Like all the “bad guys” do, Azazal had a really good point there. If you knew that the soul you allowed into the next cycle was going to kill one of its fellows, wouldn’t it be better to keep them from returning and thus save the innocent life?
“So the souls you take are ones that are…bad?” I asked.
“Bad is relative, but yes, I like to think that the souls we take are rotten in some kind of way. Not that it bothers us, mind you. Taste is just the same, and when we digest them we get some kind of perspective on why life is going on anyway.
“These souls all have potential to kill, rape, beat, and sin sin sin in some pretty creative ways. I take them out of their current existence, and killing two birds with one stone, I keep them from other existences. They wait for final judgement in what humans romanticize in pop culture as ‘hell.’ And it’s not like they haven’t had other cycles before the ones in which they turn rotten. More likely than not, they’ve produced some similar behaviour in the previous cycles as well,” Azazel said, gripping the rail on top of our seat that ran behind me. He was so close, it felt like he could wrap his arms around me at any point, and I’d be powerless to stop him.
“And so they’ve all got…potential to do these things? How do you know if they actually do them or not?” I asked.
Azazal sighed, and shook his head as though I was rather slow in the uptake.
“Jorge…you’ve lived among humanity for 27 years that you remember and thousands of years that haven’t quite come back to you. You know, just as I do, that the humans are animals, and they will do whatever they can reasonably get away with. It’s only a matter of chance that the wards that produce stigma or punishment against their actions are removed enough to make the act alluring. If the rewards towards the end that they are resisting are high enough, they will ALWAYS succumb and act upon their impulses to take, dominate, sneer while they do so.”
“…but there’s a possibility that they won’t, right?” I said, feeling like I was trying to match wits with the top car salesman at the dealership.
Azazal actually rolled his eyes at me on this comment.
“Hope is an interesting thing,” he said, in response. “It’s only the wisdom of many years that seems to crush it in a satisfactory way”
“Your stop is coming up,” he added, making no move to follow me as I rose in response.
I started down the length of the bus, and waited at the doors of the bus as it came to a stop.
“I’ll see you soon,” Azazal called. “You can always call on me sooner if you get any more feelings of existential angst. I’ve been able to solve them all in my time.”
He shouted it as me as I left the bus, but none of the other passengers seemed to hear the man shouting from the back of the bus, and no one had a second glance for me either. I had become the invisible hand over the pawns on the chessboard that were all these peoples lives, but not one of them seemed interested in how my hand hovered and swayed over their heads as I considered which move to next make.
I walked from the bus stop to my house, and found myself in front of the bed as the sun was doing down through the crack in the curtains of the window over my bed. I was tired…practically exhausted from the day’s work and the repeat encounter with Azazal, but what was going to be the point in going to bed if my dreams were going to not allow my brain to rest? Dee had said that I could delay the dreams, the “planning time” and just encounter the gruesome images in the daylight hours. The last image of the severed arm in the drawer was certainly horrid, but I couldn’t take this 24/7 parade of death any longer. I wanted to rest.
I picked up my medicine bottle. Sure, they were placebo pills that didn’t work. But they HAD worked for years before I’d come to terms with that. All I had to do was refuse the dreams, and accept the abyss of black, non-waking. I consciously decided to do just that as I pushed the white pill past my lips, and sailed backwards in a spread eagle into my waiting bed and the arms of sleep.
If someone has the right to something long enough, they’ll get the sense that they’re entitled to this thing no matter come what may. There’s not a whole lot of realization these days that there’s no guarantees, and no promise that there will be fine wrapped presents with your name on them under the tree each year. You’ve no right to life any more than the meat that was killed to feed you and your mother when you were still in utero. Living “clean” and with kindness doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be allowed aboard the ship that will carry only a limited number to a destination paradise. Being the strongest or smartest doesn’t allow you a place on the vessel at the expense of someone less so either. No one wants to hear it. But your life thus far, and from this day hence, is all a combination of right time/right place circumstances, close calls, randomly dropped dice, and a lucky break here and there.
I didn’t have a single dream. Such sound sleep caused me to wake up several times during the night though. I sat up groggily each time, and my eyes were drawn each time to the corner of my darkened bedroom. At the space where closet door met the wall beside it, my eyes rested and I felt that there was something standing just there, watching me. It didn’t feel like a harmful presence, and it didn’t do anything except watch, but it made me uneasy because I couldn’t see anything there although I felt it there. I felt that if I called out a name like “Dee” or “Azazal,” then I would allow the presence to make itself known, but if the force was neither of these and I called it to show itself, I felt that I wasn’t ready yet to see what other players were involved in this line of work.
When I woke up for good, the sun was making a real effort to get up into the sky, my alarm clock read 7:45 am. Some strange impulse urged me to check the clock on my phone as well. When I did, the small lit numbers showed a time of 6:45, exactly one hour behind. I did a quick check of the calendar to confirm that it wasn’t a daylight savings time change. I turned my phone off and on again to see if it was a glitch in my technology, but when the phone booted up again, the time was unchanged. I sat there and watched the numbers on my alarm clock move and the time change to 7:50. The time of the cell phone remained stubbornly stuck at 6:45.
Whatever. Stupid phone, I thought.