The God of the Office took the elevator all the way up to his floor. The forty-ninth floor. Seven times seven. He had to think of AC/DC every time he hit the button. “It was the seventh day, I was the seventh son, and it scared the hell out of everyone.”
He could tell something was wrong, off somehow, as soon as he swiped his ID card through the reader and went inside, past the big hydroponic plants that the guys came and traded out for healthier-looking ones once every six months (they used to do it every three months but in times such as these). The office manager and the assistant office manager and one of the um one of the assistants, those guys who… like apprentices only they work for free, the one of the oh fuck am I senile, the office manager, her assistant and one of those guys working there for free were standing around the office manager’s desk, which stood in the entry way, beneath some somehow contractually-required wall art, a large abstract painting that the God of the Office rather liked, and they all looked up when he came in and the guy working for free – the Intern, shit, intern, intern, intern, broke off their animated conversation, discussion, even, to state with some relief: Here he is!
What’s up? asked the God of the Office.
He’s out on the ledge! all three of the others said, simultaneously, in unison, whatever, in stage whispers.
What, again? Said the God of the Office.
Yeah, they all said.
Aw, Christ, said the God of the Office and put his stuff down by his desk in his office and hung his jacket from his chair and in his shirtsleeves climbed out onto the ledge to try to talk the God of the Ledge back in.
Don’t come any closer! said the God of the Ledge.
The God of the Office sort of behind his back motioned at the others to stick their heads the hell back in the windows and leave the two of them alone. The God of the Office sat down on the ledge, carefully, and dangled his feet.
The ledge was a regular highrise ledge, a foot or two wide, going all the way around the building. The street was forty-nine, fifty stories down. The office buildings across the street were way closer than the ground. It felt as if, if you jumped, or fell, maybe you could reach out if you could get any sort of trajectory going, and catch yourself on one of those buildings before you hit the ground, but both Gods knew this was not true, this was not the case. The science of ballistics did not work like that.
The people working inside those other buildings looked like – and I guess were – biological specimens on display in well-lit dioramas, for it was a darkish morning, with a fog rolling in. A very thick fog. They looked like someone else’s dreams you heard about once and which somehow stuck with you for some reason, and in the hearing they became so much more vivid than your own.
Don’t come any closer, said the God of the Ledge.
I heard you, said the God of the Office.
Yeah, but you keep sidling closer. I’m not stupid. You do this every time.
The God of the Office was about an arm’s length away. Okay, okay, he said.
They sat there, the two of them, and watched as the lights in the buildings a couple blocks away twinkled and went out, disappeared from sight as the fog swallowed the city. The sounds from the street grew muffled and stopped. After another minute, even the offices across the street had disappeared and they were alone out there on the ledge, in silence, dimly lit in the thick morning fog.
I love the fog, said the God of the Office.
The God of the Ledge shrugged and nearly slipped off the ledge. He scrambled back and leaned against the building. So you always say, he said.
And this, wow, I don’t want to oversell it or anything, but this is some nice fog, said the God of the Office. When the God of the Ledge looked away the God of the Office handcuffed himself to the God of the Ledge, wrist to wrist.
You have a death wish? said the God of the Ledge.
No, said the God of the Office. I have a life wish. For both of us.
Yeah, well, not me. You might be regretting this later. If you’re betting I won’t take you with me.
The God of the Office shrugged, and almost fell off the ledge. Shit! he muttered as he scrambled further back on the ledge. The God of the Ledge helped him. They both, the two of them, sat there, hearts beating wildly, and leaned against the building and stared into fog for a while until their heart rates normalized.
There are worse deaths than leaping into fog, said the God of the Ledge.
I was just thinking the same thing, said the God of the Office. Last night watching an Alec Baldwin movie with my wife, I nearly choked to death on a piece of stale popcorn. All I could think, while it was happening, is what a sucky death that would be.
I was thinking of something slow and nasty, said the God of the Ledge.
Of course you were, said the God of the Office. Here. He took a sip from a pocket flask and passed it to the God of the Ledge and they sat there drinking single malt and staring into the nothing of the fog until they began to hallucinate shapes rotating there in the nothingness.
I heard what I thought was a muezzin, said the God of the Office, finally, breaking the silence after a minute. Even though he spoke gently it sounded loud and he lowered his voice further. But it turned out to be boys yodeling “Jingle Bells” as they ran through the snow.
I saw a ring of bird feathers in the snow under the bird feeder, said the God of the Ledge. A perfect circle, all pointing outward, with just a little blood, and two bird feet standing up in the center of it. As if a bird had exploded in some weird cartoon.
Aren’t cats great? said the God of the Office. Speaking of nasty ways to die.
A person I love was unkind, said the God of the Ledge.
What, to you? said the God of the Office. He shrugged, carefully. He stared out into the fog. The whisky had sort of a metallic aftertaste that he reckoned came from the metal flask. The fog was so thick that he could no longer see even the God of the Ledge, only hear him, and that only barely. He shrugged again, for practice, testing how strongly he could shrug without falling.
I was at an exhibition, he said. I was at an exhibition of impressionist art and I watched my wife looking at the art and fell in love with her all over again. The way she looks at a painting, I really like to watch that, you know?
Now the fog had grown so thick he couldn’t hear an answer, if one came. He couldn’t even see the ledge upon which he sat, couldn’t see himself. Visibility zero, hand in front of your face, nothing.
The God sat there and sat, and thought about small things that had amazed him.