Crushed, frozen and unable to breathe, Brother Martin cried out in panic, “Lord, where am I?”
“Dead, under a hundred feet of snow.” The Lord’s voice was clear and unaffected. “You’ve been buried for centuries on the side of the Carpathian Mountains. Enough. I have a job for you.” Martin fought down joy and incredulity. Dead or alive, he remained the Lord’s servant. He listened hard. “A massive glacier has calved off the Antarctic landmass and exposed a creature who, like you, has slept for centuries. Find him. Through no fault of his own, he’s entered your world and cannot return to his. Take his hand. Here, I give you directions.”
The ice around him split. With a surge of relief, Martin sat upright and quickly crossed himself. He saw weak light through a narrow tunnel. “How will I recognise him?”
“You won’t,” said the Lord. “Methane is a colorless, odorless gas. He’s formed a shell round himself, to protect his core temperature. More than anything, he resembles a giant snowball. I repeat: take his hand.”
Martin scrambled out, dusted off his monk’s habit and trekked south as far as the ocean. Here, he stopped to pray. The waters lapped his feet and froze into a narrow pathway before him. Martin followed it. Countless days and nights later, he found the giant snowball. Its intense cold penetrated right through to his bones. Martin trudged up to the snowball, said a quick prayer and laid both hands on it.
Relief, fear and panic flooded his mind. Martin found that he could disentangle these feelings. After a while, he made sense of them and could even project his own thoughts. <Don’t worry. The Lord sent me.>
The snowball backed off, picked up speed and rolled away. Martin tried to follow and fell flat on his face. <Wait> he gasped <I must extend the hand of friendship>
The snowball rolled away faster and faster. Martin got to his feet. What a failure he’d turned out to be: unable to win over even a snowball. A frozen tear slid down his face. In life he’d excelled at non-imaginative duties like peeling potatoes, tending the monastery garden and sweeping floors. By a long stretch, this was the most important task ever entrusted to him. His thoughts drifted. He’d gone out into the snow a few days before Christmas. With a little work, his newfound friend would make a passable snowman. Martin shook his head. What frivolous thoughts. Perhaps the Lord had already recalled the living and the dead. Perhaps He was gathering stragglers before unleashing the Apocalypse.
The giant snowball turned and rolled towards him, gaining speed.
As the snowball rolled over him, Martin remembered to extend the right hand of friendship.
Martin opened his eyes. Indescribable joy flooded through him. He stood in a place full of light, surrounded by a multitude of excited souls. He recognised the one next to him, and greeted him warmly.
The ex-snowball eyed him. “You.”
His companion looked around. “And this is…?”
“We call it Heaven.” At last, he’d come home.
“I remember now,” said his companion, in a wistful tone. “I was frigid methane, a comet arcing through the nothingness of space, adrift in creation. I shielded myself against the probability of losing my very existence in a cold, uncaring universe. I’d lost all hope.”
Martin looked him up and down. “I was crushed by a massive snowball. You.”
They studied each other.
“Look at it this way,” continued Martin. “We had a snowball’s chance in hell of making it here. How merciful is the Lord,” he added, with fervor.
“This Lord of yours…”
“Look, over there!” cried Martin. “He’s coming! At last, my eyes have seen the glory of the Lord, the light of his shekinah! Behold, the Lord of Hosts, Almighty Father!”
The ex-snowball spluttered. “Wait! It’s come to me! I know what this is about!”
The ex-snowball started to hum. “‘See that star up in the sky? I wish somehow, I wish some day, I can meet that very star!’ Except I was a comet, but hey… what did a little, dying kid know about astronomy? He pointed at me. Me! He wanted to meet me. And now I’m here.”
Martin felt a surge of excitement, and awe. In the multitude of excited souls, one was about to get his dying wish.
How blessed is the Lord, he reflected.
Brenda Anderson’s fiction has appeared in various places, most recently in Daily Science Fiction. She lives in Adelaide, South Australia, and tweets irregularly @CinnamonShops.