The Hanging Christian – Episode 5

The Sunday Serial takes a very dark turn as Freya attends her second meeting beneath the Eagle…

christian dark death fiction freya gin and tonic grim hanging horrible jeremy sadness seydowsky Sunday Serial test The Eagle

Catch up on Episode 4 here.


Freya sipped her G&T slowly. The Eagle was just as deserted as the previous week, but she and Professor Seydowsky were having a pre-meeting drink.

He was talking about amusing fuck ups in government that had resulted from complete idiocy, and how he wished we had basically any other system other than representative democracy. She lapped it up. Next time someone a bit stoned at a party was trying to make political points she was going have a fun wiping the floor with them.

The professor was wearing jeans and a pale grey jacket, his robes neatly folded in a bag for life. He hadn’t shaved and the rough stubble made him look rugged and oddly younger than usual; if he didn’t remind her so much of her dad Freya would definitely have found him attractive. She wondered what he thought of her, and whether she was just a project for him, an able recruit like any other.

At six, they went down into the basement, the professor shrugging on his robes and hood.

There was the same circle of chairs, but they were spread wider apart and closer to the walls, and in the centre stood a large, ambiguously bulky object draped in a thick white sheet. Freya sat down next to Professor Seydowsky and tried to guess what was under the sheet as the rest of the circle filled up with hooded academics and their protégés.

When the room was full, Jeremy, who seemed to be the unofficial chairman, or at least chief speaker, rose and addressed the group.

“Evening all, evening. I am delighted to welcome you to our second meeting of Lent. But let’s get straight to business.”

A palpable air of excitement rippled around the room. Freya stared at the draped white sheet. Jeremy continued.

“Many, if not all of us are drawn into the potent art of Rationality by writings; by theory, by hypotheticals, by books. But here, in this gathering, we pride ourselves on our application of ideas to reality. You cannot change the world with books.”

He stepped forward and hooked one wrinkled finger under the top corner of the sheet.

“Some of you, who are new to our means and practices, may be shocked by what you are about to see, but you have no cause for alarm. Everything we do is for a reason. And that reason is always the betterment of humanity, always. Never forget that morality is, after all, relative.”

He whisked away the sheet.

Shock spiked up Freya’s spine. In the centre of the circle stood a low wooden scaffold, which was built around a large wire-mesh cage. And in the cage lay Todd Alban, bound and gagged.

“This, ladies and gentlemen, is a typical example of the homo stupidius, or in plainer speech, a fundamentalist, bible-bashing Christian.”

There were scattered chuckles at ‘homo stupidius’. Freya tore her eyes from the motionless Todd to see that most of the faces around her looked either amused, anticipatory, or both. Professor Seydowsky’s expression was unreadable. Some of the younger faces, second timers like herself, looked quite taken aback, but none of them were doing anything, or saying anything. Of course, nor was she. Bystander Apathy, some part of her mind thought dryly; a common cognitive irrationality the professor had told her about that morning whereby the more people there were at the scene of an emergency, the less likely it was that any of them would actually intervene.

Jeremy knelt down, unlocked the cage and dragged Todd out. He looked groggy, probably drugged, but his eyes were flickering open.

“This Christian, a promising undergraduate, is, by any measurable standards, an intelligent human being, in all regards except one.”

By this point Jeremy had hauled Todd up onto the scaffolding, and got him standing.

“We carry out this little… experiment, every year, to demonstrate in as vivid and vital a way as possible the madness and ingrained insanity we are dealing with. We call it the Test of Reason.”

Jeremy pulled a coil of black cording down from the roof. It was a noose. He pulled it over Todd’s head, where it lay slackly against the boy’s neck. Todd was looking more and more awake, and was trying to mouth something through his gag.

Freya couldn’t process what was going on. She didn’t understand how this was happening. She sat in her chair, staring up at Todd.

Jeremy leapt down to the ground with an agility that belied his age and grasped hold of a small handle at the side of the scaffold’s framework.

He began to turn it, and the scaffold sank a couple of inches. The noose tightened around Todd’s neck

“Professor Seydowsky, if you will?” said Jeremy.

The professor stood up calmly, strode forward and reached up to undo Todd’s gag.

“Please, please, what are you… why… I haven’t done anything–” broke out Todd immediately, but Jeremy turned the handle a fraction and the scaffold sank again, the constricting noose cutting off Todd’s speech.

Professor Seydowsky stepped back and coolly looked up at Todd.

“Mr Alban. Is there a God?”

“What? Why are you doing this to me–”

Jeremy turned the handle sharply down, and Todd had to stand quickly on his tiptoes.

“Just answer the question please, Mr Alban,” said Professor Seydowsky, “Is there a God?”

Todd still looked bewildered. Jeremy turned the handle. Todd gasped.

“Is there a God, Mr Alban?”

“Yes!” squeaked out Todd.

Jeremy turned the handle.

“Are you sure, Mr Alban?” said Professor Seydowsky, “unless you accept that you are wrong and swear to us that you know that there is no God, you will continue to be slowly hanged. Is that what you want, Mr Alban?”

Todd stared at him, his eyes bulging.

“Is there a God, Mr Alban?”

“Yes. I believe in God,” managed Todd, a thin reedy determination in his voice.

Jeremy turned the handle.

“Is there a God, Mr Alban?”


Jeremy turned the handle. The scaffold was now so low that Todd was having to stretch his entire body as tall as he could to keep the tips of his toes on the wood.

“Is there a God, Mr Alban?”

“Yes. There is a God.”

The handle turned.

Freya sat there, numbly. She couldn’t stop watching.

“Is there a God, Mr Alban?” This time the professor’s voice was raised.

“Yes! I believe in God!” Todd rasped, his face pale from lack of circulation.

The handle turned, and now Todd was dancing, occasionally managing to brush the surface of the scaffold.

“Is there a God, Mr Alban?” roared Professor Seydowsky.

“I believe in God! I believe–”

The handle turned, and now Todd was jerking horribly above the scaffold.

“Is there a God, Mr Alban?”

Todd’s mouth contorted but he could not respond. He twitched and spun, eyes rolling legs kicking spasmodically.

After forty seconds the last twitches stopped and he just swayed limply, a dribble of shit running down the inside of his thigh.

Freya stared at her friend. She couldn’t process it. He was dead. He couldn’t be dead. It must be a game, it had to be a trick. He couldn’t be dead.