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Old 04-12-2017, 01:26 AM   #1
Faber
 
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Post Divine Abundance: A Patchwork of the Plague Years

~BBW, ~~WG, Theological SF/F – When a slow apocalypse of starvation threatens to wipe humanity from the face of the earth, it turns out that our only hope might be a girl with room to grow and a man of wealth and taste.


Divine Abundance: A Patchwork of the Plague Years
by Faber


(The following is not to be remotely considered orthodox theology. Then again, the best Bible stories never are.)


Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?'” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You shall not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.
—Genesis 3:1-6a


And he said to them, “Let no man exceed what is granted him for sustenance, and let no feasts and revelry exist in your land; for man does not live by bread, but by the word of God.”
—Bartholomew 12:7


Son, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world there was only one of him.
—David Wong, John Dies at the End



From Narrative of Felicity Camden; Being the Tale of a Girl Who Accompanied the Devil to Other Realms, Dallied with the Heresies of Abundance, and Returned with Not an Inconsiderable Amount of Self-Knowledge


I, Felicity Camden, daughter of the Church of He Who Walks Between the Rows, was met by Old Scratch, Goodman-Brown-like, on the evening of my eighteenth birthday, and snatched up quick as you please before I'd time for so much as a single prayer for deliverance.


I knew who he was without one bit of puzzlement, the instant I laid eyes on him. A queer matter-o'-fact sensation it was, without the sort of shiver up your spine most folk would expect from such a diabolical rendezvous. I turned my head, and my gaze slid across him like a finger through oil, and the thought popped into my head, Oh, it's the devil, walking by just there, with his shiny self all smart and polished. It was the shine more than anything that led me to knowing, right there and then; for what emissary of the godhead would flaunt themselves in so shameless a manner, and what human would find the water to slick themselves all to glittering like so, like their whole skin was nothing but mirror?


He saw me, and smiled, and said, “Well met, Felicity Camden. And now we shall walk together,” and next I knew I had been taken up with a great whirring of wings. I set to shrieking then, I don't mind telling you, for what good it did, for it seemed as though the cords had been plucked from my throat and all I could manage was the faintest of sighs even as I strained to be heard midst the swirling air that carried me up.


And up and up and up we rose, for what seemed like days (and for all I know it was), by which time I'd acquired a thirst most dreadful, temptation that was added to by the clawing in my belly. I kept my eyes squinched shut, and prayed for piety in the face of this enticement to sin, though really there was no way to yield to my baser nature lest I began to gobble my own self up, as no other sustenance presented itself. I squinched and squinched, and prayed and prayed, and at present began to forget that I was flying, and that the air around me was beaten by vast wings.


Until, with a great gust of silence that was more a bother to my ears than the noise had been, the world around me ceased to stir with whirling motions, and my already bothersome stomach lurched with the sudden stop my body crashed into. I gasped for breath, my chest filling with air so expansive it might have been food for my crying gullet, which rumbled at this sinful notion; and opened my eyes, so tight from squinching that it took a good few moments to pry the lids separate.


I looked around, gaze falling on the shapes that lay around me, and all the fright I hadn't felt on first seeing my devilish wrangler leapt up my backbone to my hindbrain all at once, as if a worm had tunneled there.


“I'm in hell,” I said to the devil, and fainted dead away.




From The Blasted Years: A History of the Church of He Who Walks Between the Rows


How does a church carry on through conditions of the most abject misery? Not persecution, which can be viewed as the glorious burden of those who suffer for their savior, or disaster, which is all too easily heralded as a sign that deliverance is nigh, but consistent, relentless, mundane hopelessness that strangles every ethos it lays hands on?


Quite simple, really: turn misery into a virtue.


It is still disputed by conservative religious scholars that the Gospel of Bartholomew is as much a part of the biblical canon as the four gospels that preceded it, but the overwhelming majority of textual critics maintain that it was written in the early years of the blight; manuscripts appear nowhere prior to that time, and quotations in theological treatises are nonexistent. Regardless of when it was written, however, the gospel was written, and it became the defining influence on an epoch of believers until the Fattening Time.


Where earlier depictions of the Messiah are multifaceted, full of parables, miracles, and sermons, the Gospel of Bartholomew is doggedly singleminded in its relation of the words of Jesus. The entire book is apparently a single long discourse from the Messiah to his disciples, a discourse whose themes are stoicism and asceticism in the face of meager resources. Where earlier versions of the Messiah would relieve the burdens of others by providing them with miraculous nourishment—the transformation of water to wine at Cana, the feeding of the 4,000 and the 5,000, etc.—Bartholomew's Jesus warns against enabling others in the sin of gluttony, depending on food and drink for sustenance instead of the divine. A typical passage reads: “Eat no more than is required to live, in order that you might exist to praise your heavenly father; and if even this cannot be attained, rejoice! Your death shall take you where you need eat no more” (Bart. 2:15). The gospel's author, seemingly drawing upon the apostle Paul's conviction that “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), anoints hunger a virtue and starvation a blessed release.


In times of plenty, such a document would have been roundly lampooned as an obvious forgery and its message dismissed as extremist lunacy. But after the blight, when anything was needed to drag humankind from day to day, it became a rallying cry.




From 2 Song of Songs


My love is as the sun at midday,
Round and full and radiant with light;
My love is as a river in flood season,
Swollen and without end.
Her belly gives life, and absorbs it in turn;
Her appetite is boundless as the heavens.
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Old 04-13-2017, 12:10 AM   #2
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From Narrative of Felicity Camden


Was this, I wondered, what had brought Eve low in that far-off garden? Had the word of the serpent, trickling down her ear from a forked tongue, turned all the trees to one, the forbidden fruit pressing in on all sides so she'd no choice but to do what was demanded and stuff her gullet?


How to sum up what was there all round, walling me up like some great city of sweetmeats as I opened my eyes where I lay? Enticements everywhere, sin barring my way forward as like to a jail cell as you please—fruit ungodly large and unnaturally bright weighing down the branches of trees that sprouted from tables, here and there drops of juice speckling the white cloths like the prettiest paints you ever did see. The most fantastical smells, smells that never before had ventured through my nose, smells that made my stomach twist to and fro in wretched penance. Victuals I could not hope to name piled in heaps on platters that seemed to stretch as high as the trees.


Oh, how I wanted, even as I commenced to shrieking again in fright. I don't know that I'd ever wanted something that bad in all my life.


“Come now,” said the devil, “you mustn't damage yourself, Felicity Camden.”


If the trees were tall he was taller, stretching to the height of two men, one on the other's shoulders. His cloak was of the deepest black, but his face still shone such that I couldn't make it out. And his voice—oh, it was soft as thistledown and gentle as you please, as if your own mother was speaking to you to lull you to sleep. I ceased my screaming, and stared at his shine, and thought to myself, Sin, sin, sin.


“Now, then,” he said, sweeping an arm wide from his side, “what do you think of my birthday gift to you? I trust it is adequate?”


I wished to respond as our Savior did when he too was taken by the tempter—that man lives not by bread but by the holy scriptures—but I found I could not bear to string so many words together. I had the queerest inkling that if I were to leave my mouth open for too long the serpent's shine would dive down inside and refuse to leave me. “I'm not hungry,” was what I managed instead.


“Ahh, Felicity Camden, this is not a good beginning, not a good beginning at all,” he said, and it made me almost ashamed the way his voice seemed truly saddened by my words. “Tell the truth and shame the Father of Lies, so it is said; you do yourself shame in my presence instead, and I would not see you shamed. And you do your piety a disservice, if I may make judgments in that area. By the look of you you have hungered for some time now.”


If I looked hard enough, I could see myself reflected in the mirror of his face; parchment skin, bird bones, my face all angles and my wrists like to break if you so much as touched them wrong. Again I felt shame; it was as if I saw myself in a pool of water, my picture shifted out of true in some mockery of itself. Are you not to feel proud of your obedience? I chided myself even as this shame coursed through my brain. Are you not shaping yourself into the image of God, he who is what is required and no more?


“So tell me truly, Felicity Camden, do you hunger?”


I lowered my eyes from his mirror of a face to the thick, wine-red carpet upon which I sat, frightened of looking again upon the enticements to damnation that lay all around me. “I can bear all hunger through He Who Walks Between the Rows,” I managed, though the words trailed into a faint rasp before I'd got too far; my mouth was sandpaper from the screaming I had done and the chafing of the air that had coursed down my windpipe.


Did he laugh, then? I could not tell if that was what the faint sound I heard was, for Old Scratch's face bore no features; but the voice that followed was amused. “An admirable sentiment. But surely you thirst? Do not deceive me; your voice gives you away.”


I answered nothing. For some reason I found I could stare no longer at the floor, and my eyes again wandered over the banquet circled round us. Meat glistened with dripping juices; bread formed loaves the size of cornerstones; dishes whose names I knew not sat there, laden with all manner of toppings; the trees, trunks gnarled and twisted and scrunched in on themselves, melted into the tables before continuing on in their courses. At the outer edge of everything was black, the rest of whatever room this was impossible to see, but light danced over all within the circle as if a fire roared somewhere near us—or perhaps my tempter himself was the fire.


“Open your hand to me, Felicity Camden.”


And though I told myself to stand firm, and to do nothing he might ask of me, my fingers twitched the smallest bit, and this bit was enough. For I found myself staring at a goblet that had been summoned from some black depth of devilish power, grasped between the fingers of both my hands. The two were needed to hold it, for though it was clear as the smoothest glass, such that folk might not see it at all were they to pass it at the right angle, it was heavy as a stone in my grip, as if it were some kind of crystal bearing twice its proper weight.


And inside? It bore a water that was if possible even clearer than its container, as if I stared at liquid nothingness. It stood at the utmost brim of the goblet, but though I'm sure I sloshed the cup about in my surprise at its sudden weight between my hands, not a drop spilled on the carpet.


My throat twitched something terrible, and when I listened hard enough I could hear tiny bits of tearing, as if my lips were cracking even as I sat. “I—I am not thirsty.”


“Did not the Savior himself say 'I thirst' as he hung upon the tree?” asked the devil. “And did he not take what was offered to him, if only one taste?”


I looked up, and he was nowhere to be seen, though the shine of his face still danced around the circle, its light bouncing here and there around the victuals. “It must be your choice, Felicity Camden. That is one thing upon which both He Who Walks Between the Rows and I insist. I leave you to it, and shall spare you the discomfort of distractions.”


And at that, faster than one could wink their eye, the tables popped out from under my gaze, and after one faint whiff of warm bread met my nostrils I lost all sense of the feast they'd borne. There was me, throat crackling with thirst, and there was the goblet, brimful with water.


Were I vainer a creature than I am, I might say it was a day before I was overcome. I might say that I recited to myself the words of the Savior to remain strong. I might say that I was weeping as I put the water to my lips.


But it happened all at once, so quickly that I think I must have meant to do it even before my diabolical benefactor went up in smoke. I closed my eyes, and opened my mouth to pray for comfort, and before I knew what I'd done the cup was to my lips.




From The Gospel of Felicity: A Critical Examination of the Narrative


It is generally agreed upon that, while there was a Felicity Camden, she did not write the Narrative that bears her name. Indeed, there probably was no single writer of the text. We can gather this chiefly from stylistic variations that occur on a regular basis; archaisms (whether genuine to their author's syntax or a deliberate attempt to render Felicity's voice “authentically”) pop in and out of the narrative voice; formality ebbs and flows; and there is a distinct lack of personal background to the author that one would expect from a first-person narrative written by a singular craftsperson. While many aspects of the Narrative match what we know of Camden and her visions (or at least what she said of them herself), mainstream scholars tend to theorize that it was patched together from various sources after her disappearance.


Taking these origins into account, the text is remarkable in its overall narrative unity—it tells a single story, stylistic sputters notwithstanding. Whoever its authors were, its editor was very careful to assemble the disparate sources in such a way that they form a continuous piece of literature rather than a disjointed collection of fragments.




From Proverbs of the Harvest


When you eat, do not worry about conserving food for the next meal, or the next, or the next, but consume it all and leave nothing to be wasted. Take heart! Just as food was provided for you today, so shall it be tomorrow.
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Old 04-13-2017, 04:49 PM   #3
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JimBob can now be the recipient of "two cans" jokesJimBob can now be the recipient of "two cans" jokesJimBob can now be the recipient of "two cans" jokes
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Intriguing...
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Old 04-13-2017, 07:12 PM   #4
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Ooh, this is really clever and fun.
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Old 04-13-2017, 11:12 PM   #5
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From The Blasted Years: A History of the Church of He Who Walks Between the Rows


No group latched onto the Gospel of Bartholomew more tightly than the formerly fringe denomination known as the Church of He Who Walks Between the Rows. Generally agreed to have been founded by a man styling himself the Reverend Steven Kang, the Church arose in response to the blight in the earliest days of the Blasted Years. Even before Bartholomew became widespread, Kang preached a lifestyle of severe and deliberate asceticism both as a practical necessity and a moral stand; when the gospel began to circulate in large numbers, Kang had the means to codify his beliefs via a higher authority.


Original sin, Kang and his Church taught, was not pride but gluttony; in nourishing herself with fruit rather than God's breath of life, Eve allowed her flesh to assert dominance over her spirit and corrupt her. The rapaciousness engendered in humanity by this indulgence would haunt them throughout the rest of the scriptures. Kang made much of biblical derogations of obesity—King Eglon, the pagan ruler so fat that when Ehud killed him the murder weapon sank in past the hilt (Judg. 3); the priest Eli, encumbered by his adipose so that he is unable to prevent the fall that breaks his neck (1 Sam. 4); etc.—and lifted up its examples of frugality as its most praiseworthy—Jesus' fasting for forty days in the wilderness (Matt. 4, Luke 4) remaining the most prominent of these calls to piety.


It is the tyranny of food and drink, brothers and sisters, says a sermon attributed to Kang, that traps us in these fleshly vessels, the shining light of our spirits encased within these slabs of flesh on bone. Our Savior did not just suffer on the cross, oh no—he began paying for our sins from the instant he was born to Mary, his transcendence and awesome purity trapped inside a walking hunk of meat. This almost pathological disgust for the physical hearkens back to the Gnostic branch of Christianity that for a time was seen as the chief enemy of the early church; it goes beyond a yearning for the spiritual and becomes an outright revulsion for anything in God's physical creation, hopelessly corrupted by Satan.


Of course, if this is the case, why not simply stop eating? Fall down and die? The simple answer is that it is not within ordinary human nature to voluntarily starve to death, meager resources or no. The theological justification came in the form of the missionary impulse. Followers of He Who Walks Between the Rows—Kang's own name for God, chosen to reflect the image of the deity as a great winnower tearing down crops—must remain alive, consuming the barest minimum possible, in order to spread the truth all over the world. It is here that the Church parts ways with ancient Gnosticism—where that school was obsessed with hidden truths revealed to a select few, the Church believed that in order for the Kingdom of Heaven to truly be ushered in, everyone around the blight-ravaged world must be swayed by the message of He Who Walks Between the Rows. Rather than scrabble fruitlessly for ways to grow crops and hunt uninfected game, the world must accept its slow starvation in order to bring about a time when no person need eat ever again, when the physical will be but a memory.




From Exodus


Compiler's note: the following passage represents both the complete version of the text, found in the earliest manuscripts, and the redacted version used by Steven Kang in order to better suit the purposes of the Church of He Who Walks Between the Rows. All text in regular type appears in the Church's Bible; the rest, italicized, was removed by its leader.


And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.
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Old 04-16-2017, 12:09 AM   #6
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From Narrative of Felicity Camden


How to explain it?


The water seemed to enter my mouth all at once, one vast flood that filled my mouth full to bursting so I couldn't have spat it back into the cup had I even tried. Indeed, it seemed to grow and grow even as it sat between my cheeks, so that I would have choked had I not let it surge down my throat and into my belly. It hit my insides in one great wave, as if I had opened my mouth in the midst of an ocean swell; it almost stung.


And oh, my lips were salt flats greeted by their first thunderstorm in years, drips of water filling the cracks with blessed wetness. I ran my tongue along the seam of my mouth, letting the drops melt upon it; they were sweet, and pure, and perfect.


The goblet seemed heavy in my hands, and I looked down only to see with a start that I hadn't drunk after all! Or at least, that must have been the explanation—for see, the cup was brimful again, as if I hadn't drained a single drop.


“I can transport you from the earthly realm in one great flight, can summon a great feast before your eyes, but I can't replenish a single cup of water? Do give me some credit, Felicity Camden.”


So he was still here somewhere, I thought, despite appearances. At the sound of his voice I felt guilt smash into me like a stone hurled into my gut; it twitched uneasily, and I felt water roll. Oh Lord, I thought, I beg forgiveness for the sin of gluttony in the face of temptation—


“He can't hear you, you know. This particular realm is my own affair, he stays out. And besides, why should you feel guilty? You were terribly thirsty, and you remedied that. Surely a God of love wouldn't deny you such relief.”


“Shut up, fiend,” I snapped aloud, to my great surprise. “You have led me to wickedness.”


A chuckle. “My, boldness. That drink seems to have revived your spirits somewhat. Very well, I shall leave you in truth.” And he spoke no more.


The drink of which he spoke turned over upon itself within me, and I shuddered. The worst thing was that the feeling was not unpleasant. It was . . . interesting, to have an entire goblet of water sloshing around within me. I was not used to more than sips throughout the day—in my childish years my mother had told me often, “We take only enough to keep us on our feet, not so much that we stay seated in swollen stupor.” This didn't feel like a stupor, though—the devil had spoken truth there. I felt light, merry almost, and guilty again for letting such happiness enter me.


I looked down again at the goblet, water quivering at its lip. It was a friendly sort of quiver, I thought—as if the cup were trembling with energy, pent up and ready to be let loose. I tilted it from side to side, letting the light play upon the glass; the water held its position, not a drop leaving its container. My belly rolled over on itself again; an invitation, it felt like, the water within me calling for its companion to join it down in this new vessel.


You've already sinned again your Lord once this day, I said to myself. Stop now and beg his mercy.


As long as you need to ask forgiveness, another voice spoke up, you might as well be forgiven for something big. Two glasses instead of one.


I wished the second voice I heard was Old Scratch's, but it sounded identical to the first one to my ears.


Slowly this time, smooth and careful as could be, I brought the goblet to my lips. I felt the liquid touch them, barred from penetrating by their seal. So it remained for ten seconds, twenty, thirty. And then I parted them the barest bit, and the water began to trickle in.


Oh, it glided over my tongue and down my throat, so smooth it almost wasn't there at all, the taste seeming to sparkle in my mouth. I felt it run all the way down into my stomach in one long, leisurely swallow, a stream that gradually lessened to a here-and-there flow that then petered out to nothing.


I closed my eyes, leaned my head back, and put a hand to my belly. I could feel what lay inside it moving, sloshing back and forth. Lord, I thought, as a matter of course, forgive me.


When I opened my eyes the goblet stood full once again.


I licked my lips, and considered, and then prayed aloud. “Forgive me for all I am about to do,” I said, “and know that I am sorry.”




From Discourse on Drink


Do not think, brothers and sisters, that by abstaining from food but guzzling drink you can remain pure in the eyes of God. For was it not for the sin of drawing water from a rock for his people that Moses was banished forever from the Promised Land? Was it not with water that He Who Walks Between the Rows chose to punish the earth, a great flood wiping out all but Noah and his fellows? Was it not water that our Savior defied by walking upon the Sea of Galilee? Is not water an even graver temptation than feasts? For it flows easily past our lips and rests easily in our sinful gullets.




From the Gospel of John


Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
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