At first I assume he's exactly like any other guy I had ever had a one night stand with. Well, okay – not exactly the same. He seems a little...strange. Quirky, one might say. What I originally think of as a pick-up line seems unbelievably cheesy. He just waltzes right up to me buzzing with an air of confidence and says, "I'm here to take you to heaven." And normally, that kind of stuff doesn't work with me but the guy was insanely attractive, like buckle at the knees attractive. So I end up buying him a drink. And then he starts to get flustered, buzzing with anxiety instead of his former daring. I tell him not to be so impatient and he looks at me flummoxed, as if he is completely and utterly out of his depth. I figure he's just nervous and I find it cute, endearing even. I buy him another drink. And another. And another. He starts to relax. I take him back to my place.
He asks me mere moments before I fall asleep if he can ask me a question. After receiving my permission he stares into my eyes with an almost unbearable penetrating intensity and asks in a delicate whisper, "How do you feel about me, right now?" And I suspect that maybe it's the drink talking or the post-coital bliss but I tell him with a striking clarity in my own mind that I love him.
"Yes," he says, sounding unsurprised, "I have that effect on people. But will you still love me in the morning – when I take your life away?" I flinch at his words and then promptly fell asleep.
The next morning I wake up to the smell of burnt toast and raw bacon. Upon stumbling out of bed and veritably crawling into the kitchen I am met with the image of last night's conquest wearing my 'Kiss The Chef' apron. A gift, courtesy of my brother that had never been used before and normally hung on a hook next to the fridge displayed out in the open solely for show.
"Morning," I manage to grunt before collapsing into a chair beside my neatly set table. I don't recall my table ever being neatly set before this moment.
"Good morning," he all but sings back in response. "Breakfast is nearly ready," he says, pouring me a glass of orange juice – it appears to be freshly squeezed yet I know all I have in the fridge is concentrated.
"Sleep well?" he asks.
I mumble back a yes as best I can and I presume he understood. He is still on his feet, pacing the kitchen and wringing his hands, he's actually beginning to make my head spin and I tell him as much.
"Sorry," he says, bowing his head and halting his footsteps, "I'm just, well, I'm...I... Breakfast. I'm making breakfast."
"I can see that," I reply.
I take a swig of juice – definitely freshly squeezed, I privately confirm – and lean back in my chair before bracing myself for an awkward conversation, "See, the thing is," I begin, "the thing is, eh, um," I pause and desperately try to remember his name, "well, this is sort of embarrassing. Um – fill in the blanks?"
"Dominic – and don't worry you didn't forget it, I didn't tell you it last night."
"Right, of course, see, the thing is, Dominic, you didn't need to make me breakfast."
"I wanted to," he asserts, wrinkles beginning to mar his brow line.
"The gesture is appreciated, truly it is, but-"
"Can't you just eat it?" he pleads, his brow furrowing further, "Please?"
I nod my acquiescence.
"Just two more minutes and then it's ready," he says, just as a scratching noise becomes audible from the next room, "What's that?"
"Waffles." I reply drearily, still not past my 'I just woke up and the world is a fuzzy blur' hump.
"I uh, I'm sorry. I didn't make any," he says, looking unthinkably apologetic and vaguely lost at this revelation.
"No," I mutter, more awake now as I roll my eyes at him, "Waffles. As in, that was Waffles my pet dog making noise." – though waffles would've been a nice addition to breakfast.
"Oh," he replies, pulling at his shirt collar and looking generally more uncomfortable.
"Not a dog person then," I state more than ask.
"I like cats."
"Figures." I stand up and go tend to the dog who only needs a snack and a good petting before it resumes its prior state of unconsciousness curled up on my grandmother's antique futon, still, better there than my brand new leather couch. I return to the kitchen to find food on the table and my houseguest pouring tea.
"Sit down and dig in," he smiles somewhat awkwardly. I do just that and he follows suit soon after.
He's more attractive in the daylight, I decide. He seems to almost glow. It's unnerving, intimidating yet at the same time eerily captivating.
"So," he says, interrupting my staring, "what type of dog is it?"
"Well you're the one who cooked it," I answer, my tone full of fake incredulity, "and I was kind of thinking, hoping I guess, that it was pork."
"I meant Waffles," he replies, grinning.
"Oh," I say, nonchantly, "cocker spaniel."
He nods in response. A silence settles as we continue eating, an oddly comfortable silence before he disturbs it just as I was mid chew.
"I have to tell you something important," he proclaims dramatically, over-dramatically in my book, "I can't prolong it any longer." And with that he abruptly dropped the knife and fork he had been using to the table as if they were burning him, which seems to me a bit theatrical.
I finish munching before I reply, "You're not pregnant, are you?"
"Uh, not to my knowledge, no," he says, thrown by my lack of reaction to the nervous breakdown that he looks to be staging in my kitchen, "I don't actually think that's physically possible what with me being male and all."
"Well then, why so glum, plum?" And he does look glum. His normally flawless face, or at least I presume normally, is tainted by a deep sadness that I cannot comprehend. He was perfectly fine no less than five minutes ago. Surely nothing too tragic has occurred since then.
"I, I tried to tell you last night."
"Oh?" I say, mentally going over everything I could remember him saying last night.
"It would have been easier to tell you then. To make it happen then...before..." He sounds desolate, he raises one hand to his face and buries his head into his palm whilst he's speaking.
"Before what?" I question.
"Before I grew attached. Before you became a person to me rather than another blank face in a sea of empty shells. But you, you ignored me and just went on about your business. I've never meant anyone like you." He laughes bitterly as he said this. "Do you realise the effect you've had on me? I am so fired."
"I'm a little lost."
"I'm trying to explain as best I can," he says, eyes clouded with confusion, "I messed up the world for you, do you get that? You should have died; the world should have lost you last night. It didn't. That's going to have repercussions. Consequences. I am so definitely fired."
"Died?" I squeak. How did I always manage to bring the crazy ones home?
"Yes, last night. Remember? I was supposed to bring you to heaven but instead you brought me there - a different sort of heaven, of course, but a better heaven to me actually, better than the real thing. I'm rambling, aren't I?"
"A bit, I guess." And the psychotic ones too, apparently. It's at this juncture that I begin to panic, inwardly at least. I'm having a bit of a meltdown but I'm doing my very best to appear calm.
"It's complicated what I'm trying to tell you. The gist of it is I was sent here to bring you to heaven but I didn't, I couldn't...because I was weak," he blanches at this point.
I take advantage of his pause to interject, "So what you're essentially saying is, you're here to kill me?"
"No!" he declares adamantly, "I'm more of a messenger."
"Oh," I say and then again in a low echo, "oh."
"I think I upset the status quo, letting you live."
"Right," I grimace, my pulse is positively galloping at this stage, my heart feels like it's going to burst right out of my chest or combust noisily within it, either way it would be messy. "So, you're like...a grim reaper, or something?" Not that I think for one second at this particular point in time that he is anything other insane but I figure keeping him talking might be the wisest option.
"No," he avers, "I'm a god."
"Right," I reply letting my scepticism get the better of me, "and I'm a chipmunk."
"I suppose you're thinking what's so special about me?" he murmurs before saying with a wry smile, "I mean, besides the fact that I can walk on water."
"Yeah, you got me. That's exactly what I'm thinking." I say, sardonically, "that's what I generally think when I'm confronted by a god."
"I can prove that that's what I am."
"Go at it then," I say, crossing my arms in defiant deference, which is probably not the most advisable action to take when I believe a deranged man capable of murder who conceives of himself as god is sitting at my kitchen table but I never claimed to be clever. Or prudent. Or cautious.
He stands up then and raises his arms and the faint glow I had noticed earlier is enhanced to extraordinary proportions. It's as if all the light in the world is being emitted from his skin. It's incredible. I am honestly and utterly buoyed by a sense of awe.
"Al l that proves is that you're slightly radioactive." I say with ire, even though my mind is swirling with doubt and shock.
He glares at me. "I'm not quite finished with the demonstration, if you don't mind."
I hold up my hands in mock surrender and tell him to continue.
Slightly mollified he then proceeds to extend his arms over the table and in doing so succeeds in knocking a jug onto the floor.
"I spilt your milk," he says, apologetic.
"I've heard that there's no point crying over that," I state.
"That's the rumour anyways."
"More important things to worry about, you know?" I say, sighing, "Such as my imminent death. Look, I'll just clean this up and then we can get back to your little demonstration." I stand up in an effort to fetch a dish cloth and sort out the mess.
"This is the demonstration," he says, condescendingly. "Sit back down," he demands of me with unwavering authority.
I sit back down.
He raises his arms once more and tells me to watch the milk on the floor. I do as requested and soon begin to hear a soft hum of noise that I can't quite explain. It's like that buzz, that ringing you get in your ears after listening to loud music for far too long but at the same time not like that at all. It's a gentle, soft sound like a light touch of a piano key. It's tense and relaxing all at the same time, inexplicable yet ethereally beautiful. And then it happens.
The jug lifts from the floor and just hovers over the spilt milk and then the milk, the milk condenses in size until it becomes nothing but a spot of white on my blue tiled floor. It then floats upward until it is above the jug and then something I don't quite espy happens. My vision is clouded for a moment and when all is clear again a light purple liquid is filling the jug, as if it were being poured out of the miniature white speck still hanging over said jug.
"It's not quite water into wine, but well, I have limited resources to work with here."
"What is it?" I enquire. My shock, I'm sure, is written all over my face.
"Grape juice," he smiles, "Here, have some."
"No, thank you." I say, still flabbergasted. What is apparently grape juice had stopped flowing and the white speck was nowhere to be seen, the jug slowly bobs back towards the table and lands softly on the surface next to my plate. "So," I brave, "you're God then."
"No, I'm a god," he corrects, "subtle difference."
"Right, but you're the genuine article anyways. And you're here because-"
"You're going to die."
"Well, we all die eventually," I say, shrugging my shoulders, "Although, I'd really rather not die just yet, if it's all the same to you. Are you sure you're not just a murderer?"
"Positive," he replies, as he sits back down on the chair across from me.
"I think this would be much easier to deal with if you were just a murderer."
"I'm sorry," he drawls and he truly does look sorry. "Believe me, this is really not something I want to happen. Not to you."
"Why not to me?" I query.
"You baffle me," he answers frankly.
"I don't mean to."
"You perplex me," he continues.
"You bewitch me."
"Total accident," I say, twisting my hands.
"You captivate me."
"Okay that one was on purpose," I say and he stares back at me and shakes his head in disbelief. "That was a joke, um..."
"I got that," he smirks, amused. "You don't react to things like a normal person would, you know that? You're the first human in a very long time, perhaps in forever, whose moved me or effected me in any way, shape or form. How can you be taking all of this so calmly? It's not logical. It's not real."
"You're the god here and you're telling me I'm not real?" I say accusingly.
"You're maddening," he declares.
"And you're heaven sent so I suppose that makes us even."
"Are you not bothered by any of this?" he quizzes.
"The dying part is a bit of a downer, to be honest," I say truthfully.
"I wish this didn't have to happen to you."
"But it does have to have, right?" I acknowledge. "Or else the world gets screwed up and it's possible that you've already screwed it up by delaying the inevitable."
"Yes," he answers, sullenly.
"If it helps, I don't blame you for doing what you do."
"It helps," he admits.
"But you can't blame me for hating it, okay?"
"That's beyond fair," he accedes.
"I really don't want to die," I say despondently.
"I didn't expect that you would."
"Why?" I ask, beseechingly, "Why do I have to die?"
"I don't know."
I bite my lip and then proceed to ask the question that has been leaving my mind unsettled since the exposure of his godly status, "How?"
"How am I going to die?" I clarify.
"I, I," he hesitates, "I don't know. I'm just supposed to collect your soul. After that, Death takes over."
"So if you didn't, you know, take my soul. Death wouldn't take over?"
"I guess not," he reluctantly affirms, "but, I'm not sure. Nobody has ever not taken the soul they were sent to collect before."
"First time for everything?" I suggest optimistically.
"I can't...it won't... the world. It won't be balanced, if you live."
"You think the world is balanced?" I snort with dubiety.
"I think it could be a lot worse."
I nod in agreement.
"Of course, if you die," he pauses, "when you die, my world will be a lot worse."
I look up at him with a sort of apprehension, he seems to be sincere though.
"You just met me," I say.
"Yeah, well. You've had a bit of an effect of me. I generally don't meet anyone, not for long anyways."
"Oh," I reply, "so it's sort of like a proximity thing."
"No," he abjures, "it's more than that and there's that whole, you baffle me thing. I can't explain it."
"That's alright," I assure him, "it doesn't really make a difference in the long run, does it? I mean, I'm going to die and you're going to go on your merry way."
"You do have a point, I suppose."
I try to smile at him in what I hope is a heartening manner. My head is still spinning, trying to come to terms with the concept of a god in my kitchen and the fact that I was about to die had yet to fully sink in. I decide to brave the grape juice just to have something to do with my hands.
"Hey," I say, in realisation after gulping down a mouthful, "this tastes the exact same as-"
"As the grape juice your neighbour used to give you when you were younger."
"You didn't think I'd believe you even with all the other tricks you pulled?" I ask, sceptically.
"No, I just thought you might like it."
"Thank you." I reply, gratefully, "that was, very considerate of you. I appreciate it."
"It was nothing," he shrugs, red faced. Who knew gods blushed? Granted, who knew gods sat in kitchens and took souls. "It's the least I could do," he continued.
I nod, only half listening to his response anyways. "Can we get out of here?" I ask, beginning to want to stare at something other than four walls before I can't stare at anything else ever again, "At least for a little while before the big send off or whatever, it's just beginning to feel a bit claustrophobic."
"Of course," he says, his features morphing into what looked like shock and even guilt, "I should have thought of that. You know, I mean, it doesn't have to end here, like, um, well. What I'm trying to say is, I've broken a lot of rules over you all ready, so we can go somewhere for the uh, event, anywhere, if you'd like."
"How does Bermuda sound?"
"Well, um, I," he begins, awkwardly.
"Joke. I just need to get of the house for a little bit, okay?" I sigh, "Anywhere will do for the dying thing so can we just discuss something else for a while, something completely unrelated to any of this? Can we try pretending that we're both just regular people and go from there?"
"Sure. But, just know okay, Bermuda's an option, if you want. Anywhere is."
"Thanks," I say wryly, rolling my eyes.
He inclines his head toward me. "So, where to?"
"First? To the bathroom actually, then I think, the wardrobe. I need to get cleaned up and dressed and all. I'll meet you out here in a few and we'll go walking, right?"
"I'll be waiting," he replies, with a sad smile.
It doesn't take me long to get ready. I hurried throw cold water on my face, give my teeth a quick brush and put on whatever random ensemble of clothes I can get my hands on. Then I go back out to the kitchen to Dominic - it feels strange to think of him by his name but I had been getting used to doing so over the last few minutes whilst my brain had been trawling vigorously through the morning's events. Dominic is still seated by the table. He looks anxious. He's chewing mercilessly on his bottom lip so much so that it has started to look raw and he's systematically crossing and uncrossing his legs. My soft footsteps didn't alert him to my presence so I stand silently for a while and watch him as he sits uneasy, constantly twitching as he frets away in mute vexation.
"What's up?" I ask eventually.
"Oh," he says, startled, "um, nothing. Are you ready to go?"
"Are you bravefacing it?"
"Putting on a brave face," I explain, "so as not to make me sad or whatever."
"For a human, you're very astute," he says, almost indulgently.
"Thank you. I think." I reply as I walk out of the kitchen. Dominic shadowing my departure as I had presumed he would. In the hall I stop to grab my coat before opening the front door and venturing out into the crisp icy morning.
"Where to?" he asks, "I'm following your lead."
"Would you believe that I can't think of anywhere I want to go?"
"No friends you want to say goodbye to?" he questions.
"None. I guess that says a lot about the life I've been leading, kind of pathetic, right?"
"Wrong," he asserts. "Come on, I know just the place to go."
He starts walking briskly down the street and I have to quickly shuffle my feet to catch up with him but when I finally do reach him he smiles one of those smiles that never fails to make you catch your breath and he takes my hand. And it is oddly nice. I mean, despite everything that's happening it's just nice to hold somebody's hand and walk with them.
"Tell me," he urges, "why don't you have friends?"
"It's not that I don't have friends. Well, I mean. I'm not socially backward or anything," I say, embarrassed. "I just never exactly forged any lasting friendships when I moved here. I know people. I just don't know people who I actually really care about or who really care about me."
"That sounds kind of awful," he says, looking sympathetic.
"I never really minded it before."
"Is it not lonely?" he enquires.
"I have Waffles. That always been enough," I tell him. He looks at me with pure scepticism. "Honestly," I continue, "I've always been a bit of a loner. I do okay by myself." I'm not sure who I'm trying to convince more at this point, him or me.
"When did you move here?" he asks.
"About two years ago," I answer. "How many other questions are involved in this interview?"
"Approximately fifty seven," he replies, looking down at me, raising an eyebrow and smiling.
"Well get on with it then," I say and grace him with a smile of my own.
"Tell me about something you love."
"That's quite the question." I say, trying to think of an answer.
"Well you're quite the person," he retorts, appealing to my better nature with his flattery.
"Anything I love?"
"Anything," he acknowledges, "But you have to love it."
"Okay, well. I guess. I love my piano."
"Well then tell me about it."
"I just...it's hard to describe, there's something...amazing about just being able to sit down and let your fingers to the talking," I begin then, to get caught up in my description of what I loved. "When I play it's like, everything else doesn't matter, the whole world is blocked out and the music is, is all there is, all that's happening. Wow, that sounds really dumb. I just, I love it. I love the strange freedom that I feel when I'm able to just bang away at those keys and toy with different chord progressions and work out the kinks in a melody line I'm trying to play by ear and just the feeling of being able to create something that can sound potentially lovely is so incredible. I, I'm sorry, I must be boring you, going on like this."
"I don't mind. I asked for it, remember? And as it turns out, the thing is, and here's the rub of it really, I'd rather be bored by you then interested by anyone else. It's a rather strange sensation. I don't understand it."
"You don't have to bother trying to understand it," I tell him, in a bad attempt at comfort, "I'm going to die soon, so that must be some solace."
"No," he says with ire as he stops walking and begins to frown, "not at all. I'm not a sadist, you know? I don't get any kicks out of this."
"I didn't mean it like that."
"I know," he says, "And besides, I'm beginning to think I can't do this."
"...can't take my soul you mean?" I implore.
"Yes," he agrees. "I mean, I can't honestly be expected to take the soul of someone who loves me, can I? I'm sure the management will understand."
"I don't love you!" I exclaim in horror at his far too casual words.
"You told me you did last night," he says, tilting his head to the side with confusion.
I wince as I recall that incident. Did I really tell him that I loved him? What was I thinking? And his reaction. Oh. How did I forget that?
"Well that was the booze talking." I argue.
"No," he says vehemently, "that was you talking."
"No way," I contend.
"Look, think about it. How do you feel about me right now? Even knowing that I'm here to take your life."
"I love you." I say automatically, "Wait, what? Oh my fucking god, I love you."
"You shouldn't take the lord's name in vain, you know," he intones. "That's a rule right there."
"I love you?" I question.
"Oh," I say morosely.
"Don't sound so depressed by it, it's natural, it happens. I'm a god, you can't really help it. And look at this way, I mean, it's the only thing keeping you alive right now."
"Love is keeping me alive?" I query.
"I know it sounds a bit like a bad country western song but yeah, that's how it is."
"I really don't know how to react to that," I profess, "I don't mean to love you."
"And I don't mean to reciprocate those feelings."
"But you do?" I ask, and embarrassingly I hope he does.
"Okay, just let me get a few things straight. I love you because I'm conditioned to because you're a god, right?"
"Right," he nods.
"And because I love you, you're duty bound to feel something for me in return."
"Sort of, but it's also sort of genuine too. I mean, I liked you initially but then because you love me it just sort of intensifies what I had already felt."
"Right. So we're both obligated to carry a torch for each other?"
"Well that's not very romantic," I argue.
"You don't think? I kind of like the idea. It's sort of star-crossed loveresque, don't you think? Two individuals, duty bound to care for each other. And our affections towards one another are actually more genuine and real and consuming than what other people can even begin to dream of feeling."
"Really," he asserts.
"I don't feel very consumed."
He snorts in reply.
"So," I say then, "where are we on the whole me having to die issue?"