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March 5, 2038, 4:05 p.m.
13 Years, 274 Days Ago
Paul sat next to his sleeping mother. His knee bounced as if he’d had four servings of the world’s largest cup of coffee. He watched her every breath. Her chest rose and fell. There was always a horrifying pause before her chest would rise again. It rose; it fell. Paul waited, worried that something happened. An agonizing moment would pass. He’d jerk forward intending to call for help, until he saw his mother take another breath.
Her head was wrapped in bandages, but her face was free. That was at least something. Paul figured his mom would have been afraid to wake like that.
“I really figured you’d be here.” Paul kept expecting Nobody to show up. “Where’s your sermon? Where are all those piffy thoughts and fortune cookie Bible versus?”
A part of him truly hated Nobody. He’d become this person who was always there when Paul needed, but he was there less and less. His mother was sick and possibly dying. There was a tumor in her brain that would consume her if no one did anything, and nothing was being done.
“What am I supposed to learn?”
The room was too quiet. His mother was still sound asleep after hours of people just poking around her brain. He watched her chest rise and fall and nearly panicked until her chest rose and fell again.
“What I’m learning is that I’m cursed,” Paul said. “If you want me to believe in a God, then I have to believe he hates me. Not only does he take everyone I love from me, he does it in the worst possible way. Bill was killed in a stupid car accident before he could even marry my mother. Jordan is happily married to Lidia, and I’m left alone. The project is dead in the water. Now my mom is lying here helpless.”
He stared at his mother some more, feeling intense relief with every breath she took.
In a rush of frustration, he flung his hands in her direction. “She turned to your god! And look what he’s done for her! Is this the great life of a Christian? Serve a God, and he’ll watch you pray to him all day just to give you some terrible disease and kill you. No thanks!”
He shut his eyes, pointlessly trying to keep himself from screaming. He let out an exasperated chuckle that somehow managed to keep him from breaking down. “Of course you’d remind me I had them in the first place. He gives and takes away, and all that. But if he takes what he gives, was it ever a gift in the first place?”
A tear rolled down his cheek. He couldn’t hold it back. His lip quivered as he sat helplessly watching his mom.
“Am I supposed to learn I’m powerless?” It came out in a whine. He rubbed his face with his hands until the urge to sob dwindled away. “I get it! I’m the weak mortal, and God is the all powerful being. But why follow a God who’d let all this happen?”
He let out another laugh. “Oh, yeah, I forgot. This is all my fault. This is humanity’s fault. We ate some stupid piece of fruit, and now everyone has to suffer and die. The all powerful God who can do everything can’t just wipe it away. So I’m supposed to learn I deserve it. Well I do. I admit it. But she doesn’t!”
He looked at her again as more tears fell. “She didn’t deserve to be beaten. She didn’t deserve to lose Bill.”
“Of course you say no one is good. My mom isn’t perfect. Of course she isn’t. No one is perfect, so am I supposed to learn that we all deserve to die? If that’s the case what’s the point? What is it all for?”
His mother stirred, letting out a low groan. Paul shot to his feet, using the bottom of his t-shirt to wipe his tears away.
She clenched her eyes. “Are you talking to someone?” Her voice was dry and raspy.
He swiveled his head around until he found a pink plastic pitcher of water. He grabbed one of the pink cups and filled it.
“No, just thinking out loud,” he answered. “Here, have some water.”
She was still grimacing, but even with her eyes shut tightly, she held out her hand for cup and drank it all in one tip of the cup. She handed the cup back, and Paul moved to fill it again, but she finally cracked one eye for a second to see him. She shook her head, clenching her eyes shut again.
“No thanks,” she said.
… to be continued …