Sunday, 3 October 2010

A QUESTION OF FAITH by Chris Allinotte

A Question of Faith

“And the Lord banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and did set an Angel with a fiery sword at the gate. And the serpent looked at the Angel and said, “So, what do you want to do now?”
–Genesis 3:23(½)

Quaestor Godwin sat back in his padded chair and sighed. He really would have to be getting on with his day. The coffers of the church would not grow themselves, after all. The monk took a deep breath, and squeezed his eyes shut. He exhaled slowly, and smiled.

“That was exquisite, darling woman. Inform your husband that his slights against Mother Church have been forgotten, and in fact…” He gave a shudder of pleasure. “You have procured for him one less year of atonement. Does that please you?”

In response, the young cook’s wife just raised her streaming, red-rimmed eyes, and said nothing.

“Leave me. I have the work of the Lord to do.”

She needed no further coaxing, and ran from the room, as though Satan himself might be at her heels. Godwin allowed himself a small chuckle. It was a dreadful burden being the town’s sole link to the Almighty, but he thought that there were some benefits. He rose then, and straightened his cassock. Time to do his Good Works.

His first visit was to Duke Geoffrey, a man as infamous for his wickedness as he was for his fear of Hell. Godwin had collected an enormous sum from him over the years, and as long as the farms kept producing, he could count on a steady stream of income from the “Duke of Sodomy.” He’d often thought he might like to try that act himself with Anabella, she of the cheeky husband and chaffed kneecaps.

It was to his great surprise that the Duchess Felicia met him at the gate herself, crying “Dear Lord in Heaven, you heard our prayers.”

Godwin tried to keep his air of aloof power, “We had planned to meet on this day, did we not, milady?”

“Indeed, Brother Godwin,” said the Duchess, “but something has happened. It is horrible. Words cannot describe; you must come.”
Were it any other family, he would have refused, but to turn his back on the family that had built his fortune would be foolhardy to say the least. He made up his mind. “Lead on, Duchess.”

The Duchess opened the way, and Godwin entered the house. The door slammed shut, crushing her nose, and barring her from entering.

“Hello, Brother Godwin.”

A man’s voice, but not the Duke’s, seemed to be coming from everywhere, and nowhere. The house was freezing, though it was midday outside.

“Come to hear my sins?” There was a gleeful malice in the tone, and the monk looked behind him. Hanging in midair like a macabre puppet was the Duke, eyes rolled up to the whites, blood running from a dozen self-inflicted wounds.

“Welcome, holy man.” The thing mocked him.

“I… I cast you out, demon.” Godwin had to take control. Was he not the servant of the Almighty? “The Lord God of Hosts commands you!”

Braying laughter was the reply. Underneath, Godwin thought he could hear the screaming of the damned. “I think not, Quaestor. Remarkable as it seems, I am closer to God than the likes of you. God requires evil to give himself purpose. Who, pray, do you serve?”

Godwin felt hot piss soak the front of his cassock.  He was paralyzed with fear.  His panicked mind touched briefly on the dagger concealed in his robe - perhaps he could kill the body and extinguish the devil that way - but he couldn't make himself move.

Suddenly, a new voice rang out from the top of the stairs, shouting “Go away!”

The Duke-thing growled in surprise. A skinny, young red-haired girl, looked down at them. “God hates you. Go away."

The demon shrieked. The walls shook, and pottery shattered. Godwin was transfixed.  Amazed as he was at the Duke-thing's reaction, he was equally astounded that this debauched noble and his simpering wife had produced such a wholesome looking young girl.  He moved to the door and tried it.  It was still locked, and the hasp rattled impotently as he tried to force it open.  The demon swung an arm absently in Godwin's direction, landing a glancing blow to the back of his head. It was enough to send the Quaestor sprawling on the cold stone floor.  Stars exploded in his field of vision, and his face felt hot with a sudden rush of blood.  Still, through this new, sudden pain, he could hear the raspy voice of the possessed Duke addressing the interloper.

"This man is ours, child.  He is ours."

The little girl, who had come down the stairs now, and was standing, facing her father with her little fists balled at her sides.

"God doesn't want you here," she said through gritted teeth. "Get out!"

Her words were like no exorcism rite the Quaestor had ever heard, but they were effective.  The body began to tremble, and its feet touched down on the ground.

Taking a great, hissing breath, the Duke-thing spat, "Your father's soul is damned, child! Damned by his own deeds!"

In reply, the little girl cocked her head, and her expression went queerly blank. She was listening.  Her hands seemed to float of their own accord to meet in prayer before her chest.  The demon, taking this pause as indecision, made to attack and the limp body of the Duke began to lurch forward in the entrance hall, stumbling towards his daughter.  Before he could reach her, her head snapped back upright, and her eyes flashed with righteous fury.

Incredibly, she began to move forward to meet the demon.

"God says he'll forgive Papa, but you have to leave!"

On the word "leave", she raised both hands to the sky, then placed both her palms, which seemed to glow with brilliant white light, squarely on the Duke's chest.

"Get out!" screamed the girl.

Without another sound from the demon, the Duke collapsed to the ground, trembling violently. His daughter moved swiftly to his side, and knelt to check on him.

Godwin got to his feet and walked over to the girl. “My darling child, that was incredible.”

She looked up at him, scowling, “No, Quaestor, that was faith.

At that affront, the Quaestor felt some of his own righteousness return.  That he should be spoken to as such, and by a child

He straightened his back and, unmindful of the fact that he  was still soaked through with his own urine, began to lecture the child, "Do not presume, child, to know the will of God."

Her eyes flashed with holy fire once more, and this time, her voice was lower and stronger, seeming to fill the room, "I do know the will of God; and you, Godwin, have much to answer for."

She raised her hand then, and it was glowing again with almost savage white light. In the moment before she touched him, a thousand thousand sins flashed before Godwin's eyes: the forgiveness of  pederasts in exchange for riches, rivals murdered to further his power, everything he'd done, up to and including his dalliances with Annabella - and all done in God's name.

Faced with the brilliant, redemptive touch of the God he’d abused, Godwin committed his final sin. He retreated from the girl before she could touch him, and from his robes withdrew the dagger.  Squeezing his eyes shut, he shoved it hard into his chest.
As the world darkened behind his eyes, he said a silent, blasphemous prayer that Satan would have mercy on his rotten, blackened soul. 

Chris Allinotte lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife and children.

His work has been featured in many places online, and recently in the anthologies "Novus Creatura" and "Creepy Things".  You can check out more about Chris' stories at his blog


  1. Very well done. Godwin, eh? Sounds like a sinners name to me ...

  2. Bravo! An excellent little story, Chris, that was very well written.

    Godwin's character wasn't that far from the truth with the recent goings on within the clergy.

    Well done.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys - one small note:

    The above is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to Godwins living or dead is purely coincidental ... Paul. :)

    David - I was going to say, this came from trying to write about a particularly dark time for the church and then stopped, because we're both right. :$

  4. A rivetting tale, Chris.

    Aside from any (possible) similarity to certain recent events, it highlights the need for humility and the fact that 'pointing the finger' leaves three pointing back at yourself!

    Very well written! :-)

  5. Nice write, Chris. I like that you tapped into the powerful innocence of a child- is there no stronger faith?
    Great atmosphere and an ending that is just.

  6. Sue,

    I don't know what the opposite of humility is - but this group of pseudo-religious "representatives" were it!


    I just thought it would be good to let the child have the power for once.

    Thanks for the comments guys!

  7. I loved the hypocrisy of the man of God versus the genuine innocence of the girl-child; the latter far more powerful. She is reminiscent of a jeune Jeanne D'Arc.

  8. Thanks Lily.

    I also love that we're having a conversation about the secondary meaning, which makes me happy,when I really started out trying to show how good needs evil and vice-versa (hence the quote up top)