You don’t know what you were expecting to find but it wasn’t: a room wall to wall with plants, growing. Damp warm air, thicker than is comfortable for you to breathe.
God up to his elbows in dirt.
’You can come in, Harrow,’ he says, before you can back hastily away. ‘Look at this.’
He shows you a tiny thing in the palm of his hand: a buff-coloured, brown-grey seed, ribbed; it’s barely a third the size of a grain of rice. ‘Parsley,’ he says. Seeing your look of incomprehension, he adds, ‘It’s a herb. You use the leaves to add flavour to foods, like soup.’ He clearly regrets remembering about soup even as the words leave his mouth. ‘Or pasta. Let’s go with pasta.’
(Despite your now relatively firm grasp on soup as a concept, you are still not exactly clear on pasta.)
‘I was a gardener, before I was God,’ John goes on. ‘Plants have always been the first and truest resurrection, anyway.’ This sounds vaguely like heresy to you. God notices the expression on your face. ‘I suppose that sounds vaguely like heresy to you,’ he says, apologetically, and the black of his eyes slicks coruscating green, reflected—maybe—from the leaves of the growing things that surround you both. ‘But every plant draws its life from death itself. Soil—good soil—is one of the best and most complex sources of thanergy… living and full of death at the same time, you see.’
You don’t see. ‘I’m sorry, Lord,’ you say. ‘I know bones, not soil or plants.’
God shrugs. ’It’s more of a Seventh House thing, I suppose.’ He places the parsley seed on the surface of what looks like nothing but plain black dirt to you, covers it with more of the same, and pats it gently down. ‘A parsley seed can sometimes take so long to germinate,’ he says, misting the dirt with water from a bottle, ‘people used to say it went to the devil and back seven times before it would start to grow.’
The implication seems undesirable. ‘Can’t you make it happen faster, Lord?’
‘Teacher,’ God corrects absent-mindedly. ‘Yes, I can, but I prefer to let these things take their own time… after all, if parsley can travel to Hell and back multiple times and not just survive, but thrive—there’s hope for the rest of us, isn’t there.’
He picks a long stem from a plant with clusters of tightly-curled leaves, holds it out, expects you to take it. Reluctantly, you do. The green smell of it is sharp as ozone; you can almost feel it, the same way you can feel the cellulose of the stem. Like salt and rock mixed, made living; the very opposite of bone, and, in a way, you can almost—almost—understand it.