The Ministry

When I was much younger I was made out of dark red plastecene, and I could move through walls if I pushed against them hard enough. I would squeeze through the pores in the walls and I would come out the other side like meat from a grinder and solidify. Everything smelled like old iodine when I did it, and it hurt my head when my brain had to squeeze through, but I always managed to come through to the other side, albeit slightly breathless and a little dizzy.

One early morning I was standing on top of the ministry building where my family were having their yearly papers burned. The air was hazy from all the smoke. In the distance I could hear cheering from the city center, the sound of many thousands of people shouting in joy. I looked for the source of that sound across the rooftops.

The Holy Orange, fixed on a rectangular platform, floated through the city atop a cheering sea of humanity. The crowds waved their hands in the air and celebrated as if it had been the end of some terrible war. Like a ball of molten lava, the Holy Orange bathed everything around it in its bright warm glow. Then the music began to play. I could hear it clearly - even from the distance. It was the warmest, most touching music that I had ever heard. I was so young, only six, and I did not quite understand what it all meant, yet the beauty was mesmerizing. I flew up into the smoke.

I flew over cities, over mountains and continents, very far away, to a barren and rocky place at the end of the world that was bathed in blinding sunlight. I stood amongst what looked like the remains of an ancient town. The colors everywhere were muted, everything was almost black and white. There was total silence. Only a few buildings were still standing, the rest of the town was a collection of crumbling walls - but I knew where I had to go. In its center there was a postal box inside which Jesus' Testament Of Pain had been recorded and locked inside for thousands of years, waiting to be revealed to the world. I had been given the key and the honor of retrieving it. What a sacred duty. I felt such deep reverence and humility that I would be judged worthy of such a task. This is the past, I realized, that's where the music has taken me. It's all black and white and run by the military. I thought of the words to that old song:

"The street had its own story

someone had written it on the wall with paint

it was just one word: Freedom

and later they said that children wrote it"

As I walked forwards I passed a cemetery. Wherever there was enough space in the ground there sprouted -like reeds- these thin tall funnels that the buried used for breathing. I walked down a side road on the uneven stone pavement, at the end of which I was faced by the wall that I was looking for. It was a rough whitewashed wall, streaked with dark green moss. There were clumps of twisted, black iron pipes weaving in and out of it. Some of the pipes were broken in places and water dripped out of them, as if the entire wall had been part of some great plumbing system that was ripped out of an even greater building. Below that, like a tiny forgotten detail, was the postal box. It was all mossy and wet from the dripping pipes. I had the key and in a moment I would have access to the Holy Words. I was so humbled and scared by it all.

I opened the box and saw that it had no bottom: it was the opening of a narrow pipe. I put my head against its opening and pushed, the way I pushed when squeezing through walls. Slowly at first but with greater and greater ease I squeezed myself through this tiny tunnel. It took considerable effort to make progress in there, but I kept pushing forward in the darkness. I felt dizzy from the pain in my plastecene brain and the iodine smell. But eventually I felt a breeze coming from up ahead. I flowed out of the pipe like bloodied toothpaste, took a deep breath and regained my form. I was back on the ministry roof.

It was midday now, everything was bright. The fires in the ministry building were still raging, with ash and scraps of unburned paper flitting out of its giant chimneys. Through the smoke I gazed over the tin rooftops into the distance. Everything was black with tar and soot. Here and there I saw smashed factory windows whose edges glimmered in the hot sun. I thought about the back alleys, the games we played in the summer sun, dust all around, rubbish smells, making houses from cardboard boxes, hide and seek behind tire repair shops. A world which I had left and found again in a matter of hours: Sad, tired, with a feeling that I had missed something terribly important.

I felt the concrete heave under my feet as if an earthquake had occurred. And then a few moments later I began to see feathers coming down from above, some still aglow, some charred and trailing smoke. It was raining feathers from the chimneys - the ministry incinerators had taken a deep bite underground this year. I put my hand in my pocket and felt for Jesus's words. They were there, soft and lumpy against my oily plastecene skin. I smiled. They have missed them yet again, I thought, they're looking in the wrong place. I must hide them now, somewhere where they won't look.

I fell on my face and pushed myself through the floor, down into the offices. I saw the minister who was both nailed and bound to his chair with razor wire, spinning around in a red blur. He looked like a broken drill bit as he moaned and screamed in his sacred ministerial trance. The aides were kneeling with their eyes closed in reverence. Nobody had seen me drop in. I quickly opened a drawer from an iron filing cabinet, threw the words in, and pushed it shut. Then I pushed through the side wall into the public corridor, and ran down to join my parents in the furnace queues.

Many, many, years later, as this world grew old and began to fade, a plastecene child arrived and walked amongst the ruins of the ministry, looking for that drawer.