Iff

We swam through the shining fires of creation. We danced and laughed, and in our foolish innocence, we thought it would last forever.

Thirteen billion years later, I sat on a park bench with a man named Gary. The specifics of how he found me were irrelevant. Someone always did, and it wasn’t as if I was hiding. These little encounters helped pass the ages.

Gary had brought his own lunch in a plain brown sack. He offered me half his tuna sandwich, but I waved it off.

“Is it true?” He asked. “Can you do things?”

“Everybody can do thing,” I replied.

“Impossible things,” he clarified.

“If they were impossible, I couldn’t do them,” I said.

Gary chewed on his bite of sandwich longer than necessary, until it dissolve and he was only chewing on saliva and the most stubborn scraps.

“Anything you can think of,” I replied. “I can do. And anything you can’t think of.”

He nodded, opened his Diet Coke. “Anything?”

“You know that question? Can God created an object so heavy, even he couldn’t lift it? I can do that. And I can lift it.”

A curious expression crossed his face.

“Don’t think about it too long,” I said. “It’ll only confuse you. So what do you want me to do?”

He sized me up. Five foot, three inches tall, wiry, long dark hair. The smoldering embers of the cosmic forge burning behind my eyes.

“You want me to prove myself first?” I said.

He looked away. Not many could look into my eyes long. And those that tried were often driven to maddening realizations.

“It’s just a lot to believe,” he said.

It wasn’t unreasonable to ask for a little proof. So I plucked the sun from the sky and tucked it away in my fist. Night fell on the park, and I clasped my hands together, allowing a few golden rays of sunlight to filter through my fingers.

To his credit, Gary didn’t jump. He took another sip of his soda. “How did you do that?”

“Does it matter?”

He glanced around the park. Everyone else seemed unfazed by what was happening.

“It’s only night for you,” I said.

“Like an illusion?”

“Nothing like an illusion. It’s night. For you. And if I wanted it,  I could make it night for everyone. But these people are having a good time. No need to throw some troublesome inexplicable mystery into their day.”

I squeezed my hands, and the sun popped in a yellow puff.

“Now it’s night forever,” I said. “For you.”

He fumbled with his bag of chips. “I always liked the night.”

“The dark is a wonderful place,” I agreed.

I closed my eyes and thought of those days when the cosmos cooled, when matter formed and began clumping together into stars and planets and moons and other things. And how in the space between, there was that beautiful darkness. It had intrigued us at first. How many millions of years had I played in that darkness? But everything gets old eventually.

I blew into my open hand, and the sun burned bright in my palm. I put it back in the sky, bringing back Gary’s days,

“So what do you want?” I asked.

“I need someone brought back from the dead,” he said. “Can you do that?”

I nodded. “Depends.”

“On what?”

“On my mood.” I waved my hand, and every human soul on Earth vanished, leaving just Gary and me and a quiet world. The curious squirrels and pigeons scampered in their sudden freedom.

“I don’t know how I feel about humanity,” I said. “I’m not sure it’s in anyone’s best interest to bring one back.”

“She was a good person.”

“Great for her, but not really part of my equation. Even good people do a lot of harm in the end. Why this person?”

“What?”

I conjured a handful of nuts, throwing them to the squirrels. “There are a lot of dead people. A lot of good, dead people. If you have the power to ask for any one of them back, why this one?”

“Because I love her.”

I shook my head. “Love isn’t enough. Lots of people are loved. And people throw around their love like cheap candy. They love each other. They love TV shows, movie stars, cars, Chinese food, books. They love anything and everything. So what? Why do I care?”

He sat back and gazed into his hands. “She was everything to me.”

“You’ll get over it.”

“I was told you’d help me.”

“No, you were told I might help you.”

“Is it too much to ask? Too hard?”

I snapped my fingers, and all the people came back. I snapped again, and they all started dancing the locomotion in unison. Not every human. Just every human in the city who wasn’t in the middle of something life or death.

“How can you do all this?” He asked.

“One more chance. Why this human?”

“Because she’s dead because of me.”

I snapped again, and the humans went back to their business. “You have my attention.”

“We had a fight. She ran out, drove away mad. A little later, there was a car accident. Not her fault. A driver just wasn’t paying attention and swerved into her lane.” He went quiet.

“Fate is fickle,” I said. “Okay, I’ll do it.”

He perked up. “What do I have to do in return?”

I laughed. “What could you possibly give me? Go on, Gary. The accident never happened. You can get rid of your guilt.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it. Go home.”

He reached out to shake my hand but pulled away when I didn’t return the gesture.

He walked away, and within three steps, he forgot his old history, a history that had never happened. But I left his memory of me and this meeting in tact. Maybe it’d remind him of the fragility of human life. Maybe he’d appreciate his moments more. Or maybe it’d drive him slowly mad. I could’ve peered into the future, but why ruin it for myself. The future was always a tragedy for humans. Eventually.

I closed my eyes, turning my thoughts to the beautiful chaos at the beginning of all this. And I smiled.

3 Replies to “Iff”

  1. Nice. Love these clever little shorts.

    Can “I” please bring back my favorite and most-bestest sandwich? It was a grilled chicken with peppers and onions on an amazing hoagie from this little place that may no longer exist at the edge of civilization (Baton Rouge, LA). BEST SANDWICH EVER.

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