In the twinkling of God’s eye, they were swept away
‘So you’ve survived, too! What part are you from?’
The man made no reply. He was not walking direct to them, but to a spot a few yards away. He stopped, gazing at the abraded slopes where the town had been.
‘God looked at them,’ he said. It was a normal, educated voice. ‘The saints and prophets had warned them, but they took no heed. Then in the night God looked down and wept for their iniquity. And his tears were like thunderbolts, and his sigh was a tempest.’
Matthew said: ‘You look as though you’ve had a rough time of it. Have you eaten anything since it happened? You’d better come back with us, and we’ll get you some food.’
He walked over to the man and touched him on the arm. The man did not turn his gaze from the scene below.
‘Down there,’ he said. ‘Down there they lived. Down there they ate and drank, lied and cheated, danced and gambled and fornicated. And in a second, in the twinkling of God’s eye, they were swept away.’
‘You ought to eat something,’ Matthew said. ‘Come back with us.’
He took hold of the man’s arm, to guide him. He brushed it away, but looked at Matthew for the first time.
‘Then why spare me?’ he asked. ‘I lied and cheated, I lusted and gluttonized and blasphemed. Why was I spared the terrible vengeance?’
It was not the madness which was disgusting, Matthew thought, but the self-obsession.