I wanted to run but couldn’t. Instead, I stood motionless and stared. His legs were crossed and arms outstretched on the back edge of the park bench where he casually lounged like any other normal person. But he wasn’t a normal person. His face was shadowed yet I knew he was watching me…smiling and daring me to approach. I couldn’t lose this opportunity even to save my soul. Afraid he might vanish, I walked with my eyes locked to his dark face.“Hi Ginny,” he said through the outline of a wicked grin.
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“I’ve always been here.”
I was silent while a lifetime of fear, hope, and questions puked themselves out from all parts of my body. It was standing in a treasure filled cavern under the temperamental eye of the dragon. Was it safe to touch…to take? One effortless breath and my ash blowing in the wind would be my final mark in the world. But I was here and not yet vaporized. I felt courage and with eyes locked, I tenderly pick my way, step by step, through the jewels. Battling my fear of the dragon is my greed for the treasure…the questions I would ask. I consider my limited ability to retrieve but a small handful of jewels. My mind raced and forced an awkward silence which he broke.
“We have plenty of time,” he said. “Have a seat.”
I didn’t sit. Not out of fear, which suddenly vanished, but of sudden disbelief. The corners of my mouth turned up and I rolled my eyes and snickered.
“You’re not Satan.” I said, laughing at myself.
He looked at me and raised his eyebrows. He formed a slight frown and jerked his head to the side. He didn’t care. It didn’t matter to him whether I believed or not…but I had to know.
“Can you give me something?” I asked. “…to establish credibility?”
He grinned and raised his hand to his mouth. After a moment, he stood and we locked eyes. The darkness of his pupils seemed to suck in the light and I felt my chest begin to burn. A hot sensation touched the surface of my eyes and pushed its way into my skull. It sprouted fingers and I felt them slide around my brain and hold it in its fiery grasp. I couldn’t move. My breathing had ceased and I stood motionless and helpless. He was in control. A sinister voice spoke directly into my mind.
Unable to speak, I thought, “Yes, that’s good.”
The grip released and the fingers slide back out of my eyes.
I stared dazed for a moment, then extended my hand.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I have so many questions.”
He shook my hand and sat on the bench. I sat next to him.
“So what do you want to know?” he asked.
I was without words. An evil god with all the answers awaited; where to start?
“Tell me about God.”
I spoke without thinking, and after a minute of his silent dark stare, I knew this was not the question to ask the prince of darkness. I was about to ask a more respectful question when he spoke.
“People are so naive. So lost and confused…so afraid of yourselves that you have to create something to believe in. I’ve never understood that. Rather than exploring your soul from the inside, you try and define it from the outside.”
I sat quiet. The demon sitting next to me had been cast down for questioning God. I decided he may not be the most objective source of information on the topic.
“There you go again,” he said. “You see, it doesn’t matter what I say, you reframe it to fit your own schema.”
He knew my thoughts and I was embarrassed and afraid. I saw myself being flayed alive by a red demon whose skin glowed and pulsed like magma.
He laughed. Smugly at first, like he was trying to hold back but couldn’t. He put his hand over his mouth and began to laugh quietly, starting and stopping sporadically.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “That gets me every time. It’s quite flattering, really. It actually started out as a joke. I was having a bit of fun with some people a long time ago…I never thought it would go this far or last this long.”
I was puzzled.
“This is really weird,” I said.
“We haven’t scratched the surface, Ginny. You can stop anytime.”
“No, no….It’s weird, but I don’t want to stop.”
“So what’s it like out there?” I asked.
“Out where? Outer space?”
“No…well, wherever you go. Where do you live?”
“I live right here,” he held out his hand, palm extended. “…and you know exactly what it’s like.”
“Here? But don’t you have a place…full of fire and” but remembering his earlier comments, I cut my sentence short. “…a place where you go to lead your followers?”
“You understand nothing. Forget what you think you know and then ask another question.”
I can’t describe what happened next. All my life I yearned for somebody who had the answers. Now was my opportunity…but as I reached for my deep questions they crumbled into hollow superficial thoughts. Ironically, sitting next to the epitome of evil and deceit made it safe to let go of every belief, hope, and dream that I have clung desperately to my entire life. Believing this was an opportunity to find answers but uncertain if I would be destroyed, I allowed myself to dig into the darkest questions. I descended into the dark pit and faced the demon of my nightmares and the fiend from which I constantly run.
Beyond fear, desire, hope, and expectations there were no questions. And with this, my fear had vanished. Hope had vanished. I had peace.
I looked again into his eyes and opened my mouth…but I was silent. I had no questions. I felt strong, unafraid, and powerful…equal to the man next to me.
He extended his hand and spoke.
“I’ve been lonely. It’s nice to have a friend.” he said.
I smiled and shook the hand of God.