(Based on a dream I had)
It was already mid-afternoon and the sun was beginning to sink towards the west when the Hunter reached Heaven, God’s corpse bouncing on the back of his hired flatbed.
The Hunter wasn’t the kind of person one would think would finally succeed in gunning God down. He was of middle age, tall and thin,with a bald head and a walrus moustache. He was dressed like a caricature White Hunter of the African savannah, in khaki shirt, shorts, and even an ancient pith helmet, and all he lacked to complete the picture was the bandoliers crossed on his chest.
But one couldn’t argue with success, and he’d succeeded where the teams of bounty hunters with their top-of-the-line equipment had failed; so he stood now in the centre of the main market, supervising as God’s body was lifted off the flatbed by a crane. The word had already spread through the sprawling slums of Heaven, and people – angels, cherubs, and even the odd human expat – all crowded round to watch.
The golden sunlight of Heaven gleamed dully on God’s hide, and highlighted the clotting patches of yellow-green mucoid blood. He was big, bigger than most people had imagined. When he was strung up by his spade-shaped nose, his tail still dragged on the ground almost ten metres below. He was so broad around the middle that if one stood too close one couldn’t see the top; and so heavy that the Hunter had had to hire the biggest crane in the market to lift him off the flatbed.
And, by God, God was ugly. Uglier than anyone had thought an omnipotent,omniscient being had any right to be, with his grey rubbery skin, his circle of protruding white eyes, and the thick pink tentacles sprouting here and there along the ridges marking his body. He was so ugly, in fact, that even the ugliest of the angels sighed with sorrow at the death of something uglier than they were.
But how had the Hunter, a mere man with an ancient bolt-action rifle, single-handedly tracked down and dispatched God? This was the question on everyone’s lips.
It was also the question which was going around in the minds of the occupation authorities. In the Halls of the Proconsul, a top level meeting was interrupted by the news that the Hunter had just appeared with God’s corpse and was right now in the market standing proudly under it as people clicked pictures. The Proconsul himself immediately dispatched a squad of Imperial Mercenaries to make inquiries.
They descended from the golden sky of Heaven from their assault helicopters, rappelling down all around the market so quickly that none of the gathered multitude had a chance to escape. But this wasn’t a standard operation, so instead of massacring everyone, the assault team simply beat them aside, forcing their way towards God’s corpse. As the crowd quickly vanished into the market’s alleys, the mercs surrounded God’s cadaver, and pointed all their guns at the Hunter’s pith-helmeted head.
The Hunter himself didn’t seem fazed by this. He was even polite. “What do you want, gentlemen?”
“We...” the mercenary squad leader was at a loss. He was an expert in blowing people away, not talking to them. “We need to ask you some questions.”
“Go right ahead,” the Hunter replied cheerfully. “I don’t promise to answer them though.”
“Let’s see.” The merc leader cleared his throat self-consciously. “First, on whose authority did you go hunting God? Who gave you permission to track this fugitive from justice?”
“Look at this.” With a flourish, the Hunter took out a piece of folded paper from his breast pocket. “I have a hunting licence here which permits me to kill one of any non-protected species. Is...I mean was, of course...God a member of a protected species?” He paused, with the insufferable air of one who already knows the answer to his question. “Well?”
The mercenaries looked at one another helplessly. “Fine,” the squad leader said hurriedly. “So just how did you get God when our ultra-super-sophisticated teams couldn’t even detect a hair on his head? Not that,” he added quickly, looking up, “he had hair on his head...or a head, come to think of it.”
“The difference between me and you,” the Hunter said, stroking his moustache, “is that I have patience. How many of you have patience? I’ll bet you went rushing around looking for God with those helicopters of yours, scaring the poor devil...I mean, the poor God...half to death. Isn’t that what you lot were doing?”
“What else?” the mercenary leader asked truculently. “What did you do, huh?”
“I’m getting to that. While you lot were rushing about, I’ve been in out there in the swamps, lying in the mud for days...and weeks...waiting, and watching. Finally, this morning, God walked into my trap, just as I’d expected. And I shot him. That’s all there was to it.” He paused dramatically again. “And so the reward for killing God is mine. All mine!”
“Not so fast,” the mercenary leader snapped. “You say God walked into your trap, just as you expected. How do you mean, you expected that?”
The Hunter blinked. “Why, because you lot were so busy hunting God all over the countryside that there was only one place he could go to hide – the swamp. All I had to do was to go in there and be patient. What else?”
The mercenary leader sighed with great and complete satisfaction. “I thought so,” he said. “It was due entirely to our efforts that you killed the fugitive tyrant. So we deserve the reward, not you.” He turned to his subordinates, jerking a thumb at the giant dangling corpse. “Right, boys, let’s get that thing and get out of here.”
“But...” the Hunter began to protest. “That’s not...”
“Not what?” the mercenary leader replied savagely. “You want to pick a fight with us? Huh?”
“I have my rights.”
“Yes – that piece of paper. Well, let me tell you, you aren’t on a protected species list either. Understand?” Without waiting for an answer, the mercenary leader turned away and watched as the remainder of his squad attached the corpse to cables a hovering helicopter began to let down. “All set?” he asked impatiently.
“You don’t understand,” the Hunter said desperately. “That body’s highly unstable. The weight distribution’s off centre and...”
“No, you don’t understand.” The mercenary leader pointed a finger at the Hunter’s moustache. “We are taking this corpse in, and claiming the reward. As for you, you have a choice: either pipe down or we squash you. Do you get me?”
The Hunter shrugged, stepping back. “Have it your own way.”
As the helicopter began to rise, turning slowly under the strain, it happened. The weight swung, first one way, and then another. The copter lurched to the side, slowly and then faster, turning almost turtle. Its rotors sliced into the dangling corpse, which promptly disintegrated in mid-air.
Pieces of God came raining down. Wherever they fell, the pieces – no longer being part of a single dead God – became new, living, independent mini-gods. Hopping and jumping, squirming and sliding, they slimed through the alleys and stalls and disappeared.
“Are you satisfied now?” the Hunter asked. “Happy?” His voice rose in wrath. “I tried to warn you, but you wouldn’t listen. I spent all that time hunting and exterminating the tyrant, and now we have hundreds of his clones running around.”
The mercenary leader looked at him, and slowly began to grin. “Well now,” he said, “the way I look at it, it just gives us a chance of more rewards...hundreds of more rewards. Now that we have hundreds of gods running around, you see.”
Turning to his men, he swung a Kevlar-clad arm. “Let’s go get them, boys.”
“What about me?” the Hunter asked, plaintively.
“What about you?” the merc said over his shoulder.
The Hunter said nothing, He was looking past the mercenaries.
Already, oozing from the lanes, each group led by a mini-god, the crowd was coming.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2013