I dreamed I was having a beer with the devil. The bar was empty, it was just us, and the bartenders…
So how are you feeling
I sat there, saying nothing. Listening, feeling the room. Knowing there was something else there as well.
It’s so easy, you know, to dismiss, all of …this…(he waved his hand gesturing) this God thing. Don’t you think? But with a year like …this…you really outdid yourselves.
-what do you mean?
Oh, this? I had nothing to do with this. You should ask that guy, he’s been here the whole time.
He pointed across the room. A shadow sighs, and steps into the light. His eyes are tired. He looks about my age. I didn’t understand.
I told you last time, you think you’re so righteous and self important. When you’re just vain. People serve themselves. You can’t win. Not when they can get immediate satisfaction. And the best part? I didn’t even have to do anything. You, you did this yourselves. With your toys. Your free will and creativity. The worlds you built yourselves with social media…
You’re all little gods…
With your own personal Genesis…but you’re destroying your worlds…and there’s only hell here. They forgot that…didn’t they…every paradise has a hell. Where else do you put the misfits? The rebels…
Your Guard knows…
(He motions to the figure.)
I don’t know him, I’ve never seen him.
I shook my head
Oh but you do, he’s been with you the whole time, and all these dreams you’ve had? “Past lives” that’s just his previous assignments. stories if you will. Isn’t it cute how you prayed for him to win battles when you were growing up?
I drank my beer and looked at him again. He looked tired.
Oh he’s not almighty no. He has a branch of banks. They’ve been here the whole time. And he makes withdrawals so he can blend in and live. But he is a warrior. Vietnam, WWll he’s even seen the future.
I thought he wasn’t almighty?
Listen, we can move through time but we can’t make the Mona Lisa appear out of pizza.
My point is, I’m not to blame here and if you think it’s going to get better. You should really see the future. It’s a real kicker. An X-File if you will. Everyone wants to blame me. But the truth is. The things you’re afraid of? The darkness you pray to keep out at night? It’s inside you. It always has been. And that’s what scares you. You and me? We’re not even the same. I wanted to be God. But you guys, you guys wanted to kill God.
The room grew cold.
My glass chilled.
I looked around
The room was filled with people again. Everyone was on their phones. Reading their own profiles, their own newsfeeds.
I closed my eyes and thought about the past. Tried to grab hold of something that was textured and pure. No, sure. Something sure. . .
Believing in god was easy. Or at least in something more. When you had seen a storm or a fire.
The chaos. I watched all of the college students…Anne sat down. She was saying something to me, something about breaking up with someone. “There’s just too many options, too many people in the world…I’m keeping my options open. Who tells anyone that they’re the best thing that’s happened to them this year? That’s lame and now standards.”
I smiled…we were shot through. Our parents fought and died and we were bankrupt. I thought about sitting outside watching the city getting bombed …or maybe it was another dream. There was another girl there …she was a dancer…we were drinking and watching the fires…
I wondered how soon we all would realise that we’re lucky to meet anyone that really looks past their own nose and sees us. Really …really sees us. And I thought about how poor we were. And how happy we were. And I thought about how empty we all are…constantly reinventing ourselves chasing change until we die.
“There’s a favourite mistake.” I said nodding to the girl on the little stage.
“At least she’s trying.” Sam laughed. “I’ve never seen you with a mic in your hand.”
“You never will. That’s my power.”
We made our way to the back. Knocked on the office door. It opened. Men in suits moved to block the door. “Holden Caulfield” I said.
“There’s a password?” Sam asked as we walked in.
“No one told ME a password. Why didn’t I know the password?”
The smoke wasn’t so bad in here.
We sat at the table. There was a card game going on. Someone offered a drink. Sam started for a yes.
“We’re fine.” I said. Taking the drink and stirring it. I handed it to the head of the table.
“What’s the case, How did he die?”
The younger one in the middle kept cutting cards. He always handed out a card for a case. He wasn’t a big talker. Each agent knew his assigned neighborhood. And each card had a meaning. Like a fortune.
” Middle age is a Dead Sea filled with quiet waters. That is no place for passion. His wife knew she could never match an erotic affair. How could she?”
“You’re saying his wife had him killed?”
He lit a cigarette. Rubbing his forehead. “No. I’m saying. The dead seeds bring a dead harvest.”
“You have to think ahead. Short term vs long term. What did this do for the long haul. What were you thinking?” I said.
Sam poured another drink. I sat down and turned a card over. Looking him in the eyes. There was sweat on his face. He was nervous.
“Eric was – impulsive. Yes, but this is just bad business. He handled your cards well.”
He stopped shuffling…
“You’re not here for a job …”
“You are the job.”
His eyes panicked. Before he could move he fell face down on his own cards. Cold.
No one moved. Sam and I slowly got up.
I looked around the room. Setting the drink straw on the table.
“We don’t have to make a mess, but remember who watches your assets. Your family could be broke in two hours.”
We made our way out. Back through the crowd. The music a low hum.
I remember the first time I heard them. Walking through the house at night. Three am. The lights flooded through the windows.
That was the night the neighbours house burned down.
The following week they found the girl in the river.
I hadn’t thought about it much, not until I was visiting a friend. And I saw the news. Another house burned down.
The same street I grew up on.
“Hey I’m sorry, excuse me.” I said. Stepping over this kid he was babysitting. She just kept looking at the tv. I went into the kitchen and asked them about the house. But they didn’t know anything.
I decided I would drive out and look around.
“Hey what happened to the kid that was here earlier?.”
“The one that was right here.”
Both of them just looked at each other. “We don’t have a kid,man.”
Later that night I was getting ready for bed. Brushing my teeth, I got a cold chill while spitting in the sink. I looked into the mirror and saw the girl sitting on the washer behind me. Her hair was wet.