They gave him a sound beating before sending him sprawling out of the dwelling – don’t let me catch you around here again – that was the father, of course. This was the ninth household he’d tried and things could not be going worse. That on top of the nausea and dizziness associated with coming to Earth in human form.
He crawled on his belly through the mud and flopped into a ditch out of harm’s way. It was late afternoon and his time was limited; a new approach was badly needed.
He turned over the problem in his mind. Roman taxes, cures for ailments and neighbours stealing sheep – that was all these people cared about. Spirituality was out the window. No point promising heavenly rewards any further; he must make them understand the importance of the mission. Oh – and better to get the candidates without their parents.
A solitary young girl was lifting water from a well when she saw the ragged stranger approach. She turned to leave.
– Rebekah, wait! I won’t harm you! She halted.
– Who told you my name?
– I have been sent by God. I have such good news for you, Rebekah!
– Which god? Asherah? El? Yahweh?
– That’s right.
– Which one?
– The first one.
– Yes. All of them – look, just give me two minutes, that’s all I ask.
He began to explain the very fabric of the universe: stars forming and dying, darkness exploding into light, death giving way to life – all the wonderful cycle of destruction and regeneration. Then he revealed to her the illustrious role she was to play. She stopped him there.
– I liked the bit about the stars. But you’re sick in the head if you think I’d let you torture a child of mine to death – even if it is a god who’s asking.
– But you will be remembered as the mother of the Saviour!
– No, I will be protecting my children from people like you. Now go away or I’ll call my dad.
These people! My patience is at an end, he thought. No more kind, visiting angel! I need to be firmer. The next time, I’ll put it in such a way that the girl can’t possibly refuse.
A loud crash woke Mary from sleep. Her bedroom window had been forced open and the dark shape of a man lay splayed on the floor. The smell of olive oil off him was unbelievable – had he fallen into a vat? He cursed, gathered himself and began scratching at something that gave off tiny little sparks.
Suddenly her visitor burst into flame. She watched open-mouthed as he rose in fiery splendour before her. Then he slapped her hard across the side of the head.
– Shut your stupid face, you little tart, and listen to the good fucking news, he said.