Short stories

The infidel (a short story)

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” the doctor said, “but your son has no religion.” The man sitting on the other side of the desk shifted his weight uneasily in his chair. It creaked. “I’ve never heard of children born without religion before. Are you sure?” he said. The doctor started to polish his glasses to avoid eye contact. He replied, “Quite sure, I’ve administered the test personally. Twice. I couldn’t entirely believe it myself, so I had a diagnostic run on the meter.” The doctor breathed on his glasses and continued polishing while he prattled on, “to be completely forward, your son defies established theory. Consensus holds no human can survive without religion and in fact -”

“Now hold on a minute,” the man interjected, “my kid shouldn’t be alive?! Well, he bloody well is, aint he?” The man was getting agitated now, not in the least because the doctor hadn’t looked at him since he had come in. “Quite alive, indeed,” the doctor replied. He cleared his throat and added, “although, I feel ethically obliged to mention he will not have much of a life to speak of. He will be shunned, bullied most likely, you must realise.” The man’s face became red, he hissed “how could you say that? Why would you say that?”

Having polished his glasses for as long as he could, the doctor put them back on his nose. He bent over the file and secretly congratulated himself, he might even pretend reading the file was his intent all along. The doctor gathered all his professionalism to carry on, “Your son has a severe disability. You are no doubt aware that people with low levels of religion tend to lead horrible and depraved lives, let alone someone with no religion at all. It is merely my duty as a metaphysician to inform you.” The man seemed calmer now, defeated. “I do realise that, you know, I do. But I just don’t get it. Me and my wife we both got high levels of religion. How could this have happened?”

The doctor picked up the book off to the side of his desk. Opening it roughly halfway, he said “unfortunately, religion is known not to be an enheritable property.” He perused the page, pretending he needed to assure himself of the fact. He nodded, tapped his fingers the page and closed the book again. “How about a transfusion, you know, like with blood,” the man said, suddenly hopeful. “You medical folk do that sort of thing all the time, right? Walk in the park, just plug in a needle and tap some religion, transfer it to my little boy, Bob’s your uncle. I’d  be happy to donate some. I got plenty, did I tell you that?” For the second time since they met, the doctor looked at the man. The first time was out of politeness, this time out of surprise.

Collecting his wits and and averting his eyes again, the doctor replied, “an interesting thought, one worth investigating, certainly. However, unlike blood, religion is metaphysical. In fact, it is unknow whether or not it is even a fluid.” The doctor considered for a moment, trying to weigh his words. He continued, “to be frank I wouldn’t know where to plug in the needle, as you so colourfully put it. Some scholars think religion is housed in the brain, others the heart, and again others believe it resides in some yet undiscovered organ.”

“There must be something we can do,” the man said. “Help me save my son, doctor, I beg you!” The doctor got up and walked over to his lavish bookshelf, pretending to look for a book on the subject. He couldn’t face this man any more, he couldn’t face this poor retched soul that was now the unfortunate father of an abomination. The doctor knew the controversial infidel hypothesis, consensus held they simply couldn’t exist, shouldn’t exist. Nature wouldn’t allow it. However, scholars agreed that if they were ever encountered, they ought to be terminated immediately. The baby boy had appeared quite normal, healthy even, not a monster at all. Looking into the little baby’s eyes the doctor could have sworn he recognised a soul behind them. That’s what had stayed his hand, made him quiver and drop the blade.

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