Guess Who

The knock on the door jolted James from his zen-like focus on the television. He hadn’t really being paying a great deal of attention to the programme he was watching, something about how to turn old curtains into new clothes for the ‘thrifty housewife’, but it had kept his eyes occupied whilst his mind wandered off into its own, white noise filled, corner of consciousness.

Another knock on the door. Should James answer? It was generally considered polite to open the door when someone knocked, however James really wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone right now. This was his day off work and knockers-on-doors shouldn’t disturb him. On the other hand, it had been 64 hours since he last spoke to a human being and James worried that a prolonged lack of conversation may make him lose the ability to speak at all. Like those voles that lose their eyesight because they live underground.

A third knock. Okay, thought James, three knocks probably means this person really wants to speak to me. He stood up, brushed some crumbs off his jeans, and shuffled his way to the door. He tried to see what the person looked like through the frosted glass in the door but he couldn’t make out any features. The swirling pattern in the glass made the person on the other side seem to shift and wave, staring vacantly at the television screen all morning had probably also affected James’ ability to focus properly.

James opened the door, there was a slight breeze and it pushed fresh air into him for the first time in two days. The stranger who had knocked didn’t seem affected by the breeze. Their suit jacket didn’t move and their long dark hair remained unruffled.

“Karl Jakes?” said the stranger.

“No.” replied James, a slight croak in his voice.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m positive. I’ve never heard of anyone called Karl Jakes.”

“I’m not normally wrong about these things.”

“I’m not Karl Jakes.”
James was becoming agitated. Firstly this person clearly had the wrong address, secondly he was still having trouble focusing on them and thirdly their voice has such an air of confidence that James was starting to wonder if he really was Karl Jakes and has simply forgotten.

“This is most unusual.” The stranger looked at a clipboard that James hadn’t noticed previously, “Your neighbours are called Fred and Agnes, yes?”

“I don’t really know them but I think so. Look, if you’re selling something then I’m not interested.”

“Oh don’t worry I’m not selling anything.” The stranger focused their gaze directly on James, an action James himself was unable to reciprocate, “But you should be Karl Jakes and the fact you aren’t is troubling.”

“Well it looks like someone has given you the wrong address.” James placed his hand on the door and started to slowly close it, “Good luck trying to find him.”

The stranger placed his hand on the door. Gently, but it made James stop closing it.

“I don’t know who you are.” The stranger said each word carefully.

“There’s no reason why you should know me. I don’t think we’ve ever met.”

“We should have met.”

“But we haven’t. That’s life, I guess.”

The stranger ran a hand through their auburn hair, “What is your name?”

“If you don’t know, I’m not telling you.”

“I should know.”

“What makes you think you should know my name?” James knew he should close the door and leave this person to go off and hassle someone else.

“I know everybody’s name.”

“Nobody knows everybody’s name.”

“I do.” The stranger removed their hand from the door and brushed down their jacket, “I’m God.”

And James knew the stranger was God. When this person spoke James’ brain was hard-wired to accept what they had said. They said they were God and they were. James was unsure what you should say to God when they’ve introduced themselves.

“Nice to meet you.” James mustered.

“And you. Now why don’t I know you?”

“I’ve no idea. My name is -”

“Don’t tell me.” God waved a hand in front of James, “I need to know why you are mystery to me.”

“Maybe if you tell me why you were looking for Karl Jakes that would be a good start?”

God shook their head, causing long red hair to move for the first time.

“That is a matter between me and Mr Jakes, and is not for others to know.”

“Fair enough. Would you like to come inside? It is a bit untidy but you’re more than welcome.”

“I prefer to stay outside, but thank you for the offer. Tell me, are you always at home?”

“I do have go out to work, I’m just having a day off today.”

“And you spend your days off at home.”

“Generally, yes.”

“Friends? Family”

“No real family, at least none that live local. I do have friends if you’re implying I don’t.”

God gave a friendly smile.

“I don’t imply. I find it important to say exactly what you mean. It helps to cut down ambiguity.”

James looked down at God’s shoes, they were very nice.

“I guess I was being a bit over-sensitive, sorry. I don’t get to see my friends very often. They are all busy raising families and stuff.”

“You are not raising a family.”

“No, I’m single.”

“You have no close family, you are remote from your friends, and are single.”

“You might not know my name but you’ve managed to sum up my life pretty succinctly there.”

“I’m good at that.” God paused, “I’m good at everything. Now tell me, without family and friends around, how do you occupy your time?”

James was still having trouble focussing. He tried to look God in the eye but his gaze was constantly drawn away from the face, usually towards the mane of fair hair that seemed to be almost like a halo surrounding God.

“I don’t want to lie to you.”

“I would know if you are lying.”

“I work in an office. The days are long and not very interesting. Often it leaves me feeling brain dead so I come home and just vegetate.”

“Your work is uninspiring and you compensate by not thinking about it.”

“I guess that’s a fair assessment.” James was starting to feel like he was 12 years old, being told off by a teacher.

“It appears we have reached the crux.”

“Really?”

“I know everybody, but I don’t know you.”

“I already know that.”

“Do you know why I know everybody?”

“Because you’re God.”

“It isn’t just that.” God’s hands clasped James’ head and for the first time he could focus on the face of God, “I know everyone because everyone has a reason to be known by me. They have made a ripple in my consciousness, whether it is for good or for ill. You however have withdrawn yourself. You have hidden away from life and that has hidden you from my view.”

“It wasn’t deliberate.”

“No-one can deliberately hide from me.”

God let James’ head go free. For a moment James felt his knees go weak, being in the glare of God had drained him physically.

“The question now is, what is to be done with you?”

“What do you mean?” James voice was weak.

“You have great potential, as do all people, and it is within your power to affect the world, to make your short time in consciousness have merit. That is the aspiration that all people hold, it is my gift to everyone. To waste that potential is to waste a life.”

James processed God’s words. Over recent years he had become unaccustomed to thinking deeply and it took time for his mind to work things through.

“What if,” James began, “what if I didn’t.”

“If you didn’t what?”

“If I didn’t change my ways. What if I didn’t try to improve the lot of my fellow man.”

“Then, in time, you would fade again from my consciousness.”

“And you wouldn’t do anything about it?”

“You have free will, I am unable to interfere.”

“I’ll do that then.”

“Do what?”

“I’ll do nothing. I’m happy as I am and I don’t feel any burning desire to change the world.”

“You clearly don’t understand the importance of what I have said.”

“Oh I think I do, I can either make a big effort to become a different person, push myself to try and do something worthwhile, or I can just carry on as I have been doing.

“It is a waste.”

“But it’s my choice. It was nice to meet you God, but I’m just not the achieving kind. Now if you don’t mind I’d like to get back to watching the television.”

God looked at James. James looked at God, smiled politely and then closed the door. Through the frosted glass he could see God standing still. James blinked and God was gone. He tried to remember what God looked like but the memory was fading. Shoes and hair, he thought to himself, that’s all I can remember.

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