Masum bhai had just had heaven snatched away from him. He was back in Emil’s room, now a more pitiable sight than he was only minutes ago when he was still full of fight and vigor, struggling valiantly against that despicable double-agent of damnation. But now, he was lost. The conspiracy of his flesh made impure by mixing with Zarathustra’s evil thoughts have had him thrown out of Eden. All the fight had gone out of him.
He was sprawled prostrate on the floor, tears running down his cheeks, bemoaning his fall from grace, “Not here, no. Not here again.” He cried, “Send me back, Emil. Please.” And then, a direct plea to providence itself, “Please my lord. I beg you, take me back into your grace. Or show me the way to my penance.”
“Masum bhai, you were not really in heaven, I made…”
“No, I was! I was! And I have been banished, Emil! What did I do? How do I put it right?”
Emil changed tact, “Not banished, Masum bhai. The good lord just wanted to give you a glimpse of what awaits you. You will be there again…very soon according to my calculations. By the end of this week.”
But Masum bhai was not paying attention anymore. He broke down again, “Oh lord I have failed the task you set me! Forgive my failure! I have failed to tame the renegade angel, Zarathustra. I have let you down, my lord!” He fell on the ground again, writhing in pain, banging his head against the floor, tears and snot and saliva streaming down his face.
That is when the door swung open and Inora walked in purposefully, “I used the keys you gave me. I hope it’s ok.” She said, holding up the keys, took a few steps in and stopped, “Is this a bad time?” she asked.
“No, not a bad time. He is just having a bad day. I work with him; meet Masum bhai.”
“I am cursed!” Masum bhai cried out, “Cursed, I tell you, cursed! The lord has forsaken me! His angel has vacated me! Oh why lord, why? I beseech ye, give me one more chance!”
“Why is he talking like that?”
“He thinks that is how you are supposed to talk to god.”
Inora did not bother feigning an interest, “Are you ready to go?”
Emil frantically looked around the room. He was not packed at all. “Yes.”
“Ok, let me just use your washroom. Then we can leave.” She stepped over Masum bhai to get to the washroom. Emil was about to sprint around and get everything packed, but Inora came out straightaway, “I understand that you are leaving. Also understand that you may have some pent-up rage against your landlord. But that is no excuse to leave back such a mess for him to find.”
“That was Masum bhai. He is having a really bad day.”
“What is wrong with him?” Inora asked and crouched down toward Masum bhai for a closer look. Masum bhai, spent of all his energy was lying on the floor softly sobbing to himself, “Can we do something for him?”
“Give him some of this.” A plain voice said.
Emil and Inora both turned around. Rehana was holding out a drumstick[i] through the window.
“Hi Rehana. Are you done cooking already?” Emil asked.
“Only for lunch. I have to cook the other half of this chicken for dinner.”
“But we don’t need your chicken, do we Emil? It was very kind of you to offer though. Thank you very much.”
“Take, take. I made it for him.” Rehana waved the drumstick around, “He likes it this way.”
Emil went over to the window and reached out, “It’s ok.” He told Inora, “She is a very good cook.”
“Emil! That is not the point! You can’t just…thank you so much. Are you sure you have enough left for yourself? And everyone else?”
“And are you sure that it’s ok? And you will not get into any trouble?” Inora asked.
“Well, thank you very much then.” Inora said, “I am Inora. I did not catch your name.”
“Yes. I am Rehana. I have seen you many times.”
Emil bent over and handed the drumstick to Masum bhai who accepted it with both hands and began chewing giddily.
“Well, it was nice meeting you, Rehana. Emil, are we ready to leave?”
“We are.” Emil said.
“There is going to be a riot outside, by the way.” Inora said as Emil fixed the coordinates of the TeleDev, “Rehana, do you have plans to go out today?”
“I am always here.”
“Good. It is not safe outside right now.”
“What do you mean a riot?” Emil asked.
“Someone has stolen all the places of worship.”
“They are not where they used to be.”
Emil nodded his head, “Probably the next phase of the AI.”
“And what is that?” Inora asked.
“They are withdrawing all the service centers and POSMs.”
“What are POSMs?”
“Your promotional items. Billboards, danglers, stickers, merchandizes, you know, things you use to increase the exposure of your product; sell better.”
“And the all the places of worship were…”
“The service centers. Your sale your products from them. If someone has some questions or issues about your product, they go to a service center and sort it out. You know. They are all being withdrawn.”
“Instead of a traditional hurricanes and giant waves destroying them all, huh?”
“That would be a tremendous waste of repurposable assets.”
“Are we ready to leave?”
“This can teleport us both together?” Inora asked.
“It can teleport three people at once. That means I can bring my luggage as well.” Emil said. He was about to take a final look around his room, one last time, but decided it was not worth the effort. “Masum bhai, we will be taking a trip to go meet a friend. You will be alright alone?” he asked.
“No, Emil. I will not be fine. My life is ruined. I have…” Inora bent down and whacked him on the head as hard as she could, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself you half-witted moron!”
Masum bhai burst into a loud wail and Emil took Inora away by the shoulder, “He is beyond us now.”
“No, I want him to know the truth. Hold your TeleDev. He needs to know…get us more chicken if Rehana can spare any.”
An hour later, Emil and Inora were on top of the TeleDev, ready for the jump. “Might I be allowed to add that sir and madam weighs almost nothing together? Have you two been hitting the gym lately?” the TeleDev asked.
“I can see why you hate these things.” Inora added.
Emil nodded his head.
Inora waved to Rehana.
They held hands and closed their eyes. Emil pressed the button. There was a bright flash of light and then Masum bhai was the only one left in the room. That nice lady friend of Emil had told him a lot of things, but his head was not in it, he was not paying too much attention. He did hear a lot of words he was familiar with. Oh God, apocalypse, morality, punishment, idiots…lots of words he was familiar with. By the time he had started paying attention, she was talking about Emil and her itinerary for the next few days which he did not remotely find interesting. What he did find interesting was that Emil told him he would not be coming back again and that this was goodbye. Once left alone, Masum bhai looked around the sparse, well-kept room and thought it would be appropriate. If it was indeed the apocalypse, then he needed a little prayer room to wait it out. Emil was very kind to leave him the room.
He returned the bones to Rehana who put them back in the drawer. And then, he got down to his prayers, which he planned to do until the end.
That was not to be and in matter of hours, he was to be joined by an angel, a real angel, beatific and glorious like creation itself. “Who are you? What is your purpose for being here?” the angel would ask him, and he would recount his tale to her. The angel would dub him the last messiah and together, they would go down to pray. But the mutual attraction would be electrifying and against the back-drop of the end of the world, the supposed-angel and the supposed-messiah would find themselves copulating copiously on Emil’s bed and at the height of their ferocious fornication, utterances of such expletive nature would be undertaken by both of them, pertaining specifically to what they wanted[ii] and how they wanted it[iii] and where[iv] and when[v], that it would become obvious to both that they were clearly not angel and messiah.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
[i] How was the drumstick prepared?
Coated in a layer of flour and buttermilk, then dipped in breadcrumbs and other assorted herbs, and finally fried in a vat of oil.
[ii] “More, more, more [of the same (presumably)].” and, “All of it.”
[iii] “Do it this a way, and then, do it that a way.”
[iv] “You want it there, baby? You put it there.”
[v] “[right] Now!”