He looked up from a set of splotchy, photo-copied pages to meet my eye. I replied slowly, half dumbstruck by the quivering of the wrinkled flesh that hung from his neck. "Something like that. I mean, I want to believe--"
"Then do it," he snapped. "Or at the very least, live your life as if you do. If you can do that, He'll take care of the rest."
"But I don't know how--"
"Bullocks. You do know how. You're just afraid to do it."
"Yes. I am afraid, but--"
"If it were easy, we'd all do it. The fact that you're scared means you appreciate what you might be losing. Now you just have to give it up anyway."
I sat there for a moment in the stiff-backed aluminum folding chair, choosing my words carefully. "It's easy for you," I said. "You've heard the voice. You KNOW."
The priest gave an exasperated shake of the head. He took a deep breath and spoke slowly. "Do you know what a pious man fears?"
I didn't know what to say. After an uncomfortable silence, he picked up his own loose end.
The word moved fiercely from his lips and hung in the stale air. As an answer, it felt both too easy and too hard. We sat ruminating on it for awhile.
"Take the rest of the day off," he said. "And think about it. Long and hard." Another tired sigh escaped from him. "In our profession, nothing is just as real as anything else."(less)
The next time she sees him again he's wearing a parka. It's anyone's guess what city they're in, how many years are etched into their faces, in hers in gentle, slowly hardening lines radiating from the corners of her eyes, in his, a hardness in his cheekbones, that cuts(more) across his face like the cold.
Maybe the next time they will nod and look away, or maybe they will kiss, but the time after that, the one after the next after the next, they will be nothing to each other, and thereafter, nothing at all. (less)
People are often surprised I dabbled in psychedelics when young. Truthfully, it wasn't "dabbling," it was obsessive indulgence. I was entranced by the window into perception, the metaphysical realm beyond definition. You name a psychedelic, I've likely taken it.
(more) It stopped abruptly however, just after my junior year of college. My friend found a new synthetic, created by a sophomore mad scientist. We were the guinea pigs. It was supposed to be similar to the effects of DMT or ketamine+MDMA combo, where you're transported to another dimension.
I felt the smoke fill my lungs, the caustic chemicals burning each alveoli individually. I immediately lose reality, but cannot lose myself. Trapped in a realm where I'm not greeted by inter-dimensional beings or beautiful visions. I'm in an endless void. All sensation is lost, no pleasure, pain, or time. All I'm left with is my thoughts. Similar to a dream you're cannot control, but are fully aware.
Eventually, a world was created around me. This world would interact with me, but I couldn't respond. One woman gave me peace in this world. She had an angelic glow, and she loved me. I could not love back or interact. It felt toxic not to feel, a horror I wish upon no one. I could only think.
This did not phase her, she was my companion. I lived a lifetime there, this woman accompanying me until the end.
I woke up in an ambulance screaming, but no sound came out. A woman leaned in to comfort me, the florescent light giving her a white aura. She was a woman from the life I just lived, who held me during my metaphysical death. I found her to be holding me once again, at the beginning of my new life, the continuance of my endless dream.
The sweat dripped off his forehead and plopped onto the project he so focused on. In the office, away from the field, he complained about how movies made it look easy. But it was moments like this, 110 degrees, dehydration making his joints grind and(more) his wire-cutters twist greasily in his fingertips, he wished it was as simple as choosing either the blue or red wire.
Tick, tick, tick...
The truth is if you're good enough to earn a Crab, you'll never get stuck making a 50-50 guess. It takes about 15 seconds to figure out which wire goes where, which wire's the tamper-proof, and whether you need to seep a charge from the timer to the catalyst, or whether you need to seamlessly transfer it to another consistent power source. It's difficult, there's no doubt; it's understandable why most civvy EODs opt to just can them and detonate, then deal with the clean-up. Guys like me don't get that luxury.
Tick, tick, tick...
He takes the calls whenever they come in. They were cruel to enforce office hours when his job was so occasional but so high-stakes, but he understood they needed to justify a salary to pen-pushers who'd never understand. So now, middle of night in some office building, he crouched, focused, sweated, and snipped wires.
Tick, tick, tick...
The beach would be nice. Water, sky, open space. Stretch out on a beach towel, watch girls through sunglasses. We're usually smarter than the bad guys, but they figured out that environment is as much a weapon as the weapon itself. Put it in air vents, or crawl spaces, or fucking furnace room exhaust shafts. Somewhere the EODs can't get to it, or if they can, you've already half-won. Make 'em earn it.