The Onion Skin
Once upon a time there was an Old Lady,
who died and went straight to Hell.
Despite appearances, this is in fact,
the Beginning of the Story.
Her neighbours didn’t waste much time mourning her passing.
The Truth be told (as it must be, because this is that sort of Story, where even the Lies are True, in a sense) they didn’t
mourn her passing at all, for she was possibly the meanest, most cold-hearted, and uncharitable person
who had ever lived.
She never lent a hand to her neighbours or even helped out her family when they were in need. She never made a donation to a Charity or a Church. Indeed, in her entire miserly Life she had only ever performed one, small, Charitable Act.
It didn’t help either, that she was also rude, foul-tempered
and a vicious gossip to boot.
But her neighbours were decent, kindly folk after all, so they gave her a proper funeral and a decent burial (according to the Customs of the Time), instead of just tossing her body out on the scrap heap for the dogs to eat.
They even put up a neat little marble cross to mark the grave.
None of this stopped her from going to Hell though, because,
as mentioned previously, in her entire Life she had performed but a single charitable act.
This act of Charity, in fact, was nothing more than this; That once she had given an Onion Skin to a Beggar to eat.
She had eaten the Onion herself, of course.
But that was long ago and subsequently she had spent the rest of her long life indulging only her own extravagant whims,
in the process running through a vast, inherited Fortune,
and leaving her own heirs nothing but debts.
So now the Old Woman suffered down in Hell
with all the other Damned Souls, and after an Eternity or so,
it happened that amongst all the other Wailing
and Gnashing of Teeth, her own voice rose up for a moment above all the others, and her cry was heard,
yay, even unto the Gates of Paradise.
Now up above in the Land of the Blessed was,
naturally enough, the innocent Beggar
and when she heard the Old Woman’s cry
she went to the golden balconies around Heavens rim
and peered down at the Under-World below.
(In this version we’ll make the Beggar a girl too,
to avoid any accusations of typecasting gender-roles.)
The Beggar Girl had died one Winter years ago,
from Starvation or Pneumonia or Tuberculosis
or whatever poor people were dying from at the time.
Though poor she had led a blameless Life, sharing what she had with others down on their luck, always showing kindness to children and animals,
and uncomplaining patience
with her own hard lot in Life.
Thus, the Good Beggar Girl was rewarded with a berth in Heaven, and as she peered down into the Depths of Hell below, she recognised, standing miserably
there amongst the hordes
of the eternally wailing Damned, the miserly Old Woman who had given her the Onion Skin to eat so very long ago.
And being Kind, the Beggar took pity on her
and went to the Top Justice God to plead for Mercy
for the Old Woman, and ask that she may be given a chance
to escape from the torments of Hell.
Being both Wise and Just (or so the story goes) the God
took an Onion and peeled the skin from it,
all in one long piece.
(You know, like kids do with an apple sometimes in play,
seeing how long you could make that continuous coil.)
It must have been a Magic Onion, because that narrow strip of Onion Skin was long enough
to reach all the way down to Hell.
(Or maybe Hell is just a lot closer than we think.)
Anyway, the God in question,
(It might have been Thoth or possibly just Jesus.)
gave the long ribbon of Onion Skin to the Beggar, saying that she might lower it into Hell and by that means the Old Woman might climb up and escape her punishment.
The Beggar did just that. Tying one end of the onion skin rope to the Golden Railings, she lowered the other end down, down to the depths of Hell where the Old Woman was standing and wailing with her kind. Calling down to her, the Beggar Girl told her that her long-ago act of kindness now gave her the opportunity to escape the torments she was suffering. She had but to climb the Onion Skin to Heaven.
The Old Woman eagerly grasped the Onion Skin
with her claw-like, withered hands and started to haul
herself upwards towards the Light.
But as she did so, all the other Damned nearby, who had been watching this little Drama unfold, saw their chance to escape the ghastly Land of Hades too, and they all started grabbing at the Onion Skin rope.
Fearing perhaps, that their combined weight would make the fragile ribbon break, the Old Woman kicked at those climbing up behind her and shrieked fiercely at them,
“Get away! Get off! It’s mine! The Onion Skin is Mine!”
And as she spoke those words, the Onion-Skin snapped and she plummeted back into the smoky depths of Tartarus
for all the rest of Eternity.
There’s probably a Moral here. There’s usually one lurking about at the end of Stories, like a Janitor, tidying up the loose ends, clearing away the clutter, turning off the lights..
Well, you can always just write this off as a case of;
“Character is Destiny“,
or simply a reminder
that the Onion-Skin of Mercy
is a fragile thing indeed.
The REVEREND HELLFIRE is manifesting in Ipswich,
for One Show Only,
Tuesday, 6th September for the
SOLIDARITY CULTURE CLUB
at STUDIO 188.
Check out the link below for more details;
You know who I am.