ASHES: Being There By Mike Cecconi

Word: Ashes
Word Count 500

Being There
By Mike Cecconi

He sinned against every religion he knew, on a regular basis, just in case the end of the world
was really coming. None of the big ethical ones, none of the ones that hurt other people. Just the
ticky-tack sins, the sins of outmoded cultural baggage, the minor missteps that meant something
one obsolete context but lived on in faith anyway. Nevertheless, he made sure he kept the small
sins in all popular cosmologies fresh, in case the end turned out to be anything like The Rapture.
He insured against Islamic or Judaism being Truth by eating crispy bacon every once in a while,
indemnified himself against Hindus with the occasional well-cooked-through steak. He wanted
minor sin, of course, he didn’t want to risk food poisoning. He was never much of a drinker but
made sure to do the occasional vodka shot in orange juice, just in case it was the Mormons, ate
hamburgers on Lenten Fridays on the long odds the Catholics had nailed it down, even though
having been raised Catholic himself, he was certain the Catholics were out of their minds.
He cursed the gods in every tradition he could get his mind around, could swear a blue streak in
nearly any formulation. He could well have been crowned world expert in profanity if there was
money in it, though he knew when to water down and only use tame versions of the damn things.
He’d perfected the art of being ritualistically-impure, just ritualistically-impure enough to not get
in any heaven on the first shot. He didn’t want to assume anything in his quest to avoid an initial
Assumption. He was ritualistically-impure in every faith he could think of, he was in fact ritually
ritualistically-impure. His life was a vast array, a Technicolor dreamcoat, of itsy-bits infractions
and had rules-lawyered himself out of The Chosen Ones, any cosmic system you could name.
If all the “good” people were going to be taken up by sky monsters, he wanted to be down here
in the world’s ashes instead, so he could instead be on Earth to help, to aid those abandoned by
the magic or the holy, make The Tribulation better for us suckers who won’t make the cut as pre-
determined by some high-priest, hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin. You don’t just leave people
behind, he thought, even if the spirits of the air abandon all but The Elect, we’re all just people
and the shunned deserve assistance, so he kept sinning just enough to get stuck in the real.
Maybe he’d end up in hell eventually, but he’d just try to make hell less painful too. Maybe he’d
end up in heaven and give God a stern talking to. Or maybe this is all there is, maybe the idea of
sin is an absurdity, and all we can ever do is try to ameliorate each other’s suffering. He’s ready
for that too, though if that’s the case, he might start hitting the vodka a little bit harder.

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