‘What sort of blister?’ asked Will.
‘Look,’ said Ron, pointing at the side of his neck, ‘That sort of blister.’
‘That looks bad. How’d you get it?’
‘It was there when I woke up and I reckon it’s getting bigger by the hour.’
Will closed the door behind Ron and gently pushed him down the hall towards the lounge. It was not uncommon for Ron to show up at his door, wanting to talk or just kill time. Unfortunately, his friend’s timing was not always good and Will occasionally felt like killing him. Allowing Ron to take his pick of the available seating, Will then waited for him to get comfortable before sitting down on the floor.
‘Maybe you should go see a doctor,’ said Will.
‘Doctors,’ replied Ron, throwing his hands into the air. ‘All they ever do is write you scripts for pills. They’ve got pills for everything.’
‘Suppose the pill actually works?’
‘Wanna watch TV?’ suggested Ron, declaring the discussion about doctors and blisters closed.
‘Whatever. Wanna beer?’
Ron said in many more words than were necessary that he did as he switched on the flat-screen stereo television.
‘Good TV you got here Will. Old but good.’
Will returned to the lounge with two open bottles of Victoria Bitter and gave one to Ron.
‘Is that why you’re always around here?’
Engrossed as he was in the news on the television, Ron ignored the question.
An outbreak of blisters, which doctors say are symptomatic of the latest strain of influenza virus, is currently sweeping Australia.. Sufferers report the blisters appear suddenly, grow rapidly and spread from the neck and torso. If you have one or more of these blisters, you should immediately contact your physician who will provide you with an injection to relieve the itching associated with the blisters. There is currently no cure for the virus but medical advice suggests it is not fatal and symptoms should subside within seven days. In other news...
Ron was already on his feet and out the door. ‘Hell,’ he said as he left, ‘I hope I didn’t infect you Will.’
Will wasn’t worried because he had always avoided catching the flu. Somehow, no matter how many of his friends or work-mates went down with the viruses which came every winter, he never took ill and Will never really wondered why, he merely accepted his good health as lucky.
Turning his thoughts to the beers he had to drink, Will returned to the lounge and took the choice seat recently vacated by Ron. The news broadcast continued.
In Jerusalem Plateau more protests were held today against the continuing enforced isolation of the migrant colony. Mohammed Mohammed issued a statement calling on the Australian government to end its repressive illegal immigrant policy. He insisted the President fulfill his promise to meet personally with the leaders of Jerusalem Plateau to discuss the problems in the increasingly overcrowded and under resourced enclave.
Will did not know very much about Jerusalem Plateau but he was intensely curious. Pictures of the protest rallies came on the screen and he watched with fascination as tens of thousands of illegal immigrants demanded the right to settle wherever they wanted to in Australia.
Mohammed Mohammed’s bearded face appeared, saying that God would hear the people of Jerusalem Plateau crying for mercy and would deliver them from their captivity. Then he spoke directly to the President.
‘President Keating, the Almighty says you are wrong to imprison his people. He commands you to let them go or else!’
Will considered what ‘or else’ might mean. It was obviously a threat but what could they do? Was he suggesting there could be a war? How could the migrants fight with no weapons against the combined armed forces of Australia? Jerusalem Plateau was heavily guarded and even if any of them escaped there was nowhere to go. Will remembered seeing aerial photographs of the enclave and its surrounds. Absolutely desolate. What strength did those people have? Only the God they kept talking about, but was he real?
Putting the issue out of his mind, Will telephoned some friends whom he hoped would be similarly at loose ends and invited them out for a drink. Both his first choice drinking buddies declined the offer saying they were unwell with the flu. Did they have any blisters? Yes.
It seemed Will would be spending this particular Saturday night at home alone so he finished his beer and Ron’s, then went for another one, and threw a couple of frozen pies into the oven. Sitting down in front of the TV again, Will was pleased to see the current affairs program, Light, was focusing on the unrest at Jerusalem Plateau. He had often been told he was obsessed with Jerusalem Plateau and should get a real life, whatever that meant.
While he was watching the program, there was an urgent knock on the door suggesting Ron had returned, so Will called out, ‘Come in.’
Ron rushed in all out of breath as usual.
‘These blisters are getting worse Will.’
‘So you’ve got more than one now, have you?’
‘What are you doing here?’ Will was retreating to the corner of the lounge as Ron lifted his shirt to reveal at least half a dozen angry looking pus filled blisters on his chest. ‘Are you trying to make sure you infect me?’
‘Relax,’ said Ron shaking his head. ‘They’re not contagious.’
‘Flu is always contagious.’
‘My doctor said the blisters have nothing to do with flu, and they aren’t contagious.’
Ron ran off to the bathroom and turned on the taps in the bath. By the time Will caught up to him, Ron was half undressed.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Doc says the best way to relive the itching is to lie in a coolish bath.’
Having drunk four bottles of beer on a empty stomach, Will was feeling intoxicated and being a happy drunk, disinclined to argue.
‘Righto,’ he said, pulling the door closed behind him as he left. ‘Enjoy your bath.’
‘Can I have a beer?’ called Ron just before he splashed in and let out a sigh of great satisfaction. ‘Hey how come you haven’t got any blisters?’
‘I don’t know Ron’
Fading in the distance, Will could faintly hear Ron complaining that everyone he knew had blisters and since he knew a lot of people, Will must the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
After checking on Ron and supplying his beer, Will returned to the Jerusalem Plateau program. The anchor was talking to a religious expert who was examining the significance of all the biblical imagery being talked about by the leader of the migrant colony and suggesting they represented a much greater threat united, than as individual tribes. It was clear the warnings given to the Australian President by Mohammed Mohammed were exactly the same as those given to Pharaoh by Moses.
At that point Ron strolled out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist appearing more at ease than when he first arrived.
‘Can’t you put a shirt on,’ said Will. ‘I’m about to eat. Those blisters look disgusting.’
‘What’re you watching?’
‘Show on Jerusalem Plateau. What do you know about the story of Moses and the Pharaoh?’
‘Ten Commandments. Charlton Heston. Great movie. A classic.’
Will stood up suddenly and looked at Ron, trying to concentrate on his face and not on the festering sores on his chest.
‘The story’s based on the bible right?’
‘Probably,’ replied Ron, shrugging his shoulders. ‘Weren’t you paying attention in scripture classes either?’
Ron watched in amusement as Will conducted a desperate search for a Bible, unsure if he still had one as he had not read it or been to church for many years. Eventually he gave up.
‘Have you got one?’
Ron just laughed at him.
‘Do you know anyone who might have one?’
Ron laughed again. ‘I don’t know any church people Will.’
‘Watch the place for me, okay. I’ve got to go and find a bible somewhere.’
Not having seen his mother for some time, Will decided his need for a bible constituted a very good reason to call on her. She was a devout Christian, had been for as long as Will could remember and the reason he no longer lived at home and probably the reason he no longer attended church.
It was no surprise Elaine was ecstatic to see her son whom she always referred to as the prodigal Son in her conversations with others.
‘Will,’ she said, ‘How lovely to see you. Come in.’
‘Hi mum,’ said Will after he kissed her on the cheek.
‘What’s wrong Will? Have you got any blisters?’
‘No. Have you?’
‘Of course not, son. That’s wonderful news that you don’t. Wonderful.’
If Will had have been given twenty cents for every time his mum had said, of course not, in exactly that confidently pious tone of voice, he would have become a rich man.
Elaine would admit to being wrong, but she was right so often it didn’t seem to matter. She was right, she knew it and as she always said, no one lights a lamp and puts it under a bed.
‘Why do you say of course not, mum? All of my friends have them.’
‘All of your friends don’t have their mothers praying for them all the time, do they?’
‘I don’t know. What’s that got to do with anything?’
‘Don’t use that tone of voice with me Will.’
Frustrated, Will decided to get to the point of his visit. ‘Can I have a look at a bible please?’
Elaine’s face lit up and without a word she leant across the sofa, picked up a leather bound edition and handed it to Will. She asked him if he had seen the special on Jerusalem Plateau and what he thought of the reference to the story of Moses and Pharaoh, to which he replied that was why he had asked for the bible.
‘It’s at the beginning. After Genesis.’
‘The reason you and I do not have any blisters is the same reason that no one in Jerusalem Plateau has any, nor do any Christians.’
‘I’m not a Christian mum.’
‘You have been marked by God for salvation.’
As he had found what he was looking for, Will ignored the comment which struck him as outrageous. God brought seven plagues upon the people of Egypt including frogs flies, turning the water to blood, and boils. None of the Hebrews suffered from the boils because God wanted to make a clear distinction between his people and the Egyptians. Finally Pharaoh relented after the death of all the first born of Egypt including his own son.
Will looked up at Elaine who was waiting patiently. ‘Why didn’t he let the people go before his son died? If all Moses’s other threats had come to pass, starting and stopping when he said, why was the guy so stubborn?’
‘Why is President Keating so stubborn? Why won’t he let the people of Jerusalem Plateau go free?’
Will fell back into the deep sofa and sighed. ‘There are two reasons. Money and votes. Popular opinion is on his side. Most people don’t want more migrants here. The other thing is the industry based in Jerusalem Plateau, mainly mining and some manufacturing, generates a good deal of export income. It’s hypocritical but there you are.’
Elaine nodded. ‘He wants to keep his job, and releasing the Christians would turn the people against him. Despite the criticism from advocates of religious freedom and civil libertarians, President Keating wants to please the majority of people, especially in an election year.’
‘I remember when politicians only listened to the minority groups. They talked the loudest and the longest, so they got results. It’s different now.’
‘Listen Will, a group of us from church are going to Jerusalem Plateau to-’
‘You can’t mum, it’s a restricted area.’
‘Yes I know, of course it is,’ said Elaine as she took both of her son’s hands in her own. ‘We are going to stay at Woomera and travel out to the perimeter each day by bus.’
Realization crossed Will’s face and he grudgingly accepted that he admired Elaine for her strongly held convictions. The conflict between them over the years was the result of him envying her strength of character and feeling like he was never good enough. In truth she was the most tolerant, forgiving and compassionate person he had ever known.
‘Are you asking me to come with you?’
Elaine simply smiled.
On the way home in the bus, Will moved from the back seat to better hear the news which came on the television behind the driver. He listened with great interest as his favorite subject was the lead story.
President Keating has today announced that he will travel to Jerusalem Plateau to meet with Mohammed Mohammed and other leaders of the migrant community. He insists he has not changed his mind, still believing the status quo should remain but wishes it known he is willing to discuss the enclave’s problems and look at some possible solutions. When asked whether these possible solutions included an extension of the boundaries of Jerusalem Plateau as suggested by the leader of the opposition, he said it was unlikely but he was keeping an open mind. President Keating will leave for Jerusalem Plateau on the seventh of July.
The seventh of July was the day after Elaine and her church group were scheduled to arrive in Woomera. Will had decided to join them much to the delight of his mother and, as best he could understand, the plan was simply to pray for Mohammed and Keating and specifically that the President would agree to release the Christians being held against their will. It was curiosity more than anything else which prompted Will to agree to making the trip, as he still had no faith with which to pray, and serious doubts as to whether it was a even a good idea for the walls of Jerusalem Plateau to be torn down.
Elaine had explained to Will the reason why he had no blisters, and while it made some sense and was supported by anecdotal evidence, he nonetheless found it impossible to believe.
Lined up five deep for two hundred metres on either side of the road to the Amethyst Gate of Jerusalem Plateau, were thousands of Christians and hundreds of journalists. Among them were people from all walks of life, young and old, rich and poor, and all ethnic backgrounds who represented the minority Christian faith in Australia. They had been waiting for the arrival of President Keating but after two hours word began to spread he was not coming. This was confirmed by an announcement on the large telescreen at the Amethyst Gate, advising that the President would not be attending today’s meeting due to ill health, and the meeting would be rescheduled.
Will was amused and said to Elaine. ‘Seems as though your prayers have been unanswered.’
‘Not necessarily, Will,’ said Elaine with the light of hope in her eyes undiminished. ‘We are heading back to Woomera, and we will meet to seek the Lord’s direction.’
‘He must have blisters. No one has seen him since the outbreak, and it fits in with what you all say about the blisters marking the enemies of God.’
Elaine appeared not to hear her son’s words but after a long silence she answered him with the unexpected. ‘He hasn’t made the connection. He doesn’t realise he is a twenty first century Pharaoh despite all that has been said.’ She clasped his arm in her small hands. ‘He doesn’t get it Will. Someone needs to explain it to him and pray for his healing.’
Incredulous at the suggestion, Will amazed himself by agreeing with his mother’s conclusion. The time was coming for Will to give up, to let go rationality and step out in faith, off the cliff and into the arms of God. He was still struggling with an urgent prompting in his heart and in his head, when the crowd of fanatics suddenly fell quiet as if God had pressed the mute button. Looking around for an explanation, Will saw green smoke creep out from underneath the Amethyst Gate, and crawl along the road, fanning out to cover everyone’s feet. The fear Will felt as it approached him left when it touched him. Nobody spoke a word as the wondrous green cloud inched its way along the road to Woomera.
It was only after the wraith passed that Will noticed some of the journalists and cameramen had fallen. One beside him was lying in a crumpled heap and was surrounded by a group of Christians who were praying for him. Elsewhere the scene was repeated but as Will continued to watch, none of the fallen rose from the ground. They were dead.
In dumbstruck awe the people slowly made their way back to the buses and cars and returned to Woomera. At six in the evening, they gathered in the park next to the hotel, and worshipped God silently out of respect for the dead as some families in town had lost children to the Angel of Death. Not long after they began, a woman came rushing out from the hotel, waving her arms around like a air traffic controller. Irreverently breaking the silence, she called out to the crowd.
‘They’re free! They’re free! The President changed his mind and says they can leave anytime they want.’
Spontaneous cheering broke out with the occasional hallelujah leaping from the noisy celebrations, as the Christians hugged each other and lifted their hands and their voices in thanks to God. Someone loudly suggested they pack themselves back on the buses and into their cars and head out to Jerusalem Plateau.
The southern approach road presented a clear view of the Amythst, Emerald and Saphire gates through which thousands upon thousands of people flowed like a river after rain. It was exhilarating. The proclamation of freedom was much anticipated. As they came closer Will could see the Amethyst Gate had actually been smashed down and jubilant people were trampling on it, as they spilled out into the wide open spaces of the South Australian outback. Many were crying tears of joy as were many others on board the buses.
The buses parked and disgorged themselves of exultant Christians who mingled with the people of Jerusalem Plateau. They laughed and cried together, encouraged and inspired one another in a celebration of brotherhood. Will was overwhelmed and although he still did not really understand what had happened, he felt compelled to surrender to this force, this irresistible God. Falling on his knees at the Amethyst Gate, he repented of his sins as his mother laid her hands on him and prayed for his salvation.
President Keating was asked about his sudden change of heart and replied he had been mysteriously healed of the blisters which had spread all over his body and were causing him great pain. He offered no further explanation about the mystery, except to say that he had a visit from a stranger in his dreams who convinced him to do the right thing and grant justice to the people of Jerusalem Plateau.
Public opinion turned against him and he was savagely criticized in the media but he remained sure he had done the right thing. Two months later he was voted out of office and although the incoming President held different views on the subject, Jerusalem Plateau was open and the people came and went as they pleased and they were thankful.
Will and Elaine moved to Jerusalem Plateau.
About the Creator
Heavy metal lover and cricket tragic, D.A. Cairns lives on the south coast of News South Wales. He works as a freelance writer, has had over 90 short stories published, and has authored six novels to date.