Matt Gemmell

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Weekly Short Story: Piety

writing, fiction & once upon a time 5 min read

On Monday mornings, I send out a story via email: ultra-brief tales of 1,000 words or more, usually in genres including science fiction, horror, and the supernatural. Those stories collectively are called Once Upon A Time. I’ve also published three ebooks and one paperback anthology of those stories so far.

I’d love to have you as a subscriber to the weekly free story. You can subscribe via email here, or use the form below. Unsubscribe any time, from the link in every issue.

This week’s brief tale is a twist on the idea of a spiritual awakening. Organised religion was a persistent though not overriding component of my upbringing. We went to church each Sunday, and I joined a Christian youth organisation, and I even won a medal for Bible knowledge once. It all fell away in my teenaged years as I embraced science, and realised I was certainly an atheist.

There are many facets to spirituality, and they’re all human: hope, comfort, contextualisation, fear, and wonder. I find ample sources of all those things in what’s real, but I’d be lying if I denied the attractiveness of a lightning-bolt moment of discovery.


So much has been written about me.

Countless words, in every language spoken upon the Earth. Entire series of books. Newspaper articles without limit. And of course online, with more and more every hour of each day.

I have been a profoundly unifying force, and this world is very different than it was before my blessings were made manifest. Before I shared my divine gift with all of humanity.

It has been said that I am the Second Coming. It would be arrogant in the extreme, and probably blasphemous, to agree — but the observation is difficult to deny.

I am the object of piety and devotion. World leaders consult me, and make requests of me. My every waking hour is consumed with my good work, and since I no longer sleep, there is no end to that work. I would have it no other way.

From my fingertips, miracles flow.

I have brought peace to the Middle East. I have brought true democracy to both developed and developing countries. I have ended persecution. I have banished religious extremism, and reaffirmed the faith of billions. I have turned non-believers into believers in every corner of the globe. I have led worship in St Peter’s Square, and the Kaaba, and Temple Mount. I have preached simultaneously to more than five billion souls via live stream.

I have blessed the devout to walk unharmed through fire and ruin. I have cured diseases beyond reckoning. I have inoculated the global population against both past and future strains of the most dangerous viruses. I have safely returned to Earth the crews of exploration missions to the solar system’s inner planets, when they ran into trouble. I have brought God’s glory to the four corners of this world, and to the stars above.

I have reversed anthropogenic climate change, and I have restored our oceans and forests. I have plucked species from the brink of extinction, and renewed their habitats. I have eliminated pollution and waste, and I have brought limitless clean energy reserves to all nations.

I have closed hospitals from lack of further need. I have made brothers of the most bitter enemies. I have formed accords between warring faiths. I have swept away political borders, and freed the unjustly imprisoned. I have ended droughts and famines, and I have removed all traces of nuclear, chemical, and biological weaponry from the human domain.

I have ended the discriminations and segregations of nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, belief, caste, privilege, upbringing, and all the rest. I have brought an ethical justice, and a pervasive decency and progressiveness, to humankind.

I have walked upon the ocean. I have turned water into wine. I have fed every mouth, and dried every eye. I have ended poverty and inequality.

I have even raised the dead.

I am the central figure of a new meta-religion which emerged with startling rapidity once I began to perform my works. I am the de facto cultural and spiritual leader of a global population. I am all of these things, but I am only a child of God.

I was once an ordinary man like any other, and I was filled with doubt. I doubted myself, I doubted my troubled and imperfect species, I doubted whether we had a future. I even doubted the existence of God, to the point of being sure that He did not exist. My life up until that point had been a turbulent one — I had encounters with the law, I had difficulties with alcohol, and my marriage had come to an end — and I found myself at the point of desperation, just like so many of God’s children. I was lost, and without the gift of faith to guide me.

In my moment of crisis, I reached out as a last resort, asking not even for help but merely for a sign that there was more to life than the struggles of our world. And I received my sign, with a much greater gift alongside. Since that day and hour, I have worked tirelessly to serve our benevolent God, using all the power given to me for that holy purpose.

I have not shared with my fellow man the three words I heard that day, spoken so clearly and calmly, filling my consciousness. I have certainly not shared the ability they gave me access to, and its many details and complexities. I feel that He prefers it this way, so that his work through me might remain mysterious. I try to honour His intentions, and I follow my heart to decide whose suffering I must alleviate next. In only a handful of years, I have already remade the world.

My sole indulgence is that I had those three divine words inscribed — by a machine, so that no other would see them — in minuscule text on the inside band of the ring I wear as a token of His grace. It reminds me of God’s power, and of His infinite generosity towards me. It reminds me that I am but a tool of His wisdom, and an agent of His plan, as I suspect His son was millennia ago. Perhaps I am not even the first to hear those words, but I believe I am the first since Christ to discover the power associated with them.

I have not shied away from using it, and now the Earth is so much closer to a paradise than it has ever been throughout recorded human history. I have found divine purpose, and as I watch the sun rise each morning and consider what miracles I will work in the world on this new day, I do speak those words silently in my mind.

A benediction, from God unto me alone, and a means to wield His limitless power.

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That’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed this brief tale. If you have any thoughts or questions; I’d love to hear from you; you can find me on Twitter.

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Have a wonderful week, and thanks for reading.