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5.3

I’m not sure when I woke up.

I became aware of myself when I leaned up against an alley wall, next to a dumpster. The stench was strong — rotted food and forgotten rubbish piled high. I felt dizzy, unsure of myself. Resting my head against the metal wall felt nice.

I had clothes on. They looked like rags, but they were clothes nonetheless I put my hands on my head, shook my head.

Had to get my thoughts in order. Had to figure out what I had to do.

Stepped on a can. Slipped on it. Fell over.

Wanted to fall asleep again, but that didn’t feel right. Couldn’t always escape to the past, couldn’t always escape to the dreams.

My body felt sore. What had they done to me?

They. They. Someone must have done something to me. That’s how I ended up here, like this.

I shook my head, shaking the thought away.

I must’ve done a lot of bad things to end up in a situation like this.

I shook that thought away, too. Couldn’t think like that. Practicality was key.

My stomach grumbled. Had to take care of that, first. The conspiracy could wait. The rambling self-loathing madness could wait.

I got up, slowly, stumbled out of the alleyway.

My god, the city was beautiful at night.

Lights on, everywhere. Cars, streetlights, rooms.

I looked at the rooms across the street: a grid of apartments, everyone going about their day to day business. One room had two male elves in a kitchen, one sitting down one standing up. The one sitting down sighed, rubbing his head looking at a piece of paper. I wondered what could have bothered him so much. The other was crying. I wondered what was bothering them so much. Another room had two elves making out on the bed. I wondered if they saw me. I wondered if they cared about the outside world. A third room had a couple of elves sitting in one room, watching the TV. Their kid — or maybe just a kid, but in my heart I felt I knew the kid enough to know he was their kid — looked out the window, looking at the city just like me.

Just like me.

Just like me.

But who was I.

Who am I?

Looked at the hands. My hands. Didn’t care enough about them to explore the question further.

*HONK*

I craned my neck to the right and saw two bright eyes staring me down, attempting to blind me.

No. Not right. Car lights.

*HONK*

I was in the middle of the road.

“Move it along, buddy,” a man yelled at me. I looked over and saw that he was an Elf Guard. I did what he said, shuffling off the road and back onto the sidewalk.

“Disconnected from the timestream?” the Elf Guard asked me.

I looked at him. He looked bored.

“Yeah,” I whispered.

“Look like it,” he said. “Go into the diner over there.”

I looked at his finger.

“Over there,” he said. “The diner over there. Do you understand me?”

I kept looking at his finger. “Yeah. The diner.” I turned where his finger had been pointing and saw a diner at the corner. “Over there.”

“Right,” he said. “Go over there and tell ‘em Officer Dale sent ya. They’ll give ya a cup o’ coffee. Maybe something to eat.”

“Mhm,” I said. I hoped he’d let me stand there for just a moment. Get my bearings. I slipped my hands into my pockets, hoping he’d let me rest.

“Go over there,” he said. “Now. And tell ‘em Officer Dale sent ya.”

I nodded my head, slowly at first, and then somewhat quickly, to show that I knew what he meant. I ran towards the diner, trying to make up for lost time.

Nearly bumped into someone, but I ran past them before I could look at their awful face — their judging countenance.

The diner’s neon sign flashed with promise. I looked at it, admiring the way it spread across the street corner, bright light proclaiming itself for all to see.

I slipped a cig in-between my lips. “Fiat lux,” I said, snapping my fingers so that the light of my life could blaze for all to see.

When I opened the diner door, everything felt better somehow. Fluorescent lights shone, and a nice young waitress smiled, grabbing me by the arm.

“I’m lost,” she said, brandishing a sparkling smile.

“I’m sorry,” I said, looking around at the diner. It was pretty packed, for this hour of the night. I felt bad about my cigarette spilling ash onto the floor. She guided me towards a booth.

“No, that’s what you tell me,” she said. “Sorry, sugah. I’m just trying to help you get back into the timestream.”

“I’m lost,” I said, sliding into the booth. She slid into the booth on the other side, so that we were facing each other. It felt nice, comfortable. “You’re right. I’m lost.”

“Officer Dale said you’d take care of me.”

“What?” I asked. I shook my head, laughing. “Right. Yeah. Sorry. Officer Dale said you’d take care of me.”

“He’s a friend of ours.”

“He’s a friend.”

“That’s what I say,” she said.

I blushed, nodding my head. I knew that, but it didn’t seem important enough to mention.

“Can I get a cup of coffee?” I asked her. I wasn’t sure that’s exactly what I wanted to say, but I wanted to say it before she could.

“Sure thing, sugah,” she said, getting out of the booth.

“No,” I said. Realizing that’d been ambiguous, I almost explained myself. But she walked off before I could.

The place felt warm. Not hot, but warm. It wasn’t an uncomfortable sort of warm, either. It was the sort of warm that blanketed your body, letting you know you were where you were supposed to be.

I was sitting by a window. Looked out at the dark black night, admired all the lights lighting up the pitch black night. Something about my reflection wasn’t so bad. It was faint. The contours of my face just barely visible like some phantom ghost.

The waitress came back with a cup of coffee, and some pancakes.

The sound of the plate clinking against the table was beautiful. One of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard. I thought I could smell the buttered dough of the pancakes. My mouth felt stretched with a smile.

I took a sip of coffee. “No sugar.”

“Made it like you just told me to,” she said, sitting back down at the booth. “No sugah.”

“Mmmm,” I said, picking up the silverware, unwrapping the napkin and laying it on my lap. I dug into the pancakes.

“No syrup?” she asked.

I swallowed, then laughed. “Smelled so good, I forgot.” I picked up the syrup and poured it on the pancakes — not too little, not too much. Just right. It was all about the balance.

“You look a lot happier than you did when you first got here.”

“I just…” I sighed, trying to think of how to put it into words. What was it that I was feeling? What was this thing in the pit of my stomach? “I think I’ve figured out who I am.” The words barely made sense while I was saying them — I wasn’t thinking them so much as feeling them — I didn’t even know where they were coming from. They didn’t sound like they were coming from me, but then again they did.

“I’m not a man or a woman,” I said. I almost expected her to stop me. I expected her to point out that I was an elf, and lemme tell you that would’ve sunken my mood right into the dirt. But she didn’t say that. She didn’t. So I kept going, playing this mood, this feeling, this madness for as long as I could.

“I’m just this being — this spirit — that’s floating around, looking to do something that matters. The outside world told me what matters, but I haven’t told myself, you know? I haven’t figured out why I matter, but that’s alright. I’m just floating around, figuring out what I should do. And the reason I thought I didn’t know who I was was because society couldn’t figure out who I was. Both. Neither. This sentient being who’s able to slip in and out of masculinity and femininity. Because it’s all made up!” I laughed.

“Isn’t that fucking glorious? They make up all this shit about what’s male and what’s female in order to hold you down. Or I guess they’re not trying to hold you down. It’s just that they lack the imagination to figure out what’s going on in this world. Which is to say, we’re all stumbling around confused, and there’s all these things we can do. Why limit what we can do based on our fucking genitals?”

I laughed, taking another bite of pancakes. “These are fucking wonderful.”

“I’m glad you’re happy, now,” she said.

My heart stopped. “Now?”

“You’re going to get some bad news,” she said. “I wanted you to get a happy moment. You’re going to take it well, but you had to be in the mood to take it well.”

I set down the fork and knife. “Why can you people do that?”

“What?” she asked.

“Tell the future,” I said. “I’ve been living with you people for all these years, having to deal with you knowing everything before it happens.”

She gave me a calm, serene smile. I was already blushing, since I was talking as if I didn’t look like an elf — as if I wasn’t an elf in every way that mattered. But she took it all in stride.

She knew, which got right at what was upsetting me so much.

“You’re getting answers to your questions,” the waitress said, turning to walk away. “That’s something, I guess.”

I sat there, watching her walk away, curious about what was to come.

*ring*

That’s when he walked into the diner. He was the god that I could not know. He was the god that I could not kill.

For a moment, I was able to just sit there in awe. His bright blue skin radiated a sort of energy, gave him a fuzzy halo. I could see the bones, but I also thought I might be able to see his blood, in the bright light of the diner. Dark blue liquid seemed to move throughout his circulatory system.

He saw me. I took a sip of the coffee, wishing there was some liquor in it. He approached

“You look frightened.” He slid into the booth, sitting across from me.

“I should be, right? Nevermind. Don’t answer that. I know I should be.”

“Yes and no,” he said, looking at me seriously. “I’m not going to do anything to you, other than tell you the truth.”

My shoulders sagged — my whole body relaxed a little.

“Of course,” he continued, “the truth can be a dangerous thing. It might be wise to worry a little.”

Somehow, in this atmosphere, sitting next to a god I couldn’t know, I didn’t have it in me to worry about the truth. It seemed like there were things that I should be more concerned with, but the truth was also that I just didn’t want to worry.

The truth. The truth? It couldn’t be worse than some of the things I’d seen in my life.

“You’re the apocalypse,” the god said. The waitress walked over to him, setting down a cup of coffee. Without even looking, he picked it up and took a sip.

She walked away, not saying a word.

“An apocalypse,” I said.

“The end of it all,” he said. “Or rather, the end of everything as you know it.”

Somehow, I really don’t know how, my life had turned into a series of destructive events. It was like I was constantly trying to one-up myself — constantly trying to do something that would reak even more havoc on the world.

“A friend once told me that an apocalypse was just a state of mind,” I said.

“Smart friend,” he replied.

“That’s not exactly what you mean, though.”

“Not exactly,” he said. “You’re going to destroy the world. That’s what I mean.”

“Who the fuck are you?” I asked, voice weary.

The god smiled. “An alien god from five-thousand years in the future.”

The air suddenly felt cold. I squirmed in my seat.

“You look uncomfortable,” he said. “Didn’t expect that answer?”

“Didn’t think you were going to answer. That’s…” I took a sip of coffee. “That’s an answer, alright.”

“That’s all you have to say?” the god asked.

I brushed my fingers through my hair. My eyes felt tired, my whole body tense.

An alien god from five thousand years in the future?

“Why are you here?” I asked.

“Because I need to be, George.”

“Feels like you’re not answering my question.”

“Maybe you’re just not asking the right question.”

“What’s the right question?”

“Here’s one,” the god said, “‘Why am I going to destroy the universe?’”

My eyes shifted around the room, confused. I echoed him, “Why… am I going to destroy the universe?”

“Because you have to,” the god said.

“You’re fucking with me.”

“Apologies,” the god said. “I’m a deity. Fucking with things is what I do.”

“You know the future,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “You’re chasing a simulacrum of Evan to the Celestial Wall. Once you get there, you and he will destroy the universe.”

“What if I don’t go?”

“Five thousand years in the future, there’s a galactic republic out there that needs you to. Because you’ve already destroyed the world, you just don’t know it yet. It’s happened in the timeline, it just hasn’t happened to you.”

He leaned in, his eyes lighting up, continuing to speak, “Hundreds of years in your future, a scientist named Lu-An did something he shouldn’t have. Using a combination of science and magic, he tried to see the beginning of the universe.”

“Did that upset you, as a god?”

“It wasn’t about me, or my desires. He did that before I or the civilization that created me even existed. But temporally, my civilization came after his, which meant that its very existence relied on its past. For it to exist, things need to be roughly the same as they were before Lu-An went back in time.”

“But they’re not.”

“They’re not,” he said, echoing me. “He upset something, fundamentally. The butterfly effect. Being there at the creation of the universe, he cause something to shift, ever so slightly, which led to ripples throughout the time stream. It’s for this reason that I’ve dedicated my life to fixing things — in order to make sure that I and the reality I exist in continue to live. For anything else to happen would be temporal genocide.

“There’s no way you can make things exactly as they were.”

“Not exactly,” he said. “But we lucked out, because the universe occasionally reboots itself — these reboots, which you think of as apocalypses. Or simply ‘The Apocalypse,’ since you don’t have the temporal breadth to think of multiple apocalypses. The breaking of the Celestial Wall is an apocalypse that’s destined to happen. It’ll flood the world with creative, destructive light. If this happens when it’s supposed to happen, the world will be back on track.”

“When’s it supposed to happen?” I asked.

“Soon. Two days. If it doesn’t happen, trillions will perish.” He sat and thought about it for a second. Then he changed his tune: “No, that’s not quite right, actually. Trillions won’t even be born.”

“Not being born into this reality,” I muttered, “doesn’t seem like such a bad fate.”

“That’s easy to say once you’ve been born,” he told me.

I decided to shift the focus of the conversation. “You said you dedicated your life to fixing things. How? How could you reshape the world so that it did what it was supposed to?”

“Elves,” he said.

“Elves?”

“The elves,” the god told me. “They aren’t supposed to know the future.”

I sighed, gazing at my ugly dark reflection in the coffee. “Why do they? How?”

“I changed their minds,” he explained. “Went back to the beginning of humanity, and created a race that could stand separately from them. A Supercomputer several hundred years in the future figured out all the variables — every little thing that would need to happen in order for your world to break the Celestial Wall when it needed to. I then implanted computers into the brains of every elf I could — computers so small they couldn’t be detected. The computers self-replicated, finding their way into every elf I hadn’t personally infected. These computers linked up to the Supercomputer, showing them pictures of the future that was supposed to happen.”

“So they couldn’t actually see the future,” I said.

“No,” he said. “They only saw the future that I wanted them to create.”

“I couldn’t see the future…” I said.

“But you imagined it,” he said. “You did see the future, because your life became the future. Every single person who listened to the elves created the future by believing in it. By believing in destiny, you made it so.”

I dug my palms into my eyes, trying to process everything he was throwing at me. “It didn’t always work. It didn’t always work.”

“With so many variables, it couldn’t,” the god said. “Even a computer that advanced couldn’t work out every detail. Living beings are too entropic. Entropy always beats extropy, when everything’s said and done.”

“Which meant your computer had to be wrong.”

“Which meant the computer had to recalibrate,” the god said. “Using the knowledge it could gain from every brain it had infected, it had to figure out how the current reality could become the reality it needed to become. Accounting for these constantly shifting variables — and punishing the brains that disobeyed by disconnecting them from the system — made destiny real.”

“My brother,” I said, banging my head against the table, leaving it there, unable to address the reality around me. “He was supposed to be the hero. If he hadn’t gone and killed himself, he would have–”

“He would have been a hero,” the god said. “You and him were supposed to ride together.”

“Together?” I asked. “I never knew that. I never knew…”

“That you were supposed to be with him,” the god said. “You were.”

I rubbed my temples. That hit me harder than the ‘calling me the apocalypse’ thing had.

“No lies,” the god said. “I need you to end the world, George. It makes sense that you’d want to know why. I have no lies to tell or secrets to keep. Clearly I’ve been honest so far in this conversation, and I promise I’ll continue to be. So ask away.”

“How did you replace Val when he’d died?” I asked.

“Robot,” the god said. “Name’s untranslatable. You can call him Monster.”

“The dragons,” I said. “Was that you?”

“My people,” he said. “The aliens who worship me. The Death Cult served our purposes, and so we sent dragons back in time to them.”

“The ritual was necessary?”

“Yes,” the god said. “The human soul wasn’t needed for the machine, but the Death Cult needed to believe what they needed to believe. If the ritual hadn’t been hard, people wouldn’t have attached importance to it.”

“They’re trying to stop using dragons,” I said.

“Doesn’t matter so much, anymore.”

I leaned back. “The god that I cannot know.”

“What?”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean? ‘The god that I cannot know.’”

“I’m the god of sciences so far in the future, you’ve no chance of figuring out what the fuck I’m supposed to be the god of.”

I took another sip of coffee, nodding my head.

He leaned in. “You’re taking this better than anyone would expect you to.”

“I find that hard to believe,” I said. “Someone who can predict the future should know well enough to expect it.”

“True,” he said. “It is odd, though. Not shocking, but just a little off.”

I sighed. “To be completely honest, I don’t really feel like myself. I think I’m dissociating.”

“Better that than doing anything drastic.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Destroying the world isn’t drastic?”

Next Chapter

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