by Sherry Smith Gray
God is Dead. Every once in a while a magazine or newspaper would run some variation of Nietzsche’s words. Usually, it gave Him quite a chuckle. Today, He found Himself wishing it were true. Heaven is so much cooler than Florida in the summer. He rolled his eyes and inched forward another step, crowding the huge woman in the flowered shirt. She turned and glared daggers at Him, and He crossed his eyes in silly response.
A small hand tugged at the bottom of his tee shirt. He looked down into the wide eyes of his daughter. He’d adopted this time, after the last one had ended so badly. Who knew the Son of God would turn out to be a religious fanatic? Getting himself crucified, what had he been thinking? How exactly was that supposed to help? He leaned down to hear Epiphany’s question over the wheezing din of the machinery. “Daddy? How long is the wait now?” Her eyes were really the most wonderful shade of royal blue, clear and unsullied by any other color.
He smiled and ruffled her dark brown bangs. “The sign says 30 minutes, Pip. Think you can wait?”
She pouted a little but agreed that it would certainly be worth it. As He straightened, He met the eyes of a stunning woman coming towards Him in the facing row of the maze. A shock as powerful as an electric current raged through Him and He jerked His hand off the metal post as if stung. How could this be? The odds of accidentally meeting Himself anywhere on earth were patently ridiculous. There were only four parts of Him, four. He’d carefully sent Himself to far-flung reaches of the world, to live among the people as an ordinary human, to experience the perfection of His creation firsthand. He was acutely conscious of the danger. The white-hot energy of His presence, reunited even to half His totality, would leave a smoking crater where North America once was. It would throw up a dust cloud thick enough to obscure the sun and destroy every living thing on the planet inside a decade.
The woman that was He drew alongside. He knew the risk, but the temptation was nearly overwhelming. He tentatively reached a hand towards Her, and as quickly drew it back. He could see the echo of desire in Her eyes. She had certainly chosen a lovely corporeal form this go round, He thought approvingly.
He glanced around, seeking escape. Every avenue was packed solid with impatient humans, sweating profusely in the sweltering heat. There was nowhere to go. He would simply have to stick it out, half an hour wracked with temptation and desire, tempered sharply with the pain of loss. He hoped they were both strong enough to resist. They were eye to eye now, shrunk against opposite rails.
“Hey, watch it, buddy, you nearly stepped on my kid.” A hairy man with thin legs and an enormous gut, in the row on the other side, shoved Him away. When He surged forward, She jumped back, bumping into a sullen teenager with multiple facial piercings and black lipstick. The teenager, whose androgynous look gave no clue to its sex, demonstrated his masculinity by using God’s stumble to cop a feel, grinding his pelvis obscenely into Her behind. She pulled forward, repulsed, and the two of Him swayed to an uneasy distance. A mounting wave of desire broke over Them, unbeknownst to the pitiable creatures packed tightly around a potential ground zero.
Miserably, He gazed at Her face. Should He speak? Could He speak? What would He say, after thousands of years? How’s it going? What have you been up to? Have a nice day?
Fascinated, He watched Her lips part. In slow motion She whispered, “God.” He nodded in response, not trusting His own voice. The world shrank down to the two of Him. Humans suddenly seemed so unimportant. He stepped on the flip-flop of the fat woman in the flowered shirt. Angered beyond reason by the circumstances and the heat, she turned to face him, awash in the pungent stench of perspiration and generally poor personal hygiene. Planting her hand in the middle of His chest, she pushed. “Get OFF, you idiot!”
God stumbled again, this time knocking over little Epiphany, who scraped her hand on the cement walk. He picked her up gently and dried her tears. He looked up to see His compassionate other, straining to not run to Her child, to allow Him to help Pip on His own. She knew She could not help, for even a casual brush of hands would be disastrous. She had a child by the hand as well, a little boy maybe a year younger than Pip. He knew instinctively that She had chosen the same route as He; this was not the Son of God, or more accurately, not the flesh of God. He was simply an ordinary human child, with hazel eyes and blonde curly hair. When he realized that the strange man was scrutinizing him, he stuck a thumb in his little mouth and ducked his head behind his mother.
God backed up a step to avoid crowding the fat woman, landing squarely on the toes of a red-haired girl busily sucking her boyfriend’s tongue while her younger brother kicked at the legs of the people in the next row. She wailed in protest and the boyfriend, resplendent in rap star wannabe garb and crewcut hair, chested up to God like a gorilla, jerking his hands in the odd combative gestures that all the anti-establishment types on MTV use to illustrate their manly aggression.
God mumbled an apology and turned His back on crewcut, putting Pip between Himself and the fat woman, wishing the line would speed up so the danger would pass. Finally, the line moved forward all at once, and there were three bodies between Himselves. He breathed a sigh of relief. He looked over His shoulder and found Her looking back at Him. Longing and loss wracked Him, tearing His emotions as strongly as any raw act of creation.
Distracted by the weight of His desire, He accidentally bumped the little man who now stood in the place She had previously been. “Watch it.” The man rubbed his arm as if he’d been slugged and spoke in a nasally whine. “People are so inconsiderate here. We never should have come to this state, Mabel.” God apologized to the man, and, for good measure, to his skinny wife and six filthy children, all in matching orange shirts emblazoned with a gapped-tooth cartoon creature of dubious species wearing a silly hat. Mabel yanked her youngest child to her side and gave him a look that clearly said “pervert!” before the line carried them away.
The line moved forward another foot. “How long now, Daddy?” Little Pip was being extraordinarily patient in the face of such discomforting circumstances. He smiled and indicated the sign, hoping to distract her with big girl reading.
“What does that say?” He smiled encouragingly.
“20 Daddy,” she said brightly. “It says the number 20.”
“So it does,” He answered, “so that means 20 minutes more. Not too long, eh?”
“We’re getting closer,” she said importantly, proud of her math skills. “20 is way less than 30, right, Daddy?”
“Way,” He agreed, and they shuffled forward another foot. They reached the end of the run with the next step. The fat woman in the loud shirt made the turn and was now beside Him, still glaring. For the first time, He noticed that she dragged a small child in her gravitational pull, tethered to her wrist like a toy poodle. She bared her teeth at Him, overtly daring Him to bump her again. Face to face, He added bad breath to her catalogue of putrid smells. He was thankful when the line once again surged forward and He turned to the next row, putting Him behind her broad back once more. Now he was looking at the couple, still enthusiastically exchanging bodily fluids. Crewcut had worked his hand inside the redhead’s hip huggers and was rubbing her crotch while the kid with them watched in fascination. Deliberately, God slipped His foot under the rope and stepped hard on the girl’s toe. She jerked back; dislodging crewcut's hand, and God slid His foot back to His side and looked elsewhere, a consummate innocence written on His face.
Not wishing to smite these cretins in front of His daughter, He glanced around for something to occupy His gaze. He found the far end of the facing row. Once again, He was moving on a rendezvous course with Her. The powerful shock hit Him anew, taking Him again by surprise. This was something He had forgotten, this intense feeling, a lightning bolt of need and homesickness when He encountered more of Himself in corporeal form. He felt at once weakened and galvanized by His intense desire. He closed His eyes against the temptation and tried to think of baseball. The Yankees were having a good season. He listed the starting lineup and tried to recall their stats.
The line moved forward without Him. Crewcut pushed Him impatiently, as if that would somehow lessen his time in line. God took two steps to catch up, bringing Him helplessly towards Her once again.
He could see His own struggle mirrored on Her face. He looked around at the people surrounding Them. The androgynous boy who took every opportunity to rub against Her, his dead eyes glistening like polished obsidian under false black eyelashes. Followed by his group of identical friends, struggling to demonstrate their individuality by dressing exactly alike. They hooted and made obscene suggestions to their friend, egging him on, too stupid or too arrogant to sense the danger.
In front of Her, a miserable British family of five, their white skin sunburned so badly they belonged in a hospital, completely unwilling to lose even one day of their dream vacation. Beneath the loose plaid shorts on the big sweaty man lurked the unmistakable outline of a tiny bikini bathing suit. God shifted his eyes away from the disturbing visual that played across his mind.
Next in line was a group of small children surrounded by dark women in saris, draped in layers and layers of gauzy wrapped fabric. He wondered why they didn’t faint from the heat. The women never spoke or raised their eyes, not even when insulted by the boys currently facing them. There were about five boys in the group, so similar in looks they had to be brothers, ranging in age from about five to around eleven. They threw insults at the Pakistani women, each trying to outdo the other with a better insult. “Ragheads,” said one. “Camel Jockeys.” said another. “Sand Niggers,” spat the oldest. They had been well schooled in intolerance and hatred. God wondered where their parents were. He couldn’t remember whether the park had beer stands.
With a shock, He realized that He would momentarily be face to face with Her once again. He drifted into a fantasy of unity. How sublime to incorporate; to forge heaven anew once again. The act of combining would draw Himself from all parts of the globe. By the time He was whole, the earth would be completely uninhabitable, and He would have to start over. He’d done it before. He’d been completely disappointed with the results of His early designs. Single-celled organisms were boring, and dinosaurs had been cumbersome and inefficient. He’d reunited his Pterodactyl forms high above the earth, blasting all life from the planet and causing huge geographical upheavals, changing everything about the planet. If He reunited now from the surface, it would be millions of years before the earth would restore itself sufficiently to support life again. Cockroaches would probably survive, they were resilient little buggers. Now that was an efficient design.
Would that be so bad, really? Crewcut removed his hand from redhead’s breast and prodded Him again, and He brushed the fat woman’s back. A new wave of stench rolled off her as she elbowed Him in retaliation. Maybe it was time to start over. Humans had certainly not made much progress. At least the monkeys in the zoo know they’re monkeys. Humans consider themselves the top of the food chain. He snorted. Perhaps the next experiment would turn out better. He wondered if He could breed respect into a new creation. Respect for others, for Him, for the Earth, and above all, for self. He nodded. That's what humans lack, a simple sense of respect. Unfortunately, respect is a behavioral trait, not a question of genetics. Tweaking their DNA would not do the trick. Like any parent with recalcitrant offspring, He wondered where He'd gone wrong. Free will? He certainly didn't want to control their every decision, as if they were characters in a video game. What kind of a life would that be, for them or for Himself? He was surprised to discover a hard root of anger beneath His conscious musings. Yes, He was angry at the rampant disrespect of humankind. He snapped His eyes up to Her face and found Her jaw set in a familiar expression.
She was almost alongside, Her presence filling His senses. He reached for Her, and She reached back. Their fingers almost touched. A spark of energy jumped between Their outstretched fingers as They strained towards mutual desire. Another step and Their fingers would meet. In the blink of an eye, They would embrace completeness, shed their human forms, and become God once again.
“Daddy, LOOK!” Epiphany’s excited voice broke His concentration and her little body hung from His outstretched arm. “Look, Daddy we’re there! It’s Dembo, Daddy, do you see it?” Even after watching the video a hundred times, she could still not get the name quite right, and He never failed to find her pronunciation endearing.
The moment of indecision was gone. He picked up His excited child and followed the crowd into the lobby area of the ride. Shooting one last regretful look over His shoulder, God boarded the flying elephant.
Copyright © 2004 by Sherry Smith Gray