Daily Fiction 24: Genesis

God sat among the voids and the things, settled himself, focused, and tried, or tried not to try.

“Let there be light,” he said.

Nothing happened. God let out a slow radiation of electromagnetic breath, then turned back to his universe, trying to hide his face.

“You need to let there be light,” said F00%$ “You’re trying to make there be light. You’re saying ‘let’ with your words, but you’re saying ‘make’ with your actions. Understand?”

“I’m fucking omniscient,” said God, “of course I fucking understand! That doesn’t mean I actually know what I’m doing.”

“You’re making this more complicated than it has to be,” said F00%S. “Don’t even worry. Just let there be light. Like this. Let there be light!”

The universe in front of F00%S shown with the bright glare of all of existence. He looked it over,  pleased, and stacked it on a shelf.

“Let there be light,” said God. Nothing happened. He screamed and threw a spare firmament spinning into the void.

“Patience, patience,” said F00%$. “You’re forcing it.”

“Well, yeah” said God. “How can I not force it? If I don’t force it, nothing happens. And let me remind you, I am an unstoppable force.”

“The only force that can stop you,” said F00%$ “is yourself.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” said God. “I’m sorry. Thanks for your help. I can’t do this.”

“You just need to believe in yourself” said F00%$. “Have faith.”

“I’m sorry,” said God, “You’re very wise and well-intentioned, but this too damn frustrating.”

God went over to the making range and played with some of the realities they had set up there. He leveled a few mountains, drew a few oceans up into the clouds and dropped them down again, made several species in his image and others. He made some in the image of o0o_c^T^H^, his crush, and he made one in the image of F00%$, but with comically giant, stupid-looking faces, and then he made a few fantastical creatures, like one that had a fire on its back that would never be extinguished even in the water, and one that flew by spinning around so fast it lifted itself into the air. He assured himself he was a powerful and creative God. Then he made a heaven, smited all his creatures, and rested.

In his dreams he saw himself on a void, much like the one he inhabited, but with a gray path through the darkness, constantly moving. He stepped aboard the path and felt himself move. oOo_c^T^H^ was walking up behind him. She raised her hands and there was a flash of light above her, another universe created. God raised his own arms. “Let there be light,” he said, and there was light. The light spun into nebulae, galaxies, planets. He flew through the universe, being everywhere at once but some places more than others, gesturing at planets and imbuing them instantly with abundant life, whole ecosystems, cultures, societies. He popped out of the universe and back into the void, and the light kept creating itself, again and again. He was surrounded by universes. oOo_c^T^H^ stood beside him and he felt their beings merge.

Then he woke up. The void was cold and vast, and the points of light he saw flashing into existence were far, far away. He couldn’t make out any of the entities. He ran to catch up, saw that they were receding faster than he could cover. He wondered how long he had rested. F00%S must have moved on, figured God had grown sick of him, or perhaps he’d grown sick of God. oOo_c^T^H^ had always been kind, had seen some spark in God, he thought, but she had great things to do and he was only a small part of her life.

He could wait until other beings came around again, whenever that happened. It always would, in the span of eternity. He had no reason to doubt that.

But until then the waiting would drive him mad. “Let there be light,” he said. Nothing. Not even an afterimage of a spark. “Let there be light.” “Let there be light.”

The time was long and lonely. God tried and ceased trying, pondered, replayed conversations in his head, imagined what he would create once the world was intact. He had ideas for landscapes, plant life, microorganisms.

“Let there be light,” he said. And there was light.

It was a shitty little universe, uneven and unstable and ugly. But he built his firmaments, he built his animals, and he made a few in his image. It was all fucked. But there was nobody around anywhere in the void to see his embarrassment.

“Fuck it,” he said. “Eh.” He saw no reason to start over or chase perfection. He might not be able to do it again.

And so he ruled over the universe.

Daily Fiction 23: The Circus Assistant

In a certain circus—one well liked because its acrobats were less polished but more spontaneous, its freaks were less perfectly deformed but rather more uncanny, its lion charmers were less confident and therefore more brave—there was a certain assistant who always misunderstood his tasks and got people killed.

His understand of language was very literal, but besides that, he had very little sense of the enormity of the consequences of his actions. All things were abstractions to him, and though he guided himself by simple virtues like honesty, bravery, diligence, and obedience in an attempt to do good, he could not easily discern when bad things had happened.

One of his early tasks had been to fire two daredevils—a husband-and-wife duo—out of a cannon. Noting the cannon’s shoddy build, and worrying that it would crack in the firing, he enlisted the circus’s strongmen to steal a large cannon from a decommissioned battleship as a replacement, and, seeing that the circus’s mostly cosmetic fireworks were unsuitable for the job, saw to it himself that the cannon was loaded with real, top-quality gunpowder.

At the show, the husband climbed into the brand-new, shining cannon, the ringleader counted down, and the assistant lowered the torch to the cannon’s wick. There was a deafening roar—at least a dozen audience members were deafened—as the explosive force designed to send a 500-pound shell over eight miles tore through the cannon. The husband’s body was blown instantly apart, and his bones and charred flesh slammed into the audience at the top of the bleachers, to raucous applause.

At this point, the second daredevil quickly ascertained what had happened to her husband, and what was about to happen to her, and climbed eagerly inside the barrel. The assistant was beaming, and she couldn’t bear to break the news to him that something disastrous had happened. She was still smiling at his sweet innocence when he lit the torch under her, sending her being into the oblivion and her body into the cheering masses.

That’s how it was in that circus. All of them enjoyed life, but they understood it as a journey full of spontaneous and serendipitous moments, and they decided not fret over the outcomes. They were the people’s circus—a circus that did not seek to smooth over the flaws of humanity, or of life, with an illusory slickness, but rather to show how it still contained wonders, wonders that made us fear the horrors a little less. And this assistant was a wonder himself, and contained wonder in his mind. So when he replaced the trapeze with bear traps, or fed the lower half of the satyr to the lions, or evacuated all the animals and exterminated all the people inside the tent with gas, nobody saw reason to complain, because the wonder within the world had not been diminished, so there was no real threat to life.

Then, the World Trade Center towers came down in New York. Though the assistant was not responsible, and though they still loved him, one circus performer, a security guard, began to feel it was his patriotic duty to turn the assistant in. Wonder, he had thought, was a thing of the past, and nobody should indulge in it any more.

He knew that many of the other performers didn’t feel the same way, but ventured to attract kindred spirits. He began blustering loudly in the lunch room, then stepping out conspicuously for a cigarette, hoping others would join him.

Eventually Ronald, a young, doe-eyed assistant, but one far better socially adjusted and more calculatedly self-serving than that senior, language-deficient assistant, stepped outside to talk with the security guard.

“I think he’s a menace,” said Ronald. “He’s just got no sense of pragmatism.”

“Do you have a sense of pragmatism, Ronald?” said the security guard.

Ronald nodded, and took a drag of the cigarette.

They decided that it was time for the assistant to have an accident of his own.

[to be continued]

Daily Fiction 22: A Message From The Human Resources Department At Nestor Consulting

Greetings valued employees,

I am going to communicate with you honestly. Honest communication, at the times scheduled and ordained by the company, is tantamount to our success here. And let me add, premptively, that there is nothing inherently dishonest about restricting the honesty of our communication to certain times, directions, and areas. Honest communication is a two-way street, and like any good two-way street, it only functions correctly if all the rules are stringently obeyed. So when we reprimand people for running red lights or exceeding the speed limit or driving off-road with their honest communication, we’re no more opposed to the principle of honest communication than two-way streets are opposed to the principle of driving. We enforce these rules only because we value our two-way street of honest communication so highly.

Likewise, when it’s time to come to work, we do expect you to drive down that two-way street and meet us halfway. Because we’re already driving to that halfway point, and then we’re driving back after we pick you up, so really if you meet us halfway, we’re driving twice as far. And we’re glad to do it, we are just letting you know how we see ourselves in this analogy so that you’ll understand our frustration. This is some of that vaunted honest communication we’re talking about.

In the spirit of this honest communication (and let me assure you we do indeed have spirit, soul, and all those other valued human characteristics in this company), I’m going to let you know that I was frankly dissatisfied with the lack of enthusiasm some of you displayed in making your responses to the company Wellness Survey. And to be frank, and to put a human touch on it, Livia, Tyler, and Taylor were all somewhat offended. Because here they were, in asking for honest communication from you about your own wellness, making a gesture of kindness and friendship, and the surveys were not all returned in that spirit.

But they are willing to forgive such slights, even to go beyond forgiveness to active love and concern, because what was more pressing to them was actually their concern over your wellness! Imagine that: you spit in someone’s face, slap that person in the very spot where that spit landed, and in return, all they want is to know if you have a stomachache or a headache, and make you feel better. You don’t even have to imagine it: that’s what Liv, Ty, and Tay are doing for you right now.

They want me to reassure you of your value. And I would like to do so. Not only because they asked me, but because it was an individual concern of mine, though not one I would have acted on had it not also been in the interest of the Nestor Consulting family, because I do understand that this company is bigger than I am, although the entire company consists of little “I”s like me. And I, we, they, all want you to understand that.

You are nothing if not valued. Those of you in the copywriting department know that words, and sets of words, have various context-specific meanings, but in the recurrent spirit of honest communication, I’ll let you know that that statement is intend both in the idiomatic sense—i.e., you are highly valued first and foremost—and in the more literal sense—i.e. if you were not valued, then you would be nothing.

I want to ensure you all that you are all valued, and that this can be deduced from your very existence here, an existence that the company would not countenance were the prerequisite of value not surely met.

[to be continued]

Daily Fiction 21: She Sells Seashells by the Seashore

She sells seashells by the seashore.

“You don’t respect my career,” she told me.

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t respect her career, I hadn’t even thought of it as a career, or as something that could be respected, and even the implication that it was due some respect or that someone could see it as something to be respected confused me, and angered me for some reason. Of course I didn’t respect her career. But the accusation in her voice, the bluntness of her phrasing, made me feel defensive, as if admitting to not respecting her career was some gateway to respecting it.

“I, uh, I…”

“See,” she said. “You don’t.”

“Of course I don’t!”, I wanted to yell. “You sell seashells by the fucking seashore. Who sells seashells by the seashore!?” But she sells seashells by the seashore. She sees selling seashores by the seashore as inherently legitimate, or at least not as self-evidently dismissable.

“It’s not a matter of respect…” I said.

“Oh, it isn’t?” she said.

It was, of course, a matter of respect. That was just the part of the matter I didn’t want to discuss. So I said it wasn’t what it was. I didn’t want that to be what it was. The line of questioning was scaring and confusing me, and I resented her for it, even moreso if she was right.

“No, I mean, I just don’t, I dunno, I think I just don’t understand it.”

And I realized I didn’t, that was the truth, but in a way it wasn’t the truth—it was an excuse, a deflection. Because while I didn’t understand her career, it wasn’t the not understanding that I was feeling, it was the disrespect.

And why didn’t I respect it? The reason I thought so was because there are so many seashells at the seashore and it’s ripoff to buy them right there. It’s almost duping people, telling them there’s nothing in the ocean, by implying that seashells are a thing you have to buy. And I saw people falling for it. I saw them talking about seashells, as this “Seashells” product, as if only her Seashells were legitimate seashells, and soon her brand, her version of experience, would become the “Seashell” of the conversation, and my seashells, the seashells that felt more real, would be this quaint and silly thing, and I would feel crazy and alienated.

The truth is, I didn’t really give a shit about seashells, though. I could get my paranoid imagination going around them, but it was never about the shells. It was about modes of experiencing the world, and I was paranoid that hers would become more popular than mine.

And maybe that was cover for worsethat I just wanted to be better than her, that I didn’t want to give her confidence and power over me, that I wanted those things for myself.

“Yeah, you definitely don’t understand it,” she said, and it was an insult, but the kind of insult that lets you off the hook. She had made an accusation, but it was an accusation that was based on my lie about myself, a lie for cover that turned out to be the truth.

We walked for awhile down by the seashore. I liked to do that with her, but not so much when she was selling seashells.

“What did you think of me when we first met?” she asked me.

“What, when you were selling seashells down by the seashore?”

“I still do, you know. It’s my career.”

“I know,” I said, “I’m just saying you were at the moment. It’s something I remember.”

I do remember the moment. I was walking with another girl, one who I was in love with, but I had felt her disconnecting from me lately. We were walking in a crowd, and one of the other people asked her a question, and she answered them so easily and naturally, more relaxed and down-to-earth than she had ever seen with me, and I wondered if I had never even known her, and I wanted so much to still feel the same way with her, but that her, the one that seemed to be simpler and freer than the self she had with me.

And we walked off the boardwalk, and here was this other girl selling seashells down by the seashore.

There was something in her eyes that I read way too much into. Her eyes and the nose, her eyes with the nose between them. I felt that I knew her. There was a nugget of something that, with my imagination, I could make into an imagined person, and onto this imagination I projected so much love, so much depth, so much humor, intelligence, energy, and most of all that, in the imagining of this person, I could imagine her and I connecting and knowing each other and knowing who we were so much more than I could with this girl I was walking with, the one I currently loved.

I bought a seashell. I bought one for the girl with me.

Anyway, yeah, I remembered how I felt.

“So what is it you like about selling seashells down by the seashore?” I asked

“I never said I liked it,” she said.

We kept walking

“But thanks for asking. I think seashells are pretty. People associate them with the beach. People say they like doing stuff like picking out seashells themselves,. but really, they want to have it without doing all that boring stuff themselves. And most of the seashells are broken anyway. It’s hard to find good ones. So I sell people the ocean they want, the ocean they could have, instead of the ugly “real” ocean. It’s better.”

“Whatever,” I said. We were disconnecting.

“Plus,” she said, “I like digging for the shells myself. There’s nothing better.”

[to be continued]

Daily Fiction 20: The Gaslight

I went into my psychiatrist’s office last week. It’s on the second floor of a restaurant, a Montreal-style deli. They call their pastrami variant “smoked meat.” It’s good but it’s too expensive. When I’m poor I never have the money to go there, and when I’ve got more income I’m so used to nice food it doesn’t feel worth getting excited about some pastrami.

I still feel like I should go there, because I like to kill two birds with one stone, and to feel like the place has some special benefit, a feature I can use thanks to the convenient location of my psychiatrist’s office. I’m very suggestible that way. I’ll get polarized sunglasses, for example, and start finding excuses to go to the water, so I can look underwater with the polarized lens.

Still, I rarely end up going. Last week there just wasn’t time. I came in after work. I was a little bit late. I opened the little shoddily-painted white door next to the deli and went in to the unlit staircase and up past the restaurant office and knocked on the door to my shrink’s office.

“Yes?” he said.

“I’m here for my seven o-clock” I said.

“Come in,” he said.

He was sitting in his office with his head resting on one hand.

“So what’s going on?” he said.

I told him my vague worries—that I was getting older, that I was’t gonna find love, that people were laughing at me, that I was going to get cancer, that I was mediocre, that, though I wasn’t depressed at the moment, I was going to succumb to depression inevitably unless I constantly worked hard to keep my safety net up, which seemed like a huge hassle.

He sighed.

“What do you think about all this?” I asked him

“I think you’ve gone mad” he said.

“Mad?” I said

“Yep.”

“Gone?”

“Yep.”

“So I wasn’t.”

“Obviously you weren’t always mad. Now you are. You’ve gone mad. Is this making sense to you?”

“Not really,” I said.

“That’s because you’ve gone mad,” he said.

“I don’t think so.”

“Of course you don’t. You can’t trust a madman to self-evaluate as mad.”

“Well, look, sure, but like, I think I would know if I was approaching going mad, like if things were out of wack, like I would at least feel like something was crazy. I dunno. I feel like this is all pretty normal.”

He raised an eyebrow. He really managed to get that eyebrow high.

“Do you?”

I did. But I didn’t really understand why he didn’t back me up there. He was usually saying that kind of thing himself, to reassure me. That’s really all I wanted that day, someone to validate my self-reassurance. But he hadn’t been like that at all today.

“Yeah…” I said.

“Yeah,” he said, pausing to take a long sip from lowball glass with a few mostly-melted ice cubes and some clear beverage. “That’s the madness talking.”

“Okay, well what exactly do you mean by ‘mad’?”

“You’re in a state of madness,” he said. “Take a brochure.”

“Where?”

“Where? Out in the lobby. Not now, not now. After the visit.”

“What visit? All you’ve done this whole time is call me mad.”

“Wrong,” he said. “I’ve diagnosed you as mad.”

“Okay, well, let’s say I am mad. What are we gonna do about it?”

“Do about it? Madness is incurable. Best we can do is send you to the looney bin!”

“Jesus,” I said. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you.”

I got up and walked out the door.

“Hey man,” he said “I’m just gaslighting you.”

“Gaslighting me?”

“Yeah. It’s fun. Want to try it?”

“What?”

“You wanna try gaslighting some people? I’ve been doing it all day. Passes the time. It’s funny. And because I’m their psychiatrist, people really listen to me. You can get away with a lot of crazy shit if you just commit hard enough.”

“You’re crazy” I said.

“There, now you’re getting the hang of it,” he said.

I explained to him that I wasn’t a psychiatrist. He told me that it was fine, it would just make people crazier if I pretended that I was him. and acted like everything was the same.

I had to admit it sounded like a pretty good idea.

He went to hide behind a file cabinet, while I sat in the chair that he was in. It was 7:30, which was time for his 7:30. There was a knock at the door.

“Come in,” he said. The door opened. A tall, hefty-framed red-haired woman walked in. She looked at me and raised an eyebrow. It wasn’t as high as the doctor had gotten his, but there was more subtlety. She put one hand on a hip.

“Dr. Millstein,” she said “Are you gaslighting me again?”

“No,” I told her.

“Ha, very funny.”

“What is it you find funny?”

“Ah, come on. Gaslight me once, shame on me. Gaslight me twice..well, you better gaslight me so good I’ll forget that I was gaslit before.”

Millstein popped out of the corner.

“Fine,” he said “Ya got me.”

“So you boys are gaslighting people?” she said.

“Trying to,” he told her.

“Shit, I’ll gaslight with y’all” she said. “I’ll gaslight so good you’ll think I set a fart on fire.”

[to be continued]

Daily Fiction 19: Ambulance Care

Daily Fiction 19:

Tommy put out his cigarette as the ambulance neared the top of the ramp, and rolled up the window. Marie downed her shitty coffee.

“There they are right there” he said. “And you got HurriCare right over there.”

“Yup,” said Marie. “Let’s get the patient.”

Tommy opened the back doors and grabbed the stretcher, while Marie took the bag and the laptop and threw them on top of it. They wheeled their way inside, and Marie looked back toward the lot.

“Looks good” she said.

“Hit em up” said Tommy.

She keyed the nextel in her pocket as they made it through the first set of sliding doors.

—-

Caitlin’s knees hurt from crouching in the tiny ambulance stairway. Her ankles and her ass hurt too. Her shoulders hurt from holding onto the door handles.

As soon as Thomas slammed the door she got up and stretched.

“Goddamn,” she said. “How come I have to be the one to crouch in the stairway”

“Because my lazy ass is not in good enough shape to do it,” said Danny. “Pays not to exercise.”

Caitlin’s Nextel chirped.

“That’s go” she said.

“Fine,” said Danny. He took another look out the window, then crawled around to the front and left out the driver door. Caitlin followed him. They walked over to the CareTight bus and he tried the first key on his chain. Nothing happened. He tried the second and it was a match. They climbed in.

“Alright,” said Caitlin. “Let’s steal some shit.”

—-

The call had been an EDP. The nurses were laughing when they got inside.

“Ourand,” said Thomas. “Joseph”

The nurses looked at each other and laughed again.

“Oh, we got Ourand. Ourand right over there.”

“Why are we here today?” said Marie.

“Ourand hit Mr. Lemonick with the foot of his wheelchair.”

“The foot? Ah, that’s just an accident.”

“No, it’s not no accident” said the nurse “He broke it off and hit the man over the head with it.”

“HurriCare got your man,” said the CNA. She looked them down the hall with her eyebrows. HurriCare was loading…

[to be continued]

Daily Fiction 18: People Going to Work

Jenny went to work. She got up early enough to shower and put on her clothes and makeup so that nobody would hassle her, and got on the train early enough to not be late enough to be hassled about it. At work, she did three or four hours worth of low-engagement work over eight and a half hours.

The work didn’t mean much on its own, but in concert with the other people in the company, it accomplished the task of getting some money out of some rich people, who got money out of other rich people, who got money out of tens of millions of poor people. Once Jenny’s firm got their share of the money, they spread it around, in order of how rich everyone at the company was. Jenny wasn’t rich yet, but she was richer than she used to be when she worked harder, so she made more money.

She was wasting a lot of time, which meant the company was wasting a lot of money, but it was still chugging along, because it and all the business around it were run like businesses, which meant nobody was keeping very good track of what the money was being used for.

When she got off work, she went to a bar for rich people, and bought drinks with some of her friends. They weren’t quite rich enough for it to be a good idea to spend money there, but they didn’t see themselves getting there anytime soon, so overspending now was a better bet than saving for later.

Jenny considered changing her name to Jennifer. She considered changing it to Jen. She wondered which of the names would be the real self.

Bryan went to work. He woke up very early so that he would catch everyone by surprise when he went in to work and didn’t seem to have ever not been fully awake. His job was to be more awake and confident than other people and have them believe that everything was in order. He had no idea whether or not it was, because needing to know that was a sign of weakness. Bryan had all the signs of weakness memorized. He tried to find them in other people and not have them find them in him. He was very successful. People saw all his confidence and figured he was supposed to have things.

After work he went to the same bar Jenny did. He could have gone to a bar for richer people even than that one, but then he wouldn’t have been one of the richer people there. It was easier to keep up his confidence when he could feel people looking up to him.

Bryan had a very nice suit. He was considering getting an even nicer one, but first he would have to see it in a magazine that would assure him that it was new enough to give him an advantage but broadly accepted enough that nobody would think he didn’t know or follow the rules. He turned on his iPhone and reminded his digital assistant to remind him to remind his assistant to remind him to remind his secretary to order him the newest copies of the magazines that told you what suits would best make you appear confident.

He didn’t want to go home. His wife knew how obsessed he was with confidence, and he knew that she found that pathetic. She tried to not let him know, but the trying only confirmed her lack of confidence in his ability to keep his confidence up at the first sign of her lack of confidence.

—-

Rita went to work. She woke up very early to make sure that her son did the basic things that kept him alive, the more advanced things that kept him happy and healthy, and the even more advanced things that would make him a human with a huge variety of virtues. She also tried to get in some quality time with him. She’d been doing the same thing more or less for six years, since he had come bursting through her body.

Once she got to work, Rita covered for a lot of people’s mistakes at work. She knew how things worked well, which was an asset to the company, which held her like an asset it neither wanted to lose nor pay. Some people didn’t know how things worked, so they made mistakes, and she would find out and correct the mistakes. Sometimes she would tell them. Most of the people whose mistakes she caught were richer than she was. Some of the younger and more naive ones resented her for catching their mistakes, and upsetting their faith that the reason they were making more money was meritocracy. Others were happy with it, because it was much less dangerous to them than their error being caught by a richer person who might be considered potentially their rival for merit.

In the middle of the day, Rita went by the school to transport her son home, where her mother also lived. She also ate her lunch in her car during this time, because she didn’t get a lunch break.

After work, Rita went to work at the same bar where Jenny and Bryan were customers. She stood behind the bar with a few other people. Some of them talked to people and poured drinks and got more money. Rita washed glasses, moved bottles, cut limes, wiped down the bar, helped other people behind the bar with the things that they needed, and made less money.

A lot of money went to the owners of the bar. The customers at the bar had lots of money, and a lot of it was spent there. They accepted that the prices were high. But they did not accept the idea of paying much extra money to the workers, so the workers did not end up getting much money.

Jimmy didn’t go to work.

He woke up when he woke up. There wasn’t a set time to it. When he woke up he smoked weed. He had forgotten why, if there was ever a why, but now he was happy to wake up, because he associated it with smoking weed.

He didn’t worry about much.

[to be continued]

Daily Fiction 17: God Created the Heavens

God created the Heavens and the Earth. Well, He created one Heaven first. It was the best thing he had going for him. “I gotta make this shit a chain,” He said.

He tried to figure out what it was that made Heaven so good, so he could turn it into a franchise. It was tough. God had a lot of natural talent, and good instincts, and was feeling particularly inspired when he made Heaven, but it was harder to re-create it, much less find a set of rules that would allow a lesser entity to run it well.

And speaking of which, He didn’t have anyone good for that. He had plans to roll out some humans in a few days, but they were looking to be woefully underqualified, and all the other animals were even dumber than humans. Besides, He couldn’t create any of these entities yet, not according the rulebook. He was supposed to create the Heavens (not the Heaven) and the Earth before anything else. Then some firmaments, which were a little boring but very necessary, and then He could move on to the fun stuff. He was looking forward to creating the humans and then shaming them over their nakedness.

But He was getting ahead of Himself. First he needed to make the Heavens. And that meant He’d need some franchise owners.

He made some angels and sat them down in front of Heaven’s gate.

“Welcome,” He said, “I am God, the Creator. You see before you my greatest creation, Heaven. Well, what if you could have your very own?

“Get the fuck out,” said the angels. “This thing seems like a scam.”

“I’m the Lord Your God, the goddamn creator,” he said “If I wanted to scam you, you’d have already been scammed. I created fucking heaven, you think I can’t create a scam? Fuck outta here. What I’m giving you is an opportunity here. You dumb motherfuckers are too pig-headed to see the once-in-eternity opportunity I’m giving to you. I suppose that’s my fault. Should have created you smarter if I wanted you to recognize this kind of thing.”

“Hey, hold on a second,” said the angels, in chorus. They were a chorus of angels. “We just said it seems like a scam. Things aren’t always as they seem. We know you work in mysterious ways and the like. What’s the deal?”

“Thanks,” said God. “I appreciate that. Very good. We can do business.”

He created a whole other set of angels just to play the theme music for his little presentation. God had it going on like that back then.

“Here’s the deal,” said God. “We’re gonna take this heaven thing and blow it up. Now, the full suite is gonna be called The Heavens. We’re set on that. And it’s a multi-tier system. First, we’re going to have the original Heaven. Gonna call that one ‘Heaven by God’. Now, top tier after that is a bunch of full-service heavens along the line of the original. We’ll try a few little tweaks, maybe even some improvements. Gonna call those ‘Eternal Heaven’ ‘Glorious Heaven’, and ‘Divine Heaven.'”

“Then we’ve got our specialty heavens. These aren’t gonna be as large or full-service, but they’ll still try to keep the same standard of quality. So the idea is that the level of service is the same, it’s just not everything all at once. These will have their own title, but with the name ‘Heaven’ before them. Like ‘Heaven: Bountiful Fields’ and ‘Heaven: Clouds Above.'”

“And last we’ve got our basic downmarket heavens, like ‘Heaven Express’ and ‘Heaven After Dark.’ We still want to have a high level of excellence, and keep in mind everything that made heaven great, but it’s a different product category, if you will. Now do any of you motherfuckers want in? Because if not, I’ll make some calls right now, I can create some other investors in a minute.”

“Yeah, I’d love to, I just need to talk it over with my team” said some of the angels.

“I’m omniscient, talk it over with me,” said God.

“It’s a matter of capital,” said some of the other ones.

God told them He was fronting everything.

“I honestly see myself in more of a follower role,” said a great many of them.

“That’s actually great,” said God, “But not all of you are gonna be reporting to me. You’d have to follow another angel. Just as long as you’re okay with that.”

“I see your point” said the angels, and the signups commenced. True to His word, God created The Heavens, and did give them over to control of the angels, though He constantly micromanaged.

With that out of the way, He was free to proceed with the rest of the creation. For a while everyone just sat tight, until these two dudes named Cain and Abel were born.

“Now, did you create them, or…” said a few of the advising angels.

“Nah,” said God. “They make each other, that’s how this works now”

Cain and Abel kept sacrificing things to go the heavens. Cain gave them fruits and vegetables, and Abel gave them meat. The angels all knew they should have more fruits and vegetables, but they were honestly more excited about the meat.

Word got back to Cain, and he killed Abel.

“Well, shit,” said the angels “The one who was giving us the meat had to be the one to get killed.”

Abel came up to heaven, and everyone assumed that since he was the first soul up there, God was going to put him in “The Big House,” which is what they were calling Heaven by God.

“Actually, I might not do that,” said God. “I’ll be taking Adam and Eve, sure. But I figured I’ll let one you get a bid at this one.”

Everyone in the top-tier Heavens got together their best presentations, and tried to land the bid. It came down to Gabriel, who owned Glorious Heaven, and Lucifer, who owned Wondrous Heaven.

Lucifer came to talk to God privately.

“Look,” he said “I know you have very good reasons to pick either one of us. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do in your situation. It’s a very tough choice. I love what Gabriel’s doing with Glorious Heaven. Top-notch. On the other hand, I’m extremely proud of the work we’re doing at Wondrous, and I genuinely think it stands with the very best.”

“Yep,” said God. “It’s a tough decision.”

“I appreciate your dilemma,” said Lucifer. “So I’m gonna make this easy for you. Give the contract to Gabe. He’s earned it. All I want is, when the other brother dies, the one with the vegetables, the murderer, let me put him up in my Heaven After Dark location. I see big things with the franchise.”

“You know what?” said God “I can actually see that working. If you’re willing to put as much work into your branch of Heaven After Dark as you did to Wondrous.”

The next day God announced his decision, and Abel moved out of Michael’s Heaven Express where he’d been staying and into Gabriel’s Wondrous Heaven.

[to be continued]

Daily Fiction 16: Hamburger Helper

Daily Fiction 16

I’m a hamburger helper. I help hamburgers. Have been doing it as long as I’ve been alive.

I wasn’t born, in the sense that so many people are born and live and die, so much as I just came into being one day. The way it happened was a diner cook was working the night shift, while her daughter helped clean the dishes. “You want this dusty-ass lamp cleaned?” the daughter said.

“I need you to clean whatever you got back there,” said the mother.

The daughter rubbed the lamp, and a genie popped out. It was about to go into its spiel, when the mother yelled “Hamburger Helper!” And the genie, misunderstanding it as a wish, and misunderstanding what Hamburger Helper was, accidentally created me, a creature with the divine superpower to help any hamburger with anything it needs.

The mother and daughter were fine. They used the other two wishes on a billion dollars and eternal health. They upgraded the diner to name-brand Hamburger Helper, which they weren’t using before.

But I was at a loss for what to do. For my mission was to help hamburgers, and for this I had to know what hamburgers wanted, and that was hard because hamburgers had no mind or soul.

So I had to imagine myself as a hamburger. I had to think of what it was a hamburger wanted.

I hung around the kitchen of the diner for awhile, and I watched the hamburgers frying on the grill. It was a horror show! I raced to the rescue, throwing the hamburgers off the hot metal. The landed to the wall and crumbled into pieces. I gathered the chunks of ground beef, forced them back together, pushed them into lumps, the matted fried brown beef against the stickier red beef. They were twisted, grotesque versions of their former selves. I wasn’t helping them at all. I was only torturing them.

Shocked by my own ignorance, I thought that I’d study hamburgers a little more before I could attempt to save them. What I found was that hamburgers, through the process of being cooked, actually became themselves. They didn’t want to be hamburger meat—they wanted to be hamburgers, proper. Though the heat of the griddle was painful, the hamburger emerged something greater, stronger, tastier, more intact. Though the jaws of the person were monstrous, being chomped was the pathway to a greater glory that a hamburger could never achieve on the shelf.

What amazed me was how short the timespan was for a hamburger to truly live. A good hamburger would cook in minutes, be served immediately, eaten immediately after that. It was shame, a pathetic fate, to stay long enough in a cooked state to go cold. Only the good hamburgers were eaten young.

So I resolved to help them. I’d stay around kitchens, making sure the burgers were cooked right, turned at the right time, served with quality buns and fixins.

[to be continued]

Daily Fiction 15: The Dragon Slayer

Daily Fiction 15

The Dragon Slayer

I got a reputation for killing dragons when I was a late teenager. When I was a kid, some other kids used to drag baby dragons out of the swamp and kill them. They’d run over them with cars, crush their wings with rocks and smash them to death, throw them into the quicksand pit behind the school and watch them drown. I never understood the meanness of it. I felt like it was so easy to know what to do to make the world good, and they were making it bad, and I didn’t know why. I thought about being a little dragon, wanting only good things from the world. One time I saw a bunch of kids, mean older boys, kicking around a barrel. There was a dragon stuffed in there, just its head sticking out. I started crying. I was afraid they’d see me cry and turn on me. But even more than that, I was afraid that they’d see me crying, and know how much they were hurting me by hurting the dragon, and hurt the dragon to hurt me more.  I ran out to try to save it. But I couldn’t explain why. If I had been older I would have turned it on them, made fun of him. I just told them they were mean. One of them knocked me to the ground, smashed me against the stones.  I got up, and two of them shoved me against a wall. I bounced off it and stood in front of them. “Tough kid,” one of them said, and they left me alone and kept kicking the dragon to death.

When I was a teenager I started drinking to avoid being cruel. I wanted to show that I didn’t care about something, and I guess if I thought that if showed strongly enough that I didn’t care about myself, nobody would see I still had a weakness for empathy. Maybe that’s what I was thinking. I don’t know, I was drinking pretty heavily. My parents were working double shifts and came back late, and though they were always very loving and caring, I had time to slip away. They just were glad I wasn’t actively getting hurt.

Then my father got drafted to the war, and came back with a brain injury, and my mother overdosed on my father’s morphine. Apparently she’d been coaching him to keep reporting more pain to up the prescription, and taking it herself. My father went to live with my uncle, who I never got along with, and I inherited the house and stayed there alone. I started having my buddies over to drink. Around that time we got a dragon infestation.

I had always liked dragons, but having them running through my house, where I was sleeping and trying to live, made me uncomfortable. Their droppings left sulfur vapors that burned my sinuses, made me worry about my health. I was afraid of getting bitten in my sleep, or having my food contaminated by their poisonous fangs. At first I never saw them in person, just heard them slithering and flapping at night, saw their scratch marks on the floor, smelled the sulfur clouds rising, found their pools of acidic urine burning into my spare clothes.

Then one night I hard a scratching under my bed, went to grab the flashlight, and saw the glowing eyes of a dragon. It darted to the other side of the room, and hid inside my laundry pile.

At this point I was trying to figure out how to capture it. It was a small dragon, no threat to me in a fight to the death, but taking it alive was harder, especially when I didn’t want to get bitten. And they were very elusive, and I didn’t want to let it back into the house where it could keep wreaking havoc.

I went out to the yard and dragged lumber inside and started slowly building up a barricade around the corner where it was hiding. Then I put on a suit of armor, grabbed my net, and climbed over the barricade. Small dragons take a long time to take off, so I thought that if it tried to go over the top, I’d catch it for sure.

I shook the blankets and it darted to my right. I tried to grab it, and it broke left, started crawling through a gap between the barricade and the wall. I pulled it out by the tail, and slipped the net over it. It wriggled free of the net and started making a break for the same gap in the barricade, and I slammed a piece of lumber down to cover the gap. But I was too late, and the dragon’s head was already there. It split open.

I started taking the barricade down, and was still wondering what to do about the dragon corpse when some of my friends showed up. They were a little shocked by the killing, but also a little impressed. We started drinking. I needed to forget what had happened with the dragon, they just needed to get drunk. As we got deeper into inebriation, the tale grew taller and taller. The next day at school, everyone was calling me “dragon-slayer.”

I gotta admit, I liked it, even though I hadn’t liked killing the dragon and I didn’t want to do it again. I liked that they were paying attention to me and thought I was tough. So one night when we were in the parking lot, and there was a 5-foot-tall dragon walking around there, posing a real threat to people, I decided to be the one to take it down. It’s what people were expecting of me, and I wanted to be in the tall tales, and I think even people who were just believing in it the dragon-slaying thing because it was fun or new would think “wow, it’s for real” once I took the monster down. So I walked out there with my sword, and the dragon ran past, and it was flying, and I took a desperate hack, and ended up hitting it in the spine. It was twitching on the ground after that, and I cut the head off for mercy. I brought the head out, not heroically, just to throw it in the trash can, but knowing that if I looked like I didn’t care that would only increase my legend, It seemed like I did it more often than I did.

So coasted on those two slayings for a while. But when I got older, there was actually a need to kill dragons… [continued]