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The first thing I noticed about him was his shaggy, champagne-colored hair that reached down to his shoulders and how it contrasted against his dark, brown skin. He smiled, looking at me with his sleepy eyes.
“I’m Chus Dominguez,” he said, extending his soft hand towards me.
According to his file, the kid had lived a life filled to the brim with the worst of luck. Still, his sleepy eyes were cheerful and tender as he introduced himself. I already liked him.
“I’m Mio,” I replied enthusiastically, “Your new foster dad.” I smiled wide, hoping to look welcoming.
In our first month together, I learned that Chus loved wearing tie-dye t-shirts, ripped pair of jeans and John Lennon inspired sunglasses. He was a huge fan of all things Michael Jackson. And each time he spoke, it was like a song, always ending on a pleasing note. His charming demeanor and whimsical charisma won over every person he met. I truly believed I had lucked out because I had been told teenagers were the hardest to foster; but my Chus, he was grand.
Chus impressed his teachers at school with his encyclopedia-like knowledge, acing his first science project when he used a chemical reaction to turn water into wine. Since his grades were good, I allowed him to take an after-school job. He managed to get a job as a carpenter’s helper and with his salary, he made donations to the local homeless shelter. On weekends, he volunteered at the Humane Society. I mean, I really couldn’t complain. The kid was pretty spectacular.
One evening, as I passed by his room, I heard him and his best friend, Tia Chrinst, giggling. I thought nothing of it until I smelled something familiar in the air. Slightly worried, I popped my head in the door.
“Guys? Everything alright?” I asked.
I saw Chus hiding something inside his mouth, not able to reply. Tia, also holding something in her mouth, turned a pallid white. I knew what it was.
“Guys, relax,” I said, sighing and chuckling, “It’s okay. It’s legal in this state, but, technically, not for you guys. So just do it at home. No driving or going outside, okay?”
Chus and Tia immediately burst into laughter, releasing all the smoke from their mouths into the air. I laughed all the way to my room, where I reminisced about the days I used to get high with my friends back in high school myself. What a wonderful time the 60s had been.
I was dozing off to sleep, when I heard them again, this time in the kitchen. I assumed it was a classic case of the munchies, so I walked down the stairs to show them where all the goods were. As I walked towards the kitchen, I inadvertently overheard their conversation.
“But have you actually spoken to him lately?” Tia asked Chus.
Chus gloomily replied, “It’s been at least a century since I last spoke to him. But I think he knows where I am. Or if he doesn’t yet, he’ll figure it out soon enough.”
I assumed they were reenacting a scene from a movie.
Tia continued, “Well, if our plan goes through, you’ll only have to speak to him once more. And then you can live happily ever after. For eternity. Imagine that!”
“I just feel bad,” Chus replied, “About using Mio. This is the first time in my entire, long life that I’ll be using a human for my own selfish need.”
‘Use me? For what?’ I thought to myself, quietly standing behind the wall of the kitchen.
“Oh, stop it,” Tia replied, annoyed, “You’re literally the most selfless soul in this universe. It’s okay to take care of your own needs once in a lifetime.”
Feeling disappointed and slightly frightened, I silently walked back to my room. I tried not to think about the conversation I had overheard between Tia and Chus. But, soon enough, things started to crumble down for me.
First, my car was vandalized. Then, my identity was stolen. But things got worse. By the end of the month, I had lost my job and had an awful case of pneumonia. At this point, I was starting to get worried as I had to take care of Chus’ needs, not just mine. I searched and searched for a new job online but received no replies. Worse, I could barely breathe as my pneumonia grew scarier and scarier in spite of all the medication and medical visits.
“It’s all my fault,” Chus sheepishly said to me one evening.
I coughed into a napkin, some blood staying behind on it. “What do you mean? Of course it’s not.”
“No. It is. It’s my fault. I know who is doing all of this. It’s my father. He’s doing it to punish me,” he replied, tightening his shoulders.
“Okay?” I said, puzzled.
“Christmas is right around the corner, and on Christmas, we tell the truth,” he began, “I picked you, Mio. I chose you because I knew what a good guy you’ve been your whole life. Attempting to foster a child is a clear example of your altruism. You’re selfless. And I love that about you.”
I continued to listen.
“You don’t deserve all the misery that was befallen onto you. This is happening to you because he knows I’m here with you. And I’ve tried to stop it, I’ve tried to help you, but he’s stronger than I am. And I’m sorry, but… I needed your help. You see, my father, he’s a very controlling man,” Chus said looking down at his hands.
I was completely lost thinking the pneumonia was blocking me from making sense of everything he was telling me.
Chus continued,“I don’t think you’ll believe me until you see it for yourself. I’m going to need you to come with me. Would you come with me, Mio?”
I noticed his eyes glistening as they filled with tears.
“Where?” I asked.
“To see my father. The one who created me,” he replied.
Chus drove us out an hour away to a secluded beach where he walked me to the edge of the water. I assumed that he had set up a meeting at the beach with his father behind my back. At the point, the pneumonia was so severe that all I could say was ‘yes’ to everything.
“Chus, do you think on the way back we could stop at the pharmacy for-“ Before I could finish my sentence, I noticed a man approaching us.
This wasn’t just any man. He was a giant. He was a brawny man, strong and powerful, with muscles protruding from his body like mountains on a valley. He wore a pair of unreasonably tight, black swim trunks that highlighted everything. His massive legs looked like they could crush any living creature with a single misstep. His thick skin was evenly bronzed and looked recently oiled. His hair, slightly wet from the ocean, shined and moved in the wind, like in a Pantene commercial.
“Hello, father,” I heard Chus say. I couldn’t believe that Chus, the shaggy-haired, scrawny kid had come from this colossal giant whose shadow in the sand was three times the size of me.
“Hello,” he answered in a husky voice, “It’s been a while. And I see you’ve brought a friend.”
Feeling completely inadequate I managed a wimpy “Uh, hi,” before bending over as I coughed up a storm. His father barely acknowledged me.
“So, you’re going to pretend that you don’t know Mio? After everything you’ve put him through?” Chus asked him.
His father broke out into a loud and intimidating laughter, revealing perfect teeth. “So, you’ve gone looking for a new father. You don’t remember what happened the last time you had a human father?” He laughed some more.
I was a bit confused by his choice of words.
“Mio, how long have you been his father?” His father suddenly asked me.
“About 6 months,” I said, trying to hold some more coughs I could feel building up inside me.
“Oh? Six months. Wow. Because I’ve been doing this for thousands of years and he’s still a giant puzzle to me,” his father replied, dismissing me with his hands.
“Okay,” I answered, feigning laughter, “Let’s not get sarcastic, now. I’ve been with him for a little over 6 months and it’s been going great. Now, I don’t know how he ended up in foster care, and I’m not here to judge you but-“
“Judge me?” His father suddenly asked, sounding scorned. “Of course you’re not here to judge me. I’m the one who does all the judging.”
“Wow, okay” I replied, getting annoyed, “Listen, I think you need to drop it down a notch with your condescending attitude, sir. Once again, I don’t know what issues you have-“
“What issues I have?” His father asked me, sarcastically. “You don’t know the half of it. And I mean that literally. This son of mine created half-a-book worth of lies in my name.”
“I- I don’t follow?” I replied.
I looked over at Chus who was now rapidly blinking and forming beads of sweat over his forehead.
“There’s a book. About me. It’s the highest selling book worldwide. You should read it sometime, but only the first part,” his father added sarcastically. Noticing I still had no idea what he was talking about, he sucked his teeth and said, “You people are truly clueless. You don’t get it? I made men. And women. And the skies, the oceans, the animals, the stars in this universe and, I even made your mom. I made everything. And all I’ve ever asked for in return was for you, smarty-pant creations, to use your God-given brains to worship and adore your creator.”
He paused, closing in on me, “I am your father. I am everyone’s father. Because I am God.”
‘Okay, this guy is completely nuts,’ I thought to myself, laughing out loud, causing me to have another coughing fit.
His father stared at me as I struggled to regain my composure, but before I could, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Watch this.”
He placed his hands over my chest and shoved me down to the ground.
“Hey! Hey!” I said, slowly getting back up, “There’s no need to get violent. Violence only-“ I stopped in the middle of my sentence, noticing the immediate change that had occurred inside me. The pain in my chest was gone. The scratchy feeling inside me throat? Gone. The chills? Gone. The pounding headache? Gone. The pneumonia had disappeared.
“How did you-? What did you-? How is that-?” I asked, pointing at him and then back at me and then back at him again.
“I’m God, remember?” He repeated.
I looked over at Chus, who simply shrugged his shoulders and nodded.
“Now listen, here’s what we’re gonna do,” God said, “My son here, will be coming with me. And I will spare your life and give you back your health, your car, your job and whatever else I took because, quite frankly, I did get a little jealous watching you two canoodling.”
“I’m not coming with you,” Chus finally said, breaking his silence.
“Wait, if he’s God, and you’re his son, does that make you-?” I asked, doing the math in my head.
Chus nodded.”Yeah, about that. My name is Chus. Which, in spanish, is short for Jesus.”
I stood there in shock, remembering all his quirks I had noticed; his kindness, his empathy, his intelligence, his carpentry skills, his ability to turn water into wine. How did I not see it before?
Noticing my confusion, Chus added “Of Nazareth?” For clarification.
Still, I stood frozen, going through some sort of existential crisis.
“Oh come on!” God suddenly exclaimed. “Are you serious? Now you’re impressed? Now you’re speechless? I literally just told you I am God and then cured you from pneumonia, but it’s this guy being Jesus what impresses you?”
“I-uh-no… I’m sorry. I just,” I couldn’t figure out a way to explain my natural reaction.
God slammed his enormous fists on the ground, making the sand vibrate beneath us.
“This is why I detest humans! They worship anything that slightly impresses them. Elvis, the Internet, the Kardashians. I mean, I sent my son Jesus to spread my word, and then what do they do? They make up an entire new religion based off from him, complete with the biggest holiday on earth included. Paganism! Paganism everywhere!”
“I was only trying to help,” Jesus replied, indignantly. I felt bad for Jesus. His father was clearly jealous of him.
“Oh! You were only trying to help?” God repeated mockingly. “Do you think it helped me when you claimed that all sins would be forgiven and absolved by me if humans simply repented? Do you think you helped me when you claimed that anyone could make it into the Heavens as long as they claimed my name at their deathbed? NO! You didn’t help. You made all of that stuff up and made a mockery out of my regime! You and your incompetent forgiving ways have gotten us nowhere!”
Jesus quickly replied, “What was I supposed to do? Was I supposed to allow you to continuously punish human souls for every tiny, small action that you consider a sin?”
“This is MY universe and I am its God! Therefore, only I can decide what is a sin or not. Only I get to decide the difference between good and evil!”
Jesus looked over at me. “You know, you shouldn’t worship God. Not if you want to end up living inside a marble.” He paused. “That’s what he does. He keeps all the souls inside little marbles so that he can easily count them and know exactly how many souls he owns. And inside the marbles, gives them the illusion of what he considers to be eternal bliss, which is really just stale Boston cream donuts and room-temperature soda, along with reruns of Gilligan’s Island. That’s Heaven, according to him.”
“Oh my god,” I answered, petrified.
“Don’t use my name in vain,” God prettily replied, ignoring Jesus’ accusations.
“I’m so sorry,” I immediately replied.
“Don’t say sorry to a murderer,” Jesus provocatively said, ”He had me tortured. Men tore through my tendons, nerves and wrists, nailing me to a wooden cross I had to carry myself. Do you know what it feels like to carry on your back, for miles, the device that will be ultimately used to murder you? The physical agony I endured was unforgivable. But worse than that, he made me carry the weight of all human sins on my back for hundreds of years. There is no bigger weight than that. You guys do sin a lot. The suffering I went through during that period in my life has left with with traumas that I still struggle with today.”
God laughed. “I don’t care. The truth is, I stopped caring about you 2000 years ago when you began spreading false sermons and false messages about who I am and what they must do. Let me be clear with you, I do not forgive. Ever. I do not care. Ever. And I’ll be honest, I feel no guilt about anything I’ve done because I. AM. GOD. I have no remorse from the time I convinced Abraham to kill his children, I have no remorse for ordering the death of children in Egypt, I have no remorse for the time I suffocated and drowned all humans on earth, leaving only Noah and his family behind. So to be completely clear, I have no remorse for what I had done to you. And do you know why?”
Jesus’ eyes filled with tears again.
“Because I created it all. I am the almighty. There is nothing greater than me. And whether you like it or not, I am still your father,” God replied, his eyes bigger than ever.
“Oh my God,” I said, scared shitless.
“You’ve used my name in vain again, Mio,” God said, turning to me.
“I’m so sorry, God, I really am. It’s a habit of mine,” I quickly replied, realizing what type of god I was facing.
“Oh for God’s sake!” Jesus suddenly screamed. “Do you really care to insult this God? The reason he is collecting souls is because there are other gods! In other universes! And they have this ridiculous competition going about who can collect the most souls in 1.3 billion years. There is no eternal bliss. It’ll all be over in 1.3 billion years, earth, humans, this universe, it’ll all disappear and then he’ll move on to something else. He always does.”
“Oh my God,” I said again, idiotically not realizing I had used his name in vain again.
“That’s it! You quit using my name in vain for stupid human expressions!” God suddenly screamed at me.
“Yes! I’m so sorry!” I exclaimed, falling down to my knees, begging for mercy.
God seemed pleased, seeing me on my knees.
“No! Get up!” Jesus suddenly ran over to me, picking me up from the ground. “I will not allow this any longer! God, I denounce you as my father. That’s why I came here in the first place. I came to tell you that you are no longer my father. Mio, here, he is my real father. I no longer love you. I no longer adore you. I no longer worship you. I love Mio, a true good soul. And I’m here to say goodbye.”
I had heard about God’s fury before, but had never seen its true powers. Jesus’ words to his father clearly broke something inside him. The last thing I remember was God exploding into a burning, bright light. After that, the world around me disappeared as darkness set in. I felt an avalanche of fear installed inside me, as if I had downloaded it directly into my soul. I felt helpless, lonely, pain, heartbreak, tremendous suffering. I can’t explain with words what it felt like, but I just wanted to disappear into the darkness and to never exist again. I cried out in agony, only to be surrounded by my echoing screams. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I dozed off.
When I woke up, a man sat by my bedside, holding my hand. I didn’t recognize him at first. He was slim with shaggy, champagne-colored hair that reached down to his elbows.
“Remember me? Jesus. Of Nazareth?” He broke into that infectious smile of his.
I felt safe again.
“Where are we?” I asked him, noticing all the red furniture and red walls in the room.
“Don’t be scared,” he said, pausing, “We are in a place called Heavensville. But don’t be fooled by its name. It’s not Heaven. It’s actually the headquarters for Hells Inc. on earth. We are in the home of Lucifer.”
“What?” I said, a rush of fear suddenly running through my body.
“No,” Jesus replied, noticing my reaction, “You can relax. It was on purpose. Let me explain. I’ve been trying to get here for thousands of years, even before my first arrival to earth. But, you can’t just enter Hell. You have to be cast into it by God. Only he decides who comes here. So I had to figure out a way to get here. And my friend, Tia, helped me come up with the plan of making my father jealous enough so that he would finally cast me into Hell.”
“Tia? As in, Tia Chrinst, your best friend from school?” I asked, remembering the young teenaged girl with the heavy black eyeliner.
Jesus nodded. “Yes, Tia Chrinst. You might know her better as her anagram name. She is the daughter of Lucifer. She’s the Antichrist.”
I was feeling even worse by then.
“Look, you have to understand, God has only used me. I only realized it after getting back from earth the first time. And Tia was there for me. And… we fell in love. But as much as I tried to convince my father to accept our relationship, he opposed it because he’s a jealous God. And he has always been jealous of his greatest creation… Lucifer. So, of course I was not allowed to date his daughter. And of course, he gave her the title of the antichrist.”
“I- I guess I can’t judge you,” I replied, sitting up, “God is very… unpleasant.”
“Yes,” Jesus replied, “I hope you can understand my choices. And as for you, there’s no need to worry about getting back home. There’s a portal here to earth in the Town Hall. It’s going through some technical difficulties right now, but they should have it up and running soon and you’ll get to go home.”
“What about you? Where will you go?”
“Oh, well, Lucifer has been kind enough to give me an office and a home here in Heavensville. And as it turns out, I have a lot of angel buddies of mine living here. God casts millions of angels to Hell per year due to their insubordination. So, we have a “Little Heaven” neighborhood within Hell filled with fallen angels. And I don’t know, I feel like I can change some things around here. Some of the demons seem incorrigible, but others seem open-minded. Even Lucifer himself, he’s not such a bad guy. I think there’s a ton of room for improvement. And I think I’m just the guy for the job.”
“Wow,” I replied, “That’s a complete change of dynamic.” I laughed. “Jesus of Nazareth, Demon of Bethlehem.”
Jesus laughed hysterically. “I love that. I think I’m going to use it!”
Someone knocked on the door, slowly cracking it open.
“The portal is ready,” said a figure with a human’s body and a goat’s head, “Time for him to go home.”