Author: Hillary Lyon

“Hey, citizen!” A voice rasped from the shadowed alleyway. Bhodi glanced at the man but kept walking.

“I said, hail citizen!” Bhodi stopped to look in the man’s direction. “Yeah, you,” the man rasped, waving Bhodi over.

He approached the old man, assuming he wanted to sell him a contraband gadget. Grinning, the old man opened his trench coat, revealing a pharma chest plate covered in tiny pockets.

This guy’s a walking drug store, Bhodi noted. He’d dealt with this sort before, usually ending up feeling ripped off and disappointed, but sometimes…

“You’re a seeker,” The old man stated. “I can tell just by looking.” Before Bhodi could answer, the old man continued. “Got just the thing for somebody like you.” He withdrew a small metal capsule from the center pocket of his breast plate. He held it up.

“This’ll let you see God!” The old man’s eyes shone with fervor. “You can’t imagine this amazing experience!”

“Country of origin?” Bhodi asked.

“Country?” The old guy laughed. “No country! This is off-world. Comes from the edge of the galaxy!”

“Sure it does.” Bhodi’d heard such claims before.

“Safe, too!” The old dealer assured. “Missionaries swear it’s fit for human consumption!”

“Missionaries?” Bhodi balked. “I’m not looking to convert.”

“Don’t have to convert to see God!” He wiggled his fingers in Bhodi’s face.

Bhodi chewed his lower lip. “How much?”

* * *

Sitting on his narrow bed, Bhodi placed the capsule on his tongue. He leaned over to the water teat protruding from the wall, latched on and took a deep drink. The capsule went down smoothly.

Bhodi laid down and closed his eyes. I wonder how long before this kicks in, he fretted. I wonder if—

This is more like it! He tumbled slowly down through a star spangled darkness, gently landing on a soft purple flatland. Light emanated from somewhere, but he couldn’t locate the source. He held his arms out, laughing. His voice carried, echoing in the distance.

Bhodi became aware of a monolithic shadow moving overhead, devouring the light as it approached. As he looked up, undulating tentacles floated down, encircling him. They enveloped him and squeezed, making it hard for him to breathe. As panic set in, he was lifted up and brought close to the massive face from which the tentacles radiated.

A thin tentacle wormed its way into Bhodi’s right ear, wriggling as it fingered his mind, before exiting through his left ear. “You…” a voice devoid of language boomed.

“…are NOT one of mine.”

* * *

Bhodi’s consciousness landed back in his body with a leaden thump. Covered in sweat, he sat up shaking and hosting the most stupefying headache imaginable. He struggled to pull on his boots before stumbling out of his pod and out into the street. Like a drunk he careened down the sidewalk, unable to shake the dizziness swaddling his mind.

“Salutations, citizen!” Bhodi heard the old dealer call out. He lurched towards the voice coming from the dimly lit alley. There, in the drizzling gloom, stood the old man.

“You!” Bhodi growled, ignoring the thread of blood trickling from both his ears. With herculean effort, he grabbed the man by his trench coat’s lapels and shoved him against the alley’s graffiti-splattered brick wall. “You promised me an amazing experience!”

The old man replied with a knowing, crooked smile. He gently removed Bhodi’s trembling hands from his coat.

“You said I’d see God!”

“That I did,” the old man said, squinting coldly at Bhodi. “I just didn’t say whose.”