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Tales from the back of the eyelids

Religion

I was lying in bed when I received a message from God. Two messengers brought it to me: they were small and had ugly goblin-like faces. There was no doubt, however, that they were from God. As I listened to them, I knew I was hearing the word of God with a certainty I had never experienced before. They spoke a truth that was absolute: purer than any sensation; greater than any science.

My task, I was told, was to destroy the world. What a terrible task to be given! I was very upset about it. Why destroy something as magnificent and miraculous as our blue and green planet? If the Earth is a unique corner of creation, then to destroy it would surely be a crime against the universe. Even if it isn't unique, our annililation would mean that all our efforts and goals would disappear in one great bang and none of us would ever know why we had been here and what the point of it all had been. What reason God could have for wanting to accomplish this terrible deed was beyond me. Why He wanted me in particular to carry it out was another mystery. Why me, when there are lots of far more violent people in the world? But who was I to argue against God? God's will is God's will - inviolable, irrefutable - and I, unfortunately, had been chosen to enact it. God may be off His rocker; nevertheless, I, a mere vassal, have no option but to obey.

The first thing to be done was to steal the bomb. Divine omniscience told my intuition that it was kept in a heavily guarded complex of concrete buildings on the outskirts of Prague. I drove up to the perimeter wall and parked near to the entrance where at the barrier two white-helmeted guards were standing, holding submachine guns across their chests. I told them I had an appointment with General Sykorský. One of them beckoned me to go with him to the adjacent guards' office and I followed him. As he picked up the phone I shot him in the side of his head with my revolver which had a silencer. I crouched over his dead body; his face was now fixed with wide-open eyes, as if staring in astonishment. I undressed him, put his uniform on over my clothes, dragged him across the floor and slumped him up against the wall. I then sat on the floor near him, under the window and waited patiently, revolver in hand.

A short time later the door opened as I had expected. The second guard had come to see what had been taking his colleague so long. I shot him in the chest and he crashed to the ground without even a gasp or a groan. I pulled his body into the room, straightened out my uniform, put on the white helmet and sauntered out into the compound, closing the door behind me.

I went into the nearest building and found myself in a maze of long neon-lit corridors. Nevertheless, I knew instinctively which way to go and turned either left or right with confidence. Finally I came to some double doors with guards standing at each side. I saluted and entered unchallenged. I found myself in a huge hall. In the middle of the room was the bomb. It was held in a small stainless steel cylinder, which was suspended in the hollow of a metre-wide concave mirror which was itself part of a large metal structure with several mechanical arms jutting out. Compared to all the effort to get this far, stealing the bomb was easy. All I did was to shoot a guard who was standing by the metal structure, grab the cylinder and rush out of the double doors, not forgetting to kill the two guards standing on the other side of it.

The resulting confusion was similar to what happens when an ants' nest is disturbed. Soldiers with guns* appeared as if from nowhere and began swarming all over the place, to confront the intruder but without any idea of who he was and where they were supposed to be running to. I was protected by the local pheramone - the uniform - and ran unnoticed amongst the soldiers, with the steel cylinder concealed under my jacket. Breaking off from a group, I ran down down a side corridor and from there took a door to the open. I found myself in a secluded blind alley next to the perimeter wall. I found a foothold and clambered up. I negotiated the barbed wire on the top and dropped down to the other side.

Almost casually, but with an awareness sharpened with adrenaline, I made my way along the wall to where my car was parked. A shout went up as I started the motor and shots were fired from the compound. I screeched off and was immediately pusued by a car which hurtled out of the entrance. We swerved, one tightly after the other, in bends of narrow country lanes, looking as if we were playing a computer-simulated car chase. Hedges and high banks swirled past on my sides and above my head tree branches fused into one blurry mass. Shots hit my back window. The car behind me alternately appeared and disappeared from view. At a junction, at the last possible moment, I swung the steering wheel sharply to the left. The car behind me, however, didn't make it and spun out of control, went off the road, flipped over after hitting the ditch, continued rolling and slammed into a tree.

I stopped and walked over to the upturned car. When I opened the door, two government agents in dark suits flopped out, mangled, covered in blood. They were dead.

The cellar of my house is connected to an underground network of tunnels, which lead, if you follow them in one direction, to a deep hole in the ground. This hole, which is not much wider than a stainless steel cylinder, although much longer, is the open end of a geological fault line which stretches to the centre of the Earth. An explosion at this point, if sufficiently large, would cause the Earth to rupture. The consequence of this is that energy pent up in the core would be released, blasting the globe apart. The smithereens would fly out into space in all directions. The event would be like the big bang, only less powerful. If you have ever sawed into a golfball held tightly in a vice, you will have an idea of what I mean.

Down in these tunnels, beside the fault line, I carefully lifted the bomb out of its cylindrical container. I set the timer on the top for three hours hence and dropped the bomb back into the cylinder. After screwing the lid back on, I lowered the bomb down into the hole on a wire.

"Time to go for a walk," I told myself and got ready to set off. Only, irritatingly, as I was leaving I saw a government agent climbing over my garden wall. I shot him dead and he tumbled down onto my lawn. I left him there without even slightly tidying up, because I was in a hurry - I wanted to see Prague's Old Town for the last time.

I was strolling on Náměstí Republiky, walking from Na Poříčí towards Obecní dům (a beautiful Art Noveau building, if you don't know it) with St.Josef's church on my right, when the two goblins appeared in the air before me. They were sitting on a cloud which was hovering just above the church wall, where there is a shrine in an alcove. This time, though, God was with them. He sat between them, but He was larger than they were and was floating slightly above them. There was no question in my mind. I just knew: this was God, full stop. He was radiant.

God told me He had changed His mind. He no longer wanted me to destroy the world. I was to return home and stop the bomb. As before there was no doubt: the truth was absolute and I had to enact His will.

Back at home I pulled the cylinder out of the hole. There was no sweat: I had plenty of time. I knew I had to obey God. But God had not said exactly when I should deactivate the bomb. I unscrewed the lid on the cylinder, reset the clock and let it run again towards exploding time. The bomb now was due to explode in a couple of minutes. I lowered the bomb back into the hole. Humming tunelessly to myself, I let the timer run on. Ten seconds to go to explosion. Nine, eight....I pulled the cylinder out of the hole again, took off the lid and pushed the button on the top of the bomb. The clock stopped. One second to go. The world had been saved.

* This detail, however, is not like an ant's nest. Ants do not carry guns.

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