A Story by Peter Rogerson

Casting all her worldly goods aside, Molly Richards goes in search of her god.


Molly Richards stood still as a statue gazing at the vast ochre expanse that lay in front of her. She was so devoid of any movement that a sparrow, usually a wary creature where human beings are concerned, landed on one of her shoulders and rubbed its head against an ear as if to say look at me, I’m here…

But Molly Richards cared little for the weight of the sparrow and even less for the perceived feathery rub against that ear.

Molly Richards had a great deal to think about.

It had taken her ages to get where she was, standing with her back to the mighty forest and its billions of twitching, leaping, barking, cackling, sleeping, waking creatures and her face to the motionless desert.

There can have been few places on the planet where the contrast was so marked, so clearly delineated by the space of a single step. Forest and jungle behind her, desert in front.

It had cost her everything to get this far, and every coin or paper bill that had been hers was spent. But that didn’t matter, for she was going to her salvation. Then she’d be all right. Money, gems, precious metals, none of these would matter.

But she wasn’t there yet, not to where she was going, not to her intended destination.

She shielded her eyes against the penetrating light from the scorching sun and stared. Somewhere in the distance was the convent, and that’s where she was going. That was her intended destination. Somewhere across the countless acres of soft sand was the home of her god, and she had set out on her birthday to go there, and another birthday was now not so far off. It had been a long and sometimes painful journey for Molly, and she was feeling her age.

Then she moved to take her first step onto the desert, and the sparrow flapped off.

It was time to check her baggage, to make sure that she had forgotten nothing because on this, the final leg, she would be totally alone. There would be no shops to pop into for this or that little forgotten necessity, no hostel where she might hire a bed for the night if the walk became too burdensome, not even a shining bright tap for clean water. So she went through that baggage with the care a women usually reserves for caring for her new baby, and counted everything.

Underwear, she sighed, why do I need underwear? It’s all so unnecessary, for the desert is a scorching place and clothes are truly only needed to keep a body warm… and then, even thin cotton has weight, has bulk, and my journey is a long and weary one… and when I get there, would favours will modesty do me in a place made for worship?

She cast a pile of frilly fabric aside, caring not that it was litter in a pristine landscape of trees and sand. Then she delved further into her baggage and brought forth an umbrella, rolled and tidy, and cast that aside as well.

It never rains in the desert, she told herself, and I need as light a burden as maybe…

And, methodically, she considered every item in her luggage until she had cast away a goodly part of it and was left with only a package of sandwiches and a flask of cold water. I will only need sustenance for the few miles that lie ahead, and from thence on my god will feed and water me... she assured herself, and now my burden is light….

Then, with a pile of cast-off treasures lying on that strange line between forest and desert and ready to blow hither and thither in any old breeze that came that way, she took her first step onto the sand of the desert.

I am left with almost nothing, she sighed, and it felt good.

The sun beat down on her as she walked. It was the most ferocious, the most scorching, sun she had ever known, and it seemed to burn her to her very heart. But she knew where she was going.

Ahead, somewhere lost in the myriad wavy haze that was the gift of that same sun lay her convent, and within it she would find her god, and she would be welcomed like a child being welcomed into the world… she’d never had a child and wasn’t quite sure how one might be born, just that it must be a glorious welcome, a new born entity gazing through eyes that were seeing for the very first time…

If I’d married, she considered as she trudged forwards, if I’d found a man and married and we’d done together the mysterious things that bring forth new life … why don’t I know what those things are? I ought to know, but somehow nobody ever told me and now I suppose it’s too late…

Much too late, for soon she would be seventy-six years into her life, and something told her that might be too old to find a husband and probably even too old to perform the miracle of birth and motherhood.

Her god would have to be her husband and her love for him her child. And she would find both in the convent in the middle of the desert.

By nightfall there was no sign of any convent, no brick or stone construct in which a god might dwell, no shining light beaming from arched windows, carrying to the unwary and the lost the love of a god who only knew love.

What if I’ve been mistaken? crossed her mind, what if my god is somewhere else?

But that couldn’t be! She knew, she had always known even since her own babyhood well nigh seventy-six years ago that her god was in a mighty convent in the middle of this desert. He was there with his angels, endlessly praying and endlessly chanting the dirges of faith.

She opened her sandwiches, content at last that the problem must be one of size rather than absence. The desert must be larger than she had thought, so the middle of it, the convent, was further from the great forest she had left behind than she had imagined. The sandwiches tasted of sand.

She opened her flask of cold water which had turned warm after a day in the sun, and it, too, was gritted with sand. But there was still moisture there. Still life-giving water.

And sand.

There was sand in the water.

But there would be, wouldn’t there?

She lay on the still scorching sand, and sighed. A night’s sleep, and tomorrow would see her at the convent. A night’s sleep and she would find her heart’s desire…

That night she dreamed at first, and then the cold hit her. It bit into her, it froze her to the marrow. Deserts, she discovered, can be cold at night, when there’s no cloud in the sky to stop the heat of a sun that’s bathing the world elsewhere from escaping. She shivered.

I don’t like this … I wish I had some knickers to warm my bottom or even an umbrella to shelter under, but I left such things behind … I didn’t understand. Nobody told me, but then I never asked….

In the night she dreamed, shadowy dreams with the echoes of chaotic beating music cleaving her dreams and almost the fragrance of human sweat, turgid and rancid, filling her sleeping nostrils.

By dawn she felt both sick and wretched, and the sun rose hot to warm her until everything was almost all right.

Then she saw it.

Why hadn’t she seen it yesterday, when the light was failing?

A stone and half-timbered building rising majestically into the day, high as a cathedral and with windows of multicoloured glass portraying images of her Master, her god until he looked like a multicoloured deity. The whole place was a masterpiece of the architect’s skill and the builder’s talent, and she could tell, looking at it, that it would be there for ever. Of course it would! Buildings like this were created by gods to last, and that was that.

Warmed by the sun and feeling better, she made her way the few hundred yards to the magnificent structure, and as she took a last hesitant step towards its magnificent and polished oak door, there was a sudden click and creak … and that door, that heavy door with its polished brass furniture, swung slowly open.

Molly could hardly believe her eyes.

A smiling nun, young like teenagers are young and clad in the tiniest habit she had ever seen stood there before beckoning her. And behind her were the excited shadows of dancers, men and women of all ages and all dressed in a version of religious garb but all bespoke and tiny, barely covering limb or torso. And there was the music that had entered her dreams, rhythms that could only speak of one thing, of flesh writhing on flesh, of damnation.

Welcome, my darling,” said the nymph-nun, “entry is on receipt of your fees, payable in advance, to our lord and Master… cheques made out to God Incorporated, debit or credit cards welcome…”

© Peter Rogerson 12.07.17

© 2017 Peter Rogerson

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Added on July 12, 2017
Last Updated on July 12, 2017
Tags: forest, desert, creatures, convent


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 74 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..