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The Wrath of God
by Dermot Glennon

Just as he’s walking the short distance from his racing green Merc S class (sleek thing, lovely mover, handles well and all that) to the imposing, grey monstrosity of metal pipework and steaming concrete things, he gets mobbed opportunistically by this pair of latter-day saints. Bloke and a bird: him tall and dark haired with a square, American jaw; her a petite, total mouse wearing specs, and they’re carrying a briefcase and some holy booky and magaziney-type stuff, respectively. Your typical door-to-door God-salespeople they are. He’s got no time for their sort. She’s the one what does the talking.

‘Excuse me sir, do you believe in God?’ She asks him.

Impatiently, Professor Sir Richard replies: ‘Sorry, what is it you’re trying to sell me?’

‘We are from the church of the latter day saints and we…’ The Bird with the glasses, the one I told you about before, starts to say.

Himself, of course, he dismisses them both with a little riposte: ‘Right, well I’m not actively seeking to buy any Gods just at this precise moment, but do please feel free to take my measurements and give me an estimate. I don’t want to spend and awful lot of money on a fancy top-of-the-range God so just quote me for something cheap and cheerful that works’ he says ‘Miracles.’ He adds just to finish the sentence. And with that he’s gone.

Up the stairs and round and up the other bit of stairs he goes, the bit that gets to the exterior wall still needing to go higher and so it cleverly doubles back on itself and has more stairs going in the opposite direction but still upwards. Then he walks through two of them double doory things with the rectangular windows that are criss-crossed like primary school graph paper, one in each door. This puts him into his laboratory, which is where he goes about the business of acting clever, looking studious and coming out with lots of dead big words.

‘Ah, Emma.’ he says (to Emma).

Emma’s his lab technician and he always has to struggle to stop himself from calling her Igor-what with him having been raised on that cinematic Frankenstein crap.

‘Morning Richard.’ She says, because they don’t go for all that Professor Sir stuff any more, it’s a bit more informal, like. Besides, he always insists on just Richard with pretty little lab techs that he wants to put over the mass spec machine and ravish senseless. Middle age, success and a huge ego in decline can do that to a bloke. Besides, if you took one look at Emma-Jesus! Brunette, long straight hair, ice-cold staring blue eyes, she has a nose on her face and her lips are what you’d call beguiling but what you’d also call harsh and demanding. She wears big glasses that give her that uppity secretary or strict bitch look that’s so sexy. Beyond that she wears a pristine, white lab coat and flicks her hair around seductively whenever she wants to give him that oh-professor-please-tell-me-more look that she always does. ’Course it’s her job to look at computer read-outs with a puzzled expression on her face and pout like she wants it.

Anyway, back to old Ricky-boy. He comes in, puts down his briefcase in the bit that’s partitioned off as his office, takes off his glasses holds them up like he’s giving a sermon and looks thoughtful for a bit, as you do.

‘Anything wrong, professor?’ Prompts Emma.

‘No.’ He says ponderously. ‘No’ he adds more decisively. ‘I was just thinking.’ He concludes finally.

He goes over to this rack of test tubes and picks one up. He gets one of them bottle things like the ones what you get in chemistry labs in secondary schools, takes the red plastic stopper out of it and pours some of it into the test tube that he’s holding. He holds it up to the light and gives it a bit of scrutiny. He’s pleased with the result in that by the simple expedient of tipping the bottle while holding the tube under the lip of the bottle, an aliquot of the liquid what had been in the bottle has now gone into the test tube. Innit marvellous what they can do these days? Emma stands by his side looking confused and awestruck. Forgot to mention before that it’s not just computer read-outs that she gets paid to look confused at, she has to look bewildered at pretty much anything sciencey that goes on in her vicinity. And if ever the professor’s doing something that looks clever, she has to go and make his vicinity her vicinity at the same time if you see what I mean. For confused and awestruck you could read leaning backwards with her pelvis heading straight for him, shoulders back so’s her breasts stand proud before him and one finger in her mouth that’s suggestive of… well anyway, moving swiftly along. Anyway, Dicky starts doing all kinds of things at this point-working like a man possessed, pouring stuff from bottle to test tube, test tube to test tube, sweat pouring off of him and his hair sticking out like that of your insane genius archetype. At this point, the things he’s playing about with are really doing the text book chemistry stuff as well: colour changes, effervescing, producing a misty vapour that flows out the top of the tube like slow steam and gently drops towards the ground, suddenly and inexplicably going bang, everything. Meanwhile, Emma’s there striking voguey poses that accentuate her bum and bosom, pulling silly facial expressions as if to an imaginary camera and looking insatiable and sexy because that tends to help.

‘Eureka!’ He practically shouts as soon as he’s through with all his mucking about.

Emma jumps a startled little jump at this point. And all the while, she’s still looking dead gorgeous but he’s not noticing her because he’s got that absent-minded thing that these clever, obsessive scientist Johnnies tend to have.

‘My! But what is it?’ Asks Emma in a voice that’d drop any normal red-blooded man’s trousers at fifty. ‘Will it wash whites whiter than ultra-white without bleaching colours even at today’s low temperatures?’ She asks urgently, hopefully and dreamily. ‘Perhaps it will wash, soften and condition without the need for a separate fabric softener’ She ventures, boldly. ‘Oh do tell!’ She demands, purring like a little sex kitten as she does so.

‘Ha ha ha, so young, so… so na´ve, so innocent.’ he replies affectionately, yet somehow teasingly. ‘No my dear, it is the greatest invention the world has ever known’ he goes on without recourse to modesty. ‘No bigger than a five pence piece and yet here it is: my universal truth machine. When I activate it like this it will give us an answer to the question of what governs the universe itself-God or science.’

So the machine does its thing and they watch and that and suddenly the colour drops floorwards from old Dick’s face. So he’s there, right, his face bluey-white with deep, shadowy, cavernous contours, looking like a lone pallbearer on a desolate, windswept mountainside.

‘Oh Professor, whatever can it be?’ Gasps Emma almost jumping up and down.

So he turns to her and looks her in the eye. And in a panic-stricken whisper he goes: ‘It’s tails.’