Glorious Transitions

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I hand my mopey traveling partner his detached jaw.

He was a sad sack. And quite the glutton for punishment. But I liked watching him fall to pieces– literal and fugurative pieces. What makes him funnier than most is no matter how many times I explain to him that only he can end his suffering– right this instance if he chooses– he decides every freaking time to keep kicking himself in the balls. What a guy. This realm nearly took his jaw. The last left him without kneecaps. The first left him without an ear. Yet, he keeps on… Thats what I call will power.

What will the next one take?

“How you feeling?” I slide his jaw into his face so he can speak.

Click… Click… He bites down to lock his mandibles in place.

“Thanks,” He slurs.

I wink. “Anytime, Jim.”

Jim is his name. Or at least the one I gave him since I am terrible with names. No point in remembering his real name since most people who take the journey end up as a pile of dust before they reach their destination. Or, eternally disappointed. I’d rather be a pile of dust than to be disappointed. Or a disappointment. Like I say… Have low to no expectations and you avoid all kinds of suffering. What was I talking about? Oh… This Jim is on his fifth realm and he’s still standing. I’ll refer to him as Jim infinity.

I hold in a laugh.

Jim looks like roadkill. He’s too exhausted to dream up some new clothes so he’s walking around in the ones he was buried in.

People come here after reading Dante’s Inferno or sitting through that incredibly confusing Robin Williams movie from the 90s and think traversing the afterlife in search of love is some simple stroll. Well its not. It can be. But its not.

“Hurry up,” Jim barks.

I slow my pace.

No pitiful, sorry excuse for a post-lifer, who is willing to torture himself like that over a speck of stardust, or whatever we’re made of, will tell me what to do.

“Okay… Jim,” I slap my traveling partner on the back.

Crrrk.

He groans.

It was a light hit, but I still knock his shoulder out of place.

“Fine huh?” I ask.

“Yeah…” Jim coughs up dust. “Fine.”

He doesn’t have long. Damn. I’m about to lose a bet. I though’t he’d make it.

I lean down to talk to him since he’s hunched over. “Sure you don’t wan-”

“No,” Jim interrupts.

Whatever… I was about to tell Jim about this beach resort realm where the illusionary seafood and wine was forever flowing. I was about to remind him, once again for the infinite time, that happiness was literally a choice in this place. There was no fire, brimstone, or red scaly beasts with tails raping you with pitchforks. Hell was a personal choice. The torture here is literally self-serve.

“Hmmmm…” I take a step towards the grassy landscape. “This is nice.”

It was nicer than the last place where I nearly caught a crossbow bolt to the face. Or the amusement park full of clowns that turn people into cotton candy.

“It’s what she’d like,” Jim replies.

“We should stay here a while,” He suggests. “Allow you to rest up a bit.”

“No time,” Jim says.

“There’s literally no time here,” I reply. “So no sense in rushing. She ain’t going anywhere.”

Crackle… Crackle…

“She’s close,” Jim says. “I feel her.”

“That’s your organs turning to Jam and oozing out your bum.”

“She’s close,” He says again.

“You said that already…” I reply.

“I’m sure this time…” Jim sticks his chest out. “She grew up on grassy acres… On a barn…”

“I don’t care!” I scream, unable to pretend any longer.

“You said you’d guide me,” Jim whines.

“Because I was bored,” I reply. “I’m even more bored now!”

“Fine… I’ll go on my own.”

“Why? And don’t say because you love her.”

“She’s my soulmate…”

“Fairy tales!”

The soulmate thing was made up by the Greeting Card industry.

Jim points his curved finger in my face. “The angel-”

I shove his hand away. “Winged lady was trolling you, pal.”

“Seven realms over.”

“Seven? Exactly Seven?”

“We’ve travelled five.”

“You most definitely look it, Jim.”

They always fall for the divine number nonsense. Why not eleven. Or twenty two?

“She wasn’t lying,” Jim says.

“How can you be sure?” I ask.

“Because… There’s no reason to.”

“Of course there is… You’re gullible.”

And gullible, love-sick, betas like Jim are a joy to screw with. And, since winged lady and I are cut from the same cosmic cloth, or so I surmise, I figure she gets a kick out of playing the after-life’s tour guide like I do. And about her wings… I figure that was her schtick… But I do wonder about those wings….I hear they stretch across a realm. How’d she get those? Probably some trick she learned since she’s quite old and has been here since the beginning or whatever. Or so I hear. Heck, I’ve heard she’s crossed more realms than any unbothered in all of the un-xistance. But I digress. I’ll find her one of these days and pick her brain. Or, maybe pluck a few of her wing feathers.

Jim taps me.

He probably wants to apologize for being a jerk.

“Yes?” I ask.

Jim shrugs. “Hey I-”

Vooosh!

A strong gust of wind topples Jim and nearly does the same to me.

Still on my feet. I recover.

I wave my middle finger into the distance.

“What?” Jim picks himself up from the ground.

I smirk at the landscape. “Is that emotion I sense?”

“Who are you talking to?” Jim asks.

“It… them… all of this.. .” I point in all directions. “I explained this to you two fucking realms ago!”

Jim shakes his head. “I-”

“Oh, never mind…” I throw my hands in the air. “Probably scramble your brain next jump and forget again.”

Jim walks off without me.

He was being sensitive again. And stupid.

“Where are you going?” I walk after him. “You have no idea who exists here…”

“I don’t care,” Jim answers.

He must be trying to get himself blipped. Jim knows Undecideds like him were far more dangerous and unpredictable than any of my kind. Depending on the kind of torture they endured in life, and brought with them to the after-life, they could be harboring demons -etheral carnivores birthed by torture, or weapons that could blip (temporary kill) them from Purgatory. Or, even worse, their volatile emotions or desires could go nuclear, and wipe out everything in the realm. And I mean EVERYTHING, Including us. And I can’t get blipped. Not now. I’d have to learn how not to give a shit all over again. What a pain…

I have to dismiss my worry.

I have to pause. I pause. I have to cover my ears, block out the noise, and remind myself. And chant… yes, chant. Nothing matters. Nothing matters. My after-life literally depends on nothing mattering. Which, is a bit ironic now that I think of it. If nothing matters, then I won’t care if I get blipped.

I tap my chin.

I can’t recall the last time I was blipped. I literally can’t remember… which is kind of the point I guess.

Jim was yards ahead of me.

I was so deep in though I didn’t notice.

“Stop…” I demand.

“What?” Jim pauses.

“You’re torturing yourself.”

Jim shakes his head and keeps walking.

“You wait just a goddam minute,” I demand. “You owe me.”

Travelling partner stopped. “I do?”

He doesn’t owe me squat. That line always get them to stop.

“You know why I cross freely?” I ask. “Because I’ve cut away feelings. And desires.”

Jim looks confused. But he’s listening.

“You travel with all that weight. That, gunk in your soul. That garbage eat you inside out with each crossing.” I added. “You get it?”

“Sure,” Jim dismissively answers.

“So what do you say, associate?” I offer my hand. “Snip away the feelings. Let’s visit some more colorful realms. Forget this love thing.”

Come to think of it… When’s the last time I visited my own realm?

Jim approaches me again.

That’s right… You’re making the…

“Thanks for everything,” Jim says before he ignores my hand, straightens his dislodged shoulders and staggers onwards towards the cabin in the distance.

“Catch up to you later?!” I call after Him.

Jim looks taller in the distance. He walks away without even a wave goodbye.

I shrug.

Jim’s not going far without me, so I decide to allow him some time to wander the realm while I converse with my stalker.

“He looks a mess, doesn’t he?” I lean down and pluck a blade of grass. “That wind thing you did was unbecoming of you, Unhinged.”

Always watching. Listening. Probing my thoughts. They were literally everywhere. And everything. And in or of all things. That gust of wind they hurled at me and my idiotic travel partner could have easily been a category five tornado. That’s if they wanted to really fuck shit up. Ha.

I crush the blade of grass in my palm. “No need to be jealous.”

The Untethered were not allowed to interfere,interact, or partake in any of the fun within purgatory. They are… How can I explain… Semi-sentient laws. Invisible referees. They are the living embodiment of the status quo in purgatory. They are slaves to comic duty. What a boring existence.

I dust the dirt off my favorite Lee Ving T-shirt. “You don’t intimidate us. Not anymore.”

A bed of thorns form around me. Overtaking my knees. Then my hands.

“Oh, don’t be such a bitch…” I say.

The Unhinged and their rules. The Undecided and their fucking baggage. Being an Unbothered was where it was at. I’ll never choose…. Ill stay forever.

Skrrrrr! The grassy landscape blinks into a gray void before returning. It lasts a nanosecond.

I laugh.

I’ve seen that gray void before. The world around me would disappear for a nanoseconds then reappear. And it’s more and more frequent on my visits to other realms…

“What’s the matter, Unhinged?” I ask. “Feeling powerless?”

“Stop… this,” The realm replies in a whisper.

I tear through the bed of thorns.

As I told the Unhinged the last time we had a row…

I do what I please here. Even if it means skull-fucking everything in Purgatory in the process.

The remaining thorns turn to ash and blow away in the breeze. I think I hear the grasslands moaning. Weeping.

Music to my ears.

“Hey, pal…” I call after my pitiful travelling Partner. “Wait up!”

I’ll help this idiot find his wife. But only because I know it will piss of the Untethered. And most important of all, I know for sure this will collapse this whole system. And its well past time the Transition, this glorious shit-hole, geta taken down a peg.

Applications are a drag. (Thank goodness the apocalypse is coming).

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He knew they made the application process mind-numbing-ly long and tedious on purpose. It was to scare away unqualified applicants and people who did not truly give a flying shit about working there. People like him. Unqualified. Not unqualified because they could not do the work. Unqualified because they didn’t give a shit about doing the work.

He squirmed in his seat.

It’d been an hour but it felt like longer.

Why the hell would they ask him to input his full job history and upload his resume. Seemed redundant to him considering everything they needed and asked for was included on his resume. What a drag, he thought.

“What?” Marcey asked him.

“Boring,” He replied. “And a waste of time.”

“Everything bores you.”

“Just this… this  worthless piece of shit process.”

“Well, its the process.”

He wondered why Marcey put up with his impatience. His immaturity. His stubbornness. His questionable attention span.

He completed his work history and saved his progress before moving onto the next section.

Training and Education. 

He took a deep breath.

Almost complete. Or so he believed. Or so he hoped.

He finished his wine.

If she could put up with him and his attitude for years then he could put up with filling out a single stupid application for a night. It was only fair. Though, the idea of sacrificing the few waking hours he had to himself to complete some stupid application for a job he didn’t want anyway filled him with dread. So much dread. Feelings threatened to cripple the application process.

“Shit.” He sank in his chair.

“Language,” Marcey warned.

“Browser froze.” He tried returning to the previous form. “Didn’t save nothing.”

“Oh man,” She replied. “Do it over.”

“Can’t,” He panicked. “Won’t let me.”

His blood started to boil

A whole hour of his life, potentially wasted. There was no way in hades he would waste another doing another application.

“No way,” He said. “I’ll wait til it thaws.”

“What?” Marcey asked.

“Thaws… Unfreezes,” He replied.

Marcey shook her head. “Strange man.”

He threw his head back against his chair.

“Could have been halfway done with a new one,” Marcey said.

Of course, Marcey was correct. He could have halfway completed another application in the time he was waiting for the window to unfreeze.

“Damn.” He closed the browser.

“That computer is trash,” Marcey said.

He restarted his trash portable laptop.

“So stupid,” He said to himself.

“Sorry, babe,” Marcey said.

“Didn’t want to start over.”

He was furious but kept how he felt to himself.

He restarted the browser.

None of that nine to five plantation bullcrap was going to matter soon anyway. He planned to be self employed. No more putting in stupid applications and begging people for work. He’d rather be homeless or die than to spend the little youth he had left than taking peoples orders. And those horrible commutes… If he wasn’t so afraid of Marcey, he’d pound his fist on the table in disgust.

He entered his username and password.  Logged into the job site. Returned to the application.

A newsfeed window popped up on the bottom corner of his screen. Something about a conflict. Threats of nuclear war.

Soon that nine to five torture wasn’t going to matter. The direction the world was heading, the apocalypse was going to wipe out everything anyway. And only people like him were going to survive. People who understood how fragile and volatile the illusion of living a responsible adult life really was. One nuke. One meteor collision. One caldera eruption. One viral or zombie outbreak away from total anarchy. From wiping away the illusion. Christ will return Oh… he thought in his best Yoruba accent. The thought of judgment day and the impending doom filled him with joy. After the application he’d search Amazon for early Black Friday deals on survival gear and a crossbow.

His application loaded. Everything he’d input…. was…. there.

No survival gear or crossbow shopping now, he thought. The apocalypse would have to wait until after his interview. Marcey tweaked his resume. He was confident there would be an interview in the coming weeks.

“Hey.” He scrolled through his application. “Looks like it saved.”

“Great,” Marcey said.

“Yeah,” He replied. “All there.”

Marcey blew him a kiss.

“Thanks,” He said.

He wondered why she put up with him. But knew why he was able to be an adult and put up with another job application…. For her. Marcey was all the reason he needed.

 

 

Hero Complex pt 1: “Rise -and fall- of the Puppy Guardian”

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My hero complex was going to get me killed. Or fired. I knew it would. Death and unemployment would not stop me from being a hero and protecting that puppy.

I stopped traffic. Snatched the lost puppy from the street and carried it to the sidewalk.

“Calm down,” I begged as the baby pitbull tried to wiggle its way out of my grasp. “Chill yo.”

My work clothes were a wreck. I looked like a construction worker covered in many shades of brown. Dirt and god knows what. I didn’t want to to guess what was on that dog’s paw.

And I was already thirty minutes late for my new job. I sent an email from my smartphone. Considered lying to my supervisor. Stomach bug. The runs. Nobody questions loose bowels and I wouldn’t need a doctor’s note or further explanation. Everyone gets diarrhea and nobody questions it.

I put a leash on the puppy’s collar.

I thought the pup was a boy. Couldn’t tell and I didn’t want to lift its leg to check. I thought that would look weird to anybody walking by.

“Who’s your owner?” I asked the pup. “You live around here?”

I tried to recall the dog owners in the neighborhood. There were many. And the puppy’s breed was common in my community.

I walked the pup across the street to my block.

A woman with a dog walked towards me.

“Excuse me,” I said to the woman. “Do you recognize the dog?”

The woman shook her head and kept going.

“Thanks…. for nothing,” I said.

The neighborhood was full of rude and antisocial assholes, I thought. That’s what I get for trying to help an innocent creature, I thought.

I walked to the house. Opened the door.

Considered opening the front gate leading to the backyard but that would required me to tie the dog to the front door and go through the house. Didn’t want to just leave the dog outside. Didn’t want people in the neighborhood to think I was an animal abuser. If I saw a dog tied to a front door I would think it was abuse.

I opened the door. Walked the dog through the house, living room, and basement leading into the backyard.

“I’ll find your owner after work,” I said to the pup. “Gotta go to work.”

I shut the basement door.

Dog whimpering. Scratching the door.

There was nothing I can do then. I was already an hour late to work on my third day. Or… was it my second? Could have been my fourth, I thought. Didn’t matter. There was nothing I could do other than keep him safe in my yard. If I let it go it’ll wander.

I ran upstairs. Changed out of my sweaty, dirty button-up shirt and replaced it with a fresh short sleeve polo. Put on a second coat of deodorant. And I was out of the house and on the way to the Metro rail within five minutes of changing.

My phone vibrated. Marcey was calling again.

I sighed. Reluctantly answered.

“Yes?” I said.

“Where’s the dog?” Marcey asked.

“The yard,”  I replied.

“Which yard?” Marcey asked.

“Our yard,” I replied.

“What?” Marcey shrieked. “How’d he get there?”

“Through the house,” I replied.

“You walked a strange dog through our living room?” Marcey said.

“He’s not strange,” I shot back. “He’s a puppy.”

Marcey laughed.

“What’s funny?” I asked, feeling a bit offended.

“Nothing, yeesh,” Marcey replied. “I was talking to my coworker a-”

“Why tell your coworkers?” I asked.

“Oh come on,” Marcey said whilst laughing.

I didn’t understand what she found so damn funny about the situation. I just rescued a puppy from being flattened by multiple cars. I just preserved precious life! She should be praising not mocking him. She should be begging to give me a back massage for all the heroic work I put in that day. Asking how I would like my eggs prepared for my heroes breakfast. And what made it worse was she brought her stupid coworkers in on the joke. I was the joke, I guessed. She didn’t appreciate my heroism. No surprise.

“Don’t leave him in the yard,” Marcey said. “Let him go. He’ll find his way home.”

“And let him get run over?” I said.

“That’s not your problem,” Marcey said. “Someone could be looking for him.”

I sighed.

Stupid dog. Stupid girlfriend making fun of me for wanting to be a hero. Stupid me with the hero complex that will one day get me killed by a dog owner. Or a speeding car. Or a stray dog. Stupid situation, I thought.

I returned to the house and to backyard.

The pup was waiting for me on the backyard balcony. The pup sprinted down the stairs and immediately jumped into my arms. Left dirty paw prints on my fresh shirt.

“Come on little guy,” I said as I hooked the leash to the pup’s collar and lead him out of my yard.

I took him a block away to a small park away from the main avenue.

I was going to let him go. But I didn’t want to let him go onto Main Street where he could get flattened by a speeding car. I couldn’t sleep comfortably knowing I contributed to the death of a puppy. Maybe Marcey could. But I couldn’t.

“Good luck, little guy,” I said as I released the puppy onto the side street.

Maybe its owner will find it. Maybe someone else from the neighborhood will discover the pup and give it a new home. I tried. Lord knows I tried.

The dog ran to the nearby playground, sniffed around the grass before lifting its leg to pee.

Oh, its a male, I realized.

I wished him -the puppy- well before sprinting home. Quickly changed into a fresh shirt and rushed out of my house and towards the bus stop.

I hope I could catch a bus. I was more than an hour late to my new job. But I saved a life so it was worth it.

The puppy -the same one I spent an hour rescuing– narrowly avoided two cars as it darted across the street.

“Shit,” I said to myself. “Are you kidding?”

The puppy disappeared into an alley.

“Damn,” I cursed myself.

My phone vibrated.

At first I thought it was my job reaching out to see whether I had returned the lost dog. Whether or when I would be reporting to work since nobody else among the pool of PhD’s and Masters degrees know how to make photocopies or pivot tables. Part of me hoped it wasn’t the job. I didn’t much feel like lying over the phone. Not while I was in a heroic mood. Also I was a terrible liar.

It wasn’t the job.

“Yes, dear,” I answered.

“What happened to the dog?” Marcey asked.

I couldn’t tell Marcey what happened. I already felt like an idiot. Didn’t feel like being the butt of her and her coworkers jokes.

“Nothing,” I replied. “On my way to work.”

It was time I hung up my cape, I thought. Well past time I gave up being the hero. And considered villainy instead.

I clenched my fist.