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Monthly Archives: October 2017

A Letter to the Empress

Dear Zeecy, (since that’s the name you want me to call you)

First of all, I want to apologize for the circumstances of my last letter to you. I know my attitude and conduct showed a liberty and familiarity much unbecoming a gentleman such as I should like to be thought. I know that, long as our acquaintance can be said to have been, it began with a single meeting and has been followed exclusively by long-distance correspondence and it has been so long–so long!–since I have seen your face. But you must believe me, I implore you, when I say that it is etched inside my brain as firmly as a nail punched into a wall of wood that’s found a fault in the grain and cracked to the ceiling. I am broken for you.

And perhaps I am mistaken in who I believe that you are. Your grace, your poise, the structures in your language and your thoughts–I hope you can understand what would lead me to believe you were more than just a peasant-turned-playwright. The way you moved at that ball all those years ago, it seemed you were playing the sun, effortlessly inviting the entire room to revolve around you. And I, a comet from far abroad, was caught. I fell down your gravity well and now I’m drowning, spiralling closer to your surface.

But perhaps I’ll never reach you. Even if you are no more than who you claim to be, you are hailed as the most influential poetess of all time, the most groundbreaking playwright ever known, and I, a fourth-rate bumbler with a chip on my shoulder, from a fallen race. How can I hope to meet with you? How can I hope to compete?

Please, though, dearest Zeecy, please, from the bottom of this gravity well you’ve plunged me in, I beg of you, cease this silence. I will believe whatever you want to present me, I will address you how you wish to be addressed, and without question. But please, do not let my heavy heart stand in the way of our friendship and our correspondence. It has meant the world to me and I cannot but think it’s meant something to you. Therefore, please, milady, please, my Empress of Muses, speak to me. Lend me a place in orbit around your heart, and I will be

Eternally Yours,

Lornian Lothcar

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Monkey Business

It’s kind of weird. When you first meet him and people tell you he’s the hottest guy on campus, you’re, like, “for real? That guy? You look at the way he dresses in those baggy pants, how he walks all kind of bowlegged and slouched down, he’s kind of funny-looking, like his face was baked a little too long after molding and got cracked.

But seriously, once you get to know him, there’s this, like, bizarre animal magnetism that he, like, exudes or something.

I first met him when he started dating my roommate. I woke up from my nap–I take naps in the middle of the day a lot, don’t judge me I’m in college–and they were fooling around on the top bunk, so I told them to shut up and so, they were surprised, because, like, I guess they hadn’t noticed I was there?

Anyway, so he peeks his sub-human-looking face down with a grin like a chimp whose poo just hit the mark and then does this acrobatic somersault off the bed, before exiting the room in a hurry to let Olivia apologize to me (Olivia’s my roommate).

So, like, on the way watching him I noticed how hairy his chest was, because I, like, love hairy chests a lot more than I probably should, but what I didn’t really notice at the time until Olivia started complaining about it was the fact he was wearing pants.

Turns out, he sleeps with all these girls, right? But he never takes off his pants. Or shoes.

Which wouldn’t really bother me, because, like, whatever, I never take off my shirts ‘cause my boobs are all, whatever, but Olivia has this thing about, like, skin, so she was all disappointed and kept whining about it.

Anyway, so that was my first exposure to this boy, but it was not the last. Like I said, I like my chests hairy (well, not mine, of course) and everyone–everyone–kept talking about how epic he is in the sack, so I thought, hey, why not? Get to know him a little.

So yeah, so I fell in love and, like, whatever. You know this story. You really like him, so you don’t want to sleep with him, because then he has all the power? And it worked, of course, ‘cause, like, he’s a guy, hello! Putty in my hands. But then, like, once we’re together, I start thinking, like…

Well, OK, it’s like this–the whole breasts thing? He’s a breast man and, like, I’ve always been, like, you know. But he kept, like, saying all the right things, making all the right noises, and so, in the end, I got over it.

That was when the pants thing started bothering me. “That’s different,” he kept saying. And it wasn’t just the pants, it was his shoes, too, he wouldn’t take his shoes off, he’d just dangle them over the bed. “That’s different,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with your boobs.”

“So what’s wrong with your legs? Are they, like, robotic? Are they covered in, like, scars? ‘Cause that’s actually kinda hot.” But, like, he didn’t even like me touching his ass, and it was freaking me out.

So finally, he’s like, “Do you really wanna know?”

And I’m, like, “Yeah, asshole, I really want to fucking know what my boyfriend looks like with no pants on!”

Yeah, that might have been a mistake. I mean, sure, yeah, it’s better knowing, but…

So he starts pulling his pants down and his legs are, like, really hairy and I remember thinking, like, having a flash of, like, oh my God, is he a dog? So he gets them all the way down and finally, he takes off his shoes.

OK, so you know when you’re looking at a naked foot how you know that it’s a naked foot you’re looking at? Well… not with him.

His foot, I swear to God, has an opposable fucking thumb on it. Like, not completely, but, like, he could grab onto stuff, that was long enough.

And I’m, like, going, holy shit, no wonder he’s embarrassed, he’s, like, deformed or something.

And then I felt something long and hairy crawling up my back and I saw that it was coming from, like, under his ass, where he was sitting. And it tapped me on the shoulder and, like, rubbed me a little there–rubbed me so totally the wrong way.

Not that there’s a right way for your boyfriend’s tail–actual tail!–to rub you.

Well, I mean, honestly, what would you do? What would you do if you found out you’d been fucking a monkey?

I ran. I ran clear out the room, into the hall, running down the stairs. Running for my life, right? Running for my sanity! Who is this guy? What is this guy? Is he even a guy? He’s a Monkey! OH MY GOD I’M DATING A FUCKING MONKEY!

And then down two of the three flights of stairs, I hear him calling after me, and then hear a weird whooshing and clanging. He’s not running down the stairs, he’s not even leaping over every flight, he is actually using his hands–the ones on his arms and the ones on his *shudder* feet–to swing and flip from one railing to the other, just skipping right over the stairs part.

So I get to the door and he’s caught up to me–’cause not all of us can fucking brachiate–and just as I’m reaching for the door, that creepy fucking tail comes out of nowhere and slams it back shut and then he’s dangling from the pipes on the ceiling by his arms and his feet–those feet! The ones with the thumbs!–are on my face, covering my mouth.

“Shh! Shhh!” he tells me, “Shhhh!”

And fuck if I don’t calm right down when he says it. It’s those cute fucking puppy-dog eyes. It’s that beautiful hairy chest, that charm, and… I don’t know, it’s like I just know this… guy. This boy. My boyfriend.

“Shhhh,” he says. “It’s me,” he says. “It’s still me.”

And fuck if I don’t believe him. And fuck if I don’t fall right back in love with him.

Fucking monkey.


“Nobody’s Wife”

Aly kind of disappeared after high school, too. She didn’t go off to college, though. Not right away. If you’ve been paying attention—if any of us had been paying attention—it should have been obvious where she would go, what she would do with all her free time.

She needed to find her mother.

I never thought of Aly as my half-sister. I mean, we grew up together, there was really no need. But I think we all did think of Nancy—our mom—as her stepmom. I’m sure on some level, Nancy always thought that, too. I mean, there are baby pictures of mom holding Aly when she was like, I don’t know, six months old? But she isn’t holding her like a mother. She’s holding her like you hold someone else’s child, especially when you don’t have kids or haven’t been around them much: entranced by the cuteness, but just a little bit freaked out.

We always knew so little about Aly’s real mom, and honestly, we didn’t know what to do with that. We figured Dad would’ve told us if there was anything, really, to know. But we weren’t really thinking about how Aly felt about it. Because, I don’t know, we were stupid? And then Dad left, our collective worlds were shattered, the past became a landmine, maybe, but I guess not exactly the same way for Aly.

Our dad had always been the sometimes-absent glue holding our family together. He was a nice guy, or seemed to be, and we all trusted he had our best interests at heart. I guess Aly must’ve trusted him that way, too, until she didn’t. And once she didn’t trust him anymore, she wondered about all the things he might have been lying about.

What she found was disappointing, but hardly a surprise.

Jessica Kelley. That was the name on Aly’s birth certificate, and she wasn’t easy to track down, but she managed eventually. Tracked her to a trailer park in Kansas. When she got there, she found a guy only a little older than her hanging out on what passed for a front porch, tuning a fiddle while rocking in a rocking chair. “What you want?” asked Carter Mitchell. (His name she would find out soon enough.)

She thought he might look a little familiar, but shook the feeling off. She told him who she was looking for.

“What you want her for?”

“I’m her daughter.”

Carter Mitchell stopped rocking in his rocking chair. “Say what?”

Her mom was his mom, too.

“I always thought I sort of remembered mom having another kid out there,” Carter told her inside. He decided to make her some bacon, ‘cause he had it and he could. “I don’t know. We never talked about you, but I know how she got real sad sometimes.

“We got any other brothers and sisters? I mean, from mom’s side?”

“I got some halvsies on my dad’s. But nah, momma never did settle down, not after… well, not after you, I guess.”

It made Aly feel that much more sad, knowing her mom had been restless, maybe never gotten over the loss.

She didn’t stay sad long.

Soon enough, Jessica got back from work.

“Carter, what the hell you doing bringing your girlfriends around here without telling me first?”

“She ain’t my girlfriend, momma. She’s my sister.”

A momentary beat, trying to catch up. “Now you tell your daddy I don’t wanna have nothing to do with—“

“His daddy ain’t mine,” said Aly, looking at her mother for the first time.

The woman who’d given birth to her was in her mid-forties now. She would never have recognized her—in fact, she suspected she’d actually seen her earlier, in the diner she’d stopped at on the way, and hadn’t had a clue.

Jessica wanted to know an awful lot of things about her dad. She asked about her growing up, things she did, mistakes that might have been—but after a while, Aly realized none of the questions were really about her.

“I always knew your daddy’d fuck up some day,” said Jessica. “I just wish I’da been there when he did.

Aly didn’t feel any closer to her mother when she left that day. If anything, she felt more alienated. And, ironically, perhaps a little closer to her father.

“Hey, don’t mind her, what she said,” said Carter Mitchell. “I know she comes off like a heartless bitch, but she means well, you know? It’s not like she don’t… you know.”

All in all, Carter ended up being a better friend to her after that than her mom ever would be. Which is sad, I guess. But also kind of beautiful. She even brought him home to meet us. It ended up being kind of awkward, but not by that much, I guess.


New!

“What’s wrong with inventing new things?”

Galena Trinidad had had quite enough of her sister’s nonsense. “If I want to make something, that should be my right, I should be able to do it.”

“But why are you doing it?” asked Astrella Trinidad.

“Because it’s fun!” Galena insisted. “Am I not even supposed to have fun?”

The invention really was quite stupid. It did something that a hundred other things—including human hands—could already do, so it really didn’t add any contribution to human experience.

“But it’s cool!” Galena insisted.

And it was, she supposed. The whirligigs and the doo-dads spinning created a sense that, even if the result was as banal as peeling a hard-boiled egg, Science was happening!

“But I don’t get it!” Astrella confessed. She couldn’t quite articulate what she thought was wrong with it. Later on, though, when she learned about environmental issues and about waste problems, it all started to become clearer to her.

“It’s wasteful,” she finally concluded. Galena had invented something “new”, an automatic tooth-brushing machine that would brush your teeth for you while you were watching TV or reading or taking a bath (“Because it’s also water-proof! See?”)

“Now you’re just inventing things for the sake of inventing them!” Astrella protested. “Who’s going to buy these things?”

That was a question she probably shouldn’t have asked. By the time they were fourteen, Galena already had two patents for every year she’d been alive and five more pending, with seven of them already having caught the attention of multinational corporations.

“You’re kidding me, right?” said Astrella. “You think these so-called inventions are going to help your company? Make operations more efficient?”

“Oh, of course not,” said the multinationals. “We’re going to market them as curiosities. We’re going to mass-produce them, sell at least five million units of each.”

“And who’s actually going to buy them?”

Again, the wrong question. “Everyone will buy them. Everyone will want one. We have ways of making people want things.”

The right question would have been, “Who the hell is going to use them?”

Of the five million units of her automatic bubble-blowing machine for kids’ bubble-blowers, all but seven hundred (which were damaged either in production or transport) were sold. Of the ones that were sold, though, only half were ever used, and only a single thousand (one out of almost 5000, total) were used more than once.

“See?” Galena said, looking at the sales figures. “People really like my products!”

Astrella, meanwhile, devoted her efforts and career towards creating and encouraging new ways to cut down on waste not just by reducing it industrially, but through recycling techniques and experimental uses of algae to digest plastic and even rusted metals back into inert or even bio-degradable substances.

Everyone who knew the sisters agreed that Galena was the happier of the two. (She was certainly the richer.) But history will remember Astrella Trinidad as the woman who saved the world from the terror of encroaching humanity.


Reclaiming Romance

MICHELLE: Oh. Hey.

DARRYL: Hi.

MICHELLE: There you are.

DARRYL: You looking for me?

MICHELLE: Um. Yes, actually.

DARRYL: Shoot.

MICHELLE: Are you busy? I mean, am I…

DARRYL: Interrupting?

MICHELLE: Am I going to be too distracting?

DARRYL: That depends. What do you need?

MICHELLE: I just… I wanted to talk to you about…

DARRYL: Yes?

MICHELLE: I heard you have a girlfriend.

DARRYL: Did you. And where did you hear that?

MICHELLE: Does it matter who I heard it from?

DARRYL: Was it Amber?

MICHELLE: No, actually.

DARRYL: Was it Jeffrey?

MICHELLE: It was Rachel. Rachel told me that you have a girlfriend.

DARRYL: OK. Not sure how Rachel knows, but what else did she tell you?

MICHELLE: Is it true she’s only fifteen?

DARRYL: What??

MICHELLE: Oh, good. So she’s not?

DARRYL: No! She’s seventeen.

MICHELLE: Darryl!

DARRYL: What? What?

MICHELLE: I’m just… I’m worried about you.

DARRYL: Why?

MICHELLE: Seriously?

DARRYL: Seriously. ‘Cause I can think of a lot of reasons why a person might be worried, and I want to know which one you think applies.

MICHELLE: She’s seventeen.

DARRYL: I noticed. And?

MICHELLE: And you’re not.

DARRYL: I am aware.

MICHELLE: So… it’s illegal.

DARRYL: First of all, the laws are different in North Carolina.

MICHELLE: I’m sorry—what?

DARRYL: Yep. Look it up. North Carolina age of consent is sixteen.

MICHELLE: You have got to be kidding me.

DARRYL: Nope.

MICHELLE: And you think that—

DARRYL: What?

MICHELLE: You think that makes it okay?

DARRYL: Why is this upsetting to you?

MICHELLE: Because you’re my friend!

DARRYL: I’m not in any danger. I’m not doing anything illegal. I’m not going to be getting into trouble. Not even with her parents. They like me. So.

MICHELLE: I just…

DARRYL: What? You think it’s sketchy?

MICHELLE: I didn’t say that!

DARRYL: You didn’t have to.

MICHELLE: Is it… is it that girl from this summer?

DARRYL: Lydia. Yes.

MICHELLE: How do you… How do you feel about her?

DARRYL: I like her a lot.

MICHELLE: That’s good. Look, I didn’t mean to—

DARRYL: I’m not having sex with her.

MICHELLE: What?

DARRYL: We are dating. We are not having sex.

MICHELLE: Why not?

DARRYL: Seriously?

MICHELLE: I’m just, I’m sorry, I’m just not sure, you know, what to do with, where to put that, you know?

DARRYL: Why do you, of all people, have to put it anywhere?

MICHELLE: Why did you even bring it up?

DARRYL: Because you seemed… concerned.

MICHELLE: I am.

DARRYL: Why?

MICHELLE: I… I don’t know, I guess just ‘cause I didn’t realize—how is it sixteen? How is that even—

DARRYL: I don’t know. I wasn’t consulted.

MICHELLE: But you’re good, though? You’re fine with…

DARRYL: What? Not having sex? Why would that bother me? I wasn’t having sex when I didn’t have a girlfriend. At least now, well… I have a girlfriend.

MICHELLE: Who’s seventeen.

DARRYL: You keep coming back to that.

MICHELLE: Isn’t it weird?

DARRYL: Yes. Which is why I haven’t been advertising it.

MICHELLE: OK. Yeah.

DARRYL: Look. I like her. A lot. We’re… compatible.

MICHELLE: Compatible?

DARRYL: Yes. She lets me be…

MICHELLE: Yourself?

DARRYL: Romantic. I can… gaze at her and have it not be weird, she’ll even reward me with a smile if she catches me at it. I can bring her flowers. I can write her really bad poems and recite them to her. I can smell her hair and listen to her breathing while she’s asleep and… she won’t judge me for it. Hell, she won’t even mock me.

MICHELLE: And you don’t think it’s—

DARRYL: Yes. I do. But when it’s just me and her, that doesn’t matter.

MICHELLE: But isn’t it like… I mean, she’s only seventeen!

DARRYL: Go on.

MICHELLE: Those things are supposed to come off as romantic when you’re seventeen!

DARRYL: Are they? That’s weird. No one seemed to think that when I was seventeen. Least of all you—

MICHELLE: You know what I mean—

DARRYL: Yes, I do know what you mean: what you mean is that those things are only creepy when they’re coming from someone that you aren’t in love with. And then you’re implying—or at least it sounds like you’re implying—that the only reason she’s in love with me is because she’s only seventeen. Well, thank you for that. As though that wasn’t exactly the ledge I’ve been trying to talk myself down from. But whatever this is, I am enjoying it. I am. And if you were really my friend, you would let me enjoy it.

MICHELLE: That’s not fair.

DARRYL: Isn’t it? Have you ever actually seen me happy?

MICHELLE: Haven’t I?

DARRYL: What do you think?

MICHELLE: You have been avoiding me, haven’t you?

DARRYL: Is that how it feels to you? Because I haven’t been seeking you out?

MICHELLE: So you were still…

DARRYL: In love with you? Yes. I mean, you know, take that word “love” with as much salt as you need to make it palatable. But yeah, I was. I have been.

MICHELLE: But why didn’t you—

DARRYL: I did!

MICHELLE: But—

DARRYL: Did I ever tell you I wasn’t? That I’d gotten over it? Did I ever tell you I’d stopped? What, you just thoguht you would say “Let’s be friends instead” and I’d stop having feelings for you? Just because you didn’t reciprocate—in what world would that mean I’d… There is only one cure for a broken heart, Michelle. It can’t be fixed. It has to be replaced.

MICHELLE: So you’re… saying that I broke your heart, and now this Lydia girl’s brought you a new one?

DARRYL: Until she breaks that one, too. She’s too good for me, I have no illusions about that.

MICHELLE: You’re pretty good, though. All right, well. Um. Good luck, I guess.

DARRYL: Michelle?

MICHELLE: Yeah?

DARRYL: Thank you. For your concern.


The Sportsball Metaphor

In the two-party system of American politics, we like to think of everything as though it’s a team sport. The goal is the presidency and the ball, which must be handled with such specific care, is the electorate.

But much as this might be a good model for how things are (how they are presented) it is a terrible representation of how things ought to be.

So imagine this instead: the players are the politicians (in a true democracy, this should mean that the electorate gets to play, too) and the ball is an issue. Take, for example, because it’s so controversial, abortion. One goal is allowing it, the other is making it punishable. (Prevention is, of course, a whole other ballgame.)

What team you are on depends entirely on how you feel about that particular issue.

But that is not the only ball in play. Say there is another ball—the first was a basketball, this one’s for soccer—only this one represents building a wall between our country and the one next door. One goal represents building it, the other represents doing something more useful with our cash.

The problem is, though, the teams aren’t necessarily the same. One person who hates abortion might crave a wall, but another might be disadvantaged because of it. A third might have no opinion at all—if passed the ball, she might shrug it off and pretend she’s not playing. The same is true of the other side, because there is nothing about these two bills that suggests the one flows from the other, besides a pernicious fiction that one set of priorities is “good” as a whole and the other is “evil”.

We’ve been trying to yoke all of the goals together by party and now we are surprised that more and more players hate our two-party system and are refusing to vote.


Working for God

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.”

“Oh?”

“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.”

“And?”

“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.