Saturday 27 December 2014

Special Effects: A Christmas Satire

Star Quality: "Seriously, Nuriel, that was a really clever special effect. The mortals will still be talking about your 'Star' two thousand years from now."
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS DIRECTORATE of Paradise was located several blocks from the actual Throne of God. Its angelic executives did not enjoy the status of the Heavenly City’s heavy-hitters, Gabriel and Michael, but their spectacular contributions to his Mysterious Way had earned them plenty of commendations from the Boss. Why only this morning the Directorate had received an effusive memo from the Throne praising their dazzling contributions to the night before.
Uriel, the Directorate’s CEO, handed the memo to his Creative Director, Nuriel, with one of his famous smiles.
“Another job well done, brother. The Boss is over the moon!”
Nuriel scanned the memo’s contents and chuckled.
“I knew the Choir Effect would do the trick. Always a massive logistical effort, but nothing beats the Heavenly Host singing ‘Hallelujah!’”
“So true, Nuriel, so true. Those poor shepherds couldn’t believe their eyes!”
“The sudden intrusion of celestial power into the corporeal world will do that”, Uriel laughed. “My personal favourite, however, was the Star. That was a masterstroke. Do you remember how stumped we were when we first got this brief? How in Heaven were we supposed to persuade three Parthian wizards to travel all the way from Saba to Bethlehem without a direct summons?’ It’s a very long way to come without one of Gabriel’s special ‘invitations’.”
“True enough, but then we realised that those inveterate star-gazers would not be able to resist the lure of a new light in the sky. Once spotted it was only a matter of time before they unearthed all those “ancient” prophecies we’d taken care to deposit in the Saba library. The moment they realised that the Star portended the birth of their long-awaited ‘Messenger’, they couldn’t saddle-up the camels fast enough.”
“Yes, but it was the way you made it travel ahead of them that really brought everything together. Solved the problem of how to ensure that everyone got to the same place at the same time. Seriously, Nuriel, that was a really clever special effect. The mortals will still be talking about your “Star” two thousand years from now.”
“Not quite as clever as the Boss’s baby though – eh Uriel?”
“Shhhh, Nuriel! You know that matter’s strictly classified. Gabriel will have our wings if we start asking the wrong sort of questions about the new-born ‘Son of God’. Our brief was to handle the special effects aspects of his birth. The Hows and the Whys are well-above our pay grade!”
“Sure, sure, Uriel – don’t worry. It’s just that I’m puzzled as to why the Boss would want to manifest himself in something as fragile as a mortal human-being? I mean they’re nowhere near as spectacular as a Burning Bush, the Ten Plagues of Egypt, or a Pillar of Fire in the desert. No mortal could mistake the Boss’s messages when embedded in effects like that.”
“Not to mention the Parting of the Red Sea! Now that’s what I call a special effect!”
Nuriel smiled proudly at the memory.
“The thing is, Nuriel, the Boss is entering a new phase in his relationship with these strange creations of his. The last time we talked, He warned me that the day would come when the Special Effects Directorate would no longer be needed. That we’d be reassigned to new and altogether more complex duties.”
Nuriel frowned. “When is the Boss planning to do this?”
“Oh, don’t worry, brother, we still have plenty of work ahead of us. I tell you, when this baby grows up the Directorate will have its hands full, special effects wise. Indeed, the Boss is expecting our very best work. Water into Wine, Walking on Water, Loaves and Fishes: there’s plenty yet for us to do!”
“Sounds like fun.”
“Yes, but as the centuries pass the Boss will call upon our services less and less. That’s this little fellow’s job, apparently. To demonstrate a way to access the Divine without the need for heavenly hosts, travelling stars, or miracles of any kind.”
“Really? How does this ‘Jesus’ plan to do that?”
“I’m sorry, Nuriel, but that’s classified too. All I know is that his death is destined to be as mysterious as his birth. I pressed the Boss for an answer, but all he said was that it is going to require one last, very special, effect of his own.”
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 26 December 2014.

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