Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Raven’s Unction

by Art Bupkis

Naarah and her mother started the journey south with the others after they ate their last goats, but it wasn’t long before they fell behind. The two stragglers took water from a muddy well, and the mother died of dysentery. Naarah escaped that illness, but was now traveling alone, and near death from starvation. 

Night approached. A small mud-brick church appeared in the distance. A church offered special promise of protection for Naarah. The girl’s family had converted to Christianity when she was four. Naarah had nearly died of measles then, but lived after the family called on Christ at the suggestion of a friend. She pushed to make the building before dark.

When she arrived at the church, Naarah saw that fire had gutted it. All that was left of the roof were rows of blackened beams. With the last of her strength she pushed the heavy twin doors open. There was little inside but ashes, and certainly no food. Still, she decided to sleep there with the doors shut against the creatures of the night. 

Naarah collapsed on the hard dirt floor next to the white stone altar. Gazing up through the dying light of eve she could barely make out the silhouettes of a raven being pursued by a mob of crows. She tried to sleep as the night cold of the desert plain settled upon her.

‘Are you in need child?’ a voice asked.

Naarah shook her head, but still the image of a large raven persisted on top of the altar.

‘Yes, Father,’ she whispered. ‘I am without family or friend, and am about to die of starvation.’

The raven looked the girl over carefully.

‘I can lead all my flock from this place of death to lands of ample water and rich harvests, but first you, child, must pray for salvation.’

With the raven’s words Naarah felt desperate pains of guilt, for she had cursed God at the time of the villagers’ flight. But she also felt hope, for she was ready to repent and be saved.

‘As penance you have but to pray through the night,’ reassured the raven. ‘Just as Jesus prayed in the garden before his time of glorious sacrifice and triumph, so too can you ensure life through this simple act of reverence.’

Naarah knelt by the white stone altar. Eyes fixed on the raven, she chanted her prayer in the moonlight.

 

‘Savior in darkness, Father of Light,

Whose Son before torture did pray like me,

Keep safe my spirit, by Your great might.

The new land of plenty, grant we may see…’

 

The raven listened approvingly, cocking his head first left, then right.

Hours later, when the first light of the rising sun poured over the white stone altar, it glistened off the feathers of an ancient raven and a small congregation of black carrion crows noisily celebrating the feast of Naarah’s corpse. They gorged themselves for days before heading south, as their provisions were secure within the church.

 

 Philosopher, poet, and small-time humorist, The Rt. Rev., Professor, Dr. Art Bupkis, is a literary ward of L. R. Baxter, a professor at the University of Florida.

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CLASSIFIED SECRET SERVICE REPORT ON MORAL/IMMORAL

by Thomas McColl

MORAL and IMMORAL are both vast organisations, operating in each country networks of spies and agents concerned solely with each other’s overthrow and destruction. Agents are everywhere – everyone’s involved – working undercover in every occupation, in every pub, in every household, on every street, watching, collating, reporting their information …

All that is known for sure about the two groups is that the one side will oppose whatever the other side supports. On both sides, secrecy is essential. Agents often do not even know which side they’re working for. Orders are given in the press through coded messages, and people only have to read and take them in to be recruited, often not knowing why it is they have become involved, or where it was they got their orders      from …

Double agents are numerous. It’s thought most members of IMMORAL still retain MORAL membership, and it’s not known how many members each organisation has. Once, it was believed that IMMORAL membership was almost universal within MORAL, but now it’s thought that MORAL has managed to infiltrate IMMORAL so effectively, if its own members were taken away there would be nothing left. It’s even been rumoured that the two organisations are simply one and the same …

Double agents are sometimes dealt with by a third organisation called AMORAL, that owes its allegiance to neither side, but works for both, and is currently supplying drugs into IMMORAL at their request in order to flush out the double agents and pretenders within its organisation. These noxious, mind-bending drugs, if taken by double agents, twist their minds so much, they render their reports incomprehensible, and now that drug use is compulsory within the ranks of IMMORAL, MORAL has found that its members who’ve infiltrated are not being driven out and back into its own camp as expected, but instead are taking drugs as often as possible to benefit from their pleasurable side effects, ignoring the warnings of possible brain damage, and giving IMMORAL more control than ever before, enabling it to infiltrate MORAL from within its own organisation, and at the same time, stem the flow of information that could be used to put a stop to it …

There is concern within IMMORAL that this latest success will make its membership almost redundant in its fight against MORAL, which instead is being won by AMORAL drugs, and making it seem more likely than ever before that the end of MORAL could mean the end of IMMORAL too. AMORAL though concedes that its agents also work for MORAL, using methods MORAL would not use, to combat the spread of drugs, and has agents too who work for neither side, sabotaging the efforts of both. It’s also thought that AMORAL is heavily infiltrated by both IMMORAL and MORAL, and would collapse if the two organisations they claim to use and work against suddenly ceased to exist …

Thomas McColl lives in East London and has had short stories published in Notes from the Underground, Ranfurly Review and Smoke. He recently came second in 4’33” Magazine’s 60 second story contest, and has completed a novel. His favourite bookshop is Quinto, on Charing Cross Road.

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