Who Would
Wish to Destroy
The House
of The Lord?

Who Would
Wish to Destroy
The House
of The Lord?

Who Would
Wish to Destroy
The House
of The Lord?

Who Would
Wish to Destroy
The House
of The Lord?

Grounded SF from
The Netherlands
and Flanders
no. 1

Grounded SF from
The Netherlands
and Flanders
no. 1

AUTHOR

Jerry Goossens

PITCH

After the Great Flood has washed over the entire country of the Netherlands, a group of Dutch survivors sets foot on North African soil and builds a new community. One day their beloved vicar dies. The moment he is buried, a new vicar arrives. And he isn’t cut from quite the same cloth.

Grounded SF

Grounded SF

Translated by: Thijs van Nimwegen

The church was almost full when the Van Bestevaers entered. In the back, near the entrance, where a breath of wind blew in from time to time, no seat was untaken.

The church was almost full when the Van Bestevaers entered. In the back, near the entrance, where a breath of wind blew in from time to time, no seat was untaken.

The church was almost full when the Van Bestevaers entered. In the back, near the entrance, where a breath of wind blew in from time to time, no seat was untaken.

The church was almost full when the Van Bestevaers entered. In the back, near the entrance, where a breath of wind blew in from time to time, no seat was untaken.

The church was almost full when the Van Bestevaers entered. In the back, near the entrance, where a breath of wind blew in from time to time, no seat was untaken.

Neel was helping Mem to get to the front. There were still two empty folding chairs over there, next to each other. Hans pointed out to his son the empty buffer seat between the Lindners and the Van Dullemonds, who loathed each other as long as anybody could remember (though nobody remembered why) and, during the inevitable encounters within the small migrant community, ignored each other as much as possible. Christiaan shuffled passed the Lindner family’s knees sideways and sat down with a sigh, occupying the last free seat. Soon no space was left along the walls as well, and some of the faithful were forced to attend the service outside, listening to loudspeakers on the roof. When brother Kavelaars played the first chords on the organ, an instrument which had once been in a Dutch living room and was persistently out of tune, they kneeled down in the sand and folded their hands.

Inside vicar Van Neerbos walked over to the lectern that served as a pulpit. He straightened his jabot, then gestured for silence. When only shuffling and coughing could be heard in the sweltering church, he started speaking: “Dear congregation, the first offertory will be for the benefit of the air conditioning apparatus. We have nearly collected enough to make the purchase, though nonetheless I would like to encourage you, if you can afford it, to give generously, so that we may soon be able to praise God at a temperature more in accordance with the Kingdom of Heaven than with Hell. Furthermore, the church council will congregate this Friday, directly after the afternoon prayer. All of this God willing. Our salvation, and our only hope is in the name of the Lord, who in heaven and on earth will be true to us in all eternity and will never relinquish the works of his hands. Amen.”

Brother Kavelaars started playing again. Drunken chords fluttered about the room. A noise that only became more unbearable when the faithful started singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” at a pitch that in no way could be pleasing to the Lord. Were He not just all-seeing, but also all-hearing, then these Fridays had to be an abomination to His ears. Oh, the sacrifices He had to make!

Christiaan, trapped between sister Lindner and sister Van Dullemond, who were trying to best each other when it came to loudness and shrillness, could barely stop himself from covering his ear canals. The lyrics came rolling out of his mouth thoughtlessly and monotonously—“The Prince of Darkness grim, We tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure.” His shirt collar, damp already, was chafing his neck. The smell of old sweat. Eyes stinging. All his senses becoming irritated. It felt as if the Holy Spirit was preparing him for the salvation of those mealy-mouthed words that would soon be spoken from the pulpit. Vicar Van Neerbos employed a feeble way of sermonizing; a squeaky voice, raucous and uncertain, slow, huffing sentences. The old man never had really gotten used to the climate and every sabbath he was perspiring as if Judgment Day was upon them. Which did not stop him from sermonizing at least forty-five minutes on end. With the exception of heydays like Christmas and Eastern, the vicar usually fell back on the Book of Exodus. Seldom a Friday passed without him referring to the children of Israel and their journey from “Egypt land”. In his sermons Christ appeared a small fry, dwarfed by the colossal figure of Moses, with whom the vicar seemed to identify. Van Neerbos, too, wanted to lead his people out of the desert. Not literally though, obviously. A pale, fat man, the heat still made him suffer. During the day he hardly ventured outside, and when he did he hid underneath a big, black umbrella. He sighed, groaned and lamented. In his left hand, he always held a handkerchief the size of a pillow cover, which he used to dab his forehead and the folds of his neck. It never took long for the kerchief to become grey and clammy, like a floor cloth. Indeed, the promised land vicar Van Neerbos conjured up before his congregation was not located on the far side of a long, hot desert, but in the Kingdom of Heaven.

This worship, too, was about Moses; the way he had diffidently averted his eyes when the Lord appeared to him in the burning bush. How he feared the children of Israel would not believe him when he told him that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had appeared to him. Then the vicar’s words took wing. Sweat dripping off his face in fat drops he stood on his toes, as if trying to get closer to God, bent over the pulpit as deeply as his middle-age spread allowed him and spoke in an ever-raising voice about Moses’ staff changing into a snake, as proof of God’s existence. Christiaan had heard the story many times before. But when the vicar spoke about the Lord ordering Moses to put his hand in his bosom, Christiaan imagined Moses’ hand in horrifying detail, emerging malformed and leprous from his “bosom”, only to transform into a healthy limb again moments later. The vicar’s words evoked to Christiaan a vision of God as a ghastly magician. Which, admittedly, was a miracle in its own right.

“Thou shalt take of the water of the river,” Van Neerbos quoted Scripture, by heart of course, “and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land!”

A snake, a malformed hand, a puddle of blood: the Lord’s ways of making Himself known were macabre. The vicar raised his right hand and poked his finger into the air, while putting his left upper arm on the edge of the lectern and moving his weight even further forward. He was gasping for air to fuel his sermon. But then his voice faltered. He raised his eyebrows, threw a puzzled glance at the congregation and then tumbled forward, lectern and all. He hit the earthen floor with a thump. The crucifix on the wall was shaking.

---------------

For a moment, the church was dead silent. Then sister Van Dullemond started screeching. After which sister Lindner also started to wail, louder and shriller than sister Van Dullemond, of course, and finally a cacophony of hysterical voices filled the tiny church, like a cloudburst. Brother Remmerswaal and brother Van Neck stood at the front, yanking the vicar’s black robe, apparently trying to roll him over; not an easy task. On both sides of the church other men, father Van Bestevaer among them, were running forward. With combined forces, they managed to roll the vicar onto his back. Which made it hard to reach the clasp of Van Neerbos’ jabot. Brother Van Neck grabbed the front and tried to rip it off. The vicar’s chin rose up and his head fell backwards, but the jabot would not come off.

Now all of the congregation were jostling around the motionless body. Father and brother Van Neck were waving their arms, gesturing the members of the congregations to step back. They were no match for the sideward pressure from dozens of faithful trying to catch a glimpse of their vicar, driven by fright and curiosity. Only when brother Gouzij and brother Deeleman simultaneously tumbled over his body, brother Gouzij landing on top of his sizeable belly, the congregation recoiled. Father Van Bestevaer used the empty space to crouch next to the vicar and see if he was still breathing. When this turned out not to be the case, he put his ear to Van Neerbos’ chest, then alternated between pressing his lips to the vicar’s and applying CPR. The clamor inside the church stopped as suddenly as it had started. Holding their breaths, the faithful watched Hans van Bestevaer trying to breathe new life into the vicar. After ten endless minutes, he gently closed Van Neerbos’ eyes and said: “The vicar is dead.”

Neel was helping Mem to get to the front. There were still two empty folding chairs over there, next to each other. Hans pointed out to his son the empty buffer seat between the Lindners and the Van Dullemonds, who loathed each other as long as anybody could remember (though nobody remembered why) and, during the inevitable encounters within the small migrant community, ignored each other as much as possible. Christiaan shuffled passed the Lindner family’s knees sideways and sat down with a sigh, occupying the last free seat. Soon no space was left along the walls as well, and some of the faithful were forced to attend the service outside, listening to loudspeakers on the roof. When brother Kavelaars played the first chords on the organ, an instrument which had once been in a Dutch living room and was persistently out of tune, they kneeled down in the sand and folded their hands.

Inside vicar Van Neerbos walked over to the lectern that served as a pulpit. He straightened his jabot, then gestured for silence. When only shuffling and coughing could be heard in the sweltering church, he started speaking: “Dear congregation, the first offertory will be for the benefit of the air conditioning apparatus. We have nearly collected enough to make the purchase, though nonetheless I would like to encourage you, if you can afford it, to give generously, so that we may soon be able to praise God at a temperature more in accordance with the Kingdom of Heaven than with Hell. Furthermore, the church council will congregate this Friday, directly after the afternoon prayer. All of this God willing. Our salvation, and our only hope is in the name of the Lord, who in heaven and on earth will be true to us in all eternity and will never relinquish the works of his hands. Amen.”

Brother Kavelaars started playing again. Drunken chords fluttered about the room. A noise that only became more unbearable when the faithful started singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” at a pitch that in no way could be pleasing to the Lord. Were He not just all-seeing, but also all-hearing, then these Fridays had to be an abomination to His ears. Oh, the sacrifices He had to make!

Christiaan, trapped between sister Lindner and sister Van Dullemond, who were trying to best each other when it came to loudness and shrillness, could barely stop himself from covering his ear canals. The lyrics came rolling out of his mouth thoughtlessly and monotonously—“The Prince of Darkness grim, We tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure.” His shirt collar, damp already, was chafing his neck. The smell of old sweat. Eyes stinging. All his senses becoming irritated. It felt as if the Holy Spirit was preparing him for the salvation of those mealy-mouthed words that would soon be spoken from the pulpit. Vicar Van Neerbos employed a feeble way of sermonizing; a squeaky voice, raucous and uncertain, slow, huffing sentences. The old man never had really gotten used to the climate and every sabbath he was perspiring as if Judgment Day was upon them. Which did not stop him from sermonizing at least forty-five minutes on end. With the exception of heydays like Christmas and Eastern, the vicar usually fell back on the Book of Exodus. Seldom a Friday passed without him referring to the children of Israel and their journey from “Egypt land”. In his sermons Christ appeared a small fry, dwarfed by the colossal figure of Moses, with whom the vicar seemed to identify. Van Neerbos, too, wanted to lead his people out of the desert. Not literally though, obviously. A pale, fat man, the heat still made him suffer. During the day he hardly ventured outside, and when he did he hid underneath a big, black umbrella. He sighed, groaned and lamented. In his left hand, he always held a handkerchief the size of a pillow cover, which he used to dab his forehead and the folds of his neck. It never took long for the kerchief to become grey and clammy, like a floor cloth. Indeed, the promised land vicar Van Neerbos conjured up before his congregation was not located on the far side of a long, hot desert, but in the Kingdom of Heaven.

This worship, too, was about Moses; the way he had diffidently averted his eyes when the Lord appeared to him in the burning bush. How he feared the children of Israel would not believe him when he told him that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had appeared to him. Then the vicar’s words took wing. Sweat dripping off his face in fat drops he stood on his toes, as if trying to get closer to God, bent over the pulpit as deeply as his middle-age spread allowed him and spoke in an ever-raising voice about Moses’ staff changing into a snake, as proof of God’s existence. Christiaan had heard the story many times before. But when the vicar spoke about the Lord ordering Moses to put his hand in his bosom, Christiaan imagined Moses’ hand in horrifying detail, emerging malformed and leprous from his “bosom”, only to transform into a healthy limb again moments later. The vicar’s words evoked to Christiaan a vision of God as a ghastly magician. Which, admittedly, was a miracle in its own right.

“Thou shalt take of the water of the river,” Van Neerbos quoted Scripture, by heart of course, “and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land!”

A snake, a malformed hand, a puddle of blood: the Lord’s ways of making Himself known were macabre. The vicar raised his right hand and poked his finger into the air, while putting his left upper arm on the edge of the lectern and moving his weight even further forward. He was gasping for air to fuel his sermon. But then his voice faltered. He raised his eyebrows, threw a puzzled glance at the congregation and then tumbled forward, lectern and all. He hit the earthen floor with a thump. The crucifix on the wall was shaking.

---------------

For a moment, the church was dead silent. Then sister Van Dullemond started screeching. After which sister Lindner also started to wail, louder and shriller than sister Van Dullemond, of course, and finally a cacophony of hysterical voices filled the tiny church, like a cloudburst. Brother Remmerswaal and brother Van Neck stood at the front, yanking the vicar’s black robe, apparently trying to roll him over; not an easy task. On both sides of the church other men, father Van Bestevaer among them, were running forward. With combined forces, they managed to roll the vicar onto his back. Which made it hard to reach the clasp of Van Neerbos’ jabot. Brother Van Neck grabbed the front and tried to rip it off. The vicar’s chin rose up and his head fell backwards, but the jabot would not come off.

Now all of the congregation were jostling around the motionless body. Father and brother Van Neck were waving their arms, gesturing the members of the congregations to step back. They were no match for the sideward pressure from dozens of faithful trying to catch a glimpse of their vicar, driven by fright and curiosity. Only when brother Gouzij and brother Deeleman simultaneously tumbled over his body, brother Gouzij landing on top of his sizeable belly, the congregation recoiled. Father Van Bestevaer used the empty space to crouch next to the vicar and see if he was still breathing. When this turned out not to be the case, he put his ear to Van Neerbos’ chest, then alternated between pressing his lips to the vicar’s and applying CPR. The clamor inside the church stopped as suddenly as it had started. Holding their breaths, the faithful watched Hans van Bestevaer trying to breathe new life into the vicar. After ten endless minutes, he gently closed Van Neerbos’ eyes and said: “The vicar is dead.”

The clamor inside the church stopped as suddenly as it had started. Holding their breaths, the faithful watched Hans van Bestevaer trying to breathe new life into the vicar.

The clamor inside the church stopped as suddenly as it had started. Holding their breaths, the faithful watched Hans van Bestevaer trying to breathe new life into the vicar.

The clamor inside the church stopped as suddenly as it had started. Holding their breaths, the faithful watched Hans van Bestevaer trying to breathe new life into the vicar.

The clamor inside the church stopped as suddenly as it had started. Holding their breaths, the faithful watched Hans van Bestevaer trying to breathe new life into the vicar.

The clamor inside the church stopped as suddenly as it had started. Holding their breaths, the faithful watched Hans van Bestevaer trying to breathe new life into the vicar.

And like any other Friday, the black procession shuffled through the dusty lanes of Klein Amsterdam, towards the church on the square. The women modestly dressed and their heads covered, the men holding their hands in front of their crotch. Apart from a curt greeting, “Morning”, not much was said, if only for the bells, ringing louder with every step and making it difficult to have a conversation.

The Dutch were standing in the doorway, waiting for the procession to pass, and then also joining. The vicar and brother Kavelaars were the only ones to walk to the church alone. A few natives were also waiting for the churchgoers, only to demonstratively close their shutters the moment they passed, like any other Friday.

When the congregation had reached the religious center of the village, they gathered around the fresh ruins of the church tower that was still under construction. Each of them had already taken a look at what damage was done by the vandals, but the Dutch felt the unspoken desire to examine the devastation collectively. The chiming of the bells, louder than anywhere else in the village, combined with the joint stare at the ruined masonry, had something apocalyptic about it. Silently they stood around the remains of their inspired labor. All those hours of sweat, sore muscles and sunburned skin, of sacrifice, religious zeal and community spirit, destroyed and reduced to rubble.

Some native villagers gave emphatic nods when passing, others didn’t bother hiding their sardonic joy. A car drove past, a rattling old banger with a loose exhaust pipe and a grinding crankshaft. The hoarse tooting that came out, definitely wasn’t an expression of sympathy.

“Animals, that’s what they are,” shrilled sister Gouzij, “animals! Who would wish to destroy the house of the Lord?”

The congregation murmured in approval.

“Who but the devil?”

The dismay that resounded in unison from the choir of bystanders, now had notes of anger and resentment. Some were already eagerly looking over their shoulders, to the minaret.

But before the rage had the chance to escalate, a demanding voice bellowed over the square.

“CONGREGATION.”

Standing in front of the entrance to the church was the new vicar, hands on hips, eyebrows raised.

One by one, the brothers and sisters broke free from the gathering around the building site/ruin and made their way to the church. When they entered, the sight of a crucified ram shuddered through the congregation like an electric shock. Sisters were screaming, some nearly fainted. Mothers instinctively covered their children’s eyes while staring at the obscenity hanging on the cross. From the lips of brother Gouzij a thunderous profanity escaped: “Fuuuucking hell.” Some stood as if pinned to the ground. Others hurried outside, where the vicar unrelentingly sent them back in.

In the collective panic, frantically searching for their place in the dark room, few noticed the little billy goat standing underneath the cross. It had long, curved horns growing from his head like wings. It had a coppery colored fur, with a black band running over its bony back. Around its neck was a piece of rope, tying it to the cross. Impatiently it scraped its little hoof on the unpaved floor.

Brother Kavelaars started singing his drunken psalm. Absentmindedly, the congregation joined in. But with a curt gesture of his arm, the vicar silenced them. The hush that followed was accentuated by the softly bleating goat.

“Brothers and sisters.” The vicar spoke softly, almost whispering. Yet every syllable that rolled from his lips could be heard clearly, even all the way to the back. “Brothers and sisters. I do apologize for interrupting your psalm. I hope you will not hold it against me, and that God may forgive me. But today isn’t a day of singing, it isn’t a day for melodies or sacred contemplation. You all have witnessed how the heathens dishonored our place of worship with their sacrifice to the devil. You have seen how they taunted and ridiculed the Son of God, our Saviour. You have seen the bloody writing on the wall above His cross, bearing witness to their wickedness. And you have seen what damage the heathens have done to our tower, erected by the sweat of our brow as a celebration of our union with the Lord. They have come like thieves in the night, these vandals and philistines. Not to destroy our masonry. Not to push over the stones. Not to break down the scaffolding. No, brothers and sisters. This foul attack on our blessed work, was a direct attack on your faith. It was a reckless attempt to defy and offend the Lord of Hosts, to dishonor and slander Him. With one single hair from His eyelashes He could have beaten them to dust, those treacherous heathens, those filthy vipers. The Lord does not need us, poor sinners, to protect His holy name. The culprits, who will burn in hell for eternity anyway, will not escape their rightful punishment. The fierceness of His anger will not go unnoticed. Has not the living God driven out the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites and the Jebusites from the promised land, all by Himself? Would He then struggle with a bunch of desecrators? No, brothers and sisters. The Lord God will give you every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, like the children of Israel. But remember, brothers and sisters, that the promised land, too, wasn’t won without a fight. In Rephidim, Moses and Israel were attacked by Amalek. Joshua had to conquer Jericho with the edge of his sword. The Lord God can fight His own battles, brothers and sisters. But what He cannot do, is defend our faith against the savages and heathens. He commands us to take what He has promised us. He demands to defend what He has given us by fire and sword.”

Again, the vicar paused for a moment, his eyes scanning the church like a searchlight. Then, in a loud voice that seemed to echo through every fiber of the room, he spoke: “And the Lord said unto Aaron: Thou and thy sons and thy fathers with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary. Brothers and sisters, congregation. Like the Lord God ordered Aaron and his sons to look after the Tent of Meeting, I now wish to ask our sons to protect this holy place against the evil and destruction of the heathens. I invite all the young brothers aged fifteen to twenty-five to rise.”

Christiaan van B. tried to make eye contact with Willem iii, who was sitting a few rows behind him, and then with other boys of his age. All around him he was met with hesitant faces, eyes moving from left to right, and hunched shoulders. But when Christiaan was the first to rise, his father patting his leg in approval, the church filled with the sound of folding chairs being pushed back, from which young men hesitantly got up. There was a grunt of approval, one or two clapped their hands. The boys looked at each other: what next?

The vicar’s voice rung out like a bronze bell: “Up, sanctify the people, and say: Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow; for thus saith the Lord God of Israel: There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

None of the boys had a clue what the vicar meant with “sanctify yourselves against tomorrow” or “take away the accursed thing”. Only the word “enemies” resonated. It added a heroic luster to the thought of the ruined church tower, the desecrated altar and the spineless sand kaffirs who had it on their conscience.

And like any other Friday, the black procession shuffled through the dusty lanes of Klein Amsterdam, towards the church on the square. The women modestly dressed and their heads covered, the men holding their hands in front of their crotch. Apart from a curt greeting, “Morning”, not much was said, if only for the bells, ringing louder with every step and making it difficult to have a conversation.

The Dutch were standing in the doorway, waiting for the procession to pass, and then also joining. The vicar and brother Kavelaars were the only ones to walk to the church alone. A few natives were also waiting for the churchgoers, only to demonstratively close their shutters the moment they passed, like any other Friday.

When the congregation had reached the religious center of the village, they gathered around the fresh ruins of the church tower that was still under construction. Each of them had already taken a look at what damage was done by the vandals, but the Dutch felt the unspoken desire to examine the devastation collectively. The chiming of the bells, louder than anywhere else in the village, combined with the joint stare at the ruined masonry, had something apocalyptic about it. Silently they stood around the remains of their inspired labor. All those hours of sweat, sore muscles and sunburned skin, of sacrifice, religious zeal and community spirit, destroyed and reduced to rubble.

Some native villagers gave emphatic nods when passing, others didn’t bother hiding their sardonic joy. A car drove past, a rattling old banger with a loose exhaust pipe and a grinding crankshaft. The hoarse tooting that came out, definitely wasn’t an expression of sympathy.

“Animals, that’s what they are,” shrilled sister Gouzij, “animals! Who would wish to destroy the house of the Lord?”

The congregation murmured in approval.

“Who but the devil?”

The dismay that resounded in unison from the choir of bystanders, now had notes of anger and resentment. Some were already eagerly looking over their shoulders, to the minaret.

But before the rage had the chance to escalate, a demanding voice bellowed over the square.

“CONGREGATION.”

Standing in front of the entrance to the church was the new vicar, hands on hips, eyebrows raised.

One by one, the brothers and sisters broke free from the gathering around the building site/ruin and made their way to the church. When they entered, the sight of a crucified ram shuddered through the congregation like an electric shock. Sisters were screaming, some nearly fainted. Mothers instinctively covered their children’s eyes while staring at the obscenity hanging on the cross. From the lips of brother Gouzij a thunderous profanity escaped: “Fuuuucking hell.” Some stood as if pinned to the ground. Others hurried outside, where the vicar unrelentingly sent them back in.

In the collective panic, frantically searching for their place in the dark room, few noticed the little billy goat standing underneath the cross. It had long, curved horns growing from his head like wings. It had a coppery colored fur, with a black band running over its bony back. Around its neck was a piece of rope, tying it to the cross. Impatiently it scraped its little hoof on the unpaved floor.

Brother Kavelaars started singing his drunken psalm. Absentmindedly, the congregation joined in. But with a curt gesture of his arm, the vicar silenced them. The hush that followed was accentuated by the softly bleating goat.

“Brothers and sisters.” The vicar spoke softly, almost whispering. Yet every syllable that rolled from his lips could be heard clearly, even all the way to the back. “Brothers and sisters. I do apologize for interrupting your psalm. I hope you will not hold it against me, and that God may forgive me. But today isn’t a day of singing, it isn’t a day for melodies or sacred contemplation. You all have witnessed how the heathens dishonored our place of worship with their sacrifice to the devil. You have seen how they taunted and ridiculed the Son of God, our Saviour. You have seen the bloody writing on the wall above His cross, bearing witness to their wickedness. And you have seen what damage the heathens have done to our tower, erected by the sweat of our brow as a celebration of our union with the Lord. They have come like thieves in the night, these vandals and philistines. Not to destroy our masonry. Not to push over the stones. Not to break down the scaffolding. No, brothers and sisters. This foul attack on our blessed work, was a direct attack on your faith. It was a reckless attempt to defy and offend the Lord of Hosts, to dishonor and slander Him. With one single hair from His eyelashes He could have beaten them to dust, those treacherous heathens, those filthy vipers. The Lord does not need us, poor sinners, to protect His holy name. The culprits, who will burn in hell for eternity anyway, will not escape their rightful punishment. The fierceness of His anger will not go unnoticed. Has not the living God driven out the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites and the Jebusites from the promised land, all by Himself? Would He then struggle with a bunch of desecrators? No, brothers and sisters. The Lord God will give you every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, like the children of Israel. But remember, brothers and sisters, that the promised land, too, wasn’t won without a fight. In Rephidim, Moses and Israel were attacked by Amalek. Joshua had to conquer Jericho with the edge of his sword. The Lord God can fight His own battles, brothers and sisters. But what He cannot do, is defend our faith against the savages and heathens. He commands us to take what He has promised us. He demands to defend what He has given us by fire and sword.”

Again, the vicar paused for a moment, his eyes scanning the church like a searchlight. Then, in a loud voice that seemed to echo through every fiber of the room, he spoke: “And the Lord said unto Aaron: Thou and thy sons and thy fathers with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary. Brothers and sisters, congregation. Like the Lord God ordered Aaron and his sons to look after the Tent of Meeting, I now wish to ask our sons to protect this holy place against the evil and destruction of the heathens. I invite all the young brothers aged fifteen to twenty-five to rise.”

Christiaan van B. tried to make eye contact with Willem iii, who was sitting a few rows behind him, and then with other boys of his age. All around him he was met with hesitant faces, eyes moving from left to right, and hunched shoulders. But when Christiaan was the first to rise, his father patting his leg in approval, the church filled with the sound of folding chairs being pushed back, from which young men hesitantly got up. There was a grunt of approval, one or two clapped their hands. The boys looked at each other: what next?

The vicar’s voice rung out like a bronze bell: “Up, sanctify the people, and say: Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow; for thus saith the Lord God of Israel: There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

None of the boys had a clue what the vicar meant with “sanctify yourselves against tomorrow” or “take away the accursed thing”. Only the word “enemies” resonated. It added a heroic luster to the thought of the ruined church tower, the desecrated altar and the spineless sand kaffirs who had it on their conscience.

Up, sanctify the people, and say: Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow; for thus saith the Lord God of Israel: There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

Up, sanctify the people, and say: Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow; for thus saith the Lord God of Israel: There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

Up, sanctify the people, and say: Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow; for thus saith the Lord God of Israel: There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

Up, sanctify the people, and say: Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow; for thus saith the Lord God of Israel: There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

Up, sanctify the people, and say: Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow; for thus saith the Lord God of Israel: There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

“Young brothers,” continued the vicar, “raise your right hand. Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Come forward, young brothers, come forward.”

The boys, to their surprise and excitement promoted to the Levites of the village, shuffled through the neatly formed rows of folding chairs. The adult brothers and sisters rose en masse from their seats. To give them space and an encouraging pat on the shoulder. They reached the aisle, still somewhat uncomfortable, where they waited until all the young men, about twenty in total, were gathered together and they could walk forward as a group. The vicar received them with open arms.

“The Lord God desires a sacrifice,” he said. “The sacrifice of your service to the congregation. You will pair up and take turns to keep watch over the church tower. Every night. Until the construction is finished. You will defend the House of God and the dignity of this congregation against the destructive powers Satan is unleashing upon us. Tooth and nail. The Lord desires a sacrifice...” Out of nowhere, the vicar produced a big, steel dagger. The light of the lamps, shining in the religious shed, reflected beautifully on the white metal, making it look like a torch. “Young Brother Van Bestevaer,” said the vicar commandingly. Christiaan van B. took a step forward, not knowing what was wanted. Carefully but decisively, the vicar handed him the knife. Christiaan held it as far from his body as possible, instinctively fearing he might hurt himself with it. He examined the blade, the frightful point, the ribbed, ebony handle. Was this the weapon the vicar wanted to use in attacking the desecrators? Up to this point, all conflicts with the sand kaffirs had been fought bare-knuckled. Once or twice someone had thrown a stone or threatened someone with a piece of wood. But the people of Klein Amsterdam as well as the native villagers were gravely aware that the introduction of a serious weapon would lead to an escalation of violence. A consequence no one dared to think about for too long. While Christiaan van B. was trying to imagine the blade of the dagger disappearing between someone’s ribs, the cut creating deep furrows and blood bubbling up like seepage, the vicar took a few steps back to untie the rope that bound the little goat to the crucifix. The vicar stepped over the animal, as if he wanted to ride it, and took it by the horns. With confidence, he forced it to turn its head, while sliding a deep, wooden bowl beneath it. He nodded at Christiaan van B.

“Young brother Van Bestevaer. . .”

Christiaan looked at him, startled. “What?”

“The Lord God has entrusted you with performing the holy sacrifice.”

Christiaan was starting to sound nervous. A slight tremor in his voice told the trained ear—his father, mother, Mem and Willem iii—the penny finally dropped. Suddenly, the destructive power of the sharp knife no longer was a theoretical exercise, no longer was it an abstract thought he could bring to life in his head, but a reality tempered only by time. The other boys formed a horseshoe around Christiaan van B., the vicar and the billy goat, whose bleating had turned into the long-drawn-out wailing of a crying baby.

“Go on,” said the vicar, “you searched for the cross. Now do as the Lord God commands you.”

“Young brothers,” continued the vicar, “raise your right hand. Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Come forward, young brothers, come forward.”

The boys, to their surprise and excitement promoted to the Levites of the village, shuffled through the neatly formed rows of folding chairs. The adult brothers and sisters rose en masse from their seats. To give them space and an encouraging pat on the shoulder. They reached the aisle, still somewhat uncomfortable, where they waited until all the young men, about twenty in total, were gathered together and they could walk forward as a group. The vicar received them with open arms.

“The Lord God desires a sacrifice,” he said. “The sacrifice of your service to the congregation. You will pair up and take turns to keep watch over the church tower. Every night. Until the construction is finished. You will defend the House of God and the dignity of this congregation against the destructive powers Satan is unleashing upon us. Tooth and nail. The Lord desires a sacrifice...” Out of nowhere, the vicar produced a big, steel dagger. The light of the lamps, shining in the religious shed, reflected beautifully on the white metal, making it look like a torch. “Young Brother Van Bestevaer,” said the vicar commandingly. Christiaan van B. took a step forward, not knowing what was wanted. Carefully but decisively, the vicar handed him the knife. Christiaan held it as far from his body as possible, instinctively fearing he might hurt himself with it. He examined the blade, the frightful point, the ribbed, ebony handle. Was this the weapon the vicar wanted to use in attacking the desecrators? Up to this point, all conflicts with the sand kaffirs had been fought bare-knuckled. Once or twice someone had thrown a stone or threatened someone with a piece of wood. But the people of Klein Amsterdam as well as the native villagers were gravely aware that the introduction of a serious weapon would lead to an escalation of violence. A consequence no one dared to think about for too long. While Christiaan van B. was trying to imagine the blade of the dagger disappearing between someone’s ribs, the cut creating deep furrows and blood bubbling up like seepage, the vicar took a few steps back to untie the rope that bound the little goat to the crucifix. The vicar stepped over the animal, as if he wanted to ride it, and took it by the horns. With confidence, he forced it to turn its head, while sliding a deep, wooden bowl beneath it. He nodded at Christiaan van B.

“Young brother Van Bestevaer. . .”

Christiaan looked at him, startled. “What?”

“The Lord God has entrusted you with performing the holy sacrifice.”

Christiaan was starting to sound nervous. A slight tremor in his voice told the trained ear—his father, mother, Mem and Willem iii—the penny finally dropped. Suddenly, the destructive power of the sharp knife no longer was a theoretical exercise, no longer was it an abstract thought he could bring to life in his head, but a reality tempered only by time. The other boys formed a horseshoe around Christiaan van B., the vicar and the billy goat, whose bleating had turned into the long-drawn-out wailing of a crying baby.

“Go on,” said the vicar, “you searched for the cross. Now do as the Lord God commands you.”

“Young brothers,” continued the vicar, “raise your right hand. Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Come forward, young brothers, come forward.”

The boys, to their surprise and excitement promoted to the Levites of the village, shuffled through the neatly formed rows of folding chairs. The adult brothers and sisters rose en masse from their seats. To give them space and an encouraging pat on the shoulder. They reached the aisle, still somewhat uncomfortable, where they waited until all the young men, about twenty in total, were gathered together and they could walk forward as a group. The vicar received them with open arms.

“The Lord God desires a sacrifice,” he said. “The sacrifice of your service to the congregation. You will pair up and take turns to keep watch over the church tower. Every night. Until the construction is finished. You will defend the House of God and the dignity of this congregation against the destructive powers Satan is unleashing upon us. Tooth and nail. The Lord desires a sacrifice...” Out of nowhere, the vicar produced a big, steel dagger. The light of the lamps, shining in the religious shed, reflected beautifully on the white metal, making it look like a torch. “Young Brother Van Bestevaer,” said the vicar commandingly. Christiaan van B. took a step forward, not knowing what was wanted. Carefully but decisively, the vicar handed him the knife. Christiaan held it as far from his body as possible, instinctively fearing he might hurt himself with it. He examined the blade, the frightful point, the ribbed, ebony handle. Was this the weapon the vicar wanted to use in attacking the desecrators? Up to this point, all conflicts with the sand kaffirs had been fought bare-knuckled. Once or twice someone had thrown a stone or threatened someone with a piece of wood. But the people of Klein Amsterdam as well as the native villagers were gravely aware that the introduction of a serious weapon would lead to an escalation of violence. A consequence no one dared to think about for too long. While Christiaan van B. was trying to imagine the blade of the dagger disappearing between someone’s ribs, the cut creating deep furrows and blood bubbling up like seepage, the vicar took a few steps back to untie the rope that bound the little goat to the crucifix. The vicar stepped over the animal, as if he wanted to ride it, and took it by the horns. With confidence, he forced it to turn its head, while sliding a deep, wooden bowl beneath it. He nodded at Christiaan van B.

“Young brother Van Bestevaer. . .”

Christiaan looked at him, startled. “What?”

“The Lord God has entrusted you with performing the holy sacrifice.”

Christiaan was starting to sound nervous. A slight tremor in his voice told the trained ear—his father, mother, Mem and Willem iii—the penny finally dropped. Suddenly, the destructive power of the sharp knife no longer was a theoretical exercise, no longer was it an abstract thought he could bring to life in his head, but a reality tempered only by time. The other boys formed a horseshoe around Christiaan van B., the vicar and the billy goat, whose bleating had turned into the long-drawn-out wailing of a crying baby.

“Go on,” said the vicar, “you searched for the cross. Now do as the Lord God commands you.”

Jerry-Goossens

JERRY GOOSSENS

Jerry Goossens (1965) is a columnist for publications including AD, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, and Grazia. He writes about music in Het Parool newspaper. He has written several novels such as The Call of the Mussel, The Siamese Single, and Vreeland. He has also published various volumes of his columns, and he was coauthor of The Cheers Were Massive: Punk in Holland 1976–1982.

Photo: Jan Willem Kaldenbach

JERRY GOOSSENS

Jerry Goossens (1965) is a columnist for publications including AD, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, and Grazia. He writes about music in Het Parool newspaper. He has written several novels such as The Call of the Mussel, The Siamese Single, and Vreeland. He has also published various volumes of his columns, and he was coauthor of The Cheers Were Massive: Punk in Holland 1976–1982.

Photo: Jan Willem Kaldenbach

JERRY GOOSSENS

Jerry Goossens (1965) is a columnist for publications including AD, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, and Grazia. He writes about music in Het Parool newspaper. He has written several novels such as The Call of the Mussel, The Siamese Single, and Vreeland. He has also published various volumes of his columns, and he was coauthor of The Cheers Were Massive: Punk in Holland 1976–1982.

Photo: Jan Willem Kaldenbach



Published twice a year by Lebowski Publishers
© Lebowski Publishers  |  Amsterdam

For international rights please contact:
Oscar van GelderenTracy Fisher, Jill Gillett or Sylvie Rabineau

This literary magazine for Grounded SF
from The Netherlands and Flanders is
published twice a year by Lebowski Publishers.
© Lebowski Publishers  |  Amsterdam

For international rights please contact:
Oscar van GelderenTracy Fisher , Jill Gillet or Sylvie Rabineau

This literary magazine for Grounded SF from The Netherlands and Flanders is published twice a year by Lebowski Publishers.


For international rights please contact: Oscar van GelderenTracy Fisher, Jill Gillet or Sylvie Rabineau

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele, Gina Hay, Joost Devriesere

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart, Paul Evans

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens, Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens,
Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

© 2018 Hanna Bervoets, Willem Bosch, Rob van Essen, Jerry Goossens,Erik Nieuwenhuis, PJ Pancras, Joost Vandecasteele

© TRANSLATIONS Antoinette Fawcett, Kristen Gehrman, Thijs van Nimwegen, Jonathan Reeder, Sarah Welling, Joni Zwart

EDITORS Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson, Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design

EDITORS Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson, Maaike Pleging



DESIGN
 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design

EDITORS 
Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson, 
Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman
uncanny.design

EDITORS 
Oscar van Gelderen, 
Jasper Henderson,
Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design

EDITORS 
Oscar van Gelderen, Jasper Henderson, Maaike Pleging

DESIGN 
Bart Heideman  |  uncanny.design