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H. Paul Lillebo
No one can remember the last time there was a trial here. The notion of crime just hadn't existed before this arrogant troublemaker tried to place himself above the Master's Will. But he'll get his comeuppance. The Great One isn't likely to pardon his misdeeds. No one has wanted to miss this, and everyone is here. It's not easy to see from here in the back, but ... Shh. The gong sounds. He is about to speak.
"Read the charge!"His awesome voice cracks across the multitude with deliberate and insistent power, like a deafening thunder roll, yet seeming to arise from within each listener. The clerk, white-robed like everyone here – of sub-Arch rank, to judge from his robe's silver edging – recovers and reads:
"O King of kings, the accused is charged with wantonly and maliciously violating Your Will, by misusing his authority and permitting a unit to deteriorate irreversibly while in his care."
"Counsellor, your client has been charged with our only crime: Disobedience. What is his plea?"
"Not guilty, Your Worship."
Defense counsel is of Arch rank; this case is clearly of the greatest importance. He is new in his role, and speaks softly, his wings folded modestly behind his back.
"Counsellor, the facts in this case are beyond dispute. What will be your defense?""Your Glory, my client claims to have been, only partly through his own fault, rather unprepared to take on the assigned task. The unit in question got off to a bad start. It's true that personal weaknesses of my client intruded. But his more recent units have all done well. Were it not for this one blot on his record, which we admit to, his reputation would be unsullied."
"I will change the plea to 'GUILTY', and hear your mitigation. Prosecutor, proceed.""Defendant, take the dock of the accused!"
An aged, bearded creature, yet tall and proud (and, to tell the truth, not so old compared to the ancients surrounding him) is led to the dock, centered before the bench and enclosed by a low railing. There is no chair. His look is almost defiant, yet his hands are trembling, as he stands facing the Great Judge.
"State your name and title."
The prosecutor, also of Arch rank, looks more at ease in his role than the defense counsel. His approach will apparently be aggressive.
"Jehovah, Sir. Known as Lord of Hosts."
Icy silence flushes the aeolian court. The Supreme Judge regards the shocked assembled peerage with a cool eye: the panel of Gods, the endless multitude of subgods and hierarchy. The awesome eye focuses on the accused with a searing stare. The defendant's patchwork robe of pride and pretense visibly melts away, as Jehovah stands naked before his Lord. The Master's voice is menacing.
"I am the Lord of Hosts! It appears ... Jehovah ... that you think highly of yourself. Bad starts seem to be a habit with you. I see here that you are a rank five subgod in Sector 17,428, twice passed over for promotion to rank four?"
"Yes, Your Grace."
The response is barely audible.
"Little cause for pride! Prosecutor, your first witness."
"Will the plaintiff proceed to the witness box."
Something is causing an uproar near the front. Actually a whispered stirring, which amounts to the same here. It's the color! Red! He's wearing red ... Sibilant voices repeat it by the millions: the color of evil, outlawed here since the first fall – the divine schism beyond time – which is never spoken of. He has been given a gray robe to cover himself, but the offensive hue barks from the edges, jangling against the heavenly serenity of white, gold, silver and blue. Even the prosecutor averts his eyes.
"State your name and title."
"Lucifer, sir. Erstwhile unit archangel, demoted and exiled by the accused. Recently Prince of the Air and Master of Hades."
"Well, Mr.Lucifer. (Cover that color, please. Thank you.) Now, what does a Prince of the Air do?"
"I compete for men's souls, sir."
"Please be more clear. These terms aren't generally known."
"Well, 'men' are like tiny, witless subgods. A little lower than the angels. Jehovah made them to worship him. They look like him, a little. We say they have 'souls'. It's something he threw in. It's just a convenient way to keep score. I'm ahead, right now."
"We'll get back to that, Mr.Lucifer, but first – were you and the accused not aware that creating beings for servitude violates The Will?"
"Of course we were aware of it. But don't look at me. I had been in Hades a few billion years – not a bad place, and I had a good group with me – when he calls one day and tells me about his little subdeities. I admit I didn't try to talk him out of it. I figure, it's his head on the block. So he challenges me to a game. The only rule is: No touching. Beyond that, anything goes. I'm supposed to convince his little creatures to worship me, and he likewise. So I ask the obvious question: What on Earth will make them want to worship either of us? That's when he tells me about the 'soul'. He'd thought of everything. He says, there'd be no point to it if they won't worship! So that's what the soul does. It actually makes them want to serve somebody. It's brilliant."
"Strikes me as crass. So what do you do with these 'men' when you get them?"
"I don't know what he does with his. He wants me to put mine in fire. Everlasting fire."
"You kill them ...?"
"Actually not. He wants me to keep them alive in the fire. I don't like it personally, but what can I do? He made the rules."
Ten thousand empyreal eyes transfix the accused. Divine, all-comprehending eyes, yet not grasping this. Evil on this scale by a subgod has never been known here. A thunderclap from the First Cause halts the dialogue:
"Enough, Lucifer! Prosecutor, examine the accused."The millions of eyes turn again to the accused in the dock. From back here he doesn't look as tall as before. Nor as proud, as the prosecutor stares him down.
"Mr.Jehovah, we want to treat you fairly, which is more than can be said for your treatment of your 'men'. You see here several million affidavits from your disgusted associates, attesting to megalomania, sadism, and incompetence. I will read you the specifics, as much as the Creator will hear, and will expect your response to them. But first, let's establish that you are in possession of normal subgod capacities. Do you have in working order, within the limits of your Sector, normal omniscience, including prescience?"
"And your omnipotence and omnipresence are healthy?"
"They seem OK, Sir."
"Good. At least the foul-up is not on this end. So: We've determined that, whatever events may have occurred in your Sector, and in particular on the body called Earth, and involving your 'men', they were known to you both before and after the fact. You were in fact present, looking on, and had the power to cause or to prevent any occurrence whatsoever in your Sector. Since you had both power and authority to direct events, you and you alone are in fact responsible for those events. Is this clear to you?"
"Uh, I'd like to consult with my attorney ..."
Wings a-flurry, the defense counsel transports himself to the dock.
"Yes, please, my client ... Your Highness, if I may, my client was under the distinct impression, at the time, that he was to allow for free will on the part of his creations. He in effect wished to yield to them part of the responsibility for running their own affairs."
"No God of mine has been granted approval to yield responsibility, counsellor! Prosecutor, continue."(Good try, counsellor. Clutching the railing against the divine blast, he appears finished, in every sense.)
"Now, Mr.Jehovah," the prosecutor continues, "The particulars of the charges. Point number one: That you created man, implanted in him free will, and then wilfully doomed him to perdition with impossible demands for adulation and unreasonable obedience. That you knew full well, both in the initial test in Eden and on the countless other occasions when you have pathetically demanded total obedience to illogical and raving orders, that you had in fact created quasi-rational beings who could not possibly satisfy your demands. That you held them responsible for what was a malicious, intentional design flaw on your part. One of your associates attributes this to a morbid sense of humor. What have you to say?"
"I'm sorry. I was very young; it was my first moral creation. I guess I just didn't recognize the contradiction."
"I'm sure you didn't. But I think we'll find the reason is that you yourself were a moral reprobate, unable to keep order even in your own Heaven, much less on Earth."
As the crowd murmurs, the accused stares blankly at his toes, scratching against the gold floor, his hands covering his nakedness. He is beginning to appear repentant.
"Point two: Your continual, but unpredictable, demands for worship, and your jealous and bloodthirsty revenge on those who did not satisfy your petty needs, is not only unprecedented among subgods, but has caused more direct misery to your creations than anything they have done to themselves. Cases in point: You intentionally willed the first murder by refusing Cain's thoroughly adequate sacrifice, which you had demanded of him in the first place. Do you deny being the direct cause of murder on the Earth?"
"Well, no, but ... so what? I needed crime, to give Lucifer a fair chance. They were just 'men'. How is this important?"
"We agree they're unimportant. That's not the issue. Disobedience is. But to continue: You brutally and needlessly killed the entire population of the Earth with a flood, humans and animals alike, though their only crime was living the life you had predestined for them. When the citizens of Babel wanted to modernize their city, you responded – and this I want you to explain to me – by confounding their tongues in perpetuity, so they would be unable to communicate. What in the world would make a God, even a rank five subgod, do something like that?"
"I was angry ..."
"You were angry! ... Shall I go on, O Source? ... Yes, I'll be quick. We are all sickened. Mr.Jehovah, let me just remind you and the Court of the hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings in Egypt, Sodom, Gomorrah, Jericho, Ai, and all the other lands and cities which you devastated out of petulence; slaughtered with your infernal hailstones and fires, swords and plagues, locusts and other malevolent instruments. What had those poor people done to you? And how about those 185,000 Assyrians you sent an angel to kill while they were asleep? Real brave. You call yourself a God? And Lot's wife! Remember her? She looked this way when you wanted her to look that way. Now what did you do to her for that little faux pas? Do you remember?"
"I made her into a pillar of salt."
"Speak up. You can't be heard. You turned her into what??"
"Salt. A pillar of salt."
The masses of Gods shudder. They have come to the trial because it's something new – not much happens here – but who could have expected to be confronted with such a sadistic deviate? The very halls of Paradise have been sullied with the appearance of this pervert. It has become too much, even for the prosecutor. Wings shivering, he struggles unsuccessfully to maintain composure.
"Great. A Sector subgod – responsible for a substantial portion of a Universe – amusing himself with terroristic torture of his creation! You're sick, you know that?"
"Calm yourself, prosecutor!"
"My apologies, Almighty. It's just that I've never seen anything like this. We have countless millions of Gods; each one responsibly managing their Sectors and creations. Yet this one bad apple shames us all. My heart goes out to this fiend's unfortunate charges. They must be asking themselves how they got the short straw."
The accused, his head bent, is covering his eyes with his right hand. His left hand is at the groin, a reflex acquired from his creatures. Even from back here it's obvious that there's nothing there needing covering.
"Let's get this over with. Point three. This may be the sickest stunt of the lot. Tell me about this one: For thousands of years you have popped up all around the Earth, 'revealing' yourself to various segments of the human population, giving each of them conflicting versions of your 'truth'. I can't see that this is designed to do anything other than to get these unfortunate beings killing each other over you, while you sit back and enjoy it. Do you have some way of coloring these facts, Mr.Jehovah, to make them seem less pathological?"
"It was just part of my agreement with Lucifer."
"Part of the game?"
"It's not a game. It's rewards and punishment."
"I see. You mean for worshipping you, or disobeying you."
"Mostly that, yes."
"So, by this clever and morbid scheme, you've turned them into Protestant and Catholic, Jew and Muslim, Sunni and Shia, Hindu and Sikh, and you've made them hate each other, to make the game more interesting. Do you have any notion of how many millions of your poor creatures have been slain because of this sick little twist? Never mind; of course you know. You were there, enjoying every one of them. ... Your Glory, forgive me. I'm not holding up well, dealing with this kind of evil. Do we need the remaining points?"
"You may rest, prosecutor. You have done well, under the circumstances. You should know, Jehovah, that the most unforgivable offense remains."
The Voice drives the assembled masses to their knees. As if choreographed, the blanched crowd collapses in a radiating wave before the upcoming judgement.
"I can excuse moral turpitude, Jehovah. I made you, and I gave you free will; I expect you to use it. But I cannot forgive dereliction of duty. The fact is that for two thousand years you have paid no attention whatsoever to your Earth. Even your wicked meddling was preferable to abandoning ship.
"It's ... it's because I made new ones, and they took all my time. I wanted to get them right. By then I didn't like the first one very much."
"I have news for you, Jehovah. They don't like you very much either, any more. You fool. What do you think is happening to that master-less vessel you've left behind? Do you expect those little copies of you to steer it? I'm afraid the copies are too true. In your absence, they have spent the last two thousand years behaving like you. Jealously killing at every opportunity. You deserve each other; nevertheless, I will show mercy on them. There is little time. Between your dereliction and their unimaginable stupidity they're faltering on nearly every front. I shall send them a God who can unite them, who can undo your damage, who will put their human interests above his own. Approach the bench for judgement."
The accused begins his steps toward the bench. A force weighs him down; bends his shoulders, his back. On his knees now, he crawls, finally prone and immobile before his Maker and Judge.
"Jehovah, you are relieved of all divine duties. You have a long sentence ahead. You shall experience the fate of your subjects. You will become a man, the kind of man you have created for your amusement: a man suffering for your sake. You will be a mindless believer in a world past believing. You will call on 'Jehovah' and will believe you hear his voice. You will become a radio evangelist and learn the meaning of ignominy. You will rant and men will smile. You will sin and men will laugh. And Lucifer shall not wait long for your soul."
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© H.Paul Lillebo 1988