A lifetime of memories were flashing before David’s eyes. From the pancakes his mom made in the mornings when he was a fussy young boy reluctantly heading for school, to that blur of a night when he lost his virginity in the clumsiest of ways. The day he had received his first pay-check to the eventful birthday party of his friend where he had met his wife. Every obscure and significant detail of the days of his life appeared in chronological sequence before his eyes. This was it. He knew it somehow. There was no more struggle left in him. No more will to go on. Forty three years on this planet living a more or less happy existence until the cancer had found him. Even then he was cocooned by more love and care than he had ever hoped for. He had no real regrets.
The pain had left him to be in peace a little while back. His wife of eleven beautiful years, Sarah, had been holding his hand up until a minute ago. Where was she now? She had gone to get a cup of coffee. Poor thing. The night had been painful for him, but it must have been even more painful for her, he imagined. Had it been he in her place right now, he was not sure he could have coped. But she was strong. And this was for the best, given the situation. She would not have to watch him suffer any more.
His pulse was weakening and his breathing got more laboured. He tried to remove the oxygen mask from his face but his hands would not cooperate. He was too weak. Suddenly he needed to see her face one more time. Not to bid goodbye, but to let her know he was at peace. She shouldn't have to return to his lifeless body.
He realized that panic was now beginning to creep up on him. He had surprised himself till then. He had feared sudden terror gripping him in the face of his inevitable last moments but that never came to be. Death offered no novelty in that regard. It almost seemed natural and casual. But the thought of leaving her so abruptly… without letting her know it was okay. That seemed unthinkable now. He had to live on for a few more minutes. S**t! What were the right moves he had to make? His mind was blank save for these thoughts. The final thoughts he would ever have.
It came in an instant. The darkness. At first it was disorienting. Did the lights go off in the hospital? Does that happen? David thought with weak indignation as he stopped his futile attempts at sitting up for a moment. In the distance there were muffled sounds. Somebody turn on the god-damn lights! His mind screamed as if somehow the sheer anger of it would translate it into audible voice.
And suddenly there was silence. Pitch black and noiseless. God! Was this how he would go? Alone in the dark?
Time seemed to stand still.
But he didn't ‘switch off’ as he had expected. Instead he was thinking more clearly. His body still wouldn't move, but it almost seemed like he was not ill any more. It felt good. David relaxed himself. It looked like he would make it after all. Until he could let her know, that is. He was not stupid enough, even in this stage of deterioration, to be optimistic beyond that. The lights should be back any moment, and she would be here too. Unless…
David’s panic spiked up again. Was this what they called the last flaring up of the flame before it gets snuffed out? Was this the life force in him extinguishing itself in one final burst of energy?
There came no sudden finales.
David’s mind was now fluctuating in succession between tense highs and calm lows with increasing frequency. What the f**k was going on? The final moments of life shouldn't be this confusing… should it? That sounded somewhat naïve to him in retrospect. Maybe it was supposed to be this confusing. To be fair though, in an ideal world, the ultimate and decisive end of things should have an element of clarity to it, he thought.
Just as this thought began to take root in his mind, there was an explosion of light. This jarring shift from the silent darkness was too much for his eyes and David cringed as he shut his eyes tight. F*****g hell! Couldn't they be a bit gentler about it? He thought as he slowly opened his eyes in painful blinks, adjusting his vision to what he had grown used to staring at — the white ceiling of the hospital room.
Instead, he realized that he was staring at the warm blueish hue of the summer sky.
WHAT THE FUCKETY F*****G F**K!
He just lay there, looking at and feeling all around him what he finally decided, after much motionless deliberation, must be a drug addled chemical reaction induced hallucination in his allegedly dying brain. The body could only take so much after all. Without taking his eyes away from the wide open sky, he moved his fingers and felt the surface he was lying on, only to confirm his suspicion. Grass. Not wild, soft grass like in a meadow, but neat, cut grass like on a lawn or a golf course. He felt a slight tingle of disappointment surge through his now strangely alive mind. Surely his subconscious or unconscious or whatever damaged part of his psyche was responsible for the scenario could have come up with something a little less generic. Blue sky, summer day and grass? He had always assumed he was more interesting than that.
But then again, given that the alternative was the sterile white hospital room, he was not in a position to complain much. In fact, all things considering, this wasn't a particularly bad drug addled chemical reaction induced way to go. Generic but strangely calm, he mused. If only she could see this, then he wouldn't have to say anything. She would know he was letting go off this world with a faint smile on his lips.
Maybe this was meant to be. This place, this moment. Maybe this was the universe’s mysterious will at work. The cosmic play of the hidden mechanisms of whatever elusive reality was true. His fate.
“Get off my property, dickhead!”
David,despite his best intentions to succumb to the larger plans of providence and end his existence with admirable philosophical grace, jumped up like a jack rabbit that got pelted.
“What the f*****g f**k!”
He inadvertently yelled out as he braced himself in a defensive stance whilst trying to locate the source of the angry voice. He had, of course, lost at this point, all the metaphysical brownie points he had gained so far in his spiritually immersing journey to a respectable demise. In a matter of seconds his dying (allegedly) eyes located the small humanoid figure standing a few feet away from him, holding and pointing towards him what appeared to be a rather hefty gun.
His vision fixated on the weapon for a few very unnervingly silent seconds. After satisfying his now hyper alert, terrified and confused mind that it was indeed a deadly looking gun, and caution was key here, David slowly panned his eyes to the head of his potential assailant. He expected to see, given the sudden new direction this dream was taking, some demonic entity. Or perhaps his cousin Zach. Subconscious or unconscious stuff did bring to the surface childhood traumas, after all. And Zach had been… traumatic.
His eyes now focused themselves on the face before him. It was neither demonic nor Zach. Or any combination of the two. He was looking at a young, comically long face dotted with unfortunate acne, framed by dark dishevelled hair and wearing glasses. The expression on the face was a reminder, however, to quickly gather his wits and come up with a verbal rebuttal of some kind. Perhaps a physical move was in order. He struggled to make a decision, and thus followed a few more moments of dangerous suspense. F**k! Make a decision, a*s hat.
“Who the f**k are you and what the f**k are you doing here?”
The dorky face produced sounds, relieving David of the responsibility of making a strategic combat decision. Though now he had to come up with a non-fatal answer.
“My name’s David. I'm dying. Of cancer.” He said with a feigned indignation, and then added hesitantly, “This is my subconscious. Or unconscious. Who the f… who are you?”
The small fellow now paused for a second. He seemed confused, which was of course an appropriate response to being told that you’re fictitious, David concluded. So he decided to gain back some spiritual self-respect by being considerate and helpful to the gun wielding hallucination.
“It’s okay. I'm not here to hurt you. Merely passing through.” He gave him his best benevolent face, and decided to continue with the helping, having now realized he couldn't possibly be actually hurt in his own imagination, and even if he did it wouldn't matter because he was dying anyway.
“It seems somehow we’re tied together, you and I, in these final moments of mine. Maybe you’re here because you have to tell me something. Some truth that my mind is trying to communicate with me, something from the far recesses of my psyche. Or maybe you’re reminding me of something I already know. In any case, I think we better talk more calmly. That would be better, don’t you think? So we can clear this up? You’re part of me after all. Someone born out of the very fabric of my thoughts and memories. Someone who is now here to…”
“Shut the f**k up! Or I will blow your head off! Self-involved prick…”
In all honesty, David was hurt. That was rude, even under these circumstances, and this wasn't going in any of the wonderful directions he had hoped for. Could this be a nightmare? The thought began to spread its dark wings in David’s mind. Maybe the pleasant ambience was masking something sinister, something dangerous. Oh God! Was this going to be a painful death? Is this really what happened in the last moments of a person’s life?
David looked at the unsightly fellow again.
No. This really couldn't be the general experience of cancer ridden mankind. More than likely his initial assessment was right. This had to be his subconscious. Or unconscious. He now regretted thinking of the blue sky and grassy bed as generic and boring. He really didn't want to die at the hands of this… well, imaginary kid. Not after he had put in all that effort into bravely smiling in the face of cancer. For a split second he rejoiced at the fact that his wife wouldn't know of this. That would have been anti climactic to say the least.
A few more seconds passed by in what was now becoming more of an awkward situation than anything else. The man child still had the gun pointed at him. However, David did note that his face had now contorted into an expression vaguely reminiscent of thoughtfulness. Should he say something again? The surprisingly vivid image of his head being blown away kept him silent.
“If I put my weapon down, you have to give me your word. You got that? Your word… as a man. Man to man.” It spoke now, looking squarely at David. At first, he thought of correcting the ‘man to man’ bit, but then thought better of it. Instead, he inquired with some hesitation.
The boy, on reflex, opened his mouth to say something then stopped, and a wave of annoyance washed across his face.
“I mean… I… the word… your word that you’ll… keep quiet and won’t move.” He finished on a stern and threatening note, though now David could see something else quite clearly. The kid was nervous. What the hell was going on here? David could see someone asking an intruder to be still, but why silent?
Wait. This is not the real world! Goddamnit! What the hell was going on in his head? Enough of this s**t!
Now the hallucination appeared taken aback, and this just fuelled David’s words into a rant any indignant internet troll could be proud of.
“I don’t know what the f**k is going on here or who the f**k you are. But I have had enough. I have cancer for f**k’s sake! I'm a dead man walking. I should be with my wife, holding hands and s**t. Like people do when they are striding boldly towards death. Not playing ‘cops and robbers’ with some scrawny a*s hallucination. I refuse, you hear me? I refuse to go out this way! I want some peace and dignity when I die, damn it! I want to be with the woman I love, looking into her eyes and telling her how much I…”
David’s lips stayed parted but weren't ejecting the flurry of words he had formed in his head any more. His eyes stared emptily at the unappealing face that had just let out that sound which he was sure had meaning of some kind. You’re dead. He had heard it right, hadn't he?
His lips were moving now, though the eyes, along with the rest of his body, refused to follow suite.
“You. Are. DEAD.”
The freak enunciated this time.
David felt like he had been run over by a train of just cold… something. Anger? Bitterness? Sadness? What was this thing that had filled up within him and was now choking him with grim determination? What was happening here?
It couldn't be. He was right here. And he had been there in the hospital room a few moments ago. Surely… this made no sense. It just didn't.
“I… I… am… dead? Already?”
A mousy voice pierced the veil of silence that had fallen over the scene. It took a second for David to recognize it as his own.
The brat affirmed with a thinly disguised smirk.
Anger. Yes, it was anger that was flooding his senses, David realized. Anger at the truth that was now slowly starting to dawn on him, anger at himself for not having known it sooner, but more than anything he felt his anger aiming its bloody sights on the being standing in front of him who had, at this precise moment, smirked at his agony.
It saw this happening too.
It hadn't occurred to it how its insensitive albeit true declaration would upset the status quo which had thus far been in its favour. As in, in its need for immediate and petty victory over the rude intrusion who had begun to make it look silly, it had neglected to remind itself that a dead entity need not fear the gun. Especially not one as angry as the one standing before it now.
“Now look here,” it said with a desperate urgency, “I didn't mean you are… you know… proper dead or anything… I just meant “ “
David could see its lips moving but he heard no sounds. There was a deafening noise booming in his head repeating those words over and over again. Get the f****r.
What happened next seemed almost unreal to the previously authoritative gun wielder, who barely had thought about concluding the remarkably late words of consolation when the six foot two inch dead man before it lunged at it with an uncanny agility. It would have been considerably hyperbolic to characterize what ensued as a ‘struggle’. With one solid punch to the jaw, the ex- gun wielder was thrown on to the freshly mowed lawn with an audible thud, while a relatively powerful hand snatched the gun out of its sweaty grip on the way down.
“Don’t shoot! Please! Please! Please…”
The cries emanating from the whimpering mouth set low on the acne marked face which now had cheeks glistening with streaming tears, was greeted by the empty gaze of the double barrelled gun held by the deceased victor. There were no sounds for a few moments save that of the summer breeze rustling through swaying leaves and meek sobs from the pathetic figure trembling on the ground.
“Please… please… I'm sorry…”
The thing continued to beg. At least to David, that’s what it was — a thing. Some broken fragment of a reality he couldn't understand, and for the moment, didn't care to understand. He was dead. That was the only truth before him. He was no more.
Yet here he was.
His mind was busy recalling the details of the series of events that had led to this moment. Just a few minutes before, he had been on the hospital bed. He knew he was dying and all he wanted was to comfort his wife. His Sarah. He was at peace. He had no regrets.
Then how is it that he was now standing firm, holding a weapon at a thing, in some surreal dream? Maybe he wasn't dead? Maybe this was the delirious final moment of life stretched beyond the confines of linear time. Just maybe, he was still on that bed, and Sarah was by his side grieving over his loss of consciousness. Could that not be possible? Just a bit? He sought within for a faint glimmer of hope.
Then he remembered the lights switching off. The silence that crept in. The sudden explosion of light. And here he was. No. Now that the truth had been stated plainly, it seemed obvious. That had been death. His death. Just like that.
Everything from the fading words on the pages of the philosophy books he had crammed for his college classes to the ridiculous documentaries on the miracles of the afterlife he had passingly seen with critical eyes on cheap daytime television should have been running through his mind at this point. But they didn't. He was just seeing red. All his emotional, intellectual and existential fury now flowing through his hands into the metallic harbinger of devastation aimed with purpose at the creature’s head. God, he wanted to pull that trigger!
But then something happened. Something very human. A transfer of power between sentiments. It is perhaps a testament to the true power of nature that even death couldn't completely erase the deep imprints of what was human in David. However, it was not compassion or forgiveness that rode in to the crimson battlefield of his mind in a chariot of spontaneous emotions. It was that fundamental of human qualities that bloomed like some wild flower out of season within David — curiosity.
He wanted to know. Know everything.
“Shut the f**k up and listen to me.”
David spoke calmly and menacingly. It reacted by staring back with a puzzled expression and a snotty nose.
“Please don’t kill me… “
David responded to this insolent whining by cocking the gun. That succeeded in drawing the attention and obedience of the now silent thing.
“We’re going to talk, you and I. And we’re going to do that calmly, the way I wanted to do it in the first place. Now, the ground rules are simple. I ask something and you answer. You don’t answer, I kill you. And do not be under the impression that the gun matters in this little equation. I will beat you to death if it comes to that. The simple truth you need to comprehend is that you are alive and I am not. You will die and I cannot. Got it?”
It looked at David for a few seconds in silence, as if trying to process this new and very relevant set of variables. Then it wiped its face with the sleeve of its shirt, and assumed an air of seriousness.
“I will agree to your terms if you agree to mine.”
“No.” David responded in a strangely monotonous voice.
“But… what do you mean no… it’s only fair…”
It started to bargain but paused when it registered David’s stone cold face. It changed its tone to that of sincere pleading,
“If you don’t agree to them, you might as well kill me. At least it will be quicker than what’ll happen. But you can bet that no one else has the answers you’re looking for.”
Now this grabbed David’s already peaked curiosity right by the throat. He pretended to think about it for a couple of seconds and then said in an even graver tone,
“All right. Let me hear them. Your terms.” He added, “If I don’t like them, I will kill you. To hell with the answers.”
It nodded in subtle agreement.
“My terms are quite simple and easy for you, I promise. No funny stuff.” It sat up straight now and crossed its legs before proceeding. “I just want us to speak softly and not make any loud noises. And… wrap this whole thing up in the next hour. Or thereabouts.”
David’s mind was now buzzing with questions but he maintained his air of composure and said after a deliberate pause,
It smiled, almost suspiciously content given the situation, and gestured at David to sit down with it.
“You don’t want to do this whole thing standing up do you?”
David complied, and sat cross legged before it, while also making sure to keep the gun out of its reach by his side. He didn't really want to have to beat the thing to death. The gun might become useful. It didn't seem to mind about the gun any more though.
“So… what do you want to know?”
It asked softly, but noticeably more pleasantly.
Where the f**k to begin? David wondered as he stared into the face of the thing. He took a deep breath before letting out all those doubts and questions he had shooting around in his head.
“Where am I? Who or what are you?”
He waited in quiet anticipation for the bombshells to drop. It looked at David with the shade of a faint smile playing at the corners of its thin lipped mouth. David didn't like this. He didn't like this at all.
“Well?” He asked, raising his voice a bit, almost like a reminder.
It motioned him to lower the volume of his queries with a visibly concerned look and continued in a hushed tone.
“Okay, all right. I’ll tell you. You’re in my back yard, or more accurately, the back yard of my summer house. And I… well… I am the guy who made you. Well, not you specifically. Your world. Or worlds. It’s complicated. Your people call me God. I think.”
David had experienced many things in his somewhat short life that had challenged his gamut of emotions on many levels. He remembered the way he felt when he had found out that Sarah couldn't ever be a mother due to “unforeseen medical complications”. How in a single day their dreams of a cosy little family of their own had been shattered. But even on that day seven years ago, he had managed to be there for his wife, and had held back the flood of overpowering, soul crushing feelings behind an iron wall of reason and responsibility. That seemed almost childishly simple an event now, thought David as he sat staring at the… thing. He realized that there were distinct manifestations of guilt springing up now when he thought of the being in front of him that way. This realization was immediately followed by another one that informed him quite discreetly that his jaw had been hanging open for a very noticeable amount of time.
To put it quite simply, David’s thoughts swirled and whirled in myriad shapes of soul churning abstraction to finally form one basic thought “
WHAT THE F*****G FUCKETY F*****G F**K!
The being was smiling at his loss of composure. David couldn't clearly tell exactly how long this particular tableau stayed erect. Him sitting there, mouth wide open, glazed eyes shaped like saucers, and quite possibly the beginning of a humiliating stream of drool gathering at the corner of his mouth ready to flow down his chin. Yet somehow, somewhere along the line, he heard himself spit out coherent words. He was glad that some part of his mind was still functioning, he realized as he listened to himself eagerly.
“Do not F**K with me you…”
The being replied as he carefully removed its glasses and examined the lenses for any scratches that may have resulted from their little scuffle.
“So you’re saying that you’re…”
“Hey, let’s get one thing clear, I'm not saying anything.”
“But you just said…”
“No. I said you people call me that. Whatever that means.”
“But… how… what… who…”
“God! I assume it means creator, yeah?”
David’s vocabulary simply wouldn't cooperate with him any more.
“Yes… I mean… no! Well, kind of yeah… but… more.”
David paused and let out a frustrated sigh. He needed to think. This had never ever been one of the scenarios he had even vaguely planned for, pre or post death.
What does one do when a genuinely unimpressive being with a runny nose from the afterlife sitting in front of you says it’s God? Especially after you kick its a*s? Even without the confusing power dynamic between the two of them, David would have been ill equipped to meet God, provided such a thing existed. He had never been religious or spiritual.
What was the protocol here?
David wished that he would feel something apart from the jarring effect of this stunning overload of questions that had paralysed his intellectual faculties. He should be freaking out more here, shouldn't he? At the very least it seemed like it was the polite response to someone announcing that they are God.
This was just way past anything he had encountered in terms of mind blowing, consciousness altering weirdness.
Should he be bowing and stuff?
Maybe he should stand up and kneel before the being. But he was afraid it would seem a tad insincere given that he had recently threatened to beat the God in question to death. Was this all an elaborate Godly game to test him for some Godly reason? That seemed possible.
Was it? Or was the thing just claiming that it’s God? That also felt like a very real possibility.
David’s mind was just furiously racing now without a care as to its limits and unable to hold on to one set of theories long enough to make any kind of useful decision. And now it was the being’s turn to look perplexed.
“When you say more… what do you mean by that… exactly?”
Its eyes narrowed in a quizzical manner. David finally decided on one thing. There had to be order. Things had to revealed and discovered in a systematic manner here, or his brain might fry from the sheer volume of thoughts. Wait… could a dead brain fry?
“Tell me… please? I want to know.”
Its sincere pleading sounds brought David back to reality, or whatever this was.
“Let’s go about things properly, shall we? No point in prancing around things any more. I have introduced myself to you, though it wasn't entirely my decision. It was however an accurate introduction. Your turn now… kid.”
David rolled the dice with that last bit, hoping to take back some minimal charge of the situation. Remind the possible creator and master of the universe who was the boss? His intellect winced but remained out of it. He waited to see if the being would buy it. It seemed to be lost in thought, although it was still maintaining firm eye contact.
David asked with as much patience as he could muster.
“Jook. That’s my name. You don’t need my last name, do you?”
“A last name!”
David blurted out without thinking.
“Last name? You mean… you have… parents?”
The being, or Jook, looked positively shocked at the question but even more appalled at the volume it was asked in.
It motioned with its hand again for David to lower his voice. David obliged quickly as he wanted to hear more.
“Well of course I have parents! What kind of a question is that? And as a matter of fact, that’s why I keep asking you to keep it down. One of them is sleeping inside and it’s going to be pretty pissed off if it is woken up. So… do you mind?”
Several questions presented themselves to David at this point, none of which had to do with names. He tried to be methodical with his questioning.
“Why do you got parents called it?”
He decided to try harder once he heard himself.
“I mean… why do you call your parent ‘it’?”
David waited for an answer as the rephrasing came out more in sync with what he had in mind.
“What else would I call it? Other than… it?”
Jook asked mildly amused at David’s line of reasoning. David was, despite his best efforts, not amused enough to brush it aside.
“Well… don’t you have… genders or something similar?”
“What’s a gender?”
Jook raised his eyebrows.
“What do you mean what’s a… you f*****g made us!”
He then paused, conjured up his most accusatory expression and proceeded in a deliberate fashion,
“Or were you, and I'm just guessing here, FULL OF S**T when you said that?”
Jook shook his head, unaffected by David’s pointed tone or the indignant accusation.
“Nope. I was telling the truth about the making you — I mean making your world — bit. I just don’t know what happened after the thing with the Grookuses.”
Asked David, as he struggled with the heart breaking realization sinking in that this was getting nowhere.
Jook looked surprised when he registered David’s ignorance and added,
“I would have thought they would be ruling you all by now. No offence.”
David held his bewildered face up to Jook as a substitute question mark, determined to get at least one actual fact. It worked. Jook gave in.
“Come on… really? They’re huge, with a… a scaly kind of skin… and teeth and horns? I mean I made many kinds, sure, but the scales and the teeth were pretty memorable I thought. No?”
David couldn't help exclaiming loudly when it finally hit him.
“You’re talking about the f*****g dinosaurs!”
Jook reminded David to pipe it down and said,
“Well I don’t know what you call them, do I? So… was I right? They rule, yes?”
Jook’s eager face displayed inadequately disguised excitement, and suddenly David felt guilty. S**t.
“They… er… did. In a manner of speaking… sure.”
And with that pathetic excuse of an evasion, David tried to move on with the conversation. Sadly for him, it was to no avail.
“What do you mean they ‘did’? They don’t any more?”
Then its expression almost changed to one of genuine concern.
“My Grookies are all right, aren't they?”
A few seconds of awkward silence coupled with a staring match followed as David tried to find some choice to be made which would help him navigate his way out of this question without any lasting emotional trauma to the dubious yet possible God. Then he saw an opportunity. It was right there — his key to the wonderful world of real answers. He took it.
“Maybe. It is rather complicated. But I will tell you. If you tell me clearly and concisely how it all happened, what this place is and what I am doing here. This is non-negotiable. You understand?”
He milked it harder with the final words of,
“Think what the Grookies would want, Jook. Think about that, before you go on.”
David desperately attempted to recall any and all details on how to deliver conviction in your performance from his half-assed hours in college drama classes, while emoting what he hoped looked like solemn sincerity. Jook studied him for tell-tale signs of deception or manipulation as he massaged his jaw. It was hurting now, and David tried to ignore the fact that he had given the supreme lord of all things a swollen face. Finally, Jook sighed dramatically and nodded its head in silence.
“I’ll try my best. Let’s start at the beginning.”
David masterfully overcame his desire to giggle like a schoolgirl in nervous excitement, and conveyed his gratitude and urgency with a silent head movement of his own. He didn't want to say anything and give it any more reasons to digress.
“Where do I start? Hmm.”
Jook looked into the ground and plucked a blade of grass and began fiddling with it, lost in thought. David spent this time holding back a strong urge to reach over and choke God.
“I suppose it’ll make more sense to you if we start with where, huh? You’re on the planet Blahu. It’s got three moons, two big ones and then a small one. Well, they might change the ‘moon status’ of the third one soon, but they haven’t yet… I think. So yeah, three moons for now. Blahu goes around The Great Dying Sky Fire. It’s a star. Don’t ask me about the name. They started calling it that in the olden times and then never bothered to change it. People huh?”
Jook smiled and looked at David for agreement. David forced a smile “like arching of his lips.
“Yeah… dumb f***s. Anyway, I suppose you don’t want a detailed history of Blahu, do you? We only have so much time…”
“No. That’ll do. Thanks.”
David replied, choking on a surge of new questions, and suppressing the need to palm his face and laugh like a mad man. Great, he thought. I’m officially on another planet. And God is a dorky alien. What else is new?
Jook relaxed a bit more, seeing David’s matter of fact reaction to this new information. It had been scared of upsetting the violent dead man with nothing to lose and a propensity for loudness. It continued its narrative in a more animated tone now.
“As you know by now, my name is Jook. My parents are Drak, Glu and Bluk. They…”
Jook paused abruptly when it saw the confusion written all over David’s face.
David chose his words with precision, so as not to push the God into a tangential storyline.
“You mentioned three names. And you refer to your parent as ‘it’. In my world, your creation, my people have two genders — man and woman. A man engages in an act of sex with a woman to produce an offspring. Could you explain your situation in a few simple words?”
Jook looked startled. It took a moment to calm down and think before coming out with,
“That actually caught on? With everything?”
David raised the obvious question which was ‘what’, and listened intently.
“The man “ woman thing. If it is what I think it is, one has a bit that…”
It looked at the man with the bit before him to see if he followed.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
Jook appeared saddened by this piece of news. David waited patiently for an explanation. He got the feeling this was going to mess with his head. Whatever, he said to himself inside, God is an alien dweeb. Bring it on.
“It was a mistake. I'm sorry.”
Jook bowed its head in apology and what could be interpreted as shame.
David nudged it along, and it obliged with more words.
“Yeah. The whole thing was a f**k up. I was so tired that day, I overslept, and I forgot to add the thing… and “ “
“I never meant for that. I just had to work around it, and I really had hoped it would stop by itself. It started with this one batch of Flombs in the very beginning. They became these two groups… or genders as you call it… totally my fault… and then it began spreading. Even the Grookies had it. And I couldn’t do s**t.”
Jook shook its head. David did not want to go into what the Flombs were.
“I never thought it would keep spreading. And now your people have it too. It must be hard, huh? I am so sorry. You must hate it. The act of sax… was it?”
“Sex. The act of sex.”
David corrected Jook.
“And it’s not all that bad. We don’t mind it.”
He said, stopping himself from going any further. He really did not want to have ‘the talk’ with a dorky alien God kid. It, however, seemed both relieved and puzzled.
“You… don’t mind it? Really?”
Enquired Jook the disdainfully virgin God, and added,
“It looked weird and kind of disgusting with the Grookies. Not to mention somewhat painful. Did it change? The act of sex?”
David considered saying no, but then it dawned on him this would lead to more questions from it.
“Yes. It’s more… bearable now. So, you were talking about your parents…”
He forcibly pushed the subject back on track.
Jook spent a moment trying to recollect his exact point of digression before he picked up the narrative again.
“My parents are Drak, Bluk and Glu. Glu is the one who’s sleeping inside at the moment. This is its house. I stay here during the summers sometimes. It doesn't like it very much, but it has to allow me to stay for now, until I come of age as a Blahuan. And I guess I put up with its abuse because I get lots of time and space to myself in this place. That makes up for the other things. It’s beautiful here, don’t you think?”
Jook gestured vaguely at its surroundings. For the first time since his abrupt arrival, David looked around at the yard of some description he was in. They were in a clearing of sorts, bordered by tall shrubs, creeping vines and trees. Not one species of which David could recognize. Yep, definitely alien, he thought. Jook continued.
“Oh, I suppose you’re confused about how we procreate here without ‘the act of sex’. It’s fairly simple. You meet your two partners, assigned to you by The Order based on desirable traits for the gene pool. You get to discuss with them on how you want to do things for about a year, and then you offer a prayer to the Magnificent Ooba. The Magnificent Ooba’s head oracle of your district then lets you know of the right date for the Offering. On that auspicious date, you submit your cell sample, along with your partners’ samples to the Shrine of Births. Then sometime in the next year you’re sent your offspring via special package, and there you go. It’s as simple as that. Much more convenient than ‘the act of sex’ I'm afraid. Sorry about that again.”
It looked at David with apologetic eyes. David stared back with blank eyes. Questions! So many questions! He was in a real dilemma now. What the hell was he supposed to do? Which question to ask? David realized he had to pick his doubts strategically in order to get to the final bit before their stipulated time ran out.
Jook asked gently.
“Are you okay?”
David’s time was running out. He knew he had to make a clever choice here. He decided to go with the one question that rose from the messy chunk of information received, that he thought would explain a whole lot. A real question.
“Do they love you? Your parents, I mean.”
It responded with an expression that indicated it was lost. David could feel in his gut what was coming here.
“Excuse me? Love… I'm not familiar with that word. What does it mean?”
There you go, David thought. He thought about how best to answer it. Who was he to explain love to the creator? What was the definition here? Did he even have one? For a second it occurred to David again that this might all be some elaborate game by the actual God. Maybe he was here not to ask questions, but to answer them. A final test with the syllabus being your life. Wait a second, did he believe in God now? Jook chose this moment to sniffle. It would have been hard not to believe in Jook. David’s thoughts suddenly spilled out without him meaning them to.
“Am I being tested here?”
It studied David’s face for sarcasm. It found none. So the God kid answered.
“I… I don’t know what you mean by that. I assure you I am not…”
“What? God? The omnipotent, omniscient creator and master of all things?”
There was a tinge of anger in his words. Jook sensed it, and was flustered. But it spoke quickly.
“Omnipotent? Omniscient? Master of all things? That’s the Magnificent Ooba you’re talking about! Not me, you fool!”
David knew exactly what his next question was.
“How did it happen then? How did you create my world?”
Jook was a bit shaken by that sudden turn in the line of questioning. David was not willing to let go, he repeated the question, this time more slowly and firmly.
“How did you create my world?”
“I… that… we’ll get to that but…”
It was a bad attempt at an evasion, and David saw right through that.
The dork God of Blahu seemed defeated. There was no slipping past the dead man’s question, it realized. Surrender to the truth was inevitable.
“It… it was a game.”
The world went silent for a second or two. But it felt like an hour to David. He felt his fists clenching. Were his eyes welling up? He couldn't be sure. But then he also didn't care. He didn't know what he had been expecting. Maybe he did know. Maybe, he had been expecting something exactly like that. The truth. The absolute truth behind it all. The meaning of life. The question of humanity answered from the mouth of the God itself, who sat dejected and ashamed before him. He knew one thing though. He felt anger leaping forth from the darkest corners of his mind in righteous indignation. Everything… everything… had been some dorky kid’s game. Unfair or unjust didn't seem like enough. He was sure he was about to explode into a million tears and war cries all at once. Instead, he felt more words slide off his tongue and out through his lips.
One word. He couldn't manage more. That word stood for everything. All the pain and suffering felt by every life for aeons, on a planet that turned out to not matter, stood in blind fury behind that word… waiting. The God who never cared bent before the will of that word.
“My parent Drak. It bought it for me ‘ the game ‘ when I turned eight. It was a GLIDER game. Er… GLIDER is a device, a machine, we have here on Blahu that is just for games. I don’t know if you have them in your world. Many Blahuan kids have it. Or they used to, when I was younger. They don’t make it any more. It went out of business. The game ‘ Build A World ‘ was the best of them all. GLIDER’s top selling game of all time. It still has a huge underground following, though you can’t get a new one now.”
Jook briefly paused to see if David was following this alien terminology. It had no idea just how much David was indeed following, as he wrapped his head and heart firmly around the fact that the kid was talking about a console game. A simulation game, in all probability. It resumed the explanation of the grand creation.
“The game feels quite simple at first, but I remember Drak saying how remarkably intelligent it was. Basically, it first asks you a lot of questions and then it gives you a model world based on your choices, and the tools to modify it further. It was a lot of fun. And it completely depends on how creative you’re to make your world as interesting as possible. There was even a contest, in the very beginning when it came out. I won it at the zonal level. As in, your world won. I remember Drak being very proud. I was happy… back then.”
It paused and smiled as if remembering something particular. Its eyes then shifted to David’s face expecting compassion, but was met with an emotionless stare. He did say something though.
“You mean to tell me…”
David paused to swallow a surprising sob that had just threatened leave his throat. What the f**k.
“You mean… to tell me… that your game just created a real live world with billions of people and animals and plants, that evolve and adapt, that are interconnected, that feel and love? That suffer? A world as complex and intricate as mine?”
The apathetic God child was moved and stunned by the emotion in David’s voice. It stayed in a daze until David slapped the ground hard in order to wake it up.
David’s words were not a request, realized Jook. It spoke.
“I don’t know what to say.”
It saw David’s face growing darker and colder, and it added.
“I mean I really don’t know what to say. I don’t have the first clue what you’re talking about. Okay? First of all, the world I made wasn't ‘complex and intricate’. Neither did it have billions of plants and animals and people who were doing all that. And whatever was there definitely was not suffering! It was a f*****g game, for Ooba’s sake! I did not even realize that it had become real until the dreams started.”
“What f*****g dreams?”
Asked David, the walls of resistance in his mind threatening to break any second.
“Dreams! F*****g nightmares actually! They started when I was thirteen. Just random images of a world I had never seen but somehow knew, and lots of crying and yelling and s**t. At first I thought they were just that “ nightmares. Then I figured out they were more like messages or something. I didn’t know what to do, okay? I told Drak. And it told them, the other two. They took me to a Healer.”
Jook was whimpering and sobbing now. However, this evoked no sympathy in David. He wanted to hear more, and it looked like Jook was not done. A dam had broken in it somewhere.
“It did things to me. Things I don’t want to talk about. All for what? No one would tell me. I thought I was going crazy. And then they gave me medicine for it. For the nightmares to stop. It took time, but they did. I had begun to believe that I had made it all up, that the game had been just a game, until you f*****g landed in my back yard! And I knew! I f*****g knew! It was all real! I am not crazy!”
With that last bit Jook completely crumpled into a bundle of unbridled tears. David had certainly not been expecting this kind of a breakdown from the supposed God. His anger, which had been welling up in waves, subsided all of a sudden. He almost smirked at himself. Maybe death did give you more perspective.
David then sat there looking at the trembling, whimpering mess of a kid who had created him. His vision was growing brighter and clearer now. It was as if Jook’s tearful collapse had been retribution enough for the rage inside him. A cloud had lifted on his thinking. This was no merciless God who had abandoned its creation or a sadistic being who watched in mirth as its children suffered. This was a pathetic and broken thing, flawed and fallible like the rest of the beings in its creation.
Who was he to judge or punish it? What right did he have to be that? He was human. He had lived a life. He had loved. This crying kid was not his enemy, neither was it his saviour. In the end, it was just an answer to a question.
The reasons for him, David, being chosen over billions of others to be shown this truth, still remained hidden in the shadowy folds of this curious afterlife. Maybe finding that answer should be his purpose now.
He made a decision based on that thought and moved nearer to Jook. It would have flinched had it seen this sudden movement from David, but it had its tear drenched face buried in its palms. David put his arm around its shoulders and squeezed. Now a panicked but still crying Jook looked up. It saw the relaxed and almost caring face looking down on him, and chose not to push him away.
David said in a soft voice. It was grateful for that.
“Can I ask you something?”
Jook asked quietly, still looking down, but David could sense the contained excitement in its voice. David whispered his affirmation.
“Do you mind… telling them? That I was not crazy? That you and your world really exist?”
It looked up at him with swollen, red eyes widened in a sad plea. He had to but think only for a second.
“Why not. I have nothing but time, I think.”
It smiled and started wiping its face on its sleeve. David removed his arm from around it, and sat thinking. What he said had been genuine. He had only begun to think of what eternity would be like. If he were to be conscious and emotional, eternity seemed like a cruel joke. Besides, what was he now? Alive? Dead? Or between worlds?
Also, a new and curious idea had begun to take shape in his mind. The Magnificent Ooba. He had not ventured in to that too much in his own mind, and neither had he questioned Jook on it. Primarily because he had assumed it was their religion, and nothing more than that. The fact that it had a lot of structure and order to it had added to this initial assessment. However, David was now rethinking the whole thing. Considering how surreal this whole reality seemed to be, and riddled with cosmic truths that might concern him, it was starting to look like a good idea to check if there was any substance to it. What if The Magnificent Ooba was more than a silly myth?
“Hey Jook… do you mind telling me more about Ooba, I mean the Magnificent Ooba?”
He asked without looking up from the spot in the shrubs where he had planted his gaze some time ago, while musing over the state of affairs. He waited for a second or two for a response while continuing his deliberation. He also had to figure out how to deal with the allegedly abusive parent that is Glu.
When all he heard was silence, he looked up at Jook who was standing up near him. Jook was staring down at him too, with a very strange expression on his face. Then it began talking. In fact, the boy God began moving its lips rather animatedly with wild gestures thrown in to add to the excitement.
But David could not hear it.
There was only silence. It was like watching television with the audio muted. What the f**k. David almost lifted his hand up to his face to clear his ear. But he stopped with his hand half way there, frozen in mid air, as it struck him how familiar this silence was. It was not just Jook that was muted, it was this strange alien world itself. No more rustling noises from the wind gushing in through the leafy branches.
There was nothing.
This had happened before. In the hospital. Right before…
Just as David let the realization sink in, the blinding explosion of warm, soothing light bathed his senses.
Life is a funny thing, people used to say. David wondered if those people would be happy or sad to learn that death was apparently funnier. In a cruel, ironic kind of way.
These were his thoughts as he slowly tried to open his eyes to whatever strange world he had been dropped into. He automatically raised his hands up to his face in a defensive manner and stood ready to take on any new creature that might be there waiting for him, holding a gun or worse. They couldn't all possibly be nerdy teenagers.
It took, unfortunately, a painfully long minute for his eyes to completely open and adjust its vision to this new reality. There goes the element of surprise, he thought, imagining himself standing in a room full of aliens with his eyes closed and his hands up.
David didn't know what he had expected exactly, but he certainly was not prepared for what he saw.
Staring back at him was a baby. A human baby. Well, at least it looked human. It was standing or rather leaning upright in a traditional wooden crib, with its head above the wall of the thing.
The baby stared at David with a vague surprise written on its chubby baby face, and then it began laughing.
David now felt completely silly standing in the defensive pose. He dropped his hands quickly and just stood there looking at the baby. At least they were getting younger, he thought.
After he satisfied his nervous mind that the baby couldn't be a threat to his
physical safety, unless it was some kind of surreal leaping baby from another dimension, David looked around the room he was in. Come on, there must be something ridiculously alien in here…
But all he saw were a bunch of stuffed animals arranged neatly in rows on a table, a polished oaken wardrobe in the corner and annoyingly cheerful stickers and pictures on a light blue wallpaper covered walls. Sunlight streamed in through the opaque yellow curtains on a window behind the crib.
Something was amiss though. David could feel it in the pit of his stomach. He was missing something. Something big.
The scent in the room was pleasant. Some kind of kid friendly air freshener, no doubt. It seemed… familiar though. David tried to place where he had smelt it before.
Suddenly, he found himself in tears. What the f*****g…
What was happening to him? David’s first thought was that there was some kind of airborne neuro-toxin involved. He prepared for his body to react to that. Instead, he found that it were his emotions that were reacting. In strange ways too. Seriously, what the f**k!
David had only started to process all this when he heard the sound of the door knob turning. He had no idea who or what was about to walk in, so he let out a loud involuntary cry and stumbled backwards. He caught his balance by slamming on to the wall as he watched the door swing open.
It was a woman standing there. Not just any woman, a woman in her early thirties or late twenties, dressed in very dated clothes. She was beautiful too, in a pleasant angelic sort of way, David thought as he waited for her to acknowledge his presence and react in terror or anger. He wouldn't blame her either. After all, he was an intruder in a room alone with a baby. She might even be its mother. This was going to get ugly.
David prepared to say something clever when he realized she still hadn't looked at him. He was standing in full view of her line of sight. Not to mention he had let out a stupid cry right as she entered the room. But still, no reaction from the woman.
She kept looking at the baby, who in turn seemed excited to see her. She smiled and started speaking to it. Baby talk by adults usually irked David but somehow her voice and mannerisms only evoked warmth in him.
“You didn't sleep, did you? No you did not. No-you-did-not…”
She playfully said as she walked towards the crib. The baby was laughing excitedly now and reaching towards her like it wanted to be held. The woman obliged by lifting it up out of the crib and placing it on her hips with her arm around it. She continued speaking to it.
“What were you doing? Huh? What’s my boo been doin’? You been playin’ haven’t ya? Was my itsy bitsy boo playin’ when mommy specifically told him to go to sleep? Didn't mommy sing you a song and everything? Yes she did. Yes- she “ did…”
The baby now completely ignored him and was laughing in small fits with every sing — songy note in her playful voice. It grabbed her cheeks and played with the loose strands of hair falling down her face.
“Time to go downstairs now… don’t you want to give Daddy a kiss? Daddy wants to give boo a kiss… Yes “ he “ does… Doesn't boo want Daddy’s tickle kisses? Hmmm?”
She looked at him in a jokingly enquiring way. The baby looked at her and made a sound.
The woman’s face lit up with a happiness and surprise he couldn't describe accurately at that point. She kissed the baby on the cheeks, nose and forehead in uncontrollable excitement before she yelled out,
“Jim! Jimmy! He spoke! He said a word!”
She kissed him again and bounced him on her hips, before yelling out again.
“Jimmy! He spoke a real word! Would you come up here? Or… wait… I'm coming down with him! Stay there! David spoke a real actual word, honey! Did you hear me?”
She hurriedly picked up a couple of stuffed toys from the table in her other hand and walked out the door, still talking to the baby.
“Say it again for mommy! Who’s the smartest baby in the whole wide world! You are! My baby…”
David stood there paralysed by emotion, as he watched his mother walk out of view. His heart was thumping mad with emotions. His cheeks had tears streaming down them.
The last intelligent thoughts his mind could come up with were this -
His first real words were ABOO. Spelt backwards it sounded a lot like something else.
But in that moment, David couldn't care less. He did not care about the grand design behind the cosmos, or hidden truths in multiple realities. He did not care about Gods or men. He did not care about the meaning of life or death. All he cared about was that his mom had just gone downstairs, and he was staying behind.
He started to walk out the door. As he closed the door behind him, David paused and whispered to himself and to anyone who was listening,
He was home.
-THE END -
Originally published at www.writerscafe.org.