Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GRATE (11/19/15)
- TITLE: "I can Smell Something Burning!"
By Noel Mitaxa
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He had no use for colour television. His world was purely black and white.
But mainly black.
Every member of his flock wore black, as a ‘blackdrop’ to his street corner preaching. Nobody could miss their pervasive declaration of doom and gloom, with faces perpetually outdoing each other in grimness; and with thick, bushy brows protruding above fierce, brooding eyes and luxuriant facial hair.
But his male disciples looked even more threatening…
Any time they gathered on street corners, as ominous, placard-holding groups, a casual observer might seriously wonder if these people might not eat their own young.
Once his dreary group had selected a corner, one of them would step up to a portable pulpit and offer a brief testimoany; devoid of any cheerful content. An ideal precursor for Brother Stephen, who would sniff the air as obviously as he could, while shouting out, “I can smell something burning!”
Anyone in the passing parade who paused, or glanced his way, could find himself immobilised by a withering stare―before being caught in the spotlight of an elongated forefinger. By then, having filled his lungs to release a roar that could be heard for blocks, Brother Stephen was in full flight, rounding on his victim with a tirade. “It’s you sir! Burning in hell! Your sins have become a fetid stench in the nostrils of every angel in heaven! Repent!”
The target was then encased within a catalogue of sins, crimes and misdemeanours that few of his victims would have ever considered―let alone committed. A catalogue that got steadily more encumbered with salacious details.
Brother Stephen’s major focus was sin, which he defined solely as everyone’s defiant rebellion against God―deserving only of death. And the sooner this judgement fell, the better. Not for him to see that sin also related to falling short of God-given potential through lack of faith―a lack that could be imposed on victims of abuse by political or religious bullies like him. Nor did he ever link sin to apathy towards human need, which Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats describes in Matthew 25. Mindsets like Brother Stephen’s never gave compassion an even chance.
Most passers-by broke free, to continue passing by. However some poor souls got caught up in these accusatory avalanches; to sometime later re-emerge, all in black as new recruits. They were doubtlessly drilled in rapid-fire methods of criticism and condemnation, but perhaps cheered by such heartening ditties as “If you’re worthless and you know it, clap your hands...”
Bemused regular spectators smirked about Brother Stephen. Did he rise early each day to guarantee that hell stayed hot? Would he be standing beside the red-glowing grate of that eternal furnace, holding a long stoking rod? Absolutely! They could just see him gleefully poking down through that grate, stirring the coals and watching flames leap out―almost in search of somebody new to devour. These regulars had dubbed him Stoker Steve, a guy who could make hell sound so hot that even Satan would wish he had a teddy bear for comfort…
Straight from that abyss, sulphurous fumes accompanied Brother Stephen’s messages. If ever any earthly candidate qualified for any sudden vacancy for an angel of death, he was your man.
Had The Hound of Heaven’s Francis Thompson been looking for inspiration for this poetic classic, with its unhurried and gently-persistent tone, he would have had to keep on looking; for nothing about Brother Stephen even hinted at gentle persistence.
Here was no hound of heaven…
Brother Stephen was the original pit bull―a pulpit bull!
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