Candidate #6: The Visitation

Just two left. Whew.

The obligatory “if you’re new here”: Read this first.

And the list of previous entries:

Slave Chip, Relief: A Place to Back Up, The Red Girl, The Summer I Met Mercy, The Girl in the Goblin Tower

And the intro to the intro: This one is adult, I-don’t-know-what-genre, help!? it’s kinda tongue-in-cheek but serious too… a modern-day origin myth. A reinterpretation of an old tale. Maybe it sucks. Maybe I’m just tired of my own writing and would benefit from a break. There was something about it I felt worth sharing, anyway. (Shut up Heather and just share the darn thing and let them make their own judgments. Geez.) Here.

The Visitation

She was working in the lab when God arrived, unannounced.

She didn’t notice His Presence at first, entranced as she was by the spectacularly clear images on the screen of her new scanner: A hand-held device that allowed her to watch electric impulses dance inside her volunteer’s brain in real time. Incredible.

The volunteer himself was reading a Mathematics Today and humming cheerfully to himself. She wondered if, with the right tools, she could actually read what he was reading through the lens of his brain.

So absorbed was she in study, that she didn’t hear the door swish shut nor notice the dusty cardboard box He set on the counter. He was right behind her when she turned around, staring at the output screen in her hand.

“That’s an interesting device,” said God. “What does it do?”

“Don’t you know? I thought you were omniscient.”

God sighed. Somewhat dramatically, thought Dora. “The brightest and most curious mind in all Creation, and even you have to make that joke the first time you meet Me,” he said, and sighed again. She hadn’t known God would be such a drama queen.

In fact, He wasn’t at all what she expected, if she had expected Him at all. He did have a beard and a halo, but the beard was thin and scraggly, and His shoulders hunched. The halo was slightly askew and had more dusky brass to it than any sort of golden glow. It seemed almost as though it were rather tired of hanging there and wished it could rest for a bit. God was bald except a few grey wisps, and His face was lined and sunken and void of strong characteristics. The overall appearance was one of vague dishevelment, that of a homeless man with a dented tin of coins next to him making no real attempt to solicit donations.

Of course, that last image didn’t cross her mind at the time, because she had never seen a homeless man. But later, when she stumbled across the first one, she would see him and think, “He looks rather like God. How peculiar.”

At the moment, however, she was mostly concerned with deciding whether God would prefer tea or coffee, and whether an early afternoon Visitation called for snacks. To her relief, God just wanted to know about her equipment, and what kind of work she was doing.

At the end of the lab tour, she ventured: “So, You’re really not omniscient?”

God sighed again. There was patience in the sigh and also weariness. “I can be omniscient,” He said. “But I prefer not to be. It’s hard to explain.” His eyes wandered toward the electron microscope and back again.

Then he smiled distractedly and wandered out the door and down the street. Dora went back to her work.

She didn’t hear from God again until that night over dinner. Buried among the thirty-seven new text messages in her inbox was one from God:

“btw left my box. Dont open pls.”

“Puzzling,” she thought as she put a bite of rosemary-crusted sweet potato into her mouth. She puzzled over it in bed that night as well. She loved to puzzle over things in bed.

What was God doing in her lab this morning? Why was he so … not what she expected? How can God be forgetful? Why would He tell her not to open the box? Surely He knew she wouldn’t—it wasn’t hers to open. What was it anyway?

The next day broke with sunshine glimmering on the early-morning mist. Dora opened her eyes sleepily and smiled. Her smile broadened as she remembered that she had two particularly wonderful things to look forward to that day: In-taking three new volunteers, and further inquiry into God.

The first thing Dora did when she arrived in the lab was to test her equipment in preparation for the first volunteer’s arrival. Then she fixed coffee in her Keurig machine, and sat to review her notes from the previous day. When she pulled a stool up to the counter she saw the box.

There it was, right next to the electron microscope. Interesting. It didn’t look like much. Just beaten up cardboard, tied shut with a piece of twine–superfluous, given that it was also tightly duct-taped on all sides, ludicrously over-sealed.

On one side of the box were a child’s scrawled doodles, and words written in permanent marker the way a box of winter clothes might be marked for storage. In the middle these three words: “Do not open.” The rest of the words were unfamiliar:

“Danger,” said the box.

And: “Contains evil.”

An odd chill passed through her, a sensation as unfamiliar as the words.

4 thoughts on “Candidate #6: The Visitation

  1. Now that I’ve read several of these, I notice little ticks you have. You like to get reflexive, probably to assure us stuff is going to happen? “Later she would X. But not knowing that right now, she X.”

    This feels like a short story to me. I think your writing and execution are solid. Genre? I want to throw it into magical realism?

    From wikipedia: As recently as 2008, magical realism in literature has been defined as “a kind of modern fiction in which fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrative that otherwise maintains the ‘reliable’ tone of objective realistic report, designating a tendency of the modern novel to reach beyond the confines of realism and draw upon the energies of fable, folk tale, and myth while maintaining a strong contemporary social relevance. The fantastic attributes given to characters in such novels—levitation, flight, telepathy, telekinesis—are among the means that magic realism adopts in order to encompass the often phantasmagorical political realities of the 20th century.

    Ha, I just went back to your first post about what you want to hear from us. So here it is. If I picked this up at random I probably wouldn’t finish it because (1) the tone of it isn’t my thing, especially when dealing with God or gods (You see how that’s based in my own obsession, right?) and (2) retellings aren’t my thing because I like wondering what will happen. Pandora’s box, Dora… eh.

    Retellings are huge in the market, though.

  2. AHHHHHH!!! I do do that. I do it in conversation too. I’m trying SO HARD to break that habit. I’ll say, “I want to talk about X in a minute, but right now let’s cover Y.” SO ANNOYING. At least in writing I can go back and take it out again.

    It’s like I don’t believe what I have to say RIGHT NOW is important enough to trouble you with, so I have to reassure you that what’s coming up NEXT is worth waiting for.

    Yikes.

    Also, whoa. I wrote something that might turn into a SHORT STORY? Go me. I may have to pursue this one just because short story.

    And I see your point. It really is more of a short story.

    And yeah, I like retellings, and I get that not everyone does.

    I like to see old tropes turned on their heads. Mix-and-match mythology is fun too. And I like flippantly told stories.

    Not ALL the time. Just sometimes.

    I love Greek mythology, and telling it in a modern or otherwise re-imagined setting is one way to make it seem fresh again.

    AND I get that not everyone digs that.

    I appreciate your providing such useful feedback even though it’s not really your thing.

    ALSO, thanks for pointing out that tick. No, seriously. I really do appreciate it. Something to look out for and clean up in my work. That really helps.

  3. This makes me think you could write it as modern fantasy/humor, and it seems a bit like Douglas Adams’s stuff as it could be extraordinarily deep and reflective of human nature without taking itself very seriously. Dora responding to God and knowing who He is without reacting like it’s particularly odd suggests she’s met Him before, but from context, she hasn’t, so that leads it to reading in a light, absurd voice. I like that God “prefers not to be omnipotent”–I’ve written about that before, myself, suggesting that one of the first things God would probably do upon realizing He’s God is to limit His own power somewhat. But maybe we just think that way because we as humans need coping systems. :)

    • Thanks, Julie! This is encouraging. Maybe I’ll do this one next just because it won’t take as long as a longer work. :) (I love Douglas Adams.)

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