The Godhead

It looked like God.

That is, if God had four eyes, four arms, and pincher-claw hands. And a giant mustache … which could, actually, be interpreted as mandibles.

It was undoubtably someone’s god. Carved out of a mountain, it loomed over the settlement and filled a quarter of the sky. There was a lot of talk about either moving the settlement, or building a new one on the other side of the mountain — because having this enormous four-eyed monster staring down at you all the time gave everyone the creeps.

Well, almost everyone. Philip Richard found it endlessly fascinating, and while most people built their homesteads to face away from it, looking instead out across the great expanse of the Dime River, Philip made sure the Godhead filled the view of his main picture window.

“Why did you do that? It’s hideous.” Regina stood next to him, sipping her drink and staring out the window. “The thing gives me nightmares.”

Regina was a beautiful second generation clone with blue eyes and dark hair. Philip had met her at the Politico rally a fortnight before. It had taken him this long to lure her over. “Maybe,” he said to Regina, “that’s what its purpose is.”

“To give people nightmares? It’s working.” Regina turned her back to the window. “Don’t you have curtains you can put up?”

“No.”

“A blanket? Some foil?” Her face puckered like she were tasting something bad. “Bricks?”

“You should try not to look at it negatively,” he told her. “An ancient race dedicated lifetimes to creating this godhead, probably as a protector. And if you think about it, it’s still working — we, trespassers on this world, are completely freaked out by it — which for all we know is exactly what it’s supposed to do.”

“Of all the places on this world, it’s crazy that the Guardians chose to land the seed ship here, settle us here.” She shook her head. “They’re supposed to be so smart, why can’t they also be freaked out by the thing?”

“The Guardians saw it as a perfect starting point — the site of a former civilization,” Philip said. “We’re supposed to be inspired.”

“By a civilization that vanished? What if this godhead of theirs had something to do with them disappearing?”

Philip shrugged. “Evidence points to them evolving away from corporeal existence.”

“I don’t buy that, ‘they turned into The Force’ nonsense.”

He gave her a warm, genuine smile. “Neither do I, really.” They shared a look which quickly grew awkward, and finally he said, “If the view of the godhead bothers you we can go into the other room.” He pointed.

“Is that your … bedroom?” she asked.

He nodded.

The silence stretched, growing even more awkward, and he thought that this wasn’t going to work. But then Regina said, “Okay. Anything to get away from that big creepy monster.” Her arms crossed in front of her, she walked through the doorway, and after a moment he followed.

The next morning Philip emerged, feeling incredible. The night had been awesome. He was in such a good mood that if he wasn’t afraid of waking Regina, he would have been whistling.

Gazing through the window at the godhead, it seemed to glow in the light of the rising sun. If he didn’t know better he’d say it looked alive, pulsing with energy and warmth. Putting his hands together in front of him, Philip gave a little bow to the godhead and thanked it. Sincerely, honestly, thanked it.

He’d decoded the alien glyphs. He’d translated the ancient texts. Philip knew exactly the true purpose of the giant statue.

It was a fertility goddess.

You Are What You Buy

The roller coaster broke at a crucial moment, sending the cars whizzing high into the air, and Wendy turned to her boyfriend and gasped, “We’re going to die!” Indeed, both could see parts flying in midair around them, including wheels that should have been attached to the bottom of their car and firmly anchored to the track.

As they spun across the sky they saw the track receding. Air, and only air, buffeted the steel that held them to their seats. Her boyfriend screamed like a 4 year old girl covered with large spiders.

Time for my life to flash before my eyes, Wendy thought. A couple heartbeats passed and there was no life flashing. Well, she thought — where is it?

Instead, the vision of a familiar red-haired clown appeared before her. “On behalf of the whole McDonald’s corporation,” he said, “I want to thank you for all the food and drinks you bought from us during your life.” His somber, creepy clown-face faded to be replaced by a Barbie doll. “On behalf of Mattel, thank you … thank you … thank you so much for your patronage. We hope our products brightened your young life.”

“What the…?” Wendy shouted, her hair whipping around her in slow motion.

Her favorite jeans company thanked her, followed by three different brands of makeup and hair products. Next it was representatives of the shows she religiously watched. “Thank you,” they told her, “thank you from the bottoms of our hearts.”

Steve Jobs appeared and thanked her for using Apple products so religiously. Desperately she interrupted him and said, “What is this! What the hell?”

“What do you mean?” said the vision of Steve.

“What happened to my life? This is supposed to be my life flashing before my eyes!”

“Wendy,” he said, “this is your life.”

She stared at him, dumbstruck. “This is my life? The products I used?”

Steve shrugged. “You live in a consumerist society. What do you expect? You’re judged by what you buy, and when you die — if you’ve shopped well — your heaven is a huge upscale mall, and you have an endless credit card.”

It took a few precious seconds for her to process this. “Did I shop well?” she asked him.

“Wendy, Wendy, Wendy … if you hadn’t, would I be here right now?” His transparent image smiled before fading, replaced by the horrifying view of her doom.

Wendy stared at the ground rushing at her, suddenly without fear, and urged it to hurry.

She had shopping to do.

Modern Love

She closed her eyes and leaned forward, and whispered “Give me some sugar, baby.”

“I only have Splenda,” he told her.

She pulled back, blinked a couple of times, then tried again. Eyes closed, leaning forward, she said, “Give me some Splenda, baby.”

He opened a little paper packet and poured the white chemical on her tongue. It tasted sweet enough, but not quite the same. She sighed.

“I can’t get used to this modern love,” she told him.

“I’m plastic,” he replied.

SleepLink

Raymond’s phone emitted a crystalline chime. A message, he knew, from another world.

Swaying back and forth with the train’s motions, his eyes blinked open and he reached into his jacket pocket, feeling for the warm metal. Pulling it out, he held it in front of his bleary eyes and focused on the screen.

SLEEPLINK Message from Mary North – Ray I need your help! My hair has turned to metal! I think it’s like Brillo or something! Can you come home right now?

“Uhh yeah,” he whispered to himself. Thumbing the phone’s keyboard he replied, “You are asleep and dreaming right now. Nothing is wrong. Either wake up, or shift your dream in another direction.” He hit send then plinked the screen off with a push of a button, and then slid the phone back into his pocket. Oh man, he thought, it would be nice to be at home right now, asleep, instead of riding a stuffy crowded commuter train at 5 in the morning.

From deep within his pocket came another chime. Raymond gave a half-sigh, half-laugh. Why, he wondered, did we ever think this SleepLink service was a good idea? He slipped his hand once again into his pocket, finding the phone, pulling it out.

“I’m not the one dreaming, you are,” she’d replied.

“No sweetheart,” he typed back. “You’re the one logged into SleepLink, not me. Everything is okay.” He almost quipped something about making sure her Brillo hair didn’t get rusty, but he restrained himself. He was too tired.

Accessing the control app, he thumbed through the menu and chose something he was only supposed to do if absolutely necessary: RESET PARTNER’S DREAM. He knew he was supposed to try to talk her through a nightmare first, because using this was kind of like teleporting at random and not knowing where you would land.

The wheels hit a bump in the tracks, and the lights flashed inside the train. The jolt threw Raymond’s head against the window so hard he was amazed the glass didn’t break. It felt like it had cracked his head. He clutched it a moment, feeling a wave of dizziness, and after he recovered Raymond felt a warm body next to him in the seat. Glancing over he was startled to see Mary sitting with him.

She was in her pajamas. Her sexy pajamas.

“What the hell?” he exclaimed.

“Oh, you hit the dream reset!” she said. “Great. Just great. I’m naked in public. Thank you Ray.”

It took him a moment to find his voice. She wasn’t naked, exactly — though the nightie was pretty much see-through. What stole his voice from him was the fact that her head was festooned with a mass of dull gray steel wool instead of hair. “Oh crap,” he said, “I teleported you out of your dream!”

“No, stupid, you teleported me into your dream.”

“I’m not dreaming!”

“No? Then how do you account for me being here? Teleportation isn’t actually possible. And—” she pointed “—explain why there’s a Klingon sitting in the seat across from us.”

The Klingon looked over at them, bemused. “I’m heading to a Star Trek convention,” he said in a low, guttural voice.

“He’s going to a convention,” Raymond said. “See.”

“Of course he’s going to agree with you,” said Mary. “He’s in your dream.”

Something occurred to Raymond. “Wait a minute,” he said to the Klingon, “it’s five in the morning! What Star Trek convention is going to be open this early?”

The Klingon now had a third eye. “Meow,” he said. He smiled at them with long, sharp, pointed teeth.

Everyone else on the train turned around to smile at them. They all had three eyes and sharp teeth. Raymond and Mary looked at each other, and then both fumbled quickly for their phones, scrambling to open the DreamLink app and hit the reset button. Mary — lord knows where she had been keeping her phone — beat him to it.

The lights blinked, and instead of being on a train, they both floated in a kind of blue-violet void surrounded by large stuffed panda bears and Hello Kitties. “Oh no!” Raymond cried. “We teleported into your dream!”

Mary spun upside-down and smiled. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

“No!” Hello Kitties terrified him, and these were over 15 feet tall. He fumbled for his phone but lost his grip on it, and it went tumbling away into space. Raymond watched it in horror, especially as one of the giant stuffed pandas grabbed it and crunched it to bits with its very real, very non-fluffy teeth.

“Raymond?” said a voice that wasn’t Mary’s. “Raymond? You okay? Raymond?”

He sucked in his breath and lifted his head in one convulsive movement. Raymond found himself sitting at a table with a bunch of people who were all staring at him. His co-workers. The lights were dim and a PowerPoint presentation shown on the wall. His face felt wet, and he reached up to touch it, finding drool all over his chin and cheeks.

“Uh, yeah, I’m okay,” he said, his tense and breathless voice undermining his words. He had to put his hands firmly against the table to hold himself upright. He felt dizzy and disoriented.

“Are you sure?” asked his boss. She looked concerned.

Raymond’s phone, sitting on the table in front of him, chimed and the screen lit up. INCOMING SLEEPLINK MESSAGE, it said. Without reading it, Raymond grabbed the phone and turned it off, then shoved it into his shirt pocket.

Up on the wall, the projected PowerPoint slide depicted a giant Hello Kitty.

His three-eyed boss said, “Meow.”