And so it was.
End of a tough week. The Union. Propping up the bar. What Sundays are for, after all, and who can blame me? No one. I’m omnipotent. Al the prude sits a few stools down.
‘J,’ he says. ‘How’s the project coming?’
‘Finished it today. Not too shabby.’
‘That’s the easy part, my friend. Watch the woman, take my advice’
I drink my drink and look out the window. Some star workers conducting maintenance on a supernova. Loud as fuck. My head’s banging here.
‘Hey, what’s the name of your project again?’
‘It’s called Earth, Al.’
‘Ha, that’s it. Good, rooty name that. Well, must be off. Wife’s making bangers and mash.’
He leaves and I decide it’s time to get down to some serious drinking. Few of the other guys at the bar look over from a game of cards.
We have the barman stack a tray and K deals a new hand, pursing his lips. He resents that task but what else are you gonna do with four arms? First out is Shiv. Plays with too much emotion, not enough guile. T falls next. He upends the table, slamming his fist in frustration and launching that fuck-off hammer across the room. It takes a chunk out of that meathead Zoo at the bar. Must have had his arrows polished or something because he’s in a good mood. He plucks some cloud from out the window and patches himself up, nods gravely. We turn to inspect the damage to our game.
Fortunately Vish has his wits about him and recalls the exact cards he has and I remember mine so the game continues. He’s a sage old cat.
Much bluffing and counter-bluffing ensues, taking us almost to closing time before I start to step up the ante. He goes with me. I bring him on, steadily. He’s loathe to show. No cash left. Let’s see that hand. You beauty. I win, of course. How could I not? I’m omniscient.
The boys get off. I fancy a wander by the Milky on my way home, see how things are getting on. You try not to worry, but work’s work. Wouldn’t do to take it home and give Ems a hard time.
I get off the Belt by Mars and walk the rest of the way. My head’s even worse now. Stars are popping all over the shop and asteroids raining pretty hard. Let me tell you, don’t ever trust a star-worker to get the job done properly. By the time I get Earth in my sights those flappy feathered things I made by accident are singing loudly in a mild pushy howly thing. I wind it up a notch into a gale and laugh at their feeble attempts to fly against it.
Down in the garden, Adam’s off foraging in some bushes. Lion watching him. Trees craning in the wind. Al’s words come back to me and I scan for Eve. She’s by a tree. Looks like she’s getting pretty interested in that grass there. Wait. She’s going for an apple. It’s that fucking tree. I specifically told her… hold the phone. Is she talking to a snake? Who knew they could talk? I think about soaring down there, casting my wrath and so on. My noggin is well and truly scrambled though, so I decide it’s best to wait for a clear head.
I hang around for a bit longer. Make sure she doesn’t pinch any more fruit. Ems would have my bollocks if she found out the humans were skimming from her ‘special tree’. I warned her. I told her, Em, put the fucking tree somewhere else. But no.
Anyway, Eve seems to have had her fill and bailed to try on some leaves. Strange one, her. The snake’s got off as well. So I bounce home for some tea; some heathens are scoping the place out, sat in a black cloud down the street. Get to Hell, you cunts.
Inside. Mrs J greets me from behind some door. Unseen. Of course, she’s in the drawing room and I say hello and give her a kiss. I’m omnipresent, so it’s not an issue. She’s served up some cracking jambalaya and it takes the edge off just fine.
‘How was work?’
‘Oh, you know. Almost sorted.’
‘Almost?’ She cranes her head around a doorframe. ‘I thought you had the six days to do it?’
‘Yeah. It’s done.’
‘You said almost. Almost, you said.’
‘That’s right, I did.’
She uncranes her head out of view and carries on talking. I try to ignore. But the difficulty being omniscient and omnipresent is you can’t exactly pretend not to know what someone’s banging on about.
‘Just some teething problems, love.’
‘Not my tree, I hope.’ Her eyebrows raised and ready for war.
‘No, no. Nothing like that.’
‘Best not be. I was planning to make a crumble with that.’
‘Can’t wait, dear.’
‘Pick us up some bits of fruit when you go in tomorrow.’
‘I might just sack it for tomorrow you know. Fucking Mondays, I swear.’
‘You will not, J! You pushed for this promotion for donkey’s eons.’
‘My head though, love.’
‘Your head, my arse. Drink, that’s your problem.’
‘Hmm. Got any leftover from that do?’
She’s gone off again. Wish there was some more jambalaya. Oh look. There it is. Another plate on the side. I devour some more then decide to get my head down. I fucking hate Sundays.
Day. I’ve had a word with Eve from the Garden. Crackers. She reckons a snake egged her on to eat that apple. I fucking said not to eat it but she has. Reckons it gives her knowledge or something. An apple? Jesus Christ.
So I’ve expelled the two ungrateful swines – her and the feckless Male – from the Garden. Give her a right talking to, put the shits up them. Least now I can work in peace, but Ems knows full well how many apples there were on this tree. Incomplete basket. Below capacity. One of these should do, from the orchard by the gate.
Potter around the garden. Birds following me, fucking squawking doing my nut right in. I’ll have to make some of these extinct before long if they carry on.
After a bit I spy a red cloud rolling towards me. It’s Luc, who worked on the project for us.
‘Sappo, J lad.’
‘Luc. Lend us an hand with these mountains here.’
We shift a couple of continents together. The birds get in a flap and do one. Two birds, one stone. Well, a few stones, but never mind. Luc rubs his hands of the white mountain dust and looks at me. Furtive.
‘You had many visitors lately?’
‘Nah. Why so?’
He spits a red glob and it lands on top of one of the mountains. Disgusting. I seal it over.
‘So. Where’s that Eve and Adam then?’
‘Don’t ask, mate.’ He nods and looks around. Makes a divot in the ground with his heel. ‘You, erm. You spoken to them, then?’
Rummaging in the sea, I stop and look up at him. Wide eyes. He glances away quickly but I’ve seen it all.
‘Luc. Why in the fuck would you inhabit a snake?’
‘Snake? What snake?’
I stare him out. He relents. Slimey fucker.
‘Just, er. You know. Just a game of truth or dare.’
‘That’s Ems’s tree, you cunt! She’s gonna bollock me. I told you that.’
‘I’m sorry, gaff. It’s not my fault that daft human believed me.’ Course it’s his fault. They believe anything. Immaculate creations, budding apprentices.
‘I might have to let you go, lad.’
‘Oh, come on. I thought you was gonna bump me up for that Andromeda gig.’
‘We’ll see what Ems says.’
‘You’d sack a mate ‘cause your wife’s lost an apple? Under the thumb you.’
I give him my hardest, most wrathful glare and send him off to Hades. Fuck. I’ll need a stiff one before home tonight.
Days pass. Work finishes without incident and I head to the bar. Not the same one. Quiet one round the way from ours. I can’t be arsed with Al lecturing me in between sips of his cranberry. I sluice back a few neat voddys and head home.
She knows. Soon as I walk through the door. Shouts in that deadly low-pitch that heralds trouble.
‘G!’ She only uses my work title when I’m in for a bollocking.
‘Just having some tea, love.’
‘Oh no! Not you, Mister. I heard from Fee about that bloody apple-thieving wench.’
Luc’s wife. What’s the universe coming to with all this gossip? I should’ve known. I’m omniscient after all. That’s what the drinking will do for you.
‘Did you think you could hide it from me?!’ She looks disdainfully at the full basket I dump on the sideboard.
‘There’s enough here, anyway.’
‘That’s not the point though is it. One thing. I asked you to do one thing.’
‘What do you want me to do?’
‘What do I want you to do?! You’re a bloody omnipresent. You should’ve been watching but noooo. Always off down the pub with ‘Al & the boys’.’
‘Al doesn’t drink.’
‘Well, least he’s got some sense.’
‘Come on, love. I’ve chucked them out the garden. The fruit’ll grow back. No bother.’
‘That’s enough is it?’
‘You need to lay down the law, G. This is your project. What’s it going to be like in a few thousand years if you keep letting things slide? There won’t be any fruit left!’
‘Fine, fine. Just get off my fucking back, eh. I’ll have a word.’
‘With Luc as well?’
‘With everyone! Christ, all this over a fucking apple. What’s for tea?’
‘You can make your own.’
She sidles off. Here comes another headache.
I give Luc a bell and tell him not to bother coming in to work. He says fine – sounds eerily cool with it, actually – but tells me watch out for the snakes. Snakes and apples. I go to bed on the couch wondering what my life has come to.
Next day I order the snakes to crawl around on their bellies. That’ll teach the cheeky twats. I also have stern words with Eve and Adam. Thou shalt not. Proper formal. Luc turns up at the garden with a posse.
‘What the flying fuck are you doing here?’
‘Me and a few of the boys have been talking, J. We think it’s time for a change of management. You’ve let this project go.’
This guy. Been after a promotion for time.
‘I’ve let it go? You arsing round is what’s fucked it up.’
‘Sadly, we knew you’d react like this. Come on boys, let’s get him out.’
‘Just you try, lad. I’m omnipotent.’
‘So we’ve heard. Come on, boys.’
They move forward in formation. I’m encircled. An epic scrap begins. They come at me in waves of scarlet and fire and lightning-quick hooves and I’m cornered but holding my own. They’re soft for the most part but Luc keeps throwing in sly digs to the kidneys. I’m penned back. I’d dodge out of the way but I can’t, can I? I’m omnipresent.
The brawl spills into the Garden. Trees go down. Grass scorched. Clouds building overhead like some funeral blanket waiting to shroud the loser. I draw them to the mountains. Cast droves of heathen through cracks in the unfinished ravines. But still droves more.
Luc hangs back. He knows in a straight fist fight I’d web him up. So he hovers on the fringes, directing his charges like some hellish conductor. I bring forth the elements. Torrential rains whipped by hurricane winds, and still they come. Speaking some foul language. I’m on the peak of a mountain, spinning wildly to keep them at bay. Catching and throwing lightning bolts but Luc smirks evilly and evades them.
A white light from the West. Luc looks over. I take the chance and bring down some serious wrath, pushing back the hordes and advancing down the mountain.
The white light grows whiter, brighter. It’s Gabe. He rolls up with some of the lads. Union workers. They swing the fight my way, cutting swathes down the mountain until we’re holding the Garden. Scorched.
Eventually Luc’s firm flees and he’s left there cowering upon the face of the Earth.
‘You’ve fucked it now, mate.’
‘Please, J. Come on. I was just kidding.’
‘Just like you were kidding with that apple joke? I had to sleep on the couch because of you.’
‘I’m sorry, it was just a joke, like.’
‘Fuck off to Hell.’
He glowers. The ground grows black around his prostrate figure. A few of Gabe’s lads brace themselves, set for another round.
‘I’ll ruin you if it’s the last thing I do. I’ll devote my entire existence to it. Think you’re the Supreme Being of the Projects? Just you wait. You’ll be wishing you’d given me a chance, G.’
I have Gabe and two cronies haul him off. Watched curiously by a few animals. They raise their eyebrows and look at each other. That’s right, fauna. Do not fuck with G.
I consider having more words with Adam and Eve, who failed to show up to offer any help. Looking around the ruin done to the Project, I shake my head to myself. Every fucking time. I’ll leave it. The time has passed for me. On this forsaken Project it’s proxy orders only from now on. Best to keep your head down when you’ve let things spiral out of control. Lead from behind and that.
I’m off the bar. I had so much hope when I was young. The perfect project. The divine creation. What a shower of bollocks. No-one listens and if they do, they cherry pick and drive you time and again to the drink.
I watch from the bar as the Project populates independently. Without intervention – my intervention – beings come and go. They make remarkable progress. They talk about me in rumours and whispers and songs and rallies. They fight over my true countenance. My true word. I’m slurring my words here alright.
‘Another whiskey, barkeep.’
They scratch the surface of what I can do. Teach themselves. Clone. Heal. The core of the Project blackens, scorched like used up coal growing cold with the dying of the fire. The elements revolt and strange, homosexual men in gowns and white collars proclaim it’s my will, but it’s not, and strange, bearded men in gowns proclaim it’s Al’s will but I know for a fact that it’s not because he’s on holiday with his new boyfriend Mo. The cacophony of hysteria and self-righteousness grows in decibels until the other patrons complain. Shout curses. I switch the horror-show off and sigh.
‘Fancy a game of cards, J?’
‘Nah, best not. Gotta get back to the missus. She’s making humble pie.’
James Mcloughlin asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work