“All I am saying is that perhaps the universe is just one diverse neighborhood of human beings. Each solar system or planet would be like it’s own insulated family or home. Although the neighborhood has constants in the core values and culture, there are a number of advantageous or disadvantageous differences in each specific household. That is why one kid may end up hanging from the end of a rope he tied himself at the age of sixteen while the kid next door grows up happily and becomes an astronaut. If that is the case, then how do you think Earth humanity would rate as far as producing happiness and success is concerned?”
“This might be the wrong address, Mike.”
“That’s what I am saying, Andrew. Shouldn’t it be our goal to be the ultimate humans on the ultimate planet? Obviously we aren’t doing a very good job if…”
“No, dude. This might actually be the wrong address. I was a little jooky when I took down the address earlier and I had just given him my phone number. I think I just wrote down the last digits of my phone number.”
They had come in contact with the man from a strange message left in a library book. Andrew had checked out a science fiction novel about a man who made a pill that had the strange effect of making the person who took it gain absolute belief and faith in God. Although the God varied depending on the preexisting beliefs of the person who took the pill, it gave the person awe-inspiring hope and dedication and seemed to improve their lives, albeit often crippling their capability to be rational. Scribbled on page 235 of the book was a message:
‘Do you wanna see God?’ -with a local 515 phone number behind it.
They drove around behind the state fairgrounds in the old dark industrial neighborhoods looking for a house where an unknown man lived. Large ominous structures seemingly constructed of pure frustration and anger floated like angels of industrial death in the background. In the gloaming of late dusk, small flashing lights often blinked out from the shadowy monstrosities like demons winking a cruel warning to anyone who might consider entering such an unnatural structure. They turned into a little neighborhood where the poor souls who lived among all of this spiritual cancer huddled hidden inside their miserable homes. As if waiting for actual cancer to release them from this nightmare. Andrew kind of liked it.
“Well, we have the right street anyway. The guy told you it was a blue and brick house. I don’t think there are too many houses with that questionable combo so we should be able to find it.” Mike said in his usual hopeful way.
Mike already sorta believed in a sort of God. Andrew had always admired this about him and wished that he could as well. Andrew had grown up with a militant atheist father and a dedicated reborn baptist mother. The atheism of his father had stuck but he felt guilty for not being able to empathize with his mothers beliefs. They seemed more admirable and peaceful than her fathers while also seeming ridiculously juvenile. He had longed to find some compromise. The man at the phone number had promised Andrew that he would find exactly what he was looking for.
They only had to drive a few blocks before they found the blue and brick house. It was immaculate. In the dull looming night it seemed to glow of its own internal energy. Everything was well kept and appeared fresh. It stood out against its surroundings like laughter at a funeral. A man who appeared to belong in such an out-of-place place answered the door and invited them in. He wore a neat gray beard and wire glasses on a small head that adorned a giant fuzzy sweater many sizes too large for him. The walls were covered with religious imagery from what appeared to be every known religion of man. He invited them into a sitting room and offered them to rest on a giant over-stuffed couch that was covered in a heavy knitted material just like the sweater. In a chair in a corner a woman about the mans age and equally awkward sat slowly rocking in a chair and knitting. She was rocking in time to some kind of swing jazz and her eyes batted a hello at them.
“I won’t keep you boys too long.” the man said in his deep husky baritone. The voice was disproportionate to the visual image of the fuzzy little man. “Here are two pills, one for each of you. They are a gift from me. I made these myself and can assure you they are absolutely safe. Their effect is identical to what I described in the novel you found at the library. That is all that I can tell you. These pills are yours to take at any time should you choose to.”
After some small talk the man then escorted the two out of his strange home, explaining that it was ‘dance night’ and that he and his wife were eager to get to their weekly gyrations. Mike and Andrew got in the car and began driving back to their place on University. Halfway home Andrew suddenly pulled out his pill and popped it instead of waiting like they had planned. They both sat silent for several blocks. Finally Mike broke the silence.
“Well, how is it? How does it feel?”
Andrew smiled coyly. He did not yet have precise words to attach to the experience so he gave a bit of a chuckle and then answered, “Like a verb, Mike. Like everything I thought was nouns are actually verbs.”
All of his life Andrew had been taught that The Divine was something to either be only laughed at or to never be laughed at. Now he was seeing a new truth before him. God is laughter.
This story was originally written as a submission to ‘Juice’, a Des Moines, Iowa local magazine, and was called ‘He Who Laughs, Lasts’. There were certain guidelines that had to be followed which made the story particular to the area, but I am unable to remember the details of them.