This time the story was to revolve around a consequential misunderstanding.
God and the Devil walked into a bar.
“Ow!” The Devil had pinched his fingers in the door, he made his way slowly to his stool sucking on his bruised digits. He was wearing a ridiculous outfit, the loud print on his shirt somehow managed to sublimely clash with the purple suspenders. He was playing the part of the gringo tourist to perfection. God, on the other end of the spectrum, dressed like the townspeople of this resort village, simple white clothes, cool and refreshing.
They both ordered a beer, and sat quietly for a minute or two, each silently marking the occasion. “Four days until Christmas, eh?” The Devil broke the ice. “That Jesus kid was one move I didn’t see coming. Well played, old man.” God shrugged off the compliment with a bit of a half-smile. He would never admit it, but, even 2012 years after the fact, the praise of his rival always made his day. “Well, I had to do something to counter the whole Tree of Knowledge fiasco right off the start.” The Devil made a theatrical bow, with multiple flourishes, which only served to knock over his bottle, spilling beer onto the bar.
The elderly bartender moved quickly to soak up the resulting mess, and replaced the now half-empty bottle with a full one fresh from the icebox. God watched him intently as he worked, and, when the bartender became uncomfortable under his steady gaze, God spoke. “Do not be afraid, Diego. I have a very simple question for you, that my companion and I have gone back and forth about for quite a long time. Perhaps you could settle our argument?”
Transfixed by the Zen-like calm of his patron, and, having been the arbiter of many bar arguments in his time, Diego nodded. God waved his hand, and all the usual bustle and background noise of the bar ceased. Had Diego been able to break eye contact and look around, he would have seen everyone except himself and the two deities at the bar frozen mid-step. God held his gaze and began to explain.
“Do you know who I am?” Diego nodded, preternaturally calm. “You are God. And that is the Devil.”
“More importantly, do you know who you are?” Again, Diego’s eyes remained locked on God’s while he calmly answered. “I am Diego Lopez Cruz, the 100 billionth human being born on Earth since the beginning of time.”
“Perfect. Well done. Now, to the question at hand. The Devil and I started all this-”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, creation, humans, all that stuff. Anyway, we did it because we had a bet, one that we agreed would be settled by whomever organically resulted from the years of life here on Earth. 100 billion seemed like a nice round number, and big enough that it would distance you from the beginnings, but not so big that it would take too long.”
God’s gaze had intensified, Diego remained mesmerized, although his expression had started to slip from calm toward the beginnings of fright. The Devil glanced at his watch, smirked, and coughed into his hand. God glanced at him, and the moment their stare was interrupted, the bartender sagged onto the bar. He looked up with a wild gleam in his eye. “This is it? This is the meaning of life? We are all only here to settle your bar bet?” He gestured wildly around the room, and then for the first time noticed everyone else frozen in time. “What about them, are they just extras? There is no meaning to their life at all? My wife and children? My friends?” He sank to his knees behind the bar.
“You’re losing him.” The Devil pointed out, trying to be helpful. God jumped behind the bar and tried to re-establish eye contact with Diego, but to no avail. Deep in the throes of existential angst, the bartender would not respond to any of God’s entreaties.
“I don’t understand. I thought it all meant something real, I thought we were more than lab rats.”
God cleared his throat, “Yes, perhaps you were a bit misled there, but the important thing is that you focus here and answer this question. Suppose you’re stranded on a desert island with a beautiful woman—”
“Time!” shouted the Devil gleefully, slapping his watch down on the bar. “There’s been no answer, and we agreed that a tie was a win for me. I got you again!”
“Fine.” God sighed. He snapped his fingers, winking the bar and everything else out of existence. “Fucking self-awareness. That world was screwed up from the word ‘go’. How about we go best out of three?”
K: I love the casual style here, but [an]other one packed more info into this small space and ultimately felt to me like the stronger entry. I like this one, but it feels incomplete, because I have to admit I don’t see the misunderstanding here, even after a couple of reads.
B: I freaking love this story. Every sentence seems meticulously written, and there’s a ton of great, subtle humor. But for the life of me I can’t find the supposed misunderstanding. If I could, it might be worth immunity.
This was the idea that came to me. After some thought and discussion, it really doesn’t fit the challenge criteria, but I regret nothing!