The Shortest Day
by Oliver Barton
And on the sixth day, God created man in his own image, and behold, he was tired after all the creating of the previous five days, and decided to knock off early. Even though the seventh day would be a rest day anyway, he felt he deserved the evening off. He climbed Mount Sinai to look over his work – the earth, sun and stars, the plants, fish, birds, animals, creeping things and man, not to mention day and night – and reckoned it was pretty good. An evening feast of ambrosia and nectar, an early night, and a lie-in on the morrow. That was just the ticket.
But God was not alone. He had Mrs God to consider.
‘That was your shortest day yet,’ she said as he came in. ‘I’d have expected you to be working late, this being the last creating day and all, and with such a lot on the to-do list.’
God was about to protest that this was because his planning was second to none, as indeed he was second to none, but Mrs God wasn’t finished.
‘It’s not as though you’re omnipotent, whatever you may say in the blurb. You make mistakes. How about that tilt in the earth’s axis? And those tectonic plates – I heard you had to hammer them home because you hadn’t measured properly, and there are fault lines all over the place. They’ll cause tears in the future; you mark my words. It’s bad planning, sloppy, careless.’
God wanted to explain that he was trying out a new metric system of measurement instead of the old confusing cubits and that he got momentarily muddled, but she was unstoppable.
‘Are you sure you’ve created everything? Have you created light?’
‘You can see I have,’ God began.
‘Well, what about rock pools, aardvarks, Tyrannosaurus rexes, amoeba, the Blorenge, what of them?’
‘Yes, yes, yes,’ cried God. ‘I think I have. It’s difficult to say, until Adam actually gives them names.’
‘Why don’t you write these things down? You should have a check list.’ Mrs God was not going to leave it alone.
‘I do,’ said God. ‘I have a tablet. Two tablets. Samsung Galaxy. I use them. None of that pen and paper stuff. It would blow away in the hurricanes and things. It’s a dangerous job, creating. You don’t know the half of it.’ God was patting his robes. He looked worried. ‘Where are my tablets? Where did I put them?’
Mrs God was pouring out cups of tea. ‘There you are. You may have a check list on your blessed computer things, but do you ever look at it? Oh!’ She sighed. ‘Don’t tell me you’ve lost them.’
God looked frantic. His beard trembled in frustration. ‘I know I had them. I was on Mount Sinai having a last look round, and I know I had them then. I was just sketching out some ideas for a few commandments to keep the fairies in line. Oh God!’ He stopped suddenly, mouth and eyes wide open.
Mrs God cut a slice of Devil’s Food cake and tutted. ‘If I’ve told you not to take your name in vain, I’ve told you a hundred times. So, you’ve left your computer things sitting on this Earth for anyone to see. That’ll blow the gaffe on a supreme deity, won’t it! They’ll be able to read all your correspondence with Planet Control, and I hate to think what else. You’ll be in big trouble.’
‘Never mind that – it’s not really a problem – I can turn the tablets into stone so they become non-operational. It’ll only take a very minor miracle. And I’ve got a backup of my data. In cloud storage? Haven’t I? I must have. Mustn’t I? Oh, I don’t know.’ God collapsed into an armchair and smote himself on the brow. ‘No, no, no, no, no,’ he muttered. ‘No, it’s not the tablets that are the problem. Mrs G, I’m ruined’.
Mrs God sipped her Lady Grey and gazed sadly at him over her glasses. ‘What is it now?’ she sighed.
God looked at his hands, outstretched before him. ‘What can I not do with these?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘I create a world in six days. Not many Gods can do that. And then I do this. I was so pleased with myself. It felt so good.’ He turned tired, world-weary eyes upon his spouse, and reached out abstractedly for the sugar bowl.
‘It’s like I’ve created a chess-board,’ he said. ‘A chess-board and chess men, the table and chairs, the room to play it in. Even created the rules. And then I forget to create the players.’
Mrs God was all attention now. ‘You mean... you can’t mean...’
‘Yes,’ said God, and his divine lip quivered as a tear rolled down his cheek. ‘I forgot to create the Fairies.’
There was a terrible silence, broken only by the clink of stirring tea.
‘I was so pleased with my man. I thought, I can finish early! How’s that for cool! So, I rushed woman through and reckoned I was done. And there I was, all the men and women set up for entertainment and game playing, and I forgot to create the Fairies to play with them and run the place.’
‘Can’t you go back and do some overtime?’
‘No, my dear. I’ve wrapped up Day 6 on Earth. There’s no going back. Union rules.’
‘You are a prize idiot, God,’ Mrs God stated bluntly. ‘They’ll never let you create another world.’
She watched God sink into the depths of his chair. He looked so forlorn; her heart went out to him. ‘Can I get you a nectar and tonic, love. Pick you up a bit. There must be something you can do.’
‘All I can do,’ God said, ‘as I see it… All I can do is… Is damage limitation, I suppose. I could sow a few myths in the ether, so that men think that Fairies exist. Yes. That could do it.’ He was warming to the idea now. ‘Ever-watching, vengeful, retributive Fairies, who are infinitely more important and powerful than themselves. There’s an outside chance men will believe in them and will behave themselves, and won’t get any fancy ideas about free will or nonsense like that.’
Mrs God handed him a tall glass with pink bubbling liquid in and a small paper umbrella. ‘And if they don’t?’
God pondered. ‘There’s a remote possibility they might romanticise them, I suppose, picture them in tutus, playing with flowers and sunbeams, but I don’t think it’s likely. No, I reckon it’s the ideal clever solution. Efficient and cost effective. And in fact, it’s saved me a deal of arduous creating. It could catch on, you know, Mrs G.’
Oliver Barton is an ex-teacher and now retired writer of manuals for Hewlett-Packard. He lives in Abergavenny. His writing experience, leaving aside HP manuals, has been two full-length plays for a girls’ school and numerous flash fiction pieces, some of which have been published in various e-zines, such as Reflex Fiction, Kind of a Hurricane, The Dirty Pool, Fiction on the Web, Chronicle Stories, and the Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine. Together with his wife, he has run two writing groups in Abergavenny for several years, and that ensures constant exposure to critical appraisal, which is no bad thing for a writer.