God is a terrible matchmaker.
He was, I mean, once upon a time when he started playing with dolls. He looked down on my team’s handiwork and said, “There’s something missing.” He told Michael and Lilith to go wander around and see if they could figure out what.
God saw Michael and Lilith walking around, said, “That’s it,” and there he went playing in the mud. Meanwhile, he told Michael and Lilith to name the animals and plants and oh by the way, do this thing right here so I can see how it all fits together.
They did that thing. Right there.
They didn’t stop doing that thing.
“Okay, I got it. You can stop now.”
Lilith laid in the grass with a satisfied smile on her face, her eyes closed, her hands over those mounds on her chest—they hadn’t named their own parts yet—and said, “God.”
“There must be different ways of doing that and getting the same result.”
“Meh, don’t worry about it. I’ll smooth all those details out later.”
“Oh, c’mon. Really?”
“Fine. Show me what you have in mind.”
So Lilith told Michael to lie on his back and she worked that thing between his legs until it got hard. Then she sucked on it. We all watched because Lilith was really creative and we all liked the things she came up with. She painted all the bright things in the water and everybody thought they were wonderful. So did I. They really were gorgeous. She was a very talented artist.
Michael was enjoying that so much he almost didn’t notice when she got on top of him. His eyes flew open. His twig shrank again. He opened his mouth and yelled, “Oh, I don’t think so!”
This was disappointing.
Lilith stopped and said, “Why not?”
“You are not going to be on top of me. I am the second-in-charge and you report to me.”
He had a point. We all looked at each other and nodded.
She was so hurt, we all decided that, right or not, Michael could have said it differently. “What difference does it make?” she asked defensively. “If we do it right, we’ll get that funny feeling at the end that we both like and besides, God told me I could experiment. You know my experiments always turn out awesome.”
That, too, was true. Now we were wondering why Michael had a problem with it. We were also wondering how that funny feeling felt, but God said, “Well, I’m not quite sure what’s going on there. I was pretty sure his would work, but I didn’t think hers would. It’s so small.”
“Perhaps being on Earth makes it work for angels, Dear,” Goddess said.
“That can be the only reason. Lucifer, did you put something special in the soil down there?”
“I’ll have to ask my team,” I said, “but Lilith doesn’t seem to be upset about it.”
“Oh, she wouldn’t be,” Goddess sighed dreamily.
The argument got louder. The Earth started trembling a little. The lions went and hid behind a big rock and peeked over it to watch. The giraffes couldn’t hide. The snakes had a front-row seat and they were high-fiving each other every time Lilith stomped her foot and made the wind blow leaves off the trees.
The leaves weren’t supposed to do that. I made a note to talk to my team about it.
“Lucifer,” God said to me. “I don’t have time for this. Go down there and break it up.”
“Seriously? Why am I always the one having to fix things I didn’t make or break?”
“Just do it,” he said wearily and disappeared.
I popped up in between them before Lilith hit Michael in the face with that rock on the end of the limb hanging off— Okay, I’m telling this story from 2019 in doll years. She balled up her fist and nearly punched his lights out. I caught it in time. “Lilith, that’s not necessary. You know Michael’s a little touchy about rank. Think of it from his point of view.”
“If he enjoys it as much as I do, what’s the problem?”
That was the dumbest question I’d heard to date and we didn’t have dates. Or time. So that was the dumbest question ever asked in the vastness of Infinity. “Pride.”
“He can get over it. I want to be on top.”
“Clearly you can’t be if his twig doesn’t work when you are.”
“He’s doing that on purpose.”
I think about that. “I don’t think so. I’ll ask God later, but I don’t think that’s something it’ll do if it’s not being touched. You were touching it. Then you weren’t. Then he got mad. I think that’s correlative.”
She gnashed her teeth.
Michael went around me to snarl at her. “I am not going to let you assert rank on me that you don’t have.”
I turned to him. “We need to see if and how it works so we can replicate it. Do it. This is a group project and she is on my team.”
“I’m leaving,” Lilith said. “Beam me up, Scotty.” She didn’t really say that.
“No,” I said gently, trying to placate her. Michael really was being a jerk about it. “Okay, so his issue is rank. You like it when he’s on top, too.”
“You just said,” she growled at me, “that you needed to see how it worked.”
Suddenly, God’s voice boomed, “Do what I told you to do and quit whining.”
“Which thing?” she yelled back.
“Figuring out how the dolls work!”
“Make him be on the bottom and I will!”
“I don’t have time for this!”
She couldn’t go back to the office without someone getting on her case for being as prideful as Michael, so she looked around until the horizon caught her attention. (I must say, forming the Earth into a ball was one of my more brilliant ideas.) She started walking.
“You get back here right now!” Michael yelled at her.
She ignored him and kept walking.
“Fine!” he yelled. “Be that way, but you’ll be alone because I will demote anybody who tries to visit you.”
We all gasped. Wind ripped through the trees and there went more leaves. What did we do wrong with those leaves?
Being demoted to angel from archangel is a disgrace. It takes eons in doll time to work your way back up and if you do something else, you could get busted all the way down to minion. You might as well snap yourself out of existence.
None of us is going to risk it.
But later, a thousand years in doll time or thereabouts, I got to thinking about it and … it really wasn’t fair. Michael was totally out of line. So I went to see God about it.
He sighed. “I know. I tried talking to her and she won’t speak to me.”
My jaw dropped. Who would dare ignore God? He was the oldest intelligence in the whole of Infinity. Goddess floated in. “She’s talking to me,” she said. “She’s lonely. Lucifer, go keep her company.”
“But Michael said—”
“Michael,” she said archly, “does not override me, and I have already told him I’m unhappy with the way he’s acting like an intelligence fresh off the glow.”
That probably left a mark. Michael adored Goddess. He probably thought she’d take his side since she usually does.
“And he still won’t comply?” I asked carefully.
“He’ll let her be on top, but his twig won’t work, and it doesn’t work on mind commands alone. There’s no point.”
“I need to fix that,” God said absently from his worktable.
“Dear, I think anger gets in the way of the chemicals that power that section of the brain.”
“Mmm, you may be right, but there are mechanical issues I have to work out first. Hinges and joints and suchlike.”
“Mmm hm. Go on now, Lucifer, there’s a good archangel. My baby’s feelings are hurt.”
I went down and found out it’s really nice down there. We did a good job. Maybe, instead of fixing the leaves so they always stay green, we could make them change colors every once in a while. That would be amazing.
I walked to the horizon but it always seemed to be just as far away as it was the last step I took. I called that up to my team and they said they’d look into it. It took a couple thousand years in doll time to find her. She was sitting with her back to a boulder, crying, with a panther practically in her lap, purring while she scratched his head and ears. That purr box worked too. A doll comforter. But he was way too big for a doll, so I told my team to make a smaller one that would fit in a doll’s lap and do the same thing.
I sat down beside her. “Hi.”
“Hi,” she sniffled. “I’m not going back.”
“We have never gotten along—”
“This is true. You know why?”
“He loves you. You know, the way God loves Goddess.”
She turned her head and glared at me. “That doesn’t happen. It’s not supposed to happen. There can’t be two couples.”
I didn’t know why not. Was it a rule or the forces that kept us from doing certain things? “That’s why he’s mad.”
“And he’s taking it out on me. Is it his pride or not?”
“So his pride is bigger than his love for me and therefore it doesn’t matter whether we can be together the way God and Goddess are.”
I nodded slowly. Impeccable logic.
“So there’s no point in me going back at all. Not to Michael. Not to the office.”
Oh, no. I couldn’t do without Lilith and her creativity on my team. But she was serious and archangels didn’t bluff. We didn’t know how. So she’d thought about it and decided she couldn’t live with Michael the way they both wanted (at least, I assumed she reciprocated Michael’s feelings) (or more) (because she was so hurt) and she couldn’t bear to see him around the office. She’d rather be alone.
I sighed. “Well, if you change your mind, let me know.”
“What do you mean you let her go?!” Goddess bellowed at me. “You don’t get to disobey. That’s twice my children have disobeyed me and I’m not going to have it!”
What was she going to do? Snap Lilith out of existence? I didn’t say anything. I was in almost as much trouble as Lilith, although I hadn’t expected to be or I’d have dragged her back. I didn’t like getting in trouble with the Deities any more than anybody else did.
“It’s bad enough God’s going to give the dolls free will, but you are part of the family and you are to serve the good of the family! Lilith is unmatched in her specialty. I don’t want the— What’d he call them?—”
“Yes, those, to be ugly and drab. I want them all painted. So pretty,” she sighed. Then she glared at me again. “She’s only gotten through half of them.”
“No excuses!” She turned and stormed into her private Infinity.
I didn’t know if she’d ever speak to me again. And then I got mad at Lilith.
“Meanwhile, back at the Earth,” God said vaguely from his workroom, “Michael’s wandering around alone and I still don’t know if the twigs work because they’re on Earth. Go get Gaia and summon Michael.”
Gaia had had eyes for Michael since Infinity. She’d be thrilled.
“This is what we’re going to do,” God and Goddess said some time later, Michael and Gaia standing in front of the Deities while we all gathered behind them. “Since Lilith has decided to run away, Gaia will be taking her place—”
Gaia squealed with joy.
“Gaia, I have a doll for you.” He gave it to her and she turned it over every which way, looking at her.
“You’re going to put me in this shell?” she asked. Gaia was nothing if not smart. None of us had thought of that.
“Yes. Very good. But that’s just a prototype. I’ll send you down and make one out of Earth clay and put you in that one. Better. Stronger. Faster.”
“Will my twig work like Lilith’s did?”
“I put a little dab on the doll to replicate Goddess’s. That should work. But you must be on the bottom.”
I didn’t know if she was agreeing because she wanted to be with Michael or because she’s a pleaser.
“The other thing is, you won’t have any memory of this life or who you are here. The experiment is flawed in several different ways if you remember.”
Now, we didn’t know what to think about that.
“And just so nothing can trigger your memory, your name down there will be Eve.”
She shrugged. “Okay.”
“Wait,” Michael said. “Are you going to do that to me too?”
“Yes. Earth clay and total memory wipe and new name. I don’t want you to pull out your rank each time she does something you don’t like.”
Gaia did a lot of things that annoyed Michael. That was why he stayed away from her as much as possible. He couldn’t order her to stop having feelings for him.
“Your name will be Adam.”
Michael rolled his eyes in resignation.
God made a shooing motion. “Michael, you go first. I already have your doll shell waiting for you. I still have to put the finishing touches on Gaia’s.”
“Including that dab.”
“Yes, yes, yes,” he said wearily. “A little dab of clay.”
So we watched. Michael’s doll shell was lying on the ground, lifeless. Michael whooshed down and squished himself inside the doll shell. “I’m trapped,” he said, panicking.
“You won’t notice it once I—”
And he drew the veil. We could see out, but Mich—Adam—couldn’t see in.
The doll shell with Michael trapped inside was still.
“Does it work?” Goddess whispered, watching, wringing her hands.
“It should. I left enough room for one intelligence.”
We watched. Waited. The doll stirred. He made a disgusting sound with his nose and turned over on his side, then stilled again.
“What’s it doing?” Goddess asked, still whispering.
“Winding itself,” God answered, then showed her one of the first ones he built. It had wings in its back. “It moves for a while if I turn it like this.” He turned it. And turned it. And turned it until it was so hard to turn he stopped. Then the doll came to life. “But the key—” The wings. “—are inefficient and clumsy no matter where I put them, so I tried an internal mechanism. That’s it.”
“Gaia, your turn.”
“But … there’s no doll there.”
“Not yet,” he said. He grabbed another doll and Gaia’s hand and went down. “Hey, it’s nice down here. Good job, guys.”
He laid Gaia’s doll by Michael’s winding doll shell and said, “Get in.”
She whimpered. “I don’t like close spaces.”
“Do you want to be with Michael or not?”
Oh, then we all got it. She’d obey just to have the chance to be with Michael. We nodded at each other with how clever that was, but then, that was why he was the Deity and we were not.
She got in. “God,” she whimpered.
Goddess drew the veil further and Gaia’s doll shell went limp to wind.
But God knelt in the Earth clay, dug something out of Michael’s doll shell’s side and shoved it into Gaia’s. Then he picked up a little dab of Earth clay and put it in the same area Michael’s twig was. “There,” he said, slapping his hands on his knees. “Mostly office materials, with a little Earth clay to run it on its own.”
He stood up and dusted off his hands before he came back to the office.
We watched them wind, which was boring, but then they started to move, just like the creatures my team and I had fashioned wholly out of office materials. They had no Earth clay in them at all.
They sat up and looked at each other. There was no recognition there whatsoever which was a little disconcerting.
God was watching most intently and he began wringing his hands like Goddess. “Should we draw back the veil a little?”
“No, let’s see what happens.”
What happened was nothing. Nothing at all happened.
“What are they doing?” God asked in frustration.
“I think the question is why aren’t they doing it,” Goddess said as she painted a fish. She being the second oldest intelligence in Infinity, could do it so much better than Lilith, but she had other duties.
“They’re just wandering around looking at things.”
“At least you know their joints and hinges work.”
“Yes, but their fuel system doesn’t. They take in, but they don’t exhaust.”
“Must they? You have simply made an efficient doll, which would make sense since you are a master.”
“I meant to make them exhaust.”
“Try, try again, Dear.”
“Lucifer, go down there and see if you can get them to do the thing.”
I sighed. I’d go check on Lilith while I was there.
“Hey, Gaia,” I said once I got there.
She was startled and looked at me as if I were a stranger. Then I remembered that to her, I was.
“I mean, Eve.”
“Who are you? And why do you look like that?”
“Look like what?” I looked down and saw my normal glowing self.
Then I was getting annoyed.
She’s inside a doll she doesn’t remember she’s inside a doll she doesn’t remember she’s inside a doll she doesn’t remember.
“Does it bother you?”
“I can make myself look like anything I want.”
She looked around and pointed to the iridescent smart-aleck snakes. They were some of my best work. I sighed and made myself look like that.
“What do you want?”
“I want to talk to you about why you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing with Adam.”
“What am I supposed to be doing?” she asked snidely.
I asked the nearby chimpanzees to demonstrate.
She watched carefully. “Do it again,” she said, a little puzzled.
“See, the twig goes in there and then I guess you get a tingly feeling or … something.” I wasn’t quite sure on that.
Her lip curled. “That’s gross.”
I opened my mouth but … well, she was right. It didn’t seem gross before. “God.”
“The doll shell makes her think differently.”
“That’s a feature, not a bug.” He didn’t really say that. “Her personality’s still there.”
“No, it’s not. She’s not dogging Michael’s heels.”
“Maybe,” he said mysteriously, “her feelings weren’t strong enough for him.”
“Then how do you expect them to do the thing? That’s why I’m here. To find out why they aren’t doing the thing.”
“I am not doing the thing,” Eve said flatly, waving toward the chimpanzees who were still doing the thing.
“You can hear me and God talking?”
“Pffftt. He only comes down here every day to walk with us.”
“But you think I looked weird.”
“You do. He does not.”
I tried a different tack. “Okay, why don’t you want to do the thing?”
“He’s mean to me.”
“What?!” God and I roared at the same time.
“He makes me pick all the food, straighten up from where we slept, and groom the wolves. He doesn’t talk to me except to tell me what to do and he says I have to obey him.”
“Well, at least we know his personality is still in there,” I muttered.
“I didn’t know you were so touchy,” I said to Eve. “Before, you—”
God cleared his throat.
I took a deep breath and thought about how to word this. “It seemed to us like you and Adam would be a good team. You know, hanging out, talking, naming more stuff.”
“Naming stuff?” she shrieked. “He wouldn’t let me name a fungus if I didn’t go behind his back and tell it its name was mushroom. They listen to me.”
They probably listened to Gaia because she’d been on the fungus creation team.
“Has she always been like this?” I asked God.
“So … you gave him Lilith-Lite?”
“And you wonder why they’re not doing the thing.”
…and that’s all I got, folks…