A hitherto unremarkable student whose name escapes me stood up to give his presentation.He was blatantly under-stimulated, as were his classmates.
I teach Sonambulation 101— the Art of Sleepwalking.
He didn’t clear his throat, or preface, or make any sort of ceremonial segue.
He apathetically leapt into it.
Here we go:
“I dreamed I was a tourist in Heaven.
Everything was cotton-candy powdery and white.
I was alone
and privy to the comings and goings
of celestial beings.
Buddhas and Vishnus sat at cafes drinking mochachinos
while Zeus and Pan walked hand-in-goaty-hand down the boulevard,
observing the storefronts filled with angels posing in the season’s latest
Many of the beings were unrecognizable —
lost to mythology, I guess.
Here was a deity with tentacles for lips;
there was a goddess made of blue feathers,
each burning in endless flame.
The energy was frenetic —
the gods were all buzzing,
as though that headline news had been foreboding that day.
WMDs in the afterlife?
Immortal avian flu dropping angels left and right like tainted poultry?
And I was just a human-
uninitiated in the Heavenly mass.
They all ignored my advances and went about their divine business.
A miserably adorable cherubim urgently approached me and,
grabbing my wrist,
‘We need you in the Library!’
and I had the sensation of being whisked through the air
like a discarded newspaper bouncing about the highway.
We came to an awkward landing in the doorway to a vast
but comfortable room-
cozy burgundy couches surrounded by picture windows
and the unending clouds beyond.
The occasional bookshelf would divide these vistas,
and though I would have loved to take a look at their collection,
I was dragged down a flight of stairs to a sitting area built around
an ancient chez lounge
upon which rested a pale and shriveled
turnip of an old man,
scraggly white beard and cascading frosty hair
like a winter waterfall.
Gathered about him were gracious beings,
winged garudas and physical embodiments of pure light.
They parted as the cherub led me to the old man,
all whispering and gawking in a way no one should see a god stare.
Gods are supposed to inspire awe.
You shouldn’t be able to catch a god off-guard.
I self-consciously worked my way to the old man’s side
and he looked up at me with blunt and rheumatic eyes.
His breath was a struggling vibrato of
stones in a coffee tin
and his lips quivered back over yellowish gums.
I wanted to love him
but could only feel pity for him
and realized with astonishment and horror that this
rapidly fading mummy
And here was the Creator of all,
balancing upon the tip of his own surprisingly mortal coil.
He shook with palsied concentration
and pulled from under his spindly hip
a roll of browned parchment.
This he extended shakily toward me,
but as I reached to receive it
a commotion at the entranceway captured everyone’s attention.
a gauntly tall figure in a pristine
3-piece pinstripe suit stormed in,
and barking at the onlookers to
get the fuck out of his way,
He spoke with a pinched British accent
and carried himself pompously upright
as though he were king of the ostriches-
and I immediately hated him.
The cherubim tugged my wrist and pulled me aside,
then perched on my shoulder and whispered:
‘Stay out of his way!
Satan hates the Living!’
And I knew beyond doubt that this twerp
in his expensive suit and impeccably balanced fedora
had to be the source of all evil in existence.
He couldn’t be loveable.
He had a mustache.
Satan barreled through the crowd as it parted for him,
shoving the occasional minor deity aside.
I stood entranced
unable to move from his fuming trajectory,
forgetting God’s scroll,
his desperate, outreached hand.
His waning energy.
The cherubim yanked me out of Satan’s path,
spinning me back to the
still held aloft,
regained my attention,
and as I reached to claim it,
Satan slapped my hand like a reprimanding grandmother
and snatched it
from God’s fist.
With a final seizure and a pitiful cough,
the infinite being gave out.
He fell back onto his chez lounge,
and He left me alone with the whole of His creation.
Satan wasted no time in unrolling the scroll
and grunted unceremoniously as he read its contents.
This didn’t take long,
as mere seconds later he rolled it up carelessly and
shoved it against my chest.
Huffing like an exhausted ox
he stared me down
pointed to the scroll,
and said with unnatural calm
and blatant hatred:
‘That is yours.
That is you.’
and waited in a pretentiously expectant
manner for me to open it.
I spared God one final look
and unrolled the parchment.
Satan threw out one more callous
‘That is all of you,’
before letting me read my scroll.
It simply read:
And then I was whisked through library and promenade
and swirling debris of
clouds and planets
into a cacophony of existence
and was deposited
sitting upright on my bed,
disoriented and living
lost to a purpose
or sensation or reason.
The class, rapt with confusion or an easily mistaken glaze of oblivion, offered an obfuscated applause- mute and lonely.
I checked my assignment roster twice, just to solidify my confusion.
“Um…” I began. “You were supposed to do a presentation on The Old Man and the Sea”– I half asked, half accused.
“Oh,” came his retort. “I hated it.”
I had to give myself one second for composure’s sake, then I replied:
“Yeah… me too.”