This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge starts with a song title. We were to pick a random song title (from our iTunes or Apple Music or iHeart or Pandora or Spotify or by taking the entrails of an albino crow and throwing them on our vinyl collection – whatever!) and using that as a “seed” to tell our story. I got a Huey Lewis & The News song. As always, comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE?
Slow fade to black, the sound of the paramedic getting fainter, the smell of gasoline and burning rubber wafting away.
A pinprick of light, a single star, getting extremely bright either very quickly or very slowly. No adrenaline left to fuel fear or panic, joy or jubilation. Only the base part of the primate brain clings to life, spawning curiosity.
Damn, my mother was right, there is an afterlife. I’m going to hate having her rub that in for all of eternity. Let’s just hope she was wrong about that vengeful God who was so hung up on judgement and salvation.
“Do you not believe in judgement or salvation?” There is no voice, just the thought which is both the approaching light and the receding darkness.
“Neither was high on my list. It all seemed arbitrary, no rules that made any sense.” I was never much for trying to bullshit my way through confrontations. This doesn’t seem to be a good place to start.
“Do you believe in rules?”
“Yeah, I guess I believe in natural rules. Physics, math, astronomy, chemistry – they all seemed to be bits of the big picture, a puzzle that added up to a complex universe.”
“Do you believe in a God?”
This might be one of the big questions. I wish I had studied for the quiz. “The Judeo-Christian guy? Garden of Eden, Noah, Moses, Jesus, all of that? Nope, sorry. Nothing personal if that’s you, but your plot has an awful lot of inconsistencies and loopholes.”
“Do you believe in a Devil?”
“No more than I did the rest of the dogma. I understand from a storytelling view you need your antagonist to offset your protagonist, yin and yang, black and white, good and evil, but when the God character isn’t believable, the Devil doesn’t do any better.”
“Do you believe in good and evil?”
“Sure, all you have to do is watch the news. It’s all over, in both the macroscopic and the microscopic views. Gandhi vs Hitler at one end of the spectrum, letting the guy merge into your lane or cutting him off at the other.”
“Do you believe that you were good or evil?”
Who knew that the afterlife would be a job interview where I have to name my best and worst qualities? “I think I was good, but I wouldn’t claim to be perfect. No one is purely one thing or the other, no matter which dimension or parameter you’re measuring. I think overall I was getting into the ninetieth percentile on good, but that doesn’t mean that I never went off on someone who didn’t deserve it or think non-monogamistic thoughts about Peggy in accounting.”
“Do you believe in absolutes?”
Ooh! Ooh! I know this one! “Nope, you screwed that up when you came up with quantum mechanics. I don’t know what you were smoking, but it must have been good. Which left us with nothing at all black or white, just infinite shades of grey. Not that that’s stopped people from making a good living out of selling a million varieties of dogma as each being the one, true word.”
“Do you believe in religion?”
Somehow I don’t think that being an altar boy fifty years ago is going to help me now. “Sorry, gave up on that a long time ago. I may or may not have tried to chat with you one-on-one every now and then, but if you were holding up your end of the conversation, I wasn’t able to hear it. But all of that fighting over who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s going to Heaven and who’s going to Hell? I had better things to waste time on.”
“Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?”
“No. Heaven as sold sounded boring, and as much as they wanted me to believe in eternal torment, that didn’t make any more sense than eternal bliss. Angels? Devils? Purgatory? Mortal sins? Venal sins? They had more rules than the IRS, and their rules made just about as much sense.”
“Do you believe in the afterlife?”
“No, but the longer this conversation goes on, the more likely I am to change my mind.”
“Do you believe in me?”
Is this what Eternity is, playing twenty questions raised to the Nth power? Hell is sounding better by the minute. “You haven’t said who you are. Conventional wisdom says you’re God, but I believe you’re just as likely to be a hallucination going on in my consciousness as the last oxygen gets used up and neurons start firing at random. If the Universe and this conversation go away and I become nothingness, I’ll never know, or care. So, answer a question for me. Who are you and what’s going on?”
“Do you believe in love?”
“Is that supposed to be an answer? Are you God, and are God and love one and the same? That’s a common part of many theologies and it’s one of the better points, but it doesn’t have anything more to back it up than any other article of faith. Who are you?”
“Do you believe in love?”
Okay. Maybe this is the really big question. Either that or there’s a glitch in the automated menu on the entrance exam to the afterlife. Just my luck.
“Yes, I believe in love.” Suddenly I’m overwhelmed with images of family, friends, pets, high school sweethearts, a flood of emotion. “It’s undefined, unmeasurable, ephemeral, completely outside of the rigorous scientific universe, yet it’s still the thing that keeps us moving from the day we’re born until the day we die.” Again I’m smothered by visions, flashes showing my wife, kids, mother, father, grandkids. “Love is still here with me, even beyond death. Yes, I believe in love.”
“Good. I love you.”
The light expands to fill the void, fill me, fill the universe.
Again, I am.