The Belief
Murray Evans

 

A cool, gentle breeze drifted in through the half open window, bringing with it the smell of chimney smoke. As she lay on her bed she imagined all her friends and neighbours gathered round their fires with bright happy smiles and rosy red cheeks. She saw them with loved ones, hugging and kissing, always smiling, always happy, always laughing. She saw herself in a snow filled square surrounded by all these happy people, and she would be alone, tired and helpless, cowering against a wall of vicious happiness.

She shivered as the cold air found its way under her clothes. Sitting up to close the window she stared at her gloomy and tired reflection. It depressed her farther. She shook her head at the world in general and watched a couple of boys kicking a football against a wall, both annoyingly happy. She watched one of her friends walking arm in arm down the road with her hunk of a boyfriend and jealously cursed her. Even when large flakes of snow began to drift gently to the ground she couldn’t see the beauty of life, and this was one of her happier moods.

She stood up and walked down the stairs and left the house, calling to her mother to inform her she was going out. She didn’t know what she was going to do, or where she was going to go. She was dithering around out of boredom, unable to commit herself to one thing or another.

She began to walk down the street in the direction her friend had gone with her boyfriend. As she walked along she began to think about herself, her boring life. She wished she was more like her friend, clever, outgoing and able to speak her mind to anyone without a hint of shyness or hesitation, even if she did get into trouble for it. She also wished she had a boyfriend like her friends, but after last time she no longer had the guts to even speak to a boy she liked, let alone ask him out, she felt that was the boy’s task anyway.

She trudged blindly along the pavement, lost in a personal world of thought and remorse. As she started to cross the street she didn’t even have time to hear the cars tires squeal on the tarmac.

 

She was in a dark alleyway. Alone. She started to walk along it, listening to her footsteps echoing behind her, as if she was being followed. She turned round just to check, then carried on. As she got closer and closer to the end of the long alley, it got farther and farther away. She felt like she was trying to catch a rainbow, a deep, black, shadowy rainbow.

There was a dark figure hunched up against the wall. She hadn’t noticed him before, and approached it. The figure lifted its head from its hands. She couldn’t tell whether the figure was male or female. She stooped down to look at it, and as she stooped it followed her with its eyes, deep, red eyes that seemed to do the inverse of glowing. She felt an intense burst of pain burn up her right side and all light vanished.

There was noise all around her. She was lying on her back in the middle of the road. She tried to stand up but her legs wouldn’t move. She looked around. There were lots of people around her, and none of them were smiling.

‘Lisa, listen to me Lisa. Can you hear me Lisa!?’

She looked up into a pair of dull blue eyes.

‘Lisa, can you move your fingers for me Lisa?’

Stupid man, of coarse I can move my fingers. She did so, but could feel no movement or change in the face of the people hovering over her. Brain sends signals, fingers move. Simple, but why’s it not working? Doesn’t matter, think I’ll just go back to sleep...

The red eyes continued their strange, reverse glow under the dark grey hood. She could see no face in the shadows.

‘Who are you?’ She whispered.

‘Who am I? Who are you? Who is anyone?’

‘Excuse me?’ She said almost sarcastically.

‘Friend or foe, must you know?’

‘Yes.’

‘Which would you prefer?’

‘Friend?’

‘If it makes you feel better.’

‘What do you want with me?’

‘The question is not so much what I want with you, but what you want with me. After all, we both exist in the same head. I am you, I am everyone. I am the deep black area of thought that the mind can rarely access. I am you.’

‘No, I’m me.’

‘Perhaps, but who are you?’

‘I’m Lisa Hope.’

‘Who are you?’

‘I’m Lisa! I’m Lisa! I’m me!’

‘Doctor, I think she’s awake.’ said a female voice near her. She looked around her with her eyes. She was in a small section of what she guessed was a much larger room; sectioned off with a curtain that wrapped its way all around her. A tall old balding man slipped in through the curtains.

‘Hello Lisa, good to see you awake at last. How are you feeling?’

Lisa glared at him as best she could.

‘Not speaking eh?’ He walked up to her. ‘Could you just wiggle your toes for me then? A ha, yes, very good, and your fingers? Good, good. I’ll just get your parents then.’

NOO!!! She tried to yell, but nothing came out. She tried again.

‘No.’ She managed in a faint whisper. The doctor turned around.

‘What was that?’

‘I think she just said no doctor.’ The nurse said.

I can answer for myself Miss. Nurse.

‘Well, perhaps we should just let her sleep some more.’

The eyes sucked in her view from beneath their hood.

‘Why not?’ The figure said.

‘Because I hate them.’

‘No, you love them.’

‘Oh really?’

The figure seemed to turn slightly, but didn’t appear to move.

‘That’s what you think. The conscious mind is often far detached from the feelings, particularly in your case. Have you ever wondered why you’re always so depressed?’

‘I’m not depressed!’

‘Oh really, so you’re not the Lisa Hope that sits in front of her window cursing anyone with a smile?’

 

Her parents stood to leave. She didn’t know how long they’d been there, at least an hour.

‘Don’t worry dear, she’ll be all right. Why would God honestly allow such a young life to be destroyed.’ Her father said.

I don’t believe in God, she thought.

 

‘What do you believe in?’ The figure asked.

‘Nothing.’

‘Belief in a powerful thing. You must believe in something, everyone does. Your main problem is that you don’t know your beliefs, because you’re too far detached from your inner depths. You don’t consciously believe in yourself, and for that matter, you barely believe in yourself deeper inside your skull. Your only conscious beliefs in life are that everyone else is happier than you, and that belief is a stupid waste of thought. Soon you will see, come with me.’

The figure passed through a gate in the alley wall, Lisa followed.

‘Who are you? Death? Father time?’

‘Death and father time are both one and the same. Both mythological beings. But even if they did exist, they wouldn’t have a scratch on the sort of things I can do.’

‘So who are you?’

‘A figment of everyone’s deepest imagination.’

‘That doesn’t make sense.’

‘No Lisa, but sometimes not even sense makes sense.’

The gate emerged into bright midday sun in a large courtyard. Lisa suddenly felt a blast of hot wind against her face.

‘Where are we?’

‘Here. The place is not important, only the events.’

‘What’s happening here?’

‘Just watch.’

The people in the courtyard were all facing the same way, up towards a platform on which stood a bloodstained barrel and a large man with a black hood over his face holding an axe. At the resound of a single drum, all faces turned towards a gate in one of the side walls. Lisa turned with them, and saw a skinny young black boy being led out by two large brutes. They half carried; half dragged the boy up onto the platform and up to the barrel. The eyes of the crowd followed them. Lisa suddenly realised what was going on.

‘Why?’ She asked.

‘Because he believed.’

‘What, in the devil? Something like that?’

‘No, simply because he believed in something other than what these people believe in. He’s only a slave boy. If he doesn’t do what he’s supposed to then kill him. A simple solution with wide implications.’

‘Why not just change his beliefs.’

‘It’s not that easy. You can’t just wake up one morning and say ‘Right then, today I’m going to believe in Hiler the almighty of Hileria.’ and actually believe it. Beliefs are too deep rooted for that. They are things that you gain over time, like principles. They decide what sort of a person you are. A person with a lack of beliefs or a limited knowledge of their beliefs will find life difficult and depressing, as they will never know quite what to do.’

‘Well, I’m not going to let this happen.’

The figure placed a bony hand on her shoulder. Its grip was like a vice, but didn’t hurt.

‘Remember you’re not really here, you’re in a hospital in the rich western world seven hundred years in the future.’

‘You can’t let them do this.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because he’s just a boy. All he did was believe something different.’

‘And why is that not crime enough? You must know what a difference in belief can do. Think of all the wars, the death, the suffering. All caused by religion and belief.

‘But this is horrible, it’s inhuman.’

‘It’s no worse than some of the things done in your modern world. At least all these people do is kill them.’

The large man on the platform raised his axe over the boy, now tied down to the barrel.

‘Don’t let them do this! You must stop this. You must! I can’t watch. This isn’t right. This is wrong.’

‘But look at the boy. He’s ready to go, he’s happy to go.’

‘But its not right. You can’t just go around killing people for their beliefs.’

The axe began to fall. Lisa burrowed her head deep into the figure's robes. The infinitely deep eyes glowed a brilliant blue, shining outwards, filling the courtyard with a blue light brighter than that of the sun.

The light faded. There was a thud from the pedestal, the crowd gasped. Lisa could hear whimpering from the people in the courtyard. She forced herself to turn around.

The axe lay on the ground next to the platform. The large man sat whimpering on the platform.

‘Oh dear.’ Said the figure. ‘It would seem there has been a large surge of faith here. Well, they do say God moves in mysterious ways.’

‘What did you do?’

‘Nothing. You did it.’

‘Did what?’

‘Come, we must go now.’

‘What did I do!!?’

But the figure had vanished, the courtyard had vanished.

 

She was sitting in a wheelchair in a huge garden. Her mother was pushing her around it, speaking to her quietly. Lisa didn’t listen. She was more worried at why she could only move her eyes around.

‘I don’t understand how this could have happened. The doctors said you were recovering so well, and now this.’ her mother wept. ‘Now I’ll never hear your voice again, never see you walk again. My own daughter, a cripple. I can’t believe it.’ Lisa could imagine her mother's face behind her, red and wet with tears.

 

The figure moved through the shadows of the alley once again.

‘It had to happen.’ It said.

‘What?’

‘You can’t exist properly on the outside world when you are conscious so deep in your mind. You must remain like this until you have learned all that I can teach you, the pain you cause now will mean that no pain need be caused in the future.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Don’t worry. I have it on good authority that I’m helping fulfil your destiny. What will soon happen will happen once again, it is unavoidable.’

‘What are you on about.’

‘Don’t worry, all will become clear.’

‘You still haven’t told me who you are.’

‘No, but you still don’t know who you are.’

‘I know this is hard for you Mrs. Hope, but you’ll only be damaging your own health if you keep your daughter at home. You’ve got the new baby to look after, you wont have the time to look after her properly.’ The doctor was saying.

‘I can find the time, she’s my daughter for Christ’s sake.’

‘I can’t tell you what to do, only advise you. It will be better for both you and her if you take her somewhere where they can take care of her properly. It’s for her own good.’

Lisa’s mother stared through blurry eyes at her daughter, almost lifeless in the chair. Her own good.

‘Okay.’ She cried. Her own good.

 

‘Why are you doing this? Why are you making her suffer like this?’

‘I thought you didn’t care. Still, don’t worry. Think of her smile as she witnesses your miraculous recovery when you return to normal consciousness.’

‘When?’

‘When miracles run their way, and when you finally believe in something, something very specific and important.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘Do you actually need to? Belief is what happens when understanding is impossible.’

‘I suppose that makes sense, which probably means it doesn’t, if sense doesn’t make sense.’

The eyes changed colour somewhat. They became, for a brief instant, more orange than red.

‘Come, I must show you our- your aftermath.’

They walked once more through the gate, and emerged back into the courtyard, apparently in much more modern times.

‘What’s happening?’

‘Can’t you see.’

‘They seem to be worshipping that statue.’

The crowd in the courtyard now was slightly larger than the one that had been there the last time. They were all kneeling in front of a large stone statue.

‘Yes, clever that isn’t it. This was an atheist society before-’

‘The execution went wrong.’ Lisa finished.

‘Before you interfered with the execution.’

‘But I didn’t do anything.’

‘Didn’t you?’

They stood and watched the crowd in front of the statue. There were a few mumbles as some stood and began to leave, and a few groans and hums as others prayed and chanted. In the distance, off down one of the side alley ways there was a heated argument going on. It seemed to consist of three voices, all male. It drew closer, and the voices louder, eventually emerging into the courtyard. One of the men stood with his back to the crowds, the other two faced him. Lisa couldn’t tell what they were arguing about. Their strange language seemed only a blur of slurred sounds, but the tone in their voices gave a hint as to what was going on.

‘The problem with belief is that you can’t convince everyone. Those two are trying to make the other, still an atheist, see their ways.’

Lisa looked at the figure. The eyes had narrowed, and all glow had vanished. Now there was just empty darkness under the hood. The eyes were only visible because of the way they seemed to suck light in.

‘Problem is, everyone has to believe in something. This atheist guy believes in the greater good of man. God doesn’t come into his views.’

The atheist turned from the other two. He seemed to glance at two other men in the courtyard, as if indicating something.

‘Belief is often as bad as it is good, especially if you have two very strong, very arrogant conflicting beliefs.’

The atheist turned quickly, pulling something from his clothes. The two he had been arguing with collapsed to the ground, amid cracks of gunfire from the atheist, who dove down behind some bins. A hail of bullets tore through the crowd from the automatic guns held by the other two men the atheist had glanced at. The first atheist peered over the bins, then glanced down at something in his hands. The statue exploded in a shower of dust, stone, flame, and above all, heat. The shockwave crashed into Lisa, and she doubled to her knees. The strange robed figure didn’t even flinch, not even his robes trembled in the wave.

Lisa staggered to her feet. ‘What happened? Why would anyone want to do this!’

The figure turned to her, the eyes back to their usual deep red. ‘Change is difficult, you already know that, and you know why.’

‘But they didn’t believe in anything-’

The figure held its hand up. ‘Even atheists have to believe there is no god. Just like you believe you’re not really here. Just like the boy believed in more. Just like....

The eyes were empty.

 

It was all gone. The crowd, the screams, the blood, the smell of burning flesh. All gone, and now all black. No, a blurred grey. Light was creeping in somewhere, through dotted pinpricks, no...

A bright grey sky. Faces, faces leaning over her. Each in turn. Each long and unhappy. Silent and tearful. Silent sad faces, and a single voice speaking out. Visible beyond her feet, a man in dark robes with a bald head, tufts of black hair over his ears and running down behind his neck, a cross held against his chest. Other faces. Familiar faces. Family? Friends... Mother!! Father!! Sister! The voice, monotonous, droning on.

‘And so it is that our father sees fit that this girl, taken so young, shall live forever in his realm’

Live forever. His realm. Our father? God? Heaven!?

‘I’m dead.’

‘Perhaps, perhaps not. Do you... feel dead?’

‘No. But, look at all the faces. This is a funeral, this is my funeral.’

‘Yes.’

‘So the evidence suggest that-’

‘Ah, but do you understand the evidence. Do you understand how you can be talking with me, when you are dead? Do you understand why?’

‘No. I... I believe I’m....’

‘Yes? They believe you are dead. What do you believe?’

‘I....I..’

‘What do you believe in? It makes sense that this is your funeral, so you are dead, no?’

Sense does not always make sense. Belief is what happens when understanding is impossible. Impossible. Sense is nonsense. This sense is nonsense. How can I be speaking to him when... Then I’m alive. I believe I’m alive. I don’t understand how, or why, but I believe I am.....

‘Our father, who art...’

Cough.

Angry looks around the sad faces.

Gasp, cough, cough, gasp.

More looks around the faces. Then a mass gasp.

‘Oh my God, She’s alive!! Look, she’s sitting!’

‘Bloody hell!, sorry.’

‘It’s a miracle!! Thank you lord.’

‘Lisa!!’ A woman cries. She rushes across to the corpse, sitting weakly in the coffin. They embrace. No words are said. None are needed.

‘I never gave up on you Lisa, I never stopped believing.’

Green eyes. Green glowing eyes in an empty darkness. Gone.

 

 

Copyright 1999 Murray Evans
Published on the World Wide Web by "www.storymania.com"