Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pat gets a surprise

It has been several nights since his visit from the spirit of Oscar Wilde. Pat snuggles into his pillow and thinks, "Jerry told me that there would be three spirits. I'm beginning to think I dreamed the whole thing. Boy, it was a bad dream, though. Washing down three Ambien with scotch seems to help." He drifts off to sleep.

Pat awakens to find himself in a sparely-furnished room with a dirt floor. It is evening, and the shadows are long, but it is still quite hot. He can hear the murmur of people walking and talking outside the room, along the street that he can see through narrow windows, but he cannot make out what they are saying. They are dressed in robes and other flowing garments. Pat is sitting on a simple, rough-hewn wooden bench. He sees a movement out of the corner of his eye, and he turns to the man standing silently in the room.

The bearded man is dressed in a long, brown robe, tied with a rope at the waist. He is wearing simple leather sandals and has a hood pulled over his head, shielding his olive-complexioned face in the gloom. The man raises his hand in sort of a greeting.

"Jesus, is that you?" exclaims Pat. "Have I died and gone to heaven?"

Pat can see the man smile, and the word "No" forms in Pat's head, although the man utters no sound.

"Well then, who are you?" asks Pat. "That fella Oscar Wilde was certainly a sharper dresser than you."

The man again says nothing, but the words "In the fullness of time you shall know me," form in Pat's head.

"Are yew talkin' ta me?" says Pat, sticking his fingers in his ears in a effort to clear them out.

"In a manner of speaking," is the phrase that next enters Pat's head.

"Are you spirit guy number two?" asks Pat; the man nods.

"Well, we might as well get after it, I suppose." The man nods again.

Pat blinks and the scene changes. Pat and the mysterious man and standing on a hill, watching a horde of people, dressed like peasants from a thousand years ago, carrying torches and pitchforks, streaming into a village. They are screaming in what sounds like French, and they are hacking at the villagers.

"What are they doing?" Pat asks.

This is the beginning of the First Crusade in 1096. Those people were incited by Pope Urban. This is the so-called People's Crusade. Bloody, isn't it?

"So they're killing unarmed Muslim villagers?"

No, of course not. Those are Jews. Most of the people's crusaders never made it out of Europe. Pope Urban told them killing all non-Christians was part of the crusade. Anti-Semitism got its first big boost from Urban in his sermon at the Council of Clermont. Prince of a guy, that Urban. The First Crusade did one thing, though, after it got organized a little, that was not accomplished in the later crusades.

"Oh, what is that?"

Christians captured Jerusalem and held it for a couple of hundred years. They established some crusader states in the Holy Lands. It never happened again until 1967. Then it was the Jews, of course. As you can see, the invasion of Arab lands has some precedent that makes Arabs angry.

"They need to let bygones be bygones at some point," says Pat, shaking his head.

Have you ever heard of the Plain of the Blackbirds? And a famous battle that took place there in 1389?

"Didn't that happen in the Balkans somewhere, maybe Serbia?"

Serbia, Albania, it depends on who you talk to. Anyway, it's a battle that the Christian Serbs lost and have been trying to avenge on the Muslim Albanians ever since. Those Christians don't seem to want bygones to be bygones.

Pat now realizes that the scene has changed again. There are men and women, weeping and holding cloths over the noses and faces while digging with shovels and their hands. Decayed arms and legs--and heads, too--stick out of the dirt. Pat gags.

"Were those people killed by the Serbs? Are they Muslims?"

Yes. Not very observant Muslims, really, but they are Muslims.

"You can't blame all Christians for these atrocities," protests Pat.

No. But the converse is also true. You cannot blame all Muslims for terrorism or condemn Islam any more than Muslims should condemn Christianity.

Pat blinks, and the two of them are back in the room where Pat originally awakened. "Say, who are you?" he asks.

You have apparently not figured it out. There is no God but Allah, and the Muslims say that I am His Messenger.

"You're Muhammad? Can't be; you're dead!"

Ah, Jerry Falwell said you were a hard case. I never claimed to be a deity, but I'm as alive as any you care to name.

"What are you trying to tell me, spirit? That mine is not the One True Religion?"

Something like that. You can start by not being so narrow minded.

"That's going to be hard for me."

Perhaps impossible, but try. Then the robed man simply disappears. Pat blinks again.

Pat is now sitting up in his bed; it is dawn. He is sweaty, and his body is covered with a fine, dusty sand. He wiggles his feet; they feel odd somehow. Pat throws back the covers, and he sees that he is wearing the sandals that spirit number two had worn.

Pat begins to cry, softly at first but rising to a plaintive wail.

The housekeeper knocks at the door, "Sir are you all right?" Pat doesn't know what to say.

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