In Plockton village on one of the north western Episcopal Islands it is the beginning of the season of Lent, and on a high ground overlooking the west-facing rocky cliff at the sea the villagers are putting up a wooden cross, as they have every year in recent years. Shops are closed on this Wednesday, but the local Morrisons store in any case has closed down given the economic condition of the village.
"This year our crops shall not fail," the local Laird Bishop tells the faithful. "And this year we shall demonstrate that our Church is like the other Anglican Churches, and defeat those dark forces in control!"
A campaign is begun. The villagers might sacrifice an animal, but that would be no good in these desperate circumstances. They might lure in a virgin, innocent, and even a virgin policeman - and lead him a merry dance. But they did that once before. Now the God must be made happy by a greater necessary sacrifice. The redundant manager of Morrisons and the Laird Bishop join together to finalise and enact their plan. Best of all is to raise up a bishop-elect, bring him to the island, and then sacrifice him! And in this season of Lent one is indeed elected and brought to the island, a man of the forest, to come and give meditation classes ostensibly to calm down the fears of the villagers about their livelihoods.
The villagers welcome him, and he functions with some rites and rituals in the church, as he is a priest. The villagers know that they have the right man, as he sits outside between services in a state of calm, and when he begins their meditation classes. The villagers seem enthusiastic, and join his classes, but they know the necessary deception required. Thus while he sits, and while he teaches, the villagers are enacting the plan, and in their evenings at home a campaign is generated across the Internet, especially for the other Episcopal Islands and the further flung Anglican Islands. As this campaign develops with ever more vigour and smear, the villagers that might have enjoyed and defended his classes occasionally start to wobble and doubt their own mindfulness: perhaps they might have to accept what is going to happen in order to dampen the stresses and strains of actual communal life.
It is the day. The sun rises upon this island. All are preparing, and appear in the lanes and on the cobbled streets, and gather. And with them is the forester priest. And some more come by boat from neighbouring islands, including two other Laird Bishops. Everyone is in dress for the occasion.
The Laird Bishop in his finest robes speaks to his Plockton villagers, "Today we go to that most sacred rite, the consecration. Let us proceed to the Western Beach."
The three Laird Bishops lead the dressed up villagers down a lane, hopping and skipping to a drum beat; and at a field they all pause and dance; and there onwards the procession continues down to the beach where all are gathered. The villagers' Laird Bishop stands firm to address his flock:
"This year our crops shall not fail; our Church will be part of the wider Church. You, the forester, man of nature, man of calm, have come here of your own free will. You have given us your rites, but now you must accept ours. You are to be our example to the wider Church. Yes we could have sacrificed an animal, we could have sacrificed a virgin policeman, but this year nothing can be better to our God than to sacrifice you, a bishop-elect. You will be our sacrifice."
He points to the cross high above, that the villagers made, that looks over the sea.
The forester priest is a lean, fit, vegetarian man, and he runs across the beach. He fears for the villagers, especially all those who attended his classes, turning, calling, "Come, come, follow me!" Some do too.
They who learnt his meditation run quickly behind him and shout, "Go into that cave; we can escape!" He does, they do and, catching up, they tell him to run on, and they all reach into and climb up a blow hole to the top.
But there above a crowd is waiting already, and the villagers behind him now block the forester priest's way from retreating, as he realises. He climbs out and stands up. A strong man picks him up over his shoulder, and takes him to the prepared cross a short distance higher up. There, retaining incredible calm, he is nailed upon it, the crowd all singing as the sun dips down into the sea. But he cannot maintain his silence: the forester priest, in pain and desperately short of breath, shouts out, "Oh Christ, oh Buddha!".
As the villagers leaves he is heard singing faintly one of his liturgies. He is left to suffocate and hang for at least three days.
In later days the villagers are joined from others from across the wide archipelago of islands and the mainland, all having a convention. The Presiding Bishop comes, but a bearded Laird Archbishop arrives from another mainland, a distant Anglican place, that one who himself oversaw a sacrifice down in a city called Christminster. He is stood behind a lectern, among examples of gasping, withering, unfed and little-watered plants, addressing the many from the islands and the mainland:
"I have written in some detail to promote the hope that in our story of our lives the harvests will not fail and thus I have come here among you to help you in your decisions and our decisions and to suggest what sacrifices are required so that we may all experience unity and conformity not just to the mainland but across and among all the mainlands."
Adrian, Mark Harris ordered me over here to read "An Island Coastal Village". I had already read it, and, as Mark said, "It is an amazing piece of writing."
I was stunned upon first reading, as I was stunned when I first read Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery". I had no words. Now, I say, again with Mark (not many words of my own, eh?) that I hope and pray that the ending of the story will be different.
You're nothing if not prolific, Adrian, and you write very well.
You are too kind, and sometimes these take too long to write!
Do you ever sleep?
Some very strange hours.
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