She was in a white room. A ridiculously pristine white room. Every object, piece of furniture, every kind of cloth, was white. She wanted nothing more than to mess it up. There were no windows in the room. But she didn’t feel the need for air, the room was cozy. Not too cold not too warm. Just as she would have liked. Her thoughts were sharp, focused. She wasn’t hungry, she felt as if she will never get hungry. She was also dead. She knew. She had come to terms with it.
Someone knocked. A man with a kindly face stood at the door. He called himself god.
“Are you ready?” He asked.
“I suppose.” She said.
“Walk with me.”
She did. Suddenly they were somewhere else. It was raining heavily. She had an umbrella in her hand. She recognized the place. A girl stood in the rain. She was clutching something to her heart with all her strength. Her sister.
She shuffled a little to get a better look.
“Careful, don’t let her see you.” God cautioned.
“Why are we here?” She asked, tightening her fist on the umbrella.
“How is this going to bring me closure, all I want to do is go back to her.” She said, angry.
“I know.” He said.
She could see the pain in his eyes. “Let’s go back. Please.” She pleaded.
The scene shifted. She was back in the brilliant white room she had started.
“Whenever you are ready.” He said.
“This room gives me the creeps, could we go somewhere else?”
They were standing on the edge of a valley. Sun was about to set. Golden yellow light with a tinge of red had filled the sky.
“Why didn’t you save me?” She asked, accusation in her tone.
“I chose to save someone else.” Answer came. His tone was filled with regret.
“So you are saying you could have saved me but you didn’t?” She asked, incredulous.
He sighed. “Yes and no.”
“What does that mean?”
“I am not allowed to interfere in the earthly matters. If I do that..
“How does that happen?” She scoffed, interrupting him. “I thought you were God. Who could possibly have the power to stop you from doing anything you wanted to?”
He patiently listened to her questions. He owed her that, god or not. He was responsible for her untimely death.
“The universe.” God answered. He saw the obvious implication in her eyes. “No, I didn’t create the universe. As far as I know It has always been here. It doesn’t matter if you are a drop of the ocean or the ocean itself, compared to the universe we are all still pretty tiny.”
He waited a moment before continuing. “And so it might have been the universe who created me, not the other way around. I can’t be sure. I was just there one day, and Kamerov, along with me. My counterpart. You could say he is the devil, kind of.”
“I thought Lucifer was the devil.” She blurted out.
“There is no Lucifer. Humans are creative and imaginative by nature, whenever they found themselves with gaps to fill they used their imagination. I should have predicted that.” God rued. “Creating you was a long process. I hid you from Kamerov, but he eventually found you. He watched at first, my experiments were entertaining to him, but then he wanted to destroy them, that’s his nature. He destroyed many of my creations until I had had enough, until I created you. So we fought. We fought for a very long time. I defeated him, but I knew he would soon regain his strength and I would have to fight him again. So I struck a deal with him. In exchange for not killing my creations Every time I created a soul, I let him add his touch to the soul. But if he couldn’t interfere then neither could I. We agreed upon it. The universe witnessed it.”
“But you said you chose to save someone else. Wasn’t that interfering?” She asked.
“Yes.” God said. She could see the pain in his eyes, she could feel it. It was unimaginable. “Every once in a while it gets too much for me, and I can’t help myself. But every time I do that, Kamerov gets equal right to interfere. He kills as many souls I save. You would think after thousands of years I would learn. That day, A school bus was about to crash into a valley. I was at my limit, barely resisting the urge to go save them. Kamerov knew. He made it seem like he nudged the bus closer to the edge, I thought he interfered. He hadn’t. I hadn’t felt it. But I was consumed with emotions, with guilt, without thinking I prevented the bus from falling off the edge. I saved thirty two lives. Only to realize, Kamerov had tricked me. He hadn’t been the one to interfere first, it was me. He had earned the right to interfere for equal measures. And each time, he could take at least twice as many lives as I could save.”
“I was one of them?” She asked, her voice almost a whisper.
“If you hadn’t interfered I would have been alive, I would still be with my ma and pa and T?” She clenched her fists, tears streamed down her face.
“How long? How long was I supposed to live?”
“I don’t know. I am sorry. I am so sorry.” His voice was heavy.
“I..hate you.” She said weakly between sobs. God didn’t say anything. Gentle, cold wind brushed her skin. Her skin! She couldn’t feel it in that cursed white room, on earth she could. He had explained while on earth, we have to follow the rules of the earth.
Neither of them said anything for a long time. Golden yellow light was gone, red had taken over.
“Could you show me the children you saved?” She asked, sniffling.
The scene shifted, they were back in the white room. The room now, felt somehow comforting. The wall opposite to her vanished. A bunch of window frames appeared. She could see children playing with their friends, crying for stuff they wanted, sleeping peacefully without a worry while their parents looked over them with all the love in the world in their eyes.
“They would have died if you hadn’t saved them.” She said. God didn’t reply. She watched them for a while. “How many souls, lives did the devil take?”
“Twice as many. At least that’s what he thinks.” God said with a hint of a smile.
The scene shifted. This time God didn’t accompany her to the earth. She was in a park may be. It was dark. She could only see what the dim lamplight allowed.
“Hi there.” A voice said.
She started. She turned around to see a boy her own age, smirking at her.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.” He said. “Actually I did.” He added.
“Very funny.” She said.
“My name’s Ravi, and you are?”
“Orange.” She replied.
“Huh. I like it. Walk with me Orange.” He didn’t wait to see if she followed or not.
Why does everyone keeps asking me to walk with the. Orange hurried after him.
“You see, devil thought he could outsmart god by forcing him to add his touch to the souls or tricking god into interfering first. What he doesn’t know is that God had been interfering all this time, however he could. The universe and the devil can only tell if GOD broke the agreement, not us mortals. So whenever it is the devils turn to interfere, the universe turns a blind eye. Presumably thinking everything is going by the book, may be.”
“Isn’t universe everywhere? How could it not see?” Orange asked.
“Honestly I don’t know, it was a big pile of mumbo jumbo. In short, it was bit of a risk and god took it, he sent a soul to the earth at the exact same time the devil was reveling in taking a life. Like myself. I don’t have the devils touch.” He said chirpily. It was infectious, he had a thick accent, and he took time to pronounce each word properly.
“So what do you do exactly?” Orange asked, curious.
“We help out, we interfere. As much as we can. There are thousands of us. God can talk to us directly, and the devil or universe doesn’t notice it.” He paused before adding, “I know, you were one of the lives taken by the devil. That’s why you are here. But trust me God is trying his best.”
“He isn’t perfect is he?” Orange said.
“No. Far from it. In fact, he may even be worse than us.” Ravi smirked, again.
Orange couldn’t help but smile back.
“It’s time, one piece of advice, when its time no matter what, refuse !” He said. That was the only thing he said with some solemnity. Before she could ask what he meant by that the scene shifted. She was back in the white room. God was watching a small white dot in the distance.
“Why don’t you just kill him?” Orange asked.
“I have, a million times. He or I can’t really ever die. We come back.”
“Has he ever killed you?” Orange asked.
“A few times.” God said.
“A few to a million times, I am betting my money on you. How did he kill you though?”
“I was exhausted from fighting others.”
“Others? What others?”
“I am just a god. There are many like me.”
“I would love to see how an atheist reacts to that?”
“You are one.” God said.
“I am an agnostic, I didn’t care.”
God just smiled.
Orange was thoughtful for a minute. “I am ready.” She said.
“Are you certain?” God asked.
“As certain as I can be.” She said.
The scene shifted.
Orange’s father entered the room. “How are my angels doing this fine day? There is Tess, let’s see what she is doing? Ah, she is painting. And there is Orange, my favorite daughter.” He teased, looking sideways at Tess.
“Mom!” Tess said, hurt. She looked towards mom hoping she would get at least one vote.
“I am sorry honey, you are growing too fast, it’s getting harder to keep loving you.” Orange giggled at that. She was eight at the time. Tess was twelve.
“You guys are pure evil. What did I ever do to you?” Tess said, poker faced.
“You asked us to be your friends, this is us being your friends.” Mom said mocking.
Orange ran to Tess and hugged her. “You are my favorite sister.”
“Awww..” Her father said.
“My cupcake.” Mom said, kissing Orange on the cheeks.
“Great. More points to Orange. I am outta here, I think I am gonna go live at Freddy’s.” Tess said and picked up her backpack.
“Come here you drama queen.” Her dad pulled her close and hugged all of them tight. He was a big guy, he could do that. Orange couldn’t stop giggling. “And just who the hell is Freddy.”
“I wasn’t.” Orange said.
God looked at her.
“His favorite. He was more in sync with T than me. I am not saying he didn’t love me, of course he did. But I think he loved T a fraction more than me.”
“Parents don’t have favorites.” God said. “As you said, he was in perfect sync with Tess. You are misunderstanding his enthusiasm of the things they shared with the love he had for you.”
“Perhaps.” Orange admitted.
They went one by one through all her special memories, and with each passing memory she felt something slip.
“How do you feel?” God asked.
“Better than I did when I arrived but also a bit empty.” Orange said.
“You are staring to disassociate from your body, from your life. The feelings and the memories have begun to fade away.”
Orange felt a stab of panic. “Could I please keep a few? At least one?” She asked.
“It will be like jamming your foot in a closing door. You won’t have the memories but you will remember the love you, used to share. You will feel comforted whenever you smell jasmine. Your favorite still would be vanilla, which I can’t understand why?” God teased. That was the first time she had seen him smiling. For the first time she was actually seeing him, a handsome young man, may be in his early thirties. He was lean, muscular, he had unexpectedly kind eyes and a patchy beard. Like she has gained inexplicable clarity.
“What now?” She asked.
“Now is the difficult part. We are going see how your father and Tess are doing.”
The scene shifted. Orange stood outside the door. Her mom would be working. Tess was on vacation and her father must have an off day.
Tess was crying. “It hurts, dad. It hurts so much. I wanna make it stop.” Tess said, clutching Orange’s bed.
“Hey! We will go through this together. You hear me? It hurts for a reason. Do you want to forget our Orange? No, right. So it’s gonna hurt. I am here for you, mom is here for you and you are here for us. Right? Right?”
“Yes.” Tess managed to say, in between crying. “Yes.”
“It’s gonna be okay sweety, it’s gonna be okay.” Her father said. He was trying his best not to cry, to be strong for Tess.
The scene shifted. Back in the white room.
Orange was taking it all in. She didn’t cry now. With the fading memories the bond between her and her family was loosening. She could still feel the sorrow, though it was manageable. She knew, soon she would forget them completely.
Suddenly she began to fall. She fell. And fell. And fell. She tried to scream but no sound came. What was happening? Where was she? She hit water. The memory came back. Panic! This was how she had died. She frantically clawed her way upwards, she didn’t want to die again. She could hear her mother’s screams, but she was so deep into the water that she couldn’t respond. Oh God! Not again. She desperately swam upwards. Something touched her hand. She grabbed hold of it and pulled herself up, coughing the water out.
God stood at a few paces, why wouldn’t he help her. Something was wrong. He was wearing black clothes. Gone were the kindly eyes and the warmth in his smile. This man was looking down on her. She could sense the blackness he was radiating. She stood up shakily. She was standing in a white circle, the black was trying to get through. It seemed as if it couldn’t.
“Who are you?” Orange asked.
“Ah. Smart one aren’t ya?” The stranger said. Though he looked like god, she knew he wasn’t.
“Didn’t John mention me? I am Kamerov. His brother.” The devil smiled, but it didn’t touch his eyes. “His real name is tediously long, so I call him john.”
“What do you want?” Orange was getting uneasy.
“Only what is owed to me.”
“Did you not wonder why my brother took you to visit your father and not your mother?” He chuckled. “Before I tell you that, here is a gift from me.”
A bit of darkness untangled to reveal Orange’s mother. She was in a bathtub, blade in her hands. She was about to slit her wrists. All her memories came flooding back to her. All the feelings and emotions crashed into her at once. Her mother was all alone. Where are you dad? Where are you Tess?
“Mom!” Orange shouted. “Mom! NO!”
“Would you like to save her, orange? Would you like to go to her and tell her it’s alright?” Devil asked.
“Yes, please make it stop. Mom, stop.” Orange pleaded.
A fiery circle appeared.
“Orange shied away from the circle. You are lying, this can’t be true. My mother is a strong woman, she would never kill herself.” Orange said, shaking.
“Oh, that is true. I used the last of my rights had I to put the thought in her head. I had to practically force her to commit suicide.” Devil said, casually,
“You can’t do that. You can’t make us.., you cant..” Orange said, incoherent.
“Oh but I can. I had saved one life to be taken later. I have decided it to be your mother.” The devil said making a sad face, mocking her.
“No, please, don’t. please, no.”
“It’s already done sweetheart, I can’t do anything about it. But you can. You can save her, accept my offer and pass through the circle of fire and you can save your mother yourself. My brother lied do you. He had been taking away your memories, they didn’t fade away on their own, john was stealing them.” The images of her mom in a bathtub holding the blades got bigger and bigger until it was all she could see. “And do you want to know, what’s going to happen to your father and sister. Your father will lose his place in the team, he will lose all his money gambling and your sister, oh your wonderful sister. Unable to cope with the loss of her sister and her mother she is going to lose her way. Can you blame her? Poor Tess. She will become an addict and that’s what she will be for the rest of her life.”
“Stop it! Please!” Orange pleaded.
“But you can stop it all my child. You can save your mother, your family. All you have to is accept my offer and pass through the circle.”
Orange stood up and walked towards the circle.
“Very good, my child. Go on, save your mother, your father and your sister. You can have it all back. But first I need to know if you accept my offer?” The devil asked.
“Do you accept my offer?” The devil repeated.
Orange remembered Ravi’s advice.
Devil said, impatient “You are moments away from saving your family, what are you waiting for? Go on!”
Gathering every ounce of will she had, she said no.
“What?” devil asked, surprised.
“I said no.” Orange repeated.
“You are going to let your mother die? You are going to let your sister waste her life away?” The devil shrieked.
“You said you put the thought in my mother’s head, and you used the last of your rights doing so. Tess an addict? You would have had a better chance convincing me you have a kind heart. I refuse.”
The devil guffawed. “You noticed. What about your mother? Don’t you want to save her?”
“I do, but I doubt that you will really let me save her. And since you couldn’t kill her yourself I am pretty sure she will come around. I REFUSE!” Her mother seemed frozen in time. She was pretty sure by now not everything was the way it looked.
“You brat! May be I will kill her myself, I will guide her hands to cut her wrists, her throat. I will make her stab herself until there is breath in her body.” Devil shrieked.
“You can’t do that without interfering.” Orange countered weakly.
“True, but what do I care. She would still die.” Devil said with a glint in his eyes.
“No, she wouldn’t. God would save her.” Orange said.
“So you don’t know. Even God can’t save those who I touch. He didn’t tell you that did he? I can kill your mother with just a thought. So, are you still going to let her die or are you going to accept my offer and have it all?” The devil asked calmly.
“Fuck you, I refuse.” Orange said.
The devil screamed. “You little shit! You dare refuse my gift!”
Orange saw her mother cut her right wrist. Blood spurted out and she was frozen again. Orange was tired of playing their games. She was tired of being the experiment, tired of being played with like a toy. She was livid. She had already died, what’s the worst that could happen if she fought the devil.
“Impressive. You have spark. Let’s see if it is enough to get you out of here.” A huge black hand emerged from behind him to crush Orange. Something slapped it away.
God appeared in a flash, in his pristine white clothes and it got a whole lot brighter.
“Why are you here?” Devil growled.
“You have interfered.” God roared. His voice boomed all over. Orange trembled at his voice. If he had sounded like this earlier she would have chosen her words carefully.
“So what!” Devil said. Growing in size, he grew until Orange in comparison was the size of a fly. She felt insignificant and powerless to do anything.
“You may choose to take or save a life for each life saved or taken or you may choose to exercise the right to challenge.”
“I know the rules!” Devil spat. “Are you really going to challenge me after fighting others? You can’t defeat me today. Have you forgotten what happened the last time you had died?”
When was he fighting others? I thought he was with me.
“I didn’t have help then.” Orange was half expecting god would grow too and match the devil in size. He didn’t. Wait, is he talking about me? Orange thought. He was looking at her.
“You want me to fight the devil?” She asked weakly.
“Well, yes. You are my champion.” His voice back to humanlike.
Orange glanced at the frozen image of her mother.
“No harm will come to your mother, I promise you.” God assured.
“How? He said even you can’t save those who he touched.” Orange asked, just now realizing the devil too had stopped moving.
“That’s not entirely true. Let’s just say we kill him, your mother lives.” God said. No time for explanation.
Orange took a deep breath. “Alright, what do I do?”
“Break his smug face. I believe you can pack a solid punch.” God said with a twinkle in his eyes. “Don’t worry I’ll get you an armor.”
“You call that help?” The devil said pointing a finger at Orange.
“I still don’t understand the significance of your creation Kamerov. All you do is destroy, your intelligence is not much to speak of and you have anger issues. Gods with anger is a terrible combination.”
The devil just snarled.
Water began to swirl around Orange, more and more water came in until it matched with the size of the devil. “About time.” The water thinned at certain places and thickened in another. Gradually it sculpted itself in the shape of Orange. It was like a gigantic Orange but made solely of water. The water below Orange’s feet lifted her up until she reached the between the eyes of the Water Orange.
God appeared next to her. “Did I tell you how I created you?” He didn’t wait for her to respond. “Long story short. You are made of the five elements. Earth, air, water, fire and lightening. You have to consume earth, air, fire, and water in order to survive. You can live without lightening, do you know why? Because you are a little ball of lightening yourself. You don’t need it from the outside.”
“Let me guess, in the process of doing that you had to give up a huge part of your own lightening element.”
Meanwhile the devil had covered himself in shiny metallic black thing, it looked like steel. A mammoth sword in his hand.
“You have all the power you need inside you. You have to unleash it. Think about those memories we visited. Someone is threatening those memories.” God paused. “When I took your memories. I didn’t steal them, I borrowed them for the time being, so you could start a new life.”
Orange nodded. She understood, a little.
“The key to unleashing that power is willingness to protect those memories no matter what the cost.” God said.
Orange’s fist glowed and crackled. She had already made up her mind to fight the devil if it meant saving her mother. She focused on her father and Tess. She focused on the love they had for her. The devil threatened to destroy them, so she stood between her family and the devil.
She burst alight with power, like a switch had been flipped letting the power inside her go free. She shone fiercer than the sun. The darkness surrounding them retreated even further.
God smiled. “This armor we are in is like a human body. Wear it. Become its soul. Own it. Command it.”
Orange reached out and seized control of the armor, imbuing it with herself with the lightening that she was. The water welcomed the new force. It emanated a blinding light.
Devil watched in horror. “How is this possible? How could she match your power. You tricked me.” Devil shrieked.
“She is a part of me, Kamerov. I had sacrificed most of me creating them. They are my children, did you really think they would be weak.”
The scene shifted. They were on earth. Mountain ranges surrounded them. They were standing in a river. It barely came up to Orange’s ankles. She balled her fists.
“Go break his face.” God said.
Orange moved to take a step and everything slowed. She could see the devils lips moving in slow motion. The huge armor of water mimicked her actions, it moved with her. She was so fast, in an instant she was next to the Devil. The Devil flinched back. He lifted his sword to attack. Too damn slow. Orange took her time. She gathered the lightening in his fist, remembered her mother in the bathtub about to kill herself, her sister crying her heart out and her father trying so desperately to hold it all together, all because of him. She roared and punched him square in the face. Something cracked. She punched him again and again and again. She was fast and she was strong, it didn’t seem like she would ever tire. She could go forever, it was intoxicating.
“Careful. Don’t let it consume you.” God said.
Orange stopped. The devil fell on his back. His armor had been broken, he was bleeding black. Life withered and died wherever his blood had seeped in. Orange summoned a bolt of lightening and drove it through the Devils chest. The devil burst apart.
“Is he dead?” Orange asked.
“For the time being.” God said. Orange’s armor fell apart. “Let’s go save your mom.”
The scene shifted. They were standing next to Orange’s mother, she was frozen in time.
“He was telling the truth, I can’t save those he touches in mortal form, that’s why each time he interferes I have to challenge him. But if he is dead..”
The blood that had spurted out went back into her mothers arm. The blade slid backwards in time sealing the cut, and froze again.
“Won’t she see us?”
“She won’t.” God said.
“Mom, I forgot my I.D. Are you in the bathroom, can you open the door?” Tess called out.
Orange’s mother seemed shocked to be holding the blades. She dropped them. “Coming.” She said.
Orange went after her.
“Where are your keys?” Her mother asked Tess.
“Forgot them as well.” Tess said, running inside the house to get them. A tear or two rolled down Orange’s eyes, but other than that she was fine. She felt at peace. She wanted to reach out, but she knew they won’t be able to see or hear her. Tess came out with her keys and I.D. before leaving she turned and said, “Are you alright, mum?”
Orange’s mom shook herself out of her revere. “Yes, I am fine.”
“Are you sure.” Tess said, placing the back of her hand on her mothers forehead.
“Yes. Go. You will be late. Go. Shush!” Orange’s mother said.
“Alright, I am going. Call me if you need anything.” With that, Tess left.
The scene shifted. They were back in the white room. She didn’t hate it anymore. She could still see her mother and her sister.
“How do you feel?”
“I don’t really know.”
“That’s okay. Take your time.”
“The Devil needs our permission to add his touch, doesn’t he?”
“Yes, and you refused it. Few can do that. I couldn’t warn you explicitly without breaking the deal.”
“I get it, rules and the big boss universe. Even gods aren’t exempt from the rules.”
“We are most certainly not.”
“What about my memories?”
“We’ll let them go away on their own. And they’ll go when you are ready. Until then I could use your help in managing a few things in haven.” God said.
“Haven? Where is this then?” Orange asked.
“Oh, this. We are in between.”
“I will manage the atheists department.” Orange demanded.
“There is no Atheist department.”
“We’ll see.” After a moment Orange said, “Can I watch them for a while? I won’t be long I promise”
“Alright.” God turned to leave.
“Hey, um.., Orange hesitated.
“You can call me Da, everyone does.”
“I forgive you Da.” Orange said, solemnly.
God seemed to take that in with a deep breath.
“You have my eternal gratitude, child.”
With that god left and Orange waited.