Dear Universe

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A little short story I found tucked in an old file.


The vicar changed his sober clergy-wear for a floral kaftan. His white dog collar, he replaced with a strip of holographic plastic. He began his prayers ‘Dear Universe’. Miracles started to happen. The church roof stopped leaking, the stained-glass windows repaired themselves, flowers grew from graves, and the recently dead rose out of them, taking up residence in the church hall.

Out of consideration for lives moved on, they kept themselves apart from the loved ones they left behind, but they sang joyful songs, and performed at weddings.

The restored dead fed on manna that fell like snow in the graveyard. Any excess was, at first, eaten by birds and stray creatures, which developed rainbow feathers and colourful tufts in their fur. Some of the villagers, furtively sampling the benison, grew rainbow streaks in their hair or beards. Bald-headed men grew back manes of rainbow hair (even the vicar). They said that the manna tasted like sunlight, or perhaps food eaten in a dream. Manna was replenished as fast as it was consumed, and was harvested with alacrity from the graveyard where it accumulated around the stones and was sold in the local shop in little paper bags. All proceeds to charity, of course.

The vicar gave up preaching altogether, and he started sprinkling flakes of manna onto sprains and cuts. Minor injuries healed in moments. He visited the sick. Chronic illnesses faded until it was as if they never were. People were cured of anything previously classified as a disease, physical or mental. Everyone self-medicated with manna. No one died, even the very old.

The good news got out. Thus began the influx of the sick from far and wide. Ambulances brought the injured direct to the church. Doctors directed their patients to the church, not even bothering with a diagnosis. Soon, even on the faintest suspicion of illness, people simply took themselves to the now crowded churchyard. Mothers brought babies and toddlers for reassurance. The sick discharged themselves from hospitals and travelled in medical convoys. And, soon, the roads became so congested that there was grid-lock day and night. The Army had to take control of the situation, but villagers delivered handfuls of Manna to all who waited, patrolling the queues of vehicles waiting to enter the village.

This could not last, of course. The region became choked with the hopeful and desperate. Manna was despatched by helicopter from the village green. Requests poured in from around the world to heal and feed all those in need.

Manna was in such demand that it had to be rationed. It was diluted with oatmeal, or sprinkled into loaves. Homeopaths tried unsuccessfully to extract the healing vibration of the manna. Manna was shipped out by drones, and sold on the black market at extortionate prices. Soldiers surrounded the village to prevent riots, organising a strict distribution system based on need. Government representatives were sent. The vicar chaired the committee, until the bishop decided he was not senior enough and came himself, then he was replaced by the archbishop. Notably, both grew also grew a torrent of rainbow hair.

Fighting broke out, first in isolated spots, then in adjoining regions, spreading countrywide. Many deaths occurred, and no amount of sprinkled manna would restore them. Villagers barricaded their houses, and hoarded what manna they could. The restored dead no longer sang, and they began to die again. The vicar called upon The Universe for guidance. His plastic collar was less shiny now, and his kaftan more than a little grubby. He knew what he had to do. He took off his flowery attire, took off the collar, and placed it upon the windowsill in the vestry. From the oak cupboard, he took his black clerical vestments and put them back on.

The abandoned holographic collar caught the light and made tiny rainbows.


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