That Is His Name And Not Mine
I came to this place for sanctuary, and instead find myself in the thrall of a theological debate.
“I have told you, and know not how to tell you again, Father – these misshapen limbs and body are those of a man – one of God’s own creatures – and I beg you to give me a place here to rest my lowly head.”
“That you are a man is not in question, my son. It is your assertion that you are the son of the Doctor on the hill that cannot be ignored. And the lie you tell, that you were born to that man in absence of a wife.”
I look beyond him, into the dark and candlelight of the dry and warm cavern of worship there. I look back down at the old man, my eyes rheumy and wet. I wipe the mucosal excretions that collect at the corners – in lieu of real tears – with the back of my hand.
“It is no lie, Father. Have you ever heard tell of a lady companion for the Doctor, down these long years? Or indeed, of the echo of a child’s laughter along those long and empty corridors?
Look at me, with merciful eyes – could I have grown as a normal child to this great size without gathering the attention and rumours of the servants that come up and down from the village?”
He looks at me, a mixture of impatience and incredulity on his face.
“But what you say is an impossibility. And if it were not, it would be blasphemy! Man can not be born of man alone!”
I am young yet, but my life thus far has been hard, and has taught me much of irony and hypocrisy. I can not help an abrupt wave of my grotesque and massive hand, asking his attention back inside his church. I have not much experience of being loose around others, and I move too close to the old priest. I flinch inside myself at his momentary recoil of fear.
But my point is a valid one, and I make it again.
“Who decides such a thing? Look inside, Father. Look up there, above your altar. What of a man born of woman alone?”
“This is foolishness!” He exclaims, and moves back slightly into the shelter of his church, ready to close the door on this poor brutish fool. For that is yet how he sees me. “You test my patience, sir. It is only the Lord’s mercy that stops me thrashing you soundly where you stand!
Our blessed virgin mother Mary was visited upon by the spirit of the Lord. Would you have me believe that the Doctor was as well?”
He cannot help a sly laugh at that, but the smile soon leaves his face in the cold push and pull of the wind and rain.
I should go, and leave him to his peace. But it is so cold out here, the rain pouring down, the lightning flashing across the sky, and deep inside me something moves – the fluttering of the newborn’s fear of the dark.
And father will soon realise that I am gone – soon there will be more to be scared of in the night than the dark.
I go to my knees.
“Please, sir! I am telling you the truth. My father is a good God-fearing man, but he is also a servant of science. And science, to him, is some sort of god, if only the smallest of deities.
Science is the spirit that visited him, and aided in my conception.”
“And, what, should I think that you were grown from a seed like some twisted tree?”
“No, sir. My father, in the grip of his genius, found access to the remains of the dead, and from that gruesome clay, he made me.”
The priest grimaces, but his face softens. God help me, I think he may be pitying me, as he would a simpleton or some other manner of idiot.
“My son, do you believe that you were stitched together from the bodies of the passed? Did I make you out to be a charlatan when actually you are some poor, feeble-minded creature?”
“No. No sir.
I am not lost in my own head. It is true. All of it.”
I bow my head, so that I do not have to see his mercy. My fingers rest in the wet dirt at his feet.
“I am born of my father’s dreams. His dreams are great and terrible. But no more terrible, or more great, than those of any other parent, I am certain.
But his dreams are also beautiful and fragile, like clear-cut crystal or finest bone China, and I fear that holding them in these clumsy, brutish hands, they will be shattered.”
I hold one hand out and up to the old man.
“And I was not stitched together like some poor girl’s doll. I grew as any other child, in a bell-jar of vile and stinking liquid, the suspension fluid helping to form me out of the broken-down meat of the dead. Father saw that I grew fast, and without the nurturing of a female womb – see the smoothness of my skin…” And I forced my hand into his. “Like no man born of woman.”
He folds his hands over mine – first curious, then frantic, as he sees the truth of it. No marks on my skin. He pulls away the cloak that covers my naked flesh, and sees my body – as slick and smooth as my fingertips. No navel – in fact, no markings at all. I am fresh, and new, and hideous, as father made me.
“What kind of unnatural creature are you?” He gasps, aghast.
“Not unnatural, Father. My creator is one of God’s creatures. By natural law, that must surely make me one of God’s creatures as well!” I cry, feeling the sting of rejection as he forces my hand violently away from his own fingers, and retreats into the church.
I watch him go, and for an instant I force my eyes away from his judgment of me, look up at the ornate stonework above the church door. I had seen it from the path, and thought it beautiful. Considered it a symbol of my shelter from the cruel rain. Now it just looks like stone.
And I am still looking on it when the blow comes. Something sharp and harsh and metal, against my heavy skull. The priest returned, with something – a weapon of some sort – from inside the house of God. I crash to the wet ground with my full weight, my arms going up to shield my head from the continuing blows. My face presses down into the sucking mud, as I try to push myself forward, but my stupid addled brain – this takes me toward the entrance to the church, pushing past the attacking priest, where I will be trapped with whatever comes next.
Here, half inside the church and half out, there is no room for the priest in the doorway – he has to be content with raining blows down upon my legs and back. He cannot reach my shoulders any more, so I raise my head. I had been most afraid for my eyes.
From here, I can see the altar clearly. From here, I can look up at the large crucifix that towers over it, dwarfing even me, were I to stand beside it. From here, I can see the safety that I had believed so fervently in for what it is – the eyes looking down on me through tears of blood mark this out as a cathedral to pain and sacrifice.
And though I had been pragmatic in my assertions before, when bartering with the priest for entry, I can see that the man on the cross and I are more alike than different. But he was followed before he was betrayed. He had a life. He was a leader of men, where I will ever be a pariah, and a monster.
As I meet his eye as his equal, I choose to focus on the seemingly endless, monstrous pattern of assaults on my body. I choose to clench my fists beneath me. And I realise that what I am going to do next will be a choice, too – the one that defines me.
I had hoped to leave my father’s home and find my place among other men, but I realise now that I am not a man. I am something else and something more.
And I am damned if I will let them crucify me before I’ve had my time.
Moments later, I look at what I have done. It won’t be long before the local folk find their priest, and then they will be coming for me, with my father the Doctor close behind.
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