Friday, 14 March 2014

The Divine-C Code

The internet has much to answer for. Under a century ago children in village schools still scrawled their letters on a slate. In my day every school desk had inkwells although we, society, had grudgingly moved on to fountain pens. Ballpoints were verboten until I got to sixth form and the only people who learned to type were girls hoping for a career in the typing pool or as, giddy heights, a secretary. Although we did a term of computer studies, sending whole decks of punched cards to the County Hall mainframe before they even called it that, the notion of a computer in every home was fantastic science fiction. And that was a mere forty years back.

Suddenly – and to those of advancing years, trust me it IS suddenly – computers dominate our lives; every kid with a yen to learn can teach himself to code and with the aid of the mighty world-wide web has a million tutors on hand around the clock. Now no corner of the globe, it seems, is untouched by digital technology and he who can control it is king. The net even reaches beyond earth and into space and even further, to the netherworld. And so it has come to pass that even the kingdoms of heaven and hell are pitting their wits against each other in ways far from biblical…

It came to pass that Jesus and Satan had an argument as to which of them was the better programmer. The squabble became an out and out row – you may have experienced the unusually stormy winter weather in the south of England, where they live – for many days until their dad intervened, in his mysterious way. His booming voice ringing out from Yorkshire, where He lives, the lord God Almighty decreed they settle the argument with a contest and set them a task to program from scratch a database to hold the souls of the saved and the damned.

The King of the Jews and the Lord of the Flies sat either side of an enormous desk, their PCs back to back, and began the task, each pausing occasionally to respectively smile beatifically or glower at the other. Time slipped by as their typing fingers upped the pace and code flowed onto the screens. Hammering at their keyboards Jesus and Satan coded as if approaching the end of days. God, as judge, looked on and smiled to himself; apart from the clatter it was the quietest he’d seen them in millennia. Soon the deadline loomed and the boys furiously shifted up yet another gear, each to dominate the other.

Suddenly, a flash of lightning rent the air. The smell of ozone hit their nostrils and as the deafening crack of thunder reached their ears the power went out. In the darkness The Lord chuckled and lit a match. His face lit eerily by the flickering flame he bade the quarrelling pair hush for a few moments more. With a snap of his fingers the lights came back on, power was restored and their computers automatically rebooted.

“Showeth me thy work, foul demon!” he demanded of The Devil, using his affectionate nickname for the devilish scamp. Satan looked confused as he desperately searched for his files. Dejected he looked up at God and said, “We have nothing. We lost it all when the power went out.”

“Speak for yourself!” said Jesus and so saying he hit the Enter key. The massed choir of the angelic host poured forth from his speakers and on screen a window popped up bidding him to enter a name. He typed in “Tony Benn” and pressed Enter, whereupon the screen filled with text and began to scroll, displaying every deceased Tony Benn from the beginning of time, along with their final resting place, political affiliation and last words, the typeface in blue for heaven and red for hell.

Satan was furious. He raged, he howled and then he turned to Jesus and demanded, “B-b-but how?” In the voice of Hades itself even his involuntary stutter dripped p-p-p-pure evil. The temperature dropped a few degrees. “I lost everything, yet Jesus’ program is intact! How can this be? Surely this is some divine trick?”

The Devil's Code? C666

A low rumble began in God’s belly and grew in intensity as it travelled through the vast cavern of his chest, emerging in a mighty bellow of laughter as he held his holy ribs. The carpenter’s son laughed at his right hand. When the laughter subsided, God placed a friendly hand on Satan’s shoulder and chuckled. “Don’t you know, lad? I thought everybody knew… Jesus saves.”

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