"I’m bored" Activity #19,852

“I’m bored” Activity #19,852:
Wedding band spotting

Whether it’s on family shopping expeditions or trips with friends who have somehow convinced me to tag along, I often find myself stuck in the mall, unable to stray from my post and with sparse entertainment options. In that case, I sometimes turn to eyeing the passing men and women, trying to spot wedding bands.

There are two parts to this activity; the first part is to size up the target and make my best guess as to their marital status. With some individuals, such a guess isn’t hard to make. The elderly couple holding hands or the parents pushing a stroller with their second child are usually married, while the flock of younger college students are probably safely single.

After I’ve made my prediction, it’s time to test the hypothesis. Pro tip: because the wedding ring is usually worn on the left hand, a bench in the middle of the aisle provides the best vantage point.

Although this activity seems like it would quickly grow tedious, surprising anomalies often arise. Many more young couples with babies aren’t sporting rings – has our generation fully embraced the life in sin?  I also wonder about the middle-aged women, portly and laden with purchases, who display no ring. Are they still searching for love, or are they replacing this yearning with chintzy clothes and oversized bangles?

Secondary activity: base your initial guesses upon their attire (which group is sluttier?  Which group is more fashion conscious?  Is he wearing the wife-beater because he’s given up on women, or because he’s resigned with his wife?)

For bonus points: waggle your eyebrows suggestively at every unmarried member of the opposite sex.

The Ornithologist’s Morning

Author’s note: Language, language!  There’s some foul (heh, fowl) language in this one.
The bird fluttered around the upper corners of my ceiling, cursing loudly enough to startle me awake. “Let me out of this place, you son of a bitch! What the hell? Why can’t I go through these openings to outside?”
Although I was initially jolted awake by the unfamiliar presence in my room, my mood immediately soured as I realized what had happened. “Ugh, they’re called windows,” I groaned. “Look, you have to go through the open one – not that one, the one without the glass!”
The bird ignored my attempts at providing aid. “Fuck you, holmes, let me out!” it cheeped angrily. Eventually realizing that beating itself against the glass panes was getting it nowhere, it alighted on top of my bookcase, glaring down at me with its beady, black eyes.
Climbing out of bed, I tried to figure out what to do. Unfortunately, my bedroom windows didn’t open very far, so they weren’t an easy exit to spot. I wondered if I could catch the bird, carry it outside. I returned its gaze as I sized up the situation.
The bird was a small starling, clearly a male, as was indicated by the brightly colored chest. My ornithology classes had taught me to identify birds and to understand most of their speech, neither skill being especially worthwhile. The bird glared down at me, as though it could read my thoughts. “Man, I got bitches to get all up on out there,” it told me arrogantly. “You can’t be holding me in here!”
I opened my bedroom door a crack, glancing down the hall. I figured that perhaps I could scare the bird out into the hallway and through to the kitchen, where the back door would provide easy exit into the house’s backyard. “Look, I’ll be right back,” I said, doing my best to slip out through the cracked bedroom door so I could close off any other possible exits from the hallway. “Just gimme a sec.”
“Where you going, big and ugly?” squawked the bird after me as I left. “Hey! Don’t leave me alone in this place! I’ll make this place my new nest, shit on everything you own! You know I ain’t got no bladder control!”
In the hallway, I quickly closed the other doors, and then threw my bedroom door wide. The starling looked suspicious, but it flew out into the hall obligingly. “This the exit? At least I’m out of that shithole,” it told me as it zoomed past. I ignored the dig at my decorating skills, instead closing the bedroom door to prevent backtracking.
The bird swooped around in circles in the hallway. “The fuck, holmes? This place is even worse! Where’s the feeder at? Where’s the bitches?”
I waved my arms at the bird, trying to coax it towards the kitchen and the back door. “Go that way!” I ordered.
“Yeah, or what? Bitch?”
I paused, crossing my arms at the unwelcome intruder. “I’m sure I’ve got a tennis racket around here somewhere,” I threatened.
“Whoa there, no need for threats,” the bird cheeped hastily, finally swooping into the kitchen. “No need, man, I give the hawks respect.” I followed it in, closing the hallway door behind me and throwing open the back door.
Thankfully, it only took the starling about five minutes to find the open back entrance and to go diving out into my back yard. “Thanks for nothing, punk-ass!” it screamed over its wing as it soared into the large oak tree behind my house. “Can’t hold me, bitch! I own you! This is my territory, stay the fuck out!” It winged its way around my bird feeder triumphantly.
A large grey squirrel stuck its head out of the oak tree. “Hey, keep yer damn mitts off that shit!” it yelled at the bird. “That’s my feeder now, ya heer? S’mine!”
As I groaned once more and turned to go back inside, a large raven, sitting on the back fence, caught my eye. “Buncha assholes, huh?” it cawed sympathetically.
I nodded, rolling my eyes. The raven shuffled a little closer, looking slightly hopeful. “Got any crusts lying around?” it asked. “I’ll do the whole ‘quoth the raven’ thing if you’ve got any old pizza. Nevermore and all that.”
“Not today,” I replied. “Finished off leftovers last night.”
The raven shrugged, unconcerned. “It’s cool, it’s cool.” It eyed the still-arguing squirrel and starling resignedly. “I’ll go try the neighbors,” it announced, taking wing.
I firmly shut the door as I headed back inside. I should have majored in history, I thought to myself as I searched for coffee grounds.   

Calcifer’s Haunt, Part II

Author’s note: Part I can be found here.

I watched as the marble snaked its way across the floor, deftly interweaving between legs of chairs and tables until it bumped into the shoe of a bearded hipster standing in line with his Mac under his arm. Confused, he bent down to pick up the little glass sphere.

As the hipster ducked down to grab the marble, a red-faced businessman in a suit and tie was turning away from the far counter, his large coffee in one hand as he yelled into a bluetooth headset. Not seeing the crouched man in line, he ran headlong into the poor hipster, causing them both to sprawl out on the floor. The businessman’s coffee flew out of his hands across the shop, landing squarely in the lap of a blonde bimbo in a sundress staring vacantly out the window.

The cup of coffee burst open upon arrival, and even from the back of the shop, I could tell that it was piping hot. With a scream, the girl leapt to her feet, her hands flapping in agitation. Unfortunately, her dress had caught on the underside of the table, and her sudden movement caused the dress to rip completely, exposing her upper half to the entire shop.

“Ooh, bad day to skip the bra,” Calcifer commented sympathetically.

The girl’s scream had already drawn the attention of most of the shop, and every man was staring, open-mouthed. One college student, standing at the condiments area, had been adding half and half to his drink, and was now completely oblivious to the excess liquid spilling over the sides of his cup and forming a puddle on the floor.

A middle-aged woman with a pinched, angry face, brushing past the college student as she huffed over the indecency, stepped squarely in the puddle. Her eyes went wide as she found herself skidding across the floor, arms flapping. Her own coffee cup was clutched tight in one arm, and the flapping was sending droplets of hot liquid over the patrons at several tables, most of whom instinctively hunched forward to protect their electronics.

The woman’s skid ended abruptly with a bone-jarring collision into one of the small round tables, sending the legs flying out and starting a chain reaction. Like dominos, several other tables capsized, the last one landing inches from the nose of the still-floored hipster. Unfortunately, the salt shaker on that table hit him squarely between the eyes, causing him to jerk his arms in mingled surprise and pain.

The round marble had still been clutched in the hipster’s hand, but it now flew free, bouncing through the chaos and around screaming customers. Open-mouthed, I watched as it rolled back to our table. As it hit one of the area rugs, some impossible act of physics made it bounce especially high, landing squarely in front of Calcifer. On the table, the marble came to a complete stop, revolving slowly before the devil snapped it back up and made it vanish into a pocket somewhere.

Grinning, the devil surveyed the disrupted, destroyed coffee shop. “Man, I’ve still got it!” he exclaimed with obvious delight. He shifted his gaze back to me. “Believe me now?” he asked, grinning jovially.

What could I do but nod? Words had failed me. “I, um, I probably need to help clean this up,” I stammered, scooting myself out of the booth with slightly more haste than was necessary.

Calcifer watched me go, still smiling widely. He looked like an impudent child. “I’ll answer your other question later,” he said as I stood. “As to what I’m doing here, that is.”

I hurried off to find a mop, my thoughts racing in a confused spiral.  I wasn’t quite sure if I had seen magic, but it definitely was something that a devil would be able to pull off.  It practically screamed mayhem.  Calcifer definitely made me feel nervous, now, but that nervousness was alongside a burning curiosity.  I was certain that I’d be returning to the booth in the back on my next break.

Sitting back in the booth, Calcifer put his hands together, and the glass sphere once again danced briefly across his knuckles before disappearing back to unfathomable depths. “Impudent, I like that word,” he said reflectively. “Not the child part, but impudent fits me.”

Calcifer glanced up at the ceiling once more. “You’ll be seeing more of me,” he smirked.

Calcifer’s Haunt, Part I

I have to admit, it was a pretty big surprise to find out that the coffee shop where I worked was haunted by a demon.

“That’s not quite right,” Calcifer remarked the next day as he waited in line, catching my eye as I poured hot milk behind the cappuccino machine. “I don’t exactly haunt places. And I’m a devil, not a demon. There’s a difference.”

“What?” I asked, confused. “Did I say something?”

Calcifer shook his head, his eyes gazing briefly skyward. “No, it wasn’t you. Just the narrator.”

I shrugged off this odd comment as I handed the man in the front of the line his latte. “So you’re a devil? Doesn’t that make you evil?”

“Evil? Moi?” he exclaimed, throwing a hand over his chest in feigned shock. “Nah, not really. Come join me when you’re on break, and we can chat.” Calcifer took his large coffee black, without cream, although I did notice him adding a dash of honey at the self-serve station. He then sidled towards one of our booths in the rear, which, despite the constant stream of customers, always seemed to be empty. I now had a suspicion as to why.

After the mid-morning rush of customers had subsided, I made myself a drink (brewed green tea, nothing fancy) and made my way back to Calcifer’s booth. He gave me a knowing nod as I slid in across from him.

Once settled into the seat, I did my best to fix him with a piercing stare. He returned the gaze, unruffled. “Are you after my soul?” I asked, doing the best to keep my voice serious.

The devil across from me snorted into his latte. “Souls? Please, Lucern gave up on those things years ago. Put a lightbulb inside a volleyball, and you’ve got the same thing with way less trouble.”

(Narrator’s note: souls generally take the form of glowing spheres.)

Calcifer once again looked up towards the ceiling of the shop. “Of course they do! Can’t the readers infer that from the cues?” He glanced back down at me. “Sorry about that. Anyway, I have no designs on your soul.”

I kept up my suspicious face. “So what are you after? How do I even know you’re a demon?”

“Ugh, devil,” he corrected me again, annoyance flashing across his features. “But I understand the want for a demonstration. So much different from a few centuries ago, when people accepted it pretty much at my word.” Calcifer scrolled his gaze around the shop. A wicked grin spread across his face. “All right. Watch this.”

With a flourish, Calcifer pushed up the sleeves of his suit, showing me that there was nothing hidden inside. He cupped his long fingers together into a bowl, and then opened them to reveal a fairly large, colorless marble, roughly the size of a chocolate truffle.

“That’s it?” I asked, unimpressed. “You made a marble appear?”

Calcifer glared at me. “That’s not the trick, mortal.” He sighed. “You lot are always so impatient. No, thisis the trick!” He extended one hand and flicked the marble onto the ground with a twist of his fingers, sending it rolling away from the table.

Part II will be posted in the next update!  Once posted, it can be found here.

My First 911 Call

“Shit.”  I don’t swear a lot, but those were the first words out of my mouth as the accelerator pedal suddenly went limp beneath my foot.  The radio cut off abruptly and all of the lights but one on the dashboard flickered out, leaving only a large, angrily blinking red battery icon.

Mai, my very short coworker sitting in the passenger’s seat, glanced over at me.  “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” I replied.  “The truck just died.”  The honking was already starting behind us.

I stared out the windshield at the gloomy day.  It was about 8:30 in the morning, and we were driving one of the Habitat for Humanity trucks out to the day’s job site.  We had gotten a foot and a half of snow over the last two days, so the roads were filled with ice and slush, and driving conditions were horrible.  Fortunately, our truck had four-wheel drive, and we had made it without incident into the middle lane of the three-line highway headed towards our destination.  Of course, that was where everything had gone wrong.

I turned the key again, but heard nothing from the truck.  There wasn’t even the click of the engine trying to turn over; it was completely dead.  “We’re not going anywhere,” I said heavily.

I glanced over at Mai, and saw the situation now sinking in.  It wasn’t great, I had to admit.  We couldn’t even pull over to the side of the road, get out of the center of the highway.  The only small upside was that, due to the snow, cars were creeping along at 20 miles per hour, giving them plenty of time to get out of our lane and go around us.  I made sure the emergency flashers were on.

Mai pulled out her phone.  “I’ll call Tony,” she said, punching in the number for our equipment and vehicle manager.  As she did so, I took out my own phone and scrolled down through my contacts to Habitat for Humanity’s tow service.  We were going to need it.

As I finished explaining to the lady at the towing center where we were located and what had happened, Mai  ended her call.  “Tony says we should call 911, let them know what happened,” she said, looking plaintively at me.  I could tell she didn’t want to be the one to call.

“On it,” I replied, punching in the three digits on my phone’s touchscreen.  As I hit the call button, I realized that this was the first time I had ever had reason to call 911.  What a milestone, I thought sourly to myself.

The phone picked up within a few rings, and a police dispatcher listened as I explained our situation, and then told me that a car would be out there shortly.  I wasn’t quite sure what a police car would be able to do to help us, but maybe the officer would have some ideas.  I slumped down in my seat, staring out at the sea of cars honking as they slowly passed us.

About ten minutes later, the police officer pulled up in a squad car behind us.  Turning on his lights and pulling up on our left side, he rolled down the window and yelled at me to try the car again.  Obligingly, I gave the key another turn.  Surprisingly, the car kicked into shaky, unsure life!  With the officer behind us, we merged over to the right shoulder of the highway.

We slowly crept along the shoulder until we reached the closest exit, the officer following behind us and directing other cars out of the way with his microphone.  Taking side streets, I limped the car back over to the repair shop, where I told them that the tow was no longer necessary.  Car dropped off, Mai and I walked the three blocks back to our office.

While that morning was definitely not fun, and it is quite traumatic to be sitting in a stalled car in the middle of the highway with vehicles passing on both sides, I am at least glad that my first 911 call was not for a death, injury, or other serious event.

Prayers before mealtimes

For scientists:
Bolster our fitness, O Lord, and for these individuals of lower tropic levels, which we shall consume to maintain our fitness, we thank you.  Through Darwin our prophet and evolutionary biology, Amen.

For atheists:
God may exist, or God may not exist, but as a self-aware species we are grateful for our highly evolved consciousness nonetheless.  If there is an invisible, all-powerful deity, we thank him for our food, drink, comfort, and not putting our noses on our backsides as a practical joke.

For single, lonely comic book nerds:
Our lord Superman, son of Jor-El, we thank you for the (relative) peace on Earth.  For defending us from Braniac and Darkseid, for keeping the capitalist takeover of Wall Street by Lex Luthor in check, and for using your jealousy-inspiring powers for good.  But most of all, for those we love, unless we’re talking about Lois Lane, who was totally into us in college, but then you had to come on the scene, with all your powers, showing off and totally cockblocking us, you total jerk.  Just kidding.  Please don’t burn us with your not-at-all-overpowered laser vision.

For a family fallen on hard times:
O Lord, we thank you for the gifts of your bounty which we enjoy at this table, even though most of it is generic label.  As you have provided for us in the past, so may you continue to sustain us, even if we have to stop eating out and start teaching our kids to enjoy Ramen for every meal.  We know you will not forget the needy, which kind of includes us at the moment, ever since John lost his job and Sarah and Joey have had to start taking the bus and bringing bagged lunches instead of buying them at school.  We know that your love is infinite, and maybe if some of that could take the form of a shower of gold, it would be greatly appreciated.

For after a recent breakup:
Our God, who both gives and takes away that perfect angel Lana, with her golden hair and most beautiful face ever, please bless this meal, even though everything tastes like dust without her.  Please, O Lord, grant us peace and serenity in our coming days, and take away these feelings that I want to curl up and eat ice cream for the rest of my life.

Soul Harvesting Difficulties

With a gout of flame, the devil clawed his way through the portal between worlds, bursting out of the pasta sauce shelves in aisle three.  His arrival didn’t cause much damage besides the wholesale destruction of three dozen jars of marinara, but an elderly lady comparing brands of linguini gave him an obscene gesture for splattering her dress with red sauce.

The devil straightened up to his full height, and then cursed violently as his head bumped into one of the fluorescent lamps with the tinkling of broken glass.  He shrank his size by two feet so he would fit inside the confines of this puny world.  He turned to the elderly woman.  “Where is Harold Ancillar!?” he bellowed.

The old woman glared at him.  “You ruined my dress, you prick!” she snorted.  “Get outta here before I take my cane to ya!”  She waved the instrument vaguely in his direction for emphasis.

Confused, the devil backed up several steps, exiting out of the aisle.  He spotted another weak little human, this one with shorter hair and a green apron on over his clothes.  “Where is Ancillar!?” he repeated, flexing the six-inch claws at the ends of his fingers menacingly.

The young man looked up at the towering red-skinned monstrosity with a bored look.  “Aisle six,” he said, and returned his attention back to mopping the floor.

The devil was perplexed.  He had seen fear before, had watched several training videos, but he didn’t seem to be generating the proper responses.  “Aisle six?” he repeated, his tone slipping slightly, returning back down to normal speaking levels.

The man in the green apron held up one arm, pointing at a large sign with a six above one of the aisles, not looking up.  “Yeah.  Anchovies, aisle six.  On the left.”  He shuffled past the devil, pushing his wheeled bucket of water.  “Thank you for shopping at Rainbow,” he added sulkily as he passed.

The man hadn’t pronounced Harold Ancillar’s name correctly, but the devil still wandered into aisle six, just to be sure.  He found nothing on the left side of the shelf except several small jars of disagreeable fish, so he pressed on, eventually finding himself standing in front of a large glass case filled with cut pieces of meat.

Looking down at the display, the devil felt slightly more at home.  He was used to raw meat; many of the training videos had featured humans being chopped into similar pieces.  Although those pieces had featured far more blood and much fewer price signs.  He looked up from the case and found himself being angrily watched by a fat man holding a short knife.  “What cut can I get you?” the man asked.

The devil stared back.  Did he want to be cut?  In the training videos, the humans had always run away from the knives, so he suspected that the answer was no.  “Nay, puny mortal,” he replied politely.

The fat man gestured to one side with the blade of the knife.  “Get out of the cue, then, would you?  You’re holding up the line.”  The devil looked behind him to find several other grocery store patrons impatiently waiting for him to move.  Several of them seemed to be preoccupied by small pieces of black plastic they were holding.  The devil moved to one side, and the humans shuffled up to the counter past him without sparing a glance.

The butcher watched the devil amble off, still holding his knife at his side.  “Emo freaks,” he muttered.  “Ought to get a job, contribute to society.”

The devil was feeling more and more lost.  He wandered past several conveyor belts, where old women yelled at him in a foreign tongue.  He tried yelling out for Harold Ancillar at them, but they merely threw back more words he couldn’t comprehend.  He strongly suspected that they were insults.

 Eventually, the devil found himself trapped, surrounded by flimsy plastic and metal carts that had been abandoned by their former users.  The entire experience was bewildering.  He had done very well in the training class, scoring top marks, and had been honored by being selected to collect a damned soul.  He had been given the name, and the overworked-looking demon manning the controls of the portal generator had assured him that he would materialize closely nearby.  It had all seemed so simple.  Show up, roar a few times, watch the crowd run in fear, and grab the poor chosen mortal and return through the portal.  He couldn’t figure out where he had gone wrong.

Shoving the carts out of his way, the devil stepped through a pair of magically moving doors and found himself squinting in the bright light he recognized as outdoors.  Throwing up one clawed hand to block out the light, he staggered forward, blind and unseeing.  He suddenly felt the ground dip under his feet, he heard an angry yell and a loud screech, and then everything went black.

The fallen angel sat up and opened his eyes.  He was back in Hell, standing on the runic focus of the portal generator.  His instructor, off to one side, made a mark on his clipboard.  “Closely nearby?” the angel sputtered.  “You call that close?  He wasn’t anywhere nearby!”  He rubbed his aching head.  “What happened, anyway?”

“You stepped into the street,” his instructor replied.  “You were hit by a car.”  He sighed and set down the clipboard.  “Sadly, we’re losing a lot of operatives that way.”

The portal operator shrugged.  “It’s not like the old days, anymore,” he said sympathetically.  “We don’t get no respect.  They just brush us off, don’t run away like they used to.”

As the failed recruit sadly shuffled off to study for his next attempt, the instructor glanced sideways at the portal operator.  “Thank goodness for Contracts,” he said conspiratorially.  “They’re the only division still in the positives for soul collection.  Thankfully, they’re bringing in enough to cover for the rest of us.”

“Thank goodness for greed and banking crises,” the portal operator said.  He sighed and began resetting the portal generator for the next run.  Just another day in Hell, he thought resignedly to himself.

Lucern’s Little Whoopsie, Part II

Part I can be found here!

Nervous twitches be damned.  Lucern reached up and grabbed his halo off his head, twisting it around in his hands.

The other angel winced.  “I’m really sorry about this,” he said apologetically.  “It wasn’t my idea.  But let’s be honest, Lucern, you’re supposed to be keeping an eye on celestial bodies, and that meteor came right out of your section.  That’s a big oopsie to make.”

“Okay.  So what happens next?” Lucern asked.  The sinking feeling had settled into a general dread in the pit of his stomach, and he now just wanted to be done with the whole thing.  He spared a moment for the airy new apartment he would never see.  He’d probably be demoted all the way down to cherub, spend the next ten thousand years directing traffic to make sure there weren’t any malakim collisions.  He’d have to wear one of the glowing vests.  He shuddered.  Those ugly vests clashed with everything.

The other hashmallim dug through his files and folders until he found a large, bulging file, which he passed over to Lucern.  The folder was a bright red color, which didn’t make Lucern feel any calmer.  After he had passed over the file, Melis waited expectantly for Lucern to open it.  Lucern hefted the file consideringly.  “Have you read it?” he asked, and received a negatory shake in response.  Lucern set the file down on his lap and flipped it open.

For a moment, he couldn’t comprehend what he was reading.  The other angel looked strained, torn between respecting Lucern’s privacy and desperately wanting to know what the punishment was.  Lucern flipped the file around so the other hashmallim could see.  “Does this make any sense to you?” he asked.  “I’m being given a plane to run?”

Melis frowned, grabbed a couple of papers to look at closely.  “Man, the Almighty doesn’t mess around with punishments,” he commented.  “You’re being put in charge of all the other screw-ups, I guess.  Ba’al’s coming with you, see, here’s the transfer paperwork.  And they’re opening up a new level below the celestial plane for you.  It looks like you’ll be pretty autonomous, though.”

Lucern snorted.  “Autonomous?  Look at all this prophecy he’s tacked on!”  He held up a thick sheaf of densely written boilerplate.  Apparently I’m going to eventually get so fed up on Heaven that I’ll declare war, and lead all my misfits in a failed coup.  Look at this!”  He slid the papers across the desk for the other angel to study.  Melis’s frown deepened as he read.  “What sort of civilization is he planning to impose these crazy rules on, anyway?” Lucern questioned.  “Plants?” he asked with a slight hint of hope.

The other hashmallim shook his head.  “Mammals, this time.”

“Mammals?  Are you serious?  Those little rodents that are running around?”

Melis rummaged around through the files once again.  “Obviously, there’s a bit of evolution left to do.  Here’s the final artist’s conception.”  He slid the sheet across to Lucern, who snorted.  “I know, not much better.  They don’t even have wings.”

Lucern was still frowning as he leafed through the papers, but he was beginning to warm to his role.  He would have to move to the new plane, of course, but he would be taking quite a few of the other angels with him.  And to be honest, he could use a change of scenery.  Lucern knew that he wasn’t very good at managing details, but corrupting?  He had always been good at striking deals with the other angels for favors.  How hard could it be to do the same with some small hairy bipeds?

“There is one more detail,” Melis added.  Lucern glanced up at him.  Melis had one more sheet of paper in his hands.  “I’m afraid the high council isn’t thrilled with your name.”

“What’s wrong with Lucern?” he asked defensively.  Lucern didn’t know the origins of his name, of course, but he thought it had something to do with light, and it sounded very pleasant.

The other angel shrugged.  “It didn’t score well with the testing groups,” he said.  “It doesn’t sound, well, evil enough.”  He held up a hand to fend off Lucern’s angry retort.  “Look, the new name isn’t that different.  You’ll like it, I’m sure,” he added, pleading.  He slid the last sheet of paper across to Lucern.  “Just sign this, and the new name will be assigned.  You’ll be able to move forward, put this whole meteor debacle behind you.”

Lucern looked down at the new name, tested it out in his mouth a few times.  It actually wasn’t too bad.  It sounded fairly close, even.  And he really didn’t have any other choice; angels couldn’t just bow out and retire.  He picked up a pen and signed his name.

Melis hastily collected the sheet of paper back.  “Wonderful, I’m glad this is all behind us,” he said, obviously relieved to have this ordeal over.  “Just head down to the portals and they’ll have you sent down to the new plane that’s being opened.  Special orders are out for it already, so you shouldn’t have problems with customs.”  Privately, Lucern doubted that.  Angels didn’t handle change well.

As he stood, Lucern looked around the ugly office once more, suddenly overcome by wistfulness.  “Is there a new name for this plane?” he asked.

“Hell.  Ugly name, if I do say so myself, but at least it’s easy to remember.”

Lucern shrugged.  He was already considering his next plans.  Normally, he had a very difficult time with new things, but he was finding this new assignment surprisingly easy to accept.  Building a new plane from the ground up took lots of time and effort, but given the state of the rodents running around the celestial plane at the moment, he would have pelnty of time to prepare.  As he left, he spoke his new name aloud, trying to adjust.  “Lucifer.  Lucifer.”  It didn’t sound quite the same, but he would adjust.  Eventually.

Lucern’s Little Whoopsie, Part I

Lucern, Angelic Hashmallim Third Class, was not having a good day.  Although angels technically cannot curse, he was doing his best to mutter the filthiest words he could think of under his breath as he rushed up the endlessly winding stairway.

“Poop!  Muck!  Decay!  Filth!” he ranted under his breath.  And he had only just been promoted up to Hashmallim, from Seraphim, and that had taken him nearly 750,000 years!  The new title had come with a nifty new staff, which he had already managed to misplace, and although he hadn’t seen his new living quarters, he had been assured by a cherubim that they were very nice.  Airy, he had been told.  Unfortunately, airy was about all that he could expect in Heaven, but it was much better than dwelling down on the Celestial plane with all those nasty lizards everywhere.  Although not any more.  And hence his problem.

Panting and out of breath, he finally arrived at the landing with the proper door, and pushed his way inside heavily.  The receptionist, a short female cherubim who barely managed to see over her desk, glared at him through her oval glasses.  “You’re late,” she said acidly.

“Yeah, well, I’m a little distracted at the moment,” Lucern panted.  “Damage control, and all that.”  He looked at her pleadingly.  “I can probably turn this around, right?” he asked hopefully.  “Look, they can’t have been in the master plan for the long term.  A change has really been long overdue.  Maybe this time we can give the plants the upper hand?”

The cherubim shrugged at him.  “Frankly, I never liked the things.  All scaly, and the second you look away they’re trying to eat your fingers.  But I’m pretty sure the Divine Plan didn’t involve them all being wiped out by a freak rock from space.”  She pressed a button below her desk, and a minute later, a garbled, incomprehensible electronic voice babbled back at her through a small speaker.  She nodded to Lucern.  “You can head in now.”

Lucern eyed the double doors behind her with some trepidation.  “Do I have to?”  His feet betrayed him, however, and he moved forward.  The receptionist watched passively.

Stepping through the door, Lucern found himself standing in a large study, decorated in a fashion that would become known as Baroque in approximately sixty-five million years, give or take a few thousand.  A large desk occupied most of the room, with a tall and imposing angel, Melis, sitting behind it.  The effect was spoiled only slightly by the large holes cut in the sides of his clawed armchair to accommodate his wings, which were softly shedding piles of dandruff on the richly carpeted floor.  His halo hung slightly askew from the back of the chair.  He did not look up as Lucern entered.

After several minutes of awkwardly standing, Lucern coughed slightly.  Since angels don’t get sick, they have little experience with coughing, and so Lucern’s attempt sounded more like “Harroomph.”  Still, it made Melis look up from the paperwork on which he was scribbling.

“Oh,” he said.  “Lucern.  Yes, we have been needing to talk to you.  It’s about this whole meteor thing,” he added, and Lucern felt his heart sink.  His hands twitched, and he resisted the nervous urge to adjust his halo.

The other angel glanced down at his paperwork, shuffled a few folders around on his massive desk. “I’m afraid that the upper councils really weren’t expecting a disruption of this magnitude,” he explained.  “I mean, they had some contingencies for minor volcanic eruptions, floods, that whole sort of thing, but the entire mass extinction really threw them for a loop.  They’re going to have to start over, probably take at least twenty million years before we get back to this level of advancement again.”

“But this time we get to not muck things up as much,” Lucern protested, searching desperately for a silver lining.  “I mean, look at the Tyrannosaurus.  Ba’al was supposed to make that guy kingly, and did you see what happened to those arms?  Really, starting over is a good thing.”

Melis gave Lucern a severe glare from his side of the desk, and Lucern reluctantly fell silent.  Despite his new promotion, Lucern still felt very subservient to the hashmallim currently chastising him.  He was technically still two classes below the other angel, but he instinctively reacted as though he was an entire level down.

“The high councils had plans to remedy that,” Melis commented defensively.  “And Ba’al is also going to be talked to sternly.  But the council needs someone to point the finger at.  The Almighty himself has taken notice that all of his pretty lizards aren’t roaming around any more, snacking on plants and each other, and we’re going to need someone to step up and say that they were responsible.”

The sinking feeling in Lucern’s stomach was threatening to rip him through the floor and all the way down to Earth.  Angels tend to have limited foresight, preferring instead to follow a preordained plan, but even he could see where this was going.  “You want me to be the scapegoat for all this,” he said hoarsely.

Part II is coming up next!

Tear The Roof Off, Part II

Part I can be found here.  Note that there’s some strong language in this story.

That shaking wasn’t just from the people jumping to the beat.  Thirty seconds into the song, I realized that I could feel it coursing up through my fingers.  My computer was hopping slightly on the table, dancing around in little circles from the vibrations coursing through the club.  “Tear the roof off!” broke in the chorus, and I actually looked upward.  Even as the song switched to the bridge, the vibrations weren’t dying off.

The door to my booth was thrown open, and I turned to see Titian, his perfect hair mussed for the first time and his eyes wide.  “Kill it!” he screamed at me.

I stared back, uncomprehending.  I had never seen a single hair of Titian’s out of place, and now they were all askew.  The world had to be ending.  “What?” I stammered stupidly.

“The song!” he yelled back at me.  “Something’s going wrong!  The whole place is cracking up!”  One of his hands stabbed accusingly at the ceiling.  Following the finger, I looked up, and was shocked to see bits of sand falling down, raining on the unaware crowd below.

I threw my hands on the master switch, the one that I never touched, the switch that I usually had a piece of duct tape over so the newbie DJs wouldn’t completely drop the music by mistake while they were cavorting around in the booth.  With a swift yank, I pulled the switch all the way to the bottom of the board.  The music cut out with a shrill screech.

Down below the booth, the crowd came to a confused halt, conscious thought returning to the throng with an unwelcome jerk.  Almost immediately, cries of dismay began filtering up to the booth.  I knew that bottles would soon follow.  I looked back at Titian, not sure what to do next.  Both of our eyes tracked upward to the ceiling.

Unfortunately, TItian’s alert had come too late.  More sand was falling down, now with increasing frequency.  I looked back at my boss, and in a flash of insight realized that he was just as lost as I was.  “We have to get people out of here,” I said hoarsely.  “If it falls, it will take them all out with it.”

Titian nodded, seeing the problem, but he still stood motionless.  I yanked off the headphones and shoved past him.  Outside the booth was an old fire alarm.  I had always scoffed at it, claiming that it was probably just a prop put up by the owners to make us feel more at ease.  As I yanked down on the handle with all my strength, I prayed that my jokes weren’t true.

For a split second, nothing happened, and my heart leapt into my throat.  Oh god, I’m going to die in a shitty nightclub.  But then, the shrill alarms cut through the silence, and the old, rusty sprinklers on the ceiling erupted into showers of water, pouring down on the screaming and indignant crowd.

Titian and I stood on the stairs, he hiding inside the booth to protect his damn hair and me out under the pouring water, uncaring.  We watched the patrons stream out of the club.  “Well, tonight’s a bust,” he commented.

I wasn’t really listening.  My eyes were on the ceiling.  “Does it look like it’s still cracking?” I asked, staring upward.  Before Titian could answer, the question was resolved; a large chunk of concrete, the size of a watermelon, landed two feet away from me on the stairs.

“Shit!” I cursed, and sprinted for the door myself.  I didn’t look back; if Titian had any sense, he would get out, and if he didn’t, it really wouldn’t be too big of a loss.  As I stepped outside, however, I turned to see him behind me.  I guess that his legs can move when he really needs to, the roach.

We stood on the sidewalk, surrounded by complaining clubgoers, and stared up at the building.  From the outside, several large cracks were evident, and I could see them slowly growing and spiderwebbing by the minute.  I don’t know if it was the near-death experience, the slowly growing realization that I was about to become jobless, or just the humor of the situation, but I all of a sudden couldn’t hold in my laughter.  It came out in an unattractive snort, bursting through my nose as I doubled over.

Titian glared at me.  “What’s so funny, shithead?  There goes our jobs!”

I smiled back at him through the laughter, tears eking out of my eyes.  “Tear the roof off!” I gasped out.  “That song was a warning!”

I slowly managed to regain control, but as we waited for the fire trucks to arrive, TItian silently fuming and me still stifling the occasional giggle, we watched as the roof of the building slowly caved in.