Thursday August 25, 2005
Come lunch time today I found myself feeling really rather peckish but didn’t fancy anything cooked. So, instead of my usual tomato salad, I brought forward a couple of slices of succulent roast pork I’d intended for dinner and made up a good pile of pork, mustard and tomato on granary sandwiches and sat down to enjoy them. Snapped the telly on for a bit of company, to find it tuned into the SciFi channel from last night and starting one of those Ancient Prophetic Mystery programmes, talked over by that blonde-haired bloke who played Ilya Kuryachin or however you spell it, you know, him in Man From Uncle.
Ye gods and little fishes, what a load of gloom and doom. Great storms. World destroying wars. Planetary disruption as tectonic plates dance major jigs to the accompaniment of great geysers of volcanic fire… Just right for lunch, in other words.
They were a gloomy lot, those old prophets and seers, were they not? Almost as gloom-and-doom laden as the bright young lady on the news channel, announcing the imminent decimation of the UK population from Asian Bird Flu brought in on the wings of migratory birds from the steppes of distant Russia. “And now… the sports news.”
I suppose the truth is that there’s not a lot of profit, if you’re in the prophecy business, in forecasting happiness. You have to consider the audience, living their lives of quiet desperation, or worse, and wanting the comfort of knowing that, bad as it is now, it’s going to be a whole lot worse in the future.
Or, perhaps, it’s simply that prophecies of a bright, peaceful future didn’t make the headlines back in Ancient Times, any more than they figure large on the news channel today, and so haven’t survived the centuries.
Would be nice, though, wouldn’t it? Just for a change…
The wind howled, lightning flashed and thunder smashed as the two candle-bearing Acolytes stumbled slowly up the perilous path leading to the Cave of their Master, the Prophet Wayne.
“Why couldn’t he find a cave down in the foothills instead of the top of this perishin’ mountain?” grumbled the Second Acolyte.
The First Acolyte paused for breath: “Don’t you know nuffin? It’s so he’s closer to the Eternal Truth of the Universe, that’s why. No wonder you’re still only a Second Acolyte if you don’t even know that.”
“Whatever. When I’m a Prophet I’m going to live in a nice little house somewhere a lot less draughty than this.”
“Well, if that’s the limit of your imagination, I prophecy that it’ll be a long, long time before you make Prophet. Come on, let’s get a move on before this storm gets really bad. You got the candles?”
“Yeah, I got the candles. You got the tea-bags?”
And off they went again, up the stony, twisting path, bending over beneath their loads and a natural inclination to avoid the rain as much as possible. Eventually, after a particularly tortuous twist, the path opened out and they came to the Cave of the Prophet.
“Are you home, Master?” called the First Acolyte, dashing the rain from his cloak on the threshold and ignoring the sarcasm of the Second Acolyte who was wondering under his breath as to the likelihood of the old codger going out in weather like this.
“Indeed, little cockroach,” said the Prophet Wayne, not lifting his head from the embroidery frame where he was busy on an accomplished needle-point picture of nymphs dancing in a sun-lit sylvan glade. “Have you brought the tea-bags?”
“Yes, Oh Master. And the candles.”
“What is it with you and the candles, First Acolyte? I had the electric put in years back.”
“Part of the job description, Oh Master. Prophets prophesy. Acolytes bear candles. Has Been and Always Will Be.”
“Always Will Be,” echoed the Second Acolyte.
“Well, perhaps, little cockroach. Come on in, do, and take the weight off your feet.”
First Acolyte was a little stymied by this but he kept his dignity about him even as his removed his sodden cloak and asked in a hollow, solemn voice: “We come seeking Truth, Oh Master.”
“Truth? What do you want truth for?”
Clasping a hand over Second Acolyte’s mouth to stifle the ‘bugger knows’ he knew was just about to be uttered, First Acolyte bowed deeply. “We are nought but humble seekers of the Truth, Master.”
“Yes. But if you find it, do you think you can handle it?”
“We’ll know that when we find it, Master” spluttered Second Acolyte, pushing First Acolyte’s rather grubby hand from his mouth.
“Ah,” said the Prophet Wayne, stabbing his needle into a corner of his work and getting up to stretch his back. “In that case we’d better get busy. Put the kettle on, even smaller cockroach. It’s thirsty work, is Prophecy.”
The Prophet sat in his Chair of Prophecy, the one with the soft cushion depicting a sweet little puppy playing with the cutest kitten you’ve ever seen, the First Acolyte sat at his feet on a small boulder, readying the Book of Prophecy and the Pen of Truth ready to take notes, and the Second Acolyte, having filled the Holy Kettle from the Sacred Pitcher and set it to boil on the Gas Ring of Glory, sat on the floor at the other side.
A long silence ensued as the Prophet Wayne settled into a trance-like state, his breath becoming loud and heavy, rather like the storm that raged outside. Eventually he cleared his throat. Several times.
“I TRAVEL TO THE END OF ALL TIME,” he intoned.
“Why’s he shouting?” asked Second Acolyte. “He always shouts like that. Anyone would think we weren’t here sitting at his feet.”
“Shut up!” commanded First Acolyte, batting Second Acolyte with the Book of Prophecy.
“I TRAVEL BEYOND THE END OF ALL TIME,” the Prophet Wayne went on.
“…all time…,” whispered First Acolyte, having licked the Pen of Truth and started to write in the Book of Prophecy.
“I TRAVEL EVEN FURTHER BEYOND THE END OF ALL TIME AND SEE THE LORDS OF THE EARTH GATHERING.”
“Oh, wow!” exclaimed First Acolyte. “I think this is going to be a biggie.”
“I SEE THE LORDS OF THE EARTH COMING TOGETHER. I SEE THE FUTURE AT THE END OF ALL TIME.” The Prophet Wayne sagged slightly
“Oh, lawks,” said the First Acolyte, Pen of Truth poised in mid-air. “He’s dropped off. And just as he was getting to the good bit. Give him a nudge, Second Acolyte.”
“What is it you see, Oh Master?”
“I see … ahem … I SEE THE FUTURE AT THE END OF ALL TIME.”
“What kind of future is it, Oh Master?”
“OH,” said the Prophet Wayne, picking a small piece of bright yellow thread from his crimson robe. “IT’S QUITE NICE, REALLY.”
“Quite nice! Quite nice! What kind of a Prophecy is that?”
“It’s all you’re going to get today,” said the Prophet Wayne. “Is that tea ready yet? Fair parched, I am.”