A Visit From the Gods

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My arms rested on each other, hands gripping my elbows. My legs were crossed at the ankle. My posture was textbook perfection. And my eyes were trained exactly forward on my computer screen.

It's amazing how long you can hold that position when the alternative is actually starting the essay due tomorrow.

I sighed, relaxed my spine, and reached for the paper with the prompt on it. Write a two thousand to four thousand word story following Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Creativity, accuracy, and style will all be considered.

I don't think you should be allowed to teach an Environmental Studies class alongside English if you need a full page of paper to distribute two sentences of information.

I summoned all of my powers of recollection about the allegory of the cave. There was a cave, and shadows, and orphans, and the sun, and a carnival, and people getting eaten by lions…

This is the problem with reading A Series of Unfortunate Events under your desk while the teacher lectures.

I hit 'TAB' on my computer. I was ready to start typing. All I needed now was my incredible creativity to come and save me. A gripping story, clever, and unique, that would make up for the fact I had no clue what the allegory of the cave was.

What if I had a guy in a cave… and he goes outside…and looks around…and gets eaten by a lion?

Oh, I was so screwed.

"Oh, Holy Gods of Logarithms and Sarcasm," I prayed, "if you will please help me out here, I will never start an eleven-page story five hours before it's due, I swear."

I forward all my prayers to the Gods of Logarithms and Sarcasm, because I'm pretty sure the rest of them hate me.

Confident that an intervention from my saviors was imminent, I decided to start the essay now and decide what I was writing about later. You wouldn't think that was possible, but just look up.

"Once upon a time, there was a dude named Eric."

This is the prose English teachers go crazy for.

"He lived in a chimney with his pet bat, Dracula."

But bats are so clichéd…

"He lived in a chimney with his pet elephant, Dracula."

But how would you get an elephant into a chimney?

"He lived in a chimney with his pet Godzilla, whom he called Dracula for copy write reasons."

He said creativity, not logic.

"Eric and Dracula lived in some of the suckiest conditions on earth. The chimney was dusty, dark, and very hot. Their only options for food and water were coal dust and water vapor from the fire. I'm not really sure how this kept a guy and a monster alive for years on end, but this is an allegory, not a documentary, so such things are unimportant. Anyway, life sucked for them, but at some point they were gonna discover the awesomeness of the world of the world, as well as the wonderful expression people get on their faces when they discover they've had a man and his pet monster live in their chimney for an indiscernible amount of time."

Yeah...I'm more of a math person.

"Oh my god," I said, leaning forward and resting my forehead on my speakers. This is the prayer position in my religion, though it is more colloquially referred to as a "faceplant." "Oh my god, I'm going to fail English."

"I'm not really sure how you expected to get through it with the writing skills of a sociopathic four year old, but by all means, don't let me get in the way of your philosophic revelations."

I slowly turned around.

No words can describe that moment. Believe me, I tried. And I have a pretty prolific vocabulary when it comes to describing intense emotions. But despite my ability to swear like a drunken sailor….it's just not enough.

I've managed to block out a sizeable portion of my Almost An All-Nighter From Hell and don't want to revisit any memories, so let me just say my lovely new visitor was really short and about my age, maybe a little younger.

"What?" said the short girl. "You asked for the God of Sarcasm."

I'd exhausted myself of objectionable phrases, so I went with the ever-popular wordless keening sound instead.

"None of that now," she said. "We have an essay to write." She pulled up a chair and clapped her hands. "So. Allegory of the cave. What do you have so far?"

"I…I…Are you seriously the God of Sarcasm?"

"No, Styles. I'm just a random girl who likes to crawl into the bedrooms of sleep-deprived teenagers and help them with their English homework, just for kicks."

You know things are bad when the God of Sarcasm herself can't come up with a situation ridiculous enough to outpace your own.

"But….But there is no God of Sarcasm…"

She made a derisive sound. "Oh, you atheists are all the same. Ramble on and on about 'proof' and 'seeing is believing,' and then you see it, and all you can say is, 'There is no way in Hell there is a God of Sarcasm.'"

I didn't really know what to say to that, but what came out of my mouth was "I'm agnostic."

"Do you want to be an agnostic that fails English or should we get started?"

I didn't know which way was up at that moment, but I decided whether I was talking to God, a hallucination, or some kind of mental patient with a thing for Plato, I still had an eleven-page essay due in four and a half hours and it was time to boogie.

The God peered over my shoulder. "Alright, let's take a look here." She nodded. "This is good. A solid start."


"I'm the God of Sarcasm, Styles."

This was going to be a long night.

"This is the dumbest beginning to a story I've ever read. You're in the gifted program in high school? What is it, the gifted program for robots with the vocabulary of a second-grader?"

"I'm really more of a math person-"

"This isn't 'I'm really more of a math person,' Styles. This is, 'I'm missing a part of my brain and they put me in the gifted program to make me feel better about myself.'"

"It isn't the 'gifted' program per se-"

"Well, thank god for that. The only gifted program you'd fit in is the gifted program for patients with head trauma."

"I haven't had head trauma, and that's not very politically correct."

"I'm a deity. Politics are well beneath me." She shook her head. "No, this has all got to go. Why don't you start with a story that doesn't better befit grade school kids high on cough syrup?"

"For one thing, it's three am, and for another, this is due in four and a half hours, and for another, are you here to help me or did the God of Language Arts put you up to this?"

"Once they see this masterpiece of suck, they'll add you to their Holy Grammar Handbook of Villains. Ok. So, I like the chimney part. That's ripe with comic potential. We'll keep the guy living in the chimney, but you gotta dump his pet Godzilla."

"His name is Dracula."

"How the hell would you fit Godzilla in a chimney, anyway?"

"I don't know….how big is Godzilla?"

She stared at me for a good five seconds. "Why is it in your story if you don't even know what it is?"

"I was trying to be creative…"

"Well, this is a blow for artificial intelligence everywhere." She sighed. "Let's start with that. Eric lives in a chimney in a big house. He eats coal dust and drinks water vapor… seriously, where the hell do you come up with this stuff?"

"It was pre-programmed," I said in my well-practiced sarcastic voice, feeling quite sophisticated and all, until I realized I was insulting myself.

The god shook her head. "Just write," she said.

And so I began.

"Once upon a time, there was a masterful man by the name of Eric, who lived by far one of the most pitiable existences possible. For Eric's natural habitat was the chimney of the luxurious Pent family. His diet was but the coal dust, smoke, and water vapor one would axiomatically find in the bellows of an average chimney. His life cycle was the most tragic of all, for as a man living in a chimney, he was quite lonely, only occasionally grasping glimpses of children or the family at the entrance-"

"Okay, seriously, Styles, what the hell?"

"What now?"

"Why are you trying to get Ella Enchanted's narrator to give us a species write-up of a pedophile living in a chimney?"

"Pedophile- where'd you even-"

"And chimney's don't have bellows."

"You were the one getting all up in my grill about my lackadaisical vocabulary and excessive utilization of vernacular."

"Using big words isn't helpful if you don't know what they mean, Styles."

God of Sarcasm 14, Meredith Styles: -2

"Now delete all that and write the same thing, only without sounding like a middle-aged man's interpretation of whimsical children's prose."

"You're kind of a creeper, you know that?"

"Did the part of the night where I appeared in your room at three A.M. go straight over your head, or are you just used to such things?"

There are no good answers to questions like that.

And so I rewrote the introduction, describing Eric's day-to-day activities as a man living in a chimney without knowledge of the outside world. He'd built himself a shelf of a seat, he regarded the fire as a deity for the bones of meat, he believed the voices of the family in the house to be evil spirits haunting him…

Because what you really want to do at 4 A.M. is write a story about the creepiest man alive.

"This is lovely," the God of Sarcasm declared when I'd finished about five pages and made a resolution to never, ever go near a chimney again. "Very sarcastic."


"You are a true disciple of the Art of Sarcasm."

Surely my English teacher would value that as highly as my current mentor.

"It's time for him to meet the Pents," the God of Sarcasm said solemnly.

I took a deep breath, summoned up all the creativity available to me at 5 A.M., and dove in.

"After pondering these deep questions and eventually coming to the conclusion that the possibility of ribs far outweighed the danger of ending a life subsisting on coal dust listening to evil spirits torment him from the side-world, Eric hopped down from his perch onto the ashes from the fire, opened the grate of the fire pit, and peered outside. Now we're going to pretend like Eric actually had the power of sight at this point, even though staying in the dark for more than a few days will, like, totally kill your vision, let alone your entire freakin' life-"


"With all due respect, I'm never going to finish this thing if you interrupt me every two sentences."

"Oh, sure you will. At your current rate of expansion, you're going to be writing half-page sentences in about ten minutes."

"Not necessarily. That's assuming an exponential model, and there's been too little data to extrapolate, especially considering the natural variance-"

She cut me off. "Styles, no matter what they say about the demise of public schooling, you cannot talk like a drunken Valley Girl in a formal essay."
"That's what they want you to think."

"Yes, but at the same time, purple monkeys are the prettiest."

I stopped to think for a moment. "Why yes," I agreed. "Purple monkeys are the prettiest. Especially the shiny ones."

"There's a purple monkey right over there!" The God of Sarcasm exclaimed, pointing at the corner of my room. But I didn't see a purple monkey; all I saw was a chimney with a big red snake curled up at the front of it.

"That's not a monkey, that's a…chimney…in my bedroom…"

Things were beginning to dawn on me.

"Oh no," I said.

"I love monkeys," the God of Sarcasm shouted in delight, jumping on my bed.

"Please, no," I said, going back to my computer, which had turned onto a swirling vortex of black and yellow. "This can't be happening."
"Wake up, Styles," the God of Sarcasm began shrieking at me. "Wake up!"

"Wake up, Styles," I muttered. "Wake up…"

I woke up slumped over my desk, my face in my keyboard. I blearily opened one eye.

Oh no, oh no, no no no no…

"Once upon a time, there was a dude named Eric. Eric lived in a chimney with his pet Godzilla, who he called Dracula for copy write reasons. Eric and Dracula lived in some of the most miserable conditions on earth..."

Oh no, oh no, god no…

November 29, 2012 6:25 A.M.

I hate my life.

"Meredith!" my mother yelled from down the hall. "Are you awake yet or what? You're going to miss the bus!"

I had no idea how long I'd been asleep, but clearly the half-an-essay I'd finished and my conference with the God of Sarcasm had all been a dream.

How did you not see this coming…Styles, you KNOW you never work on English homework past 3 AM.

I stumbled over to my desk and started shoving stuff in my backpack. Science textbook. Math homework. Oh, I was so screwed. I had a borderline grade in English already. I started doing the math in my head- 150 points, 1200 in the curriculum…

But the morning wasn't over yet.

Lying on my desk was a double-spaced packet of paper that looked suspiciously like an essay about Plato's Allegory of the Cave. I flipped through. Eleven pages, all with normal, non-swearing writing. The last page had a sticky note on it.

I had this the whole time. I mostly just thought it was fun to torture you.

(P.S. You fell asleep at 5:30 AM. Have fun today.)

Even the Gods that like me hate me.

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Skiman said...
Jan. 5, 2014 at 10:52 pm
I thought this was really well written. Awesome plot and funny. I particularly like the Sarcasm used, the religion of Meredith, and what Meredith wrote down on paper.. Lost me with the purple monkeys part, but won me back in the end. Great Job!
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