The (Not So) Midas Touch
by Yuki Iwama
For the Lemonade Carbonade Contest
He had harnessed 2N5E with it’s roiling heat and immeasurable goods, but it was too big for his mouth. I’ve seen others like him. The desperate farmers sprawled on their frigid lands with fist sized rocks stuffed down their throats but Pastor Matthews was something else.
A man to swallow the earth would have had to be a big man to begin with. Matthews was as small is you could get. He was a man who lived in sparsity, wearing tattered robes under the cataclysmic headiness of god. The tired drones, murmurs, they echo in the funeral home: he was humble, a saint, selfless, caring, generous, simple. So what drove a man of god to try swallow god itself?
‘Don’t try to think too hard about it. 2N5E is long gone by now. Digested in death.’ Farry is a speckled man with a mean stare. He chews on tobacco and spits on the ground, no matter where he is. He also keeps a supply of oranges in his jacket pocket.
We stand in the back, watching the procession slide by the Pastor’s coffin, waving pieces of cloth like miniature flags. It was dark and ambient, with the right amount of shit to ease the tension of the service. Farry spits and pulls out an orange. He digs a giant yellow thumb into the skin and wriggles it.
‘What a shithole,’ he says, squinting up at the ceiling. ‘Asbestos, junkie blood, an’ rat piss. Perfect place to lay a servant of the lord to rest.’
‘He was afraid,’ I say, staring at the procession.
‘The Pastor was afraid.’
‘Well, he bloody should’ve been. Swallowing god like that. Thought he’d be pleased with it, being a Pastor an’ all.’
There were others. Other attempts to create god. A hundred years ago, Jun Zheng, a student from a backwater province of China, was walking home from school when she saw it. A writhing mass of molten heat and veins rising from the dirt. When she picked it up, it was cool to the touch and hardening in her hands like glass pulled from the fires. What happened next is lost under ink and embers. Some say she swallowed it under the squeezing hands of compulsion. Others say she heard whispers. It spoke of power and eternity – the parents of god.
I was on a small time case (the wife did it) when I first heard about it. The most recent death of millions hidden by the desperation of the power hungry. Hollow eyed scientists denied the existence of god – but like the alchemists buried under failed formulas of Midas gold, they worked tirelessly to replicate Zheng’s god. Some have swallowed their creations. Others crushed it up and injected it into their veins. All have failed. Powerless in death.
But 2N5E was born out of a child digging holes in her backyard. And I came to learn of destiny and faith and I began to think that perhaps those molten balls aren’t rocks or god – perhaps they are the tendrils of fate. Perhaps they are the fingers of death.
‘It’s a fuckin’ epidemic,’ Farry says, chewing on an orange slice. ‘The world’s gone to shit.’
‘People are hardwired to believe anything these days. What do you do when you have a problem? Swallow a fuckin’ rock and hope for the best. Maybe it’s god, maybe it’s not, but when you got nothin’ to lose a sore stomach ain’t a bad exchange for possible immortality.’
I don’t reply. We watch the last of the procession trickle out until it’s only the three of us left in the funeral home. Me, Farry, and Pastor Matthews.
‘Do you have it?’ I ask Farry as we walk up to the open casket.
He pulls out a surgical knife and throws another orange slice into his mouth. ‘Just lettin’ you know, I’m only indulging you because I’m expectin’ that free drink you promised me. I don’t believe in this shite.’
‘I don’t either,’ I say. ‘I just have to make sure.’
Farry hands me the knife and I pull up the Pastor’s dress shirt. Standing over the dead man’s bloated stomach, I feel my fingers begin to tremble. The child had set out to dig the deepest hole in the world but ended up only two feet down when she found it. Whatever it is. As I cut into the Pastor’s stomach, I grow aware of a keening sense of awe. The key to ostensible immortality is sitting in the stomach of an overzealous Pastor with a death wish. And it’s there, waiting. For me.
I pry it from him, a child from the mother, and I cradle it in my hands.
As I look down at 2N5E, as I look down at god, I realise in my stupor that it’s a cog in flesh that has long been fossilised. That’s how I came to know that if I dig deep enough, I will find the Midas gold.
There’s the stifling stench of citrus when the oranges explode on the ground. I leave god beside Farry and go outside. There’s rain and hollow hunger.
Find more of Yuki’s awesome writing at https://yukiiwama.wordpress.com/