A matter of mass

[ Read this in Dutch ]

short SF story

Father Zio is to be replaced. His Bishop has come to Outpost Psi, in the remote outskirts of the galaxy, and brought his replacement: a paracreational shepherd in the terminology of the Mother Church. But Father Zio will be… well, damned before he leaves his flock to the pre-programmed care of a robot. 

Publication history

  • First published in Chinese translation in the SF Comet Contest (winner) as 事关弥撒 (December 10th, 2014)
  • Reprinted in Sci Phi Journal (February 27th, 2017)
  • Reprinted in Teleport Short Story Contest (Honorable Mention) (October 31st, 2018)
  • Reprinted in Polish translation in Grupa Wydawnicza Alpaka (December 14th, 2018)
A Matter of Mass


“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been…” Father Zio sighed. “It’s been thirteen years since my last IRL confession.”

Behind the lattice, Bishop Otis shifted in his seat.

“But—” the Bishop said. He paused before continuing: “And how long has it been since your last online confession?”

“A week, Father. But it’s not the same. It’s not.”

“Go on, my son.”

“I have harbored unkind thoughts at times, about members of my flock. I have had lustful thoughts at times.” Father Zio smiled quietly to himself. Mr. Dooley’s dramatic antics of feigned ecstasy at every Mass were enough to bring unkind thoughts to the holiest of minds, never mind his own flawed, rehabilitated soul. As for Mrs. Ocura’s cleavage… Let’s just say some things were worth a couple of Hail-Mary’s.

“Go on, my son.”

The Bishop’s prompt made him realize he was marking time with these minor sins, postponing the inevitable, while he knew exactly what he should be confessing instead. Father Zio believed in confession, needed the cleansing of his soul. But it was unfortunate, to say the least, that Bishop Otis was the one taking it. No matter. No sense delaying any longer.

“I have been prideful. I have defied the wishes of the Holy Church.” There. That would put an end to any doubt Bishop Otis might still have had. “I have defied… you, Father.”

From behind the lattice came the sound of indrawn breath, followed by a long silence. Then:

“How so, my son?”