|The Transformation Story Archive||Strange Things and other Changes|
Mr. Harper Chats With God
"Hallo?" Mr. Harper called. "Hallo? Is anyone there at all?"
There was no answer. His voice was getting hoarse by this time.
"I say, if this is all some rotten sort of joke, I'm going to be very put out."
He had just gone to the bathroom. It seemed an innocent sort of thing to do; after all, one must, mustn't one? Granted, he had been at work and had had a very busy day ahead of him, but all in all, he thought it had been a reasonably brief respite from his tedii opum.
And then, when he'd come out, everyone had gone. At first he assumed that the cheese truck had pulled in with yet another hearty load of pasteurized goodness, and everyone had just popped out for a snack, but a quick glance out the front soon proved that hypothesis to be invalid.
They were quite gone. And they had left everything behind when they'd departed! Purses, wallets, keychains, coffee cups, and most shockingly, even all their clothes! Trouser slacks lay draped across seat cushions and piled upon the floor. Dresses lay spread out in delicate fans like crop circles, and shirts, blouses, shoes, and ties were everywhere.
"It's like some horrible orgy," noted Mr. Harper. "Only without the people." He clenched his fingers into the seams of his own trousers lest they decide to leap from his legs and join the shameful display of strewn clothing.
"There are even undergarments here! Well, if this is the state of things, then I'd probably rather not find everyone else anyway."
He carefully stepped over the piles of laundry and made for the front door, laughing to himself a bit. "All right, any moment now, everyone's going to jump out and shout surprise! Any moment now..."
Any moment came and passed. He determined to have a look-see out the front way. As he reached for the brass doorknob on the heavy wooden door, a thought crossed his mind. He paused.
This was a newspaper office. Normally, regardless of the buzz and chatter of everyday business conversation, there should have been all sorts of ringings of telephones and whines of fax machines and audio feeds from television and radio stations. But there was nothing. No voices. No telephones. Not even the usual cacophony of a cricket game from someone's handheld radio.
Setting his teeth in what he hoped was an appropriately grim expression, Mr. Harper pushed open the door.
It was cool out. Looked like rain. Unfortunately, that was all that it looked like. The road, typically busy, had no cars driving down it. Some were parked rather sloppily in the middle of the road, but there were none driving. The hobo that slept underneath the newspaper near the door had apparently gone to seek greener pastures. The policeman that patrolled the quad was missing in action. Even the guards that could always be seen standing sentry outside the old army office were away without leave.
There were no tourists snapping photographs left and right, no one out on a flurry of important errands, no musicians or artists attempting to earn a few coins in the park quad. All was quiet. Mr. Harper could hear the birds. They irritated him.
Feeling a bit foolish for having to fight down the urge to shout some scathing criticisms at the local aviary, he walked out into the center of the quad and called again. "Hallo? Please answer! You've all left your clothes lying about here, and it's quite indecent of you. Who do you think is going to clean up this mess? Your mothers?"
Another thought occurred to him. "This is a bloody daft way to take a vacation, if that's what you've all gone and done! Run off to Rome, have you? What a jolly great plan that was! Oh, let's all strip off our clothes and swim to Rome, shall we? Well, by that time you'll be pretty well frozen, I daresay!"
Still no answer.
"Well, if not Rome, then why has everyone taken all their clothes off? Perhaps there's a particularly dangerous strain of moth about? Eats right through the clothing and into the skin?"
This thought distressed him, and he briefly considered taking his own clothes off, on the chance that one of these horrible moths might be flitting hungrily right behind his neck÷
He turned about sharply. No moth.
"Well, in any case," he reassured himself, "if a moth does come, I can always go and stand beside a bright light bulb. That's sure to distract it."
Unless it's a rare strain of blind moths, his subconscious fretted. But no, that was silly. Blind moths would go about smashing into things. They wouldn't know where to fly.
What if they have a really good sense of smell? worried his subconscious again.
Shut up, he told it. No sense getting all worked up about it.
"Did you all get too warm?" he called.
"No, no, it is a bit chilly, isn't it? Well, why have you all taken your clothes off? And where have you gone?"
I BELIEVE I CAN ANSWER THAT, a voice behind him said.
Mr. Harper jumped, shouting out loud just a bit, and turned around. Before him stood a brightly glowing man.
"Hallo," Mr. Harper said. "You gave me quite a shock."
DREADFULLY SORRY, apologized the glowing man. BUT WHEN PEOPLE DON'T BELIEVE IN YOU, IT TAKES AN AWFUL LOT TO GET THEIR ATTENTION.
"What do you mean, people don't believe in you?" Mr. Harper asked, a suspicious look spreading over his face. "And why are you glowing? Did you sit too close to the television?"
I DON'T WATCH TELEVISION, the glowing man said. AND PEOPLE DON'T BELIEVE IN ME BECAUSE I AM GOD.
"You?" Mr. Harper said, looking the man up and down. "Are you sure?"
OF COURSE I'M SURE!
"I was expecting someone a bit more... imperious looking."
I'M GOING INFORMAL TODAY, God said a bit crossly.
"I don't believe you."
God looked miffed. OH, PHOOEY!" he said, and winked out of existence.
Mr. Harper blinked once or twice. "Oh, fine, if you're going to be that way, then I guess I'll go ahead and believe in you."
There was a BAMF noise, and God popped back into view, looking a bit relieved.
"Don't mention it. Okay, look, if you're God, then you know everything, right?"
A slightly embarrassed expression spread across God's face. WELL, NOT EVERYTHING.
"But you made everything," Mr. Harper protested. "How could you not know all about it?"
ACTUALLY, God said, wringing his hands, I DIDN'T MAKE EVERYTHING. JUST PEOPLE. OTHER GODS MADE THE ANIMALS.
Mr. Harper loosened his tie a bit. "Other Gods? But I thought there was only one God."
GOOD LORD, NO! WHERE IN THE HECK DID YOU GET AN IDEA LIKE THAT?
"Well, the Church generally says that there's only one."
WHAT A CURIOUS IDEA! IF THERE WERE ONLY ONE GOD, THEN WHY WOULD I HAVE EVER SAID, 'YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME?' HOW COULD HAVE YOU HAVE OTHER GODS IF THERE WEREN'T ANY?
"You have a point. So you're not the one true God?"
WELL, I AM THAT. I MEAN, THE OTHER GODS TEND TO BE WRETCHED LIARS, BUT I'M PRETTY HONEST.
Mr. Harper blinked. "Is that true?"
God coughed a moment and looked at his hands. YES, he said finally.
"And you're the God of human beings. And that's it."
BUGS, God said.
I'M ALSO THE GOD OF BUGS.
ANTS, FLIES, MOSQUITOS, PILL-BUGS, THOSE LITTLE BLACK THINGS YOU FIND IN RICE THAT'S BEEN LEFT OUT... THEY'RE ALL MINE.
"You must stay busy," said Mr. Harper.
OH, I DO.
"What's your name, anyway, God?"
God gave him a patronizing look. I'D TELL YOU, BUT YOU WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO PRONOUNCE IT.
"How do you know? Has anyone ever tried?"
"Well then, you've no bloody idea about it, have you?"
God gave Mr. Harper a sulky look. I'M TELLING YOU, YOU CAN'T PRONOUNCE IT.
"I bet you're just embarrassed to tell anyone. That's it, isn't it?"
I'M NOT EMBARRASSED.
"Then what's your name?"
God paused for a moment, then slowly drew himself up and, as ominously as he could, said, JOHN.
"John? That's it? God's name is John?"
kicked at the dirt. I TOLD YOU YOU WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO PRONOUNCE IT.
"I just did!" Mr. Harper shouted. "John, John, John!"
YOU'RE SAYING IT ALL WRONG, God mumbled, as well as one can mumble when one has a voice like a truckload of acoustic drums bouncing sideways through a metal pipe.
Mr. Harper gave God a reproachful look, then asked, "So what's this all about, anyway?"
"You know, all the clothes?"
WHAT ABOUT THEM?
people aren't in them," Mr. Harper pointed out.
OH, THAT. WELL, IT'S A BIT DIFFICULT TO EXPLAIN.
"Try," suggested Mr. Harper.
WELL, God said slowly, YOU KNOW HOW FOR YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS HUMAN BEINGS HAVE BELIEVED THAT SOMETHING REALLY INCREDIBLE WAS GOING TO HAPPEN TO THEM?
LIKE MEETING ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE, OR GOING BACK IN TIME, OR DISCOVERING ETERNAL YOUTH, OR WHATNOT?
"You mean science fiction," proposed Mr. Harper.
YES. BUT IN YOUR SCIENCE FICTION STORIES, THE INCREDIBLE STUFF ALWAYS HAPPENS TO PEOPLE.
"So?" Mr. Harper said.
SO WHY PEOPLE? WHY NOT MARMOTS?
OR WOMBATS. OR TREES OR LEMURS OR PECCADILLOS OR NAKED BLIND MOLE RATS OR KOMODO DRAGONS. FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE, WHY NOT FISH, OR EVEN PROTOZOA? WHAT DO YOU THINK THE CHANCES ARE THAT IF AN AMAZING BUT RANDOM OCCURRENCE HAPPENED, IT WOULD HAPPEN TO HUMANS.
"Well, we're the most intelligent race," Mr. Harper began, but stopped when he saw God's half lidded stare. "Not?" he asked. God shook his head.
AND EVEN IF YOU WERE, WHAT DOES INTELLIGENCE HAVE TO DO WITH AMAZING COINCIDENCES? NO, NO, ODDS ARE, THAT IF SOMETHING FANTASTIC WAS TO HAPPEN, IT WASN'T GOING TO HAPPEN TO PEOPLE.
"Is something fantastic going to happen?" Mr. Harper asked?
"And if not to people, then...?" he trailed off into a question mark.
SQUIRRELS, God said.
WE DREW LOTS SOME TIME AGO. FRED, THE GOD OF SQUIRRELS AND EMUS WON THE DRAW.
Mr. Harper rubbed his face with his hands a bit incredulously. "So what happens to the squirrels?" he asked.
SUPEREVOLUTION. PEACE AND BLISSFUL HAPPINESS. SELF-ACTUALIZATION, LOVE FOR ALL, AND EVENTUAL PROGRESSION INTO AN EVER-EXPANDING JOY FOR ALL ETERNITY.
"Wait a minute," Mr. Harper said, his eyes widening. "What you're describing, that sounds suspiciously like..."
HEAVEN, God put in.
"So all this time that people have been religious? For nothing?"
RELIGIOUS? God said incredulously. PAH! ONLY RELIGION COULD INTRODUCE A PHRASE LIKE 'HOLY WAR.' NO, NO, ALL RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCES ASIDE, HUMAN BEINGS WERE PRECLUDED FROM THE DRAW A LONG TIME AGO. THEY WERE DEEMED INCAPABLE OF DEALING WITH LOVE FOR ALL AND SELF-ACTUALIZATION. THEY JUST DON'T LIKE IT.
"I thought you were a truthful God!" Mr. Harper protested. "Didn't you say that all the good people would go to Heaven?"
God suddenly developed an intense interest in the hem of his robe. He picked at it. YES, WELL, WHEN I SAID IT, IT WAS TRUE. THINGS CHANGED.
"And you didn't bother to tell anyone?"
HOW DARE YOU QUESTION THE LORD YOUR GOD? God snapped, rather unconvincingly.
"Oh, this is ridiculous!" Mr. Harper shouted. "And what have you done with all the people?"
WELL, WE COULDN'T HAVE YOU ALL RUNNING AROUND WITH YOUR JEALOUSY GLANDS ALL SWOLLEN, NOW COULD WE? YOU'D PROBABLY TRY TO KILL ALL THE SQUIRRELS.
"So what did you do?"
BUGS, God said for the second time that day.
I TURNED THEM INTO BUGS. THEY DON'T HAVE JEALOUSY GLANDS. WELL KNOWN FACT. THEY JUST FLY AROUND AND EAT THINGS.
"But why not me?" Mr. Harper asked querulously. "And wouldn't there be more bugs around if all the people were turned into bugs?"
OF COURSE NOT, God scoffed. THERE'S ONLY SIX BILLION PEOPLE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. ANOTHER SIX BILLION BUGS WOULD HARDLY BE NOTICED. AS TO WHY NOT YOU, IT'S A PLOT DEVICE.
WELL, IF NO HUMAN BEING WERE AROUND TO SEE WHAT HAD HAPPENED, HOW COULD WE TELL THE STORY?
"Tell the story?" Mr. Harper snapped. "To whom? All the people are bugs!"
TO THEM, said God, and pointed outward ominously.
Mr. Harper looked.
Watching and listening to them were hundreds of thousands of squirrels, their eyes wide, their faces in expressions of bliss.
SO THAT THEY DON'T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES PEOPLE DID, God said. AND NOW, MR. HARPER, I'M AFRAID IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO GO.
"What?" said Mr. Harper, his face paling as God pulled out a monstrous device labeled Deus ex machina.
GOODBYE, said God. There was a loud ZAP!
"Bzzz!" said Mr. Harper in alarm as extra legs grew from his sides and he shrank into his clothes. "Bzzz!"
And then there was nothing left.
God disappeared in a puff of smoke and a sad look.
And a squirrel ran up out of the bushes. It nudged Mr. Harper's tie with its nose. Then, using incredibly deft paws, it picked up the tie and secured it carefully around its neck. And if anyone had been around to look into its eyes, it might have seen a glimmer, a vision perhaps. It looked a lot like shining towers of metal and neon, television spots on BBV, drug dealers, gang bangers, and nuclear bombs. Then the vision was gone, and it chirped cutely and scuttled off into the underbrush, nearly tripping over the tie beneath its feet.
Mr. Harper Chats With God copyright 1999 by Jason The Skunk.
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