Write a short story in which the last line is the countdown to midnight on New Year's Eve.

I retired to bed early. Christmas is a bad time for me. To much food and booze. When I awoke, there was someone, not my wife, sitting on the bed. It was the middle of the night. I hadn’t slept too well and I more sensed the intruder’s presence by the pressure he applied on the box spring than by seeing who it was. Then my eyes adjusted to the semi obscurity in the room and I realized that it was God that had come to visit. This put me in a kind a stupor. What was God doing near enough to me that I could touch whatever he used to cover himself, more like a drapery than anything sensible. He had plenty of beard and hair, both white. Still, he looked younger than me, all dressed up in one outfit the same color as my blanket.

I couldn’t think of anything to say. So I stayed quiet. At last, God broke the silence. He asked me with a bit of curiosity:

- You will sleep through the stroke of midnight?

- I don't care much for adding a new year to my already considerable stockpile. What is there to celebrate in such a time?

- How would you like to live in eternity… he asked.

I went to bed with a bit of a stomach discomfort. Could that have developed into something serious enough to insure the presence at my bedside of the master of the universe and his prying into me with this very disturbing question? I forced myself to beg him for clarifications.

- Do you mean in heaven…

He wasn’t long in reassuring me:

- Well, not at this time. You look heathy enough for now. In fact, I was talking about yourself; in the state you are now, continuing forever to do what you like do on this earth.

- You mean endlessly…

I don’t know why but when articulating these 3 words, I felt a frigid sensation going through my back.

- Precisely. How would you like that?

- It’s a long time, I said, feeling rather stupid.

God looked at me in a way I have always associated with clerics and their devotion. Finally, he issued this sentence:

- Not if you are doing the right thing.

The word prayers came into my mind as I am sure it was part of God’s little scheme but I couldn’t tell in his face that the notion of reciting litanies for hours was foreign to me. Instead, I uttered:

- You multiply one million years by on million and eternity wouldn’t even have started…

I could see that God wasn’t impressed by my arithmetic.

- I gather, he surmised, that you will pass out on that opportunity.

- How many card games of patience one can play in infinity…

This didn’t get me the giggle I expected, not even a smirk. Instead, God lectured me:

- You judge like the mortal you are, your condition being temporal, ephemeral and perishable. If you were to live forever, what you make of your situation might change.

- Listen, I interjected, I have had a good life and as all things in this world it must come to an end. So, yes I will decline.

My guest changed position and I sensed tremors on the mattress as his body weight travelled toward my right feet. So much for being a spirit, impalpable and immaterial.

God received my dismissal with no sign of being annoyed or pissed off. He glanced at me. My pajama was unbuttoned and showing more of my fleshy abdomen than I care for him to look at. I silently wished him to leave me alone. He didn’t. Instead, he came up with another proposal.

- What would you say, then, if I were to offer you to be twenty years old again?

This got my full attention. No doubt I was presented with an alternative to good to be true. Could it be that God talked nonsense? Still, he was Yahweh, didn’t he? I had seen enough of our creator in picture to recognize the almighty when sitting in front of him. If he was proposing it, who was I to doubt the project feasibility. I sure couldn’t dismiss my visitor’s amiable overture the way I would have anybody else’s. I could feel God’s dark blue eyes sinking into mine, him expecting some kind of an answer from my part and who knows, being ready to remodel me as an ass if I were to disappoint him some more.

- Being twenty years old again, I repeated, just to gain some more time and think through all the challenges I would meet if I immersed myself into so big a conversion.

- That’s it, he agreed with a smile. “You will no longer be an old man of eighty or so but a young fellow with a full life in front of him.”

- This sounds good indeed. Let me ask, though. In what world would I come up? Would it be now or back in the time of Eisenhower and Kennedy?

- I don’t do time retrogression. You would find yourself a young man in the year 2019. Don’t worry. You won’t miss your computer, neither your smart T.V. set nor your LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Not wanting God to have too bad an opinion of me, I made a gesture that showed I didn’t care that much for those modern distractions.

- Would it be me or someone new, I asked?

God’s answer was quick and to the point.

- It depends. You decide. The choice is yours. What is it you want, starting up anew or being your old self with sixty years less?

- Starting up anew, I repeated. Does that mean that I wouldn’t know of my previous existence?

- Exact.

- Then, I objected, what would be the point of the whole exercise if I were not to know about it.

God shrugged his shoulder as if he didn’t care much one way or the other. He let out a sigh and finished with the choice I was left with:

- You do it your way then. Stay who you are and be young again. What do you say?

- Can’t you be a little bit more specific? Will I look the same?

- We do things this way, he revealed. You will be born in 1,999. You will grow up into a new family. And as soon as you stop being a teenager, memory of your old self will come back.

- Well, how amazing, I pronounced. Still, there was that bit that represented a challenge. “Will I be as happy in this new life as I have been in the old, I asked?”

I realized that my blowing hot and cold made me look like a spoiled and capricious child. But I couldn’t do better.

- That is up to you, man.

- I mean, I stuttered, I will have to do it all over again and not being sure it will work fine.

- True enough. This is the price to pay for being young again.

I popped out:

- And I will be left to contrast anything I do with my previous accomplishments.

- You might do worse. You might do better, God acknowledged.

- Impossible to do it better, I hollered back in a kind of panic. I have had in my life all what one can whish for and reached beyond my wildest expectations all the goals I have set my mind to attain. I won’t be able to do it better.

- You’re tough customer, do you know that, God complained.

- The deal you offer is intricate and problematic. Being who you are, you must realize that.

- The complexity is of your own making, he blamed me.

- Well, I protested, you’re not selling me a cruise ship in the Caribbean.

- You must make up your mind, God insisted, looking at his watch.

Yes, he had a watch. The kind my grandfather used. And God knows how he got it out of his garment with a pair of glasses that he put on his nose, looking like Santa Claus. Unbelievable but true.

- Let me think, will you, I pleaded.

- On minute more. I have a lot to do and to be honest, I must say I am dumbfounded at your irresolution.

- I hesitate because your proposal isn’t as great as you make it sound.

- I don’t care what you decide, God mumbled. “I was around and I felt like visiting you and offering you a gift as a new year will soon get started,”

- I am quitehappy now.

- Good for you.

- Thanks’.

- By accepting my offer, you could be happy for a lot more years than the few you are left with in this existence of yours.

The more I talked back, the more I was convinced the words I was issuing made good common sense.

- Maybe I could but chances are I will miss all what have made me the man I am. And those things are too much or too good to ignore or let go of. So, I am grateful for your offer but I will turn it down respectfully. I hope you don’t mind.

- He assured me he didn’t.

* * * *

After God has disappeared, Pierre turns up in his bed, comes into contact with his wife, the woman who has shared his bed for the last fifty-seven years.

This is when the clock in the dining room strikes twelve. He hears the familiar ding-dong and the counting to twelve brings him out of his slumber; completely alert now, he smiles because he knows he has made the right decision.

December 27, 2019 20:55

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