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Tuesday, September 20

Responsibility: A Short Story by Seth Renzi

Responsibility: A Short Story by Seth Renzi

Isaac hated working the closing shift. If he were being honest, he hated working any shift. "What a joke, thirty years old and selling cell phone cases at the fucking mall," he berated himself, "Guess all those teachers who said I didn't apply myself knew what the hell they were talking about." Closing was an extra pain in the ass because the buses ran less frequently after nine pm. That meant a half hour layover on Burnside, not the nicest street in Portland.
To make matters worse it was Tuesday, the slowest day for retail. The cases were junk but Isaac had managed to sell one plastic shell to a naieve teen girl for thirty-five dollars. He happened to know his manager ordered them direct from China for about fifty cents a piece. Isaac didn't like it but he made a whole two percent commission on everything he sold, which translated into a few extra cents tacked on to his meager paycheck come Friday. It was his job to rip off strangers, this was his responsibility.
He let out a resigned sigh as he approached the bench on Burnside, near Chinatown. "Thank god, at least a homeless person hasn't claimed it as their bed tonight, not yet anyway," he thought. The street was eerily empty. No homeless at all, no junkies that had long ago lost their minds to heroin or some other nameless drug."God damn it!" He was shouting a second later as he sat in a puddle of what he could only hope was water. Isaac didn't even attempt getting up to let it dry out. "Fuck it," he mumbled, "let it marinate."
Checking his phone he saw it would be another twenty-five minutes until the bus arrived. He plucked out a Newport and set it ablaze. One of his last great pleasures, and it would kill some time. A spot of life was approaching him. A hunched over old man pushing a tarp covered shopping cart.
"Excuse me son," The old man wheezed as he neared.
"Last one," Isaac interrupted holding up his half finished smoke. It was a lie, he had five still safely stashed in a pack.
"Oh child, I don't smoke," the old man sputtered,"just was wondering if I could interest you in a bauble." He was already rummaging through his cart.
"Sorry but my bus will be here any minute" Isaac said.
"Just let me show you what I have to offer," he insisted.
Isaac knew he was right. The best way to deal with these vagrants was to listen to their piece, take whatever dirty, disease ridden street art they handed you and cough up a buck. Isaac didn't have a buck, he didn't have a penny.
The bum had apparently dug out Isaac's intended prize from the cart. He clutched it tightly in his right palm. Isaac felt compelled to hold out his hands. A tiny, cold, silver cube hit his skin. The old man wore a huge grin brimming with yellowed teeth as Isaac looked up at him.
"I have nothing to give old man."
"You've already given all that you have" He said, sounding a bit more energized.
"What the shit is that supposed to mean?" Isaac asked, but the old man was already walking away. "Hey," he shouted, "what is this thing?"
The old man stopped, turned around and loudly proclaimed, "It's your responsibility now." He continued on his way with new found purpose. Isaac could almost detect a spring in his step. The old man hadn't even taken his cart with him. Isaac turned the peculiar cube over and over in his hands, it was no bigger than a cigarette lighter. Isaac went and tore the tarp off the cart expecting to find a thousand replicas of the object. Nothing. The cart was empty. No recyclables, no clothes, no alcohol and no fucking metal cubes.
"God damned strange," he thought. This was Portland though, and one thing the city certainly wasn't short of was strange. He saw the glow of his bus approaching and almost wiped the bizarre event from his mind. He boarded and took a seat near the back. "For Christ's sake," he grumbled. Isaac had forgotten his ass was soaking wet until he sat again. He stood up instead. He dug into his pocket and produced the cube. He shuffled it through his fingers, inspecting it closer. There were two tiny notches on each end he hadn't noticed before. He pried them with his fingernails and they popped open.

A blue light emanated from the openings. It quickly enveloped Isaac. He looked down, startled to see he was no longer standing on the bus. He wasn't standing on anything. There was literally nothing but the light. In his hand, where the metal object had been, was now a cube of intense, nearly blinding blue light. The light intensified and grew, slowly spreading over his fingers.He watched as his skin began to disintegrate, bursting into particles of light, it flowed through him and soon he was the light.
And then there was nothing. The nothing wasn't composed of black however, the nothing was white. An endless sea of white, like a close up picture of a blank piece of paper. It was the only thing Isaac could percieve, and he found himself thinking that all of a sudden the name Isaac was no longer suitable for him. He began to sense something else, something enormous and terrible lying right behind the veil of white. He somehow knew that all he need do was will it into his perception. And so not knowing what else to do he allowed the white nothing to dissipate.
Where once there was nothing, there was now everything. Portland, Spain, Mars, Galaxies. He was keenly aware of every single place, and every single thing in those places. Perceptions of everything all stacked upon one another, but in concentrating he could focus on any thing, no matter how small. He knew what the president had for breakfast, and he knew the shape of a pebble being washed down a muddy bank in Madrid.
All at once he knew the terrible truth. He had become God. He felt every bit of sorrow and every act of chaos vibrate through his formless being. He didn't know where to start, but this was his job now. This was his responsibility