This week’s Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge prompt is called To Behold The Divine. The story is meant to be from the point of view of either a god, or someone who has to deal with a god. I wrote about Arthur Edwards, a man who lives in a future where everyone who believed in God left Earth to go out into the rest of the solar system and left the nonbelievers behind. Living on Earth, Arthur is an atheist but he had a dream about God and has decided to go out and preach the Gospel anyway.
I originally wrote this during NaNoWriMo in 2015. It was going to be the first chapter in my NaNovel that year but I never took it any further, for a number of reasons. I love the character and I hope to come back to him someday, either by continuing this idea, or in some other form. Please to enjoy.
SALVATION, CHAPTER ONE
Arthur awoke. He opened his eyes, the light shining into them through the open curtains. He gasped as he remembered that the window was at the head of the bed, not the foot. He awoke again, and opened his eyes. It was dark.
He rolled over onto his chest. He propped up on his elbows and looked out the window above him. Yep. Still dark. The corners of his mouth turned up in a slight grin. Now that, he thought, was a dream. Hell of a dream.
He nudged Niecy, still sleeping beside him. “Hey.”
She swatted feebly at him and mumbled random sleepy syllables.
He nudged her again. “Hey. Babe?”
One of her eyes opened just enough to show white in the moonlight. More fuzzy mumblings.
“Wake up, Niecy, really.”
She groaned and sat up in bed. She pushed the covers off and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She stood and swayed uncertainly for a moment. She straightened the nightshirt she was wearing and shuffled towards the door. He started to talk, and she held up a hand. Without turning to face him, she said, “If you are going to wake me up at—what time is it?” When he didn’t speak, she gave a little “come on” gesture with her hand.
He grinned again. Still propped on his elbows, he looked over at the screen. “3:30,” he said.
She nodded. “If you are going to wake me up at 3:30 a.m. in the morning, Arthur Edwards, you can damn well wait for me to pee before you tell me why.” She walked out the door.
He watched her go, admiring the view. Even now, after almost three years together, he loved to look at her. He could hear her as she went about her business in the bathroom. He rolled back over and sat up in the bed. Before long she came back in. He admired the view from this angle just as much as he had the other.
She saw him staring and wagged a finger at him. “None of that,” she said. “I know you didn’t get me up just so you could look at my boobs.”
“I might have,” he said, a pouty, defensive tone in his voice.
“Bull. You’d let me sleep so you could get a better look. You’ve done it before. Tell me I’m wrong.”
He laughed. “You know me so well.”
“It’s why you love me,” she said, and she climbed into bed and sat beside him. “Now tell me why you really woke me up.”
He sighed. “Do you believe in God?”
“God? You mean…you mean God? Like the Bible and angels and Jesus and all that?” Arthur nodded. “Of course not. You don’t either. No one does any more. Everyone who believed in God left Earth a long time ago.”
“I had a dream about God,” Arthur said. “There was music and light, and I think God was there. There was so much more to it. I’m not sure I can even describe it all.”
“You woke me up because you had a dream?”
“I can’t explain it, babe, I…” his voice trailed off. “It felt so real. Can I tell you about it? Maybe that will help.” She nodded. He took a few second to collect his thoughts, then began.
“I was sitting on the porch watching a bird fly by overhead. Suddenly the bird turned towards me and started getting bigger. I thought it was falling out of the sky but then I realized it was a hoverbug and it was coming right down on top of me.
“It kept getting bigger and bigger, then it landed in the yard. Right out back there in the clearing. It was a twelve-seater. The hatch opened up and this guy got out. He was dressed in white and was playing some crazy notes on a trumpet. I never heard anything like it. He was spinning around and bopping all over the place, then three girls got out. They were dressed in white, too. They were singing. No words, just sort of ‘ooo-ooo-ooo’ in this really weird harmony. It was almost like it kept wanting to crash and burn, but it didn’t. It blended with the trumpet and made a really cool sound.
“Then another guy got out. He was wearing a grey suit that was really ragged, almost like it was falling apart. He looked right at me and spoke, but I couldn’t understand. It was like I was hearing a bunch of people talk at the same time and they were all speaking different languages.
“I shrugged. ‘I don’t know what you’re saying,’ I said to him, except I didn’t say it in English. I was speaking some language I had never heard before and suddenly, I could understand the other guy.
“‘You diggin’ it now?’ he asked me.
“‘I don’t have a shovel,’ I said. I couldn’t help myself. (Niecy punched him on the arm. “You are so stupid,” she said.)
“‘You are so stupid,’ the guy told me (“Smart guy,” said Niecy). ‘But I gotta know: are you ready to see what’s next?’ All this time, the trumpet is still wailing and the ooo-ooo-ooo girls are still doing their thing.
“So I decided to just go with it. ‘Yeah, dog,’ I said. ‘Lay it on me. Bring it right down to Earth.’
“‘That’s what I thought you’d say,’ he said. He pointed at the guy with the trumpet and suddenly the guy hit a note so high I thought the horn was going to break from the strain. Two more guys came out of the hoverbug. It might have only been one guy, but I think it was two, kinda blurred together. It was hard to tell, because as they came out, a light shined into my eyes and I could hardly see.
“I caught a glimpse of a bright yellow suit and maybe a beard, but I’m not sure. I held my hands up in front of my face and closed my eyes but it didn’t help. That light just punched right through and hit me right in the brain. Sounded like the light was singing too.
“The trumpet hit a note, and suddenly it sounded like a whole band was playing, and the girls were singing and there was suddenly a whole chorus of them, not just three. And over it all I heard this booming voice saying, ‘CAN YOU DIG IT?’ I didn’t dare make another shovel joke. I just nodded the best I could.
“The girls were singing ‘Hit the Road, Jack’ and the trumpet—band, whatever—was playing this crazy, funky, horn line, and through the light I could sort of see someone dancing. A spin, a drop into a split, then back up. It was too much. I shouted. I couldn’t hear myself. I screamed. The horns just got louder. Then I heard laughter. Rich, vibrant laughter. ‘YOU’LL DO,’ the booming voice said.
“And the light got even brighter, and I woke up. I opened my eyes, and I was looking out the window, but it was down there”—he pointed at the foot of the bed—“and it was like the light punched me in the eye. I suddenly realized that the window was in the wrong place and it woke me up for real.”
“What a crazy dream,” said Niecy. “And you think it was about God?”
“How well do you know the old Christian stuff?” asked Arthur.
“Not real well,” she said. “I never bothered to learn any of it.”
“I learned a little bit,” he said. “Enough to think that the guy with the trumpet was Gabriel, and the guy in the grey suit was the Holy Spirit, and he taught me some other language. They say he could do that for people.”
“Who were the singers?”
“Just some angels, I guess. And the guy in the yellow suit and the booming voice at the end was God himself, or Jesus, or both of them together. I guess.” He shrugged, then sat quietly for a few seconds, his eyes narrowed in concentration.
“Arthur,” said Niecy. “You’re making me very, very nervous.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, “I was just thinking. I think I know what the dream means. I think I know what it’s saying. They kept talking about ‘can you dig it’ and all that. I think that means I’m supposed to build something.”
“You’re not a builder,” said Niecy.”
“I’m not supposed to build a building or anything like that,” said Arthur. “Something else. Something real.”
“Realer than a building?”
“What’s realer than a building?”
“God,” said Arthur. “I’m supposed to build God back up. I’m supposed to dig God out of the hole we put him in all those years ago and rebuild him.”
Niecy closed her eyes and shook her head. She reached up and rubbed her forehead, then stuck a finger in her ear. She wiggled it around as if cleaning her ear out. “Do what, now?”
“I have to bring God back,” said Arthur.
“You don’t believe in God,” she said.
“How can you bring back a god that you don’t believe in?”
“I don’t have to believe,” said Arthur. “I just have to tell people about him. They’ll hear it and some will believe it and eventually someone else can take over for me and I can come back home.”
Niecy stuck a finger into the other ear and wiggled it again. “What do you mean, ‘come back home’? Just where are you going?”
“How can I bring God back if I stay here, Niecy?” His eyes were shining, now. He was starting to feel it. “We’re in a little house in the middle of nowhere. Our net connection doesn’t even work half the time. How can I talk to people from here? I have to go out there.” His hand swept toward the window.
“What are you talking about?” she asked. “Do you think you’re suddenly going to be some great religious guy and get on a rocket to Titan or something?” She crossed her arms and frowned. “Arthur, I am not going to Titan, do you hear me? There is methane in the atmosphere there. I will not wear a filter.”
He laughed. God, she was cute when she got indignant. “No, Niecy, we are not going to Titan. Why go to Titan? They already know about God there. I have to travel around here on Earth and tell people about him. I don’t know, Niecy.” He paused again.
“I still don’t know what you’re trying to tell me, Arthur.”
“I don’t either, but I really do think I have to go do something.”
“Because of the dream you had.”
“The dream about a hoverbug.”
“And a guy with a trumpet.”
“And another guy in a grey suit.”
“And ooo-ooo-ooo girls.”
“And bright lights and God dancing.”
“You’re tired, Arthur. It’s almost 4 a.m. and I think you’re tired and you woke up out of a wild dream and you’re so caught up in it that you’ll believe anything.”
“I need to—”
She held up a hand. “You need to go back to sleep. I need to go back to sleep. When we wake up, you might not even remember this dream. Don’t change our lives just yet. Sleep on it. We’ll talk about it more tomorrow.”
“You’re right,” he said. He leaned across the bed and gave her a hug. “I shouldn’t have woke you up. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” she said, and she gave him a gentle kiss. “Just get some sleep.”
They lay down beside each other, and held each other’s hand as they always did in bed. Niecy soon drifted back off to sleep. Arthur never did. He lay there thinking back over his dream, listening to the trumpet, the ooo-ooo-ooo girls, and the voice of God.