I wrote this to send to a magazine where they give you the first line of a story and you have to tell the rest. I thought this was intriguing, so I tried it out. It didn’t go anywhere, but my parents liked it and it gave me a cool character to work with. So here he is.
Working for God is never easy. You’d think that people like me would have it easier, you know, being able to talk to the guy, but it turns out, the whole “God works in mysterious ways” thing, that’s really just code for “God likes to fuck with you, no matter how close to him you are.”
Most Prophets have “Hallelujah” as God’s own personal ringtone on their cell-phones. Not the one from Händel’s Messiah, though, no, most of them have that other one by Leonard Cohen, which it turns out is actually about some guy finally getting to sleep with his girlfriend or something. When I heard that, I thought that just wasn’t the right song for God. So now, anytime I hear “Baby Got Back” playing full volume at the back of my head, I know that the biggest butt in the Universe is dialing up every cell in my body trying to talk to me.
“What’s up, big guy?”
“You watching the game?” asks God.
“No,” I lie. “I was just uh… reading the Bible.”
“Put that shit down. It’s antiquated. Haven’t I told you about the new edition coming out? That old crap doesn’t include anything about not wearing white after Labor Day.”
“Sorry, big guy.”
“Anyway, I got a job for you.”
“You’re gonna love it.”
“Uh-oh.” Didn’t like the sound of that.
“I need you to go to the old abandoned school on Patton.”
“You’ll know what to do.”
I should’ve known better than to question.
“What?” says God. “You’re just gonna leave it at that?”
“That’s usually all I get.”
“I’ll give you a hint: playdate.”
I did not like the sound of that, either.
But I went over to the abandoned schoolyard because, hey, what are you gonna do, right? God blitzes you over the Psychic Weave and tells you to jump, you jump. Hell, that’s what the Weave was built for, to get us closer to God. Right?
What the hell am I doing in this abandoned school-ground?
I was expecting to see, like, oh, I don’t know, broken-down swings and slides and jungle-gyms. Turns out this used to be a high school. I never knew that. Hell, place has been shut down long as I can remember, right?
It’s got everything, though. It’s got classrooms, it’s got a cafeteria, a gym.
It’s got a football field.
You’d be surprised the creepy shit you could find at a football field late at night, especially one that’s been abandoned for upwards of thirty years. And especially if you go looking for it under the stands. It’s not just the used condoms your parents very well could have used, or the bums who break in there. You look around long enough, there are cigarette butts, candy wrappers, dead hookers, robot parts, you wouldn’t believe. Not to mention little bits of shoelace.
Little bits of shoelace. There’s this thing that happens to you when you’re on a mission from God: see, some people pick up a shoelace and go “hey, why the fuck am I holding a lousy little piece of shoelace? Ew.” Whereas I, in my Prophetic capacity, look at what essentially is a useless piece of glorified string between my fingers and suddenly I know that what I’m looking for is that way. That’s right, it’s that way, behind the half-a-tricycle, hiding over in those shadows over there, which I cleverly realize means it has to be really small, so it’s probably a kid.
I don’t like games. You’ll learn this about me. “All right,” I say. “Show’s over. Mission from God. Come out and assume the position.” But instead of falling to her knees and supplicating and repenting like a good little kid, this kid starts to speak from the shadows.
“And on the third day,” says the kid, “the oceans shall rise up against the whale. The meek shall once again inherit the Earth. And a little child shall lead them.”
Talk about mixing up Biblical verses. “What are you, kidding me?”
Something starts to stir. And from the way all the other shadows are moving, I can tell they’re scared of what that little girl can do. Kid says: “Your shadow at morning striding behind you or your shadow at evening rising to meet you.”
I say: “Come on, kid, let’s go.”
“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
And that’s when I figure out why papa bear sent me. Suddenly, every cigarette butt and half-digested teddy bear lifts up off the ground and starts coming after me. No child is capable of wielding telekinesis strong enough for something like that. Hell, kid that small shouldn’t be able to lift it at all. I couldn’t even lift all that and I’ve been studying this stuff since I was ten. What I could do, though, once it’s coming at me, is deflect it all away.
And that, in case you were wondering, is my own and not a gift from God. At least not in the sense that he was helping me cheat.
But now I knew for sure what was going on. See, half-remembered Bible verses and broken TS Eliot is all good and well, but shit flying at your head can mean only one thing: a Rogue Angel. The Psychic Weave equivalent of an Internet virus had hacked its way into this girl’s mind and now it was using her to manipulate reality. Great. This was just what I needed on my day off. Way to go, God.
There are certain words you can use, most of them are, like, Hebrew sounding, that can make things behave the way they’re supposed to. Well, I use one of them and, sure enough, everything drops to the ground. And the girl starts crying.
“Finita la commedia,” I said. Which I knew was either the Italian for “the comedy is over” or a really funny-looking Mexican dish. I finally have the sense to take out my flashlight and shine it in her face. She’s all huddled up in the corner right where she was supposed to be and looks as though she was dressed for church on Sunday, but of course it’s Thursday now under an abandoned football stadium so she’s looking pretty grim. And there’s also the little matter of her being still possessed by a demon.
All right, I’ll bite, I say to myself. “Hey, there,” I say, in my softest little voice for talking to little girls. (I don’t like kids. You’ll learn this about me.) “Hey, don’t cry, little girl. Everything’s gonna be OK.” OK, I’m starting to creep myself out.
I inch my way over to her, pretending, of course, that I’m being real careful for her feelings because I don’t want her freaking out when really, I’m just waiting for that thing inside her to come out and play. “You don’t have to be scared, little girl. Come to daddy—“ Yes, that is in fact what I said. I don’t like kids. I’m not used to them. “Come on now, that’s it, come on, you can do it, just look at me—“
And about six inches from my fingertips, the beast comes alive, glowing out of her eyes, and starts biting. Fortunately, I was ready and I hit her with the Psychic Disruptor in my other hand before she could do anything else. Psychic Disruptor, by the way, is a kind of low-level taser that makes the brain forget to go online for just long enough that things like this get confused and can’t find them for a bit. What makes the PD so attractive to Exorcists, though, is the fact that it’s shaped kind of like a cross. I know that’s what I like about it.
The girl’s eyes get just a little bit dimmer and start to get really confused. She says something in a language I don’t recognize, which is weird, because most languages that are spoken anywhere on the planet should be on the Weave. I hate it when the tech’s not up-to-date. Anyway, she looks really confused and helpless and, shit, I don’t know, like a kid? Like a kid who’s scared? So I do what you’re supposed to do, you know, I take her in my arms and try my best to shush her even though I really don’t like hugging, that’s something you’ll learn about me.
So then bitch tries to bite my ear off.
Serves me right for trying to buddy-up to some post-possessed brat under an abandoned football stadium. What was I thinking?
“He will rise!” she started screeching. “The time has come! He will rise and bring about the reckoning at last!”
“Oh, could you be any more cheesy?”
I’ve had it up to here with this Demonic idiocy. I wrench her off my chest, put my hands either side of her head, stare deep into her eyes and dive right in.
What generally happens then is that you end up in an empty room together with the person who’s possessed and the demon who’s holding them captive. Possessee, last time I did this, was strapped to a chair in the middle of the room and the Possessor was made to look like his third grade teacher.
That’s not the case right now. The inside of this girl’s head is a cathedral.
The demon in question stands at the altar, and see here’s where things start to get surreal, because this particular demon looks like an angel.
Something is seriously wrong with this girl.
So the angel, thinking he’s important just because he’s the center of attention and all standing on the altar and all that, starts preaching, starts saying that same “on the third day” crap he had the little girl saying earlier.
“Yeah, yeah, save it,” I tell him, and draw out my fiery sword. No, it’s not that I’m particularly special. Really, anyone can have a fiery sword if they’re inside a little girl’s head. Especially if they’re there to save her.
Which reminds me. Uh. Where, exactly, is that little girl?
“Hey, ugly,” I call out to the most beautiful creature in the room. “Where’s the brat? What’d you do to her?”
Instead of an answer, smoke starts to come out of the angel’s mouth.
“Is that a fact?” I said. “Well, maybe I should just go in and get her.” See, because there’s fairy tale weird and then there’s inside a little kid’s head weird.
I leap through the air at the altar, double somersaulting, flaming sword in hand, and slash at the demon, but he, being what he is, flies up into the air.
Oh, that’s how you’re playing it, is it? Well, all right then. So I sprout some wings of my own, bitch, that’s right, come and get it.
Flaming arrows? Piece of cake. The doves of peace I happen to have in my back pocket will swallow them whole. Cannons? Bazookas? I’ll ride in on a heat seeking missile and take them out. “There’s nothing you have that I haven’t seen,” I explain to the Angel/Demon. “Anything you do, you do with God’s permission and I’m His guy. You got that?”
We’re in the dome, now. Every Cathedral has a dome—why is that? Demon-boy perches himself on the inside of the curve and casually turns himself into a Dragon.
A Dragon? Seriously? I turn myself into St. Michael. What he’s gained in size, he’s lost in dexterity, so I ride in under his belly and put my flaming sword to work carving up a way for the little girl to get out. Dragon screams, I keep cutting. Dragon rubs his belly, my wings get in the way. Dragon tries to clutch at my wings, electric shocks push him back.
And I’m into the stomach and, what the crap, there’s a whole other Cathedral.
Well, you know what they say: when life gives you lemons, you suck it up and eat them. I dive right in and I guess now I’m in the Demon’s head? And there’s the little girl, sleeping on the altar.
Except this girl’s not that little. She’s gotta be about, what, eighteen? I’m gonna go with seventeen just to be on the safe side, how about that? And she’s hot. At least in the sense that flames have suddenly sprouted out, either side of the coffin. (As well they should around seventeen-year-old girls trapped in ten-year-old bodies.) The girl opens her eyes and looks around her, starts screaming for help, sees me.
I reach for my handy-dandy fire extinguisher.
Why is this not working anymore?
And where are my wings?
Oh, well, I tell myself. Guess I’ll just have to do this the old-fashioned way.
Still clutching my sword, I cut the chord of a banister like a saw in an old swashbuckler movie about Pirates or something and come swinging in, only to end up with my feet on the edge of the altar and my ass on the fire. Shit.
“Kid!” I yell over the flames, “Hey, kid, grab onto me, will you?” I’ll give her this, kid ain’t stupid. She grabs on and I let go of the altar and swing back. We land right on top of the pews and go tumbling.
I start to straighten myself out. “You mind telling me,” I say, since it’s the most important thing that comes to mind, “why you look so much older in here?”
She doesn’t answer. Probably because we’re interrupted by a full swat team, all of them with their guns trained on us. This just went from weird to worse. And me stuck here without the ability to shape-change or anything. Why’d this girl have to be so damn complicated?
The whole swat team all folds together into the same body and turns into the original angel. He, still not understanding that he’s not impressing anyone, says “There are none can stop the reckoning.”
For a moment, I just look at him. Then I look down at the sword I’ve still got in my hand. I’m so sick of this idiot, I just bury the sword in his chest. End of story.
Kid keeps looking at me. “You see,” I explain to her, “Just gotta show these demons who’s boss.”
We come out of it back under the stadium. Thank God that kid’s herself again.
Then it hits me: now I’m stuck with this kid.
I knew working for God couldn’t be that easy.
“Welcome back,” I say casually. She looks around. I suddenly remember she was speaking some gibberish earlier, might not actually understand me. So I put my hand to my mouth, hoping she’ll get the message that I want to know if she’d like a bite to eat. She’s still too out of it, though. Can’t say I blame her. Even for a demon, that was a tricky one.
I find myself wondering, as I’m leading her out of the school, what exactly makes her put a Cathedral on the inside of her head. I wonder what makes her so important to God that he sent me to get her. But most importantly, I try to figure out what the hell God meant when he told me this was a “playdate”? Kids aren’t any fun.