:16; Act 26:18.
[3] Nahum 3:17; Luke 8:31; Rev 9:11.
[4] Matt 4:1-11.
[5] Luke 11:24.
[6] Hebrews 12:1-3.
[7] John 8:12; Col 1:13.

Barry Chant

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Barry Chant is a regular speaker at church services, seminars, conferences and conventions. Hundreds of thousands of his books have been sold around the world. He has degrees in arts, theology and ministry, a diploma in education and a PhD in history. He was the co-founder and former president of Tabor College, Australia.

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