Lucy wasn’t certain why things kept working out the way they did. He supposed it came down to the fact that happy clowns were lucky clowns.
For years it had been the same old drudgery. Another day, another nightmare. Bouncing around the known universe, peeping into little boys’ heads at odd hours had lost its edge long before. It lost its appeal shortly thereafter.
But he didn’t know anything else. He knew he was dead. He didn’t remember how it had happened. Quite frankly, he was resentful about it. And he knew what it felt like to die. He remembered the wet, thick, savory pop that would have been satisfactory had it been a zit and not his soul.
Other than that, Lucy did what seemed right, somehow natural. He knew how to soar high into the ethers. He’d spread his astral arms like Christ in the sunbeams. Then he’d dive, not swiftly, but deliciously slowly. A warm, palpable energy cushioned the Earth which felt like a vat of sweet meats without the stickiness. There was just that give to it followed by the feeling of being embraced, smothered. Then just when he could have gotten lost in the sensation, he’d plunge wetly into the brain matter of a random preschooler.
This was all behind him, of course. Still, sometimes he’d look back at what he considered his career with wonder. How had he gotten his inspiration for the nightmares he created? He supposed the ideas were residue of his ill-remembered life experiences. Once he had whispered into the psyche of a four year old, “This is the voice of God. You are one of the unredeemable and shall be punished with an eternal case of gas.” The beauty of this being that it was mostly true. Of course, the child would have gas, who doesn’t? But for the rest of his life, no matter how well he convinced the majority of his mind that it wasn’t true, some small part of him thought that God was a clown, and he farted because he was damned.
There were bits that filtered through from life. Lucy fondly recalled a sexual preference attached to rabbits and select crustaceans. No way existed to engage in conjugal relations with a crustacean. Still, they did something for him. Slick wet meat with a heady smell that he couldn’t fuck. So he ate it instead.
Now rabbits were a different matter entirely.
Lucy’s present life wasn’t so lonely either. Not since he’d learned the trick of navigating a child. The first few times he had felt fragmented, and the vessel unwieldy. The best he could accomplish was to roll the kid out of bed or make him wet his pants. Most nightmares had roughly the same response, so what was new? But once he’d found confidence in where he was going and his ability to withdraw when it felt right, there was no end to what he could do.
It had started with a boy named Tobey. Lucy had been curious about traveling beyond the cognitive branch of the brain. Slowly he oozed to the back of the head and felt a click when he tapped a neuron. At least, Lucy thought it was a neuron. In any case, there was definite cause and effect. So he’d slid back to the starting point and begun his descent again. This time though, he stretched every particle he believed he had to its fullest potential until he reached the back and the front of the kid’s head. He heard the click again, but this time it was followed by clarity. Gone was the accustomed pinkish film. In its place was a ceiling covered in blue shadows, as Lucy blinked with wonder through the child’s eyes. Looking through living eyes again caused a lump to rise in Lucy’s astral throat, a tear to trickle down Tobey’s pudgy cheek.
The thought occurred to him that this could be just the start. Surely, there was enough of him to fill a head. With his fingers pressing the buttons and a little discipline, how long would it be until he accomplished total possession?
Apparently, quite a while. But the substance that Lucy was now composed of had an elasticity that could be controlled and compromised. He could snap back to original form in an instant. He could also drip down the spinal column and flip the switches deftly.
Many months and several traumatic episodes went by before he reached maximum possession of a human child. Fortunately, the world seemed to have an endless supply of them. When he’d experimented with one, he never returned for more. Too suspicious. Careful clowns are long-lasting clowns. Make a parent anxious with repetitive irrational behavior and you end up in a medicated head. Heaven only knows what effect that could have on a spirit. A child on cough medicine tasted funny enough.
Not that Lucy would have traded those early experiences for anything. Traumatic, yes. Educational, certainly. He remembered fondly the boy in Hong Kong, the first time he’d gotten “caught in the act.” Little Bruce had found, under his careful guidance, his parents’ wedding album. They woke up, presumably from the noise, and found Little Bruce with a jar of mayonnaise, his pants down, making the pages sticky in a vicious frenzy. It’s not pretty to whack off to images of one’s mother. Little Bruce screamed, and Lucy let go. The child’s cheeks flushed hot with Lucy’s embarrassment. He’d counted on the kid getting caught in the morning. Never had it occurred to him that the lights would go on while he was servicing his needs. It was goddamned awkward. He took it personally for half a minute as he stared eye to eye with Bruce’s father. Then he simply detached from the emotion, looked into Momma’s face, and took up where he’d left off.
Lesson learned. Never confuse oneself with one’s vehicle.
Through a series of complicated adventures, he’d learned many other valuable lessons: 1) Never go near the nerve ending unless you want to fry. 2) Ty-D-Bowl is flammable. And 3) never fuck a cat because it isn’t the birthday party you think it’s going to be.
The Proverbs of Lucy.
And why not?
One night as Little Singh floated in a tub of store brand lime flavored gelatin and bikini wax; Lucy thought to himself, “I am God.” And then he thought, “Maybe I could be.”
What better way to reincorporate himself into the world of the living than by speaking to the masses of young ones at night? So far he’d only whispered random cruelties and manipulated tiny fingers. If he applied himself to a singular theme, he could dethrone Jesus by the next generation. Why did he waste his genius on pranks, artful as they might be?
Could a vapor dream grand schemes?
Somehow the message had to sound good. A wannabe god didn’t need to find himself shuffled off to the realm of the tooth fairy. Children already had a cadre of mythological creatures. One more wouldn’t do him any good. The thing to capitalize on was their generous capacity for belief, while also including enough realism to make the pill easier to swallow. He considered name-dropping. “Well, Mohammed said licorice was a suppository.” “Jesus and I go way back.” But really, that sort of missed the whole point, didn’t it? He didn’t want to sound like anyone’s lackey. Lucy needed to be loved for the miracle that was Lucy.
Perhaps, he thought, the mischief should cease. He should focus his efforts. But where to start? Tell them to love each other? They’d heard that. Tell them to hate? They already did. The spotty people hated the crooked people hated the smudged. The continuity was beautiful to behold.
All the evils possible in the world already existed: nuclear proliferation, festering sores, distrust, anxiety, murder, and shoplifting. How could the most powerful clown in history make the leap to non-corporeal cult leader on a global scale?
“I’ll tell them to sleep. I’ll make them hate the waking world. Look at the ugliness around you. You serve a lonely god, now. Sleep and commune with me.”
Lucy frantically groped through the grey matter of a tiny girl in Iowa. There had to be an off switch. He could whisper to them. He had moved them, but he’d never met them. If he could block her perceptions of the world around her for long enough, she might turn inward and see him. Lucy was sure of it. He could become real to someone. He could velveteen rabbit his ass into the mass consciousness.
Something slid into place and the girl sighed. Her heart slowed; her eyes rolled back. “Hello.” There before him stood Molly, a small shimmering substance in the shape of a child. She turned her glittery head toward the sound of his voice.
“I thought it was time you met me, Molly. My name is Lucy and I am your God.” He slowly approached the figure before him, careful not to alarm her.
“You have a burden to carry, Molly. You must tell others what you see tonight. You must tell them about me.”
Molly cocked her head to one side, not appearing frightened, only curious. In fact, Lucy found himself soothed by her presence. Eons had passed since he’d communicated directly to another being. He wondered about his appearance for the first time in forever. Was he too gruesome? The shimmery substance that was Molly reached out to him. Lucy found himself shockingly self-conscious. He desired this tiny girl, not with the same urge that drove his craving for rabbits or lobsters, but in some way pure and entirely new. He ached for her approval as she stood there studying him, reaching for him.
He wanted to be worthy. Why, oh why, wasn’t he glittery gold flecks? Why wasn’t he bathed in perfect light and accompanied by cello music? Lucy wanted to cry.
Molly floated towards him with arms open wide. She engulfed him with a whispering sound, and the sensation of tiny fingers tickled his every particle. This was forgiving ecstasy. This was the kiss of the holy.
Lucy sighed and closed his eyes. That was his first mistake. His second was ignoring the distant chewing sound as some remote bodily process.
He didn’t get a third.
In the end, Molly merely belched, and her heart sped back up to a normal resting pace.
As Lucy watched himself dissipate in the gases of the child’s burp, he thought about infinity. “I do believe in eternal life! I do believe in myself reincarnate! I do believe I am a god!” He squeaked and popped into oblivion.
Elizabeth Neal is a Portland actress and bookseller. She is proud of her Union, ILWU Local 5.