Three men stand around a table.
They were seated a moment ago, but sit no longer since each of their chairs toppled as they leapt up and pulled out their guns.
Chuck’s gun is a Heckler & Koch HK45 semi-automatic pistol that he scavenged out of a pawn shop display case. He has no idea how to use it. It’s pointing in the general direction of Bill’s head.
Bill’s gun is a .357 Magnum that in actuality is not a gun at all. It’s a movie prop. A replica. A rather poor one at that. Regardless of its realness, it’s pointing dead center at Harry’s chest.
Harry’s gun is not a gun at all. Not even a replica. It’s a hand grenade he dug out of the WWII display at his local history museum. It’s a real grenade, but unbeknownst to Harry, a dud. He’s waving it at Chuck, the way a Priest might brandish a crucifix at a vampire.
What’s got these three a-holes wound so tightly? Ready to kill?
Each of them blame the other for the end of the World.
Actually, the end of the human race, I suppose, is more accurate. The World remains. The Starbucks, the Wal-Marts, the McDonalds, they’re all still there. Mossy, rank with rotten food, and chalked full of wildlife, but still there. It’s the people that are gone. POOF! All of them. All except for Bill, Chuck, and Harry.
I know this because I did it.
I did it, but don’t misunderstand. I’m not responsible. No. One of them is responsible. Bill, Chuck, or Harry. One of them summoned me.
Who am I? Well, I have lots of names. Leviathan the Dimension Devourer, the Merciless Void, the Infinite Gaping Pustule, the Fathomless Grotesque. The list goes on and on. You can just call me Levi.
Like the jeans.
Before I take us back to the Gassy Narwhal Pub & Eatery, to the Mexican stand-off between these giant turd sandwiches, let me explain, how in the big empty world, they managed to find each other.
Bill, Chuck, and Harry each checked their email…
This is an automated message from SOULMATCH.com. Sir/Madam, your profile indicates that you are seeking a female, ages 21 – 45 as a friend/hook-up/mate. Regrettably, all 3,742,567 SOULMATCH profiles save the following 3 have expired due to dormancy:
Chuck, age 23 – “Whassup ladies? Meat your night in shining armor. Good looks, brains, manners, humblnicity, I got it all. I don’t wanna brag, but broads tell me all the time how imbecilic I am. Interested?”
Bill, age 37 – “My Mother’s making me do this”
Harry, age 52 – “Hello. I am a recent divorcee who is anxious to climb back up on the horse. Not that I’m saying you’re a horse. Whoever you are. I’m sure you’re extremely un-horse-like. Also, I didn’t mean to imply I’d be climbing up on you. Unless you want me to. Ha ha ha. Please inbox me. Please?”
Would you like to adjust your sexual preference?
That awkward email led to some awkward online chatter, which eventually led to their face-to- face-to-face sit down/stand up, which led to their weapons being shoved in said faces.
I’m not getting involved here.
Not yet, anyhow.
I may be an all-powerful, interstellar deity, but I don’t actually know who’s responsible for summoning me any more than you.
All I know, is one instant I was slumbering soundly outside space and time, the next I was gorging myself on an all you can eat buffet of human life force.
One of them did it. Ended the World.
Which means, strangely enough, that two of them are completely innocent. How did those two avoid my intergalactic digestive tract? Well, that’s a bit of a noodle scratcher also.
Bill, Chuck, or Harry?
One of them did it. The question is, which one?
Let’s return to the Gassy Narwhal.
Harry’s finger just wormed its way into the grenade pin.
Chuck has five and a half pounds of finger pressure on a six pound trigger, and he’s about to sneeze.
Bill has had to pee for the last four hours. He’s about to say something stupid.
Let’s see how this plays out.
“This is stupid,” huffs Bill. He lowers his foam rubber hand cannon. “Maybe none of us is responsible. Maybe it was the Rapture, or spontaneous human combustion, or Asian bird flu, or something?”
The tension deflates.
Chuck shrugs, stifles a sneeze, lowers his gun a little.
Harry’s finger squiggles off the grenade pin.
The three of them stand there for way too long, considering it.
Ugh. I can’t hold my tongue.
My seventy square mile, abyss black, anti-matter tongue.
“Nope,” I boom like thunder.
The Gassy Narwhal quakes like a house of cards before an asthmatic mouth breather. Bill, Chuck, and Harry, whip their panicked faces skyward, getting their eyeballs seasoned with falling ceiling dust for their troubles. Nearby, a herd of grazing elk drop dead from shock. Sixty miles to the east a fault line rips open, burps magma. The ocean recedes two inches.
Who knew my voice had so much oomph?
I decide to whisper.
“One of you summoned me,” I explain mid-back stroke in the Earth’s atmosphere. “Musta. And nobody’s goin nowhere till we figure it out.”
Bill pees his pants.
Harry’s sanity shatters into a trillion sparkly pieces. He laughs uncontrollably.
“Get comfy fellas,” I command. “Chillax.”
Shakily, the three men nod, collect their chairs, and sit down. Bill’s seat squishes.
I materialize a pitcher of beer, three glasses, and a plate of venomous snakes—OOPS!—POOF!—my bad, make that jalapeno poppers, on the table.
Every window within a hundred mile radius shatters.
Bill, Chuck, and Harry guzzle the beer like frat boys. I materialize some more. Some more after that. Rudely, nobody touches the jalapeno poppers.
“Okay,” Harry finally peeps up, glancing skyward as if a piano is poised to drop on his head. “Okay, let’s talk.” He deposits his hand grenade into a pelican shaped ashtray next to him for safe keeping. “According to the,” he gestures upward. “Well, whatever that is–”
“Levi,” I help the little fella along.
A tad loudly.
A tsunami swallows Maui.
“Right,” he whimpers. He guzzles another mug of beer, staring sideways at the jalapeno poppers. “Levi. According to. Levi. One of us summoned him. One of is responsible for the end of the World.”
Chuck and Bill nod drunkenly.
“Well. I don’t suppose anyone wants to confess?”
Chuck and Bill stop nodding.
The conversation dies.
A solar wind crops up, maddeningly tickles my toes. I’m a celestial being after all, an infinite mish mash of dead star chunks, ethereal deep space gases, and fleshy gobs of conquered worlds, which as everybody knows, makes one exceptionally ticklish.
“Why don’t you each tell us a little about yourselves?” I offer. The International Space Station collides with my left butt cheek, crumpling like a soda can. “Maybe the truth will reveal itself?”
Bill nods again, rises to his feet. His pants have become a swamp.
“Okay. Hello, my name is Bill—“
“Hi Bill,” I say a little too enthusiastically. The Grand Canyon collapses in on itself. The Grand Canyon 2.0 opens up in downtown Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
“Uh, hi,” Bill squeaks skyward. “Uh, yeah, like I was saying. My name is Bill, and I’m a dog groomer from Dickey, North Dakota. I collect T.V. Guides, I enjoy live action roll playing on the weekends, and I live with my mother. Or at least I did before she imploded into a shock of white light and got sucked up into the sky.”
“My bad, Bill,” I whisper.
I offer up another round of brews to express my condolences.
Bill squishes back into his seat.
“I’m Harry,” Harry says without rising.
I’m pretty sure I’ve nudged the Earth off its axis a degree or two, so I decide to keep my mouth shut for a little bit.
“I’m a Proctologist,” Harry continues. “And moderately successful romance novelist from Gladstone, Manitoba. I’m divorced times three, my cholesterol is through the roof, and I’m pretty sure I officially went insane about five minutes ago.” His face ticks like a clock. He crams a jalapeno popper in his mouth and bursts with crazed laughter, spitting cheese gobs all over the table. “But who cares, right? The worlds been eaten by a giant sky monster. And we’re next.”
I snicker loudly. “Sky monster.” Australia drifts over, gives New Zealand a smooch. “Nice one.”
“How bout you, hair-do?” I nudge Chuck with a gust of stale bar air. “What’s your story, huh?”
“Meh?” Chuck burps. He gets up, falls over, gets up again.
Chuck’s drink, drank, drunk.
“Wellll” He giggles. “Lez seee…okay, okay, ok-ay. Imma ‘hic’ shroood crooood droood who’ma looooooves ‘hic’ ta scrooooooge.”
Chuck pirouettes, falls backwards unconscious, crashes through a table.
“Did he just say he was cool and shrewdly fluent in Jewish?” Harry asks around a mouthful of cheesy jalapenos.
“No, no.” Bill says, shaking his head drunkenly. “He said he’s a skewered brute who loves his school.”
“Wait. Nope. I got it,” Harry slurs. “I got it. He said he’s a brooding, shrewd druid who can’t be ruled.”
Bill shrugs. Before he can moronically rebut, the realization hits me like Jupiter to the solar plexus.
Those sneaky little robed buggers and their quirky curses.
“Oh, wow,” I groan way too loudly.
A chunk of Moon the size of Texas crumbles off and floats away towards Mars. The water logged ruins of Atlantis froth up to the ocean surface, ten miles off the coast of Spain. Every sky scraper in North America topples over.
I turn down the volume. “Wow, you guys, you know what? This is really embarrassing.”
“Huh?” Harry grunts.
“Whazza?” Bill asks.
“Prophecy,” I sigh. “See fellas, I completely forgot about this kooky little Druid death cult I had worshipping me here on Earth back around the fifth century. End of the world enthusiasts. Nasty little suckers. They sacrificed a butt load of virgins to bring me here, but they got some wires crossed, delaying my arrival by about a thousand years. Yep. Totally. That’s it. It’s all coming back to me.” I chuckle. “Crazy, huh? I guess that explains why none of you is owning up to summoning me. Cuz none of you did.”
I rip off the Gassy Narwhal roof and glare down at the three pasty specks with a curious eye the size of Lake Superior. The sudden gravity disruption empties a nearby marsh, dumping fish and frogs from the sky like a heavy snowfall.
“So why can’t I eat your life force? Hmmm?”
Harry and Bill dive under the table, scream themselves hoarse. Chuck giggles in his booze-fueled sleep, farts, rolls over.
And that’s when I see it.
The mark on Harry’s lower back, partially exposed as he turtles in a sniveling heap. I suck the table up into the sky. It burns to ash as it enters the atmosphere, leaving a pin prick soot smudge on the tip of my nose.
“Harry, what is that on your back?”
He doesn’t answer, so I “POOF” turn his shirt to spiders. He springs to his feet, flinging arachnids, hailing most of them into Bills hair. Bill jumps up, rips off his shirt along with two fistfuls of salt and pepper hair.
Bill has the mark as well.
I roll Chuck over. He calls me “Sugar Lips”. I lift his shirt. You guessed it.
Bill, Chuck, and Harry each have the mark.
The sacred absolution mark of Leviathan branded on their lower backs.
The mark that’s preventing me from devouring them.
The mark that in most dimensions is horrifying to behold, has been known to melt pupils and liquefy frontal lobes, but on Earth, just so happens to exactly mirror the Taco Bell fast food restaurant logo.
“My tattoo?” Harry mumbles, digging a spider out of his belly button. “Got it in college. Wazza a radio contest. Get a Taco Bell tramp stamp, free Taco Bell for life.” For an instant, he seems to forget all about the spiders parading towards his butt crack, not to mention the interstellar god glaring down at him. “Know something? I could soooo go for a cheesy gordita crunch right now.”
“Mmmm, that sounds good,” Bill chimes in, rubbing his furry gut. “I got mine after I blacked out at a bachelor party.” He looks around the ruined bar with watery, red eyes. “Any beer left?”
“I jus really like Taco Bell,” Chuck mumbles, goes back to sleep. His mark has the words “LIVE MAS” stenciled beneath it.
“So if I can’t eat you,” I muse. “What the H, E, double hockey sticks am I gonna do with you boogers, hmmm?”
As I ponder, Haley’s Comet darts by in my peripheral. Voyager 1 bounces off my right ear lobe. A solar flare singes my tentacle hair.
I got it.
I start with another round of beers and a mountainous pyramid of cheesy gordita crunches.
The crowd goes wild.
As Bill, Harry–and a suddenly very conscious Chuck–attack the fast food like velociraptors, I send out my consciousness, delving deep into each of their minds.
There’s some messed up stuff in here.
What am I searching for? Well, if you must know, I’m searching for their SOULMATCH.com online dating profiles. Specifically, the descriptions of their ideal mates.
Within attoseconds, I have everything I need to know.
Next comes a teeny, tiny construction project.
I pick up the White House, the Taj Mahal, and the enchanted castle from Walt Disney World, and deposit them gently into a lovingly formed cul-de-sac a quarter mile from the crumbling remnants of the Gassy Narwhal Pub & Eatery. Bill, Chuck, and Harry hear the ruckus, but don’t bother gorge pausing to investigate.
“Okay, fellas, here’s the deal,” I tell them. “It’s your lucky day. I might be an intergalactic Chaos God, but let it never be said I’m a buzzkill. Just a ways down the road, you are each going to find a brand new home, stocked full of beer, cheesy gordita crunches, and housing your perfect mate.”
They each perk up, stop eating.
“Billy boy, you get the White House with the intelligent, out-doorsy gal, who looks sorta like your Mother, but not quite enough to make it weird. Harry, you get the Taj Mahal with the athletic, artistic gal who doesn’t judge when you wear your sweatpants out in public, and Chuck, well, you get my closest guess to whatever “a lady in the streets, but a freak in the sheets” means.”
Chuck, Bill, and Harry smile drunkenly, teeth camouflaged behind mangled beef and cheese.
“Well what are you waiting for?” I ask a little too enthusiastically. Alaska sinks into the Bering Sea. “Get outta here and meet your soul matches already, you lil scamps.”
That’s all it takes.
Bill, Chuck, and Harry flee the Gassy Narwhal as if it’s on fire, scrambling, tripping, and shoving their way towards their sparkly new homes and patiently waiting mates.
I wonder if I should have mentioned that since they’re the last three people on Earth, I had to borrow their new lady loves from a particularly nasty neighboring dimension?
I am a chaos god after all, remember?
I’m sure they’ll figure it out once they spot the mandibles.