Wrought What…? by JW Burns
by JW Burns
God likes to look back.
Not so much the catastrophic parts, which after a few repetitions tend toward incidental wizardry rather than sustained narrative, but rather He enjoys gazing at old favorites, which rest like disciplined furniture in His many mansions.
Thinking ordinary usually starts following some vast reconfiguration or another when nothing else wants to stick for more than a few deprecating moments. Deep breath: faint echo of the savannah, bigger brains, penises, opposable thumbs snapping up molecular underpinnings as if these retain the breath stoking their original endowment. Grooves in the tree branches, phrase after phrase of punctuating light….
Bingo! Goddamn gone—replaced by the gray figure of the companion of the moment—before truly adaptive reasoning can make an appearance. The companion has no face, which is how God wants it 99.7% of the time.
‘Your ten o’clock is waiting, O anthem of my heart.’ Having no mouth, the words were mimed.
Nod as if you mean it, and the companion slips away. He often wished he hadn’t invented time. Nothing drained his gumption more readily than following the clock, but if he got rid of time he’d have to collectively slit the human throat as well, because time has become their plaintive mode of operation, if not salvation.
‘Welcome.’ The room hissed twice, flowed together. God sat behind the desk. ‘Please take a chair.’
The biped on the other side of the desk sniffed the air, turned his shaggy head violently from side to side before abruptly grasping the chair by both arms and smashing cherrywood and cushion against the floor again and again, until splinters and fluff were the primary remaining ingredients.
When the smashup ended, God studied the brute for a moment. Eyes virulent black seeds, nose a padlock; exhale a hard-boiled egg with fangs, and you have the mouth. Naked and hairy, but with prominent bald splotches scattered about the torso; insects churning in the hair when you look closely, tiny gray bugs answering what appears to be a call to chaos. Jigsaw panic. Or just the urge run.
‘What do you want?’
‘How do you know I want something?’
‘That’s why life comes here—I give and I take away.’
‘You’re fucking full of yourself.’
‘The alpha and omega.’
‘Easy for you.’
‘As it should be.’
God stood, was about to make His pronouncement, when He found Himself staring at the creature’s feet. Free from hair, guilt, shame, success, bugs, and salvation, two neat little hooves whitewashing shadows on the deep carpet.
‘What do you want?’
‘You know. Everything.’
God stared into the eyes opposite His own, now buoyant, ripe with minutes separated one from the other by handmade recitals, pure feeling.
‘Yeah. But you’ve got to ask. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.’
The first movement was slight. An extended twitch followed by a brief tangle spun loose before it could settle. Then the hooves took turns tapping, taptaptaptap, exiguous skeletal drift providing accompaniment.
‘OK fine.’ God uprooted a certain smell, the odor swelling quickly throughout the room.
A faint growl from the hooves, ultraviolent spark or two.
Arms opening wide, hands sporting orange currents which shoot jagged bolts in the stale air, God revealed His patented smile.
‘You silly little bastard—in what universe do you think you can even begin to defy Me?’
Now the hooves pounded out bullets, bombs, the hairy body totally engaged in curvy savagery. As the creature became more unyoked, pieces of the smashed chair joined the dance. The lamp on God’s desk blinked along in time. For a few moments the Supreme Being sat, arms folded, His perfect mouth embracing what glorified the viscera. Then He cleared His throat.
‘One last chance, which you will choose to ignore.’
Nothing from the one whose fur was now washed in bright pink save a wave of one clawed hand.
Split second of a leopard recoiled atop the desk. Instantly the dancer was frozen, coated in milk-white plaster. God went to work. Chisel, electric sander, gouge, rasp, file, and sandpaper to put the finishing touches on His work. It was over before it began.
Each audience resonated a little differently, but every identity was essentially the same. Dress ’em in white and rake ’em over the coals a few times to relieve that nondescript seamless nature of the nurture.
Finally He summoned Isaac Newton, gave His right hand a boat ride down the Mississippi while waiting. As usual, Newton buzzed in slightly distorted by Pythagorean transmigrations, which wheeled about his person plaintively seeking release.
‘Isaac, you never cease to piss me off.’
‘Yes, Lord.’ Newton’s voice was supplicant in tone, but the grin embodied a subversion all its own.
‘I know you tried with all that soul mumbo jumbo…tried to keep it focused on the holy, miracles and whatnot, but I think it was all that counting that screwed things up…sure everything comes in numbers but damnit that don’t really mean a thing. Just is.’ While He spoke, God twisted off one hand and sent it flying among the souls, slapping them willy-nilly toward oblivion. When these were gone the hand hovered for a few moments above Newton, digits wiggling in a prissy wave before returning to its Entangler.
Newton straightened. Peals of laughter rolled from his tongue, wilting to dust before reaching the floor. His eyeballs centered in automatic control, limbs robotically rigid, ready. Linear breath rose and fell through his chest in regular loops. Pale, banal flesh evoked the calibrated circuits within.
‘Oh, shit…’ God released a vibrant textile of a guffaw, immediately engulfing the room.
In no time at all Newton stood mollified, frazzled souls regaining the air around him, twitching in vivid joy.
After lunch God decided to drop by one of the warehouses where young angels were kept until they had learned to cover their emotions with sculpted arrest. At this particular time, Narmer the Egyptian was overseeing the operation, inscribed stone cylinders littering the desktop.
‘How they hanging, my scorpion buddy?’
‘Well, hell, Lord, can’t complain.’
‘Wouldn’t do you no good anyhow.’
‘How well I know this, Supreme One.’ The former pharaoh faux deity rubbed his crumbling curls.
Nothing struck Him as out of the ordinary until He rounded a corner and came upon three females involved in chanting farcical grace over the fresh carcass of a pig. Then they took up carving tools and began to sever the pink mammal. One lowered the head, sliced across the shoulders, slapped coppa, and flexed her biceps, blood from the knife spotting her cheek. Another carefully slit the skin, both hands clawing within to emerge squeezing puddings of fatback, which she smeared on her face and breast before licking her fingers. The third watched, amused, until her companions were finished, then whittled a hoof and lower leg to her liking, crunched it upward, sat down spread-eagle and vigorously hunched the limb, face radiant, finally slumped exhausted.
God clapped politely.
‘Nice going, girls. Always enjoy those Magdalen variations. Prime that a bit more and the Easter judges will eat it up.’
Sitting at a small round table with a cup of coarse brown dwarf coffee, He watched two males clothed in medieval garb stack rocks in linear fashion to create a fence. Beyond the languorously rising barrier, bright fields and patches of woodland massaged their way to the horizon. A hawk leveled into view, twisted a bit to relocate parasites in his gut before haunting the stillness of flight by suddenly falling toward earth, a tweed blaze. On impulse God added a river, a curving root made to slightly billow by virtue of the pregnant aquamarine threading through a gray/emerald base.
After a sip God lowered the mug, blinked. The bird abruptly changed course, spearing toward one of the workers. The man, clutching a large, jagged stone, was rising and turning, when the hawk appeared no more than five cubits from his head. Ducking, he dropped the rock on one of his feet, flopped to the ground cursing life’s reoccurring fraud.
Sheep tingled into view. Pianos dueled beyond light’s apology. Before saturating the atmosphere with another city, God relaxed.
©2017 JW Burns
JW Burns lives in Florida, a place with less accurate and/or recorded history than many other places. He enjoys writing short prose and poetry, which occasionally appears in print, mostly recently in Rabbit Catastrophe Review and Soundings East.
Join our community
Support the mission
Get the book
Writing That Risks: New Work from Beyond the Mainstream
The anthology that started it all. Available in trade paperback and ebook from most online retailers, including: