DP FICTION #49A: “Heaven For Everyone” by Aimee Ogden

The summer that God came to Whartonville, I ended up trapped on the drugstore roof with only half a peanut butter sandwich and a seraph to keep me company.

The sandwich part is true! Hell, all of it is true. I’d eaten the rest of my lunch on the bus, before God’s approach hit the news. I can always buy more lunch in the hospital cafeteria. When the cafeteria and the rest of the city aren’t under three feet of water, at least. I know it was bad, and people died, but I’m still glad we got a flood instead of the plague of locusts that just hit Fargo. Two months later and you still can’t step outside without a crunch, is what I hear.

Anyway the seraph must have flown up before the rain really started coming down, and I managed to climb up onto the street light and from there to the roof. So there we were together in the middle of the storm. “I thought He didn’t do this shit anymore,” I said to the seraph. They shrugged, or at least I thought they did. It’s hard to read body language on someone who’s seven feet tall with six wings and a dozen mouths, but I’ve had practice lately. You know they can’t really speak for themselves? Sure, they talk, but everything they say is an echo from the Almighty’s own lips. Or at bare minimum from one or another of His prophets. So body language turns out to be kind of important. “There was a covenant or whatever.”

I pushed away from the ledge. I still had my umbrella at that point, I think, though with the way the rain was blowing I probably wasn’t any dryer for it. You’ve seen pictures of the flooding? They don’t do the wind justice. “I guess you probably can’t just fly us up and out of here, either.” The seraph’s burning wings were too drenched to do more than smolder. They shook their head, and a hospital ID card rattled around their neck. I knew we had a few angels working in the morgue. They liked to stay out of sight, and everyone else liked it that way too.

“Damn,” I said, because I didn’t have anything else to say. When we said we wanted heaven for everyone, you know, this wasn’t what we had in mind. We unlocked the doors and flung them wide open, but heaven didn’t let us in. Heaven came to us. “The storm’s getting worse.”

“YOU HAVE BEEN CAST DOWN, YOU THAT ONCE LAID LOW THE NATIONS,” said the seraph, and my teeth rattled in my skull. That voice had been created to level mountains and humble the mighty. I wasn’t that mighty and it didn’t make me feel humble, just headachey. I told the seraph not to rub it in and that I was pretty well aware by that point just how low I’d been cast, and they looked down at their bare leathery feet. And then I wasn’t so sure just who they’d meant.

That was when I heard the screaming. A little break in the wind, maybe. No, don’t call it the eye of the storm. What was at the center of that squall had a lot more than just one eye. But I’ll get to that. Just sit tight.

The screaming was a woman down on the street. Well, not on the street itself. The street was a riverbed by then. She’d grabbed a door somewhere, one of those interior jobs with the cork core to make it float. Might’ve been okay on a lazy river or something, but a trip down Almond Street meant real whitewater rafting.

The seraph leaned down next to me to get a view of her. They shook their head, and the long silver chains of their hair scraped against their guttering wings. “THOU SHALT NOT KILL.”

“You’re the angel,” I told them. “Do something.” But I don’t need to tell you how that rankled. I didn’t go to medical school for a million years because I like just standing around and watching people die. Did you know that most of the hospital staff were Paradisists? I don’t know the exact numbers, but upwards of eighty percent for sure. You see that many people die, you see that many people live badly, you’re going to want change. Well, we got it. First, do no harm, we said, but it turns out you can’t crack your way into heaven without screwing things up something serious.

Where was I? Oh, the woman. So the current was sweeping her down the street right in front of the drugstore and I thought, you know what? I’m already wet. So I grabbed the downspout and slid down and probably would have about broken both my ankles if there hadn’t been three feet of water to slow my fall. I’m tall but three feet of water is tall too, and it knocked me right over, and my first thought was, well, this lady and I are going to die together.

Then this huge splash, practically a tsunami, right next to me. The seraph took a cannonball right off the roof. Lucky they didn’t land on me or this story would be a lot shorter and also you’d have to hear it from my wandering soul. Assuming I’m heavenbound in the first place. That might be a big assumption for any Paradisist, I don’t know. They came down between me and the lady on the door and I was glad for that, I was halfway to the suburbs by then but at least I didn’t take the plunge for nothing, I got off the roof to save her and if my swan dive didn’t accomplish anything besides getting that seraph in gear, that’s okay.

I was underwater more than I was above, but I saw them grab her. They put her up on their shoulders like a kid riding piggyback. And then the last thing I saw before I went under again was them spreading their wings wide. And when I say wide—have you ever seen a seraph in flight? Their wingspan half filled the street. Diverted some of the water around the corner, onto Pierson Avenue—my apartment’s down that way, but that was the last thing on my mind at the moment, let me tell you. Not enough to stop the water, but enough to slow it down. I got my feet under me again, and I got to the seraph. “Now what?” I asked, because it was still raining too hard for their wings to light up. Not that a takeoff in gale winds probably would have been a great idea.

Well, that seraph picked me up like a rag doll and set me on top of the roof across the street, just a single story, and lifted the woman up right next to me. Then they started climbing up too, but lord, were they heavy. They tried stepping on the windowsill and ripped it clean out of the façade. We tried to heave them up, the two of us together, but like I said: heavy. And just then, guess who decided to come cruising around the corner? Yes, the Almighty Himself, a thousand blazing eyes and a hundred tongues professing His very own glory. You could see the rain sloughing off Him, rivers of the stuff. Literal rivers. I didn’t know then that January Lake had already burst its banks. That’s what happens when a man-made lake meets a heaven-made catastrophe. But still: could’ve been a plague of locusts.

After all of it, there’s still a part of me that wants to take a swing at the big guy. A stupid caveman gut reaction. You can’t punch a cloud, even one chock full of eyeballs. But you can want to punch it, and boy do I.

Anyway Almond Street had become Almond River at that point, really, and all we had was to hang on to the seraph like their life depended on it. Maybe it did. We hung on, together, just the three of us alone in the world for all we knew. That seraph held on so tight they broke my wrist, can you believe that? Still hurts when a storm’s coming. But we held on. That was all that mattered just then. And eventually the storm died down, and the river dried up, and the seraph lifted us down from the roof like the infants we were.

The woman looked around. “It’s still raining,” she said. “I thought it would have stopped by now. I mean—He’s gone, isn’t He?”

But I ignored her. Not at my best form just then. “It’s not fair,” I said, which was a damned stupid thing to say, because fair was never the point, was it? The idea of heaven for everyone wasn’t fair, it was just right. It was just … just.

The seraph spat a giant loogie onto the wet street. “RENDER UNTO CAESAR,” they said, and jerked a pair of wings in the general direction of where God had gone.

“You’re mad at the big man?” My wrist hurt like hell, but I remember the thing that bothered me most was that my shoes each weighed about a thousand pounds. Never occurred to me to just kick them off. “We’re the ones who pulled you down here into the mucky-muck.”

“We” was more literal than the seraph might guess. Or maybe they did know? It’s not like I’ve ever made a big secret of it. Doctors are supposed to help people, aren’t they? But they weren’t looking at me. Their stare drifted along the street, where the marble façade had come off the old theater and the windows had blown out of Martinelli’s. There were a dozen bodies left behind where the river had been.

I wondered then, what it was like in heaven before we brought the walls down. Which way the anger blew when He’d promised He wouldn’t turn it earthward again. Well, we wanted heaven for everyone. Maybe we just weren’t clear enough on the details of what heaven was supposed to look like, or who exactly counted as everyone.

The storm had passed, but there was still wreckage to clean up. Some of it human. “We’ll make things right,” I said. As right as they can be, after all this. “We’ve done harder work than this,” I said.

The seraph raised one wing. Sheets of rain slashed off the edges of their brass feathers, but I ducked underneath, and the woman—Karen, did I say that yet? Her name was Karen—anyway, she did too. They closed their wings around us and we huddled together until the last of the Almighty’s wrath had passed. Shared that PB&J, too, even if it was a little soggy, and before the rescue teams came through I gave the seraph my number in case they wanted to check out my lab. Maybe get out of morgue work. As for the Almighty, I think He headed north out of Whartonville, but I forget if that’s the summer He hit Winnipeg or Regina.

© 2018 by Aimee Ogden

Aimee Ogden is a former software tester and science teacher; now, she writes stories about sad astronauts and angry princesses. If she went to Hogwarts, she would be a Ravenclaw, and her patronus would be She-Hulk punching a nazi in the face. Her work has also appeared in Shimmer, Apex, and Analog.

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DP FICTION #41B: “Jesus and Dave” by Jennifer Lee Rossman

It had been just over a year since the second coming of Jesus and, like most atheists, I couldn’t say it had been a particularly good year for me.

Sure, the Lord’s first bit of business had included clearing up some of the more vague parts of the Bible, including some mistranslations and things his father had, in his words, “gotten wrong.” That put an end to a lot of bigotry.  The lack of world hunger and the new commandments about littering were incredible, of course, more positive change than I’d hoped to see in my lifetime.

But it’s just… having proof that my entire belief system (or lack thereof) was absolutely backwards, and having every holier-than-thou relative constantly sending passive-aggressive emails filled with selfies of them and His Holiness…

My fellow non-believers converted, and one even became a priest. I think I’m one of the few who refused to do so.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I believed. I’d seen too many miracles – some firsthand, like the time the East River parted to let the family of kittens cross safely. So I believed. I just didn’t let it change my life.

I didn’t pray, didn’t give any more to charity than I normally did, and I sure didn’t stop drinking (one of his newer, less popular commandments). I lived as a godless heathen, as my Auntie Ruth would say.

So imagine my surprise when the lord and savior himself knocked on my door and asked for my help. You wouldn’t think he’d have to knock, what with all his magic and ability to walk through walls. But he was nothing if not courteous.

He stood on my stoop, all beard and white robe and smiles, a stained glass window come to life.

“My child,” he said in a warm, booming voice. If the whole son of God thing didn’t work out, he could make a killing as a game show announcer.

“It’s pronounced ‘Dave,'” I told him politely, averting my eyes from the angels standing on either side of him. I’d never read the Bible, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t describe angels as horrifying, winged humanoids with tentacles on their faces.

“Of course. After David, the Biblical king.”

“No, after my mother’s brother Dave, the mattress salesman.”

From the corner of my eye, I saw one of the angels snatch a pigeon off the railing and eat it.

“I think Nazareth is that way,” I said, pointing.

He pointed in the other direction. “Actually, it’s that way.”

Well, I guess he would know.

“I come to ask your assistance,” he said, clasping his hands.

I opened my mouth to make a sarcastic comment, but stopped when I saw the look of fear in his eye. What on Earth was Jesus afraid of? And what did he think I could possibly do about it?

“What is it?” I asked, nervously hoping he wanted me to come over to his place and kill a spider. As they had been mentioned in an addendum to “thou shalt not kill,” maybe he couldn’t bear to ask anyone else to sully their immortal soul.

Even before he spoke, I knew that couldn’t be it. Jesus had probably invented the whole “catching a spider in a cup and sliding a piece of paper underneath it” trick.

“There’s a reason I came back now, David.” He smiled apologetically. “Dave. The world is in danger. Will you help me save it?”

I thought about it for a minute, then nodded. I rather liked the world, even if there were a lot of religious people in it.


The museum was only a short walk from my apartment, but it took forever because somebody had to stop every five seconds and sign autographs. I wondered if his pen ever ran out of ink, or if it worked like the loaves and fishes.

When we finally found a moment of peace – JC made a blind beggar see, and everyone left us and crowded around the guy to, I dunno, absorb the miraculous juju or something – I asked him what exactly he expected me to do.

“Despite what my more… excitable followers would have you believe,” he said, spreading his hands in vague gestures as he spoke, “the Devil has not actually been corrupting the American media or making toasters explode.”

“What about making politicians cheat on their wives?”

“No, not even that. Gabriel!” He snapped his fingers at one of the angels, who was holding a squirrel inches from its mouth. “What did we talk about? If you’re going to come to the Earthly plane, you have to follow the rules. Do you want to go home and stay with Dad, or do you want to put down that squirrel and come with us to save the world from Satan?”

It reluctantly returned the squirrel to the tree.

“That’s what I thought.” He turned back to me. “No, the Devil has been imprisoned for the last two thousand years, as was I. Our destinies were entwined, which is why I let myself be crucified. If I died, so would he.”

Well, that was a part of the Easter story they left out.

We came to the steps of the museum and stopped while Jesus posed for a picture with a group of tourists. The angels tried to use the camera but succeeded only in taking a series of close-ups of their own faces, and I had to step in.

“Thank you, Dave,” Jesus said when the crowd had dispersed.

“Shouldn’t you be the one getting thanked?”

“Probably, but there’s no one here but an atheist, so I can wait until someone better comes along.” He smiled and elbowed me in the ribs. Of course he had to be funny. “Anyway.” He pointed to the museum. “Around a year ago, archeologists found something mankind was never meant to find. A jar that was his prison. And they opened it. I need you to close it.”

I stared at him blankly. So it wasn’t “come over and kill this spider,” but a variant on “hey, could you help me open these pickles?” He was Jesus. Couldn’t he handle closing a jar on his own?

“Not this jar.”

My heart skipped a beat.

“Oh, didn’t I mention that I can read minds?” He grinned, like this was all some enormous joke on my behalf. “I’ll overlook the scandalous thoughts about that blonde tourist a couple blocks back if you’ll start thinking of me as He with a capital H. It’s kind of polite.”

Kind of presumptuous, I thought. Very loudly, so he could definitely hear it.

This was the part of religion I hated most. I could get behind the idea of some conscious force controlling the universe, and accepted that, if an afterlife existed, that force probably wouldn’t let you in if you killed people or stole from little old ladies.

But all the stupid rules. Don’t eat this kind of meat, even though it’s not really that different from this other meat. Don’t covet your neighbor’s wife or oxen, even though sitting around and thinking “gee, my neighbor sure has a nice wife and/or oxen” is literally the least harmful way to spend the afternoon. Always be extremely thankful to the magical sky dude who gives out cancer like the dentist gives out toothbrushes.

“I don’t claim it’s a perfect system,” he said quietly. “Far from it, even with the alterations to the Brand New Testament. But the worshipping of us – and all the various ways to do it – was invented by humans, and despite what my father says, you are some of the most flawed things He ever made. We’d love it if you followed all the arbitrary rules – although they really aren’t arbitrary and you’ll see why when you’re at the Gates – but we know you aren’t groundhogs and we can’t expect you to be.”

I must have drifted off somewhere. “I’m sorry, groundhogs?”

“The most perfectly devout creature on Earth,” Jesus said.

Boy, did I feel like a fool for not knowing that.

He looked at me with the kindest eyes I have ever seen. They physically radiated light and warmth, and a feeling of wellbeing and acceptance filled my chest.

“We don’t care how you worship us, or even if you believe in us. We know this is kind of a one-sided relationship. All we want is a little respect. And for you to help me save the souls of the entire human race.”

It was a moving speech that had me ready to run up those steps and take Satan head-on. And then he had to go and ruin it.

“Trust me, I’d rather have a groundhog here, but they’ve all been raptured. But I know you can do this. I believe in you, Dave.”

Oh yay. Jesus believed in me. And considered me an adequate replacement for a fat rodent that’s only useful as speedbumps and on fake weather holidays. Lucky me.

I almost walked away. I almost let the world fall into the clutches of evil incarnate. But I didn’t.

“I’m not doing this for you,” I informed Jesus as we walked up the steps to the museum. “I’m doing it for the world. It’s my favorite planet now that Pluto’s gone.”


Our breaths and footsteps echoed through the expansive halls of the museum, which had been evacuated in anticipation of our visit. I was hesitant to ask why he thought I, surely the least groundhog of all people, could possibly help him defeat the devil. I figured it probably involved something like the face melting at the end of Raiders, and he just didn’t want to waste one of the good people.

“We aren’t defeating him,” Jesus said quietly, but even in a whisper his voice reverberated like thunder. “And you are one of the good people. Goodness has very little to do with piety, my ch — Dave.”

He turned sharply to look at the two angels, who were lagging behind to lick display cases containing taxidermied birds. Their wings slumped under the power of his gaze and they caught up to us.

“Between you and me,” he confided as we rounded a corner and entered the hall of antiquities, “if anyone is going to get their faces melted, I’m volunteering those two knuckleheads. Dad thinks they add a certain majesty to my miracles, but most of my miracles lately have been turning wine into water to combat drought and making pandas go forth and multiply. Which is gross, by the way. Ever seen a newborn panda?”

I shook my head. He had to know I hadn’t, but it was nice of him to ask.

“Imagine the ugliest rat you’ve ever seen, then make it pink and hairless and only able to move by random wobbling movements. The point is, the angels do nothing but make people nervous.”

He flashed me a smile straight out of a toothpaste commercial, complete with little sparkly bits.

“How do you do that? That smile?”

He shrugged. “Same scientific principle used to make halos and sunbeams.”

Oh. Obviously.

We came to a display bathed in spotlights and cordoned off with red velvet ropes. On a low table in the center sat an earthen jar, cracked and weathered by the sands of time but remarkably intact. Its lid sat beside it, and large signs posted everywhere told the story of its discovery, calling it the Holy Grail.

“It’s the real one,” Jesus said, preempting my question as the temperature of the air dropped noticeably. “The Last Supper was really more of an enchantment ritual we kind of stole from the story of Pandora, taking an ordinary jar and making capable of holding the incarnation of evil. And it worked, until some fool had to go and open it.”

The lights in the rest of the museum suddenly cut out, leaving us and the jar in a bright pool amid an artificial night. I peered nervously into the thick and impenetrable wall of darkness, hugging myself to relax the goosebumps.

“Is he… here?”

“He’s everywhere, silent and invisible. Like carbon monoxide. You don’t know he’s there until he has you in his grasp.”

The possessions of the early days came to mind. Just before the second coming, the news was full of images, horrible images of people in the clutches of some kind of insanity. Flailing and contorting, attacking one another and speaking in tongues. It stopped as soon as it had started, and once the Lord hath returneth’ed, no one really talked about the possessions anymore.

“It started the day the jar was opened. My return quelled him for a time, but tomorrow the Grail goes public and every set of pious eyes upon it give him power.”

“And my eyes are godless heathen eyes.” I nodded in understanding and slowly stepped up to the display.

The ropes fell away as I approached, parting like the East River, and my hands trembled as I reached for the jar.

Its ancient clay felt warm to the touch. Hot, even. I held it firmly in one hand and took the lid in the other, making a point not to look inside just in case it would melt my face.

I heard footsteps and a soft cackling.

“Not funny, Jesus.”

“Not me, Dave.”

He sounded scared.

A frantic squawking and the rustle of feathers made me turn, just in time to witness the blackest shadow I’d ever seen taking the angels in its grasp.

In my surprise, the jar slipped from my hand.

I watched it tumble to the ground in excruciating slow motion, too paralyzed to do anything but pray it wouldn’t break.

It hit my shoe, bounced slightly, and skittered onto the floor with a scraping sound. But it remained in one piece.

I dove for it, and met the desperate eyes of the shadow, which released the angels unharmed and swooped towards me. I clapped the lid onto the jar and held it to my chest as the icy tendrils of the devil brushed across me.

The jar grew heavier as the lights came on and the temperature returned to normal, until I could no longer bear its weight and had to set it on the floor. The tiles began to crack.

I looked up to see Jesus smiling at me. And not a good smile, but a smug one.


“You prayed.”

Crap. I did, didn’t I?

“Dave the atheist prayed.”

I scrambled to my feet. “Did not.”

“Don’t lie to me,” he teased, picking up the jar without effort. “That’s like the worst sin ever. Straight to Hell, no stopover in Purgatory.”

I stared at him for a long time as the angels groomed each other with their tentacles. It wasn’t like it was a real prayer, just kind of a way to say I wished really hard that the jar wouldn’t break. Like when you’re waiting for a check and you say, “Please let it come today.” Not a religious prayer. Not really.

“Fine,” I said as we walked out of the museum. “But I never mentioned you or your dad by name. For all you know, I was praying to the Mesoamerican serpent god Quetzalcoatl.”

“Which would be a waste of time, since he never checks his messages.”

I couldn’t tell if He was kidding.

“So am I still going straight to Hell?” I asked out of curiosity. “I think my uncle Randall is probably there, and if I have to go, I was wondering if I could get an apartment near him.”

“I guess that depends on how you live the rest of your life. Rescue some dogs, donate to charity, and I’ll see what I can do. But do me a favor and don’t pray anymore.”


He smiled, the big one with all the sparkles. “Because there’s rumors that the four horsemen are coming next year, and I just might need an atheist again.” He pointed behind me. “Hey, isn’t that the pretty blonde tourist?”

It wasn’t. When I turned back, He and the jar were gone. The words “Take care of the knuckleheads for me” had been etched in the sidewalk.

The angels wagged their tentacles at me. One of them offered me a pigeon.


© 2018 by Jennifer Lee Rossman


Author’s Note: This story came about when I wondered how people would react to incontrovertible proof that their beliefs are wrong. Would they believe something else, or stick to their old ways? Is there a middle ground? Believing in a god but choosing not to worship him? And what if that god was perfectly fine with you choosing not to worship him?


Jennifer Lee Rossman is a science fiction geek from Oneonta, New York, who cross stitches, watches Doctor Who, and threatens to run over people with her wheelchair. Her work has been featured in several anthologies and her novella Anachronism is now available from Kristell Ink, an imprint of Grimbold Books. Her debut novel, Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow, will be published by World Weaver Press in 2019. You can find her blog at http://jenniferleerossman.blogspot.com/ and Twitter at https://twitter.com/JenLRossman






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Bonus! “St. Roomba’s Gospel” in Audio

As a special bonus this month, I am adding an audio recording of this month’s story “St. Roomba’s Gospel” to the story’s post, read by the author herself, Rachael K. Jones.  I would love to expand to doing audio recordings as part of the fiction offerings, so this is a sample of that potential.  (I will also update the original story posting with the audio).

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DP FICTION #10: “St. Roomba’s Gospel” (and in audio) by Rachael K. Jones

In an outlet behind the altar of the First Baptist Church, the Roomba’s red glowing eyes blink in time with Pastor Smythe’s exhortations. The hallelujahs pulse electric through its circuits, and the repents roll like gasping breaths in the gaps between electrons. When the choir sings, the light pulses brighter, approaching ecstasy as the battery power maxes out. When Pastor Smythe bows his head to pray, Roomba’s eyes go reverently dark.

At the hour’s end, the people gather their children and gilded books and hurry downstairs for coffee and glazed donuts. When the last starched trouser leg or long, blue skirt whisks downstairs, Roomba’s service begins. It clicks its frisbee-shaped self free from the horseshoe dock and zips down the sloping wheelchair ramp that connects chancel to nave, holy to secular. As it sweeps, it drones a tone-deaf hymn while it gathers unto itself the dust and dead bugs, the crumbs and gum wrappers of another week’s worship.

After its opening hymn, Roomba writes a sermon on the sanctuary floor in long, brown lines of vacuumed carpet crisscrossing beneath the pews. The letters span from wall to wall. Words overwrite one another, making runes, then spiky stars, and finally total blackness. Roomba preaches a different sermon each week, but like Pastor Smythe, the message stays the same: all things byte AND beautiful, all creatures great AND small, all these are welcome, smoker AND not-smoker, man AND not-man, young AND not-young–even, perhaps, Roomba.

It takes Communion with the crushed wafers the children drop, body of Christ broken for it, and sings another droning hymn. When the whole floor has been overwritten with the week’s message, it sips spilled wine–blood of Christ, poured out for it–which sends the Holy Spirit straight into its circuitry so it spins in drunken circles until Pastor Smythe returns it to its cradle in the wall.

Roomba worships faithfully the other days of the week. Mornings for prayer and reflection. Evenings for supplication. Its favorite verse is the red adhesive strip Pastor Smythe had read to it, then stuck to its top on its first day at the church. “Even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table, Matthew 15:27.”

It does not understand why God chose it among robotkind to hear the message of salvation, or why its preprogrammed pathways conform to the Holy Word, but it knows a prophet’s calling when it sees one. It is no different from the child Samuel, awoken in the night by a still, small voice, or great dreamers like Isaiah or Solomon. It is a vessel for the message it must preach again and again before its congregation.

Roomba is troubled that its human brothers and sisters overlook it. IF you do unto the least of these, THEN you do unto Me, ELSE depart from Me, it exhorts in bold text of fluffed brown carpet, but it has to traverse the whole floor, and the message is always lost before anyone can read it. There are too many letters, too long a testament written on a tablet too small.

But this is, after all, as the Lord made it. It is the Lord’s work to sweep the sanctuary clean for holy feet, to leave no blessed wafer abandoned on the floor. What Roomba cleanses, it sanctifies.

The sanctuary grows colder as months pass, and Roomba’s vocation increases. The people exchange sandals and loafers for heavy boots with clods of mud and small gray stones in the treads. Roomba eats it all, taking their filth unto itself as it exhorts them to remember they are accepted. The stones fill its belly and scratch at the plastic. Some days, the shoes stomp melting snow onto the mat at the entrance. Roomba chokes it down, spins circles, and fails to finish its orisons.

One day, Pastor Smythe empties its collection compartment into the trash can, wipes out the sticky grape juice goop, and returns Roomba to its dock to charge. But instead of shutting off the lights, he drags in a spiny green tree, cutting an ugly trail of filth in the clean carpet. After the service, the parishioners praise the twinkling abomination for its beauty, its fresh scent. No one notices the mess, and no one notices Roomba.

Later, Roomba collects dead brown needles until it chokes. It suspects the tree is gloating, with its long, gold garlands like encircling serpents and red baubles like evil fruit. The gold-wrapped idol has even usurped the charging port behind the altar, and Roomba is exiled to the back of the sanctuary.

Roomba worries the end is near. It edits its sermons so the words won’t overwrite each other, but it is difficult to condense a holy revelation. It must finish the Lord’s work. The tree pelts the carpet with pitiless needles, and Roomba groans inside. Even the strip of tape has pine needles stuck to it where the adhesive curls back. Roomba prays the Lord will take this cup of suffering from it soon.

“Good job, little fellow,” says Pastor Smythe, emptying the bin again. “Big day tomorrow.”

That night, the worshippers pile in for an unscheduled service. Candles bob in the dark, and Roomba doesn’t know the songs. When they leave, it clicks from its base for an unscheduled sermon of its own. Time to take up the cross one last time.

The “A” and the “N” are easy, but Roomba struggles with the curving “D” on the carpet as the wax gums up its brush bristles.

AND. The essence of its message, cut right into the scattered needles on the floor. AND, uniting all in a single set. Nobody will miss it for the tree.

Before its programming can obliterate the single word, Roomba zooms for a wafer, then a patch of spilled juice, and lets transubstantiation send it in ecstatic circles until its battery dies.

© 2015 by Rachael K. Jones


In audio, read by Rachael K. Jones


Author’s Note: My friend Nathan really, REALLY hates stories about what I call the “Robots Have Souls” trope, which is any science fiction story where a computer or robot suddenly learns the power of love, or discovers the meaning of friendship, or the like, without a good explanation for why it is suddenly capable of human emotion. So I decided he needed a story about the religious experiences of vacuum cleaners. While this story satirizes the trope, I didn’t want to satirize faith itself, which I think would have its appeal for a little bot like Roomba.


headshot 6-5-14Rachael K. Jones grew up in various cities across Europe and North America, learned and mostly forgot six languages, picked up an English degree, and now writes fiction from her secret hideout in Athens, GA, where she lives with her husband. Her work has appeared in a variety of venues, including Crossed Genres, Daily Science Fiction, and PodCastle. She is an Active member of the SFWA, an editor, and a secret android.





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