Scene I: God Greets Maxwell
In the beginning God was profoundly bored. God was so profoundly bored that he created the heavens and the earth, wherein most profound things happened from then on. He made people, too; the profound things happened to them, mostly. But one time a thing happened to Him, and it was pretty profound if He had to say so Himself.
One of the people God made was a fellow named Maxwell. Maxwell preferred to go by the name Jeremy – for reasons this slightly-less-than omniscient narrator cannot discern – but hardly anyone ever obliged him. Maxwell liked to think himself an underappreciated philosopher, and perhaps he was, but his day job was that of a bricklayer. Maxwell did not believe in God. Maxwell would preach blasphemous things like, “God is not great,” and “God is dead” to anyone who would listen.
Now, God was not a vengeful god, but that latter claim did draw His ire and it did give Him reason to pay special attention to Maxwell. When Maxwell was laid off from Bricklayers Incorporated He could not help but chuckle in a scornful sort of way.
With no day job to occupy his mind Maxwell began to think about those things that were profound, such as the meaning of life. Being a nonbeliever in God he found his existence to be void of any greater purpose, a reality that dragged him down into a deep, depressing state of despair. One day he decided that he had had his fair share of aimlessly ambling about, so he put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. The pistol was old and ill-maintained, though, and thus failed to fire, forcing Maxwell to instead jump off a tall building or ingest cyanide tablets or something like that.
Whichever way he did it the end result was this: Maxwell became dead. Still, this was not the end, as he soon came to discover. Immediately after his death Maxwell found himself suspended in a great mauve void, staring blinkingly into the finely-bearded face of God Himself.
God stared back with smug satisfaction. “So…I’m God,” He said.
Maxwell fell to his knees and began weeping uncontrollably. This was what He expected; after all, Maxwell was a man who’d prided himself on his mind and just had a lifetime of bathroom philosophy rendered null by two small words and a contraction.
But then Maxwell did something that befuddled God: he began to kiss His feet and sing His praises higher than the heavens (so to speak). God did not enjoy the salivatory sensation of lips against His toes and commanded Maxwell to compose himself.
“My most sincere apologies, Your Holiness,” Maxwell apologized most sincerely upon rising to his own feet. “My name is Maxwell, but I do prefer to be called Jeremy, if You would be so kind.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know who you are, Maxwell,” God said irritably. “I did bring you into existence and all that, ya know.”
“Of course,” Maxwell nodded warmly. “So it really was You, then?”
“Yup. Guess you’re just the type that has to see something to believe it, eh?” God teased with crossed arms.
Maxwell’s face flushed. “Oh dear. I suppose this means I’ll be carted off to Hell soon?”
“Nah, nah, We don’t really do that anymore,” He assuaged the mortal’s fears. “It was kinda pointless and really fucked up to boot, so, yeah…”
“Splendid!” Maxwell could scarcely keep from squealing. God could scarcely keep from rolling His eyes. “This is all just so profoundly splendid, Your Holiness!”
“Would you quit with that stuffy title?” His Holiness tutted. “Just call Me God, for Pete’s sake! And what are you so giddy about anyway? I thought you hated Me.”
“Hate You?” Maxwell exclaimed. “Good Sir, I love You! You’ve handed to me on a silver platter what I’d been fruitlessly searching for my entire life: meaning! Purpose! You’ve given me a new lease on life, or at least on what’s to come after it!”
“Oh, yeah, I guess,” God scrunched his face up, revealing a plethora of previously hidden wrinkles in His forehead. He didn’t understand why some people felt so compelled to think about those profound things so much.
“So what’s next, if You don’t mind me asking?” Maxwell posed excitedly.
“Well, what happens now?” he repeated. “You said You discontinued the act of condemning heathens and sinners to the lake of fire, but surely something else must have taken its place?”
“Ah, right, right. Yeah, I’ve got something for you to do.” God pointed a mighty finger forward, behind Maxwell. The freshly-dead mortal turned his head and was astonished at the sight of a shimmering city in the distance, an immaculate metropolis fenced in by a glistening wall of marble. The buildings were architecturally like nothing he’d ever seen, something of a cross between ancient Greek, New Age, and gothic design, yet still entirely its own and unknown. Spires crafted out of diamond extended into the heavens of the heavens, searing the meta-sky. The whole city glowed so brilliantly that Maxwell couldn’t stand to gaze directly at it for more than a few spare seconds. “So that’s, like, Heaven City or whatever. You know, like, the main Heaven,” God explained as best He could. He outstretched His arms into the length of the soothing, mauve void and continued, “I mean, all this right here is pretty much Heaven, but most of it is pretty boring, in My opinion. Most people just hang out over there.”
“I see,” Maxwell murmured thoughtfully.
“But We can’t just let former heathens stroll in on day one and enjoy the same privileges as the dudes who gave up all their Sundays for Me, you know?” God went on. “So what I’m gonna have you be doing is like, a buncha construction stuff, for maybe fifty years or so. Not for terribly long.”
“I’m going to be bricklaying?”
“Uh, yeah, you’ll be doing some of that, I’d guess,” God said. “There are some patches in the wall that need to be filled in or whatever; you can do that if you want. I don’t really care.”
“Splendid! And to what end will I be working?”
“Well, if You don’t mind my crassness, what purpose would this bricklaying be fulfilling?”
“Oh, um, I dunno,” God answered dreamily. “Like, what are you even talking about exactly? We just need to get the wall done so it’ll look nice. I mean, once you’re done serving your time and everything you’re allowed to hang out in the city just like everybody else.”
“I…see,” Maxwell said. “I don’t mean to accuse You of misunderstanding my intentions, Sir, and I certainly don’t wish to come off rudely, but I’m still not quite sure to what end I will be working. What I’m asking is, really, what’s the point of living in, erm…Heaven City, as You referred to it?”
“What? Like I said, man, you just hang out” God abhorred having to clarify Himself. “We’ve got museums, a mall, parks, music halls, a pool, you get your own house, there are angels on street corners singing songs and playing harps and stuff…uh, what else…there’s a library, I think. We’re gonna build a zoo, too…that should be pretty sweet.”
Maxwell was less than convinced.
“Oh!” God realized he’d left something out. “So yeah, there’s a church, too, but I don’t think people really use it. What’s the use if you’re already here and all, you know? But yeah, that’s Heaven, basically…”
“Oh,” Maxwell gulped profoundly. “Again, if You don’t mind me asking, God: why are You here?”
“Uh, just am. Just like you are.” God was growing annoyed with Maxwell’s profound questions.
“Well, I’m here because You brought me here. Who brought You here?”
“Nobody,” God proudly proclaimed with a puffed chest. “I’ve always been here, and always will be.”
“Oh dear,” Maxwell nervously muttered beneath his breath. Just as God was turning to leave, the man cried out, “Sir! Erm, one last question, if it pleases You?”
“Jesus Christ,” God grumbled, not unaware of His words’ irony thank you very much. “What?”
Scene II: God Takes a Walk and Has an Existential Crisis
About twenty years or so elapsed between God’s first and second encounters with Maxwell, during which time many profound things happened in the heavens and on the earth. None of those profound things were things that mattered to God, however; He had become very jaded over the course of fourteen billion years and it took quite a bit for Him to regard a thing profound. As He always said, “Ya seen one Cain & Abel, ya seen them all!”
But Maxwell would soon open His eyes to something He’d never seen before.
It all started – or rather, continued – on another mundanely auspicious November morning in Heaven. The sun was shining brilliantly as it always did, because it was Heaven. The birds sang as beautifully as ever, because it was Heaven. The grass even greened greener than one would think possible to green in November, also because it was Heaven. And, as usual, God was celebrating the safe serenity of it all with a walk in the park.
Mild melancholy took hold of His heart though, when He rested His eternal gaze on the newly built fountain that stood in the middle of the garden. It was a fine fountain, to be sure, and had all the pleasant ornamentations a fountain should have, as well as fresh spring water spewing forth and up and out and about and all that. Still, even a fountain finer than that fountain could not have replaced what stood in the very same spot just days before: a bronze statue of the glorious Creator Himself.
Sure, it was true that nobody forced God to tear the statue down (who could?), but He wasn’t an oblivious git: He heard the people scoffing as He stared lovingly at His own likeness, caught their looks of contempt as He admired His Holy visage. He hadn’t a problem ignoring the likes of mere mortals, but when His old pal Muhammad remarked to Him, “Gee, a little narcissist, dontcha think?” the camel’s back was effectively broken and He ordered the bust replaced by a fine fountain.
It was while God was lamenting this loss that Uriel, an archangel, hurriedly descended onto the park grounds and delivered to Him some profoundly shocking news between unabated breaths: “We have a jumper!”
“A jumper?” God furrowed his mighty brows.
“A jumper!” Uriel shrieked, tugging on God’s robes. “We must go now if we wish to stop him!”
“Whoa, hold your horses there, will ya, Uriel?” God commanded. “What’s all this about a—”
“A jumper!” the angel repeated with much urgency. “One of the builders has clambered atop the highest point on the wall and is threatening to jump!”
“We tried to talk him down but he says he only wishes to speak to You, if anyone at all,” Uriel said gravely. “He is very weepy and irate. I fear his threats may not be empty, my liege, so we must go now!”
God stole one last, longing glance at the bronze statue that wasn’t there and then vanished in a puff of white smoke, as he was known to do from time to time.
The crowd that had gathered at the foot of the jumper was one marked by little more than morbid curiosity. City-dwellers, builders, and angels alike came together to form something of a semicircle around the projected landing spot of the jumper, all looking up at him with crossed arms and mouths agape, all thinking the singular thought, “Will he do it?” Some of the least restrained among them wished they still had cell phones to capture the drama.
Within the midst of this callous crowd was a small band of six deeply concerned archangels. God went straight to them, His advisors in times of crisis.
“Thank God You’re here!” Gabriel greeted Him (unironically, this narrator must admit) with exasperation, the hysteric cries of the would-be jumper above punctuating his exclamation.
“What’s the skinny, guys?” God said as he scratched a niggling itch in his beard.
“I suspect Uriel has already told You everything we know,” Michael replied.
“Which isn’t much, we’ll admit,” chimed in Raphael.
“So it’s just some guy threatening to jump?” God asked.
“Yes,” Michael answered.
God tilted his head up and strained to see the outline of some guy as he nervously tiptoed towards the edge of the wall. God wasn’t the best at gauging distance, but he guesstimated (His word) that it must have been an at least two hundred-foot drop. “I don’t get it. What’s the big deal?”
The six archangels stared at Him in sanctimonious disbelief. “Sir…?” one of them barely managed to verbalize.
“I mean, the dude’s already dead, right?” God shrugged. “You can’t die twice, so what’s the worst that could happen if he jumped?”
“Your Holiness,” Jegudiel began snidely, “I don’t think You realize how profound the implications of an attempted suicide in Heaven really are. What would the people think? My God, what would Lucifer say if he got wind of this?”
The gravity of the situation still failing Him, He shot back, “Let Lucy say what he will; I’ve got the skin for it.” The archangels all returned with a single, concerted glare, a glare sterner than anything a disappointed mother could ever hope to conjure. “Alright, alright,” God conceded, “I’ll try to talk ‘im down.”
God stepped forward and parted the crowd with a commanding, “Move!” He looked back at his advisors for a moment with gritted teeth, and then boomed an elongated, “As you requested!” at the jumper.
“God?” the jumper’s voice faintly echoed back.
“It’s me, Maxwell.”
And though God couldn’t quite hear the sigh that puffed out of Maxwell’s throat, He still knew it did. “Hey, come on, there are seven billion people alive on the earth right now that I’m supposed pay attention to, I can’t be expected to keep track of all the dead ones, too!”
“I don’t wish to do this anymore, God!” Maxwell shouted.
“Okay, you can stop building if you want; just don’t jump, alright?”
“Not just the building, Sir! All of this! Everything! I don’t want to do it anymore!”
Now, this wasn’t quite profound in God’s eyes, but it did strike him as something, so he yelled with cupped hands, “Let me talk to you! Up there!” Squinting, God was barely able to make out the tiny silhouette of a head slowly nodding up and down.
God disappeared and instantly reappeared up on the wall, next to Maxwell. This startled Maxwell, and he surely would have fallen to his doom had God not pulled him back by the collar of his shirt.
“I would offer my thanks but I’m afraid they wouldn’t be genuine,” Maxwell breathed as he regained his footing. God looked into the man’s eyes and recognized the same deep sorrow he once saw in the final days of a mortal twenty years before. Then, it brought Him sick pleasure to see a detractor wallow in despair, but now it only evoked sincere sadness…He didn’t very much like watching His children suffer so.
“I remember you now,” God said.
“Ha! Charmed,” Maxwell laughed.
“Hey, just ’cause you’re all suicidal and all doesn’t mean you can give me any lip, ya hear?” God retorted with a nervous smile, unsure whether or not it was appropriate to make light of the predicament just yet.
“Haha,” Maxwell answered in the affirmative. “It’s somewhere on the side of strange to hear that out loud…to be described as suicidal. It sounds rather pitiful, to tell You the truth.”
The wind was beginning to pick up speed, and wind tends to knock people over at high speeds, so God suggested they both take a seat. Maxwell agreed, and so they talked with their legs dangling hundreds of feet above Heaven’s awestruck occupants, their robes fluttering in the wind. God produced two lit cigarettes out of thin air (another thing he was known to do from time to time) and handed one to Maxwell, saying, “Somethin’ tells me you really need this.” Maxwell eagerly accepted the cancer stick and took a long, ethereal drag.
“So what’s been eating you, Jeremy?” God asked with the most empathy he’d ever expressed in his eternal existence.
“Everything,” Maxwell answered profoundly.
“You know, last I saw you, you were pretty hyped about the whole…uh, well, the whole Me being real thing,” God said between inhales of tobacco. “What happened?”
“Well, no offense to You, Sir, but I suppose my first conversation with an omniscient creature such as Yourself simply left a little to be desired,” Maxwell admitted. “The same questions that plagued my time on the earth continue to nip at me here as well.”
“Okay, gotcha,” He mumbled dejectedly.
“God…what is the meaning of life?”
God’s gaze shifted down to His feet and He sighed, “I really wish you’d all stop wondering about that stuff.”
“I really wish you’d start.”
The air went still for a moment.
“The story’s not all too impressive,” His Holiness confessed. “If you really want it straight, here it is: I got bored. Really bored…and super hungry for a slice of apple pie, too.” His lungs filled with tobacco, Maxwell coughed softly. “So I made everything; you guys are just here to keep me company, if I’m being perfectly honest.”
“You misunderstood my question,” said Maxwell.
“Yes. I meant not to ask what meaning you think you’ve given me in my creation specifically, but rather, the meaning of life in general terms,” Maxwell said. “This would include the non-living things as well, I suppose: the pebbles, the oceans, the asteroids, the stars, the politicians, and so on.”
“I figured everyone would need stuff to keep ‘em busy,” God answered with a dry mouth.
Maxwell turned his head and blew a cloud of smoke to the wind. “It would appear that this line of questioning isn’t quite effective at digging out the answer I’m looking for; my apologies,” he said, mostly to himself. “And it would appear that I must be a bit more direct. It appears this way.”
“Just say what’s on your mind, man.”
“What is the meaning of your life, God?”
“No, please excuse me, Sir: what the hell is the point of Your existence?”
“I was afraid so. I don’t wish to do this anymore, God,” Maxwell repeated once more as he reached into his robes and pulled out a small container of red Play-Doh.
“Yes.” Maxwell removed the cap and popped the red mass of putty onto the palm of his hand. As he kneaded the Play-Doh, he said, “At the risk of coming off as a pretentious try-hard, I’ll have to admit that I’ve only been carrying this putty for the past twenty years in hopes that I’d one day fall into this exact situation. Here are the remarks I’ve prepared: I can mold this putty into the shape of just about anything I can conceive in my mind. I can craft a crude hammer” – Maxwell crafted a crude hammer – “or a charming table” – Maxwell crafted a charming table – “or even a silly little man” – Maxwell crafted a silly little man. “I can even say to this silly little man, ‘I made you, silly little man, with the purpose of amusing me’. And he may do just that, maybe even swimmingly…however, if I’ve no objective purpose of my own, how can I possibly imbue my silly little man with one? Perhaps he is content knowing that the mission I’ve given him has been fulfilled, but in reality, his existence is just as pointless as mine…maybe even more so.”
The two sat there for a moment, each taking long inhales of tobacco, before God angrily mused, “Was that supposed to be a metaphor?”
“A crudely crafted one, I’ll concede.”
“Gimme that silly little man,” God demanded. Maxwell handed it over. God looked at the silly little man’s smiling face with somber eyes, held it up to His nose, and sniffed almost violently. He then handed the putty back to Maxwell, saying, “I fucking love that smell.”
“As do I,” Maxwell smiled.
“I’m not just some damn chump messing around with Play-Doh, you know,” God said stoically. “All this shit you’re talking about…talking about like you know what you’re talking about…it’s…it’s just uh, beyond your scope of comprehension, ya know?”
“I reckon it is, at least. I mean, I did make the entire universe with my own bare hands. Can’t see why you’d put it past me to, uh, I dunno…What I’m trying to say is, um, ya know, maybe I just, like…maybe I just transcend meaning itself.”
“I believe, deep down, we both know that there is no such thing to transcend in the first place.”
God sat on the ledge of His wall for some time, not saying a word. Below, the crowd was growing larger and larger, and louder and louder, though neither Maxwell nor the Creator could discern the words being shouted up at them. Finally, God flicked His cigarette to the winds, muttered a final, “Bye,” and vanished in a puff of white smoke once more.
Another puff of white smoke saw God placing his feet back down at the foot of the wall, right in the midst of the crowd. The angels and the dwellers and the builders all stared at Him with bulging eyes and elevated brows as he briskly marched His way out (quite needlessly, this narrator must point out; why didn’t He simply teleport somewhere else?). Behind the white beard was a bright red face, with warm tears slowly trickling down His Holy cheeks.
The seven archangels formed something of a wall directly in God’s path. “What happened? Why is he still up there? What did you say to him? What did he say to you? What happened?” they all fired off simultaneously. God roughly pushed past them, spitting, “Who cares? We’re all just gonna exist forever anyway, so who cares about anything?”
With that, God set off to finish His walk. He left the soothing, spacious surrealism of His mauve Heaven for the star-studded stretches of space. It’d been quite some time since He’d traversed the cosmos, but he knew no other place more fitting to collect His Holy thoughts. After walking past a few hundred thousand moons, asteroids, planets, and other various celestial titans, He found Himself a little fatigued, so He rested for a minute on the rings of some obscure rock He could scarcely remember putting there.
And as He gazed upon His Kingdom, upon all the lives and non-lives, upon all the trivialities and monuments, upon all the grief and joy, upon all the passion and indifference, and everything else He’d created for Himself, He finally realized this which terrified Him more than anything: He was just as profoundly bored as He was in the beginning.
For God, this realization was quite…well, it was quite something.
Elias Rodriguez is a largely unpublished writer living in Chicago, Illinois. His work hasn’t appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, or – until now – Eunoia Review. He didn’t finish high school.