Cud Flashes In the Pan


 

Cud Flashes In the Pan
This month’s theme: Holy Crap!
David M. Fitzpatrick

This month’s theme:
Holy Crap!

I will always respect someone’s right to believe whatever religious stuff they want to believe, no matter how silly it seems or how unscientific it is. But I will never respect silly, unscientific beliefs. And when such beliefs come to rule our societies, hurt those who don’t follow them, and destroy our planet, I will always call them out. The future of our global civilization is not to use religions to oppress, harm, and kill others; it is to leave such primitive things behind and go forward with equal rights for all and scientific advancement for the planet.

 

“Holy Symbol!”
Vampire
By David M. Fitzpatrick

The vampire advanced in the dank castle corridor, but Dr. Theodore Bleever was ready. He pulled out the gold crucifix from beneath his trenchcoat and shirt and held it up before him as proof against the inhuman monster.

“The power of Christ repels you!” he commanded.

The vampire hissed and laughed, all white fangs and glowing red eyes. “Nice try, Doctor, but I’m not Christian.” And he pressed forward, clawed hands raised.

But Bleever chuckled as he continued backing away, reaching his hands into his trenchcoat pockets. “Do you really think I wasn’t prepared for that?”

He whipped out an Islamic star and crescent in his left hand and a Star of David in his right and shoved them in the vampire’s face, but the creature of the night merely swatted them away like flies.

“Wrong again!” the vampire roared. “I can feel your fear building, doctor. I’ll taste it in your blood soon.”

But even as Bleever continued backing away, he was undeterred. “But my doctorate is in the religions of the world. Take this, monster!”

He threw open his trenchcoat, and pinned all over the inside were the symbols of a hundred religions. The vampire stopped cold in his tracks, his face a mask of surprise.

“So one of them has stopped you, vile creature!” Bleever cried out.

“No, none of them, actually,” the vampire said. “That’s just new. I’ve never seen anyone with that many holy symbols before. It was a very nice try, but the truth is, I’m an atheist.”

“A-HA!” Bleever cried out, and he fumbled amongst the symbols and ripped off the atheist symbol—a letter “A” surrounded by most of a representation of an atom. “I thought of that! BACK, atheist beast!”

The vampire sighed. “Look, pal, a symbol is just a symbol. It might work on religious types who believe all manner of silly things, but not on an atheist.”

…said the vampire.

Bleever swallowed hard. “I thought atheists were supposed to be all moral and stuff. You can’t kill me if you are.”

“Buddy, I’m a VAMPIRE,” said the vampire, grinning with his fangs and lifting his cape up high to either side. “I can’t NOT drink your blood. I literally can’t help myself. And, after all, you did invade my castle planning to kill me. This isn’t a question of morals. It’s a question of just how stupid you are.”

 

“Holy Proof!”
Alien SF
By David M. Fitzpatrick

John was camping in the woods when the alien teleported in with a dazzling flash of light. After the expected hour of emotions from John—fear, panic, curiosity, questioning, acceptance, and finally excitement—they broke bread together. The alien was humanoid, blue of skin and large of head, but he had had experience with Earth foods and gladly shared in John’s trail mix, dried bananas, and various juices. They sat together at the campfire, the starry universe watching over from above.

It was all surreal as John listened to Azzurrak relate his experiences posing as a human and experiencing Earth. But the lipless alien with the big black eyes confessed to his confusion over the world’s religions. He spoke of Christianity and Islam and Judaism and many others, and he was at a loss to understand them.

“I know that some on this planet don’t believe in deities and mythology,” Azzurrak said. “I suspect by the symbol around your neck that you are not one of those.”

John absentmindedly touched the crucifix around his neck. “No, I am a Christian. But I’m a moderate Christian, Azzurrak. There are many who would not accept aliens, or allow you to live. I’m quite a progressive Christian.”

“But how can a being with a relatively evolved brain, high intellect, and broad understanding of the nature of the universe believe such things?” Azzurrak asked.

“Faith is a powerful thing,” John said. “I cannot expect you to understand.”

Azzurrak thought on this, eating raisins and peanuts by the flickering fire. Finally, he said, “What would you say are the hardest things for atheists to believe about your religion?”

“There are many,” John conceded. “That God created everything. That He listens to our prayers. That the Bible is His inerrant word. That He sent His Son to die for our sins. That Jesus was resurrected, and that he will come again. That the world will end in rapture.”

Azzurrak’s black eyes were wide. “And you believe this with the power of your faith?”

“I do,” John said. “Don’t you have things on your world that are difficult for others to believe.”

Realization seemed to dawn on Azzurrak. “I had not thought of this, but there is a thing on my world that I suspect everyone on Earth would find impossible to believe. Would you like me to tell you about it?”

“Please.”

Azzurrak took a deep breath. “There is a natural dimensional portal that has been there since my ancestors were primitive creatures. It swirls in many colors and causes strange things to happen. Gravity alters in the area, and great boulders float above the ground. Rainbow ribbons erupt from the portal and fly around the planet, and my people have learned to stand on those rainbows and ride them, for they are physical manifestations of a form of light from another dimension. And when the rain falls on the portal, the raindrops turn into flowers of every color.”

John stared, mouth agape. “Seriously?”

“Oh, yes, and we know how it all works,” Azzurrak said, his lipless mouth smiling as his eyes stayed wide. He had forgotten the trail mix and was gesturing excitedly with his four-fingered hands. “We have studied the dimension beyond, and we understand how things that cross that portal’s event horizon undergo shifts in reality, transforming in seemingly magical ways.”

“Well, I have to admit, that seems rather… unbelievable,” John said. “But as a thinking religionist, I support your right to your beliefs.”

Azzurrak blinked in surprise. “You think this is untrue?”

“I believe that you have faith in this, and I respect it. Just as I cannot explain creation and the resurrection and the Word of God, I know that you cannot explain this.”

Azzurrak’s blue face brightened to almost periwinkle. “I can take you there.”

*   *   *

John stood on the surface on an alien world, which was strange enough, but the sight before him was astounding.

Behind him, Azzurrak’s spaceship sat on the rocky plain. John had been teleported on board and then experienced hyperspace travel thirty billion light years from Earth, and now he was seeing this. The portal was a mile wide, shimmering in various colors but mostly in a silvery, mirror-like way. It swirled like a miniature hurricane, and all around it rocks and boulders floated into the sky to orbit it. From out of the silvery maelstrom, flat rainbow ribbons emitted regularly, snaking around the sky as if they were alive; others of Azzurrak’s race chased them in flying cars so that they could jump on them and surf them around the planet like boards on waves. And above the portal, lightning flashed, and John could see the raindrops transforming into flowers as they hit.

“That’s incredible!” John cried.

“It was considered magic for thousands of years, until our science advanced to the point that we could explain it all,” Azzurrak said. “But we have certainly always seen it in action.”

The alien turned to John. “So remember all of those things you told me of your religion?”

“Yes.”

“As I have just done with my extraordinary claims… prove them.”

 

“Holy Justice!”
Witch
By David M. Fitzpatrick

Witches were usually tested by whether they sank or floated, but the minister had claimed that God had shown him a truer way. By lashing them to a board and tipping them head-down in the water, they would see if she drowned or not after seven minutes under. If she drowned, she was a witch. But if she survived, it could only be due to God working a miracle because she wasn’t a witch.

It made no sense to Sarah, but all she knew was that they had put up the board the day before with plans to dunk her underwater first thing in the morning. She could only wait, chained to the wall in her cell, and feel terrified. She was no witch! She was a woman of God and always in His service. It was that damnable Maureen, who had told lies about her—that Maureen had come upon Sarah in the woods having intercourse with a demon. How could they believe such silliness?

Maureen had stood before the town fathers and the minister and told the lie, fake crying and acting terrified. She had gone out picking berries, she’d said, when she came upon the clearing, and there she saw Sarah.

“She was bent over and holding on to a tree, she was!” Maureen accused, pointing at Sarah. “And a horned beast with cloven hooves was inside her, and she was begging for more!”

The townspeople had roared in a frenzy and demanded that Sarah be immediately executed, but Sarah had screamed her defense.

“She lies!” Sarah had cried. “She’s only jealous that Zachary fancies me! Tell them, Zachary!”

Zachary was the young man who had captured her heart. He was a dashing boy, young and strong, and he was smitten with her. Sarah and Maureen had both loved him for years, and Zachary had been torn between which beautiful young woman he wanted more. But Sarah knew that she’d been winning the wooing battle in recent months: He wanted her, not Maureen.

“It’s true,” Zachary cried out in her defense. “We are in love, and Maureen is angry because of it. You cannot believe this ridiculous story that she’s concocted!”

But they had. Now Sarah was chained in that cell, unable to sleep, waiting for the morning sun, when she would be lashed to the board and dunked under water until she died. She wanted to believe that God would work a miracle to save her, but she remembered when Beatrice Cooper had been drowned. Everyone believed that she had been a witch, but Sarah could never have believed it.

She knew that she would die in mere hours. She sobbed in the cold darkness, alone and afraid.

“Sarah!”

Maybe not entirely alone! It was Zachary, at the barred window to the room. The jail was a tiny stone building on the edge of the village, and Zachary was tempting fate by sneaking over to see the accused witch. Sarah clambered to her feet, dragging the chain that was shackled to her ankle.

“Zachary!” she whispered. “You can’t be here!”

“I have to—I love you!” he said, reaching in to grasp her hand. “They’re looking for some miracle from God, and I realized that I'll be the one to make it happen!”

She realized that he was wet, and his hair was dripping. “What has happened?”

“I’ve been working all night,” he said, excited. “I know where the head of the board will land in the lake. The water is murky there, so they won’t see.”

“See what?”

“I’ve put in a breathing tube made from knotweed—you know, the green stuff with the hollow stalks? I’ve been piecing them together and sealing them with tar. The tube I’ve made runs out of the river and through the brush. When they dunk you, turn your head to the right and find it. I’ve sealed that end with tar so you’ll have to bite it off and then you can breathe. They’ll think that God has saved you!”

She smiled. “Zachary, that is wonderful!”

“And as soon as you’re exonerated, we must flee this place,” he said. “Maureen won’t stop with just this.”

*   *   *

The mob of townspeople pulled her from the cell soon afterward and herded her to the lake. She was still terrified; what if Zachary’s plan failed? And when the laid her on the wide board and tightly tied her arms, legs, and torso, she could not help but cry.

As the minister proclaimed the test underway and that only God could save her, and as she felt the board begin to tilt and her head go down, she drew the deepest breath that she could—and then her world was surrounded by water. She felt the board hit the bottom, and she turned her head to the right, frantic to find the tube. Zachary was right; it was murky, and she couldn’t see at thing. She moved her head about, blindly searching, and then she felt it poke her cheek. She moved her mouth over it and bit down.

She felt the air, and she exhaled and then drew in a fresh breath. It had worked! Above, she could see the sun, but only the haziest outlines of the people watching. She realized that she’d better struggle to make it look good, so she began to do so, and she heard the muffled sound of the crowd roaring. She breathed steadily for a while and then ceased her frantic squirming, and even then they left her underwater for what seemed like an hour.

And then the she felt herself being tilted back up, and she let the tube go, and she emerged from the water to the bright sun and the stunned faces of the townspeople—especially Maureen.

“Seven minutes underwater, and she lives!” the minister cried. “God has saved her!”

And the people who had sought her death now cheered for her, and quickly she was untied and pulled from the plank. Another woman gave her a cloth to dry her face and hair, and as she did she noticed Maureen down by the water.

“She has cheated us!” Maureen suddenly shrieked, and everyone whirled about as she leaped into the water, almost to her waist, and hauled out the knotwood tube. She held it up in triumph. “She breathed through this while she was underwater!”

People gasped, and suddenly hands were grabbing her. The minister, his face dark and eyes glaring at her, cried, “Tie her back!”

“Wait!” cried Zachary, who burst through the crowd and leaped to pull Sarah away and protect her. “It was not her! I made the tube so that she would not drown. God has worked a miracle here, and he has worked it through me!”

This gave them pause for thought, and in that instant he turned to look at her, and he winked at her, as if to say, They’ll believe anything.

And Sarah realized that there was someone in league with the devil here. It wasn’t her. It wasn’t even Maureen. It was Zachary, the man she thought that she’d loved. He didn’t believe in God working miracles, not really.

She backed suddenly away. “God did not work a miracle through you, Zachary… the devil worked evil through you!”

He looked at her, stunned. “What?”

“He’s the witch!” Sarah screamed. “He’s the witch!”

“No!” Maureen screamed from the water.

“Sarah!” Zachary hollered as Maureen clambered onto the shore and came to Zachary’s side.

Sarah’s eyes widened as she backed away, pointing at the pair. “Maureen and Zachary did this! Zachary transformed into the horned beast to rape me, and Maureen told you so that you’d kill me and they would bring the devil here to walk amongst you!” It was a lie, but it was a just lie!

“GET THEM!” the minister yelled.

The crowd erupted and swarmed forward to grab Zachary and Maureen, and Sarah made a hasty retreat to the edge of the crowd. To think—she’d almost married a man who didn’t take their religion seriously! Well, if Maureen had always wanted him, then that lying storyteller could have him!

Sarah watched from afar in satisfaction as the pair were lashed together, screaming, to the big board and lowered into the lake. She watched as they struggled and writhed and kicked their feet—just as they would together in Hell.

She sighed in relief as their lifeless bodies were finally retrieved. She had almost died for the silly belief that she was a witch. Thank God that He had shown her the way to punish the true sinners among them!

She headed back to her house, ready to pray and then face the day.

 

“Holy Cow!”
Science Fiction
By David M. Fitzpatrick

“I never saw a Purple Cow, I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow, I'd rather see than be one.”
—Gele
tt Burgess, 1895

The cow was purple. Jake, the farmer who owned it, had never seen a purple cow. It had always been mostly white in hair, but lately its skin had been turning blue, and with the white hair it just looked purple. Jake had been getting worried but now he was downright scared. He told fellow farmers, who came to look, and word spread until one day a veritable crowd had gathered on Jake’s farm.

“It’s the only cow I have,” Jake told them. “You know I just do crops and some chickens. Bessie here just keeps to herself—grazes in her field, gets her own water from that little streamlet that run through the back of my property, and that’s it. Used to give milk but she’s too old. Not good eating at her age. I just like having her around. But she’s never been purple before.

“It’s damn peculiar,” Fred, the potato farmer, said. “What do you think it means?”

“Could be sick,” said William, the corn and gourd farmer.

“Maybe she’s having trouble breathing,” said Seth. He was a pig farmer and he smelled like it.

“She seems fine,” Jake said. He did lots of vegetables. None of those were purple. He looked out at the pasture, where Bessie was casually munching on grass, as purple as a cow should never be.

“I think we know what’s happening here,” said Reverend Smith, who had stood quietly at the edge of the crowd. They all turned to face him; he wore a plastic white collar to signify that he was clergy, and today he held his black Bible to his chest.

“What is it, Reverend?” Jake asked.

“This cow,” said Smith, gesturing to the bovine with his Bible, “is a sign from God.”

Everyone looked at each other. “How so?” Fred asked.

“God gave us the cloven-hoofed animals to serve us,” Smith bellowed, “and here He is using this one as a messenger.”

That made perfect sense, but Seth asked, “But what’s the message?” He looked as bewildered as they all did.

“That’s for us to figure out,” Smith said. “If God wanted this to be obvious, he’d appear as a burning bush as he did to Moses and just TELL us.”

“Praise Jesus!” someone cried.

“Hallelujah!” said another.

“Let us pray!” Smith cried out.

*   *   *

“This is not what I expected,” said one alien to the other.

They were both red and very tall and had three eyes and tufts of green hair. They had three arms and three legs, too, but just one mouth each. They were watching the scene on a monitor thanks to the flying invisible camera.

“We’ve certainly seen some strange reactions thanks to their primitive beliefs, but who would have thought a purple cow would have done this?” the other said.

On the screen, the group of farmers were down on their knees in the mud while the religious leader stood above them, one hand raised high, hollering verses from his holy book. The prayers all faced the fence, where the purple cow stood staring at them as if in confusion. The prayers waved their arms around and seemed to be worshiping the bovine.

“And we heard that all right?” the first said. “This is entirely because of the purple cow?”

“We heard it right. The cow has turned purple and they’ve immediately assumed a deity is responsible.”

“Well, that’s something, all right. And the actual cause is just an abundance of silver particles?”

“Yes,” the second replied. “I’ve been giving the bovine regular injections.”

“You know these people have gone to their moon and sent probes all over their star system and understand relativity and evolution and such, right?” the first asked.

“Yes, imagine where they’d be if they’d gotten out from under these primitive beliefs a thousand years ago.”

“With their intelligence, imagination, and mental capacity? They’d probably be studying OUR planet!”

 

“Holy Moley!”
Absurdist
By David M. Fitzpatrick

Danny had a mole, and one day he noticed that it was a lot bigger than it ever had been. It was on his forearm and had always been about an eighth-inch across, but suddenly it was about an inch. This was alarming to Danny, because he’d always heard that moles that changed size and shape could be indicative of skin cancer.

He was studying it in alarm, running his finger over the sandpapery feel of it, wondering if he should make a doctor’s appointment, when suddenly the mole opened its eyes. It had actual eyes and an actual mouth, and there it was, smiling up at him.

“Hello!” it cried.

Danny screamed and began slapping the mole. He didn’t know what else to do. After he did this a few times, and cautiously looked at the ugly brown circle… and it opened its eyes again.

“Hey, that hurt!” the mole cried. “You wanna cut that out?”

“What the hell are you?” Danny cried. He’d never had something with a face growing on his arm before.

“It’s taken me years to finally grow enough so that I could talk to you,” the mole said. “I think I was supposed to be your twin, but I was absorbed. I have a brain in your arm and I’ve been here all these years, listening and learning. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be out in the world.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Danny cried. “Twins don’t grow into moles and start talking!”

“Well, here I am. Do you have another explanation?”

Danny thought on this, holding his arm up before him. “I don’t know. I just know that what you’re telling me is ridiculous.”

“But I am a MOLE on your ARM that is TALKING and has EYES and can THINK,” the mole said, slowly and with lots of emphasis for Danny’s sputtering brain. “You’re telling me that, with all of that, you refuse to accept the reality of the situation?”

“Absolutely! I must be hallucinating or something… maybe I need to call my pastor. I need to go to church… and figure out what to do…!”

“Right, you’re religious,” the mole said, pursing its lips. “So you won’t believe the truth from a talking mole that you can see and even converse with, but you’ll believe your religion?”

“Of course.”

The mole sighed. “Okay, I didn’t want to tell you this, but…” It sighed again and rolled its eyes. “I’ve been sent here by God.”

“Ohhhhh!” Danny said. “Now THAT makes sense!”

The mole rolled its eyes again, but Danny wasn’t quick enough to realize that the mole was just telling him what he wanted to hear.

 

“Holy Book!”
Dystopian Science Fiction
By David M. Fitzpatrick

Aiden staggered down the dusty road. It had been a road for machines with wheels a very long time ago. Now, like most of the barren wasteland that was Earth, it was a road for feet. And there weren’t many feet these days. He’d seen fewer people every year.

The sun beat down on the empty landscape. There wasn’t much to see. Besides Aiden in his ragged clothing, there were precious few hardy weeds dotting the scene. Off to his right, Aiden saw the brown skeleton of one of those machines, now just rusting metal. Ahead, windblown dust obscured the horizon.

But there was a form in the dust, coming toward him like an apparition. Aiden slowed his weak pace; he could never trust anyone, so it was always best to size them up first. He saw the shadowy form not walking but actually striding through the dusty mist, and becoming more distinct. This man was tall and powerful, and he didn’t limp or stagger or drag his feet. He walked with a purpose, like no one ever did anymore. There was no purpose left in the world.

Aiden came to a complete stop on the road and he watched as the stranger fully emerged from the dust storm and headed for him. He was dressed well, with clean boots and a pristine cowboy hat. Over his shoulder he carried a leather satchel.

Aiden watched as the man approached, until the man towered a head about him. Part of that was because Aiden was slouching a lot. He didn’t have much energy to stand tall these days. But this was still a tall, confident man.

“Good day, friend,” the man said in a deep, booming voice, smiling down at him as he clasped Aiden’s shoulders and squeezed. “It’s always nice to meet a survivor.”

“How are you so cheerful, stranger?”

“Ah, I have a holy book that gives instructions on how to rebuild our world into one that works,” the stranger said. He reached down and patted his satchel. “I carry it with me, to spread to all corners of this world. I have found a book that contains the greatest words of wisdom, and my responsibility is to spread this wisdom wherever I go. This wisdom offers hope. It offers civilization back to us. It offers a future. All we must do is follow its teachings.”

He reached into the satchel and pulled it out. It was big and thick—there had to be fifteen hundred pages or more in it. He opened it and showed it to Aiden, but Aiden backed away a step.

“I know this book,” Aiden said. “It’s the Christian Bible. The old leaders of the world used it, and other religious texts, to justify what they did to destroy the world. I will not be part of that.”

“But this is not just a Christian Bible,” the stranger said. “This one has specific instructions. See here…” He brought the book closer, pointing. “Where the text of the Bible tells fables and parables based on hate, oppression, misogyny, and ignorance of science, this annotated version points those things out. The notes point out the evils of this religion. It is our duty to rebuild our society with these notes in mind—so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past!”

Aiden read, wide-eyed, and found himself taking the book from the stranger. He flipped page after page. “The whole book… it’s full of these notes!”

“That it is. Embrace the knowledge of what religion did wrong, and we can rebuild our civilization and do it the RIGHT way this time!”

Aiden slowly closed the book and beheld the cover:

THE SKEPTICS’S ANNOTATED BIBLE

“Stranger, I think you’re on to something,” Aiden said, and for the first time in his recent memory, he smiled.

*   *   *

The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible is a real publication, but you can access it for free online at http://skepticsannotatedbible.com

 

David M. Fitzpatrick is a fiction writer in Maine, USA. His many short stories have appeared in print magazines and anthologies around the world. He writes for a newspaper, writes fiction, edits anthologies, and teaches creative writing. Visit him at www.fitz42.net/writer to learn more.