A short story by - Heather Spoonheim
As the oxygen in her blood began running low, Joan Sabbath’s mind began to cloud over. She was surrounded by the familiar, loving faces of people with whom she had so long been unable to communicate. They were her children, grandchildren, and two great grandchildren, but she could no longer be certain who was who. As if to remind her one last time, a stream of images from her life began rushing past. The blur of the images obscured the faces though, and then everything began to fade. Darkness was closing in, but a bright light remained at the center. From the depths of her mind, one abstract memory surfaced and she realized that this was exactly how death had been described to her many times.
The light above her became more focused, revealing the silhouettes of several heads grouped around and staring down at her. Joan searched the depths of her mind for memories of the people she expected to see, but as the faces above her began to come into the light she found them completely unfamiliar. The faces seemed to be laughing and as Joan recognized this she began to hear their laughter.
“Finally!” one of them exclaimed.
“I can’t believe it,” laughed another.
“Sabba, are you with us yet?” one of them inquired.
Still very confused, Joan sat up to the sound of applause. There was a large audience staring at her, and the people around her began helping her to her feet. As they did so, Joan felt something being pulled from her head like a stocking cap. One of the men near her called out to the audience, “Fourteen rounds! Let’s have another round of applause for Sabba!” The audience began to cheer even louder.
“But my name is Joan,” she protested.
The audience burst out into laughter and one of the men laughed, “Oh no, she hasn’t cleared yet. God, can you run the purge again?” An old man with a white beard stepped around from behind Joan and began shining a small light into her pupils. In horror, Joan dropped to her knees and bowed her head to the floor to avoid seeing his face. The man reached down and began to pull her to her feet, saying, “Relax, Sabba, everything is going to be alright.”
Still avoiding eye contact, Joan asked timidly, “Are you God?”
“Yes,” God said, “but it’s not what you think.”
Joan’s head reeled and she begged for an explanation. The old man laughed hysterically and began to explain that Joan’s real name was ‘Sabba’ and she was a contestant on a game show called “God’s Bet!” All of her memories of being ‘Joan Sabbath’ had been interactively induced but were going to be cleared momentarily. Joan was horrified and pulled away from God.
“Please, God, don’t erase me!” she screamed.
The audience gasped; no one had ever woken up with such clear memories before. One man, standing near God was still laughing and, resting his hand on God’s shoulder he quipped, “This is great!” God turned to the man and scolded, “This isn’t funny, Mohammed! Her fear is real.”
“Mohammed?” Joan screamed, “You mean I picked the wrong religion?”
God approached her, speaking slowly, “There is no wrong religion, Sabba. The bet was whether or not you would fall for any of them. You actually made it fourteen rounds before you took the bait.”
“So Jesus isn’t real?” Joan whimpered.
“Yes, Jesus is my son. He works on the show as one of the programmers,” God responded.
“Programmers?” Joan asked, still terribly confused.
“Yes, he writes hypotheticals for the interactive memory inducer, they all do; Jesus, Mohammed, Abraham, Zeus, even that idiot Xenu.”
It was too much for Joan to take and she began to cry, sobbing, “They are ALL real?”
By this time God was close enough to put his hand on Joan’s shoulder and he said, “They are all real here, but none of them are real in your memories. You have been through the simulation fourteen times. There are only a dozen contestants left who made it this far. We really upped the ante this time though, letting all the programs run simultaneously. I guess we went too far.”
The reality of it all began to sink in and Joan’s memories began to fade again. She began feeling a slight inkling of recognition of herself as Sabba. She looked at God and said, “Has anyone beat round fourteen yet?”
God replied, “Just one. His name is Hitch and we’re about to wake him up.”