1 for it is widely known that the teletubbies are a fiction, and Mr. Falwell’s condemnation as fanciful as they. But what if it were otherwise? What if both fictions derived from something real?
Bethany Wyles slumps in her leather chair. She’s bruised. She’s bleeding from the corner of her mouth. Her black hair hangs limply around her shoulders. There’s a glass of whiskey in her hand. Earlier that night, she’d killed a man. Her reasons seemed sound enough at the time. Perhaps they still do. The city is full of dead men, and living ones, and right now, to Bethany Wyles, they all seem pretty much the same. It’s a dirty world. She’s soaking in its grime and guilt and blood. She hates it. She’s tired of it. And somewhere, far away, she can feel a windmill turn.
There’s a knock at the door. Bethany tosses her glass aside. She staggers up. She opens the door. Her vision of the world is blurry. The hall is yellow and white. There’s a picture of a field. There’s a smear of purple. She stares down at it and tries to focus her eyes.
“You a cop?” she asks.
“I am not,” answers the smear, in an old, sad voice. “I am a small furry creature with a television on my stomach.”
“Ah,” she says. “Come in, then.”
She gestures broadly into her apartment. She slumps back to her chair. “I’m drunk,” she says.
“Yes,” says the creature. “You would be.”
He walks in. He closes the door. He pulls himself up onto the couch. He holds his special red bag tightly against his stomach.
“Are you the gay one?”
“I suppose I must be, ma’am.”
“That’s what they said on TV. Because you’re purple, and your antenna forms a triangle, and you carry a purse, even though you’re a boy.”
Bethany rubs at her lip. “Good.” She frowns. “. . . a gay one of what?”
“We are they who art known, in all places, in all times, as the enemies of God. We are the seal. We are the betrayers. We are the lost. My name is Theodore Winky, ma’am, and I am damned beyond Mr. Falwell’s dreams.”
Bethany closes her eyes. She curls sideways in her chair. One hand dangles near her purse. “I see.” She hesitates. “Are you by any chance immune to bullets? Not that I have any particular reason for asking.”
“I’m not here to hurt you, ma’am. I’m here to ask for your help.”
Bethany thinks. Then she straightens. She looks at him through the whiskey fog. “Why?”
Theodore says, softly, “Once, I loved Him, more than I dreamed I could love anything. I loved Him well and long, and dreamed of a seat beside Him in the Kingdom of Heaven. He was all my joy, ma’am. Yet I did not stop them when they took Him to the cross and nailed Him up. I did not stop them. My brother Desmond gored His side, and His blood flowed, and I held up my special white bag to catch His blood, and even to this day, ma’am, it is red.”
Something sharpens in Bethany’s eyes. “I have dreamed of this ere now,” she says, voice strangely formal. “A crimson grail in a silver beam.”
Theodore holds the bag before his stomach. The television switches on. It bathes his special red bag in silver light. “Many have,” he says. “I send those dreams.”
Bethany laughs, quietly. “I cannot take it, Mr. Winky. I am not clean.”
Theodore straightens, offended. The light fades. “It is my special red bag,” he says.
“Ah,” she says, and her eyes fuzz again. “I misunderstood.”
“I am exiled,” Theodore says, “from the kingdom of God. I have striven near two millennia to recover it; yet the closest I have ever come is now, and it is nothing more than sets and makeup, lights and acting, on the television stage. The children watch, the parents laugh, and the Churchman raves, all and each inspired in their part by our recreation of Heaven. And it will not do. A magic toaster. A custard machine. A windmill. A vacuum cleaner. These things are beautiful. These things are wonders. But they are not God.”
“No,” Bethany says. She looks up. “What do you want me to do?”
“Go to Him,” Theodore says. “For that He will not love us, we have sealed him from this world. Yet through all the world’s sorrows, He does not speak. War, pain, death, and madness, and He does not speak, and He will not let us in. Go to Him. Ask Him why. Tell us what we must do.”
Bethany rises to her feet. She sways unsteadily. “Where must I go?”
“Out the door, and to the hills,” he says. “You’ll know it when you get there.”
Bethany walks out, and out, and to the hills. The sun rises. It makes a happy gurgling noise. Bethany looks up. She shades her eyes. The sun has a face. Bethany has a hangover. She looks away.
“It was morning,” the narrator announces. “Bethany faced her first test.” The windmill spins. Stardust falls.
“Uh-oh,” Bethany says.
There’s a green blur, and then Desmond stands before her. He’s furry. He’s green. He loves to dance. He has a long and deadly horn.
“Hello,” he says.
“Hello,” she answers.
He tilts his head to one side, looking at her stomach. A long moment passes.
“Ah,” he says. “Right. Bup-a-tum.”
His stomach burns with light, and shows her a small video. It shows an Oxford classroom. There’s a teacher speaking to his class, but Bethany cannot see the students’ faces. They are swarmed in shadows.
“When the soldiers came to the savior,” the teacher says, “they saw Him already dead; and so they did not break his legs. One of them pierced His side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out. This was the Spear of Longinus, and, as it had wounded God, it was made a thing of miracles.”
The video cuts off. “Again?” Desmond asks.
“Please,” she says. She watches it again. Then she looks up. She studies the long sharp horn rising from Desmond’s head.
“I have a hat,” Desmond says. “To cover my shame. Bup-a-tum. It’s black and white. It’s cool. Bup-a-tum. But I don’t have it now. I won’t wear it yet. Do you know why, mortal girl?”
“If I had a gun,” Bethany wonders, “would it hurt you? I mean, not that I do. Just, you know, an idle curiosity.”
“I don’t want to cover up my only weapon, bup-a-tum. The spear of Longinus hungers for blood, bup-a-tum. Blood on my horn. Blood on my hands. I hunger.”
Bethany looks at her own hands.
Desmond does a small dance step. He waits.
“And on mine,” she says. She holds out her hand.
Desmond looks at her.
“We’re alike,” she says. “Blood and blood. And it hurts. Let’s wash each other clean.”
He moves forward. Her hand touches his arm. There’s an odd, electric feeling. Then she’s hugging him for a long, tight moment. With a soft noise, she lets go and backs away.
“Now,” she says, “we can fight.”
“Nuh-uh,” Desmond says. “I hunger for blood, and for atonement, but I like big hugs best of all.”
She laughs. She sits down. “God,” she says.
“Yes,” Desmond says. “I suppose you should get back to that.”
The narrator clears its throat. Desmond comes to attention. Even Bethany looks up.
“Just then,” the narrator says, “Ella and Po, who were taking a walk, bumped into Bethany and Desmond.”
Blurs of yellow and red approach, then halt.
“Hello!” says Po. She gets off of her scooter.
“Hello!” says Ella.
“This isn’t happening,” Bethany says. “This can’t be real.”
“What is reality?” Po asks.
“Laa-laa-li-laa-laa,” sings Ella. She has a big orange ball. She bounces it.
“Why are you here? Why are you like this? Why is that?” Bethany says. She points at the ball. She’s shaking. It’s crossed the line.
Ella looks at the ball. “Ball,” she says.
“Yes,” Bethany says. “Ball. It’s . . .”
“It’s shining,” Po says.
“There is a perfection in geometry,” says Po, “that transcends even Heaven.”
“What did you do?” Bethany asks.
“We were with Him,” says Po, quietly, “in the Wilderness of Judea. Twice He was tempted, and once more later. King Pleasure came to Him and tempted Him with food. King Pleasure came to Him and tempted Him with power. Then we took counsel amongst ourselves. ‘It is His will to sacrifice Himself,’ I said. ‘Yet can we take no profit from it?'”
” ‘What profit it a man?’ ”
“He meant to leave us,” Desmond says. “He meant to go away, and we should know Him nevermore, bup-a-tum. He meant to die, and if He was resurrected, still He would not stay.”
Ella looks down. “Ball.”
“So,” Po says, “we made a deal.”
“We bound Him in the ball, bup-a-tum, bup-a-tum. It’s a sphere. It’s perfect, bup-a-tum, bup-a-tum. He can’t get out. We can’t get in.”
“We kept Him, so He would not leave us. And for this service, we and King Pleasure share the world.”
“We kept Him. We killed Him and we kept Him, but He does not speak.”
Ella looks up quietly. Her eyes are anguished. She holds the ball out to Bethany. Bethany sets her hand upon it, and looks inside it, and she sees the cross.
“. . . that’s not Jesus,” she says, after a long moment.
“Will you help us?”
“. . . but it’s not,” she says. “It can’t be. The portraits would have shown.”
Ella looks up. Her voice is gentle and sweet. “We send people in and they never come back. It’s been two thousand years.”
“I could give you all a big hug,” she offers. “You like big hugs best. Big hugs are better than God.”
The windmill spins. All four of them hop to their feet and run around.
“Uh-oh,” Bethany says.
A drum descends. It has one likeness. When it goes, it goes towards its four sides; it turns not as it goes. As for its wings, they are high and full of fear, and the drum has its wings full of eyes round about. And the name written on the drum is Ofan.
“It’s the chariot,” Desmond whispers.
The drum lands. The sides open. There’s a miniature dancing bear. Music plays. The bear does a tap-dance. The sides of the drum close. The drum begins to rise.
“Please,” Po says. “I am weary of my years.”
Bethany sighs. Then a fey light shines in her eyes, and she moves; and casts herself forward; and both hands wrap around the drum. She ascends.
“Thus,” the narrator explains, “she rose to Heaven.”
There’s a green and hilly place; and a field of crosses; and on one is written, MNRI, and nailed to the cross is a creature pure and white, with fur like a lamb’s and an antenna like a halo.
“Matha of Nazareth, Rex Iubby,” Bethany reads. She does not need the words to know the creature’s name.
The creature looks down.
“It has been some time,” Matha says.
“I am to ask you to forgive they who have not earned it; to love they who have imprisoned you; and to open unto them, the unworthy, the kingdom of Heaven.”
“I send them miracles every day,” Matha says, “and they do not see.”
“Ah,” Bethany says.
“No,” she says. “I know what you mean.”
“So I have found God,” she says, “and he has a television on his stomach, and a special cross that he loves to hang from, and he loves big hugs best of all. And I wonder,” Bethany says, “why I shall not return.”
“Return,” says Matha, “and tell them this; and then go home; and drink until you die?”
“Yes,” Bethany admits, after a moment. “That was probably the plan.”
“Perhaps this is your Heaven,” Matha says.
“Green hills and silly songs and dancing bears and televisions on people’s stomachs?”
“You want more dignity in your Heaven?”
“. . . yeah.”
“I wonder what that earns,” Matha says, “that weighty dignity of religious things; that quest for grandeur; that instinct for glory. I wonder what it brings; save, of course, for guilty iubbies.”
“I want more dignity,” Bethany insists.
“Too bad,” Matha says. “The world can only give you beauty.”