Disclaimer: This new project of mine is called God, The Devil, and a Man walk into a bar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
— Antonio Machado
The traveler sat down on a sand dune and saw nothing. He heard nothing. He feared the worst. He had reached a truly godforsaken place: a vast, mournful pan of emptiness where anything sentient resented anything else that was alive. Every sun-scoured scrap of fauna had barbs, hooks or thorns, every animal had poison, paw or claw. Scorpions scuttled and snakes hissed and slithered while they went about their grisly business of survival. Even sand was an enemy. It burned his feet raw, it stinged his eyes and acted as a surrogate for pain.
His skin felt like scraped by sandpaper, his tongue was cloven to the roof of his mouth. His eyes felt like they’d melted into the back of his mind, making everything seem mirage-like. He knew he was alone, abandoned, and doomed. A colorless heat haze had blurred out the background and his vision had become myopic.
Yet, through the silence, through the nothing, something throbbed, something gleamed.
“His mind is not infinite,” the traveler whispered. He placed one hand over the edge, the air trembled feverishly around it. He could not see what was beyond, but he could feel it. Nothing. Infinite emptiness. Just as it had been at the beginning of time. He closed his eyes and tried to reach for it. His hand felt cold. He opened his eyes. Beads of sweat trickling down his temples. He took a deep breath, shook his head, looked around at the vastness of the desert. The air was clear, the sun drilled high against the sky. He glanced at where his hand was supposed to be. Nothing. He could still feel it, could move it around, but he could not see it. He curled his fingers into a fist and slowly pulled back. The hand appeared once again before him.
“The mind of God is not infinite,” he mumbled and fell down on his knees. He looked back at the never ending expanse of the desert. The world and everything in it was there, behind him. Everything God had ever imagined into existence. Everything, there, but a line.
On his knees like a penitent, his heart a fist trying to break free from the cage of his ribs. “Don’t be a beggar,” he said. “Have some faith.” His eyes brimming with tears, he urged himself to have some courage. Some hope.
The journey was over.
He stood up, rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand, and stepped over the edge of the world.
It felt like walking on water, but it was not water. Darkness in all directions. No, no. It was not darkness. It was the absence of light. There was no light. Something elusive held tight to him with claws of steel. He tried to pin down the feeling. It was not death. He had seen death, had smelled death, had even tasted death lingering in the air around him, an aftertaste at the back of his tongue. No. It was not death. It was the absence of life.
He could no longer feel thirst or hunger. He could not see, but he could feel. It felt like floating, yet his feet moved. He could hear his thoughts as if having a life of their own.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, he thought. He could hear nothing, not even the beating of his own heart, which made him feel empty, as if someone had carved his soul out of his body and set him free. He felt this freedom in the emptiness that surrounded him.
Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.
He continued to walk.
In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
He stopped. In front of him was a dilapidated wooden building. He stood there for a long silent time, staring at the windows and the door, at the blankness that surrounded it. He tried to figure out what it was, what purpose did it serve. Was it a cabin of sorts? A cabin over the edge of the world. Who put it there? Why?
He asked himself a dozen different questions before deciding to step inside. It was a large room, one that he could recognize. A bar he had seen once in a movie or TV show perhaps. Few tables. Chairs turned upside down on them. An old man was playing the piano. A lazy and melancholic tone. The strong miasma of liquor hovering about.
The floor creaked as he walked towards the old man.
The man turned around. “Ah, there you are,” he said and stood up. “I have been waiting for you, my son.” He grabbed him by the arm, his blue eyes smiling at him. “Shall we have a drink?” he motioned the traveler towards one of the tables.
The traveler glanced at the piano, shook his head. It kept playing all by itself.
The old train station was dying in an atmosphere of panic and chaos. The plaster on the walls and pillars had fallen off almost completely. Concrete and rusted steel bars, the insides of a beast that had never known the innocent pleasure of sleep. The huge clock, anchored against the eastern wall, sliced time away carelessly. The ceiling was covered with fantastic irregularities; time had carved long strips of cracks along its surface – badly healed wounds.
Outside, on platform five, the traveler sat on a bench, legs crossed. Asleep. Dreaming one of his bizarre dreams – Atlas struggling to hold the world on his shoulders. The titan, a beautiful androgynous creature, no hair, no eyes, not even eye sockets, his knees buckling under the weight of the world, his breathing ragged, broken, not enough. The disc of the sun high above him, pouring down light and heat. The stars shining hard and bright against the darkness that encompassed the empty space between the planets. Blood trickling down from the titan’s nose, lingering just above his lip. Sweat on his temples and forehead. Droplets of sweat on his arms and legs and chest. The world kept boring down on him relentlessly. His body arched, trembling, he opened his mouth in a pose of utter terror, thunder erupted from his throat, making all the worlds of the universe and the darkness around them shiver like candlelight on a soulless night.
The traveler awoke. He rubbed life back into his eyes. The sun was high on the blue sky and made the air quiver like steam rising from a boiling liquid.
A kid passed by, a sandwich in his right hand, little drops of mustard and ketchup falling on the ground. The traveler sighed and took a look at his watch. He closed his eyes and smiled in quiet surrender, then rose fast from the bench. He glanced around, took a couple of steps towards the edge of the platform. The rails slipped under the thin line of the horizon; if he were to follow them he knew for certain he’d end up on the other side of the planet. Or back here.
“It is said that when God glued the stars to the heavens, He already knew man would be His ultimate creation. To be created in His image. Godlike, but not a god,” the man in white said with a sly smile.
Adam eyed him suspiciously, his arms a belt around his chest.
“God chose to write man’s fate in the stars. All that would happen, all the forces that would build or crush his dreams, all the moments of doubt, joy, or sorrow. All the tears, of all kinds. Everything, written in the stars. Fate, to be guarded by the most beautiful of angels,” the man in white continued. “The strange coincidences that shape the course of your life are drawn against the night sky. You can almost decipher everything in the coldest and darkest nights. You can almost see your future, glued against the dark silence.”
Adam shook his head. “Que sera, sea.”
“Ah,” the man in white interjected, glanced around the bar amused. “Whatever will be, will be. There’s no chaos, only order. One you don’t understand; one you sometimes don’t even desire. One that you despise.” He used both hands to gesture elaborately. “And, yet, it is also said that after He made man, in His image, God wasn’t pleased. Something was missing.” He gave Adam a quick gaze, smiled to himself. “His Adam seemed to be empty on the inside.” He used his forefinger and middle finger to draw shapes against the table’s dark surface. “And then God, in His infinite wisdom and power, gave man the freedom of choice. Adam was allowed to be the master of his fate, the creator of his destiny. A god but not God.”
They had laid Abel on a bed of leaves and twigs and branches. Flowers covered his body. The woman sat to his right, crying. Tears flooded her eyes, trembled down her cheeks, fell down her nose. Tears dropped from her chin. The man sat upright, peering at the furnace of the sun drawn against the purple haze of the night to come. It was going to be a dark and cold and empty night, he thought. The woman thought it was the serpent to blame. She coughed twice.
Soon, the night poured over them. All they could see were the stars nailed against the blankness. East of Eden, at the edge of the world, there was nothing but infinite emptiness. They had been given the greatest gift that had ever been offered to any living thing. They often gazed at the dark sky and could see the liquid mist of morning covering the land. They could see it clearly in their minds and spoke often of it with great pleasure.
“What is going to happen?” the woman asked.
He kept scanning the horizon, hands on his hips. “He has gone to a better world,” he said matter of factly.
“What world is that?”
He turned around, smiled tenderly at her. “A place where he can be free.” He kneeled down beside her, curled his fingers against hers. “Where he can hunt as much as he likes. Where he can give names to the creatures that have none yet, where he can eat as much as he pleases. Never feel thirst or hunger. Never feel cold or hot. Never feel tired or weak.” He did not dare look at the body that laid beside them. “Never feel pain. Never feel sadness. Never cry a single tear.”
“Does such a place exist?” she asked.
There weren’t many words at the beginning of time. Plenty was yet to be imagined into existence. Regardless, he knew. He felt it in his heart, even though he could not use words to give it life.
He knew that if such a place did not exist, they could always make it up.
God, The Devil, and a Man walk into a bar will be released on the 15th of December this year. You can support its creation, editing, and marketing by pre-ordering the novel from my e-store.