After a minute, the darkness lifted as light filled the vast underground cavern. It was empty but for Stan, Gary and Les, who had returned to the table.
“Happy, boys?” said Les.
Stan and Gary nodded.
“Good. Then the meeting is officially closed.”
Gary’s face lit up, and he leaned forward in his seat.
“Hang on,” said Les. “Stanley, stick around. I want to have a little talk with you. Gary, yes all right, you can go.”
The prime minister leapt from his seat and flung off his robes. He hollered with glee and ran away across the stone floor. “I’m gonna have a redhead!” he squealed.
Stan watched the prime minister’s pale naked body jiggle with each unfit stride until it disappeared up the staircase. “He seems excited,” he said.
“Of course he’s excited,” said Les. He looked at Stan. “Did he not tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“About the sex palace.”
Stan gasped. He looked to the staircase, and then at Les. “I thought that was just a myth.”
Les smiled and slapped Stan on the shoulder. “Oh-ho! No, my boy, the sex palace is very real. We conclude all our business at The Lodge with a visit to the sex palace. There’s no better way to unwind.”
“Can I go there too?”
“Soon,” said Les. His features contorted with seriousness. He sighed and lowered his head, so that the bulge of fat around his neck swallowed up his chin. “Stanley, I saw your press briefing on the television this morning, and something you said has me concerned.”
Stan lowered his eyes. “Oh, uh, yes. About that, look, when I said people were little snails, I—”
“Forget that,” said Les. “I don’t care about that. Call the voters ignorant little fleas if you want—they deserve it. No, we can clean up any stupid statement you make. I’m talking about when you said you were going to forgive people’s sins.”
Stan shrugged and looked around. “Oh… Did I say that?”
“You did, Stanley. Now, I want you to listen to me. Are you listening, Stanley?”
Stan fidgeted with his robes and nodded.
“Good. Now, being in a position of power can influence a man. Sometimes, it can make him lose his bearings, put some funny ideas in his head. I’ve seen it a hundred times. A bloke gets re-elected, makes a popular decision, gets some good publicity—and then he goes and thinks he’s a hero, thinks he can save the world. You’re a clever politician, Stanley, but that does not give you the authority to forgive sins. You are not God. You’re an opportunist and a crook, and you run at the first sign of trouble. That’s what makes you useful.”
Stan looked at the floor.
“Stanley? Do you understand what I am saying? You are not the Messiah.”
“Yeah, I know,” mumbled Stan, reluctantly.
“I want to hear you say it,” said Les. He rested his enormous, sweaty hand on the back of Stan’s neck.
“I get it,” said Stan. “I see what you’re saying.”
“Stanley,” said Les, tightening his grip, “I want to hear you say the words.”
Stan winced and tried to loose himself from Les’s hefty paw. He struggled harder and harder, whining and cursing under his breath, squirming and scratching, until he kicked his legs about and clawed at Les’s arm, trying to break free. Les kept his hand clamped around Stan’s neck and waited patiently. After two minutes of thrashing about, Stan slumped and hung his head. He whimpered and wiped a tear from his eye. “I’m not the Messiah,” he whispered.
“That’s right,” said Les. “Say it once more for me.”
Stan raised his head. He pouted, then closed his eyes and took a breath. “I’m not the Messiah!” he shouted. His voice echoed through the room.
Les released his grip and patted Stan’s shoulder. “Good boy, Stanley. Feels better, doesn’t it? Now, lift your chin up.” He adjusted Stan’s robes and brushed them off. “The first time at The Lodge is always hard. You should have seen your prime minister his first time here, when he was just a local member of parliament. Ha! He pissed his pants, he was so scared. Good times. Now, come on, let’s head over to the sex palace and let off some steam. I think I fancy a couple of Japanese girls today. Maybe dressed as nurses. Yeah, that sounds good.”
As Les waddled off toward the staircase, Stan glared at him, his eyes red and filled with spite. He wiped his nose, huffed and whispered, “I’ll save everyone. You’ll see.”
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