Sweat gathered in the folds of his neck. He’d tried to be a good man, tried to do the right things in his life. But somehow his good intentions always landed him turmoil. Everything he touched turned to shit. His marriage was shit. His job was shit. He was shit.
His legs trembled as the preacher called from the pulpit. “Jesus loves you! Come forward and accept Christ into your lives. Are there any sinners out there who feel the weight of the Lord calling to them? Heed the call children. Come humble and be redeemed!”
His lungs constricted as conviction gripped him. How could anyone love him—let alone the Messiah? He choked on his fat. His hands were stained green from the fluorescent lights at his pathetic job. He had nothing but the gulf of fear rooting him to the floor.
Could he face the man he was? Could he shine a light inside and search out the corners? Could he lay this at the Lord’s feet? He sobbed—a broken man. He coughed; he squirmed, no better than a worm on a hook. His life flashed though his ordinary brown eyes—spiraling down the eye of the needle, and plunging deep into his chest. It was madness. It was agony. It was every sin he’d ever committed crushing him.
He watched himself drinking into oblivion—numb to emotion—numb to love—numb to everything but drink. He saw the things he’d done for his wife, things he’d done as a child. He saw himself locked in the pantry, thinking evil thoughts as his mother cracked him with her yard stick. He saw his weakness. His willingness to please, his inability to stand up for himself—he watched in abject horror as he begged his cheating-bitch-of-a-wife for another chance.
He fell beneath the weight. He blubbered, clutching his heart. He was sure the pain was going to split him in half. His beet-red face creased with rivets of sweat. His eyes popped and he gasped. The preacher leapt over the pews screaming, “You feel the Lord, don’t you brother?! Accept him into your life and awake in the kingdom of God! Believe ye sinner and be healed!”
The man sobbed, his body wracked with guilt, self-hate, and pain. He slid down between the pews. The congregation whispered in hushed tones. “I think he’s having a heart attack,” said one lady. “No, it’s the Lord calling, praise be!” said another. Charles Olsen groaned, his vision blurring. His mind reeling, he began to pray, to plead for salvation. He whimpered incoherently and the preacher joined him, believing it to be tongues. He made deal after deal in his mind. He swore he’d change. He’d get it right. He’d be a better man if God would just let him live.
Out of desperation he cried out, “I believe!” And a white hot light cracked the church ceiling and shot through him. It ripped into his flesh and shone through his pores. It seared him, scorched his grotesque skin. It lifted him above the pews. The congregation screamed, some fell to their knees wailing—hands raised—others ran from the building. Charles opened his mouth to yell but his mouth was full of light. It poured from his suspended form and filled the church.
He was lifted from the church and pulled up into the sky. He was blind and drifting, unable to comprehend what was happening to him. And then, just as suddenly as it had begun, it stopped. The light dissipated and he was cast into darkness. Red glowing orbs floated to him. “Yup. He’s definitely broken.” One orb glowed and spoke to the others. “Pity. Third one this week,” came the reply.
An older, larger, orb floated to him and looked him in the eye. Another orb, an onyx colored thing, asked from a doorway, “Is repair possible?” The large orb that stared into his eyes probed his thoughts. He watched, hypnotized by its shifting colors as it searched his memories. He couldn’t see a face, but sensed sadness emanating from its shiny surface. “No. 0349852 is broken beyond repair. Obsolete. Judgment: discard.”
He shook himself out of the trance and cried out, “No! Please, please give me another chance. Repair me. I beg you.” The large, shifting orb hovered in front of him. It flickered and then panels he’d not previously noticed peeled back and it transformed before his eyes. A beautiful woman stood over him. Ethereal light skimmed her skin and she shone silver in the darkness. Ice white hair cascaded down her back and she leaned in closer. “Be not afraid, 0349852, all men die.”
She stroked his cheeks and pressed her luminous lips to his chapped and sweaty ones. She opened her mouth and eased her tongue over his, calming him. She inhaled deeply and devoured his essence. She took his soul inside her body, becoming whole again. She’d given this essence to him 52 years ago in the hopes that he would use it well, that he would grow to be a great man. The experiment had failed. She stepped back from his empty shell.
She looked to the elders. “It’s not good to play God in the world of men. They come back broken, my brethren. We should find a new game.” She transitioned into her orb shape and hovered a moment before joining them. Lexall scoffed, “You’re too soft, Sarianna. It’s just sport.”