Written by Caleb McLemore
“Why am I here?”
A man in a red suit looks up at the bright neon sign of the bar. It’s a sunny day with no clouds in the sky. The sign reads ‘Pearly Gates’.
He always hated how on the nose that sign was.
He takes a deep breath and walks inside knowing full well the reception he’s about to receive. He doesn’t make it ten feet inside before security rushes him.
“Why are you here?” says one of the guards.
“I have an invitation,” says the Man in Red. He pulls out a note signed with a level of calligraphy that is a giveaway of who wrote it. It simply says, “Meet me in the Nebula Lounge. And for once, wear something nice.”
One of the guards grabs the note and inspects it. He looks over it trying to find an issue, flaw, or anything to suggest foul play.
“It isn’t like you to show up here without some sort of ulterior motive.”
“Yeah and it isn’t like him to just invite me here either, so it’s a confusing day for everyone involved. Can I go to the Nebula Lounge now? You know how much it pains me to be here.”
The guards back off and point him in the direction of the lounge.
“I know where it is. I was here when the place was built.”
The Man in Red walks towards the back and takes a left. He sees the door to the lounge. He pauses and takes a deep breath.
“It isn’t like he can do anything else to me…right?”
He opens the door and is greeted with the marvel of the Nebula Lounge. There are no walls inside the lounge, just stars, planets, and space. It is a breathtaking site that leaves most people speechless and in awe of the billions of stars that are visible, yet it is lit like a regular room. The Man in Red hates it.
The Nebula Lounge is a spacious room, but only has one table in the middle. There are two chairs, with one of them already taken by a man in a blue suit.
“Was beginning to wonder when you’d show up,” says the Man in Blue.
“Not sure if that’s an attempt at humor or you’re beginning to slip in your old age.”
“You know age has nothing to do with—“
“I know. Just let me get a jab in every so often. It’s the only victory I can actually get with you.”
The Man in Red takes a seat and notices there’s already a drink for him on the table. He looks up from the drink and sees the Man in Blue has short hair and a nicely trimmed beard. His hair color is dark and he looks much younger than normal.
“I have to admit, I dig this look of yours over the typical white and purple with the crazy white hair and beard combo. Makes you look almost…human.”
“I could say the same to you if you hadn’t worn a red suit and slicked your hair back like you’re some kind of crooked Vegas gambler.”
“You said dress nice and honestly, I think the crooked Vegas gambler is pretty accurate to what I do since I moved out.”
“You mean when you were kicked out?”
The Man in Blue laughs. “This is why I invited you here,” he says as he takes a drink from his glass, “the others don’t have the courage to speak up to me in the slightest and my son…well, you know all about that. It’s basically like talking to myself. It gets boring after awhile.”
“Are you going to tell me why I’m here or just give small talk while I suffer?”
“Of course,” says the Man in Blue. He finishes his glass and gets up. He begins to walk towards the various star systems that occupy what would normally be the back wall. Though he keeps walking further away, the distance between both men stays the same, as the star systems get closer. The Man in Blue stops and turns to the Man in Red.
“I worry about the human race.”
“No shit,” retorts the Man in Red, frustrated, “That’s your job. If that’s what you invited me up here for, then you wasted—“
“They don’t seem to believe in anything anymore. I was originally going to humor you and say that you were beginning to win down there, but they don’t seem to believe in you anymore either.”
“Like I care,” says the Man in Red as he finishes his glass, “I work better when they don’t.”
“But doesn’t that take the fun out of it? When they give themselves or others the credit for what’s happening?”
“Look, I don’t expect you to understand since you’ve been perched up here your whole, I guess existence would be a better word than life, but I’m a big proponent of who cares as long as I achieve my goal of making sure people share the same fate as me. Whether I get the credit for it doesn’t bother me.”
“I’ve been down there before, you know this. It was a big deal if you recall. And I actually do still reside down there in spirit.”
“Right, the stupid trinity loophole. If that didn’t teach you that people deserve the same fate as me, then nothing will.”
“Unlike you, people have the ability to change and improve.”
The Man in Red gets up and walks towards the Man in Blue. “Oh that’s right, the handicap you gave me. Gave me just enough free will to have the option to oppose you, but not enough to question whether or not that was the right option to take, yet these humans get the full buffet of free will! Not only can they decide whether to follow or oppose you, they can choose the third option of just not believing at all and treat you like Santa Claus, something that only children or idiots believe is real.”
“Well, you have seen me many times. Makes believing a tad easier—“
“That doesn’t matter!” The Man in Red is now face to face with the Man in Blue. “They could be in this room right now and would find some explanation that suits their feeble minds on why none of this is real! Despite standing in a room that literally contains the entire cosmos and has the Almighty literally lounging amongst the stars, they would find some way to use this as proof of you not existing! How can you be ok with any of that?”
“I want people to believe on their own, not because I programmed them too. They are my children, not my pets. There’s a difference.”
The Man in Red tries to rebuttal, but the Man in Blue puts his hand up to silence him. “We’ve had this argument many times over the eons. We don’t need another Job situation happening.”
The Man in Red looks down in embarrassment, “I swear I’ll pay you for that bet eventually.”
The Man in Blue chuckles, “It was never about winning the bet, but that isn’t the point. Humans seem to have given up on a future of any kind, good or bad. More and more of them just want to die for the sake of dying. Not to achieve heaven, find out if hell is real, or anything like that. Just to escape what they consider the prison called life. Although they have made so many advances in a short period of time, more people see things as pointless. They bicker and rage at each other over such petty things and pick the strangest hills to die on.”
“If this is about the whole social media thing, I only take some responsibility for that one. I had no idea they would run with it that much. Haven’t seen something catch on that quickly since the whole plague thing in Europe.”
Both men return to their chairs. Both of their glasses have been refilled.
“This still doesn’t answer why you bother bringing me here. Most of these issues have been around for centuries and you know I’m behind most of it, so if you are actually thinking of admitting I won and was right about humans, we can call it even for the Job thing—“
“No, it isn’t that,” the Man in Blue said with a melancholy tone. He suddenly looks like he aged several decades in the span of a few seconds. “I brought you here to ask you if I should start over?”
The Man in Red is stunned. “When you say start over, do you mean like have one nation destroy a few others or a Noah’s ark situation?”
“I mean wipe the slate clean completely. Not in the Noah sense where I use the same pieces to play the same game, I mean start over with new rules and pieces.”
“Isn’t that already the plan? You kinda had a guy write a whole book about it while on an island.”
“No. Just screw it all and start over.”
The Man in Red starts laughing. “You mean break your promise of being there for your people? Wouldn’t that make all of this pointless?”
The Man in Blue is silent. An awkward air fills the room. The Man in Red is perplexed. He is debating whether this is some sort of test, riddle, or game being played on him. He looks around to gather his thoughts on what to say next.
The Man in Blue’s hair has turned white, but still well groomed. He quickly downs his drink and sets it on the table.
“The reason why I decided to have this discussion with you instead of someone else is because you believed you could surpass me. You believed you could do my job better than me. You still believe that.”
The Man in Red awkwardly shifts in his chair. “I’m not going to acknowledge that since the last time I did, I got thrown out by Michael, who seemed WAY too enthusiastic about doing it. I think he’s always hated me. Can’t blame him since a lot of his friends joined my cause and well, we both know what happened to them.”
“Even so,” says the Man in Blue with authority, “I want your honest assessment on my conundrum. Do you think humans have given up on me? Should I step down and allow someone like you to take charge?”
The Man in Red’s head jerks up to stare at the Man in Blue to see if he’s bluffing. The Man in Blue’s face has lost its youthful appearance and now resembles the wise old man he’s more accustomed to, but the face shows genuine sorrow, hurt, and curiosity for an answer.
“If I say yes, does this mean I take over?”
“Depends on the answer itself.”
The Man in Red normally thrives in situations like this, but for the first time since his downfall, he’s stumped. Of course he believes humans are irredeemable, but that’s by him exploiting that stupid free will they have. It’s been his ultimate plan: corrupt as many people as possible so they are dragged down with him in the end. He didn’t think his plan could create this scenario.
But wouldn’t that be exactly what the Man in Blue would be thinking? “Damn omnipotence and all that stupid deity shit,” he thinks to himself. How do you out-think the creator and give an answer that even he hasn’t arrived at?
“I’m pretty sure I’m in a no-win situation, so I’m just going to say what I’m thinking. I do honestly believe humans have given up on you, but that isn’t your own fault. They think they can achieve your status through technology, destroying traditions, and just obliterating all forms of order so they can start over from…wait a minute.”
The Man in Red notices the Man in Blue is smirking and trying to not laugh. Suddenly everything clicks.
“You son of a bitch!”
“That is technically impossible for me, but I—“
“No no no. You don’t get to become all snarky now. You bring me up here knowing full well how being near you puts me in unimaginable pain as part of my punishment just as a means to gloat?”
The Man in Blue grabs his glass, which has been refilled, and swirls the liquid around as his smile stretches from ear to ear. “It isn’t gloating on my part. It’s just noticing a pattern is all. You tend to spot them easily when you’ve been around as along as I have. Whether it’s the Tower of Babel, large empires, mega corporations, or the Internet, people are always trying to do what you tried all those eons ago and that’s trying to make me obsolete.”
“I’m not going to apologize if that’s what you’re looking for.”
“I don’t expect you to. You are going to be defiant until the very end. It is sadly the path you have chosen, but that doesn’t mean my children will do the same, at least, not all of them. Some will sadly fall prey to your work, but as a whole, they will come around. I know you’ve seen it for yourself down there.”
The Man in Red breaks out in a nervous sweat. “I-I’m not sure what you mean by that.”
“People are distrusting social media and rediscovering the value in actual face-to-face interactions. They are questioning authority and remembering to not take something at face value simply because someone in a powerful position said so.”
“Yeah, and that includes your precious church. You’ve seen the beating they have taken over the corruption and sin they’ve committed, right?”
“I’m sadly aware,” says the Man in Blue with a sorrowful tone, “but there have been many corrupt leaders proclaiming to be men and women after my own heart. Many of them have committed unspeakable horrors claiming it is exactly what I want. That will never go away until I end all of this, but humans…have such a fantastic ability to adapt and see through those that would slander me. They are the ones who push forward and help the species move along. That is why I still believe in them despite whatever their current feelings towards me may be.”
The Man in Red gets up and is as red as his suit. “This is all you wanted? Just to brag about the fact you will end up winning in the end? You think I care!? As long as I can drag a few million or billion people down with me, then I’ve won!”
“If that’s all it takes for you to win, then why are you so upset? Is it because you know in the end, you will never surpass me or have any chance of ruling? You know once you are in hell, you aren’t some dictator. You will on equal footing with all the people you despise. If anything, you’ll be worse than they are since you started up here with me. If I recall, I believe the Nebula Lounge was your idea—“
The Man in Red goes for a hook, but the Man in Blue leans back. The Man in Red falls forward, but is caught by the Man in Blue.
“Don’t make a scene in here. You’ll force me to go get Michael.”
The Man in Red straightens himself up and fixes his ruffled clothes.
“All of this could have been avoided if you had simply sent a letter or hell, have Gabriel tell it to me. He seems to love proclaiming things on your behalf.”
The Man in Blue puts his hand on the Man in Red’s shoulder. The Man in Red feels a strange comfort overtake him. For a moment, he sees the Man in Blue for the benevolent creator he once worshipped.
“Although you actively work against me, I still have love for you. I wanted to let you know in person that you aren’t going to win. Your plans will fail like they always do. No matter what technology is invented, cultural shift takes place, or new civilizations rise up or crumble, you will not surpass me.”
The Man in Red checks his hair as he works to keep his temper down.
“And what happens if the people no longer have a need for you? You never did answer that particular question. What if they advance enough to where they are the ones to surpass you instead of me?”
“Well, I do work in mysterious ways. I’m sure I’ll figure something out. Time is always on my side. I created it after all.”
“And there’s that stupid humor of yours.”
“Well, you said it yourself when you got here, it is pretty on the nose.”
The Man in Red shakes his head in frustration as he walks towards the door.
“Oh,” says the Man in Blue, “and before you go, make sure to tip the bartender. He’s pretty proud of his mixes. He’s come a long way since that wine situation at the wedding.”
The door to the Nebula Room slams shut. The Man in Blue laughs to himself as he turns to stare at the cosmos, drink in hand.
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