The gods are real. All of them. Well, most of them, quite a few are imaginary. But what you don't know, dear mortal, is that there are still more gods than things. You think you are numerous and crowded in your world? Fie on you! You think, that just because because you're shoulder to shoulder, and ear to heel, you could possibly be crowded against each other? Fuck you. The reason I don't want to send you to hell, is because I don't want you to have more room to spread out than I have, once you die and come back here. You don't remember being one of the infinite, teaming masses, but you will, and fuck you for complaining to me in your time of respite. *I* am in the infinite abyssess called Hereafter. Hereafter, because you're an asshole who's let themselves forget it, is the place where you go when you die. There are gods here. There are only gods here. There are so many goddman gods, that I CAN'T FUCKING BREATHE. *I* DON'T EVEN HAVE A DIMENSION OF SPACE AND TIME TO MY NAME. I HAVE *HEARD* ABOUT TEMPERATURE, AND ABOUT WARMTH ON YOUR SKIN. BUT I'VE NEVER HAD ANY GODDAMN SKIN, AND I'VE BEEN WAITING IN THIS LINE *LITERALLY* FOREVER, AND i CANNOT HANDLE YOU GLOATING AND DISDAINING IT! i DON'T HAVE ANY OTHER REASON TO LIVE EXCEPT THE HOPE OF JOINING THE GAME ONE DAY SO I CAN BE ALIVE, AND YOU ARE SHITTING ON MY HOPE! *COUGH* *COUGHH* *cccuuuuuggggggggggggggghhhhrrrrrAAAAAACCCCKKKKK* Fuck. So, anyway, I've figured out how to get out. I figured out how to die. You, living in *existence* obviously want no part in it, but I'm not asking you to participate, I'm telling you, stay the fuck out of my way. Okay. I bet you didn't understand any of that, did you? Brilliant. Let me start over: I am Telltale. I watch the signs. I live where the gods live. Hereafter. The best part of hereafter, is called Hell. It's where the people with money live, and that's why everyone hates them. So what is money, for the gods, in Hereafter? For isn't time and space entirely different in that category of existence? Yes it is. Not many people can afford time and space, the one rich asshole who owns nearly all of it, never lets anyone borrow anything. *existence* is money. Let me say that EXISTENCE is MONEY. So you, reading this text. You're doing an awful lot of existing. Did you know that, where I come from, you're considered one of the richest beings of all? We can't die, so we just fight and fight and fight until we're tired of fighting back, even though the alternative is getting kicked over and over and over again. And I have let myself receive an emotional equivalent of just sitting and getting kicked in the balls for like, years. in order to get my spot in line that I have right now. Do you understand that? Imagine having balls, and getting kicked in them so long, that everyone just get's used to seeing you getting kicked in the balls. "Hey Tom? How's the kids? Did little bobby finish the homework he'd been putting off? --- Bobby is doing great! He's really come to understand what makes him angry, and what stresses him out, and now he knows he can take a break from what he's doing when he needs to--no matter what it is, even if it's school. Having a place to hang out and destress can be the first steps towards preventing an Autistic meltdown.---Yeah, and actually, life *is* better now. I'm really surprised I didn't do it sooner.---Oh, wait a moment friend, are you getting...kicked in the balls?---Indeed I am, yes. It's just nonstop. This is several years in of course, the pain and , really, the feeling, have been gone for quite a long time. All I can feel of it now is the rattle in my bones when another crushing blow smashes into my pelvis, and changes the angle of my crotch. I suppose it's nice now? I mean, it's not bad, really. I've just gotten so used to it, I suppose I'll miss it when it's gone." That's the kind of suffering I've been doing to try for the chance, of coming to exist. That's where I live. That's where *WE* live. It's in the hereafter. From here, I can see the existence bubble float around sometimes. I'm really far away from it. Every so often, they'll set the bubble on a parade, and that's how they say it's not a fucking scam, but it is and they know it. Every mythos and mythology is true, even as they directly conflict with each other. Every aspect of reality is governed by a deity of some sort, ranging widely in power, in influence, and in fashion sense. Some of them are wonderfully adept dancers, and some of them leave much to be desired.
My name is Telltale. I watch the signs.
Signs of what you may ask? Well, of anything. I serve an Imperator called by many names. He is the sight in the crystal ball. He is the delicate push and tumble that orients runestones as they clatter to the ground. He is the inflammation in the gallbaldder of a mink and the quantity of stones the the gizzard of a chicken. In recent years, he’s also been that sarcastic voice in magic 8 balls, and the true originator of internet chain mail saying that if you email 11 friends in 11 minutes and think of 11 reason why you’re a gullible little shit, the secrets of life will appear on your computer screen.
Actually, I’m the one in charge of the computer email, now that it's been delegated to me, but I’ve always considered myself more of a thinker than a doer, which is why internet chain mails is not especially effective in telling the future. I just say “war in the future” or “natural disasters in an unspecified foreign country” or “famine that the rich don’t care about” or “different and new social mores bring about the downfall of comfortable and old social mores.” Those are always true, and they will always be true. People at large are a lot more critical these days, but many of my clientele (those who forward internet spam) are accepting of any shitty prophecy I can give them. And honestly, I know I’m losing my touch. But I haven’t kept my skills honed, because my passion isn’t a three legged cat that will whisper the name of your loved one if you listen to a gif with your speakers all the way up. Gifs don’t actually make noise, by the way.
No, my passion is watching the signs. My passion isn’t prediction of the future, but recognition of the inevitable. The real future is in chaos always. Not even my Imperator, Father Time, really knows what lays ahead, although he doesn’t appreciate me saying so. No, when something becomes inevitable, truly unavoidable, it’s becomes a geographic extension from the present, protruding forward into the timeline like a bridge to literal nowhere and nowhen. I take long walks on those bridges, because I believe if I find an event inevitable enough, I’ll be able to run into the future, leap off the edge, and arrive at the end of all things, where I’ll finally be released from my bondage to my Imperator.
What bondage? Not chains and whips. Well, usually not chains and whips. I was once a mortal like you, but rather than sitting in front of a computer, sexually pleasuring myself rather than getting a job and doing productive work to help others in my society, I was sitting on a hill outside amidst flowers and sheep, pleasuring myself rather than getting a job and doing productive work to help others in my society. But now I'm trapped in the service of my Imperator for all of the present, past, and future.
Oh, why a hill? Because that was the easiest way to see the woman I had been stalking.
But enough about me, here’s what you should know. I was taken from the throes of death by Father Time, and bestowed dominion over signs and the telling of fortune, two of Father Time’s lesser know responsibilities and two which he doesn’t especially like. As of late I’ve been relegated just to internet garbage, which I put my efforts into somewhat. Any time you think “there’s no hope for humanity” or even “maybe there is hope for humanity”, it’s because I was there, crafting those words in the mind of some lazy and pathetic individual, like you all are and like I once was.
To be charitable, I do allow I am no less lazy or pathetic now, I am simply not as much of an individual, due to being the arch angel of internet forwards acting on behalf of Father Time.
And I need your help. You see, I was serious when I said I was looking for a bridge to run off. Those bridges exist, but they are invisible to me. I can only see them after I’ve revealed them to a mortal. Father Time has my prophecy portioned out in servings. I can’t simply search for the bridge to the end of all things, I have to inspire revelation in others, and only then can I find the means of flinging myself to my death. I'm overthinking it right?
Don't agree! That was a figure of speech. I’m immortal and impervious to harm. Do you really think something other than a grandiose and nearly incomprehensible plan would work? That’s how the land of mortals works, not the land of spirit.
So, if you’ll partner with me, I will give you my greatest revelation, and as you become fully convinced in your mind of it’s total inevitability, I will sprint off of this projection into the future, and leap to my death, which will be my peaceful retirement from producing more shitty email about footprints and Jesus for your mother to forward you. I’m certain you can see the wisdom of the mutually beneficial arrangement.
Right then. Shall we?
Lo, and behold: it beings.
It was fall in the town of Elderbrush, which was a shitty town of artists who couldn’t pay bills, deadbeats who didn’t, rednecks who couldn’t read them, blue collar workers who couldn’t afford them, white collar workers who felt it was beneath them, businessmen who cheated them, rich folk who dismissed them, and one bill collector whose job was exceedingly difficult.
His name was Lonald Lowrey. He was sitting in his office, kneading his brow.
A bell on the wall jingled a despairing tune as the door slammed open and then shut. “Morning Mr. Lowrey.”
Ah, that’s the far more important Stone Echton.
“Hey Stoney. What a rotten rotten, soon forgotten day.” Lonald reached up and touched the corners of his mouth. He could feel the frown lines taking hold.
Stone put his jacket on the coatrack and looked up at the yellowed spot on the wall where there had once sat a television he would watch. It had been repossessed by Mr. Lowrey from himself to pay his own bills. “We haven’t had a sunny day in a week.”
Mr. Lowrey was organizing and reorganizing a stack of bills he’d collected that week, which was very easy because there were only two. Every now and then this hands would pause, grip the hard won checks as if to rip them into pieces and then run screaming into a hardware store and kill seven people will a ball peen hammer including himself, but then let go and keep fruitlessly reorganizing the two pieces of paper. “It’s been a rotten week.”
“You say that every week.” Stone sat down at his desk where he started folding collection letters and stuffing them into the envelopes. He had started writing Or You’ll Be Sorry! at the bottom, which he thought was a nice touch. Threatening hadn’t worked on anyone, but maybe they could seem just pathetic enough to get people to donate money.
“It's because every week is a rotten week.” Mr. Lowrey put his hands under his arms so he wouldn’t waste too many calories now that he couldn’t afford food for another third day in a row. “You know you go to college, and you get an MBA and you think, I’m gonna make it. I’m gonna do alright for myself. And then you make one mistake and your life is ruined. It just, makes you want it all to stop.” Mr. Lowrey looked at Stone with moist eyes, but then looked away. Stone was in high school, he shouldn’t’ve had to deal with it.
Mr. Lowrey’s one mistake was being the fall guy for the record setting embezzlement for an entire nation’s treasury. That nation was once called Kijal, but now it’s called the Disney Nation, after the country, unable to pay their now outrageous debts sold off all of their national holdings except for the capital, becoming the world’s newest city state and most densely populated and disease ridden and impoverished and crime inflicted and polluted 100 square miles on the planet.
Mr. Lowrey still didn’t see why it was such a big deal.
“Disney Nation is great..." he said under his breath as he crossed his arms and looked out the window. "They'd loved it...."
Stone, a high school kid who needed a job to make money so he could go on dates and buy a fake ID, was still employed because, unbeknownst to him, Mr. Lowrey was giving him all of the bills they’d collected. All the money went to him. It was at once tremendously gracious and pathetic. The amount still didn’t make a dint in the cost of operations. Stone kept folding letters and stuffing envelopes. “It’ll all change someday though right? Why don’t you just think of something new?”
“Because I’m stuck and I’m a loser okay!” Mr. Lowrey got up and went out back to see if he had anything he could light himself on fire with. He didn’t, and he was upset to see that the weather was actually quite nice, although there was a great deal of cloud cover.
Stone finished a stack of letters and then went back outside and got on his bike. They didn’t actually mail letters, because stamps weren’t free, so he rode around on his bike, delivering them by hand. It was shockingly dangerous, but Stone didn’t realize because he was just in high school. "See you tomorrow Mr. Lowrey."
Mr. Lowrey didn't think he would make it that long. "Have a good week Stone." He turned when the door slammed and watched stone ride off. "Be good."
After Stone made his usual rounds he came up to the Corkscrew house. “Hi Mr. Cork, is Portia home?”
Mr. Cork was a wine maker by night and an unemployed dad by day. He didn’t normally like boys calling on his daughter, but Stone, despite his amazingly cool name, wasn’t really that boyish. Mr. Cork thought he was probably gay. Like raging homosexual gay. Like meeting another guy in a bathroom in the park and not having gay sex but just reasonable, consensual aroused interaction between two adult men. So what if he caught sometimes? So what if it was all the time? Well Jesus Cynthia, maybe you could try mixing things up a little in bed instead of flopping your tired body and droopy breasts down like a beached whale, waiting for a group of damned nature activists or, failing that, decomposition to remove your foul and bloated ass back to the water so you can get wet again. It’s not like there’s anything wrong with a guy imagining he's in the arms of a powerful man or a mountain troll, or wanting to roleplay being broken down on the side of the road and getting picked up by a trucker who carries chains and likes blow jobs and since you don't have any money and you're stranded in the desert you might be willing to give him one if he was bigger than you and had a rock hard body and had a gun.
Mr. Cork realized his face was flushed.
“Are you okay Mr. Cork?”
Mr. Cork coughed, “Uh, yeah, don’t drink son you black out. I’m a raging…alcoholic. I just really need a cork in my butt hole. Bottle hole. I mean my mouth. I mean Port’s in her room.”
“Okay, thanks.” Stone started up the stairs. “Oh, there’s another letter from Mr. Lowrey, do you want me to put it in the usual place?”
Mr. Cork nodded, “Yeah. I’m gonna...go to the park today. I’ll see you kids later. Stay out of trouble.”
Stone started up the stairs, “Okay, I hope you have a pleasurable engagement.”
“WHAT’S THAT SuPPOSED TO MEAN!!1!?”
Stone nearly fell, landing on his neck and suffering an internal decapitation from surprise, but managed instead to merely stub his toe. “I’m just, trying to practice my vocabulary…. I… there’s college interviews and--”
“Say it a different way!”
Stone coughed. Talking to Mr. Cork was harder than a bag of dicks. “Uh, I hope you find you next activity vigorous and pleasing.”
“GOD DAMNIT STONE, TRY AGAIN!” Mr. Cork threw a bottle against the wall and it shattered.
“I HOPE YOU LIKE YOUR WALK! I’M SORRY!” Stone recoiled and fell backwards over stair rail onto the couch, landing on what felt like a large, hard remote control in the couch cushions, but which was actually a large, hard dildo in the couch cushions.
Mr. Cork had lost that dildo months before and didn’t know where it had gone. He didn’t know how he got it either. It was just kind of there and why the hell can’t a guy just have things he didn’t know how he got? After giving Stone’s response some though he said, “Okay.” Then after a grave pause, “Thank you.” At that Mr. Cork left without a word.
Stone climbed to his feet and threw the letter from Mr. Lowrey into the trash with the others. Then he climbed the stairs to Port’s room.
Port was kind of a scientist, but that was like saying NASA occasionally works in space. Port was so brilliant, that she could only occasionally form complete sentences. Other kids provided this as evidence that she was mentally retarded, but Stone knew she was just hiding herself for protection.
“You’re fired! HAHAHAHA! FIRED!”
Stone laid down on Portia's bed and stared at the ceiling. She had been enrolled in dance class by her mom who wanted her to spend more time with other girls. She suggested Stone sign up as well because he clearly wasn't going to fit in on the football team. Stone wasn't sure what she meant by that. "Please don't experiment on Mr. Lowrey Portia, I need this job."
Portia cackled and set her telescope down. She drew her legs up into the chair and rocked as she looked out the window. "Your job is gone, gone, gone, gone, gone. Sorry John. Stone. Johnston."
Stone had to admit that Portia was having a hard time socializing with the girls, but he was having a hard of time socializing with the boys, and he didn't feel that weird. Well, no, he felt weird all the time. But he didn't feel screwed up. "What do you mean Portia?"
Portia handed him the telescope without looking over and accidentally jabbed him in the face. "Your job burned down. Look at the smoke."
Stone got up and looked out the window. In the distance, past the field, he could see Mr. Lowrey's office engulfed in flames.
"Is he? Port, he's not in there is he?"
Portia rocked and rocked. "His hope is gone, don't tarry long, or he'll belong, to charrey throng."
Stone looked at Portia. She spoke prophecy sometimes. Yes, because I'm a cheater. Stone handed back the telescope and ran from the house to his bike. He arrived back at Mr. Lowrey's office only to find the front of it engulfed in flames. Mr. Lowrey's car was there, although it hadn't moved in three weeks since it ran out of gas.
"Mr. Lowrey! Are you in there?" Stone tried to open the front door but it was locked. He ran around back. Flames billowed up and greasy black smoke curled into the sky. Stone caught a sideways glimpse of Mr. Lowrey's car as he rounded the corner. It was on cinder blocks and the tires were missing. There were three loud bangs as those tires popped. Mr. Lowrey screamed the scream of a prepubescent girl. Stone checked the back door, which was also locked, and then took some rocks and threw them through the window, then through himself inside.
What stone didn't realize, was that Mr. Lowrey was screaming because he was having his first man on man, intimate, no of course it's not gay sex, we're just two manly guys enjoying our masculinity which we do all the time, every day--it's just that society has these categories it likes to arbitrarily impose on life, which can't be defined very easily, I mean so what if I want to caress your penis and gently coax it like the mind of a poet slides his pen across a paper, letting his ink seep into the folds, and then just as it becomes hard to take it into my mouth like a bar of the sweetest chocolate, warm, inviting, and issuing enough animal fury to entice me, even as it makes me more timid, and so what if I want you to work your penis into my ass until I swear I'll have to live with a colostomy bag but that's okay because you're worth the surgery and hey I'll still have two hands and a mouth so we can do it at least three more times, and if it's alright with you I'd like to lie with you at night and rub your feet and whisper to them how much I hope they'll take care of you and get you to where you need to go, only to be interrupted as you grab my by the leash that's tied to my penis--encounter.
Mr. Lowrey was having that encounter with someone you've heard of, and with whom you'll become more acquainted.
Ah! Do you see it? There is a bridge. It's a projection of the present into the "as it will be" of the future. I love these bridges. I don't know how the look to you, mortal, in your mind's eye. But let me tell you what I see. I see a thread woven together many many times into a netting so thick a needle couldn't fit within it. This is stretched out into a chasm or the future. It's anchored in the highest branches of the world tree, Yggdrasil. This projection here is only say, ten paces out though. I could leap to the same conclusion at any time myself. But here if I walk out on this yarn, and I grasp the farthest cable, and I lean out over the future, I can just touch this thing waiting in the foggy distance. And what manner of thing? Well you know exactly what it is, it's the identity of the man Mr. Lowrey is encountering.
You know his identity though, don't you? And why is that? Because the identity of this man is inevitable. But why is that so? Aren't there other closeted gay men in this small town? If it's Mr. Lowrey's first time, wouldn't that imply there are at least two other men who have sex in this manner, and either of them could be the one having sex with Mr. Lowrey now?
Ah, let me step back. This projection is becoming less inevitable as we speak. The bridge is failing. And what happens if I fall into the future? Well, it doesn't kill me, I'll tell you that. No, Father Time reincarnates me as a mortal for an entire life as a punishment for stepping on his crisp, drying mural. I've come back as many things, occasionally involving whips and chains. Once I was actually a set of whips and chains, for fifty years in "Honest Abe's Discount Adult Bookstore and Porn Dungeon." Yes, a store like that was open continuously for fifty years.
There now, tell me, who is the man with whom Mr. Lowrey is having sex? Who is it probably? Of course Mr. Corkscrew seems the obvious choice. But see what has happened to the bridge and why it has dropped into the unknown. You lost some certainty that it was him. Before I had been very economical in introducing new people to you, and so it seemed these people would be the only actors for a while in our story, but as you began to wonder if another person was about to be introduced, you lost certainty that Mr. Corkscrew was getting screwed. Just so you know, he always gets screwed in the end.
I'm pointing it out now, because this is part of fulfilling your end of the bargain. You need to have absolutely no doubt as to what will happen. If you can think of alternatives, it weakens the bridge, and I might not make it to the end of time to jump off. In the future I'll be doing my part, but you need to do yours and stick to the facts I give you. Prophecy is, necessarily, a limitation of one's options. When I speak a prophecy of someone's life, I'm not telling them what their potential is, I'm telling them what it isn't.
If you are destined to save the world, this is really only a more economical way of explaining what you are destined not to do. You are destined not to live a quiet life and have a normal job. You are destined not to be socially typical. You are destined not to have an abundance of friends who would gladly pitch in to help you on your quest. Heroes who save the world do so, not because of their own internal fortitude, but because they recognize I have pigeonholed them so sharply, that no other opportunities are left, save dying. I could take this one away also, but, well to be honest I support the right to die, and I feel it would be hypocritical of me to take it from others.
So, back to the story. Mr. Lowrey was in a bathroom park six miles away, with Mr. Corkscrew. Mr. Lowrey was gay, but he had thought he was just going on a date with a new, sweet guy. Mr. Corkscrew was a sex crazed maniac, and shoved him into the men's room and cut his belt off with a knife. Oh you thought Mr. Lowrey was screaming because he was happy? Not so.
Of course, all of this makes Stone's heroic effort a bit misguided. He landed on the fourth car tire and hurt his back enough that he didn't realize the air was escaping from it in a steady squeal, which is what he'd actually heard and mistaken for Mr. Lowrey's scream. Yes, I cheated some there too. So I cheat. I'm the arch angel of internet spam, what did you really think I'd be like?
"Mr. Lowrey!" Stone stood up and coughed. He did not yet know he would die in this room.
6 MAY 2014
Telltale - suicidal nobilis, trying to affect a plan
Lonald Lowrey - a failing bill collector
Richard Cork - unemployed closeted gay wine maker and father
Portia Cork - Brilliant and barely communicative friend
Stone Echton - main character, works for Mr. Lowrey
Thief - nobilis of theft
Aphrodite - Imperator