The Lost Gospel: A Nested Story in tweets

About a week ago, the author David Mitchell announced he was going to publish a short story in tweets.  At the time, I felt slightly miffed that he’d not only beaten me to it, but also alighted on a splendid publicity stunt in spite of not particularly needing the publicity.  At first, I did nothing about it but today, I had the idea of taking his idea and running with it by using the Twitter form to produce a parody of Mitchell’s most famous book, Cloud Atlas.  At an early stage, I decided that I’d structure my stories in reverse chronological order (i.e the opposite way to Cloud Atlas) which led to the idea of structuring the story around a spoof chapter from the bible.  Rightly or wrongly, everything blossomed from here.  I quite like the story though the need to condense each chapter into 140 characters has necessarily resulted in a rather functional style or writing.  I’m aware this one has the potential to offend so I’ll put an apology/justification at the bottom.


1a)There is no civilisation anymore. Man against man; faith against faith. Our time has come. We rise through the cracks and we laugh.

2a) The celebrated biblical historian staggered through the gallery, en route to make his announcement. He shouldn’t have had that 5th G&T.

3a)”Sack the monasteries,” the king barks, red-faced, bread-faced, bloated. Too far, too soon, he thinks;history digesting itself, belching

4a)Friar Robert frowned. He was getting tired of the cloisters. He was sure the Abbot only upheld the vow of silence when he was around.

5a)”We’re all pagan here,” said the celt,slamming the door.St Patrick sighed. he hadn’t threatened to set the snakes on him thistime.

6)1Verily, Jeremiah Kyle hath the paternity tests back.2And Joseph begat Jesus of Nazereth.3And Lo Mary hath explaining to do.4Jesus wept.

5b)It had been bad enough in Rome with the lions but if Christianity was going to take off in Ireland, he’d need a miracle. Or a mongoose

4b)Still, he’d be sorry when he found out about the joke chapter he’d slipped into the bible when it had been his turn on the printing press

3b)The abbot reels; the king’s leering thug cuffs him. Such destruction, he thinks. Unseen, he slips a book from the shelf into his jerkin.

2b)A snake bit the mysterious monk. He dropped his gun, leaving the historian free to read the ‘Lost’ Gospel to the listening millions

1b)St Patrick can wipe that smug smile off his face. As chaos breaks out, the snakes are in charge at last.

In the interests of clarity, I should note that Chapter 6 is intended to depict a deliberately false chapter of the bible inserted by a disgruntled monk which, in this story, has the ultimate knock-on effect of causing a religious apocolypse.  Originally, I was going to take it in a slightly different direction but I decided I wanted to incorporate a Dan Brown spoof-which possibly didn;t come off as a) the lack of characters prevented me from imitating Brown’s trademark verbosity and b) I’ve never actually read the books. 

I’m not expressing any personal views on religion as I’ve got no urge to open up that particular can of worms (though if anyone is interested, I’m loosely CofE which means that Ch6 definitely doesn’t reflect the views I was brought up with).   I think that what I’m trying to achieve is reasonably clear and hopefully anyone who actually reads it will not be offended.  At the same time, I’m aware that chapters 1a) and 1b) could be read as suggesting that the world would collapse in the absence of religion.  Again this is not my view and this is just a story.  Essentially, therefore, to borrow a line from Bill Hicks, if this story upsets any Christians or athiests, please “forgive me.”  This really was just an exercise in flash fiction.



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