Joan became aware of the light. It was coming from one of the walls of her room. The room was quite bare, but still the height of luxury for the rarest of species - the University student. Nothing in the room usually gave off that type of light. She could barely read by the 60 watt bulb, the only one in the cottage, but this light was of the scale that made football stadiums look ashamed. The cottage itself had been a windfall, a lucky competition win from the back of a box of cornflakes.
Her mother had had firm ideas about such things and had thought, contrary to Joan's belief, that 13 year olds should not live in a cottage on their own. So they had rented it out - to university students! Now she was at university herself. At first she had not seen any way to live in the cottage and go to university, over 40 miles away, but a large inheritance from a rich uncle had solved that. Not exactly "large", as such but he had set aside one of his helicopters and left enough money for fuel for her and her children's lifetimes. All this had seemed coincidental, she had thought at the time, but as her mother had said, best not to look a gift horse in the mouth.
As she turned towards the light it seemed to engulf her. It tightened into a small ball around the armchair, just leaving the remnants of her lunch of fish and chips outside its ambience. Slowly, it brightened until it was almost painful.
Then, it was gone.
Her eyes began to readjust. The red and blue spots in front of her eyes stopped playing tag with each other, and sat resigned to their inactivity at the corner of her sight. The source of the light was nowhere to be seen. Neither was the television. Or, for that matter, the room.
The room she was now in, resembled an executive waiting room, which had been designed by someone with no idea of bureaucracy. Thus it was quite a nice place to wait, and it even had a television that did not show game shows or depressing news stories, instead it showed cartoons about nice people.
The walls were not the colour that Joan had expected them to be for a executive office. They were not wall papered, or painted, but still gave that look that was not plain, but instead was more of a lived-in type of look.
She peered around the room. She thought about asking what exactly was going on but decided that the answer would probably be too unbelievable. She sat and watched the television for a few minutes, fascinated by the way that people were being helpful, and kind to one another. As the programme ended, a small secretary drifted over.
"Would you like to go in now ?" he asked.
"You whisk me here with your blinding lights," she said, sarcastically. "Then you ask me if I want to go somewhere!"
"Oh yes," the secretary replied seriously. "No one is forced to do anything here. If you don't want to go in, then you don't have to. If you want to do something else, then you can. If you wanted to stand on your head singing 'Yellow Submarine' whilst balancing an orange on your feet, then you can!"
"Can I really," snapped Joan, irritated. "In that case then, I think I should like to go home."
"Well," replied the secretary. "You can't go home. At least, not yet. You'll have to see the boss first."
"Oh, why is that ?"
"Well, " said the secretary, pausing. "You'd better see him about that."
He turned and led the way towards a door which had not been there a few seconds earlier. Joan followed, quite baffled by the days events - usually Thursdays were dull, studies followed by lunch followed by television for half an hour followed by more studies. Thursdays were not the sort of thing she had hoped for when she was little. But this, this was more, well, interesting.
She knocked on the door, nervously. "Come," a voice called from inside the office. Behind her, the secretary quietly said "I hoped you liked the helicopter."
She turned to face him, surprised. As she did so though, the door in front of her opened, of its own accord, and she had to step into the office.
She walked in hesitantly, as if going to an interview on which her life depended. The office was decorated in the style that you usually attach to rich tycoons. On one side of the room was a small globe, surrounded by potted plants. On the other side of the room was a small projection screen, displaying some figures which would have kept election analysts occupied for hours. In the centre of the room, dominating it, was a large desk with a number of phones, ranging from a black stone one to a white feather one which threatened to float off the table. In the centre of this table was a small plaque bearing the text "Big G". Behind the desk, talking feverishly into one of the phones, was a little man, who she took for "the boss".
"Yes, yes, yes," he said. "But what are we going to do about Ireland ?" He looked up, and motioned for Joan to sit down.
"Old Luci's really chucked a spanner in the works there. What do you suggest ?" he picked up a fruit bowl and offered it to Joan. She took a orange and peeled it.
"Ok, but what are the options ?" Having pealed the orange, Joan was unable to find a suitable place to dispose of it. The boss glanced up for a second, handed her the fruit bowl, which had now become a small bin, and returned to his conversation. She was about to ask how when he suddenly looked at her with a look that conveyed his wishes not to be disturbed when he was on the phone. Oddly enough, this was exactly what he meant.
"There are always options; what's wrong with sinking the place ? Well... no, I suppose that is a bit drastic. No, turning it into a holiday resort for disabled parrots is not in keeping with the general attitude up here. When you are feeling a bit more sensible then you can call me back, Ok. Au revoir."
He turned to face Joan. His expression passed through frustration, anger, stopped in for coffee at hysteria and finally ended up at total confusion.
"You must be, er, no, yes, erm. Ok, what is you name ?"
"Joan Stalsford," she replied tersely, trying to be as hostile as possible to the nice man behind the desk. "And you are ?"
"Oh, nobody really," he replied, matter-of-factly. "just the creator of earth, plants, animals and men, moulder of worlds, giver of life and bringer of faith. Oh, and some other titles, but my memory is going."
"Oh, Ok." she said. "But why did you have to bring me here ? " And then quickly added. "And don't say it was to stop me watching television."
He was silent for a few seconds whilst he took a good look at her.
"Are all the girls on earth as pretty as you, now ?" he asked.
"Well, " she said flattered and forgetting her anger. "I shall not boast; most are prettier than I"
"Ah, " he said smugly. "I did a good job there then."
"Why did you bring me here ?" she repeated, acidly.
"The answer to that question, " he said forcefully. "is a most complex one. And, in the fullness of time, it shall be shown to have been the correct one. It may, at this moment, look to be incorrect, but the reason for this decision is impeccable. Maybe, if things were different then this decision would not have had to be taken. What was the question again ?"
"Why am I here ?" she said bluntly.
"Well, not long ago I got bored; so I decided ... Oh, you don't mean that do you? You mean 'why have I brought you here'; why indeed ?" He picked up a surprised telephone, which had been a small fruit bowl a few minutes ago, and did not like to be messed around; even by supernatural agencies.
"Gabriel, why is this nice young lady here ?" He said into the phone. There was a pause whilst the reply came, then he put down the phone.
"My, he does waffle on!" He said to Joan. "That was Gabriel, he's my secretary. That means he tells me what to do, so that I can ask someone to do it."
He chuckled at some part of the joke. "You see, I don't actually run Heaven, it is all his work really. I just make things."
"Why," she prompted. "did Gabriel say I was here ?"
"Oh," he said, absently. "Just go back down to Earth and tell them all to be nice to each other."
"Just that ?" she said, confused.
He waved his hand in her direction. A tingle went down her spine and she suddenly felt impelled to do as He said. But still, doubt lingered in her mind. "Or else ?"
"Oh, I don't know," he said carelessly. "Maybe I will sink Ireland, maybe I will take away one of your eyes. I might get rid of the whole world; It would make my job a whole lot easier. I am not all that imaginative; I mean, look at yourselves. I know, I will turn penguins black."
"They are half black already." she said, on firmer territory now.
"Ok, something else then." he said dismissively. "You can go now."
He waved his hand towards her and the bright light returned. When it cleared, the room had disappeared and her cottage had returned. Not even a disgruntled fruit bowl remained.
She got up, unsteadily because her eyes had not yet stopped hurting, and looked around the room. No lights, no offices, everything was as it had been. She decided that she needed a stiff drink. She wobbled over into the kitchen. She reached into a top cupboard for her stock of 'strictly for medicinal purposes' alcohol. As she lifted a bottle down though, it knocked a small rolling-pin from its usual location on top of the cupboard. It spun elegantly in the air, did a beautiful triple axle and landed expertly on the top of her head. As she fell to the floor, her last thought was "ouch."
Somewhere in the Pentagon a technician was fitting an extra telephone line. He looked calmly at his watch. Though it said twelve thirteen, it always showed that time. It also happened to be the time that his union guidelines book told him that he could legally ask for compensation for the lunch break he had been unable to take. Quite strangely, he had forgotten to have lunch. Well, if he had it now, then that would make up for the time he had lost; he didn't feel like taking the Pentagon to court over only thirteen minutes of lunch missed. He took out his sandwich box and flask of coffee and began to ponder on how hard it must be for the President. He lived all his life here. At least the part of it which required him to be there. He remembered the snack vending machine on the third floor. He put his flask down beside his lunch box, and set off to buy himself a bar of chocolate.
As he turned the corner, a bird flew in through a window, looking for its nest. It circled a little, then smelt the sandwich. It winged its way down, looking for danger all the time. It alighted on the coffee flask, and pecked at the sandwich. When it had had enough, it took one final peck and picked it up, to take in to its fledgelings. As it took off it unwittingly knocked the coffee flask over. The bird flew gracefully up and out of the open window with the sandwich whilst the coffee spilled helplessly out of its container and all over the floor.
As the pain swelled in her head, Joan awoke. She got up slowly, on to her knees first. Then as she got more confident, she crawled towards the door which she used to pull herself up. She stumbled out of the kitchen and towards the corridor mirror. Apart from being drenched in Bacardi, and her hair being matted with blood, she looked like the same Joan Stalsford she had always been. Her life had, in a matter of a few hours, become so much more complicated that even just thinking about it seemed a difficult task. First though, she had a pressing problem of a small cut in her head which was sending messages to the effect that it would rather not be open much longer.
She headed off to the bathroom for the first-aid box. She paused as she quickly ran the shower over her head until it was no longer covered in blood. She got the box and took it through to the lounge where she inspected its much dated contents.
After a few agonising minutes with the TCP she was ready to put a plaster over it. It is not easy, she discovered, to put a plaster on a cut on your head without help. By clever arrangement of two mirrors, though, she was able to get it on approximately the right area.
Maybe, she mulled, that was why people got married - so that they could put plasters in those hard to reach places. Now, what had that sweet little man behind the desk said ? Something about telling people to be nice to one another!
And yet, she believed it would work.
She got up quickly, regretted it and slumped to the floor. She was quickly realised that her head was not yet up to rushing about telling people to do things that only ever happened at Christmas, or when you were sat behind a telephone, answering calls from desperate, suicidal people.
If Bob Geldof could do it for a day, she reckoned that she could at least give it a try. But for the moment, she was in no fit state to be flying around in, what now appeared to be, a heaven-sent helicopter. She laughed to herself - she now had a job with a company helicopter.
She rang the local taxi service, and asked for a taxi. Surprisingly they said it would only be two or three minutes.
"God, " she said carelessly. "How am I going to pay for a taxi to take me around the country ?"
The telephone rang and she answered it immediately. "Hello ?"
"Just put it on our account, " said God down the phone. "Just say 'I balance plants on my head' and you can go anywhere."
"What ?" she asked, incredulously.
"It is a sort of 'get out clause', " he explained. "When I made you, I wanted to be sure that you did not get too clever for me!"
"Neat." she said, disgusted at the under-hand trick that had been pulled on her and the rest of her race.
"Just call if you need help" God said, and hung-up.
Great, she thought, that is all I need, a God looking over my shoulder. The taxi draw up outside and pipped its horn. She rushed round the house, as fast as she could without hurting her head, collecting things she thought that she might need for a journey of indefinite length - her handbag and a leg of chicken.
She left the cottage, carefully locking the doors, walked over to the taxi and got in. It was quite a small, London style taxi, accompanied by a quite small, London style taxi driver. Inside, it had a very professional feel about it. For a taxi, this was some achievement.
"Where to, Miss ?" said the taxi driver.
"Er," she replied, not knowing where she was going. A voice inside her head told her that Dunstaple would be a nice, easy place to start. "Dunstaple, please"
"Dunstaple! " he shrieked. "That's over 10 miles away. These taxi's only do local calls or emergencies. There is an extra fee for trips over 10 miles."
"Don't worry," she reassured him, feeling silly. "I balance plants on my head"
"Oh, All right " said the taxi driver, unsure of what he had heard, but knowing that the fee would be settled. He started the engine and began the short journey from Ampthill to Dunstaple. Behind him he could hear his passenger talking to someone. Since he was the only other one in the cab, he presumed that she was talking to him.
"Pardon me, Miss," he inquired, hesitantly. "Are you talking to me?"
"What ?" she replied, wearily. "No, shut up and drive!"
She returned to her conversation with the small ant on the back seat which God had decided was a good medium to communicate through.
"Well, " Joan said. "Tell me what to say, and I will try to say it"
The ant shook its head. "No, you must think it yourself." It crawled up the back of the seat and onto the ledge at the top, presumably to get a better view of the cab.
"You know, " she said. "people will not like it"
"You can be very pessimistic when you try." it said, irritated. "Yes, but can also be extremely forceful when you try"
"But I am shy, " she said. "I can't go out and talk to a crowd"
"You'll cope." The ant waved a leg at her, fell off the ledge and killed itself as it hit the padded seat. "Sorry, " a small voice inside her head apologised, "I didn't think she would take it that bad. I only had the body for a few minutes."
The voice wished her "Auf Wiedersehen" then trailed off leaving with the words "Gabriel, what have you done to that nice Mr Icke ?"
Her head was just beginning to give her a bad time again. This was not the sort of thing she would have expected to happen whilst racing off to tell the world to be nice for once. Not that she had ever really thought about it in the past.
In one final burst of pain, trying to gain recognition, she collapsed quietly in agony...
In the Pentagon, a few feet above a large rat, a telephone technician returned to find his meal in tatters and a empty coffee flask. He presumed that this was the work of one of his feathered friends. This was due to the large number of bird droppings which currently resided in the remnants of the cheese and pickle sandwich.
The rat was quite unaware of this though. She was more interested in the warm bath she was taking in some coffee. It was almost, she thought, a miracle. Just after she had got the white burning powder on her paws, this stream of hot water had come pouring down. It had left her clean, or at least cleaner than before.
Meanwhile, the coffee had more important things to do, than just cleaning rats in distress. It was currently seeping through a hole in the ground, much to the distress of the rat, who was just enjoying gulping it down.
Joan awoke to find the taxi driver looking down on her.
"Hello, " the taxi driver said. "Anybody there ?"
She got up, slowly so as not to hurt her head any more than she already had.
"What happened ?" she asked, dazed.
"You passed out," he said. "We are in Dunstaple now"
"I need to go to the shopping centre, " she said, the words jumping into her mind from somewhere else. She did not even know that Dunstaple had a shopping centre. Neither for that matter did the inhabitants of Dunstaple. Much of Dunstaple's history was being quickly rewritten by some clerks in Heaven's administrative department. The clerks were getting increasingly angry at being messed around by a God who could not even remember what century it was. Unfortunately for them, this did not pose any problems for Him, as He just asked them to make it as He remembered it. (Nobody was told to do anything in Heaven, they were always asked if they should like to do something. They were asked very forcefully though.) But, since His memory span was only a little over 23 hours, this meant more work for them.
"Ok." the taxi driver said, suddenly finding that he knew the way. He began to drive to the shopping centre which had now appeared in the middle of the town. As he drove, he started talking to Joan.
"What did you do to your head ?" he asked.
"Er, what ?" she asked absently.
"You may not have noticed it, " he said, swerving to avoid a large lorry which had taken to overtaking on corners. "but there is a large gash in your head. Not that I'm prying or anything, but it seems to me that it should hurt a bit."
"Oh that," she said, her mind on other things. "I had just been talking to God and so I could not see where I was going. I went into the kitchen to get a drink, and a rolling pin fell on my head."
"Why, " the driver said to himself. "do I always get the fruit-cakes" Then to Joan, "So; what did God have to say ?"
"This may sound stupid, " she said. "but he told me to tell everyone to be nice to one another."
The taxi driver had already given up trying to make sense of the conversation, and was now beginning to gibber quietly in the front.
"You don't believe me," she said seriously. "Do you ?"
"I can sum up my opinion of your experience in one phrase, a consignment of retired shoe-menders" he said cleverly.
She thought this through for a few seconds before saying "Could you run that by me again ?"
"A load of old cobblers" he said. "It is a sort of joke... " And he trailed off.
"Oh, right" she said, disinterested. "I told you, anyway. I balance plants on my head."
"I heard you the first time." He said, still unsure of exactly what it was he had forgotten.
The taxi driver turned on the radio. A news item was on.
"... with dogs in behind the bike-sheds!" the radio babbled. "The headlines once again, a source close to the President has told us that, even with the summit in a few days, he was going to have to cut off diplomatic relations with China. This comes after a news story in the Sun, stating that his daughter has been secretly passing information to the Chinese government. The next news on Radio 1 will be at half passed one. Now, here's Jackie Brambles. Afternoon all ...."
The radio stopped abruptly and the familiar voice of Jackie Brambles was replaced with that of someone more male.
"Hello ? Hello ? " it said. "Testing one, two, three. Joan, Joan are you out there. ?"
"Oh, God" she asked. "What do you want now ?"
"He is talking to you ?" said the driver. He turned the wheel sharply to avoid the tree, which had just jumped out at him. The tree had not actually moved, he had just turned the wheel a little too sharply. He had not been surprised that someone had had their name mentioned on the radio; nor that that same someone had been in his cab. It was the plain fact that the person to whom the radio was talking, was talking back as if the radio could hear.
What happened next is was almost impossible, or so thought the taxi driver.
"Ah, there you are Joan." the radio said. The driver slowed down and stopped at some red traffic light, turned to Joan and said "Who is this then ?"
She did not totally ignored him, but instead answered both questions at once. "Ah, hello again God. What do you want now ?"
"We have just heard," God said, firmly. "From a reliable source mind you, that there is some kind of problem going on between America and China."
"You mean, " Joan replied. "You were listening to the radio."
"Well, er, " He replied. "Not in so many words, but yes, we were listening to the radio. Anyway, the point is that this could cause a lot of trouble for you and me. Gabriel thinks that maybe this could trigger off the big one. Armageddon. The penultimate migration. What-ever the current thinking is."
"So, " God said. "We are preempting your mission, you are to go and tell the president the error of his ways and prevent him from making such a rash decision."
The lights changed to green but the driver still did not move. Instead he turned to face Joan.
"For the sake of argument I will believe that I am hearing God on the radio, " he said slowly. "but I would like to know two things - Can everyone in the country hear him ? How is she meant to get to the United States, when she is in Stafford ? And why did my aunt Beatrice have to die ?"
"That is three things. Firstly, not everyone, I believe there is a family in Lower Tadfield who are totally oblivious to all of this. Secondly, Like this."
The world spun quickly round whilst the taxi stood still. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, it stopped. They found themselves on the side of a motorway. There was a sign nearby. Scranton 15. The only place Joan knew that had town names like Scranton was America.
"Thirdly, " God continued. "Your aunt Beatrice is still alive. Must dash, got to see a man about a continent. Adieu."
Much to Joan's distress, the radio began to fizz and crackle static at her. She had been looking forward to a bit of calm from a radio station that she knew, without worrying about telling people to do things. The fact of the matter was, she realised, that America did not receive Radio One. It did have radio stations though. They were of the type that if you listened to them for two hours, then you would hear the end of the adverts and a 3 minute rap. If this wasn't bad enough, it was then followed by the same adverts that you had heard earlier, only in a different order. The cab driver broke her out of her reverie.
"Well," he said. "I will admit that possibly, in the light of new evidence - that being we appear to be in America - that we have just spoken to God."
He turned to face her. His face was quite white. Not the type of white that you get with any old brand of washing powder. This made even the leading brand of washing powder lay down its cards and declare itself out of the rat-race.
"I never really believed in God," He said, absently scratching his arm. "at least not in any God who gives rich Americans prime-time television shows with large popularity ratings. Since we are in this together, my name is Graham."
"Hi, Graham." She said, cheerfully. "My name, if you had not already guessed, is Joan. Why are you a taxi driver ? I mean, when you spoke just now, you were so professional - as if you had been doing it all your life."
"Odd that really." He said, trying to find time to make a joke in between being scared.
"I don't mean talking all your life, I mean they way you talk. It's like you could have been something much more than a taxi driver."
"Well, " he said slowly as if she had touched a nerve, which she had. "with a name like Graham, you can't be much else than a taxi driver. I wanted to be a Solicitor or something in Advertising. But you can't with a name like Graham, It just seems to be built in to the name. Even the careers teachers, 'Hello Graham' they said to me, 'Have you ever considered being a taxi driver.' Well, you have just got to go with the flow in the end."
"I am sorry." she said in what she thought was a sympathetic tone of voice. In fact it sounded more pathetic than sympathetic.
The taxi driver finally overcame his fear of spinning planets and settled into a quiet, but very well educated, gibbering.
Slowly, like continental drift, a thought stuck Joan. But it also stuck her with the force of continental drift.
"We are in America!" she exclaimed.
"Well done," Graham said, wearily. "What are my wife and kids going to say when they hear about this."
"Probably ask you to put in a good word for them with God." She said jokingly. "Seriously though, I understand the bit about Armageddon, preempting my mission and stopping someone from making a rash decision. But what did he mean by 'Penultimate migration' ? What is my new mission ? And what does it have to do with changing somebody's mind ?"
"Your new mission, hmm," he said, trying to remember. He had learnt long ago that, if you did not know something then you made it up. This he surmised, was not a time to do that. "I think, you have got to stop the President from blowing the world up."
"Just that ?" She said sarcastically. "Well, why not ? And while I'm at it I will reforest South America, stop global warming, resurrect the Dodo and paint the Taj-ma Hal green. Anything else whilst I am at it. Nothing ..."
"And the final bit," he interrupted. He began mulling the phrase over in his head. "Hmm. Well, that's easy, Penultimate is one before last and migration is moving somewhere. And it is obviously some reference to a modern day Armageddon. The missiles migrate through the air just before the last hours." He trailed off and sat silent for a second, deep in thought.
"What are you doing as a taxi driver ?" Joan asked. "You could have made a good english scholar with that!"
"Does that really matter ?" he said. "I think that the most important thing is to complete this mission of yours." He started the engine and looked at the road. "Where, exactly, are we going ?"
"Go that way, " she said vaguely, pointing down the road. "and when we get to the end we will know where we are"
"I hope you are right, " he said. "I was going to have a roast tonight." A thought suddenly struck him. "She'll kill me!" he exclaimed.
"Who ?" Joan asked before she could stop herself.
"My wife!" he said. "Oh well, when you are on the other side of the world, doing jobs for God, you can't do much about getting home in time for tea. I suppose I should be grateful that them below have not taken an interest." So saying, he drove the taxi slowly in the direction Joan had indicated and began to hum quietly.
This just goes to show how wrong you can be if you do not know all the facts. Horstiff, a duke of hell, was at that very moment sitting in an extremely cramped maintenance tube. He was trying to coax some extremely reluctant, and rapidly cooling, coffee into going in a direction of his choosing, rather than that of gravity's.
Demons do not, usually, have much of a problem with inanimate objects, they simply think about how they would like things to be; and, more often than not, they are. He was having difficulty with the coffee because the rat, which was not completely free of poison (but would probably die in the next few hours from a caffeine overdose), had told its friends and family of the great feast the could be had.
When they had arrived, however, they had been greeted by a large body sitting in an alcove in the tube. The trouble was that Horstiff had his mind on the rats more than the coffee. He would have just thought them away, except that his Master took a very dim view of such things.
Of course, he could have ignored them - the could only eat his suit anyway - but he liked to keep his suits new, like normal people. And how would he explain it to the accountants below - "on that day you thought up another new suit, how can you justify two suits in one week".
By the time he had decided though, the coffee had seeped into the tube below and he had almost blown his chance. He swore, quietly to himself. His Master would kill him for this. Not actually kill; more, do extremely unpleasant things to him for eternity. He thought himself into the tube below, only to pop back a second later to drop off the rat which had clung to his leg.
Right, he thought, no rats - just me and the coffee.
Just one simple set of blocks and it would be fine. He reached into his pocket for the blocks and water tight glue.
They were not there.
He panicked, checking himself all over. Ah, other pocket.
He placed the blocks, glued around them and in all the holes. The coffee would have to go towards the wires now.
He could leave, go home and drink himself to sleep. He thought carefully, which club would be best. He decided Stavak's Styx club would be best, it had just opened and "The Which guide to the under-world" had given them three dots. Like everyone else, he did not know whether that was good or not, but was determined to find out. There was a pop as of air rushing into a place where something had just disappeared from.
God had not had a good day. In fact, he was feeling pretty lousy. In the cricket, England had lost to Pakistan (again). Football, Swindon had been demoted. And as for the television, well, Jeremy Beadle was definitely not one of his creations. That, he thought, was quite strange, because his opposite also denied any involvement in that human.
Anyway, they were going to meet in a few minutes down in the Grand Hotel (in London). He decided to arrive early for once. The air popped.
The Hotel was just as he remembered it. It was a good job too, because he had told Gabriel to "get a one of those preservation things so no-one can turn it into a ghastly modern a nightclub".
He sidled up to the bar and ordered his usual.
"Ah, " said the bartender. "one tomato juice, coming right up, Mr Goodfellow"
He did not really like the name Goodfellow, but it helped stop the natives getting too fidgety.
"Oh, " he said, "and the usual for my friend too, he will be here soon"
The drinks arrived and he began to sip his. There was a tap on his shoulder and and he looked around. His friend was sat nonchalantly on his stool, drinking the vodka, and looking for all the world as if he owned the place. He did own the place. In fact, he owned most of London, trading under an Arabian alias.
"Ah, there you are, Roland," said God. "I was beginning to wonder where you were."
You would not expect the Prince of Evil, Father of Lies, and Lord of the Nether Region, to have the name Roland. When God created the world, he too was naive, and he gave his first angel the name Roland. It was partly over this, and a small disagreement about pocket money, that Roland left home.