It was like a dream.
There was a sense of space opening before him - he opened his eyes and saw nothing but heard the sound of wave-fall. He realised he was laying in sand and staring up into the sky.
Rasputin hauled himself to an upright position and surveyed the scene. Stood down by the water was a figure wreathed in robes and white light.
"My Lord." he whispered and picking up his cassock ran down towards the beach.
He arrived feeling as though he ought to be breathless but found that it came quite easily to him. The fresh salty air of the sea was cool on his face.
"Lord..." began Rasputin.
"Walk with me a while." said God and began to walk off along the beach.
Rasputin hurried along behind.
"Lord God - how often did I speak to you? How many times did I entreat you to bade my pleas, how often did thou ignore my offerings and turn thy back on me?!" spat Rasputin his anger welling up inside.
God stopped and turned to face the monk.
"Take a look at the sky."
Rasputin looked and saw his life as the beach upon which they now stood and he saw God beside him at many intervals along that path.
In each scene he saw two sets of footprints in the sand.
one belonging to him and the other to God.
Frequently one of the sets of footprints would disappear.
He glanced back down the beach they had just come along.
One set of foot prints stayed steady and true the other set wavered and unsteadily meandered up to where Rasputin now stood and instead of leading to where God stood they lurched right, up and over a dune.
He noticed that the footprints of his life had departed from God's path when the rage he felt towards his Lord had driven him to acts of wickedness and depravity.
"What lies beyond that ridge?" asked the monk, noticing it for the first time.
"The Desert." Said God.
As before God led the way up the dune-side and over the top.
As they crested the ridge, Rasputin couldn't stop thinking about the footprints in the sand.
"Lord," he asked, "It was written in the Holy Books that once I decided to follow You, You'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why when I needed You most You would
"It was not I who abandoned you my child. No, it was you who abandoned me." said God sadly with a flick of his head.
"Then if it was not thine who I serviced. Who?"
"HIM." Said God pointing to the Horizon.
And there stood Satan - the beast aflame - in the centre of the sea of dunes.
You could tell he wasn't happy because the closest ones to him had fused into glass...
The monk whimpered. He made a pathetic figure, on his knees, eyes raised to The Terror on the far horizon. The shining figure by his side watched him impassively.
Squinting, tears running down his lean, lined face and through his matted beard, Rasputin turned to look desperately into the face of the sad Lord.
A slow, solemn nod.
"And I have to-?"
Again, the nod.
God cleared his throat, and tutted.
""This, from the man who never showed mercy to another living thing?
That business with the nylon laces and the red-hot Dustbuster... You forget that it was I who coined the phrase, 'An eye for an eye'..."
Rasputin groaned, and averted his gaze. And although he clamped his hands over his ears and screamed at the top of his voice, he heard quite clearly.
"You ask for mercy. You ask too much. I give you... Justice."
When the monk looked up, he was alone. The desert had spread to consume the sea, and the red-brown dunes stretched away to infinity. He got unsteadily to his feet, wiped his nose on his sleeve and went forth.
Bob, two fingers still outstretched, opened his eyes - surveyed the absence of the monk save for the small trail of smoke from beyond the lip of the precipice. He turned his head and cast a quizzical look at Richter across the fiery abyss. The seismologist gave a thumbs up.
"I think that did it!" he hollered. Everybody cheered, except for Annabel, who was lying on her front grunting desperately and jerking in her bonds like half an earthworm.
When a large chunk of the roof of the cavern came loose and tumbled into the lava, the reason for her agitation was plain to see. Bolts of blue energy were shooting out of the walls and ceiling and striking the Diabolical, and cast-iron, Laundry-Wringer of Doom, which was emitting a shrill shriek and shuddering slightly.
The divine, rather terrified champion ripped off Annabel's gag and flinched as another block whistled past, this time glancing off the altar pedestal.
"Gakkk..." spat Annabel breathlessly. "The engine is unstable. He half-completed the sequence, it's drawing in all the energy, it's going to implode, or explode, but there's going to be a hell of a bang, we've got to get it out of here..."
Bob reeled backwards at this, and, as he always did when confronted with something incomprehensible and upsetting.
"Ummm... I don't think we've met. My name's Bob."
Annabel tried to mask her recognition of Bob from the hospital and gave him a withering stare.
"Just untie me. Bob."
Which, against a background of fiery armageddon, he rather clumsily proceeded to do. He had, of course, been a Boy Scout. He had gotten a merit badge for Eagerness, so he wouldn't feel left out.
The shaking in the chamber grew worse and the blue streams of lightning flickered and sparked, as Annabel, rubbing her wrists and shielding her eyes from the white glare, turned to the laundry wringer, in it's pride of place on the altar. Bob rocked on his heels and bit his nails. He felt nervous around women in suits.
'Right', thought Annabel, as she leafed through the instructions for the engine, 'time for another executive decision. Ah, here it is...'
"You might want to stand back. Bob. I'm not one hundred percent on how this works." She shot a little smile to him, and he practically leaped back, glancing at her uneasily and feeling that he was somehow failing to fill his armour.
Annabel felt the handle of the wringer, barely warm despite the elemental power flowing through it. Blue sparks crackled on her arm, raising the fine hairs. She gave a long turn anti-clockwise.
She gave two short twists clockwise. She gave a sweet smile.
She gave one last twist, tapped herself on the wrist and blinked out of existence.
'That', thought Bob, 'was unfair'. Now more chunks of bedrock were plummeting from the crumbling roof, and a large swathe of the wall cracked and slid into the spitting, churning lava. The laundry-wringer was vibrating and giving off a high-pitched squeal which slid into the ear like a knife and cut up the ear-drums. He picked up the sheaf of instructions from where they had fallen, and regarded them balefully.
Technology and Bob were uneasy bedfellows.
To take the analogy further, they had arranged separate single beds, which they occupied in frigid silence, and didn't talk to each other at breakfast.
The last time he had tried to set his VCR to tape an episode of Heartbeat, he had ended up with a programme on the iron-ore industry in Argentina, in Flemish, on a channel he didn't even have. That had been three years ago...
He grimaced as he leafed through the instructions. Better get good fairly quickly, he thought, trying to block out the frantic yells of the others. Let's see, does it have an index? No. Glossary? No. FAQ? No.
'Alright, I'll just have to wing it'. Not perhaps a thought to inspire confidence in anyone trying to stay alive. But what had Annabel done? Adolescent years of furtively finding the salacious passages in his parents books paid off. He suspended the manual by the spine, and found the page she had been looking at.
'This is it!' he thought, sweat running into his eyes; the sound of tortured rock filled the air.
One hand holding open the instructions, the other on the handle, gibbering slightly, he copied her moves to the last, and, just as a massive rock smashed against the side of the altar pedestal and cracked it down the spine, he tapped the glowing laundry wringer.
Then the world twisted sideways, and slid into the abyss. He slipped on the shifting floor, grappled for a handhold and fell into emptiness. His last thought before the darkness swallowed him was that it served them right for 'Home and Away'...