by Arnold Snyder
I returned to Uncle Luke’s house the following day by myself. I knocked on the front door and Jesus opened it. He was wearing his new clothes—v-neck tee, skinny jeans, his bare toes sticking out the front-ends of his sandals. His scraggly hair was skewed every which way, with one wispy strand falling across one eye and his nose. He looked like a drunk. He smelled like a drunk. I didn’t see Candy.
“Is Uncle Luke here?” I said.
“Come in, Sebastian,” he said. “I think he’s in the backyard watering the fruit trees. Where’s the bitch? Brandi, wasn’t it?”
I entered the front door and followed Jesus into the living room where he was watching television. He sat down on the couch and I sat in an easy chair across from him.
“What are you watching?” I asked.
“The History Channel. These scavengers go into junky places looking for treasure.” His voice started shaking. “I … I believe it’s a metaphor for living on Earth.” He squinted his eyes closed tightly and his lips twisted into a mouth that had bitten into something too sour.
“Can I ask you some personal questions?” I said.
“Hey, fire away.” His voice started shaking again. “You … you saved me, Sebastian. I’ll answer any questions you have.” His eyelids kept squinting closed as he talked, like they couldn’t stand the light. Except for the TV screen, it was pretty dark in the living room. The heavy curtains were still drawn over the picture window.
“In catechism class,” I said, “the nuns say you’re God. Just like God the Father, except you’re his son and you’re both God. And the Holy Ghost is too. You’re all God, but there’s only one God.”
“That’s not my problem,” he said. “Whatever they teach you in school—not my problem.”
“But you can do anything, right? Like miracles? Like magic?”
“Sure,” he said, sweat dripping down his forehead. “Anything except get out of Hell.”
“But if you’re God, how come you couldn’t get out?”
He leapt up from his seat and grabbed me by the shoulders, standing hunched over me, his face not six inches from mine. His breath reeked. “Look, you little piss ant,” he snarled, “I don’t have to listen to your shit! I was born the son of God. Who the fuck do you think you are? You’re some kind of devil turd.”
I sat there in stunned silence.
He gritted his teeth and squeezed my shoulders until I moaned a feeble “Uhhh,” at the pain, then he loosened his grip but kept his hands clamped onto me. He was waiting for me to say the wrong thing.
When I felt his grip starting to retighten, I knew I had to say something. “I didn’t mean it that way,” I said, though I wasn’t sure what exactly I’d said to offend him. “I mean, I really always thought you were the best one of the three. I always thought about you when I took communion.”
His grip loosened. “And what did you think about me?”
“Well … I thought about how cool it was when you passed out all the loaves and fishes.”
“Really?” His grip loosened some more. “How’d you find out about that?”
“Oh, everybody knows that story. It must have been like headline news back then.”
He unclamped his hands from my shoulders and stood up, letting his arms drop. “Yeah,” he said, softening. “It was a pretty big deal. They didn’t have newspapers but I’m telling you, word got around. Word got around. I was making my mark.” He took a step back from me and a slight smile crossed his lips. “Look, Sebastian, I want to thank you for getting me out of Hell. Two thousand years of turning into gucksucker shit was about twenty centuries too many. I really want to thank you. I owe you one.”
I tried to let that sink in. Jesus says he owes me a favor. I could ask for anything and he could give it to me. He can do miracles. Ha! Can this clown do anything? “How come your father’s so mean to everyone?” I said.
Jesus sat back down. “It’s just the way he is. Everybody kisses up to him and nobody really likes him and he knows it.”
“But Uncle Luke was honest with him. He didn’t kiss up. And he was totally mean to Uncle Luke and the Cherubim.”
“Your Uncle Luke has qualities my father fails to appreciate. Empathy for one. And courage. Dad hates courage.”
“Look, Sebastian, I appreciate what you’ve done for me. I’ll be forever grateful, or at least until my father finds out and he sends me back. Then I’ll hate your guts because it’ll be so much worse than before. My father will be monumentally pissed off. That’s a given. I’ll long for the days when the gucksuckers were having their way with me. And why didn’t you bring Brandi? I think she’s hot for me. These could be my last hours of freedom. I could use a piece of ass.”
Just then Uncle Luke entered the room.
“I see you two are getting to know each other,” Uncle Luke said. “That’s good because we have a lot of work to do.”
“I was just thanking Sebastian for helping me out of Hell,” Jesus said. “I want to thank you too, Luke. I know you were the brains of the operation. I owe you big time. If there’s ever anything I can do …”
“Jesus, that’s just what I wanted to hear. Has Sebastian explained our Master Plan yet?” Uncle Luke sat down on the arm of the easy chair I was sitting in.
Jesus looked at me quizzically.
“I didn’t have time to tell him anything, Unc,” I said. “I just got here a minute ago.”
Uncle Luke held up his hand then said, “Here’s what we’re doing, Jesus—and the reason we need your help. We’re getting all the humans out of Hell. The problem is this planet isn’t big enough. Or at least, it isn’t big enough as is. We’ve got to come up with a way to fit them all and I know you can do it. I was thinking high-rises, covering every speck of land with high-rises. These would have to rise higher than high rises typically rise—like a few thousand floors higher. Plus, we’ll need food and water for everybody. Plus, we’ll need—”
Jesus held up one hand with his fingers spread wide. For the first time I noticed the nail hole in his palm that was still open and dripping blood. “Wait a minute, Luke. You’re obviously under the impression that I can still do miracles.”
“What do you mean? You’re Jesus. Of course, you can do miracles. And you’re dripping blood on my carpet. That’s virgin wool, not synthetic fiber. Do you know what a pain in the ass it is to clean blood out of virgin wool?”
Jesus’ face turned red and he stood up, fuming. He started shaking his hands to spritz drips of blood all over the room. “No, Luke,” he said. “I have no idea how to get blood out of wool. I do recall back when I was omniscient it was a piece of cake., but now it seems to have slipped my mind. You think I enjoy having open wounds in my hands and feet? Hey, if I’m God why don’t I just heal myself? You know why? Because I can’t do miracles anymore. Why do you think I couldn’t get out of Hell?”
Uncle Luke looked crestfallen.
“Now what are we gonna do, Unc?” I said.
“I don’t believe it, Jesus,” Uncle Luke said emphatically. “You’re just having an identity crisis. I know you can do miracles. You’ve just forgotten how. Now sit down and let’s discuss this calmly.”
“I’m not having an identity crisis. I know who I am and I know my limits.” He started pacing. “Fuck,” he said. “You’re not going to put me back in Hell, are you?”
“No, no, of course not! But I know you’ve still got a few miracles inside you. Your father does sloppy work. I know he left you with some powers you just haven’t figured out yet.”
Jesus slumped down in his chair. “Can you get me another jug of wine?” he said. “I’ve got a fucking headache like you wouldn’t believe.”
Uncle Luke fetched a full gallon jug of red wine from a cabinet behind him, unscrewed the top and refilled Jesus’ chalice. Jesus pushed the chalice across the coffee table to me, then took the jug from Uncle Luke. He quaffed down a big gulp, letting rivulets run from the corners of his mouth into his thick beard.
“You’re not leveling with me, Jesus,” Uncle Luke said. “Maybe you don’t have all your powers back yet. We just sprang you yesterday. But I’m sure you’ll be good as new in no time.”
Jesus took another gulp of wine and wiped his mouth with the side of his arm. “Don’t kid yourself, Luke. I’m not getting any powers other than what I’ve got right now. I admit I can still do some trivial miracles, but nothing big. Nothing consequential. I can’t heal the sick anymore. I can’t raise the dead.”
“I knew it!” Uncle Luke said. “I knew you still had some miracles in you!”
“It’s not the same,” Jesus said. “It’s significantly diminished.”
“Can you build high-rises?”
“You want me to help you build—?”
“No, not help me build. You build, just make the high-rises appear. We’ll need hundreds, thousands, millions of them all over the world.”
“You’re dreaming, Luke. I’m not the God I used to be. I can’t do miracles like that.”
“Just give me some specifics, Jesus. Tell me the types of miracles you can do.”
“Fuck that shit. I can’t do anything useful.” Jesus seemed irritated. “Okay,” he said, as if exasperated. “I can make miniature monkeys jump out of my eye sockets.”
Uncle Luke stared at him for a few moments, then said, “Why would you want to do that?”
“My point precisely,” Jesus said.
“I want to see you do that,” I said. “Really, that sounds so cool.”
“Sebastian, Jesus isn’t here to do parlor magic. We need miracles that will contribute to our cause.”
“But miniature monkeys could be food,” I said. “They’re meat, right? We just solved the food problem. Not that monkey meat sounds tasty.” I turned to Jesus. “Can you make miniature cheeseburgers come out of your eye sockets?”
“Sebastian,” Uncle Luke said.
“Or pizzas,” I said. “How about miniature pizzas?”
“I believe he was joking,” Uncle Luke said. “About the monkeys.”
“No, I wasn’t,” Jesus said.
Uncle Luke shot him a disapproving glance, then said, “What else can you do, Jesus?”
“Well … I can make miniatures of any kind of manmade contraptions jump out of my eye sockets.”
“What kind of contraptions?” Uncle Luke said.
“Any kind. Toasters. Doorknobs. But miniature ones. Like the monkeys. They have to be small enough to come out of my eye sockets.”
“Jesus Christ, Jesus,” Uncle Luke said. “Can’t you do any miracles where useless crap isn’t popping out of your eye sockets?”
Jesus tipped up the jug for another drink, then put it down and said, “Sure, I can do some other stuff.”
“Fuck you. I can’t materialize high rises, so what the fuck does it matter?”
“C’mon, Jesus, we’re just brainstorming. Don’t take it personally. Just what else can you do. Miracle-wise. Anything you can do that normal people can’t do.”
He sat back and closed his eyes. His lips started twitching like he was going to say something.
“Say it,” Uncle Luke prodded him.
“I can make the sky a different color.”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“Like I said before … ”
“No!” I protested. “That could be useful for something, Unc.”
“Sebastian,” Uncle Luke said, “We’re trying to find housing for a hundred billion people. The color of the sky is inconsequential.”
“Yes but …” I turned to Jesus. “Could you make it multicolored, like plaid or polka-dotted?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Could you draw stuff on it?” I said. “Like faces or something?”
“No!” Uncle Luke protested. “You’ll scare the shit out of the humans! You can’t just start doing random and crazy miracles for nothing.” Uncle Luke turned to Jesus. “I don’t know what’s wrong with Sebastian, other than the fact that he’s a teenager. You know you can’t start fucking up the sky. People would have heart attacks. We’re trying to market you as the savior, not some lunatic magician. Tell me another miracle you could do. Something that might have some practical value in dealing with overpopulation?”
“Oh, sure,” Jesus said. “Overpopulation’s no problem. I can kill people. I can extinguish a person’s life just by touching them if I want. I just can’t bring them back to life.”
I wondered if Jesus could have killed me that easily before Uncle Luke arrived, but I didn’t really trust anything he said.
“But that’s no solution,” Uncle Luke said. “Everyone’s already going to die. Eventually. But they all go to Hell. We’re trying to get the humans out of Hell.”
“Well, they don’t have to go to Hell.”
“Don’t you understand what’s happening, Jesus? Your father has all life forms on Earth programmed to go to Hell when they die. Can you somehow rewrite the program?”
“I can crash the program.”
“I could kill my father.”
“Can you do that?”
“Sure. I’ve considered it many times, but never had the nerve to go through with it.”
“How can anyone kill God?” I said.
“Anyone can’t. I can. I’m the only one who can.”
“But why did he give you that power?” I said.
“I’m sure it’s a design flaw. He’s a sloppy designer really. You think Earth is bad, but I could show you uncountable planets in other universes that are way worse.”
“But why doesn’t he take that power away from you. He’s omnipotent.”
“He doesn’t know I can kill him. He forgot about it. If he knew, he would take the power away.”
“And if you killed him, no one would ever have to go to Hell again?” Uncle Luke said.
Jesus guzzled some more wine, then passed the jug my way. I reached for it, but Uncle Luke intercepted it and set it down on the coffee table.
“Are you sure you guys are devils?” Jesus asked.
“I asked you,” Uncle Luke said, “if you killed your father, would that mean no one would ever have to go to Hell again?”
“Precisely,” Jesus said.
“And could we get all of the people in Hell right now out of Hell?”
“There wouldn’t be a Hell to get them out of,” Jesus said.
“Where would the souls go?” Uncle Luke asked.
“There wouldn’t be any souls. There wouldn’t be anything. If God dies, all of his creations die with him. That includes me and you. Gone. Over. Done.”
“So, killing God is suicide?” Uncle Luke said.
“Not suicide, Jesus said. “Omnicide.”
Go to Chapter Sixteen . . .