I never thought I’d meet God in person. Actually, I never thought much
about him. Nobody did anymore, or mostly nobody. But one day it happened.

I was driving north on 101 after
work, about six PM. I had a date later on at nine with a woman I’d met at a
dance a month earlier. Michelle considered herself a witch and was into Wicca,
had been for years, and she occasionally participated in ancient druidic spells
and ceremonies. I wasn’t into that, but it was every bit as valid as the major
religions, right? Anyway, I had a little time to kill so I decided I would hike
up to the Microwave Towers on San Bruno Mountain.

I glanced at myself in the rear
view mirror–looking good! I was wearing my dress helmet, blue with a red racing
stripe down the center. People had long been required to wear helmets for
biking, diving, driving, horse-riding, skating, skateboarding, gardening,
skiing, sailing, curling and slam dancing. But eventually the government
decided that just being alive and walking around presented citizens with a
plethora of possible head injuries, and so the Cranial Protection Act was
passed, mandating the wearing of helmets at all times. When they were debating
the legislation in the beginning, I was against it. But ten-term Senator Sheila
Smidgeon’s famous speech in favor of the legislation in which she told of
literally hundreds of people in hospitals all across the country due to head
injuries which the State had to pay for with monies that could otherwise go to
other programs like drug therapy–started to change my mind. But it was the slogan
for the campaign, A Broken Brain is State
Money Down the Drain!,
that put me over the top. Anyway, I didn’t really
mind wearing the helmet, but when it was hot outside, it did make your head
sweat a little.

I pulled into a service station
to quick charge the batteries in my Volt. While they were doing that I bought a
health-soda to wash down my prescription. I was on Nossad, your standard dose,
20 milligrams, as were most citizens. Mandatory counseling and drug therapy for
all citizens had been the smartest thing the government had done in years.
Crime had been virtually wiped out overnight and population growth stabilized
(from a few other things they put in the pill). After that, society marched
along, shuffled actually, in a steady, predictable pace and direction.

I got back on 101. I could see
the emerald green of the mountain up ahead and the grey steel towers on top as
I went with the flow of commuter traffic. I turned on the radio and
absentmindedly listened to the local news channel–Today, the San Francisco City Council decreed that all fast food joints
within city limits can have no more than 150 mg of fat in their meal deals, and
the meals must include sex toys, condoms, and a glossy guide to safe sex.

Further down the San Francisco peninsula in the city of Palo Alto,
police have been ticketing children for riding their bicycles with one hand. PA
police superintendent, Sergeant Sandy Sanderson stated that, "We have to nip
such reckless behaviors in the bud. Children cannot be allowed to flaunt the
law." The parents of ticketed children must write an essay on the theme, How I
Will Raise a Safe Child for the State, and read it aloud before the City
Council while wearing a dunce’s cap in order to have the charges rescinded.

Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, City Council members, citing
heightened terror alerts, have hired a dozen former TSA agents to provide
enhanced pat downs to all council members upon entering and leaving their offices.

I turned off the radio and took
the Betty Crocker Canyon Road exit. The road wound around the mountain’s flanks
and I soon came to the trailhead. I parked and started walking. I was halfway
up when I spotted a small crowd of people in a little clearing off the side of
the trail. There was a large campfire blazing, which was unusual, because
they’d long been outlawed in the State for emitting too much carbon. Only LED
faux fires were permitted now.

As I drew closer, I saw that most
of the people appeared to be undocumented Mexican immigrants, evidenced by the
fact that they were helmetless. The Undocumented were exempt from the Cranial
Protection Act. They sat in the grass, all focused on some kind of preacher.
This was not surprising since the Undocumented were known to be religious,
while most citizens had given that up long ago. The man preaching before them
was bearded and long-haired, and was also not wearing a helmet. He wore sandals
and a robe of what looked like burlap, with a leather strap cinched around his
waist. Clutched in his big meaty hand was a staff of some kind. I’d seen
pictures of staffs like that in books in the California Book Museum. The
legendary Merlin the Magician wielded one. The other staff-wielder was Moses.
They had some bibles under glass in the Hall of Hate Literature wing of the
museum. In one, Moses blasted a hole in a rock with his staff to find water for
his thirsty followers.

As the people listened to the
preacher raptly, I was reminded of the stories and pictures of the leaders of
the Hippie Movement from the last century, the followers of whom had become the
‘Founding Fathers’ of the Social Stabilization and Medication Act. Maybe this
preacher was some lost hippie who had come down from his rocky cave up on the
mountain.

The preacher looked strong, not
in the modern sense like a young metrosexual male with finely-sculpted
washboard abs holding his girlfriend’s purse as she tries on a pair of shoes at
the mall. No, this was more like ancient strong. His big, hairy nose and
slightly protuberant brow gave him the look of a universal, primitive everyman.
I was reminded of old paper drawings I had seen of the aborigines of Australia,
the Norsemen, and the Ainu of Japan.

As I drew closer he turned and
looked at me like he knew me. I nodded and continued walking.

He pointed a meaty finger at me.
"Carl."

"Lucky guess," I said, wondering
how he knew my name, "And you are…"

"I am the Lord, thy God."

I nodded. This guy was off his
Nossad or, more likely, Calmator. And he needed a time-release implant too
because he obviously couldn’t be relied upon to take his meds.

I humored him. "That’s what I
thought. Well, nice to see you." I started away.

"Wait!" he thundered in a voice
that you don’t walk away from.

He waved me to approach. I did,
feeling the eyes of the people sitting in the grass upon me. "Dost thou know my
commandments?" he asked.

"I’ve heard about them," I said.
"They were pretty cool, but I have to… "

"Sit at my feet with the others
and I will teach you."

As I was trying to decide whether
to humor him or run like hell, a voice called out, "You!"

A Park Ranger hurried over to us.
His face was flushed as he pulled a ticket book out of the back pocket of his
khaki pants. "Where’s your helmet?" he said to the preacher.

I looked at the preacher and
pointed to my own head. "You’re supposed to wear them all the time… for your
own protection."

The preacher smiled and shook his
head slowly. Then he turned to stare at the park ranger like he was a bug or
something.

"Who started this fire?" the
ranger demanded. "California Air Resources Board, Statute 753, Section 3,
Paragraph 4.1 clearly states that only LED faux fires are permitted in
California State parks."

"I don’t know," I said.

A California fruit fly, one of
the state’s protected endangered species, flew by, made a circling loop around
the ranger’s head, then lit on his nose. As it crawled across his cheek he
pretended that he didn’t even know it was there when, in reality, he was
probably wishing no one was watching so he could swat it like everyone else
did.

The ranger’s face twitched
slightly as he turned to the preacher. "Did you start this fire?"

The preacher nodded slowly with
what looked like wry amusement on his face.

The ranger’s face hardened. He
pulled a pair of cuffs from his belt and grabbed the preacher’s wrist. "You’re
going downtown."

The big preacher pushed the
ranger backward like he was made of papier-mache. He raised his staff and I got
a better look at it. It was made of metal or something, and there appeared to
be several buttons on it. A blue bolt of energy arced out from it and into the
ranger, setting his hair and clothing on fire. I felt a surge of heat as his
entire body erupted into flame. A moment later there was only a pillar of
smoking ash which then collapsed in a mound on the trail.

Oh my God, I thought with alarm;
that was a bit of an over-reaction, and much too cruel of a thing for God to
do. But then again, the ranger shouldn’t have grabbed him like that.

"Now, Carl," said the preacher,
or God, or whoever or whatever he was, turning to me, "why art thou not
following my commandments?"

I swallowed. "Well, I like to
believe I’ve been practicing what Jesus used to preach, you know, ‘do unto
others’. That’s the way I’ve always tried to live my life…"

"Oh," he sneered, "a milquetoast,
huh?"

"That’s not fair. I’m only…"

"Silence!" he said in a booming
voice like thunder. "I’m in charge now." His eyes bored into mine. "Hast thou a
chariot?"

"Uh, I’m not sure I understand."

He pointed a muscled arm down
toward the bay. The wind rippled the sleeve of his robe as I watched the cars
flowing along Highway 101 beside the water. "A machine," he said. "I wish to
ride in one of those machines."

"Sure," I said, swallowing hard.
"I can arrange that."

The tiniest hint of a smile
seemed to break the set of his mouth. "Good. When in Rome, you know."

I nodded. "Yes."

We started down the trail toward
the parking lot, the Undocumented following along behind us. As we walked, I
wondered, could this really be the God of the old bible? He obviously had great
power. Or maybe he was one of those ‘ancient astronauts’ that Erich Von Daniken
and Zecharia Sitchin used to write about–powerful alien beings from other
planets that had come to earth in ancient times, becoming the genesis of our
earliest god myths and religions?

When we got to the trailhead, he
turned to the Undocumented and they knelt, bowing their heads reverentially for
his blessing. After he finished, we got in my car. The Undocumented waved
goodbye as we rolled out of the parking lot. I turned the radio on, feeling that
perhaps chit chat with this guy would not be a good idea. The news channel jock
droned on–Today in Pongyang, North Korean
President Kim Young Moon, met with his posse of generals to witness another
launch test of the regime’s new ‘Big Dong’ rocket. ‘Lil’ Moon’, as he likes to
be called, is known worldwide for his love of big-breasted blondes, Martell
Cognac(r), Oreo cookies with Double Stuff(r), and rap music, although not
necessarily in that order.

Exuberant after the missile successfully hit its target 6,000 miles
away, Lil’ Moon threatened the U.S. using some rather bellicose verse he’d
penned just for the occasion, rapping it to a sweating UPI reporter:

"You say you gonna ‘bargo my stuff,

Then things’ll get really rough

I got hella nukes too,

I’ll turn you into barbecue!"

We came out onto the entrance to 101. "Which way?" I said.

"To San Francisco," he said.

"The number two destination spot
in the U.S. for tourists," I said cheerily.

He looked at me sternly. "I have
heard some terrible things about that city and I want to see for myself if they
are true. After that I wish to go to Orinda."

I swallowed and didn’t say
anything. Could this be a coincidence? Or did he have the power to read minds
or something. Sure enough, after a few moments he said, "You were headed there,
weren’t you?"

"Yes," I said.

"Why?"

"I heard there’s a nice English
restaurant there…"

"Yeah, right," he said
dismissively. He turned away and shook his head, waving me forward with his
hand.

We joined the flow of northbound
traffic. After about five minutes a beat-up old Mustang that had been
tailgating me suddenly swerved into the lane to my right. It zoomed up beside
us. Four guys that looked like gang bangers–shaved heads and tattoos on their
faces and necks, none of them wearing helmets–leered over at us. The crack
music from their radio was audible over the roar of the V-8 in their ancient
heap. The driver glared at God, if
that’s who he was, flashing gang symbols at him.

"Art they without the capacity
for speech?" God asked, "Speaking in signs perhaps?"

"Well," I said, "due to their
socio-economic class, these people have long been discriminated against and
kept out of the mainstream of society. Their use of hand signals is a coping
mechanism they’ve cleverly developed which, although primitive, is solely
theirs and gives them a sense of power."

He chuckled and nodded his big
hairy head. "Yes. Of course. I should have known that."

I glanced over at the car. One of
the guys in the back scowled and flashed a pistol at us. Big and silver, it looked
like a nine millimeter semi-automatic job.

"God damn it!" I said.

The big guy looked at me
questioningly.

"That’s a gun," I said, "they’re
gonna kill us!"

He frowned and turned back to the
gang bangers. Then he raised his staff. My hair stood on end as a tremendous
flash of energy arced from the staff and ripped into the car like a bolt of
blue lightning, exploding it into a cloud of fire and smoke. Debris rained down
as horns blared and brakes squealed behind us. He leaned out the window to look
back for a minute and then turned and settled back into his seat. He pointed to
the radio. "Can’t you get some music on that thing? Gospel maybe or Christian
rock?"

I tried for a few minutes but it
was all rap, hard rock and mariachi music. God angrily brushed my hand away and
mashed the AM button, putting the news back on–In a San Francisco home-invasion gone awry, a man was taken into
custody today after shooting one of five intruders who had severely beaten him
and forced him to watch as they serially raped his wife. The survivors have
filed a law suit against the home owner because of the trauma they say the
killing caused them. A hearing has been scheduled for December…

We drove on in silence.

We took the 6th Street exit and
headed north. I turned left on Howard and drove west.

"I want to get out and walk," he
said after a few minutes. "Stop the chariot."

I pulled over and parked and we
started walking down Turk Street.

We passed a glass fronted
business that looked like a Laundromat. ‘Massage Parlor’ its painted glass
window proudly proclaimed. I swallowed as God stopped to look.

"What is this?" he said.

"I think it’s a place for weary
travelers to bathe and rest."

His eyes bored into mine
suspiciously. "We’re going in," he said.