When I lay down to sleep that night, I suddenly felt I wasn’t alone in the room. I rose slightly, and in the corner of the room spotted the silhouette of something that resembled a human being. I turned on the light and saw the intruder that looked like an elderly man.
»You often mention me,« he said.
»Who in God’s name are you?« I asked, rather irritated.
»Ehm...« he said hesitantly, was silent for a moment, and then continued rather theatrically: »I am God. And the places you mention along with my name I don’t like at all.«
»And why in God’s name are you telling me this?« I erupted. »And on top of it all in the middle of the night?«
»Well, yes...« he sighed, »she warned me this would not be easy at all.«
»She warned me? What are you talking about? For onanism 1 with your epileptic head you have the entire Universe at your disposal, and you come to do it in my bedroom at one in the morning?!«
»Ok, Ok,« he tried to be reassuring. »I had Mundi in mind. She told me that you were at your wit’s end and that it would all be more difficult than normally.«
»And now I’m supposed to understand you better?«
»Ehm... I thought you knew her. Weren’t you reading something about her recently?«
No wonder that, with a god like this, the devil multiplies like mad rats. This guy is obviously nuts.
»Mrs. Mundi is in charge of you down here,« he tried again. »Mrs. Anima Mundi is her full name; now it’ll probably click for you who I’m talking about. As a matter of principle I don’t usually interfere with her affairs.«
»Yes – too busy laying the big boss, aren’t you, to deal with your blockhead herd, eh?«
»You’re not the only ones, sod it,« he defended himself in surprisingly earthly manner. »This is why I chose her for the task. I am a kind of... head teacher, and she a kind of... teacher, educator – adviser, if you want.«
»And why couldn’t this miraculous saint – if you want – come down here herself? If you – directement – haven’t got a clue about anything?«
There was a short pause; he obviously needed some time to untie the knots of his intricate mental torrents. »Well,« he finally said with a hint of almost elated determination; he was obviously fed up with the role of the omniscient-distant bore. »I came to clear up some things you’ve been racking your brains about for too long; I think it’s high time you took the next step.«
»If possible, as slippery and as rickety as the majority of your brilliant creations, right?«
»There’s simply no other way.«
»And what about the fairy-tales about the free will?!« I flew into a passion. »Another one of the well-meaning deceptions from above?«
»No matter for how long you hesitate, ponder, procrastinate – in short deceive yourself –, you’ll have to go on sooner or later,« he answered without explaining anything.
»And you, nightmare! You’ll tell me what I have to do?! What the hell do you think you are in my life, eh? – And don’t you now go telling me who you are; I remembered what you blabbered about earlier. – Have to, have to... is this supposed to be your damn freedom?«
»Well, not exactly damned...« he mumbled again with his celestial cynicism. »In fact you’re never really totally free; you are, and you aren’t, that’s how it is...«
»You are, and you aren’t... you are, and you aren’t,« I was twisting around his blasphemous inconsistencies through clenched teeth. And yet: if it was any different, if this freak wasn’t so non-paradoxically perverted, if he fitted the illusions held about him by the sheep passing for donkey-like humans, then things wouldn’t be as they were. Why am I upset at all? He’s exactly like the insanities ascribed to him: confused, forgetful, inconsistent, arrogant, elderly fart. I could only be upset for imagining, in the naive part of my imagination, that he’s supposed to be something more.
»Paradoxes are important as they point to the logical inconsistencies in the hypotheses,« with a kind of intrusive triumph, he blurted out another one of his epileptic concoctions.
»Can’t you think of anything better than these quasi Zen Buddhist ideas? Big and strong – yet small and helpless; strong as an oak, defying mighty storms – yet bending like a feeble reed; I beg you – hobble off back to your quasi world, and let me go to sleep, I have to go to work tomorrow morning! Who in God’s name could put up with you?«
»But he wasn’t willing to hobble off.
»In short,« he tried again with some pompous solemnity. »The point is that – as I already mentioned – Mundi is in charge of life down here, but she’s obliged to take into account my general instructions – kind of guidelines for humanity.«
If I had still harboured some subconscious illusions about him, they definitely faded now. Perhaps this night wasn’t a total loss of time, as I first thought. It seems it will finally and forever become clear to me that god is in fact a worn-out old geezer, who you can count on approximately as much as on any similar old bloke – that is, you can’t count on him. If there’s anything you want to do, you have to do it yourself, and he will only get in the way, if anything at all.
»Ani M. is a kind of – what do you call it? – yes, collective subconscious, with a touch of her own soul, of course,« he continued with his gibberish.
»Who is supposed to approximately follow your approximate instructions about how to break one’s legs and neck on your approximately rotting stairs approximately leading approximately somewhere, but where approximately exactly, this nobody knows, not even approximately, right?« I almost enjoyed the outpour of sudden, relaxing sarcasm. »What’s-his-name created something approximately idiotic that occasionally does something approximately called thinking, feeling and so on – approximately something that is carefully stored in the so-called subconscious; and then you hired that frau Mundi to – following your approximate instructions – approximately adequately season this stew with her chicken-like wisdom.«
»Something like this, yes,« he coldly agreed.
»And now you’re bivouacking here, in the middle of my apartment, in the middle of my sleepless night, wasting my time and selling me the stinking stench of your stale mind! Hey, you elderly adolescent, it’s been enough! Get out of my house, and right away if you want to keep this crooked face of yours approximately in one piece!«
»But the point is,« he insisted with his tedious calm, » that you can’t escape this... shit, as you call it, understand? You can hang yourself a hundred times, and everything will stay exactly the same.«
Now his repulsive appearance assumed grotesque features in my eyes. I could no longer stand the radiation of those hypocritical staring eyeballs, the sound of his odious incomprehensible gibberish; I flung myself at this grave-like creature and started punching; I grabbed at his hair, pushed him against the wall so that he flopped on the floor; I kicked and screamed until I was out of breath; and when I recovered my strength, I did it again. And then once more.
The lying mass, that moments ago declared itself the Almighty, was motionless. Thoughtless I stared through the window into the dark night without the stars and without the moon.
And then – perhaps a minute or so later – the disfigured and bloody corpse moved. It reached for the head with its hands and placed it on the neck, affixed other parts of the body where they anatomically approximately belonged, and sat on the chair facing me.
»I told you it didn’t help,« he blurted out as if nothing special had happened, and, for the first time that night, laughed out loudly. »Ah, this reception of yours, hah hah hah..., hah hah hah... I’m usually received with much more respect.« And he laughed and laughed and panted like a jerking explosion of godly madness.
»Yes – the hypocritical mob is almost always quite servile.«
»Well, yes, in a way you might be right,« he agreed to my surprise, »but we don’t want to stray too far from our subject...«
»Are you going to tell me again what I’m supposed to think and what I’m supposed to talk about or what?« I flared up.
»And you? Are you going to keep repeating yourself like this or what?« he finally raised his impotent voice. »You know what those who know say?«
»That repetition of the same actions in hope of a different outcome...«
»So, you do know, you see? But, as it seems, you don’t really realise the meaning of those words! We can spend the rest of the night and the whole of tomorrow and perhaps another day, if you want, and in the end you’ll only be even more tired and irritable than you already are, and I’ll be even more behindhand with everything I have to do.«
»So spit out the rest of the shit you carried along in your protracted guts.«
»You determine your fate yourselves,« he blurted out with badly concealed impatience.
»Oh, please,« I sighed, »now you’re going to fill my stomach with these consumptive cuds?«
»You might listen for a moment, don’t you think? And you can judge everything after I’ve finished.«
»Well, go on, say it,« I said wearily.
»Once upon a time, when I was quite... young, we played a game that is quite common where I come from. It’s called Creation of the world that can exist on its own. That can change, sustain itself, procreate and so on, that is – live as long as possible.«
»Something like those herdsmen in white robes are trying to do with that genial engineering and similar nut-crackers, without noticing that the hours of their adolescent fantasizing are long past and it’s high time they did something better than chasing senseless phantasmagoria.«
»No, not quite like that, although for within the limits of this conversation the simile might be appropriate.«
»A bandit-like fraternity of fed up kids, that is.«
»Do you want to know what happened or not?«
»As if I had any choice!«
»Well – we created a lot of things. I, for instance, a couple of planets, among them the one we’re on right now, and people and similar rubbish. As you know, one of the primary tasks of any good system is data storage. So that one can make intelligent decisions in new situations on the basis of their analysis, and things like that.«
»Well, I decided to encode the data in a kind of genetic memory – if you want, you can call it the soul, it might feel closer. The history of the entire humankind, everything that has happened up to now is imprinted into this memory.«
»Have you ever thought you might teach someone how to decode this shit?«
»Well, don’t forget that in your case, too, everything is a game. And in games, as you very well know, most people lose.«
»I beg your pardon?«
»You heard me. – The game is called Who can discover – decipher, if you want – him- or herself.«
Once more I felt the temptation to strike his almighty face, but I resisted it somehow. I just might catch an hour or so of sleep if I let this nightmare end as soon as possible.
»And now you tediously lounge about somewhere above the clouds, each massaging his Anima who is supposed to fare as best she can in the shit you concocted. And you do nothing but intelligently grin and blabber on about how everything has managed to persist for quite long, despite the hopelessness of the case.«
»As if you were any different,« he answered peevishly, without explaining anything (of course). »You invent a thousand and one ways of how to destroy everything that even slightly resembles life. Isn’t it just mere childish mischief?«
»Obviously we’re inspired by our big brothers. – And this is supposed to be this miraculous heritage of yours!«
»Well, yes, we are what we are,« this once little bandit, but now a true, grown-up criminal, sighed in agreement. »But this constant upsetting of yours, you understand, simply doesn’t add up. In the long term the effect is approximately the same as was the effect of your attacking me just a while ago. You can kill yourself trying to rearrange atoms, but they will sooner or later arrange themselves in a way on which you have little influence. The only useful thing you can do is to solve the puzzle lurking within yourself – discover yourself, decipher yourself, understand? All your anger, rage and what-not won’t get you anywhere. As I’ve already said: In the long term – regardless of whether you’re the president of Stalingrad or a dustman in Ruše – your effect on the arrangement of atoms in the Universe is negligible, practically ziltch. You may go mad, blow up the whole planet and some others on top, if you want – have you ever looked up there and tried to imagine how big that thing is, eh?? – and yet this will have approximately the same effect as the belching of cows has on the sharpness of “dž’s” in Dževdželija. For instance, what would you think of an ant threatening with deadly seriousness to destroy the anthill, eh? Or of an ant making fun of you because you have no idea which floor its aunt is on or who stepped on its uncle in the middle of the forest the day before yesterday a few minutes after three in the morning? Eh??«
»I didn’t create the darn ants or the bloody garbage sites or damn Stalingrad!«
»Would you stop burrowing so blindly through your narrow lines! You know very well that no comparison can persist if you start poking a knife into its brain. Have you ever thought what sorts of foul play you yourself take part in? Simply by having a job and paying taxes? What idiotologies you keep going and support, help develop? Eh?«
»But, no matter how you turn things round and try to play innocent, I didn’t start these things. I found myself here because of your fatuous games, and you – who claim you’re responsible for this – are now trying to project the frustrations of your childish vulgarities onto me. As you can’t resolve them yourselves, you’re demanding of others to do it for you and help you clear your damn conscience! And perhaps this rearranging of atoms is indeed not very permanent in the long run, but – if I once more change the make-up on your hypocritical face... I’ll at least cool my nerves for an instant. Ants, too, bite, as you probably remember!«
»OK, OK,« he stretched his crooked limbs conciliatorily, »I don’t say, in a way you’re right; however, I came here to approximately paint the whole picture, and not to bombard you with the limitations of its infinite parts.«
»Your damn approximation! And to make things even worse, we’re all more or less all in the same shit regardless of how smart, stupid, depressed, rotten, corrupt or I don’t know what else we may be. Everything builds up in that darn subconscious basket of yours, and we’re caught in it for your whole bloody eternity.«
»I have a feeling you’ve finally got it.«
»And that world-class bag-lady follows your approximate instructions, mixes the whole thing up, adds a few drops of stinking herbs – and then the two of you subconsciously water us with this hypocritical manure!«
»Yes, in a manner of speaking,« he grinned sneakily. »But, don’t forget that this fate, as we may call it, is nothing but the record of everything that has happened so far. This – perhaps unfortunately – really fatally defines you and makes you what you are. And yet – as I’ve repeated many times – every one of you has a possibility to transcend it.«
»And what happened to your darn and so celebrated human freedom?«
»It’s more a fight for freedom than anything else.«
»Bloody butchery, I’d say. The hormonally unstable mind manifests one of its insanities, and then observes what’s going on from a safe distance. But this misery here can’t make much use of your cynical ideas!«
»There have always been enough of those who learnt to read the only script worth reading down here. And it’s up to you, my dear, what effort you’ll invest to learn it, get it? Just as you a while ago decided to vent your rage on my face. And you could go on punching me till the end of your life, if you so decided. And what would you achieve? Is this what you want? It’s all the same to me, get it, little man? Time means nothing to me, for I have as much of it as I want. If I so please I can feel it on my own skin, and if I choose so, I have no shape at all. I can wait for an eternity, and I won’t get bored. Whether or not you’ll spend your time smashing my face or anybody else’s, and for how long you’ll do it is your decision. I can rearrange the atoms any way and any time I please, but – as a matter of principle –
I don’t do these things, because they bloody bore me. And if Mundi and I feel that you’ve strayed too much, we let fall a few drops of our vision into the basket – and
that’s all. Goodness, sadness, joy, laughter, anger, rage and the rest – all this is just sea-foam for me. All these emotions and their numerous nuances exist only so that the whole thing is not so darn boring, you get it?«
»And then? What happens when – if – a person solves this bloody puzzle of yours?«
»Then he or she is forever free of this kindergarten.«
»Yes, this here is the kindergarten of human souls. You’re like little children to us, complaining and raging and telling if somebody takes away their toy; an average earthling spends his or her entire life in kindergarten.«
It was dawning; the fatigue of the sleepless night filled me with some dizzy peace. But the icy shine of the arrogant almighty still stared at me with the same persistence. Regardless of the rage dwelling in me I’m just a rat in a cage. The thought that usually made me even angrier this time had a surprisingly opposite effect. Yes, I could once more deform the physiognomy of this timeless dictator. But why bother? Why would I dedicate to him a split second of my time? Useless waste of time. And, as far as I could gather, I won’t be even approximately timeless for quite some time, so I can’t waste my moments as arrogantly and carelessly as he does. No, I’ll cut this self-complacent geezer from the list of variables and put him on the list of constants, and bury the list in the heap of oblivion. My only purpose, my only task is to find a way out of this insane kindergarten. The splendour of all other ideas and purposes fades. Yes, I suddenly saw this so damn clearly that I would probably have to get myself a pair of considerably thicker sunglasses. This constant desire to amass and rearrange the atoms is the damn law of insanity that keeps going this endless chase of soulless phantoms.
And after kindergarten? Real school? I don’t give a damn! I only know that everything that has a beginning has an end. And so these darn kindergartens, schools and what-not will eventually end. And then I’ll meet this arrogant, self-loving scum again. And that time I won’t repeat the mistakes of this night. No, that time I won’t rearrange his shadow; I’ll tackle this conceited timeless freak with a schooled hand, and no timeless eternity will come to his rescue.
»Now it’s time you went,« I said sharply. »And once, when I’m grown up, we’ll meet again!«
»Yes, it’s time I went,« he murmured absent-mindedly. »Today’s lesson is over.«
»We’ll meet again!«
»Yes, again,« he agreed emptily, then disappeared.
And I switched off the light, lay into my bed, and before I went to sleep not a single thought related to him disturbed me. I knew I would eventually solve this puzzle, and then – yes – then I’ll forever take to pieces his hypocritical face; and no darn timeless doctor will be able to put him together again, not even on the most drunkenly inspired trip.
1 Judah (according to the Old Testament) ordered his son Onan (the »grieving«) to go to his brother’s (widowed) wife Tamar. Onan did not want Tamar to conceive with him, so he »practiced contraception« and »spilled« his seed on the ground. This is why God slew him (Gen. 38:8-10). Onan (according to the traditional Jewish interpretation) therefore died because he was using the organ God intended for reproduction for unnatural purposes – for onanism.
Translated from Slovenian by Lili Potpara