Hitchens ordered in Chinese, drank excessively and reread favourable reviews of his books on the internet before going to bed. He slept soundly, hugging a pillow while visions of royalty cheques danced in his head. In a dream, he was standing at an old fashioned bank wicket receiving a stack of thousand pound notes, when he suddenly awoke.
Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn open.
Hitchens sat up in a half-recumbent attitude, and found himself face to face with an unearthly visitor. It was a strange figure — like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, except it wasn’t an old man at all, but an old woman. Her hair, which hung about her neck and down her back, was white as if with age, and her face was a road map of deep ruts. She wore a tunic of the purest white, and round her waist was bound a lustrous belt. She held a branch of fresh green holly in her hand.
In a moment, Hitchens recognised who it was, and was shocked. “Freaking bloody hell,” he choked. “It’s a young Mother Teresa.”
“That’s right, Christopher, and you have been a very bad boy.” Having said this, the branch of fresh green holly in her hand was magically replaced by a twelve inch wooden ruler, which she used to rap Hitchens’ knuckles.
“Owe!” shouted Hitchens. “You fascist Albanian bitch.”
“That’s not the first time you’ve called me a bitch.” She rapped his knuckles a second time.
“Ouch! Hey, I apologised the first time. What happened to Christian forgiveness?”
“Haven’t you heard, you wretched little man? I’ve been beatified. I don’t have to forgive anymore.”
“Well get the hell out of my bedroom, and take your stick with you. Go back to whatever grotty little paradise dried up catholic fundamentalists go to when they kick-off, and leave life to the living.”
“Can’t do it, Christopher. I’m on a mission from God. Of course, he lets me call Him Brad.”
“Are you the spirit whose coming was foretold to me?” asked Hitchens.
“Watch that potty mouth!” The ghost of the beatified nun rapped his knuckles a third time. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”
“Long Past?” inquired Hitchens, rubbing his bleeding knuckles.
“No. Your past,” said Mother Teresa. “And what a wicked journey it has been.”
“Yeah, well, I’d rather not relive my past, if you please. I have no desire to appear on Donahue again.”
“Rise. And walk with me, Christopher,” Mother Teresa said as the bedroom widow opened.
“Walk where? Out the window? So they can find me in the morning, dead in the snow. You’d like that, wouldn’t you, you silly cun….”
“Watch it!” Mother Teresa interjected, holding forth the wooden ruler. “Besides, it’s only two stories down. You’d probably just break a leg, if I let you fall; which I won’t, though it’s tempting. Bear but a touch of my hand, and you shall be upheld in more than this.”
Together they rose and floated out of the window, as London mysteriously vanished from beneath them and they came to drift over the city of Portsmouth. It was at once the city of the present and the city of Hitchens’ past. They soon landed on a street, and began to walk. Hitchens recognised every gate, and post, and tree, and was glad of it, until a little Anglican church appeared around a corner. He hesitated upon seeing it, and began to turn away.
“You cannot hide from your past, Christopher,” said Mother Teresa. “It is etched in stone.”
“Look, why don’t we find a pub. We could have a round of darts.”
Mother Teresa shook her head. She pointed at the little church, and soon they were in its basement watching a Sunday school lesson in progress.
“Why, that’s Miss Wickerson,” said Hitchens. “What a daffy boot she was.”
“And there you are,” said Mother Teresa.
A six year old Christopher Hitchens sat at a table toying with the gum wads stuck underneath, as Miss Wickerson taught the lesson.
“These are but shadows of the things that have been,” said Mother Teresa. “They have no consciousness of us.”
“Good thing,” said Hitchens. “Wickerson was a batty pain in the arse.”
Hitchens and Mother Teresa listened in on the lesson.
“And the proof of God’s love for us all is in the sunshine and the flowers and the food on our tables,” said Miss Wickerson. “In thanks, we praise Him at every opportunity.”
The six year old Hitchens raised his hand. Miss Wickerson tried to ignore it, but finally gave in.
“Yes Christopher,” she said, sounding annoyed and tired.
“That doesn’t make sense, Miss Wickerson.”
“That’s fine, Christopher. Thank you. Now, as I was saying….”
“But Miss Wickerson,” said the precocious six year old Hitchens, with his hand up and waving. “Why, if God is the creator of all things, are we supposed to praise him for what comes naturally for Him? It’s not like He was going out of His way, or doing us any favours. As I read it, creating things is just the sort of thing that God naturally does, like farting.”
“God doesn’t fart, Christopher,” said Miss Wickerson.
“Well, we don’t know that,” replied the six year old Hitchens. “And besides, I didn’t say God farts. I said that for Him creating was natural like farting. The inference being that we fart naturally. Farting is what we naturally do. No one praises us for it. Surely creating things is like that for God. It’s like what farting is for us. Do you see what I mean? And since this seems to be the case, why praise Him?”
“That will do, Christopher,” said Miss Wickerson. “My point is that the proof of God’s love for us is in the lovely sunset and the blue of the sky.”
“But surely, Miss Wickerson, the blue of the sky proves only that the sky is blue. It does nothing to prove the existence of God.”
“If you must know, Christopher,” Miss Wickerson said, “I need no proof of God’s existence. For me He is everywhere, and His existence is irrefutable.”
Now Miss Wickerson smiled as though a great debate had been won. But six year old Hitchens raised his hand again.
“What is it now,” she sighed.
“Well, Miss Wickerson, what you seem to be saying is that God’s existence is proven by His absolute invisibility. You continue to refer to nature’s beauty as proof of God, but perhaps nature’s beauty is an unconscious substitute for a God whose non-existence doesn’t fit with your personal worldview. I think, however, that you’ve proven the premise of your own argument incorrect. Isn’t it true that what can be asserted without proof can also be dismissed without proof? And therefore, isn’t my argument in favour of the non-existence of God valid without proof. Do you really need to go on and on, boring the whole class with your mind-numbingly groundless assertions?”
This stopped Miss Wickerson where she stood. She blinked, and the beginning of a small tear formed in the corner of her eye.
“Oh, dear,” she gasped. “You’re right. I have been deluding myself. There is no God, after all. My life, my vocation, my whole existence is a sham.”
“Well I wouldn’t go that far,” said six year old Hitchens.
“No, no,” said Miss Wickerson, holding out a hand to hush six year old Hitchens. “You’ve quite opened my eyes, boy. You’ve revealed to me the mysterious source of all my angst and hidden grief. There is no God, as you say. And, therefore, no God’s love.”
Here Mother Teresa turned to the adult Hitchens and said, “She left her job as a Sunday school teacher, and became a lesbian.”
“Oh, please,” said Hitchens. “One doesn’t just become a lesbian. You either are one or you aren’t. I think it was a crucial moment of self-discovery.”
“She became a radio announcer for a radical lesbian pirate radio station that broadcasted from a surplus minesweeper off the coast of Florida. It still supports radical Palestinian lesbian causes.”
“Well, there can’t be many of those.”
“That’s not the point,” said Mother Teresa, holding up her stick. “Now, having failed in countless relationships with other Godless, radicalised women, she lives alone in a walk-up flat with three cats and an iguana. She sits alone in her apartment listening to Feist and Tracy Chapman. She has no man in her life to ground her, to justify her existence.”
“Neither did you,” said Hitchens.
“Shut it!” said Mother Teresa. “Only last week she got yet one more Hello Kitty tattoo.”
“Is that so bad?” asked Hitchens.
“Not if you like Hello Kitty,” said Mother Teresa. “Do you see now how your incessant arguments against the existence of God have ruined lives?”
“Oh take me home, spirit, and haunt me no more.”
“My time with you has come to an end, at any rate,” Mother Teresa said. “I have an appointment to get fitted for my saintly robes.”
“You’re not a saint yet.”
“The Ghost of Christmas Future assures me that it’s just around the corner. A girl’s got to think ahead. There’s bound to be soirees to attend, in my honour. So good night to you, hell spawn. And good luck at the pearly gates.”
Moments later, he was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness; and, further, of being in his own bedroom. He had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep.