He was standing.

He was standing at the door.

That was, of course, quite impossible.  Last June while he was walking behind a live news broadcast he was killed, on camera, as witnessed by millions of viewers. Someone careless at a nearby construction site knocked a piece of a religious icon off the roof, 55 stories up. It had been a calm day, but a huge wind came out of no where, carried it, smacked him on the head with it, and he died instantly, and publicly. Very publicly.

But there he was, standing at my front door, puffing on a fag, which was almost as weird, because he’d never ever smoked. He watched his parents both die of cancer, slowly, and cigarettes disgusted him. At least, while he was alive.

“Aren’t you going to invite me in, Slither?” he said. Slither. A nickname from my youth, not too many people knew about that name. He only used that name when we were alone.

My mouth must have been flapping in the wind, but somehow I invited him in. He tossed his fag in the bushes and came in, reeking of old tobacco, missed showers, and something I couldn’t put my finger on. He’d come to my place a million times before, and just like always he sat down in the same chair he always sat in when he visited when, you know, when he was still alive. My cat stared at him, cocked her head funny, and bolted from the room. Theo, my lazy old dog, always liked him before, but this time he stood and his ears pricked up. Theo growled deeply, his great chest rumbling, hackle erect, and he walked out of the room backwards, teeth nearly bared.

Inarticulate ramblings spewed from my mouth while I searched for something to say, but he ignored them.

“Yes, I’m dead. Or, more precisely, I was dead. The whole thing was orchestrated, of course.”

I decided I must be dreaming, and figured I’d play along. “Who orchestrated it?”

“Him. Her. It.”

This was not making a lot of sense, so I asked, “Who is It?”

“The grand architect, the designer, the creator, the head engineer, the prime mover. You know – God, Jehovah, Vishnu, Buddha, … Him, Her, or It. I need to talk to someone, to figure out what to do next. I know it’s important that I do the right thing now, I just don’t know what that is. It explained it all to me.”

I smiled, “You mean about life, the universe, and everything?”

He smiled back. He loved that book by Douglas Adams. “Yeah”, he said, “It’s pretty simple. We are a rainy day diversion, an engineering project. He … She … It … is a gifted engineer. We were deliberately designed, but not in any particular image. I mean, it doesn’t really matter what we look like. We have consciousness, an ability to communicate. The opposable thumb, for example, was just the way it worked out, it could have worked fine with tentacles. But the consciousness and ability to communicate, that’s what matters.”

This dream, if that was what it was, was turning decidedly metaphysical. I figured I might as well play along until I woke up.

“So the Creationists were correct?”

“Sort of. It created the beginning of life and then just stood back. From the development of the first cell It had charted progress that would eventually lead to self-consciousness and a large brain. Once in a while It nudged things along; It ended the dinosaur age with that comet. Or meteor. Anyway, it got tired of waiting, and dinosaurs didn’t seem to be progressing very fast. It figured that mammal thing showed great promise.”

“Then it got impatient, once we were created. We were supposed to amount to something, become important, do important things, but we never quite seemed to get there. So It appeared before various people from time to time. Jesus, Mohammad, Moses, and a lot of others who ended up partially or completely crazy.”

“It tried to guide us in other ways, too. It inspired someone in Egypt to build a steam engine a few decades after Christ died. But we were too busy building and burning libraries and killing each other to notice. I know this sounds crazy, but plans for the steam engine were discovered in the 20th century, and you can see replicas of it at some museums. But in the end this didn’t seem to make much difference.”

“It got involved even more directly in the 1930s and 1940s. See, it had tried to create a single world power, first with the Greeks, and then with the Romans, that hadn’t worked out too well. By the 1930s, it was obvious where we were heading, it figured it would try and create a new political system, see if that worked. It had a chat with a man named Teller, convinced him that nuclear power could give us all the energy we’d ever need. I guess It figured the bomb would help create that new political system; at any rate, It did a selling job on Teller, and Teller helped push the cause of nuclear energy for the next few decades. The US won the next big war, and then helped its former enemies. The result was nuclear power for submarines, satellites, and electrical power, and a political system unlike anything seen before. An economic interdependence that made major war unprofitable.”

This was getting even stranger. He’d never been political before, that was always my bailiwick, and he never bothered with history. How did he know about Edward Teller?

He screwed up his face, and carried on. “It killed me, and then brought me back from the dead. It sent me here with a message. I need to figure out what to do next.”

Hmmm. Megalomania. But it’s only a dream, I decided to play along. “So you are the new messiah?”

He burst out with the most cynical laugh I’ve ever heard. “No. It’s tried messiahs, they don’t work. I’m here to deliver a message. It killed me publicly so people would believe I had really risen from the dead. So I know when I go public I’ll be listened to. Maybe lots will doubt what I say, but I’ll have everyone’s ears. I’ve got to figure out what to say, how to put it.”

I looked at him. This dream seemed very real, but it was of course preposterous. “Message? What message?”

“It’s bored with this project. We’re on our own.”  






Copyright 2005 Gary Hughes-Fenchel, all rights reserved.