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The Nominalist Library
The Short Stories of Nicholas Hancockespair
Published by The British Hancock Society
with the permission of the author.

IN THE DOCK

Justice Shaun O’Farrell screamed under the lacerating pain: the cells of his melanoma had migrated down lymph vessels to fresh fields of endeavour, creating a sensation of steel fingers clawing at his insides – a feeling he’d once believed impossible, certainly unendurable. They were giving him morphine but had refused point-blank to increase the dose, knowing it would be fatal.
     ‘But, Dr Gould, that’s just what I want.’
     ‘I know, Justice O’Farrell, but we’re constrained by our ethics, I’m afraid.’
     ‘Ethics be damned.’
     ‘I sympathise.’ He stopped playing with the stethoscope for a moment. ‘I could be prosecuted for murder, you know.’
     Just then the Catholic chaplain stopped by, allowing Dr Gould to slip away.
     ‘How can religion justify all this pain and suffering, Father?’
     ‘It’s sent to try us, Shaun.’
     Shaun O’Farrell’s shriek of anger got disposed of the chaplain as well.
     The cancer was now in his liver and brain: it was clear that he would be murdered by it,           not by the oncologist.
     And murder him it did after three more weeks of hell, and he found himself without transition in heaven.
     It was not as he’d imagined it. In fact, it was rather like hospital, only cleaner. The one reason he knew he wasn’t there any longer was the total absence of pain.
     He’d wound up in a room with other deceased judges, who, he found, had also died in agony and were just as incensed as he was by the lame theological explanation for all this suffering.
     ‘It’s sent to try us, huh?’ he asked them. ‘Why don’t we try God? There are enough of us here.’
     In heaven things happen fast. Before you could say Holy Ghost, they had the Lord in the dock of the prestigious celestial courtroom, though, before proceedings could begin, they had to ask for sun glasses to avoid being blinded by the defendant’s searing light.
     Mysteriously in wig and gown, Justice O’Farrell presided from the bench.
O’FARRELL: Do you wish to be represented?
GOD: Not on your Nellie!
O’FARRELL: Then let us proceed. You are arraigned before this august bar to answer a       charge of indifference, or – dare I say it? – of outright sadism. You apparently created diseases and illnesses in order to try us. How do you plead?
GOD: Guilty.
(THE SILENCE IN THE COURTROOM IS DEAFENING.)
       I make no apology – That’s your word, not mine, so it certainly can’t apply to me. And if         by guilty you mean am I a sadist, again it’s the wrong way round: the Marquis de Sade           was godly is more like it than to say that I’m sadistic. But again I’m not about to reproach       myself for my divine attributes. What else is creation all about but to amuse me with the         spectacle of cosmic pain? How else would I stand the very smell of eternity?
O’FARRELL: Cant! Piffle!
GOD: And, O’Piffle –
O’FARRELL: O’Farrell’s the name!
GOD: Never you mind, O’Piffle, tell me how you can justify combining the roles of plaintiff                           and judge? It’s highly unusual.
O’FARRELL: This is an unusual tribunal, Lord. Answer me this: what are humans – your                             whole animal creation – on trial for?
GOD: (INCREDULOUS) On trial? What are you on about?
O’FARRELL: Let me repeat the charge against you – that (HE READS) ‘you apparently                               created diseases and illnesses in order to try us.‘
GOD: Not that kind of trial – Don’t be so literal!
O’FARRELL: What kind of a trial then?
GOD: Simply to test your loyalty to me under trying circumstances –
O’FARRELL: There! We have the word again – trying!
GOD: Justice O’Piffle, you are so-o-o-o literal!
O’FARRELL: And you try our loyalty – our servility – flattery (to your massive ego if you like)                       by twisting our flesh in the pincers of cancer? And how do the demented show                       loyalty to you, as you put it? The Alzheimer’s patient eventually loses all                                 semblance of mind, Lord. How is he or she to do anything whatever for you with                     total mind loss?
GOD: I guess you have a point there, O’Piffle. To be quite honest all that ‘sent to try you’                            garbage was invented by your theologians: my real motive is godliness.
O’FARRELL: You mean sadism?
GOD: Your word – but exactly.
                      (AT THIS POINT AN ANGEL IN THE PUBLIC GALLERY CUPS ITS HANDS                              AND TRUMPETS:                      
                       ‘GO TO IT, GOD!’)
                      You’ve had your day in court, O’Piffle. All the twaddle you’ve talked about me                         was pure humbug. I created you for my amusement – and if you squirm a bit,                         well then, you relieve some of the relentless tedium of eternity. So I suppose                         you could say you have your uses, modest though they are.
                      (THE JUDGE VAULTS NIMBLY FROM THE BENCH AND RUSHES                                         MURDEROUSLY TOWARDS THE DOCK. HIS HANDS REACH FOR GOD’S                           THROAT. . .)
Shaun O’Farrell woke in his hospital bed in a pool of vomit. Do I have to die all over again? he thought.