God saw it and was disturbed. He imagined human hordes overrunning those heavenly streets paved with gold; drinking the milk and licking the honey; peering into all His Wondrous Works with their insatiable curiosity, that curiosity He had given them…
Stop. He had to stop imagining it. Because He was God. And whatever He imagined would come to pass.
But of course it wouldn’t come to pass, because the tower, built on a bubble of vanity, would eventually tumble, bringing devastation to the earth and to humankind. It was an indisputable fact (perhaps the only indisputable fact, since even His Holy Existence was in dispute from time to time) that the Tower could never reach Heaven. It was against the rules. He had devised strict procedure, in which entry visas were allowed only to those souls who had striven and suffered to live a perfect life. Bodies and any remnant of earthly matter were strictly forbidden.
Nevertheless, he tossed and turned on his cloud bed until Mrs God awoke.
He had always preferred to keep Mrs God’s existence quiet: Herself, the feminine half of Himself. It was bad enough with all those male priests on the celestial telephone to Him day and night, claiming a direct mandate from a Supreme, Male Being, without women doing it as well.
“For Heaven’s sake go to sleep!” urged She, for His unrest had separated them temporarily.
But still He worried, for six days and six nights. On the seventh day He was supposed to rest. It was tradition. But instead He paced the Universe, not noticing how the flying hem of his robe scattered and tumbled planets still under construction; brushing infant galaxies aside and thus retarding for a billion years, the development of countless new species.
“You’re upsetting the Universe!” grumbled His better half. At this point She was One with Him again, “I don’t know why you’re so fussed. Why not send a flood?”
“Just done it,” sighed God, “Only a few of their generations ago. And I promised I’d never do it again. I can’t take away their rainbows!”
“Plague of locusts?” suggested She soothingly.
“It’s not the time. ‘To everything there is a season’…”
“Oh my God, not that sickly song! Well what about a teeny localised earthquake?”
“We don’t do earthquakes. They are randomly generated – part of the fabric of the cooling planet. They just happen. I wish with all my heart they didn’t.”
God rested His divine forehead sadly in His hands. He had not wanted to hurt mankind, but things had happened. Things which might have been called unforeseen (if only He/She had not been an all-knowing God). The creation had taken on a life of its own! It was developing at a faster and faster rate.
It was all meant to be. Yet it was painful.
She read His mind (unsurprising since they were One), “If it’s not quite finished, perhaps we shouldn’t have been so impatient to populate that little planet. What about those other 'remedies'? The ones he designed?”
“Whirlwinds? Hurricanes? We loathe those too.”
“Yes,” Her voice whispered inside the limitless caverns of His Being: “Don’t worry. It won’t come to anything. You’ll see. Their lives are short. They’ll soon get tired of it”
But the humans didn’t tire of the tower. They went on, until the heavenly nights began to be disturbed with the sound of hammering, banging and sawing. They were getting nearer.
“This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be,” groaned God.
“It’s all metaphorical, ” reminded Mrs God, “You know they won’t literally get here! They’re only doing what you do yourself: they’re creating something beautiful and wonderful, striving for intellectual knowledge. You made them in Your Image,”
“WE made them. In Our image,” God snapped, “It wasn’t an immaculate conception for god’s sake!”
Some cherubs who had been dangling idly from a cornice fell off and fluttered away crying.
“Yes, but they’re mortal. And they want to be immortal, like Us. That’s why they build their little creations -”
“- and whose fault is it that they’re mortal?”
Neither wished to answer that eternal question. Clouds floated slowly by, and only the multitudinous roaring of the human voices could be heard, as He/She silently pondered the Great Deliberate Mistake.
It was She who eventually spoke, “We’ll have to set up a meeting…”
“Yes. I know. We’ll suspend Time…”
In the blink of an aeon, a man and woman appeared in thin air, their bodies slowly taking solid shape, treading gingerly over sharp stones in the purple shadowed valley from which the Tower rose. He was elderly, with majestic forehead, shaggy eyebrows and a flowing white beard. She was small and plump. It was impossible, in the deep shade, to see what colour their skins were.
Three leafless trees stood starkly silhouetted on the brow of a bare hill, against the blood-streaked sky of an earth dawn. The sun however did not rise, because Time was suspended.
“Where has the forest gone - the green forest?”
“They’ve cut it down to build the Tower. We made them Lords of the Earth, remember?”
A vast, ramshackle city of tents stretched for miles along the barren valley. There was a brownish haze in the air, of pollution caused by the activities of so many people crammed together.
Mrs God stopped and looked around, “The lush fruit bushes? The wild animals? The dewdrop bladed grass?”
“Plundered and never replaced. Our lovely earth. They’ve let it all go to ruin.” God’s mournful sigh rippled his white beard.
They could see the Tower rising through the haze, pale and lovely, into the clouds and beyond, it seemed, into forever. It was embellished with intricate, yet simple designs. Replicas of all forms and living things on earth graced the sturdy walls; delicate arched windows spiraled around it to disappear into misty infinity…
“Are you surprised?”
“But this is the first time I have seen through a man’s eyes…”
“…Ah, these bodies…”
“…We need to practice living in them. For the plan to unfold…”
At the base of the Tower, all was still. Blocks of stone stood in pyramids, waiting to be used, but Time had stopped, so the hollow eyed masons, who had risen in the chill of dawn to begin their work, stood motionless as statues.
A thin child, whose task it was to bring water, knelt on the bank of a glass stream, with bucket stilled and diamond drops hanging in midair.
In the tents, people were silent and still or stopped in the midst of waking ; a woman who had been making bread, stood by a fire of frozen flames, fingers stilled, deep in the dough, eyes unseeing.
God saw that many of the people were diseased. Many were menial workers drawn to the tent-city by despair and starvation: all resources had been diverted to the building of the tower. Human beings had ceased to tend the land, so the land was now barren.
They had also ceased to tend to each other. So people suffered, isolated and alone.
Two people stood, clothed in gold, heads bent over a large architectural drawing, her hand on his shoulder, his face turned to hers,with lips parted to speak words which never came. The World had been silenced. All except for a low dark building, where a fire glowed and metal rang on metal. The Gods made their way towards it.
In the interior of the smithy, a great many polished objects gleamed on shelves. Among them, God noticed a small model of a guillotine.
“Those haven’t been invented yet!”
“Nor that!” said Mrs God, admiring an engine block for a British Leyland Allegro.
“Yet?” echoed a voice curiously like a blend of both their own, “ Why speak of Time, which is only the prison you’ve created for these little creatures of ours to crawl around in? We are in eternity!”
The speaker was lit by the glow of the fire, his hammer paused over the great dark anvil. Smoke seemed to rise from his hair; whites of teeth and eyes gleamed in a dark and handsome face.
“We haven’t come to quibble!” said God in unison.
Smoke swirled momentarily and the dark beautiful features morphed into something softer. “I never quibble!” It was now a woman’s voice and full of laughter. She began to hammer again, “I create!”
“Well now you’ve gone too far!” exclaimed Mrs God, “It has to stop! Your disguises and your trickery! Your jokes, your inventions!”
“My disguises and inventions?” laughed the woman, “In the Beginning was the Word…the Word was made flesh! And wasn't it you who switched the spotlights on? ‘Let there be light’?”
The smoke rose again from the forge and the woman’s form morphed again: this time into something horned. Her voice grew deep,“Who named Me Lucifer?” Her scaly claw pulled something white-hot from the anvil. It was a small golden tiger, which leapt, bounded away and disappeared, “Did He who made the lamb make thee?” murmured Lucifer speculatively, coiling his now snake body around God’s ankle.
God tried to ignore the snake, “The human race is out of control…”
“It’s not the first or the last time.”
“You gave them free will.”
Lucifer (a woman again) smiled beatifically. She smoothed her fish scale silver mermaid tail dress, “Ye-es.... I did... didn’t I? How very Promethean of me. And how predictable of you to have left it out of the original design! What on earth could these creatures have achieved without it? Why do you so resent their attempts to overcome those clod-hopping, faulty bodies you gave them?”
“That’s not the problem. It’s what they are doing to the home I gave them! Look around you at the mess! And you encourage it! You inspire it!”
Lucifer hammered again, until a golden calf was formed, then he stood back and gestured, “Look at You both. Look at Me. You built flaws into the program. Global template errors. You split them into male and female, rather than an indivisible whole, as the original design specified. Just as you separated the light from the darkness. You made them mortal. Subject to viruses. You made them multiply.”
“It was You who engineered that!”
“I? I merely shed Light on their situation. Showed them what was what. 'Let there be Light.’ What did you expect? You’d given them power, creativity and intellect, which they were not allowed to use.”
“They can’t handle it. This tower is a vain and pointless construction at the expense of the rest of creation. It is power without responsibility, creativity without purpose, intellect without Love. It is You without Us.”
“Yes, We are divided. The three of us. Me, and Both of You.” Laying the golden calf on the anvil, Lucifer reached into the fire and drew out a pink cake with four lit candles, “Oops! One too many!”
“The imbalance will be fatal. It will destroy Us All!”
“So what are you going to do about it? Another flood? Ah…I see that one hit home... You had to junk nearly all your creation and go back to basics didn’t you? But you already know a subtler solution; one much more dangerous than any of my divinely deadly designs.”
Lucifer, now a grinning white-faced clown, plunged the golden calf into water where it hissed and spat. He lifted it out and set it on a shelf, next to a statue of Elvis Presley and a few other small idols. “You talk about power and responsibility. Take away their power. Take away the Word.”
We know how the story ends. A few stone blocks scratched with indecipherable shapes lie half buried, fingered by the keening wind, in a bleak and remote valley. Mankind scattered and divided, unable to communicate, forever quarreling, warring, killing.
We can’t help it can we? We know how the story ends, over and over. Or do we?
Together, human beings have the power to create anything: a heartless and beautiful tower, death, a slum, a bomb, a concentration camp, a war, universal destruction.
Or we can make a well for drinking water, a hospital, a university, a peace, a child, a better world.