title: but now i see
word count: 490 or thereabouts
summary: heaven holds some surprises for john milton, puritan poet and crank extraordinaire. where does taboo come in? erm. many small places.
contains mild religious irreverence, apologies in advance (and warnings) to sensitive types.
When Milton died and went to heaven, he was astonished to discover that he could see, and also that God, far from being geriatric and white-clad, was decked out in a revealing wine-coloured robe, and wore a neatly trimmed, vaguely Jewish-looking red beard.
Perhaps, Milton thought, it was a feast day. An occasion for a masque. A fancy dress competition to celebrate some cherub’s birthday. What was heaven, after all, but a place where indulgence was permitted?
“Ex-actly,” whispered the nubile young angel who had escorted him to the Throne of Thrones. She winked, pinched his bottom and, as Homer remarked so often upon his women, vanished. Or was that Ovid? Milton’s head went all a-spin.
His worst suspicions were confirmed when the Almighty caught sight of him and let out a mighty joyous roar in something like - nay, verily in - Greek.
“Er,” said Milton foolishly. “Erm.”
“Thou hast been a good boy,” Zeus was booming, his shining smile stretching from ear to perfect ear. “DOST THOU KNOW WHAT WE DO TO GOOD BOYS?”
The celestial host, scattered amongst the clouds, broke into titters.
“I’m sorry,” Milton began. “There’s been a mistake. I hoped to go to heaven, please.”
“This IS heaven!” Zeus roared.
“No, no,” Milton said, uncharacteristically polite. “I wish to see my God. The Father of our Lord, the white dove, in the beginning there was, before whom we shall have none other et cetera.”
“Oh,” Zeus said, falling back into his Chair. “Bad luck, Milton. Still. Monotheism, overrated, I say.”
Milton’s heart sank. “This is not what I’m used to,” he said. “Please let me go?”
“Go?” Zeus raised an eyebrow. “But I got you special dispensation from Hades, what with your poetry and everything. Paradise Lost, what an idea! What execution! And so much blood and fucking!”
Milton considered his options, eventually coming up with a squeak that was loosely interpreted as a "Yes," by all concerned.
Zeus wolf-whistled and bounced in his seat. The fabric of the world rippled and shimmered.
A steady rain began to fall, clouding over - it had to be said - paradise.
“But,” Milton began, perilously close to tears.
“If,” said jeering voices through the rain.
“What have I done to deserve this?” Milton asked. “I’ve been faithful and virtuous and a damned good poet, besides. And now it’s all false!”
“What is not?” asked a bearded woman from the sidelines.
“I apologise for any rudeness on my part towards you,” Milton offered up to Zeus. The image of a burnt bridge flashed before his eyes and vanished. “I – I have been – unfair – blindness - ”
“Oh,” Zeus said. “Love me, love my manifestations. No offence taken.”
Later, in the privacy of his suggestively modelled ivory tower, Milton reflected on the nature of the unknown and decided that love, after all, hinged on ignorance, and the charm of the unknowable, the dangerous, the out of reach.
The perfectly decadent red silk pyjamas, in the meanwhile, were going a long way towards reconciling him to this particular mode of eternity.