“In the beginning God created the world,” Julian said, “and set it turning; and let events transpire without much in the way of personal intervention. He stage-managed a few tribal disputes, and arranged a misguided Flood that cost many lives and solved very few problems; but in the end He decided the human race was too corrupt to be salvaged, and too pathetic to destroy, and so He stopped tinkering with it, and left it alone.
“But humanity, on the whole, was conscious of its fallen condition, and went on petitioning God for unearned gifts or the redress of grievances. All this badgering, in God’s eyes, amounted to a lament for lost innocence—a nostalgia for the abandoned paradise that was Eden. ‘Make us innocent again,’ humanity cried out, ‘or at least send innocence among us, to serve as an example.’
“God was skeptical. ‘You wouldn’t recognize Innocence if it handed you a calling card,’ He said to humanity, ‘and Goodness exceeds your grasp with the regularity of clockwork. Look for these things where you find them, and leave Me alone.’
“But the prayers never ceased, and God couldn’t indefinitely ignore all that grief and lamentation, which lapped at the walls of Heaven like a noxious tide. ‘All right,’ He said at last, ‘I’ve heard your noise, and I’ll give you what you want.’ So He fathered a child by a virgin—in fact a married virgin, for God was fond of miracles, and for a woman to be simultaneously a wife, a virgin, and a mother seemed like a miracle with compound interest accrued. And so in the fullness of time a child was born—innocent, bereft of sin, invulnerable to temptation, and good-hearted down to the very marrow of him. ‘Make of him what you will,’ God said grimly, and stood back with His arms folded.”
(I tried to evaluate Calyxa’s reaction to these blasphemies. She kept her face motionless, but her eyes were attentive and unblinking. The rain came down stiffly, and the wheels of passing carts made a muted sound in the dusk.)
“A quarter-century or so went by,” Julian continued. “And eventually that child of God was returned to his Creator—scorned, insulted, beaten, humiliated, and finally nailed to a splintery cross and suspended in the Galilean sunshine until he died of his wounds both physical and spiritual.
“God received this much-abused gift by return mail, as it were, and He was ferociously scornful, and said to humanity, ‘See what you do with Innocence? See what you make of Love and Goodwill when it looks you in the eye?’ And so saying He turned His back on Mankind, and determined never to speak to the human race again, or have any other dealings with it.
“And even this,” Julian said, “might have been a useful lesson, taken as such; but Man misunderstood his own chastening, and imagined that his sins had been forgiven, and put up effigies of the tortured demigod and the instrument on which he had been broken, and marked the event every Easter with a church ser vice and a colorful hat. And as God made Himself deaf to Man, so Man became deaf to God; and our prayers languished in the dead air of our cavernous churches, and do so to this day.”
Robert Charles Wilson, Julian Comstock