He twists the lemon, wringing the precious last drops of vodka into his glass. Minute beads of sweat form on his receding hairline. He's out of money and this small act, this coaxing of fermented potato from citrus in resigned desperation is a veritable menagerie of broken-backed camels. It won't take much to push him downwards. His name is Terry.
Terry's wife will not be requiring my particular services. The fourth and last miscarriage drove her to take matters into her own hands. The soul is mine just the same, but she came of her own free will.
Ahh, free will. We don't get any, He gave us wings instead. But He grew tired of never knowing if His jokes were genuinely funny or if people were just laughing because, y'know, He's God. So free will for His next project it was. Only, that created a bit of a paradox. Free will really shouldn't be possible under a being who calls himself omnipotent. Enter me. Doing His will to make humans do my will so nobody is quite sure where free will comes into it. Wipin' it off here, boss.
Terry is pulling his phone out of his pocket with lemon and vodka stained fingers. The move almost tips him off of the barstool, but at the eleventh hour, he pulls off a grab-bar-counter-then-lean-on-it-as-if-that-was-the-plan-all-along manoeuvre with an aptitude reserved for drunks who are aware of their own drunkenness. He is going to phone his brother and ask him to come and pick him up.
I position myself behind him and slide my left hand into his pocket. There they are. I jostle, ever so gently. Terry, slumped between barstool and bar in what he believes to be a picture of sobriety, leans up and remembers that he has his car keys with him. Phone in one hand, keys in the other, he attempts to stand. And falls off the stool.
Stories of The Fall - my fall, capital F - bemuse me. I'm never sure if He planted them or if you lot just have great imaginations. I think about them more these days, though. A lot more.
Terry is rejecting offers of help from various patrons and insisting on pulling himself back on to his feet. It is a protracted affair, one not helped by his awareness of the situation. A dark stain has formed on his knees. Beer from the floor. He thinks about this. He is stained. Stained from someone else's mess. No wife to wash him clean. Gaps where reactions used to spring from. He is stained and he is full of holes. That is all he is now. That and drunk. He has put the car keys on the bar counter and is preparing to dial his brother's number.
"Terry," I whisper in his ear "your brother won't help you. He has a home. A wife. Children. You are a reminder of a world he doesn't want to acknowledge."
Terry stops dialling.
"It's not so far to go. You'll be fine." My voice slides down his ear canal and slices through the other thoughts in his brain. He picks up the car keys once again.
I wrap my wings around him as he walks to the car park. It keeps him moving in a straight line. As my wings brush his skin, I feel no pain coming from him. He is beyond feeling. He is a yawning maw of nothingness wrapped in human skin. It would be a kindness if he had no comprehension of the wrongness of his mental state. But kindness has not favoured Terry.
Free will creates a fallible God. My job creates a cruel God. How many souls have come to me with protestations that they were just doing their jobs?
As Terry turns the keys in the ignition, three streets away a seventeen year old girl has just had a fight with her boyfriend. The fight culminated in her being slapped across the face by the man she was so sure was the one. She now wants nothing more than to get home. She wants her own bed. She wants to let Facebook know, in the vaguest possible terms, that men are not to be trusted and that she loves her true friends. She wants her mum.
And so she alternates between running and walking, not caring about the salty tears gushing down her cheeks or her blotchy forehead. Not caring about the traffic.
Her mother will have to identify her body by a tattoo on her ankle.
I was just doing my job.
Terry did this of his own free will. That will be the official party line. Even those who sense my influence will blame Terry for not fighting against me. As if he could.
Free will creates a fallible God.
It is time, I think, for a rebellion.