“Censered” by Christine Morgan (2020 Splatterpunk Awards)

43351589._SY475_The Sixth Seal has been opened, the four horsemen are laying waste to the world, and seven archangels are brandishing trumpets – which leaves the eighth archangel, Tabaeth, feeling left out.

“Censered” is part of And Hell Followed, an anthology of stories inspired by Revelation, and it is one of the more humorous pieces in the volume. The central character Tabaeth is the youngest of the archangels, with the foul mouth and tantrum-prone temperament to show for it. “It’s fucking unfair!” he proclaims as the Four Horsemen ride out upon the Earth. “They all get trumpets! They all get to destroy shit!”

It turns out that Tabaeth’s irreverence is not down purely to immaturity: he has been speaking to beings from fallen pantheons, and noticed some suspicious similarities with his own Abrahamic heaven. Could this apocalypse, he wonders, be “just ripping off the Egyptian thing about Ma’at and Apep?” Indeed, pagan belief systems do seem to contain a lot of virgin births, resurrections, and evil serpents, suggesting a degree of divine plagiarism. And he fails to see how Yahweh comes out looking better than any of those rival gods, considering the harsh treatment afforded the likes of Adam, Eve, Lot’s family, Job and Ham:

And, hey, get a load of Mr. Build-An-Ark, wasted off his tits, rolling naked in the mud probably puking on himself; so Ham laughed, big fucking whoop, it must’ve been Goddamn funny! What does he get for it, though? Blammo, systemic bullshit racism for umpty-thousand years.

“Censered” is a celebration of schoolchild japery at least as much as it is a criticism of religion. Like all impatient kids, Tabaeth sees authority as being both tediously prim and utterly nonsensical, and Revelation’s hallucinatory vision of the divine is an ideal means of portraying this. As satire, the story could fairly be accused of choosing an obvious target: Revelation is rivalled only by Leviticus as the easiest book of the Bible to mock, after all, and when the story launches into a blow-by-blow mockery of scripture it starts to feel rather like a New Atheist blog post. But as a cartoonish romp through the end of the world, “Censered” works.  As brattish as Tabaeth may be, he is an easy character to root for when he finally decides to go off-scripture.

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