It will begin harmlessly, with a ratings war. Fanny-Mae Batter hosts her own show, Walk in the Footsteps of the Lord, spreading a message of sweetness and light. Alarmed at its success in attracting donations, Clint-Oral Richards starts attacking this milk-and-water religion on his own show, Wrath of God.

Yes, the Rapture is coming, he says, and yes it's coming very soon, and the saved will rise up, but who are you to think you will be one of the saved? Are you sure you won't be one of the damned? Fear the Lord! Be aware every day that you have to tremble, that you have to suffer to be worthy of salvation. Clint-Oral begins using the catchphrase "walk in fear of the Lord" as a mockery of Fanny-Mae Batter's message. The ratings war heats up. Fanny-Mae begins talking in tongues.

His rhetoric becomes fiercer. He repeats his message until it becomes a mantra: walk in fear, and live in suffering, and ye might be saved. Walk in fear and suffering. He graphically describes fear and suffering. Do you know what they are, what they really are? Daytime America watches agog. Oprah and Jerry join forces and co-host Walk with Overweight Incest Survivors but their ratings keep dropping. Fanny-Mae now says not one intelligible word throughout her show. Clint-Oral undergoes secret coaching by professional wrestlers in how to make points forcefully.

One day Clint-Oral is telling the quavering masses that fear and suffering are real, very real, this is not some poncy metaphor. Walking in fear is like walking in shoes, they're that real. To demonstrate he takes off one shoe and waves it at his studio audience. They love it. Sensing a winner, Clint-Oral takes off his other shoe and jiggles them rhythmically to emphasize his words: fear and suffering. The audience, worked up to a frenzy, all take their shoes off and waggle them back. Someone cries out in ecstasy, "The shoes of the Lord protect me!".

This is Clint-Oral's moment. "No they won't!" he bellows, flinging his shoes violently into the audience and striking a couple of them impressively unconscious. He hops about the stage barefoot. "You are without protection! That's what it's like to walk in fear and suffering. They hurt, and they cling close to you, close to your skin, and they sure smell bad. When they're right up close you find you're naked and there's nothing left to protect you!"

He bends down and whips off his socks. He smells them and makes a theatrical face of horror. He looks from one to the other, he mutters 'fear' and 'suffering' to himself several times. The audience are hushed. Silent. Waiting. He screws up his face in a strange way, and a bizarre voice emanates from his unmoving throat.

"Hello, Mr Richards. I'm Fear."

"Hello, Fear. And who's your friend?"

"I'm Suffering, Mr Richards. How you are you, all right?"

"Sorright."

The sock puppet routine takes the world by storm. His entire show now consists of him barefoot, stalking around the studio, having conversations with Fear, who has a squeaky, wavering voice, and Suffering, who has a gravelly, morose voice. CBS and ABC give up and show a test card for that hour, international air flights sit on the ground as air traffic control switch off their radar to concentrate, a pizza chain franchises plastic sock puppets to give away with every meal, and Congress takes an hour's recess every day. The Teletubbies are pensioned off and Judge Judy becomes a fishmonger.

Huddled around a television set borrowed from the janitors' common room, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sit slack-jawed and enthralled as Fear recites lists of liberals in high places, and Suffering writhes under the dominion of atheists in black helicopters speaking European languages. Clint-Oral's crescendo of denunciations stirs the flinty hearts of the Joint Chiefs. They debate whether the President should be trusted. One of them points out that you can never trust a reptilian hybrid. Another points out that they're all reptilians too.

They lock themselves in for the final debate. With the intercom and door locks fused shut, they rehearse the argument: human survival, or assisted Rapture? They all take off their shiny military boots. A powerful pong pervades the Pentagon. They take off their socks. The funny voices begin.


A humble cog in the Respect the Fucking Monkey node challenge.

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