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.

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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]