Faith

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16 min

“I had a weird dream last night.”
“A really. Weird. Dream…”

——

My name is _______.
I’m a good guy I think.
And I like good people.
That’s pretty much my sole criteria for deciding if I want to hang out with someone.
And I pride myself in my ability to tell good people.
Once I decide you’re good people, we’re good.
Friends for life.

I’ve been working for this guy out in the city recently.
New gig. Still feeling it out.
Doing odd jobs here and there.
Mostly small things.
Innocuous things.
Sometimes even seemingly nonsensical things.
Like going into an alley and moving a cat.
Or buying an old tea pot from a specific shop and then breaking it in front of the shopkeeper’s face.
Bizarre jobs.*
But they never hurt anyone and it pays well.
I can even be nice to the people I am seemingly doing mean things to.
Felt bad for the tea kettle guy, for example, so I asked Jane to hook him up with an antique dealer she knew.
He was very happy.
Turned out I was good for business, he said.
Now I’m welcome there with open arms every time I go back, whether I’m looking for odd things for the job,
or just to kill my own time.

I’ve met this guy I work for.
A few times actually.
He seems like good people.
Mostly though, I’ve just met Jane and a few others in his employ.
Jane’s the one who passes us our orders.
Pretty girl, that Jane.
Amazing smile.
Even better ass.
You don’t get fresh with Jane though.
There’s something about her.
Like she would really make you regret it.
Just trust me.
Don’t get fresh with Jane.
Sweet girl though.
Great personality.
Good people.

From what I hear, Jane is one of the few people this guy actually talks to.
No one else that I’ve met in my line of work, which honestly isn’t many people, has met this guy.
But there are rumors.
Strange rumors.
They say he’s like the Devil or something.
Like the Devil.
Or Something.
The closest thing to the actual thing.
Not the storybook, fairy tale guy.
The real thing.
And there’s a world of difference.
Supposedly.
But whatever.
He seems like good people.
And I’m good at telling good people.
I pride myself in it.
Not that I take the rumors seriously.

One day we were all told to meet at the House.
The place Jane assigns us our jobs.
Where we get the rare peek at this guy we all work for.
Again.
Friendly dude.
Good people.

So anyways…
We were told to meet at the House.

It was one of those really dreary days.
Not rainy.
Just VERY cloudy.
A sky that roiled and turned.
Air thick and stifling.
The dreariest of dreary, really.
Makes it feel like its late evening even if it’s noon.

One of those.

So I show up.
It’s around noon and there’s a handful of people already there.
Some I know, some I don’t.
No one talks much.
Even as the hours pass.
Waiting for Jane to show up.
There’s this weird mood in the place, you see.
Kinda heavy. Kinda stuffy. Kinda hard to explain.
I blame the weather.

They say the guy is having his first kid today.
Good for him.
He seems like a nice guy.
I wish him the best.
I guess he wanted us all to be there when he came back for a party or something.
‘A waste of a day,’ I think when I first hear the news.
But I wasn’t going to actually say that.
One of those thoughts that you just think to yourself and grumble about in your head, but don’t actually admit you ever had.
I mean – good for him.
He’s a good guy.
I wish him the best.

It was a weird day that day, though.
Even though we were just sitting there the entire time.
Barely speaking.
Occasionally making eye contact.
It was the mood that made it weird.
The mood.
It’s hard to describe it.
Impossible maybe.
I already said it was heavy, right?
Kind of stuffy?
But it was more.
Dimly lit and dreary in that house.
With an old shitty TV in the corner from like – the 80’s or something.

The weird thing about the mood was that it would change.
Suddenly.
No one would say anything.
But I’m pretty sure we would all feel it.
Even as we would joke around nervously to break the silence every now and then.
But there were moments.
Mixed in that dark and dreariness.
Of fear.
Just slight.
Maybe ominous is the right word?
An uneasiness that would rise and fall in the tiniest of fluctuations.
But that I was never really sure was even there in the first place.
Like I said.
It was a weird mood.
And a weird day.

It may have all been my imagination too, I guess.
I can’t even be sure.
Even to this day.
But I do remember sitting there at one point… maybe around 4-ish. by that time?
And looking around at everyone in the room.
At the people from whom I’d heard – semi-jokingly / semi-nervously – the rumor about our employer.
Who he was.
No one really believed it.
But on days that you’re just so inexplicably uneasy like this?
Well…
Not quite like this.
This was a whole new level.
But I digress.

I was sitting there looking around at everyone and thinking.
If this guy REALLY was the Devil.
Then doesn’t that make this kid we’re waiting for the Anti-Christ or something?
I remember laughing to myself.
Cuz I think everyone there was kind of thinking that.
And it really was just the most absurd thought.
Laughable.
Really.
But still creepy.
You know, given the mood and everything.
I’m thinking we may have just been freaking ourselves out though, in hindsight.

I remember around 8 that night
– cuz that was the worst of it –
Dark dreary, and the rain had finally broken.
Pouring down in sheets..
My thoughts were all caught up in this devil and angel crap.
Strange ideas and images rolling through my head.
In my mind’s eye..
Very strange ideas. Horrific even.
At one point I remember being absolutely terrified.

I sometimes think about how someone in the dark ages,
before the age of enlightenment, might react to this.
To their own thoughts.
They probably wouldn’t even recognize that they were freaking THEMSELVES out.
They’d blame it on some external demonic influence and probably burn the whole house down to be safe.
Or maybe not. Maybe they’d be chill.
How the hell would I know.

Anyways.
It was around 9 when Jane finally showed up.
Light rain on her shoulders.
She says the baby was born healthy.
Safe and sound.
She brings out a cake and a knife and explained that our employer would not be joining us.
The procedure was later than expected and went longer too.
With some complications.
Looks like his wife died.
Poor bastard.
Well none of us were going to hold it against him for not showing up.

We sat. Ate cake. Talked amongst ourselves.
Doing our best to celebrate the occasion while still giving it proper respect.
After a while, Jane comes over to me and tells me the boss wants to see me tonight.
Asked me to meet him at this diner.
She doesn’t say what he wants, just that he wants to meet.
How can I possibly refuse the guy?

So I show up at the diner about an hour later.
I see him sitting alone in a booth a little ways into the restaurant.
Middle aged guy, dark hair, sharp, kind eyes.
The kind of eyes that know the weight or responsibility, and have known it for some time.
Also the kind of eyes that say he may or may not have killed a guy once.
Or more.
Who knows.
But you can also tell that IF he did, he’s not the kind of guy that enjoyed it.
‘Ladies and Gentleman – the Devil’, I think to myself.

He sees me walking toward him and stands up.
He gives me a nod and a brief smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes today.
He looks tired.
Obviously.

“Congratulations and… I – umm – I’m sorry for your loss,” I say, stumbling my words as I shake his hand.
“Thank you,” – he says. “It’s been… one hell of a day. So much… first one way then then other. It’s been… ” he says, trailing off.
“I can’t even imagine. I’m sorry.” I say.
I guess he was one of those guys you hear about that was actually happily married.
He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes.
“It is what it is,” he says wearily, yet firmly, as he opens them again.
A man who has -clearly- seen some shit in life.
A man who clearly knows how to roll with the punches.
A man in control.

“I’m sorry to ask you out so late, and in this weather” he says.
“Not at all. Anything I can do to help.”
“That’s not why I asked you to meet me.” he says.
A slight pause as he looks at me with those tired, yet surprisingly sharp and lucid eyes.
“I asked you to meet me here because I want to know.
Why do you still work for me?”

I look back at him, unable to hide the surprise in my face.
Wasn’t expecting this.
At least not tonight of all nights.
“Pays well. Honest work.” I say.

He peers at me over folded hands.
“Jane tells me you’ve never asked any questions.” He says.
“Never thought I’d get any answers.”
“Everyone asks questions.”

I pause again.
Was this an invitation to start asking questions?
Cuz I mean that cat thing –
-and the tea pot?
And don’t get me started on that rain dance I had to do.
Didn’t even fucking rain after…

“I – ” – I pause.
It didn’t really even matter.
I was paid well.
It was interesting – kept me guessing.
Money and adventure – what else can you ask for right?

“Does anyone ever get hurt?” I find myself asking.
The combination of the rumors, the day’s mood, and just the fact that this guy had people running around the city doing weird shit for him.

“Someone always gets hurt.” he says.
“No matter what. Someone always gets hurt.”
“We only change who, how many, and how.”

“Suffering is part of life.” I nod, remembering the Buddhist proverb.
I pause again, not sure how to proceed.
He clearly dodged the question, but he was still looking me straight in the eye.
Clearly welcoming more questions.

“…What exactly is it that you… that WE are doing?”
He seems to smile appreciatively at “We”.
“I can’t answer that.” he says.
I’m tempted to ask if he’s crazy next, but looking into his eyes, it’s clear he isn’t.
Not at all.
Maybe one of the sanest people I’ve ever met.
Is that what crazy is?

“Are you just bored?” I ask instead.
“Nope”
I pause.
“So you imply there is a purpose, and won’t tell me what it is.
…And you expect me to keep working for you?”

“That’s what I want to know.” he says.
“Why ARE you still working for me?”

I pause again.
This time because I’m literally dumbfounded.
Why AM I still working for this guy?

“Do the things you have us do… Are they ever to hurt someone intentionally?” I ask, going back to my original train of thought.
“Very rarely. Almost never.” He says.
When was the last time he blinked?
“But you HAVE sent someone to hurt someone?” I ask.
“Yes.
But trust me. She had it coming.” he said in the gravest of tones.
I did.
“What did she do?” – That doesn’t mean I’m stupid.
“She… she murdered her child… and was attempting to use the remains for… well you wouldn’t believe me anyways” he says grimly.
“Try me” – I’m just way too curious now.
He pauses, like he’s trying to find a way to explain.

Finally he says, “I work in probabilities.”
“Huh?”
“Given a certain set of initial conditions, certain outcomes are possible, with varying degrees of likelihood,” he explains slowly.
“Like Game Theory?”
“Like Game Theory.” he nods.
“There are ways to change the probability of the various outcomes though.
In the same way that counting cards in poker can give you an increased probability of winning your next hand.”
“And that’s what she was doing? By… doing what she did?” I found I didn’t want to say it out loud.
“Yes.”
“And I take it the probabilities were not going to shift in a good way if she did what she was going to do?” I ask.
Why was I going along with any of this?
“No they were not.”
“And you do this too?” I ask.
“It’s one part of my work, yes.”

I pause and watch him closely.
“What sort of probabilities are you trying to bring about?” I ask, dead serious about it.
He smiles faintly, as if in appreciation of the question.
“I just want as many people as possible to be happy.” He says with a sigh.
Another pause.
“You’re surprisingly easy to talk to,” he says with a laugh.
I give a faint smile.

“So that’s what I help you do?” I ask. “Change probabilities?”
“Yes.”
“Why should I trust that you know what you are doing?”
“That’s a question you have to ask yourself.” he says, watching me.

I sit there for a moment lost in thought.
“Didn’t you say you can’t tell me what it is you do?” I ask.
“I did.”
“But you just told me.”
“No I didn’t.”
I look at him confused, but his expression says he won’t say more.

I continue to stare at him, at a loss for words.
Here I am, staring at what must be simultaneously the best and worst day in this man’s life.
A good man.
I can tell.
But this is weird.
Why should I believe any of this?
Why DO I believe any of this?

“You have heard the rumors about me I assume?” He says suddenly.
I choke on my coffee, in surprise.
He nods at the overt confirmation.
“What do you think of them?” He asks.
This is getting too weird.
It’s like he’s legitimizing them in some way.
“You’re saying that you are… the -”
“That’s not what I said.” he says calmly.
“I only asked what you think of them.”
“Well they’re OBVIOUSLY nonsense.” – not sure I believe it anymore when I say it for some reason.
He nods.
“Do you believe in good and evil?” He asks.
“I believe in relative good and evil.
One man’s fortune is another’s misfortune.
What’s wrong for one person may be right for another.”
“A very Hindu answer” he says nodding.
“Or Einstein-ian” I say.
“He was an avid reader of the Gita, you know right?” he asks.
I did not and I shake my head to indicate it.
“I’m not saying that was his inspiration. Just that he was a fan. I mean, he was still Jewish in the end.”

There’s a pause as I wait for him to continue.
He doesn’t.
“Well?”
“Well what?” He asks.
“Aren’t you going to continue that thought?” I ask.
“There’s nothing more. I was merely curious.”

Another long pause.
I’m no longer sure what he wants anymore.

Finally he continues when he sees I will not.
“I for one, agree with you.
‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ are two sides of the same coin.
Some actions may be labeled good, and others bad.
What I think ultimately matters though is how things turn out in the end.
The Big Picture.
Like I said, I want people to be happy.
And that is what I work towards.”
Not exactly what I meant by relative good and evil, but I nod anyways.

I continue to stare at him, at a loss for words.
“So the only question is…” looking at me expectantly.
“… do you trust me?”

And I do.
I believe this is a good man.
I believe he is more knowledgeable than I about the world.
I believe he can discern the dark and the light where I can only see grey.

And then I remember suddenly seeing it, in my mind’s eye.
A giant mass of swirling mess, somehow representing possibilities and actions.
And there he is, like a giant, looking over it all.
And I can tell that he can read it, and parse it.
But to me, it literally all just looks grey.
I do.
I trust this man to make the hard decisions no one else wants to.
That no one else can even understand.

I nod.

He smiles.
“So I can continue to count on you?” he asks.
I nod again.
“Thank you” he says with a sigh of relief.
And he looks like he means it.
Like I lifted a heavy weight from his shoulders.

Some time passes and we continue to watch each other.
Finally he sighs and gets up.
“Well, I must be going now” he says.
“I want to go watch my new boy sleep” he says with a smile.
“And mourn my… my wife” he says, choking slightly.
I nod again, not knowing what to say.

And he walks out.

—–

“You’re right. That WAS a weird dream” she says lightly sitting up next to me in bed.
“Yeah…” I say softly.
“But at least now you might understand…” I say.
“I DO trust him.”
“What now? Who?” she says, confused and with sleep still in her eyes.
“I trust him..” I repeat.
“Babe, what are you talking about? You’re weirding me out…” – she says looking over at me.
“He gave me another job…” I say quietly and squeeze my eyes tight briefly.
And then I lean over and close my hands around her throat.
And begin to squeeze.

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