Published June 4, 2010
The Lord thought of Pompeii, and wondered why he had let it go at that.
In no longer a time than it took to imagine it, he was transported to
Italy. He walked around in the shadow of Vesuvius, among the ruins of
the ancient city. Its inhabitants were long gone, but their thoughts
could still be heard, scribbled here and there among the remnants of
“Profit is happiness,” read an inscription on one of the water founts.
“Welcome to profit” read another on a marble floor not far from the
famous brothels which he too had sometimes visited in earthly form when
he tired of holy virgins. He had felt young and vigorous then, full of
hope for the future, for the destiny of man who still had so much to
learn. The future had come. Nothing had been learnt.
In old Pompeii, every house had a statue dedicated to the Mercury, the
god of commerce and lies. He had preserved many of the statues, just as
he had preserved much of the once glittering city. He had wanted to
prove this was not wanton destruction, that there was some point to it
When he watched the city under the burning blanket, he decided to keep
it as a reminder. He had let it rain, the cold drizzle beating on the
hot ashes rendering everything within encased and eternal. Surely, the
complete destruction of a city renowned for its greed could only be
taken as divine intervention by a vengeful god. There was a moral here
to be learnt. It was not learnt.
Vesuvius became Katla, the Lord as he was constrained by time, not
space. He looked down on that ridiculous little cluster of houses that
the inhabitants called a capital city. How so few had managed to cause
so much grief was out of all proportion. Like all good sculptors, God
was greatly concerned with proportion.
With no more effort than the clapping of hands, the land would be
restored to its natural spirits. Its dams and high rises would remain
for a while as testament to human folly, before disappearing into dust
as everything must. Perhaps, he thought to himself, it was time to do
the same to all mankind. It was, after all, unfair to blame all the
world’s problems on the Icelanders. He should open up the earth and let
the fires engulf every living thing, once he was at it.
Before the Lord could put his hands together and cleanse the world of
mortal stupidity, he saw four beings approaching. This surprised him. He
had heard demented prophets warn of four horsemen at the end of days,
but he had never really taken them seriously. God was more of a chaos
theorist when it came to outlook. Any event could unfold in a million
different ways, all in turn spawning a myriad of possibilities. That’s
what made mankind so interesting to observe. And yet, out of all these
options, they almost always settled on the worst. They could create
Paradise, but instead opted for Hell. Now he was in an Apocalyptic vein.
And four riders were approaching. Perhaps he would prove the demented
prophets right after all. But their elation would be short lived. When
it came to the afterlife, they would be sorely disappointed.
The Lord was about to return to work when a thought struck him. If the
prophets had been right about the End, had they not also been right
about other aspects of existence? Such as in their fear of the Devil.
And if he himself, the Destroyer of Worlds, represented the Good, he did
not very much want to meet the Bad.
A shudder went through him as the creatures came into closer view. Then
relief, as he saw that instead of a rider on a white horse, the first
was a man bereft of equestrian assistance. Instead of a conquerors’
bow, he carried a simple walking stick. He wore no crown upon his head,
only the simple garb the inhabitants once utilised and yet believed
every man to be king. His stature was large, but his manner humble.
The second apparition had horns, it was true. This struck fear into the
celestial heart, as horned creatures were generally to be avoided during
an Apocalypse. But this was no Man-Devil, no Daemon from the depths.
No, this was simply a bull which, it had to be said, would have looked
rather foolish without them.
The coming of the third creature was heralded by a piercing scream,
which sent a shiver down the divine spine that God had not felt since he
had first discovered the terrible loneliness of his existence. Again he
was relieved, for the scream, though inhuman enough, belonged to an
eagle and not the Anti-Christ.
It was the fourth being that did the most to unnerve the Almighty. The
fourth had claws and breathed fire and the Lord, who was an avid reader
of Dante and a great admirer of the Florentine imagination, began to
believe in the truth behind fiction. His appearance here and now,
through the flames of a volcano at the End of Days, made him even more
It was only when the Dragon began to speak that the image was shattered.
This was not the Evil One come to claim the world as his throne.
Rather, he seemed a timid creature, stuttering and coughing flames with
every attempt he made to form a word.
The Lord soon realised that the creatures were more in awe of him than
he was of them. It had been long since he had shown himself publically;
he had quite forgotten the effect he had on lesser beings who beheld
him. He decided to play his advantage.
“What is it you want?” he said, in a stern voice that could bring entire
nations to heel.
“We have come to plead clemency,” coughed the Dragon in a sickly voice.
“We come to Iceland’s aid in the hour of its need,” boomed the Giant in a
tone that echoed throughout the mountains. “Be it the King of Norway or
the Almighty itself, we will not let Iceland go down without a fight.”
A walking stick against the Word of God did little to encourage his
companions, nor did it impress the Almighty. Eagle interjected in order
to calm things down. “Perhaps we can make a wager,” it shrieked.
The Lord knew that Icelanders could not be trusted in a game of dice.
They would only play tricks with the numbers. Nevertheless, the longer
he stayed on the island, the more he had come to admire it. The
shoreline here was coloured in darker hues than his beloved Amalfi Coast
but it was, in its own way, just as spectacular. It was among his
latest works, a mere 20 million years old, and proved that he still had
it. He had written it off as a side project at the time, but perhaps it
should be re-evaluated as a major piece, a spontaneous flight of fancy
that worked as well for what it was as the quirkiness of Australia or
the endless depths of Brazil did in other parts?
Truly, if would be a pity if there was no one left but him to behold it.
And yet, was its beauty not lost on a people who understood nothing but
cold hard cash, a people without imagination? Was there anyone on the
island at all who could appreciate beauty for its own sake? True beauty
could only be appreciated through honest eyes, and this reminded him of a
bet he had once made in circumstances similar to these.
“Show me 50 honest people, and I will spare the country,” he said to the
The four beings looked worryingly at one another.
“Very well then, 40?” offered the Lord.
Still, there was no reply.
“30?” God attempted. For one used to having everything as he wanted,
haggling was not one of his strong sides.
“20,” he found himself saying.
“Surely, you must be able to find me 10 honest Icelanders?”
“Perhaps we should just move to Norway,” said the Giant. “I’ve heard
there is work to be had there for Guardian Spirits up in the North.
As the four Guardians were about to leave, and the Lord was getting
ready to resume his terrible work, a thought occurred to him. Some
innocents still believed in the fairness of his intentions, and it now
seemed unfair of him to kill everyone who had been led astray by a few.
Should a country not be judged by the essence of its spirit as seen in
the fruit of its greatest minds, rather than by the folly of its
financial captains? If he could find something worth saving even here,
then the same would surely apply everywhere.
He was not a God of Good or Evil—both were merely the consequences of
the actions of men. He was the God of Creation, and it was according
to men’s creations that they would be judged.
“Very well then,” the Lord said. Name me one single contribution that
the Icelanders have made to mankind, and I will spare both them, and