THE REASON • by Rhys Timson

Constance Taylor knew she had a lived a good life. She had been to church every Sunday, prayed every night, raised two children and instructed them well. She had given money to charity, she had helped those less fortunate than her, she had recycled.

So as the plane was going down into the Atlantic, and while all about her were losing their heads, Constance sat quietly, arms folded across her lap, and looked forward to her imminent meeting with her maker. As the plane plunged towards the water, her fellow passengers hugged oxygen masks to their faces, cried bitter tears, kissed the ones they loved one last time, but Constance was completely unmoved. Suitcases fell from overhead lockers and battered people into unconsciousness, a metal trolley rocketed down the aisle and slammed into a blubbering flight attendant. Meanwhile, Constance smiled a beatific smile and offered a silent prayer that all these poor wretches be saved just as surely as she would be.

She was not disappointed when she woke, what seemed like both a second and an aeon later, to find herself in a vast open glade. The sky above was a deep, lagoon blue. A rainbow of wild flowers spread out around her, disappearing towards rolling hills in a green haze. The air was filled with the most exquisite birdsong and had the taste and smell of high summer.

And hay fever, clearly, did not exist here.

Standing above her was a tall, rangy man in knee-length shorts and a tie-dye t-shirt, an unkempt beard and scraggly hair running down to his sternum. She knew who this was.

“Constance, my daughter, welcome.” God’s voice was like honey pouring slowly from a jar. Constance rose, but only to her knees, and bowed.

“No need for the formalities,” he said. “You have bowed and prayed enough. It is time for your reward.” He offered her his hand and pulled her to her feet.

“Oh my heavenly father,” Constance said, unable to look him in the eyes. “I am so happy. All my life I believed in you and loved you, and tried to be good.”

“ You have been good my dear, exceptionally good, even in trying times,” God replied. “Even when your husband was unemployed you still you gave so much away. Your children are fine, wonderful boys, and will do much good in the world. And you never mixed polyethylene with polypropylene. I hate it when people do that.”

“May I hug you, my lord?” said Constance.

“Of course!” said God, and they hugged in the manner of close friends reunited after a long absence.

After a few minutes, Constance broke off the embrace, smiled, and said: “Forgive my impertinence, dear lord, but I must ask. Are my parents here?”

“Of course!” God said.

“And my grandparents? My sister?”

“They’re all here, Constance.” God said, sweeping his right hand through the air. “All whom you desire to see.”

Constance felt herself overcome with emotion, so that her eyes welled with tears.

“Bring it in,” God said, and he embraced her again.

“Oh, father,” Constance said, her face buried in the depths of his beard. “I lived a good life, did I not?”

“Yes, yes,” God said, patting her on the back.

“And my boys, they will be okay?”

“Um-hum,” God said.

“And you will tell me the reason?” Constance said.

And she felt him stiffen and his hand stop patting. “Reason, my child?”

“Yes, my lord,” said Constance, as God released her from his arms. “I have waited so long to hear it because I knew there would be one, only that in life we could not know it. I knew that, when my father was killed by that drunk driver, there would be a reason. I knew, when I nursed my sister with her cancer for a year before she died, there would be a reason. I knew, when I looked around the world and I saw wars and famines and deaths — good people being killed and bad people prospering, there would be a reason. There would be a reason for all this suffering, and if I was true to you, one day I would know it.”

“Well, of course,” God replied, but he had stopped smiling and was looking away into the middle distance.

“So, will you tell me now, lord?”

God took a deep breath, looked at Constance, looked at the ground, then back at Constance, then back at the ground. “Would you like to see your parents now, Constance?”

“In good time, lord — we have all eternity, after all. Please, I beg of you, as your faithful servant, tell me the reason.”

“Oh, my child,” God said, shaking his head and swaying his ragged hair. “My child, my child, my child.”

“Lord, I must know,” Constance persisted. “Why are my two boys now without a mother? I know there is a reason. You have always told me so.”

God looked up, spread his hands wide and smiled with his lightning-white teeth. “All in the fullness of time.”

“I don’t understand,” Constance said. “How could time be any fuller?”

“Well, if you had asked me about why I made the parasitic wasp,” God said. “I have a very good answer as to why I made the parasitic wasp.”

“I didn’t ask about the parasitic wasp,” said Constance.

God said nothing. He stood facing his creation, but with his eyes trained on his left big toe, which he was wiggling up and down.

“Is that everything?” Constance said. “Is that all you have to say?”

God sighed, turned and began strolling away towards the hills, shoulders slumped. Looking out into the shimmering green horizon, Constance could see distant, disappearing forms — heaven’s fellow humans.

About as far away from their creator as it was possible to be, and still moving.

Rhys Timson lives in London and has previously had worked published by 3:AM Magazine, Opium, Tincture Journal and previously in Every Day Fiction.

This story is sponsored by
Clarion West — Apply now and prepare for your professional writing career with Paul Park, Kij Johnson, Ian McDonald, Hiromi Goto, Charlie Jane Anders, and John Crowley, June 22 – August 1 in Seattle.

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