(An excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Wars.)
Otis was traveling.
Yes, I know, just a moment ago Otis was asleep in bed at his little LAN party with Sara and Sonny and Shita and the others. However, while Sara had her vengeful way with Sonny and while the others licked their wounds after the battle between them and Te Ri Si and Fred, Otis’ soul was moving outward into the vast reaches of Space, because that little lenticular cloud that had moved so quickly out to Dulce to be reconverted into its true form had deposited a single drop of the most potent serum on the ship, a serum which not only led its patient to the gates of Death itself, but which also made its patient live again, a sort of rope tied firmly to this dimension but leading to God’s.
“Ah, hello, I am the Lord God Almighty.”
Otis was not only confused, but also naked as the day he was born. Everybody who goes to God’s realm is; God wants to see how his handiwork has fared on this Earth–every scratch, every blemish, every bruise and cut and missing limb–in the same way an artist reads all the reviews after his stay at an art exhibition, to see how his art has been seen, and treasured, and abused. And, like any artist, God questions, and answers.
“And how are you, Otis?” God asked.
“Uh, all right, I suppose, although I suppose I could be better.”
“And why is that?”
“I guess because I’m dead.”
God already knew Otis was going to say that. Duh-he’s God, you know. But he still asked:
“Do you have any questions for me?”
Otis had begun to have this strange feeling that he was beginning to have his questions answered before God had even begun to speak. Answers about his purpose, and a great feeling of calm, as if the weight of the Earth were being lifted from his shoulders. But he still asked:
“What is, ah, the meaning of life, I suppose?”
“Oh, really now, Otis, you must have a different question than that? I’ve been asked that little question so many times, and it is becoming quite cliche, I must admit. Besides, I have already answered that for you.”
Otis began to think. He couldn’t just go on blabbing off to God, you know. Plus, now he knew the Meaning of Life. He had to ask his questions carefully.
“All right. Who’s right–Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, or Mormons?”
“All of them.”
“But if they’re all right, why did they have different things to say?”
“Ah, Otis,” God began, “you must understand, it’s all a matter of location and view. Now, think for a second of the Buddha and Jesus. One fasted and became fat; the other did the same and yet remained thin. Now, if you were to ask Sara and Te Ri Si about sandwiches, would they think of them in the same manner?”
A very abrupt turn of the conversation. Otis thought of Sara’s prodigious girth and moderate stature, and weighed it against Si’s wispy profile and small size. Clearly, Sara would rhapsodize on the wonder of eating–after all, she lived to eat, and was quite willing to let others go hungry, should she be given the chance to take what little food they had. On the other hand, Si fasted often and ate little, so he might have a much different opinion.
“Do you see what I mean?”
“Uh, yes, of course. All right then, God, but let me ask another question.”
“That is quite all right, my son.”
“Why do the people of Africa suffer?”
God remained silent for a moment. “It’s Tim’s fault.”
“Of course. You know, Tim. Africa’s Messiah. The one Timbuktu is named after. Most of us, me, the fat guy in China, the merchant in Baghdad, we figure out soon that you have to make it painful for women to engage in childbirth, and you can’t have monkeys living with humans, you know. Most of us, in fact, learned the ropes thousands of years ago of these things.
“But Africans have been around longer than anybody… right?”
“Ah, yes, but seniority has its penalties. Tim is currently seeing what it’s like to try to get rid of those punishments–you know, let the people run free, like they do in Australia.”
“But, don’t you rule in Australia?”
“Oh, no, you see, nobody rules down there. Too many kangaroos.”
“So why doesn’t Australia have the same problems as Africa?”
God remained silent for a moment. “You see, monkeys are evil, and Australia is protected anyway by its kangaroos. Nobody attacks a land infested by creatures that carry their young in sacks. Too dangerous. But Africa has no kangaroos, and a plethora of monkeys, not to mention elephants. Mark my words, my boy–the moment the kangaroos die off, Australia will experience a Hell Africa could only dream of. Why do you think we let the Crocodile Hunter die when he did? Because Australia will experience deep pain, that’s why! The endtimes are upon all of you!”
Otis gasped. “The endtimes?”
“Yes,” God said. “The endtimes. Terrorists from Russia and Japan are conspiring. I fear Osama Bin Laden’s ghost is somehow included. They are the first signs. They will bomb your city, and they will leave nothing in their wake. Demons from Hell will scream from their eternal prison through the fiery cracks that slither through the city, your friends will betray you. And your precious dog will die!”
Otis began to cry. His dog, die? It was a truth he could not bear.
“But do not fear, Otis. You and your friends are the four that shall prevail over the evils of the end. You must be strong. And you must not tell them what I have told you, or else you will never see your Felicity again!”
Otis again gasped through his tears. Never see Felicity’s chubby cheeks and big eyes again? No! It couldn’t be!
“And so, you must be quiet.”
“But wait a second, I don’t like Felicity. That’s Sonny.”
God paused again. “Hey, wait, you’re right. Okay, fine, if you tell, Sonny will never get to see Felicity, ever.”
“All right, fine, but if Sonny screws that relationship up I’ll kill the dumb bastard.”
“No. He’s the first horseman of the Apocalypse. You’re just the forth. He’d kick your ass.”
And so Otis returned to his body, as Sonny began to lose his mind after seeing the infinite spans of fat and folds of skin which Sara possessed and which had been exposed to his mortal eyes, and as Sara continued her plots to destroy what was left of poor Sonny, and he felt as if he now had more questions than he had ever had before, and that not only his own world, but a world he could not even comprehend, had suddenly been returned to his tired shoulders.