“Martyr me, motherfucker.”
Years prior to the end of the eternity, in a Wyoming motel-room, Jango stabbed Jay to death.
Jay opened his eyes in an egg in the afterlife. He gasped amniotic fluid. He whipped off his loincloth with enough force to crumble Anihilato’s endless caverns, collapsing the rust-red desert to his level. He retied the cloth like a blindfold when he heard Anihilato rush toward him in a flurry of flightless wings. “Jones! Dan Jones! You can’t run from me!”
“Why would I? I’m right where I meant to be.” Jay pulled the blindfold taut.
“In my limbo you’ve been blunted.” Anihilato untied the blindfold with six feathery hands. “Blink and be mine, as mandated by the Eternity Cards in my box of souls.”
“You still think I care about your stupid box?” Jay laughed. “If I found your box, you know what I’d do? I’d piss on your box. What worthless trash!”
Anihilato removed the blindfold. Jay’s muscles locked under the scrutiny of Anihilato’s six eyes. Anihilato’s muscles also locked; perhaps the power of Jay’s vision had amplified in the egg, or perhaps Anihilato drew too close untying the blindfold and was now paralyzed by its own reflection in Jay’s eyes.
With its last moment of movement, Anihilato swept a wing, spewing sand in Jay’s face. Jay grunted. His left eye clenched painfully shut, but his right eye held open strong.
This was the first time Jay saw Anihilato in direct sunlight. The King of Dust had a yolk-yellow beak and a mane of red feathers. “You can’t win, Dan Jones.”
“My name is Jay, now, but call me what you want.”
“You can’t win, DanJay.” Anihilato closed its bottom pair of eyes. “Remember teaching me this trick?” Anihilato opened its bottom eyes and closed its middle pair. “With this technique, my vision is eternal.” Anihilato opened its middle eyes and closed its top pair. “Blink, DanJay. I’m waiting.”
Tears streamed down Jay’s left cheek.
“Whimper, mortal. I’ll savor squashing your hubris.”
The tears carried sand-grains from Jay’s left eye. He reopened it, winkingly.
Anihilato scoffed. “Crying won’t save you.”
“I’m saving you, Anihilato.” Jay squeezed his knees. It was all the movement he could muster. “Your purpose was to forget your purpose. You’re every aspect of humanity which would never make it to the Mountain. I’m bringing you in.”
“Don’t talk nonsense about doctrine you’ve no part in.”
“I am part in all doctrine.”
“What a big head!” Anihilato licked its beak with a long, long tongue. “Your ego will be delicious.”
“I celebrate myself, but every atom of me as good belongs to you.”
“Too true. I’ll devour your every atom soon enough.”
“I was waxing Whitman. You reject unity, but I unify with your rejection.”
The desert sun shined in Jay’s eyes. He squinted. Anihilato’s eyes tilted in eagerness, but soon its mane of red feathers shaded Jay’s face, and he stopped squinting. “You make it all sound so simple,” said Anihilato.
“Life is as simple as you choose. I choose for me and you choose for you. That’s the way it’s always been and the way it will always be, even if you waste your choice demanding more. Our choices have led us here. God waits between us now.”
“Is that your God, on your forehead?”
Jay shivered with fear. Sweat was dripping down his nose and around his eyes. “The sweat on my brow is me, and you, and God, just like everything else.” He cringed when the sweat pooled in his right eye. When he couldn’t handle the salt, his right eye closed. His left eye, red and quivering, was all that restrained the King of Dust. “The way it stings was made for me by the Mountain.”
“Then whimper, mortal. For the Mountain.”
A drop of sweat dripped over his left eyebrow, toward his only open eye.
The drop froze in a cool breeze.
Faith Featherway, snowy white fox, exhaled icy comfort over Jay’s face. “Is that better, JayJay?”
“Perfect.” Jay opened both eyes. “Thank you, Faith.”
“Hey!” Anihilato inhaled, but couldn’t suck up Faith’s powdery form in the open air. “Don’t meddle, you frigid rat!”
“Everything meddles with everything,” said Jay. “If you understood that, Anihilato, you’d know you already contain me, without devouring me. I am the all, and so are you.”
Faith turned to envelop Jay’s head with her cloudy tail. It cooled and cleansed his tired eyes. “Bug-Bird told me to keep an eye out for Anihilato. I gotta report this.”
“Okay. Thanks again.”
Anihilato thought quick. In another universe, where the King of Dust was a little less bird and a little more worm, it wouldn’t have tried exhaling. It blew Faith’s tail far over the dunes.
“Oh! It’s alright, I’ve got you, JayJay.” Faith grew another tail and left this one over Jay as well.
Anihilato blew this one away, too.
“Don’t worry about it, Faith,” said Jay. “Just fly to the Mountain and get Akayama.”
“Akayama?” Faith gave him another tail. “Who’s that?”
“Bug-Bird,” said Jay. “The Biggest Bird. The Heart of the Mountain. Akayama, Nakayama. The professor who destroyed the universe and is now rebuilding it.”
Anihilato blew away the third tail. Faith gave Jay a fourth. “Isn’t she from that anime you and Dan like? LuLu’s?”
“Yes,” said Jay. “Like everything else, that anime is part of our omnipresent reality.” Anihilato blew away the tail. “Faith, don’t give me another tail. I’m fine. Just go to the Mountain.”
“Hold on, I can do this.” Faith concentrated to produce a longer, thicker tail she hoped wouldn’t blow away. “Here you g—”
She stepped between Anihilato and Jay. The instant its eye-contact was interrupted, Anihilato swiped a wing through her. It stole her eyes, but the rest of her was ungraspable powder. “Faith!” Jay and Anihilato regained eye-contact through Faith’s cloudy form. “Are you okay?”
“I’m blind!” She deposited herself meters away, scrambling and pawing at her empty face. “Oh, JayJay—I’m so sorry! I should have listened to you the first time!”
“It’s alright, Faith,” said Jay. “Just go back to the Mountain and get Akayama. Bring her here and we’ll assemble the godhead.”
“I… I can’t see! I don’t know if I can navigate!”
Jay cried. “Try, Faith! Please, try!”
While Faith flew away, Anihilato and Jay just stared. Jay felt sweat drip down his face. The sweat pooled in his left eye and he had to close it. ” ‘Assemble the godhead?’ ” asked Anihilato. “Do you really think this is turning out the way your creator intended, According to some cosmic plan?”
“Yes!” said Jay, absolutely.
“Are you sure?”
“Then watch, DanJay. Watch very… very… closely.”
A feather fell off Anihilato’s red mane. It drifted aimlessly, yet inevitably, to stab Jay’s right eye.