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A day in the hard life of God’s webmaster

by Elisabetta Vernier – Art by Mattia Ottolini for Strane Storie magazine.
Illustrazione di Mattia Ottolini

“Behold the miracle of the digital revolution!” That’s what everybody’s saying these days.
A hell of a miracle says I, Archibald – but my friends call me Archie – second rank archangel and divine webmaster.
You see, since the day the Almighty decided to have His own website online, my immortal life has become – with all due respect – a living Hell. For when His Highness decides to have something done for Him, He wants it to be excellent and sublime, as it suits to his Eternal Majesty.
And who’s going to tell him those times are over? Me? No thanks.
The things he does, he does with style and grandeur: a little snap of His holy fingers, “Let there be light!” and lo! There goes a brand new hundred-million-watt sun, free of charge and 100% ecological. The problem with computers is that such rough methods just don’t work anymore. Someone has to sweat over them nasty machines for hours, days, even centuries! Of course, the unpleasant task is mine and mine only. Good thing I have all the time in the world.

Good ol’Karol – or should I say John Paul 2.0 – rented a small room for us at the Vatican, in one of the empty wings of the Holy See, gave us some used computers bought with the donations of the faithful, and signed a discount contract with Telecom Italia for a dedicated fiber-optical internet connection. That’s how we started.
In the beginning it was me, Michael and Gabriel, the so-called Digital Trio appointed by His Highness himself. Michael managed to stay sane for just one week then went totally nuts: he threw the fax machine out of a window and went straight back to Heaven, raving about how he hated Earth and all that came with it. I can understand the poor fellow, he was used to quite a different life. The life of a white-collar is hard enough for common guys like me, imagine the effects on someone who used to roam the world in a golden armor, slaying evil dragons with a mighty sword!
Gabriel, on the other hand, worked with me for almost a full month, but in the end I had to send him back home, to study his beloved foreign languages. You see, that guy speaks fluently all the languages of the world, even those – like sanscrit – that have been dead for millennia.
But UNIX just wouldn’t stick to his mind. What could I do about it? Angels do have their limits, too.

And now here I am, all alone, keeping the boat from sinking.
I have an endless pile of email account modules to process and an infinite amount of personal home page projects to complete. And then, of course, there’s always Deus, our server, the fairest of them all. Karol promised to send a Unix sys-admin to fix the network configuration, but thanks to Earth’s bureaucracy nobody’s shown up yet.
I really can’t reason with that horrible machine: I’m used to graphic interfaces and that text-only console stuff gives me a headache. But everybody says you should run your web servers on a UNIX-based system, so I’ll just have to swallow hard and keep on working.
I only hope Peter will finally stop changing my root password every once a week, damn him and his obsession for security! For Heaven’s sake, who would want to hack God’s website? We’re not the White House, right?

Yeah, sure: the website, our supreme accomplishment. It keeps tormenting me, that too.
Last month I made up some new layout drafts and sent them to the Almighty to be judged, but He hasn’t made up his mind yet. I know He has more important things to worry about, but everybody’s got his own priorities, right?
Of course, in Paradise everybody takes it really easy: what’s the hurry when you have all Eternity before you? What they don’t understand is that, being locked away here on Earth, squashed between the unstoppable wheels of Time, I have some deadlines to follow. Guess what? It’s been already two months since I asked Raphael, the Grand Master of the Choir, to record some celestial music in MP3 format for the download section of the site, and I still haven’t seen a single byte. Not to mention the MIDIs I need for the background music. No way: the synthesizer broke and nobody wants to pay for maintenance. In the end, I’m sure I’ll have to download the usual Schubert’s Ave Maria. And that’s how I carry on, day by day, one problem after another.

Illustrazione di Mattia OttoliniEvery day something new pops up: last week a small delegation of Damned came to me asking for a gigabyte of web space on Deus to use at their will, invoking the Bill of Equal Rights.
Of course I sent them straight to Hell without discussion. You see, I recently found out those shameless people already have a huge website online on Geocities (http://www.geocities.com/Hell) and I have to admit, although reluctantly, that their web designer really knows his stuff and builds very cool interactive pages. Those “Online Temptations” of his had a million hits in a month, damn him!

I can’t imagine what will happen down below when Bill whassisname joins them. Because he will, sooner or later. Everybody knows he sold his immortal soul to the Devil to become the richest man in the world before his fiftieth birthday.
Let his lawyers try to deny all charges, as usual! We have all his secret meetings with the Prince of Darkness himself recorded on 8mm film, in three copies sealed away into three separate safes belonging to three different Swiss notaries. No hope for the lucky guy to buy his soul back in exchange for thirty thousand Windows XP licenses! Although he might be able to buy himself a place in Purgatory… and I came across such a nice idea for an exemplary punishment for him: a thousand years tied on a chair, in front of the screen of a PentiumII running Windows95, and every times he hits a key, he gets “The program performed an illegal operation and will be terminated”.

Er… What? Sorry, I guess I got a little carried away.
I know archangels shouldn’t have such thoughts, but what can I do? Looks like I’m a little overworked, these days.
Even an archangel needs some rest, from time to time, and God knows how much I’d like to take a walk in Rome. I’d love to see the Coliseum, the Galleria Borghese, the Caracalla baths, I’d like to stop for a pizza in a small restaurant in Trastevere and maybe sit for a while at McDonald’s in Piazza di Spagna. With so many Japanese tourists around, who’d notice an angel in disguise?
But if Karol catches me wandering even around St. Peter, he’s going to report me to my Superior and ruin my career. So I guess I’ll just keep on dreaming about the Eternal City while I rot down here, in silence, debugging these stupid web pages.
If only I had some air conditioning!
It’s so hot in here that it feels just like Lucifer’s house! That poor Devil, living so close to the lava pool, sweats like in a Finnish Sauna both in summer and winter, but at least he learned not to complain.
On the other hand, all the Blessed – who, being such, should have achieved eternal happiness – keep complaining all the time. I’m submerged with complaints: they complain by email, they complain on the phone, they even send complaining faxes!
One has a 33.6 modem that won’t do the handshake, the next forgot his mail server password, another forgot his FTP password, another has unexplainable hardware conflicts and, of course, there’s the All_Saints mailing list that runs smoothly only when there’s a full moon.
And all this people keep harassing me, the unfortunate system administrator.
I’m an angel all right, but I can work no miracles! If you need one, try contacting the Almighty directly at His personal email address (jahveh@deus.va), but prepare yourself for a long and patient wait, because His Highness has about two million messages a day and has very little time to read His email. Before getting a decent reply, you might just as well have passed on this side of the barricade. And don’t you dare calling me to complain about it: I told you!

Note: This is a Science Fiction story and it’s supposed to be FUNNY: no disrespect is meant to any religious faith.

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