Apropos of Nothing

Her clouded eyes appeared to have trouble focusing, and half of her face sagged, showing the ravaging effects of previous day’s stroke. Although she could respond to questions intelligibly, every now and then her gaze would unfocus and she would stare into space. Her guests could only wonder what she was thinking about at this, these last few days of her long life.

“Readjust,” Israfil said patiently, staring at their tablet. A nearby angel pulled a lever, and Israfil paused to listen to the machinery clicking. A small portion of her brain switched off slowly, and they watched from their realm as she turned her eyes back to her guests. 

“I read a lot,” she said, apropos of nothing, the memories from that portion of her brain arcing across her synapses. “My favorite are naughty books.”

“You don’t read naughty books,” one of her guests replied. The elderly woman launched into a diatribe about “naughty books” as the memories, a glory of blue and gold, slowly faded.

“Continue shutting down,” Israfil directed. More levers were pulled in careful succession, and she paused again, seeming to stare at a picture on her wall. She struggled to hide her confusion from her guests, to hide the pain she was in, to prevent her guests from seeing how quickly things were ending.

“Status check.” 

The announcement caused a flurry of activity as various angels checked gauges and timelines and gears, ensuring this woman’s death was going according to the heavenly plan. The angel monitoring the screen that relayed what the woman was seeing seemed flabbergasted. 

“Are those her legs?” they asked.

“Are those her legs?” she asked, staring toward the foot of the bed. Her own legs were stretched out before her on the bed, covered by a sheet. Silent confusion followed as the guests looked at each other, trying to parse out what she was asking.

“These are your legs, Mom,” one of the guests said, gently rubbing her feet. 

Israfil hurried to the voice box transmitter and slammed one of its many wings down on a red button. “‘Status check’ does not mean turning on random functions!” they yelled. 

The berated angels stopped fiddling with the shiny levers and buttons, unsure of what they were supposed to do instead. 

“Think about our goals today,” Israfil continued, removing their wing from the emergency-stop button. “These are her final moments in the mortal realm. Do we want her loved ones to remember this moment with disturbance or with catharsis?”

Israfil’s question was met with blank stares. 

“Both,” one of the angels replied, incorrectly presuming the query to be a trick question.

“Please, let the Day of Judgment be close at hand,” Israfil thought, yearning to blow the horn, signaling The End to be deliciously nigh; if only to free themself from the burden of these feather-brained… technicians.

Israfil sighed and pressed on. 

“Once again, this time with the skills I know you possess: Status Check.”

The angels worked their respective control panels, this time more gingerly. One by one, each angel reported back.

“Shutdown at 30%,” said an angel.

“Behavior within parameters,” said a second angel.

“Pain 5 out of 10,” said a third angel.

“What’s the blinking yellow light mean, again?” stammered a fourth angel to his adjacent colleagues. 

Ignoring that, Israfel turned back to the angel who had reported the pain.

“Do something about that, please,” said Israfil.

The third angel nodded with confidence as they adjusted a few dials. “Now 3 out of 10, minor acceleration of shutdown.”

Israfil nodded, accepting the trade-off. They addressed the room again.

“Readjust,” commanded Israfil, bracing for who-knows-what error might happen next.

She began to laugh as hearty a laugh as her dying body would allow.

“What’s so funny?” one of her guests asked with a smile.

“We couldn’t save all the chickens, they gave themselves up,” she said through her laughs; some untethered memory bubbling into her conscious mind before disintegrating forever.

“Wait, why is she laughing? That’s a painful memory,” said Israfil, annoyed. 

“Wrong lever, boss,” said an angel on the other side of the room. “They’re labelled backwards after yesterday. I can get my guys up here to fix it–“

“Seizure cue,” interrupted the angel who had asked about the flashing yellow light. “That’s what this stupid light means. We’re all supposed to mash the brain buttons.”

Israfil grimaced as all the angels took this cue as a command. Each angel started to reach for various controls which may or may not have been “brain buttons.”

“Enough!” Israfil barked to the room. All of the angels froze.

Israfil pulled a level marked “reset” turning the rest of the angels into hot dogs.

Completely at ease without the annoyance of their counterparts, Israfil began slowly eating the hot dogs one by one and with each bite gaining an exorbitant amount of strength.

“Oh my” exclaimed Israfil. “With this power I may finally be able fight God and proclaim myself the new almighty.”

And with a quick flash of light, God appeared “Not so fast.”

Panicking, Israfil began shoveling hot dogs into their mouth, faster and fast as God stepped closer with rage from the thought of Israfil defying them and proclaiming such treachery. 

Just as God was close enough to strike, they stopped. Enthralled by Israfil and their ability to eat hot dogs and an alarming pace.

“Mother of…” still fascinated, God began cheering on Israfil in the attempt to out eat Joey Chestnut, the fastest hot dog eating human in the planet.

“70, 71, 72, 73…” God begins chanting. There’s still 5 minutes left for Israfil to beat Joey’s record of 75 Nathans’s hot dogs in 10 minutes.

Israfil stops eating. Confused why God would be supportive considering their plot to attack and dethrone them.

With a mouth full of hot dog, Israfil asks “Why?”

“For the love of the sport and hot dog” replies God. “Now get to eating, you have 3 minutes to eat 3 dogs.”

Determined by the will of God, Israfil begins to quickly swallow hot dogs whole, nearly choking each time.

“Water” Israfil demands.

“Oh, I’ll get you some water” and with a snap of their fingers, God bestows a glass of water upon Israfil.

Israfil begins to drink the water as if they have been dehydrated for days.

Gagging on the water, Israfil then spits it out. “What have you done?”

“It’s just a little trick I taught Jesus, thought you would appreciate it.” God retorted.

“Wine? Are you trying to help me or sabotage me? AND WAS THIS CHEAP MERLOT?” barked Israfil.

“Just having a little fun, no one said life is easy” God answered. “Oh and 30 seconds.”

Disheveled, Israfil begins eating the final hot dog with 10 seconds to spare.

“76!” exclaims God.

Just then, Israfil’s expression showed horror as their face began to turn purple.

Unable to breathe, Israfil falls to their knees, reaching out before God as a plea for their help.

“That’s what you get, lil bitch” God proclaims, and begins to laugh. “Defy me? Attempt to dethrone me?”

Israfil falls to the floor, and their vision turns to dark. The ever once esteemed angel of God, now lays alone and forgotten.

“Be grateful you beat the record” God said, and with the flash of light, disappeared.

The lovely and talented writers of this story can be found on Twitter at the links below.
Tashva @tashvalucretia
Jake @jakery

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