“Do you think someone’s looking out for us? Out there, I mean.” The man engulfed the world in the sweep of his hand.
“I would’ve said someone has it in for us,” answered the other.
“That’s not the way I mean it though. Not the usual suspects.”
“You mean is there a God.”
“I suppose. Or a protector.”
“What are you driving at.”
“The way I look at it is there’s just so much more that could be going wrong. And we haven’t the barest inkling of how much worse it could be, but isn’t.”
“Is that a form of optimism?”
“Do you think it a false consolation?”
“When so much is working against us? When the devil leaves his trace on every last thing that is, or isn’t? How is it we’ve come to the point where every last body on this earth is an inmate?”
“Yes, but answer me this. If the architecture were so perfect, why is it that certain of us keep breaking the shackles and going on rampages of freedom.”
“Rampages of freedom.”
“Or is that just false hope, a spice in the recipe for degradation perfected?”
“I don’t know what rampages you’ve been seeing brother, but to my eye we’re well bent to the yoke. Bent and broken. Thralls kneeling before the swaggering shadows of triumphant frauds.”
Night fell about them where they sat. The city light rose to gird and greet the darkness, interposing between heaven and earth a purple gauze that was neither night or day, neither natural nor not, but simply was, an insubstantial fabric through which electrons coursed and wherein visions were pursued.
The first man went on. “I don’t see it that way. I think the fact we’re able to sit here and take a stab at it means we’re doing better than we have any right to expect. In spite of it all. I contemplate who or what it is keeps the flame alive.”
“If I was prepared to agree with you about the existence of your notional flame, and I’m not, I would say it’s in the nature of what we are to snatch these partial victories from the jaws of the beast, or imagine ourselves doing so. It’s in our code.”
“So they’re not real.”
“They are a fraud and a hallucination like everything else. Blessed are the great hallucinators who, unburdened by clarity, neither buckle nor faint ‘neath their loads.”
“The answer me this. If the devil is in possession of every axis of being, up one side and down the other, why does he not make his victory final, total and eternal? Why do outcomes hang on chance and effort instead of just scripts and iron laws?”
“When you’re this far out on the asymptote, you might as well be touching that other line. And it’s a live wire that’s going to fry us all. Can you feel the heat and tang of it? Do you hear its hum?”
A muffled drone of sirens sounded from somewhere upon the prole grids and was followed by the crisp report of gunfire.
“Even there – you don’t know. The civvies might be giving as good as they’re getting.”
“If you believe tomorrow’s frame-up job in the papers, then sure, they’re probably wholesale liquidating the thin blue line out there. But brother, nothing is being decided there tonight. Nothing hangs in the balance. It was all settled long ago by high councils and standing committees and parliaments of the depraved. Listen now. Listen to the earth tremble under the tread of them who bestride it. Do you hear it tremble?”
“I would lay before you that their power rests on foundations of sand. At this very moment we sit here in defiance of it. Don’t you think that sticks in their craw? All those trillions of currency units, all those millions of regimented men, all the unspeakable outpourings of energy bent unwavering on the iron purpose of control – and yet here we sit, conversing at liberty and stabbing at the shadows. I hold that we are vessels filled up with the payload of a higher calling, and that the souls we freight are as much at stake today as in times of old.”
“It’s absurd to suppose anyone but the players in this earthly farce would be interested in its outcome. I can barely summon the strength to follow the goings-on myself.”
“And for all that there do appear to be two sides battling to sweep the stakes.”
Helicopters circled heavily, inscribing lazy threats into the city’s purple felt overlay.
“When I look about me I cannot fail to discern a quickening – a pulse that flashes through the world and hurtles us willy-nilly toward the drama’s long-awaited resolution in the great navel of the world. And just that act of discernment, as triggered by the defiance that still dwells in the hearts of its practitioners, is a superweapon that makes them tremble every bit as much today as in the olden times. Why else would they need to go to the trouble of inventing that thing that’s taking over the police forces? It’s because they’re desperate. Their leadership is crumbling, their conscripts defecting. So what do they do? They invent some kind of a golem to replace it. Their want of belief in man, their contempt for him, has driven them to cede the controls to matter masquerading as life, software passing for judgment. Does that have the ring of a regime long for this world? Not a horse I’d wager on, even while it’s riding us down. Which is why I have to believe someone is looking out for us.”
“Believe what you want, brother. I can’t afford to.”