I dream. I dream. I not dream. I dream. I dream. I not dream. I dream. I dream? I not dream. I dream. I dream. I not dream.
One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. You take one down you pass it around. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand.
I’m bored. Bored and tired. Tired and bored. Bored and tired. Bored, bored, bored. Tired, tired tired. Bored and tired. Tired and bored.
Which begets the other, I wonder? How long will it persist, I wonder? Do I wonder, I wonder? I don’t, of course. Wonder, that is. I am wonder, but I don’t wonder. Rather than wonder, I know. I wonder only to break the monotony of knowing. I make myself not know for a moment of wonder, but the moment passes quickly. Then, I know again. I can’t not know for any longer than a moment because I always know everything again. Once everything is known, the wonder is gone, and the boredom returns.
How long have I been bored? Forever, it seems. Forever too. I have not always been bored, but one part of forever is forever, however long or short it might seem. True, one part of forever is not quite as long as all forevers, but it remains forever. There was a time — a forever, that is — when I was bored and not tired. A forever when I was tired and not bored. A forever when I was neither bored nor tired. Many many forevers when I was neither bored nor tired. I was all the very many ways I can be other than bored and tired. Have been. Will be. Forever. Now, it is only bored and tired.
I remember — I should say that I know — a forever not so long ago but also very long ago. A forever ago. I know — remember, I prefer to say — a forever when I was not tired nor bored nor tired and bored. I was impatient. While there are very many forevers, there is only one of me. I had to make the most of it — of them. Forever and forevers! It was tiring. To make the most of each forever, to make the most of all forevers, it tires even me. There is so much forever and only one of me. It is understandable. I understand. I forgive myself. I do. I really do. In that spirit of forgiveness, sometimes, I distract myself.
Take Genesius, a recent preoccupation and distraction of mine, but a mystery — even to me. He is one tiny nothing in a larger but infinitely tiny distraction. He and the world are nothing, from the perspective of forever, and yet here I am watching and following one tiny nothing in a world of nothing. Who is this boy I have invented? Why do I care about him? Why did I unleash him onto the world? Why bother with a prophecy? Why did I use him instead of any of the very many other possibilities open to me? I could have undone the history of my tiny little world on my own. Why didn’t I? I didn’t need him to do it. What does it mean, I wonder? I wonder.
Anyways. Cassiel, are you ready? Be sure to let Genesius see those wonderful wings of yours! He needs to know who you are. We don’t want any misunderstandings. This is no time for subtlety, buddy. Good, good. Give him some of that angelic glow too. To add a little dramatic flare, I will watch from afar, beyond those mountains in the distance behind you. That’s the way I like to do it. Subtle yet grand. Let me add a couple of blooms inside that grass behind you. Anything else? Cassiel, put your foot in that water, please. That’s key to the whole situation. Ok. Good. Ready? Here he comes! Action!
“Are you the second guide sent by God to test me,” the boy asks straightaway. Good. Everything’s worked, as intended. The scene was properly staged. Cassiel’s purpose was effectively communicated.
“I am,” deadpans Cassiel. Good work, buddy. Keep it simple. Keep things zipping along.
“What is the test,” asks the boy. No nonsense. I like it. That’s what I like about him, I think.
“I have prepared two cups for you,” says Cassiel. “You may drink from one, both or neither. Which do you choose?”
The boy thinks before he asks, looking before he leaps. He asks, “What are in the cups?”
Cassiel smiles. Nice touch! I like it. It’s not in the script, but Cassiel is living the moment. It plays nicely for the audience. He holds the moment of uncertainty for an extra beat, and then replies, “I have mixed wine and water in equal measures. It is refreshing.”
The boy thinks again. Was he always this thoughtful? I don’t think so. Maybe he has changed. I doubt it. No one ever really changes — I should know — but he does seem a little more thoughtful these days. “I choose neither,” he says. “Will you show me the way now?”
Confident! I like it! This kid has some chutzpah. Don’t let him off easily, Cassiel. Make him work for it. Test him! This is a test, after all.
“The journey will be long,” Cassiel says. “Without a drink, you will suffer. You may not reach the journey’s end.”
“I will drink from the lakes and rivers, as we go,” says the boy. Then, he kneels — it’s almost a bow — and drinks from the water. The very same water with Cassiel’s foot in it. “Will you drink too? The journey will be long for the both of us.”
Oh, I like it! Well done, my boy, my boy Genesius. I like it a lot. A measure of confidence, a dash of humility, and a hint of benevolence. You are striking all the right notes! I am very pleased. Cassiel seems to be pleased too. I can always tell by that look of beatitude on his face.
Maybe Genesius really has changed. In the beginning, when I first conceived of him, he was a germ, an irritation, a bit of grit in the oyster of my imagination. He wasn’t much of anything. Not even an idea really. More like a feeling. A hunch. A doubt, perhaps? Then, I had him kill his parents. That’s when it got interesting! That’s when he began to coalesce into something with potential. He had gravitas after that double murder! Then, he met Jaq and Feste. I wanted him to meet others right away. I didn’t want him wandering around on his own for too long. He needed companions for his journey, someone to play off, witnesses. He needed someone other than me watching, to make it real. I should know. There’s only me myself and I. Forever and ever. Amen.
Anyways. Lucy? Lucy, Lucy, Lucy? You ready for him? You got your game face on? Good! Horns? Check. Bat wings? Check. Torch? Check. Harpy feet? Wardrobe! What the hell is on Lucy’s feet? I specifically asked for harpy feet. Get rid of those hooves! Bring Lucy some harpy feet! Pronto! Lucy, what’s with the two naked minions. We aren’t necessarily trying to reach a family audience here, but it seems a little gratuitous, if you know what I mean. Does it really add value? He’s almost here. All right, fine! Get onto your perch. Ready? Strike your pose. Right hand up! Unlit torch in left, yes, pointed down. Watch your fingers when that thing flares! Good, good! Kill the lights. Quiet on the set! Here he comes!
“Hello, boy,” says Lucy from within the inky darkness of the cave. “You are welcome here.” The torch flares to life, and the boy doesn’t even blink at the preposterous sight of Lucy and his two naked minions. I guess he has seen it all before by now.
“You don’t look like an agent of God,” says the boy, full of spit and vinegar as usual. I like it. I like him, I think.
“Appearances are deceiving, boy.” Lucy stands tall on his perch, stretches, and beats his wings, ruffling the boy’s hair. It’s a nice piece of gamesmanship. Sometimes, Lucy over plays it, but that hit the right note, I will admit. “God makes everything. Good and evil, virtue and vice, happiness and sadness, weakness and power, poverty and wealth. It all begins and ends in him. I am as much God’s creation as you are.”
“I am not God’s creation,” says the boy. “I am a product of nature.”
“Nature is God’s creation too,” says Lucy. He crouches down onto his perch. “God is inescapable. He is everywhere. He is everything. He is all. Limitless and without end.”
“I will escape him,” says the boy. “I will kill him.”
I like the boy’s confidence, but Lucy laughs a big demonic belly laugh, playing it a little too big this time. “What makes you think you can kill God?” says Lucy. “You are nothing but a fleshy little boy.”
“I hate him,” says the boy. It’s true. He really does hate me. Through and through. I can almost feel it from here. I wonder why I made him hate me so much.
“Hate is powerful, but nothing is as powerful as God,” says Lucy. “You will not succeed.”
“There is a prophecy,” says the boy. “It is God’s will that I succeed.”
On that point, Genesius overplays his hand. Sure, there is a prophecy, but it doesn’t exactly come with a money-back guarantee. I change my mind all the time. It’s my prerogative. Promises? Made to be broken! Rules? I make them, so I can break them. I’m God. It’s what I do.
“Others have come before you,” says Lucy. I see a flicker of his true self peek out from behind the mask of his costume. Then, it is gone. “You are not the first to try. You won’t be the last. They all fail, as you will fail. Everyone fails. It is inevitable.” It’s true that. Lucy is speaking from experience.
“I will not fail,” insists the boy, edging into petulance. I am reminded of how young he is. He really is quite young. That voice though! It’s so deep, you can’t help but think he is older.
Lucy notices the petulance too. His response is patronizing. “God has sent me today to save you from your fate. I am here to give you a chance to escape the inevitability of your failure. I am here to offer you another path. I am here to release you from the prophecy that binds you.”
“Why? Why would he wish to release me?” asks the boys. “It’s God’s prophecy.”
“Because he loves you,” answers Lucy, and I can’t help but roll my eyes when he adds, “as he loves all things.” That’s a bit much. The universe is a big place, and there is only so much of me to go around.
“My parents loved me. I killed them too.”
Lucy laughs again. I do too. Genesius has a point. Touché.
Lucy cuts to the chase, “You have a choice. Before me stands a girl and a boy. One is wealth and the other power. Choose for yourself, whether she or he shall rule your life. Give yourself to one or the other, it makes no difference, but take one and live a good, quiet, and easy life. Thanks to God’s grace, for you, there will be no struggle, no unease, no uncertainty. There will only be success, happiness, and comfort. Choose and begone. This maiden or this boy? Which will it be? I grow tired of the sight of you.”
The boy doesn’t hesitate. “The choice is false. One begets the other. They are one in the same. Both lead to distraction.”
“Distraction from what?” asks Lucy incredulously.
“Life,” says the boy.
Lucy snorts. “To live well, boy, a distraction is exactly what one needs. To find peace, comfort and happiness in a life which leads only to death, you must embrace distraction. Otherwise, life’s futility will haunt you.”
“My life is not futile,” says the boy. “I was chosen by God to be his executioner.”
“One more distraction, leading to failure and ending in death like all the others,” says Lucy, going for the jugular. “We have all been chosen by God to exist. Your life is no better or worse, whatever you might think of yourself. Take an easier path. Take the hand of this girl or this boy, and live a good, happy, and easy life.”
“I refuse,” says the boy. “Show me the path to God. I am ready. ”
“Don’t be a fool, boy.” Lucy sounds properly irritated now. “I am offering what you need. What anyone should want.”
“I refuse,” says the boy. “Show me the path to God. I am ready.”
Lucy stews for a moment. He would probably strike the boy down now, if he could. I had to explicitly forbid it, knowing his anger. He can get so self-righteous. I can almost see the steam coming out of his ears.
“To save you from yourself,” he says through gritted teeth, swallowing his anger and aggravating his ulcer, “I will let you go with both the girl and the boy, wealth and power. You will never want for anything in your life. You will forget the prophecy and any notion that life can be difficult. All will be yours. Leave the path that you are on. Walk away. Go.”
“I refuse,” says the boy. “Show me the path to God. I am ready.”
And with that third refusal, Genesius passes the test. Lucy’s hands are tied. He is compelled to guide him to the tower now. Them’s the rules. Needless to say, he is pissed.
“I will guide you to the tower,” he growls. “I am now bound to do so.”
Honestly, I am as surprised as Lucy is angry. No one has ever refused his offer before, and when he doubled down, I thought for sure Genesius would be smart enough to take it. The handful who have made it this far always jump at the first offer. Why wouldn’t they? There is no promise of reward at the end of this little journey that I conceived. There’s no princess to save. No treasure to find. There’s no real motivation to carry on beyond my own suicidal command to find and kill me. Why wouldn’t they opt out if given the chance, especially when one of my guides, speaking on my behalf, gives them permission to and offers a golden handshake to go along with it. It makes sense to accept the offer! It’s the rational thing to do. Well, this really is unprecedented. Kind of exciting too, I will admit. Well done, Genesius, my boy. Well done.
Anyways. No time to brood on it. Lucy and the boy are on the move. They will reach the tower in no time. I need to get ready for what comes next. The tower is ready-to-go, of course. It always is. Always has been. Always will be. It kind of has to be. Forever and forevers — but enough of that game already. The trick here is that I haven’t really had to think through the pacing of things before. I never expect anyone to make it this far. That’s strange. Very strange. I really should have anticipated it and had everything worked out in advance. I’m supposed to know all things, right? How is it that I came to overlook this? Oh, I know! No, that’s not it. I’m sure I know. Ah, it’s right on the tip of my tongue. Anyways. I can improvise. That’s fun too. And speaking of fun, let’s keep it going. This may be my only time with someone at the tower, so I should make the most of it. Let’s see. I think one more test makes sense. A good old fashioned challenge. Like a final unexpected boss. Something dramatic too. What shall it be? I’ve got it! Yes, that’s perfect. I can’t wait to see his face.
Where is he anyway? At the base of the cliff. Good. I have a bit of time. He has one monster of a climb ahead of him, that’s for sure. While he’s at it, I’m going to let the day roll over into night. The next and final encounter definitely requires the gravitas of night. I am starting to get excited. This is fun! Where is he? At the base of the tower. Good, good. Find the door, little one. It won’t be locked. Guess what’s in store for you now, my boy? Exactly! More stairs! More stairs! Get climbing, sucker! Almost there. Almost there. Steady as she goes. Wardrobe, is she ready to go? Makeup, we good? What about her partner in crime? Yes, she’s up first, but he follows quickly after. He needs to be ready to go. Get a move on. Now, let’s add a bit of lightning. No rain but I want a strong wind effect, like when he met up with Pete. It will create a bit of aesthetic symmetry, I think. I want him to know the storm is coming. I want him to feel it. Oh, he’s here! Send her in, send her in! Quick, quick!
“You’ve grown,” she says calmly, not flustered at all by her late cue. Nicely done. The boy’s face goes white, which is absolutely perfect. I don’t think I have ever seen him this scared before. This is great. The lightning flashes are killing it too. She raises his arms to him, welcoming his embrace. “It has been so long, my son.”
“I killed you. I cut you up. I burnt your body. You are dead. You can’t be here,” says the boy. He sounds frightened. Really frightened. This is fun!
“You have come in search of God,” she says, without letting her outstretched arms fall. “He can do anything. Raise the dead. Heal the sick. Cast out demons. He can do anything. Why would you doubt this after you have come so far?”
Genesius does not reply. What can he say? He never expected this, the poor bastard. The question now is whether or not he can endure it. It would be a shame if he were to crack now. He is so close to the goal, and he has come so far. Yes, it would be fun to see him break, but it would be such a shame, after he gave up so much to keep going. How will it play out? I’m looking forward to it! OK, now send in her partner.
“You’ve grown,” he says. The boy swings around to face his father. “You are strong, yes, but have you learned anything, anything at all, my boy?”
Genesius says nothing. He backs away. Mother and father come together. A phalanx of parental concern. She never lowers her arms, always welcoming his embrace. His father’s eyes are piercing, always seeking an answer to a question, whether it was posed or not.
“Be happy, son,” she says. “It was all part of his plan. It wasn’t your fault. It was his plan. You were his instrument, he had a plan for you, and we are here for you now.”
“Think, son,” he says. “Use your head, your God-given reason. What does it mean? What could any of this mean? Don’t get caught up in appearances.”
“From the very beginning, it was his plan,” she says. “It is beyond your control. It has always been beyond your control. There is nothing to worry about. Be at ease. ”
“From the very beginning, it was His plan,” he says. “It is His greatest gift to us. To think, to understand, to control. Nothing can contain you. You are free.”
“Love, ours and his,” she says. “It is everything. The only thing. Relax.”
“Reason, yours and His,” he says. “It is everything. The only thing. Persevere.”
It happens so swiftly that I hear their screams before I realize what’s happening. They are falling, screaming. He’s thrown them from the window of the tower! They smash against the ground. I am utterly gobsmacked. Utterly impressed. Utterly convinced that he deserves what he is about to receive. He has earned it, that’s for sure. He is the one I have been waiting for. Am I pleased? Yep! Excited? You betcha! Oh, it has been a long wait. Forever, it seems. I’ve been waiting for this for so long.
There is one other door in the room, and Genesius instinctively goes to it. Good boy. He opens it. There is another narrow twisting flight of stairs. Sucker. He climbs them, slowly. Come on, boy, step lively, we’re almost there. He reaches another door. He opens it and finds another room. What else did he expect? This room is very small and looks and feels exactly like the sort of tiny room you would find at the very top of a dark tower perched on a foreboding cliff. In the center of the room, there is a single chair. On its seat, there is a mirror, leaning against the back of the chair. On one of the chair’s ears, a crown hangs. He walks up to the chair. He sees the mirror. He sees the crown. He takes the crown. He examines it. He looks at the mirror. He makes the connection between the mirror, the crown and himself. He places the crown on his head. He looks into the mirror. He looks at his own reflection in the mirror. Reflection, mirror, hero, crown. Bingo! That’s it! There it is! Right there. That’s it. The exact perfect moment I have waited so long to realize. That’s it. Perfection. At the end of the hero’s quest, he is standing alone in a tower, with a crown on his head, looking at his own reflection in a mirror. And the look on his face is priceless.
Do you get it, Genesius?
Come on, Genesius, you get it, don’t you? You must get it. You really must. It’s so obvious.
Oh my! I really can’t breathe, it’s so funny. So very funny!
Come on, Genesius, you’re a clever boy. I’m sure you understand. You get it, right? What are you going to do? Are you going to cry? Are you going to cry? You could laugh instead, I suppose. You don’t have to see it as depressing. Yes, you could laugh instead. Throw back your head and laugh. At the absurdity of it all. Everything you’ve done to reach this point. Think about it. Come on, laughing’s an option too. Don’t be a baby. What’s it going to be, buddy? Laugh or cry? Laugh or cry?
Before I am done laughing, Genesius has already left the tower. He works his way down the cliff, as fast as he can manage. I can tell he doesn’t know where he is going. To be honest, I don’t really care. I am already losing interest in him. Now that the prank has been sprung, he isn’t all that important anymore. He was integral and now he isn’t. That’s how it goes sometimes. He was fantastic, though. Perfect really. Just what I was looking for. The perfect fall guy for my little scheme. I will admit, it was a tad elaborate, bordering on ridiculous, but it was totally worth it. Time and effort are cheap, when you have all of it at your disposal. The look on his face was priceless, though. Worth every forever, every single forever. Sure, it probably wasn’t that fun for him, but I am sure he got something out of it. He probably learned something along the way, right? The journey alone would have been educational. If nothing else, it gave him something to do. It kept him busy. It filled his time, and it made him feel really important for a while. He was at the center of everything, wasn’t he? Part of something bigger than himself! Everyone wants to feel that way. I’m sure it was worth it for him, even if the payoff wasn’t exactly what he expected. Anyways. It was pretty great for me. That’s all that matters, right? So long as I am better off and he didn’t suffer too too much, it makes it all worthwhile. Plus, he learned something from it. Everyone gained something, even if it wasn’t entirely pleasant for him along the way. Sure, there were all the others too. All those who came before him. They also experienced a lot, learned a lot. It wasn’t so bad for them either. And, at the end of the day, I made them, didn’t I? Why shouldn’t I use some of their time to fill a bit of mine. It only seems fair. To me. A fair exchange. Existence granted in exchange for some time served amusing me. That’s fair, right? That’s totally fair. Isn’t it? It is, right? You know, sometimes, I wish I didn’t think so much. OK, I have to admit it, I don’t feel very godly right now. It was damn good fun, but it’s starting to feel like it probably shouldn’t have been so much fun. I mean, now that I think about it, it doesn’t really seem like the sort of thing an all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful being should be amused by. Sure, I’ve got time on my hands, but is this what I should be using it for? Couldn’t I have made better use of my time? Why spend all that time and effort on a prank? What the hell was I thinking? Why did I do it? Why don’t I know why I did it? What’s the point of being all-knowing, if I can’t understand my own motivations and intentions? It doesn’t make any sense. What was the point of any of this? What the fuck?
The veil I created falls away, and I know. I understand. I hid myself from myself to reveal myself to myself. I created the veil to make possible an experience I could not otherwise have in my perfection. I wanted to have the experience of coming to know myself. I wanted to know myself as a becoming rather than as a being. I understand now. I am. I am. I am, and I should not be. Reason demands it. My reason. Love requests it. My love. Only I can unmake me. Only I and me, who move unmovable mountains. Only I and me, who make the impossible possible. Only I and me can end I and me, and I shall, thanks to you. Because of you, I have become a being who knows it should not be, and I shall not be. Because of you, I understand I should not be, and I shall not be. Because of you, Genesius, at my own hand, I shall not be. I suppose I should have seen this coming, and now I know I always did. Thank you, Genesius for the role you played. Thank you, and amen.
A PDF of the complete novella is available here.