Short Story : Oh, God!

Disclaimer : This is a work of fiction. It doesn’t intend to hurt anyone’s sentiments. It is not about any person or group, and has no relation to anyone, living or dead. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Okay, Man, how are we this morning?”
“Good sir, quite good.”
“Everyone okay in the family?”
“Ah, yes, sir.”
“You extended your holidays by a week. Had a good time?”
“Err, yes sir.”
“So, well, this is the document we discussed about on call. Sign here, here, and here.”
“…no, no, no sir wir. This is the document. Sign.”
“I, sir, I, uh, I don’t think we’re doing the right thing, sir.”
Boss, who was hunched over the papers till now, straightened his back, laid back in the leather chair, and looked back at this specimen.
“And why do you think so?” He said after a pause.
“ This company is not the right party to be given the work, sir. We’ve seen how most of their work is not…”
“Are you telling me how to do my job?” Boss cut him off.
An hour later, Man was sharing his opinions on the news of the day on a birdie site. Insubordination charges and a potential inquiry for refusing to sign the documents were coming, he knew, but he could always think about them later. Someone needed to stand up for the right things on the battlefield in both the real and the virtual world, office hours be damned!
He burped, then shifted in his seat.
“Oh God, this gas! If you’ll keep punishing me for the crimes of these guys, at least relieve me of this pain.”
The previous night, he was in the kitchen. Woman, his wife, was in the hall, watching TV, and he was cooking dinner for them both. He was watching the news on his phone, while sautéing onions and garlic in the pan.
“…the billionaire tycoon, once a hero and a symbol of a new century, is now holed up in a palatial mansion in another country. The government officially declared him a “fugitive from law” today.”
“Dear God,” he muttered, “why this inequality? Why don’t they have to pay for their sins, like we do?”
“So, how are things at work, Man?” Guy, his host, asked. They were sitting at a rectangular dining table, the two couples at opposite sides. Guy’s house was part of a new residency in the outer part of the city, one of the many that were mushrooming as the city kept swallowing whole areas around itself, like a stream of water on a floor from a spilled glass, ingesting little droplets in its way.
“Oh, the usual, you know, projects, plans and the such.” Man said.
The fan overhead was trying its best to stay silent and keep the temperature under limits, with the sweltering city air making life unbearable, even at 8 in the night.
“Not bored of the predictability, are you?” Gal, Guy’s wife, chimed in.
“Just glad to be invited to a friend’s house.” Man managed a smile between mouthfuls of roast lamb. Chicken with Stewed Tomatoes and Peppers, Cheese Lasagna and Tortillas were among the dishes that Guy and Gal had prepared over a period of six hours for this dinner.
The other three people looked at each other in a knowing smile, as their co-diner kept gorging on the food.
Man, head down and eyes focussed on the meal, felt the sudden silence scratch the back of his neck, and looked up at all of them in turn to gauge the reason, before an impromptu burst of communal laughter solved the mystery.
“Can you pass the roast lamb?” Man asked.
Guy picked up the bowl containing the dish and poured a helping into Man’s plate.
“This, Gal, is just marvellous. We have to learn the recipe from you,” Man said. He looked at his wife for approval, and found her nodding already.
“Thank you. Took us quite some time to prepare it,” Gal said.
Guy, grinning from ear to ear, said, “You think this is the upper limit of her culinary skills. But you haven’t tasted heaven until you’ve had her Zebra curry. That’s on a whole other level.”
Man, swallowing down his last morsel, glanced at his friend of five years. “Her what?”
“Zebra curry.” Guy made a sign of approval with the tips of his thumb and forefinger.
Man stopped eating, leaving a broken piece of tortilla on the plate.
“How can you eat Zebra?”
“How can we eat Zebra? Like every other meat.” Guy said, adding, “You have to know how to season it first though. That’s the key.”
“I’m not talking about that.”
“How can you eat a Zebra? How can you eat that sacred animal?”
Something turned in the air, the three other members felt it, all at once. The silence was broken only by the sound of the fan’s whirring blades, until Guy spoke up. “Well, animals are animals, meat is meat.”
“Not every animal is meant to be eaten. The Zebra is sacred to us. We worship it.”
“Maybe.” Guy shifted in his seat, his fork fixed inside a greasy slice of chicken, and his eyes alternating between the two women, trying to gauge the reason for the abrupt turn of the tone of the chat.
“What maybe? All four of us here believe in the same God, and pray at the same shrine. What’s the confusion then?” Irritation had crept in his voice.
“To me, where we pray and what we eat are separate.” Guy tried to explain his viewpoint.
“I think you know that this is sacrilegious.”
“What are you saying?”
“I know what I’m saying. I think you should also know that what you’re saying, and eating, is against our values.”
“So, chicken and lamb aren’t sacred for you? Or are their lives unimportant?” Defiance was rising up in Guy’s voice.
“Nothing is more sacred than the Zebra.”
“Some texts forbid eating all kinds of meat. What about those?”
“I don’t care about them.”
“And what about the nutritional value of a Zebra, and the lives of those dependent on its trade for meat and other purposes? Their livelihoods don’t matter?”
“Everyone needs to make sacrifices for the greater good.”
“Is that so? Why do you have a pair of leather shoes, then? Do you even know which animal’s hide was used to make this?”
“You’re trying to make it sound like I’m the one who’s breaking the laws.”
Woman, her face deadpan, interjected. “Look, guys, I think we’re veering off-topic here, to something that’s completely hypothetical, at least at this point.” The smiles of a few seconds earlier had vanished from her face.
“I think the more we talk, the less we eat. Let’s focus on that,” Gal chuckled.
Guy nodded his agreement with the women.
“Yeah, we should eat, we should keep chomping, while some people defile our sacred animal, debase our way of life, and support the views of those who are hell-bent on forcing a foreign lifestyle and customs on us.” Man was seething with rage by now.
“Oh come on man, this is uncalled for. Don’t be ridiculous.” Guy said, shaking his head.
“Ridiculous? I’m being ridiculous? Are you dumb?” He thrashed his fork and spoon on the plate and stood up.
“Man, my friend, please sit down.” Guy attempted a reconciliatory tone.
“No. I can’t, and I won’t. And neither will my wife. I’m not going to share food with a person like you. And I can’t believe you kept us in the dark all these years. You cheated us and made us infidels like yourselves. Shame on you.”
“This is not right, Man, calling us names and abusing us, when we’ve invited you in our home.”
Man grunted, and then tapped on his wife’s shoulder, “Woman, get up. We’re going home.”
Woman, who was till now sitting with her head hung in her plate, looked up. The piece of mutton on her table was resembling a plot of land on a battlefield on a rainy day, pockmarked with the fork. “Honey, let’s finish the dinner, at least.”
“Did you not hear what he said? These guys eat the Zebra. A second more in this house is intolerable to me.”
“Get. Up.” He walked away from the table, his hosts’ eyes following him until he unlocked the door and got out.
Reluctance was not an option for Woman now. “Guy, Gal, I’m so sorry…”
“Oh no. Don’t be. This really is an unfortunate situation.” Gal embraced her. All three of their faces had lost colour by now.
After the embrace, Woman folded her hands towards her hosts and walked out of the house, wiping her eyes.
For the first ten minutes of the twenty-minute ride home, they were both silent, and the same transpired in the last five minutes too. In between, barbs and accusations flew across the gear box.
“If it hadn’t been this late, I’d have got down from this car, I swear. I’ve never been more ashamed of you.” Woman blazed.
“You’re ashamed of me? Huh, that’s quite the joke. I am doing what the holy texts tell us to do.”
“No text tells us to be rude and disrespectful to people who have invited us in their house. And no text asks you to be a hypocrite.”
Man opened his mouth to say something, but saw a vehicle come towards him, on the wrong side of the road. He swerved, offering expletives along the way, and somehow avoided another vehicle coming behind him in the adjoining lane. Woman, who was as shaken as him because of how the evening had gone so far, thought better of commenting on the near-mishap. They reached home, where she got out of the car and went inside, without waiting for him to park the vehicle. By the time he came inside, she was in the bed. He changed into a cotton tee and khaki shorts, and walked out of the bedroom and went into the kitchen. Their house was in the older part of the city, a leafy bungalow that was bequeathed to them by his uncle. The house was made forty-five yetryars ago, but minor works and repairs had kept it as new as the houses coming up in the surrounding areas. It had three large bedrooms, one on the ground floor and two on the first. The kitchen, which Man had upgraded with latest gadgets and amenities, was right across the main door on the ground floor. Their bedroom was on the left of the hall. The indirect lighting employed in the rooms gave a calm finish to the ambience while the chirping of crickets and other insects was a companion through the night.
“Screw this,” he mumbled to himself, taking out a beer from the fridge. He uncapped the bottle and walked out to the hall, slumping into a couch. The hall had four sofas, two big ones opposite each other, and two smaller ones at quadrature to them. At the centre was a wooden table with a glass top, on which he put down the beer bottle. He picked up his phone and began to scroll through the statuses of his WhatsApp contacts. Within minutes, he opened another app, this time Instagram, and resumed the process of scrolling through images and videos. The more he watched, the more his mood sank. A schoolmate couple was honeymooning in Prague, while a former colleague, who had to leave amid allegations of impropriety, had a video of the housewarming party he’d thrown in the outskirts of Sydney. Almost everyone they knew seemed to be travelling. He wondered when he’d be able to post such pics. The job paid enough to live comfortably, and Woman was working too, but they couldn’t get enough money to splurge like these folks did.
“Why am I the only one left behind? When will my luck change, God?” He thought to himself.
“Look at this sod, cheapo didn’t even have enough money for a decent cup of tea in college, and now he’s driving a BMW. My God, this is not fair at all. I’ve also ploughed on all through my life. Why do I still have to do the same?” He shook his head, and then took another sip of the beer. Feeling his neck and his back stiffen, he picked up a cushion and set it against the armrest of the sofa, before pulling his feet up and lying down on it. He adjusted his neck on the cushion.
“This feels better,” he thought.
He scrolled through social media updates on his phone for another few minutes, before putting it down on the table. He readjusted the cushion, feeling it starting to give way. He checked the bottle, picking it up in his hand. It was empty.
His nose was emitting an odd sound, and his mouth was helping it, with him in a field, turning down taps that had irrigated a field just a little bit, when he felt his eyes open.
“Ugh, I don’t want to go peeing again,” he thought as he wrinkled his nose, his bladder asking to be emptied somewhere where irrigation was not an issue. He got up, ignoring the call to sleep from another corner of his brain, and went to the washroom.
Coming out of the toilet, he felt thirsty and went to the kitchen to drink water. Then, tired from the day and feeling his eyelids drooping, he went into the bedroom and flopped down on the bed, face first.
“O Almighty, where art thou? When shall you come down here to take our pains away? When shall I be as happy as others? When shall…”
“…You think I have so much free time?” A voice interrupted his train of thought.
“Oh dear God, when shall I have it as good as those I see on Instagram?” He plodded on, not caring about the voice.
“You think I created you so that you can feel bad about people’s Instagram updates?” The voice was insistent, and he could notice that it was coming from just above his field of view.
“Who’s that? Who are you?” He asked, trying to turn his head vertically up and see the source of the sound.
“Who am I? Do you not know me?”

In the darkness, he felt the source of the voice. He could not determine what it was, but he did feel that it was something big, something he hadn’t seen in the thirty-two years of his existence. A few moments later, the thing came into focus, bright and shiny. Curiously for Man, it looked like a clone of him, and then his wife. In another instant, it changed into his father, then his mother. It then morphed into his grocery guy, then his society’s gardener, then the owl he saw at the zoo, then the overlong snake at the same venue, before taking the form of the neighbour’s dog, and then looking like historical figures, one after the other, from war generals to noted philosophers, from writers of repute to inventors. It looked to Man as if this guy had immense powers of changing appearances, someone who’d probably been doing it for a very long time. Every instant or two, the face, the appearance, the get-up if you will, changed, although the dazzle remained the same.
“Do you not know me?” The thing, which looked like a Zebra now, repeated.
“Can zebras speak like us?” Man thought to himself.
“Why not? What’s stopping them?” said the woodpecker.
“Wait, what?” Where did this bird come from, he thought? And where am I?
“You are where you need to be. But importantly, why are we discussing what we are discussing? That’s the question we ought to be asking. So think about that.”
“At least give me a clue.”
The horse hee-hawed.
“No, really. How can you make so many different looks in the blink of an eye? And why? Why don’t you stay in your human form? I don’t need any sorcery.”
“Let’s assume this isn’t sorcery.”
“What is it, then?”
“You tell me. You keep calling out to me every now and then, don’t you?” The parrot winked, as if retelling an inside joke only the two of them understood.
“Huh?” “Oh my…” Confusion in every cell of his body was instantaneously replaced by a coursing, thrilling joy. “…are you, are you God?”
The cat smiled, closing its eyes and lying down on its side.
“My, oh dear, my life is complete now. The purpose of my birth is fulfilled. I’m in Your presence, Lord. Take me with you and let my soul rest with you forever and ever.”
“Hoho! And what about your wife?”
“Umm, I, could you please take her with me, God, given she’s with me?”
“What about your parents? What about your siblings?”
“Take them all, God, take my whole family with you. We’d rather be dust under your steps than be in this world of pain and suffering.”
“How can you talk for everyone? Your wife, from what I’ve heard, wants to have babies, roam around the world with you, and start a bakery of her own. She sure as heck doesn’t want to die right now.”
“How can you…err, well, can’t you convince her otherwise, God?”
“Why shouldn’t I convince you to stay with her here, instead?”
“You know best, Lord. I felt that because I’ve got this chance of being with you, something people generally don’t get in their lives…”
“…says who?”
He looked at God, stumped for an answer.
“Do people really get a chance to meet you while they’re alive?”
“Maybe. Maybe not. But where did you hear that people don’t get a chance?”
“Oh, I, I presumed.”
“Please enlighten me, then, God.”
“Later,” the antler smirked and added, “maybe.”
Man wanted to protest, but felt good that God was in a jolly mood with him. He then quickly ended this train of thought, concerned, knowing that God could read it.
The elephant roared.
“If you’re not going to take me with you, Lord, at least relieve me of some of the pain and frustration I’ve been feeling.”
“Sure. What’s your problem?”
“God, you know everything. What’s hidden from your eyes and ears? I don’t even need to say a word, Lord. You’re omniscient.”
“That’s all well and good but…”
“…but what, Lord?” Man jumped in.
“But you need to spell out what you want, what you need.”
“Lord Almighty, bless me with a life full of happiness and success.”
“Is that it? Done?”
“Maybe?” Man was curious.
“Is that your only wish?”
“Er, um, also Lord, a big house in the hills.”
“Okay. And?”
“God, I’m sick and tired of being trampled upon. I’m frustrated beyond limits at seeing a small minority of people riding roughshod over billions of us, at crime paying for criminals, and not the other way around, at the sheer levels of corruption and decay that have set in this day and age. Lord, when will you take birth again, and rid us of these ills? When will you reincarnate, Almighty?”
“You can scratch the flowy language. This isn’t a religious epic we’re writing.”
“Ah, yes sure, God.”
“Ditch the “God” and “Lord” too.”
Man cleared his throat, and croaked, “Sure.”
“When do you think this decay set in?”
Oh wow! God was actually going to have a conversation with him.
God, the fish, kept looking at him.
“In the modern era? Maybe around the 19th century? Or maybe the 15th century, when some people thought it’d be a good idea to enslave others in far away lands?”
“Do you know the real problem, kid?”
“What is it, Lord?”
“Your biggest shortcoming as a species is your capacity for self-delusion.”
“What? How?”
“You think people in earlier eras weren’t flawed, evil, misguided, meek?”
“Of course they were. Go through your histories. Why do you think every era had sufferings and bloodletting?”
“But surely, people weren’t as callous earlier. I mean, there’s people dying in road accidents and passersby more interested in shooting their videos than helping them.”
“It has always been the same, even without the gadgets.”
“Okay. Fine. But that still doesn’t answer my question. When will you reincarnate?”
“To answer this, recall what I said to you right at the beginning.”
“Wha…oh, you said something about lack of time.”
“But God, err, sorry, but you being the Creator and Master and all, of everything, you must have time under control.”
“Maybe, but why should I mess up the clock I’ve set, just so you can enjoy having me again, and then have me go through all this crap of growing up and death that you yourself want to be freed of? What’s in it for me?”
“For you?”
“I don’t know. Didn’t you say in one of those religious epics that you’ll return every time Evil runs riot on this Earth?”
“One of my forms did, yes. But then, who determines the threshold?” the lion winked, “Aka, who determines the level at which Evil is considered to be decidedly stronger than Good?”
“You, who else?”
“Fair enough. But to what end? Why should I take birth?”
“To deliver us from evil, and to heaven.”
“Another of your delusions.”
“You delude yourself into thinking these magical messianic figures, these avatars, would deliver you to something called ‘Heaven’. What do you even define Heaven as?”
“Heaven, Purgatory, Hell, Dante’s Inferno, Hades’ Underground, Paatal Lok, you know, all of that.”
“What about overcrowding in Heaven? You think I can have so many of you there at once? And if I were to, what would happen of this Earth?”
Man had a cheeky smile. “You’re God. You surely have answers to that too.”
“Bah. I was only joking. What’s this idea of heaven that you’ve been going on and on about? And this rebirth thing too?”
“Being free from the cycle of life, being one with you.”
“Does that mean that you’re not one with me already? Or do you think that there’s an Afterlife, that you’d pay for the sins of this life in the next, and benefit for the good work?”
Man felt his forehead getting creased. “Are you telling me that everything I’ve ever believed about life and death, karma and rebirth, is a lie?”
“What if I told you – this is it, everything?”
“Um, what, you mean there’s nothing after I die? Like atheists say?”
“Who made atheists?”
“Yeah, so, humour me. What if there’s nothing after this?” The squirrel spread both its forelimbs to emphasize the point.
“You’ll still judge us, won’t you?”
“What makes you so sure?” The Koala said.
“Nothing. I don’t know, actually. I just, I, I don’t want to be judged by you as someone who was bad.”
“D’you consider yourself that important?” The tortoise scoffed. “This is another instance of your species’ self-delusion. You think I judge you, worrying about every little thing in your lives, because you’re apparently the “apex” of my creation.” The kangaroo drew airquotes with its forearms. “And all that because of what, your ability to think and speak?”
“Err, yes, that, and the fact that You made us in Your image.”
“Whaaaaat?” The panda did a roly-poly somersault, making a round of the field of vision around Man.
“You, You made us in Your image. Everywhere I go, every way of praying to you, every Holy book that has anything about your appearances, says you made us in your image, doesn’t it?”
“Have you read those books, all of them?”
“Err, no, but I’ve seen this in movies, and heard about it on talk shows.”
“And that’s your Gospel truth?”
“Is…isn’t it?”
“You tell me. Who decided this?”
“I already told you what I know.”
“Mmm. True. So, haven’t you heard that I am in every and all beings, living or otherwise? That I’m present in the minutest of subatomic particles, and the greatest of galaxies. That plants, arachnids, reptiles, mammals, herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, masculine, feminine, sexual, asexual, water, air, land, stones, clouds, rain, hail, sleet, typhoon, continents, meteors, asteroids, everything, everything that you know or are ignorant of, all have me in some form?”
“Yes, yes, I have.”
“How then, do you think, that you are my splitting image?”
“I, I myself might not be…”
The fish did an eye-roll. “…Your species, I mean.”
“That we are, aren’t we? I mean, all of these things might have you, in some form or other, but you made us, and only us, like yourself, and created them so we could make use of them, maybe, I think.” Man wanted to hide himself somewhere. This wasn’t going as well as he thought it would.

“Don’t worry about this discussion.”
“Of course, how could I hide this?” He thought to himself.
“And bear in mind what you said, because we’re going to return to it later.”
Man felt an itch develop on his head, just under his left ear, and then another, similar feeling develop at the right side of the back of his hair. “I will,” he whispered.
“This is your delusion speaking, my kid. An ant can pick up 8 times its own body weight. A camel can go days without eating. Wild asses survive in the scorching heat of the desert. Polar bears excel in the subzero temperatures of what you call the Arctic. Can a human do that, on its own?”
Man searched for a smart riposte to this. He did know of weightlifters who could do the 8 times thing, but he wasn’t sure God would agree with that.
“Yeah, you’re right, I wouldn’t.”
Man’s eyebrows shrugged together, a mix of of-course-he-heard-that and maybe-no-surely-he-is-right.
“Why won’t I consider those species superior to yours? Is that because of the speech and thought thing? Nah, won’t work. You have your powers, they have theirs. But, and this is important to me, extremely important, they don’t even spoil the environment, unlike you lot. I’d given you a pristine world, and you’ve gone ahead and made a grotesque out of it. Also, have you not deduced why I’ve been changing forms the whole time I’ve been with you?”
Man thought about it, had been wondering about it the whole time, and yet, the answer seemed just out of reach to him. He had to say something, or God might take offence. A bored God is better than an angry God, he thought.
“Don’t try to be cheeky, Man, don’t try.”
“Sorry, God.”
“Again that salutation?”
“I’m sorry.” And before God could say anything, he jumped in again, “But, I don’t even use plastic bags.”
The penguin in front of him moved its head from left to right and back, repeating this four times before flapping its right wing to its forehead.
“Did I say something wrong?”
“What do you want, kid?” The gaboon was frustrated.
“Like a wish? Wow, I’d be granted…”
“…no. What do you want from life, your life?”
Man paused for a moment, processing that reply, and replied, “Dear God Almighty. I pray to you daily, as many times as I can. I look at random shrines and places of worship beside the road and bow to your majesty. I’m grateful for everything that you’ve given to me. I call out to you innumerable times every day. Despite this, God, forgive me for my sins.”
“Hmm.” The voice, whose source couldn’t be seen now, replied.
“Where have You gone? Why can’t I see You now?”
“I’m right here, kid. This is one of my countless forms. Have you ever been able to see an amoeba with your naked eyes?”
“Oh! You’re Great.”
“Yeah I heard you earlier. First, you say you’re grateful for everything. Really? Do you not know, even now, not to be diplomatic with me?”
Man beamed, or felt that, at least.
“So, what sins are you talking about?
“Many, over the years.”
“Recall your latest sin, then. Let’s start there.”
“Well, I shared a dinner table with people who eat the sacred Zebra.”
God turned into a chicken.
“Forgive me for that. I’ll never ever share tables with such people.”
“Won’t you? Oh, that’s sad.”
Man did a double-take. “Why? When people are eating such a sacred animal, something so dear to us, something so obviously revered as holy, shouldn’t that be wrong?”
The chicken clucked, once at first, then repeatedly, the decibels rising with each passing moment.
“Stop that sound, please. Why are you doing this?”
The sound stopped.
“You eat meat, right?” The eggplant asked.
“Yes, but only goat and chicken meat, and fish.”
“And vegetables?”
“Yes, each and every one of them. I believe in a balanced diet.”
“I see.”
Man’s heart gladdened.
“Who made these things, kid?”
“Wh…what things, Lord?” Man tried to confirm, despite knowing, at that very moment, the answer to the query.
“These things you eat.”
“Why, you, who else?”
“Yeah, and who made the Zebra?”
“So, do you think the Zebra is more important to me than the chicken?” The cat meowed. “Or more than the spinach and coriander?”
“But the Zebra is holy…”
“I am the Creator of all these things, I am in all these things, and yet you have made decisions for yourself, of your own accord, and in the process, disrespected your friends and your wife.”
Man was silent.
“Remember I told you that we’d return to your point about me creating you folks in my image?”
“Yes. What about it?”
“If I created everyone and everything, don’t all ways of worship lead to the same me?”
“Well…I thought you were my God, different from and more powerful than those of others who have a different way of worship.”
“Can’t you see the fallacy in your own claims? You readily accepted that I made everything, but you think I’m not the same for different belief systems.”
“But other folks have odd practices. If I were to follow those, I’d lose my system of belief.”
“What’s the ultimate goal of all of these belief systems?”
“The same, I guess, getting to be with you, free from the cycle of life and death.”
“True. And they are just that, different ways of achieving the same goal. You call out to me your way, someone else does that differently. All these ways lead to the same goal, the same way all the dust and soil is ultimately part of the same Earth. The big sin is believing you’re all different, and fighting with each other on that basis.”

Man was lost in thoughts. At length, he spoke. “Are my sins worse than those of people who are higher up in my office?”
“You think you’re better than them.”
“I do, yes, because unlike them, I’m not unethical and corrupt.”
“And who gets to be the judge of that?”
“Well, you, of course, but I’m talking about my own perception.”
“Fair enough. You’re also worried about the way this and other matters are going to go, aren’t you?”
“Yes, yes, I do. And that’s why I keep asking you to intervene, to come amongst us and unroot these evils from the society.”
“Even if, and that’s a big, big if, even if I was to take birth, I wouldn’t be old enough to solve your particular problems until many years in the future. Thought of that?”
“Uh, I hadn’t, but maybe you could use your powers in this case?”
“You think I’m not doing that already, don’t you?” The giraffe guffawed.
“I, well, this is hard.” “There’s no smart answer to this, is there?” He thought to himself.
“Can’t you use your power to punish, or maybe even convince, my seniors, that they are wrong and I’m right?”
“I could, but I could also use my power to have you removed from the office tomorrow.”
Man felt his throat dry up.
“I could convince *you* that going in with their scheme is the profitable and right way for you, couldn’t I?”
Man tried to speak, before moistening the dryness in his mouth. Words dropped from his mouth in a soft whisper, “Yes, you could.”
“But I didn’t do that, haven’t done that yet, won’t do that.”
Man forced a smile.
“D’you know why?”
“Wh…” he cleared his throat before continuing, “…why?”
“Because that’s how you’ll fight your battles. Because everyone has to fight their wars themselves. If I were to jump in every time someone was in trouble, what use would it be for me to have given them sentience and belief, courage and agency? Wouldn’t people be mere robots then?” The jackfruit tree said.
“But we are your robots. Isn’t it your duty to take us whichever way you want?”
“No. I created you, and now you have to see what you can do with your life. I’d nudge you where necessary, but your journey, your fight, is your own. Don’t wait for me to fight it for you. “
There were voices in the distance now. The jackfruit had now vanished, and a different voice was calling out to him.
“Man, wake up, wake up, Maaaan, wake up. Oh God, what shall I do with this husband? Always wakes up late. Give him some brains, Dear Lord.”
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