Tainted John isn’t a priest. He’s a cannibal. If you were trying to get him and a priest across a river, for instance, you’d want to make sure he didn’t outnumber the priest at any given time. If you were to feature him in a rendition of Shriekback’s Nemesis sung entirely by the creatures mentioned, he’d be unable to start the chorus—he’d have to wait for a priest of some sort to go first!
Now you might think that what with all of the intimations that Tainted John is in some fashion in danger of becoming God that doctrine might allow for some flexibility here. For instance, you might allow him to sing the whole “priests and cannibals” and maybe even the “prehistoric animals” section of the song, to the consternation of the velociraptors; or you might think, as Micah is about to think, that it’s all right to offer Tainted John your confession.
These ideas are not correct.
If Tainted John were going to receive a confession, he would do it very poorly, and without the holy offices of the Church. Afterwards you would not be impressed with him; rather you would say things like, “What a bad implementation of the sacrament!” or “I’m not sure whether that’s holy or creepy, Tainted John.”
If he does become God, he’ll probably have to work at this kind of thing. He would have to become generically better at being holy, I think—in addition to learning the various rules that are binding specifically on God, of course, such as, move in mysterious ways, better than he already does, I mean; or never, probably never, I mean, participate in a Macintosh switch commercial, and disavow any Macintosh switch commercials in which he had previously participated; and maintain, most crucially of all, a serially uncorrelated will.
(God’s will should not repeat within the lifespan of the universe, that is. If God’s will repeated sooner than that then everybody would point and laugh at God!
“That God!” they would say. “So regressive!”
He would be separating the land from the waters, again, and smashing Jericho. The people of Jericho would say, “That was unnecessary.”
That was unnecessary, God!
Then God would make the sun stand still and the moon stay put.
Everybody would wonder why but in fact it would be so that Joshua can kill the enemies of the children of Israel. You, and hopefully Tainted John, can see how unfortunate that kind of thing would be.)
The sands dripped through the hourglass
And the hour of the wolf closed in at last
And life is sweet and the sun is high
But the flesh and the fire are born to die
There’s a girl in the sun
And there’s girls in the sea
And in Elm Hill’s cages
There’s a girl like me.
It is May 28, the year of our lord 2004, and the sun has fled from Tina’s tender care. The facility at Elm Hill bellies low against the earth. Melanie has just sounded her doleful Haraldr-horn.
It is almost time for Micah to go to war.
He is in the hallway at Elm Hill. He is gathering his strength. Tainted John is there, too, straightening Micah’s clothing and grinning that horrid grin at him because it seems to be the thing to do at the time. He’s grinning, and his eyes are mirrors made of blood, and they make Micah remember how very much he’d wanted to kill the boy, back before Liril had remade him ghūl.
There’s something weird in Micah’s eyes, just then, and Tainted John finds himself ruffling Micah’s hair.
Micah looks away.
“Would you hear my confession?” Micah asks.
Tainted John isn’t a priest. He’s a cannibal. He pops a bit of Micah’s acne and licks it off his fingers. He’s spent a lot of time lately thinking about how Micah would taste, particularly now that the scent of paste is almost gone. Salty, certainly, and subtly human, and—
He reminds himself that thinking about eating people while talking to them is rude. He considers Micah’s request. He shrugs.
“Can,” he says.
“I wish that I had better friends,” Micah says quietly.
John gives a noise like a cat testing out a potential hairball. From John it appears to be, arguably, a laugh.
“That wasn’t the confession,” Micah says. “Listen. I was supposed to be something awesome. I was supposed to be this incredible rescuing god but instead I came out—”
He hesitates. John just grins at him.
“I never get to impress the monster,” Micah says. His whole face twitches. He leans against the wall. “I don’t even want to care. But I wanted to be this thing he’d fear, this thing he’d, I wanted to crush him and stab him and tell him, ‘should you know not justice, you who hate good
and love evil, you who tear
the skin from my people
and the flesh from their bones,’ and all I ever get to be is—”
“Alive,” Micah says.
John shakes his head. Micah can’t see him. Micah is looking at the wall.
“Also,” Micah confesses, in a small voice, “I’m allergic to laminates.”
John isn’t a priest. He’s a cannibal. He does not have the necessary dispensation to assign Micah prayers in penance—nor, if we are going to be strict about the dogma, to demand that Micah offer up some portion of his flesh.
So he takes a bit of paper and he pastes it on Micah’s shirt and he writes on it in his awful hand, “Micah,” and “Defiant.”
He doesn’t even say “Now go, and sin no more.”
[The Frog and the Thorn – CHAPTER TWO]
May 28, 2004
What a bad implementation of the sacrament!
That is maybe even more creepy than it is holy, Tainted John.