When he looked back at the Angel, in that cave in that desert, he knew . Within his freshly revitalized bones there lived a horrible absolute. An absolute which made John lean into desperation. Bribing and lying and smiling as he did so; but there were worse motives in the scripture than love, John convinced himself. He was no less than all who came before him.
This absolute of his always began in the height of the day — a tickle in the back of his throat, at first. Like an oncoming cold, until it enveloped him in a blanket of drenching sweat, limbs uncoordinated and rubbery. And the tickle grew into a scratch, grew into an irritant; to a hunger which John had never felt in all his life only sated when the desperation won out. When morals and piety meant so little that John wasn't John any longer but something else.
When did flesh stop being flesh? When was blood no longer blood, but nourishment? John had asked himself these questions so many times that he long ago lost the weight of them. No longer did he feel the guilt worm its way through his heart. It no longer clicked across his soggy brain like a locust, forever searching for the condemnation John just didn't have.
As though God himself had stolen it away from him, John was free to act without consequence. Without culpability. The Angel had gifted him eternal life seemingly void of self accountability, because this — this was bigger than him. Bigger than Millie. Bigger than their daughter, even. A motive once of love but no longer so, soon only one of consumption. And all the things which John once damned, with his own mouth, now moved inside him. He is all of mankind's sins all at once, and he is none of them at all. In this rebirth, John's body had grown into the purist conduit for God's will on Earth.
He is bigger than the Pope, bigger than the Church. John is the biggest man of all.
But, when did flesh stop being flesh?
John asked himself this question as he lapped at the halo of blood encircling Joe Collie. The halo John put there himself; but it wasn't his fault, no, of course it wasn't. Poor Joe, he'd just stepped into the wrong light at the wrong time and met the maker named John Pruitt.
Joe wouldn't be missed, anyway. He wasn't a church goer or a God fearer or even a good man. Joe was no one, until John Pruitt made him someone. Until John gave him a purpose, and that purpose was nourishment. So, John ate — and ate, and ate, and ate until he was cradling the dying Joe Collie's head in his lap and kissing the base of his skull with his teeth.
When did blood stop being blood?
This question meant nothing to John as pleasure and fullness swaddled his body with wings larger than life. Sprouting from his own back, tearing through John's flesh with their serrated fingers to come and comfort him, absolve all of which once muddied John, with their touch like the touch of a mother.
John let out a low, pathetic, groan of satisfaction until he all but drained this man dry.
This man who John watched grow up, watched trip and stumble through young adulthood as a servant to the bottle and the sadness which came with it. This man who John prayed for every night, who he confessed for — because Joe never came to confession, himself — looked up to John like John was a fucking monster and not his own indisutable deliverer.
This man looked up to his entrusted Monsignor with big eyes, scared and wet, until he wasn't looking at anything at all, and flesh was no longer flesh. And John was no longer John. With a mouth and chest stained so red it's nearly black, he couldn't be anything but what Joe Collie saw him as, now.
Setting the dry head down, gently — gingerly, out of some misplaced respect — John touched the ocean of grume which soiled him, and nothing was in his heart. Nothing named guilt or remorse ever occured to John, for he was God's hand and free of sin, and he was bigger than this . Those twin wings of brimming pleasure and satiation keeping all of which might deviate John's heart at bay.
He scuttled along the ground until his back hit the wall with a thump. Skirting his hand through the blood once more, John sucked and sucked and sucked on his fingers until darkness began to ebb and the coming light of dawn shone through the curtains. In his old life John might have worried what someone might think, if they burst through that wooden door which stuck in the summertime, and barely kept out the cold in the winter. But in this new life John couldn't give a fuck.
"It's alright, John, it's okay," came a voice, far away from him, with the sun waxing fully through the room. Though this voice wasn't that of his Angel, but the voice of Beverly Keane. And Beverly said to John, "Eat until you no longer hunger." So, John did. And blood stopped being blood, and Joe Collie stopped being a drunk.
And John Pruitt became a God.