The Council of Lost Souls

May 6, 2011
God is a cowboy in sky-blue pantaloons and boots with angel-shaped spurs that sparkle in the light. The Devil is an “emo” teen heartthrob in skinny jeans. He casually flips his meticulously shaggy bangs from his eyes every five seconds in time with God’s Watch, which hangs golden and gleaming from His turquoise cowhide vest.

The scene is unmistakable. Anyone with half a brain and a care could predict where all this is going but God doesn’t—care, that is, and if he does he doesn’t show it. He’s a lone wolf—live alone, die alone [Insert wolf’s howl here]. He pulls his stark white Stetson down over his eyes and kicks his jet-black boots up against the wall. He doesn’t even look at me.

The Devil, on the other hand, is just as starved for attention as me. He sits across from me, fully clothed in the clear water, his dirty boots slowly dyeing it mud-color brown. He stares intently at me with his pitch black, shaggy hair gaze, tells me how well I’m doing, how brave I am; If only everyone was as “brave” as you. No, no. Down the tracks, buddy. Not across.

I’ve been frantically swiping it back and forth like a faulty credit card, hoping it’ll eventually break through. The Devil laughs a little and reaches out to help me. I look to God. Wonder Woman answers. She grabs my arm in her cast-iron grip, trying to pull me away, but the Devil protests, shooing her away.

Shut up, princess. I’ve got this.

“You don’t have to do this, sweetheart. Get up. Let’s get out of here.” She flashes her ocean blues at me and I’m suddenly re-aware of my lack of clothing. My other arm goes limb and falls into the dark water. It burns like a thousand bee stings sliding into my flesh.

“It hurts.”

“I know it does, sweetie.”

She don’t know cr*p! This is all you and me, buddy. The Devil strokes my shoulder. Black nail polish flashes in my periphery.

“I have fought and struggled my entire life. That is my life. That’s life, period.”

Then why take him back? Why shouldn’t he just leave?

“Because he has to keep going.” Superman floats outside the window, his voice slightly muffled by the glass. “That’s what we do. That’s what we’re made for. Right?”

We all look to God, who hasn’t moved but to squeeze a dirty, bedraggled cigarette between his lips. Smoke that smells of ozone spirals up toward the ceiling like storm clouds, rumbling and crackling with lightning and thunder. I look to The Devil. “So you said ‘down the tracks’?”

Green Lantern shimmers by the door. Emerald light floods my eyes. “Listen, kid. I’m not gonna pretend to know you or what you’re going through. But I don’t think you really just wanna give up. You’re looking for something, I think, just like the rest of us, and you’re not gonna find it here, like this.”

The Devil stays silent. His black, abysmal eyes bore into mine so, once more, I look to God. He finally moves—away from the rest of us toward the door. He flicks his burnt out cigarette over his shoulder. It soars like a comet with a carcinogen tail into the Devil’s hair. Casual hair flip. There’s nothing he can do. He’s just like the rest of us when everything is said and done. He just watches with deadpan eyes as God leave us; listens to His footsteps like earthquakes echo down the hall and away.

So? What’s it gonna be?
The water is murky as swamp sludge now, leaving behind a trail of dirt and grime once the drain chugs it all down—dirt and grim I track along the linoleum, out the door and down the polished hard-wood floor. In my room—my d*mn, glorious, messy room-- the old crucifix hangs like a dead man from my bedpost. With fingers dried out like sandpaper I slip off the cross and slide on a plastic Green Lantern ring, now more metallic and real than I remember, to hang from the leather band. An old “Superman” t-shirt peeks out from under a pile of musty clothes and a silver wristband glows despite the clutter in a single column of fateful sunlight. The latter covers the scars and the former is two sizes to big but fits all the same.
What exactly do you think is out there for you?


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