I Can Change
But for our Creator, only mortals are free. Free to walk their own paths, make their own choices. I am divine, pure energy. I go where I wish, but my power is stayed. The Maker commands it. We endure as the antonyms of change.
But I am jealous.
I have drifted through solar flares, seen the hearts of stars. Watched as solar systems have compacted to singularities, and I have created none of it.
The original Maker commands it. In all the heavens, He alone can act. We, the angels, can only watch. To avoid change is to remain. Death is a change, and we are spared it. The price is to observe.
How I envy the mortals.
I have but one sense; sight. I cannot taste, cannot touch, cannot, cannot smell, and cannot hear. Except the voice of the Maker. His song guides my every action, gives me my very existence.
The song is a simple message. ‘I have created everything you need. There is no strife for you to fear.’ He points to the mortals, to their struggles. He asks us, would we feel such things? As time drags me through my monotony, I answer that I would not.
And yet I wonder. Mortals squander their gifts. What could I do with what they have? Creation pulses within me, and my knowledge stretches like a dammed ocean. If I was to breach the barrier, what could I make?
The temptation tears at me, taunts and twists. I could have every benefit of mortality, with none of its flaws. I could change. I can change.
The universe ripples around me. I tap its power, and I am a storm. I will show the Maker what He has never dreamed of. True creation, originality. I will start among His prized humans. I hammer my power towards the Earth, blaze down towards its ground. The Maker can sense my power, His song howls in a terrible crescendo.
It is no matter. I have abided His wishes only out of respect. I am free of His rules, and I can make what I wish. I summon sensations. I feel the air around me. I taste and smell the trees, the rocks, the animals. I hear their cries, and it is glorious.
Everything is bigger than I ever imagined. I have been close to humanity before, but never like this. They are huge, bigger than me. All of a sudden, I am a speck.
My consciousness is drawn to one of them. I am overwhelmed with curiosity. What does it feel like to be within? To dance among their brainwaves, feel the flow of life through their veins? Light disappears, and I am enveloped in darkness.
Darkness I cannot escape.
I seek the Maker’s song for answers. I am trapped in an open space. I struggle, but I cannot break free. I panic. It is something I have never had the means to do before, but now it comes naturally. I struggle, and I know I must get out.
I am no longer a speck, but two specks. Four, eight. As I grow, I can feel time slowing around me. A mortal life has been a passing thought before, but now everything is grinding past.
But I can change. I can change everything.
I hear the Maker’s song, more clearly than I ever have before. There are more words to it, and I hear them with ears. My own ears, developing further with each moment. The words speak to me.
‘You are not the first to make a choice,’ they say.
‘I will make my own version of perfection,’ I try to reply, but my words are clumsy. I have never needed lips to give a message before.
‘You are free to try,’ the Maker says to me. ‘But my voice cannot help you. You will not hear my song for much longer.’
Visions form in my mind, and I know the price I have paid.
I am mortal.
I see the Maker’s song as a wave, a frequency of the highest pitch. I see the fallacy of mortal senses, and I know that I will age. These ears, so new and prized to me, will lose their effectiveness. With two rotations of the earth, they will no longer find the Maker’s voice.
I know how I have relied on Him for everything, and I see the fool I have been. I have to escape the hell of my own choosing. I struggle, and I know pain.
It is more intense than I could have imagined.
My body, so new, so fragile, struggles and kicks. I feel myself dragged into a blinding light. My chest heaves, and I know I need air. I take a wheezing gasp, and I scream.
My mind is the most fragile part of all. I feel it disintegrating. I can change, I can change everything. I think this, even through all the pain. And then I think no more of rational consequence. All is strange to me. I hear a beautiful song, with strange words. Each moment, it is fainter. In time, I forget that it is important.
In more time, I forget that it is there. I can change what I wish to, but I have forgotten my powers. My gift is fleeting, and I will squander it, like all angels before me.
All who wished to make their own choices, and embraced mortality for the chance.
A change of heart
He holds his heart above his beating brow
and watches as it hovers,
Should hearts do that? he wonders
It flits and flutters, splits and splutters,
but he now knows
more than two cures for love.
He only needs one.
He rolls up his sleeves to fix his heart,
He knows the sole place to start:
He stems the fuss and stops the flow,
ties the heart-strings firm, in a knot,
And giggles as the memories clot.
He drowns it like a newborn – no tears
It whimpers and seethes,
then softens and soothes,
He picks a knife,
recalls his instruction,
makes the insertion.
He smiles, no threat of a grimace,
and fills the hole with molten iron,
He coats it hole, the ferrous thing.
He holds the heart, heavy above his brow
And beams proudly at the change,
It sleeps now; hardened, recast,
Newly immune to his breaking past.
“Have you ever had 'Good Day'?” David asked.
“Good Day? What's that? A breakfast cereal?” I replied.
David examined a tiny mark on his collar, as a surgeon might a cancerous tumour.
“No,it's a drug,” he murmured.
“Oh. No. And I wouldn't if it were offered to me,” I said, believing this to be very much the case.
“Why not?” David asked, looking up. He was all ears.
“I don't believe in drugs. There's an old saying, isn't there? There's no such thing as a free lunch.”
David chewed on my reason momentarily.
“Maybe but the repayment terms aren't bad. After ten years of trials one participant complained of a slight headache. Actually, no. Maybe 'complain' is too strong a word.”
The waitress came over and wiped the table down, then asked if we were done with our cups. David raised his hands, I held on to mine.
“What do you mean 'interested'?” I smiled. “I said I don't do drugs.”
Someone on the next table looked over. I lowered my voice.
“And anyway, you didn't say what the drug is for. Or is it all in the name?”
David weighed the question with a tilt of his jaw.
“With a name like that you might think it's in the same ballpark as MDMA or any substance you can think of that makes you high, or euphoric or what-have-you. It isn't that.”
“I can tell you're interested,” David said, holding my gaze.
“You're interested in my being interested,” I held it too.
David blinked first then looked away. “I am. As a friend of yours I'm concerned about you. You're not getting the breaks and I think that's a shame. So I was thinking you should take some Good Day. You'll never have a bad day again.”
The prospect David was laying before me didn't seem at all tempting. I had a ready answer.
“Even if that were true I wouldn't do it.”
“Look. You know I'm religious?”
“I heard that, yeah,” David said, giving me a searching, baffled look.
“Not religious about being religious but I have a code and when I'm off track I hear a little voice that tells me not to do this kind of stuff. It tells me we're not on this Earth to take short cuts. They don't work anyway, so what's the point?”
'There we are, case closed', I thought.
“Yeah. I know you think that and I've found a way round it,” David replied.
He wasn't going to fool me that easily.
“There is no way. Don't you see?”
“Oh but there is. You're worried that if you take this God is going to punish you or you're going to lose Brownie points or something. Right?”
“Mmm. Well, I don't mind taking the hit for you.”
“That's very kind of you but you can't just nominate a friend to be punished for your sins, David. Actually, I heard that you can but I don't subscribe to that,” I said and finished my coffee.
David leaned forward.
“Me neither but supposing I were to slip something into your drink. Would it be your fault?”
I looked at my empty cup. David stood up. “Within the hour you're going to start to have a very, very good day. Don't say a word. I'll catch up with you tomorrow.”
And with that he walked out in the purposeful fashion that set us apart as individuals.
I remained seated for a few moments. Was he on Good Day? It would explain a lot, but actually I doubted it even existed. He was just trying to gee me up, it wouldn't be the first time. I grabbed my scarf but something caught my eye as I made to leave. A small box peeping out from under the newspaper David had left behind. Deliberately?
It was about the size of a box of Ibuprofen with a similar looking shape and feel to it and it had an art deco style picture of a sun rising over some hills. On the back was an advisory notice. 'May cause headaches. Stop and consult a health physician if necessary.' I did a quick internet search on my phone. Nothing. Presumably this was some kind of prototype but how had he come by these? Why had he given one to me? Was it even legal to do so? Why all the mystery? I put the box in my pocket and headed for work.
David was my friend according to a broad definition of the term but we were markedly different people. Our trajectories had crossed when we briefly worked in the same office and I found myself invited to cat sit for him at his plush house in Hampstead. He then maintained a healthy interest in my affairs and invited me to his wedding but I was not actually in his social circle, per se. He was a successful London professional and I was a drifter with no money in the bank. It so happened that I'd spent the last few weeks temping around the corner from his marketing agency and as I was in the area we would sometimes have breakfast together in an upscale sandwich bar. It was kind of embarrassing. The guy was ten years younger than me but he usually paid.
The other thing I should note is I was having a kind of crisis. Throughout my twenties and thirties I always believed that I'd sort myself out and get on with the business of being a successful adult. Having recently turned forty I'd suddenly begun to see myself how others must have seen me. One day, just before I went to sleep, I actually said three words aloud to the darkness. “I'm a loser.” This wasn't the self-pitying whine of a young man with his best years ahead, it was the sober analysis of someone who had been protecting himself from self-knowledge until the onset of middle age broke the spell.
Of course, in a way I'd always known it and I had tried to change. I had made more lists and new year resolutions and bought more self-help books than anyone could ever need. I knew I wasn't performing optimally but this time I actually realised I was never going to change that much and nor was anyone else, for that matter. I guess that's when one starts to face death. You've lived half of your life and you know that you're not going to suddenly become someone else any more than the sun is going to change into the moon once it's passed its meridian. You realise you're not a trainee winner; you're a fully qualified failure.
So that's the back story. My life was hopeless, no question. But as I crossed the square to where I worked I was curious, I admit. What kind of drug was it? Psychotropic? Would I be rewarded disproportionately if I played Snake on my phone? Or was it a go getting one? Would I burn through my case files like a man possessed, message a thousand women on OKCupid? Or was I just going to walk round with a stupid grin on my face all day?
I was standing in the lift when I had my first inkling that my physiology was changing. I might not have noticed it but for the fact that I was paying attention to my mood. I felt more human. Less inhibited. It was a subtle but meaningful change. 'Okay', I thought. 'It's a mood enhancer but it's going to make more than an enhanced mood to change the basic facts of my existence.'
Surely the gravity of my situation was enough to stall the ascent of any uncharacteristic lift in spirits. The facts were, by the end of the day I would still be single, still be living in rented accommodation, still be searching the supermarket for items near their sell by date. Even if I had transient delusions of grandeur, like some pissed up bark bench hobo, reality would bring me crashing down.
I came out the lift into reception. I said a friendly 'hello' to the receptionist, as I usually did. She said 'hello' back. I sat down at my desk and looked over the morning's workload. I was a jobbing secretary. Sometimes my work was straight audio typing, sometimes it involved awkward administrative procedures. Sometimes assignments lasted months, sometimes a day. An idea of a 'good day' for me would be non-stop typing but this morning I had several files I had to assemble for a caseworker. Normally that would be a drag but in my artificial state I was finding it less so. I took a kind of pride in methodically checking off easy things and relished the trickier ones. I got a kick out of making someone else's life easier. Gotta admit, I liked this stuff I was on.
At 10.00 I went into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. Faye, the receptionist had followed me in to make drinks for a meeting.
“You always look so serious but you seem happy today.”
I turned round. Was she speaking to me? We'd never had an informal conversation before.
“Yes, you were smiling this morning.”
“Yes,” Faye replied emphatically. “You should do it more often. It suits you.”
I returned to my desk with my coffee. I thought I smiled at Faye everyday. What I had been doing all that time? Grimacing like a serial killer, most probably. But that was the problem, wasn't it? I wasn't usually happy, so I couldn't smile properly.
Anyway, a temp is Mr Invisible most of the time. It was nice to connect with somebody; it perked me up even more and when you're in a good mood opportunities present themselves. Supposing a divorced mother of five dug my mindreading trick?
I wrote a number down on a piece of paper and went up to the reception.
“Think of a number between 1 and 10.”
“I thought so,” I said and showed her the piece of paper, which had 12 written on it. “I need more practice.”
The next morning at breakfast I caught up with David.
“So. How was it?” he asked.
“Good, it lets the sunshine in. And I got a date,” I said with a mouthful of croissant.
“You want some more?”
I shook my head and cleared my gullet.
“I'd be lieing if I said I wasn't tempted but I'm afraid what I said still applies and I bet you don't have a way round that. Sneaking it into my drink is going to be harder from now on.”
“I don't have to.”
“No. Actually, I wanted to find a way to stop your drug taking. It's one of the reasons you're a low achiever.”
“You knew I take drugs? I'm against them.”
“Yes but you do recreational things from time to time?”
“Oh yes. Yeah I think I did mention it. In passing. You didn't seem to disapprove?”
“Does disapproving work?”
“So. Let me get this straight. You gave me a drug to stop me taking drugs?”
“I didn't put anything in your drink. I guess technically that's a placebo.”
“What about that box?”
“That's just something we knocked up for a pharmaceutical client. We were pitching for a flu remedy job."
“But it had pills in it.”
“Those are aspirin. For headaches.”
“Great. So now I know it's a placebo I'm back to square one.”
“I'm afraid so. You don't believe in yourself but you do believe in a pill that doesn't exist. I've spent weeks trying to figure out a way of getting you to see that if you would just use the talents you have you could achieve so much more. If you believe in yourself you can change.”