Chapter 3:

I see nothing

The Sequence of Kai

For a while after making my promise with Trish, the bar gets busy. Men and girls come flowing through the doors and then out again.

Trish gets opportunities to come over and chat every once in a while but for the most part, she’s busy with the increased volume of orders. At one point she spills a beer all over her hands. When she does the patch she wears on the back of her right to cover her game marker slips off.

It’s like a tattoo but harder to get rid of and much more dangerous. It signifies your participation in the unnamed game and what cards are in your hand. Hers is so unique, not at all boring like Paul’s or Aaron’s. There’s a symmetry to it, the black queens, clubs and spades, the symbol of each suit enclosing a black capital Q.

The customer she was serving asked her about it, she just rubbed the back of her head nervously and waited for the drunkard to forget he had asked a question at all. It’s the right call. She has to wear the skin patch. You have to keep your cards close to your chest, guard even the smallest bit of information. That’s why gloves make me anxious, as innocuous as they might seem to any normal person.

She scratches at her marker before putting on a fresh patch. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that, it seems so uncomfortable.

The evening tumbled into night. The first of the regulars leave around now. The one nearest the door. He slips his wedding ring back on on his way out.

Trish has been over a few times to assure me that Elm usually arrives much earlier than this and to make sure I know our agreement had no due date. Just when I think he’s not going to show, right when the second member of the front row takes his leave, Elm finally arrives.

He’s a weak man by nature. You can tell that by the lack of presence he holds entering the room, it’s letting him in, he’s not forcing his way through. He’s wearing a hat and glasses that obscure his face but he’s instantly recognizable because the idiot isn’t doing anything to hide his marker. I can’t make out exactly what has been lashed across his right hand through the mirror, but Paul said it was the 3 of clubs. At any rate, it’s a marker.

He sits down at the stool nearest to the door, takes off his jacket and strikes up a cheerful-looking conversation with Trish.

Come to think of it, why hasn’t Trish mentioned this guy if he’s not hiding his involvement in the game? Has he gotten to her? She said she hadn’t read any of his books. Did he trick her into reading something on a napkin? A receipt? It’s possible but as much as she’d try to come off otherwise, Trish is quite a wary person, she’d be watching out for something like that. Has she just not seen it? Is this the first time he’s had it out in the open?

While I’m pondering the possibilities, Trish points him in my direction. She says something, they back and forth and then he nods, standing up and heading this way. With his jacket off now, at an angle where I can see the front of him through the mirror, what has happened becomes painfully clear. He’s wearing a plain white T-Shirt, which reads on its front:

My Word is Gospel. Despair at my silence.

It’s a bit hard to read mirror flipped but I’m fairly certain that’s what it says.

It’s styled to look like a corporate kind of punk shirt, the type you could find in any retailer aimed towards young people. Despite the effort though, unmistakably amateur, homemade. Of course it is, how else would it work? He’s an idiot, an accidental savant.

It’s such a simple way to exercise his power that anyone with half a brain would run through several other methods before even considering something so brazen. If you were just dumb enough though, it’d be the only good idea you could come up with.

Luckily I saw its reflection before I could have seen the real thing. If I had this would already be over. I’m not out of the woods yet, he’s going to sit and talk with me and I don’t think it’s out of the question that he’s tried tattooing messages on his body, just in case.

“Kai, was it?”

Shit, he’s already here, arm outstretched waiting for a handshake. I dodge both it and his line of sight by turning back towards my beer.


I’m met with Trish’s ‘Kai, what the fuck are you doing?’ expression and I’m forced to turn back towards Elm. My gaze is almost instinctively drawn to his shirt, a very unwanted intrusive thought. I decide to vigorously focus on the handshake, putting on the fake charm, which allows me to close my eyes and smile.

“Yeah, that’s me, haha.”

“Trish was right, your nervous laughter really is something.”

I didn’t say that!

She totally said that. I don’t have time to deal with that now, but I will.

“Could you get me and the lady a beer? You do beer right?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Alright, one second.”

Trish slides down to the taps, leaving me face to shoulder with Elm. The air around me shifts, I can practically feel the mental stretches this asshole is performing. He’s got the face of a pitcher on first, deciding whether to throw fast or curved.

“I really like your outfit.”

I just about prevent myself from looking at his shirt when he says this. It’s human nature to try and return a compliment in small talk, that’s why, even though I’ve already given him a thorough look over, my instinct is to double-check, see if I missed some small detail that I can throw back at him. Maybe this guy is smarter than I gave him credit for.

“From what Trish told me, I would’ve expected something….. else.”

“Yeah well she told me I wasn’t allowed to wear something else

“Well then, she’s got good taste.”

Trish returns with the beers.

“Put em on my tab.”

“Sure thing.”

She turns very deliberately towards me.

“I have to start clearing up now, can I trust you to play nice?”

“Yeah sure, whatever.”

She sighs theatrically and turns back around to start taking last orders.

“So, what was it you wanted to talk about?”

I’ve gotta be careful with what I say. He probably thinks I’ve read his shirt, if so, he’ll test me to confirm if that’s the case.

“I heard some of your gospel in the local parish, I couldn’t help but want to talk with whoever could come up with something so interesting.”

Is that a genuine smile on his lips? It can’t be.

“Well, I’m flattered, there are a lot of people your age who see me as a hack, some kind of neo televangelist.”

He takes a big swig of his beer.

“It’s not true of course, I am very committed to my faith.”

“And yet you won’t deny that you came up with your gospel?”

“Is there any reason that I should?”

This isn’t going as anticipated. I came expecting him to weasel away from my questions like any good con artist, but he seems to be, in some respect, genuine. I don’t know whether he’s incorporating con artistry into his faith or vice versa but either way, it’s a dangerous combination.

“Well, gospels are meant to be the word of god right?”

“And mine is.”

“But you came up with it.”

“In a sense.”

Still plenty of weasel in him for sure.

“How does that work, sounds to me like you’re just admitting to being a false prophet.”

I can sense the eyes bearing down on us now. This is a pub, about the last place people come to hear about religion.

“I think maybe we should make this conversation more private.”

He gestures his head towards the row of people giving us dirty looks and then picks up our drinks and moves to a booth down the back. Trish gives me a quizzical look from the other end of the bar, but I mouth at her that nothing’s wrong.

When I catch up to him, he’s wiping down the table.

“It’s not the cleanest bar around but it’s got character.”

“I won’t deny that.”

He sits on the side nearer to the bar so that his face can be turned away from the rest of the room. Presumably, that puts him at ease enough to take off his hat and glasses. He looks just like he did in his videos, except for one detail that transforms his unremarkable visage into something noteworthy.

“Your eyes.”

He’s got heterochromia. His right eye is green, the left is hazel. In his videos, they’re both the latter pigment.

“Ah, this.”

He points to his right eye.

“Wearing just one contact is rather uncomfortable as you might be able to imagine, so I only do it for the camera.”

“Right, well getting back to what I want to know, what exactly is it you believe you’re preaching? Is it the word of god or not?”

“I would never claim to speak for God directly, he puts no words in my mouth. I merely speak the essence of his will.”

“Are you claiming to know what god wants?”

“You say that like it’s some sort of veiled secret, what has God ever wanted but reverence and worship. Have you read the Old Testament Kai?”

“Which one?”

“The good one.”

“Then yeah, I have.”

Elm smiles slyly and begins tipping his beer out onto the table, which forms into a pool of a very unusual shape. He’s clearly influencing it in some way. He picks a straw from the few left for the table and straightens it out.

“In Exodus, Moses delivered the chosen people from their enforced servitude. To escape the Pharaoh, God gave him the power to split the sea.”

He stabs the straw down on the table and the beer he’d intentionally spilt separates with equal purpose. He looks at me with a smile that wants me to be amazed. I try to plaster the expression he wants to see onto my face.

“How did you do that?”

“I’m telling you, I’m the real deal.”

I suppose using some Minor Magic to pick up girls is going to be effective. It’s not something you see every day but it’s also not something you don’t. You just have to be looking for it, in the right places and in the right ways. Some light manipulation won’t convince anyone close enough to god that you’re his messenger.

“But of course, that’s not the beginning of the story, is it? 10 plagues were promised upon Egypt should the Pharaoh not let God’s people go. And even though Ramses was ready to heed his command after the 6th plague, all 10 came to pass. Before the staff split the sea, it hardened the Pharaoh's heart. If we wanted to believe that God was benevolent, we would have to believe that he became that way.”

“And you don’t think he did?”

“God may only change in action, not in actuality.”

“So, what does that have to do with you?”

“Well, let’s just say that Egypt is a lot bigger than it used to be, that the pyramids are no longer solely physical. In the past the people’s minds were free but their bodies were not, so God sent a prophet to release their bodies. Now, their bodies are unencumbered but their minds are shackled instead. We live in the age of Pharaohs who call themselves Godless prophets, who would claim to free the people with ingenuity instead of Providence. They’re all liars.”

He curls his hand into a fist and the parted beer starts evaporating a bit. He notices what he’s doing quickly though and relaxes.

“Forgive me, I have my fair share of issues when it comes to such important topics.”

“It’s OK, it makes you seem more convincing.”

“Thank you, Kai.”

“So if the world is going through some sort of Neo-Exodus….. Why does god not speak? Why wouldn’t he send a prophet.”

“It’s my belief that he sent many, but we would not listen. God cannot change, so first, he will ask for our freedom, then he will give it to us and punish everyone who stood in the way.”

“How’s he going to free us this time then?”

“Isn’t it obvious? If the chosen man cannot be free in Egypt, free him from Egypt. And if he cannot be free anywhere in the world, then free him from the world.”

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