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Spring Issue of 2012

Call Upon the Cleric - Conrad Kamschulte

Vibrant crayon scribbles ignited a blank page. A child’s wayward imagination, accompanied by the tool in hand, wandered in all directions. A smile beamed across a fresh face as his thoughts colourfully dashed across the blankness. Dinosaurs! Robots! Pirate ships! Anything and everything could be spilled upon the canvas! Blast! Why could those parents of his not approve? “Obnoxious, unstable, overstimulated, and out-of-control” they said it made him! If he was to unleash every thought into the open, then he could never contain himself in a public setting! To the absurdities and nonsensical! Bah, they had allowed his creativities to be pursued so far, but this malarkey was to come to an end! A certain serviceman was coming to town.

Upon the door it came! A quick succession of irregular rat-a-tat-tats on the balsa wood!

Obtrusive knocks clanged. Parental eyebrows rose. The mother tiptoed past the engrossed child. The door was opened, allowing only a single creak to sneak by. A bizarre and twisted looking individual stood atop of a dusty welcome mat. His attire consisted of a fabulously filthy fuming suit, equipped with a mangy red tie of burlap. Yet the queerest mystery about him was a darkened tattoo resting upon his dirty forehead. It resembled something that looked like a broken pencil, perhaps? His angular face was covered in jagged points, and cheek bones you grate cheese off of. Malicious airs wafted about his head transferring across to the mother, whose protruding nose curled at the tip! Those hawks-like eyes of the menacing man darted across the room, viciously scanning the various rooms and its occupants, before returning a fierce gaze to the maternal family figure. Only a broken man could have such a crooked smile, she thought. She began to question if it was the ethical choice to hire such a peculiar man. Oh well! Reviews revered robust results, and a lack of ethics evade entropies.

“Goodness gracious me!” laughed the bitter-drenched oddity. “I can positively smell the creative juices brewing from the inside of your housing unit. Disgusting, isn’t it? How could’ve you allowed these mind tainting extremities? Bad parenting I call it, tut-tut.”

“I beg your pardon?!” exclaimed she, mother ever so baffled and outraged.

“No you may not. Cleric Epson is I. Now do tell, ever so promptly. Where is the infected? The inflicted…conflicted…convicted…the ever indicted” he inquired, trailing and muttering continuously to himself towards the end, slowly pushing those words through his teeth. Without hesitation he allowed himself into the home, brushing past the mother with elegant rudeness.

“Too slow, for there I spy him pen and utensil in hand and mind. Revolting? Is that the word I’m looking for? Bah, no matter, I’ll accept it with all its shortcomings.” Into the living quarters he proceeded, taking his gloom and disparity with him as if they were a pet.

The child was still lost in his own world, brimming with all he could imagine. He was magnificently engrossed in his work. So engrossed he was, that he did not see the questionable cleric stand before him. Epson joined the child on his carpeted level, observing the ways the crayon traversed the white field. His hazel irises and abyssal pupils never released eye contact of that unremitting green-coloured wax. With every stroke, the cleric could feel a tremendous bulge building inside of his throat. His eyes would twitch upon the sight of doodled dinosaurs and sketched soldiers. How his fists would clench at the scene of make-believe battles. His blood was positively simmering! It was time for his job to start.

“Greetings Jordan” he announced.

“Gordon” the father corrected.

“Horton,” the cleric reaffirmed. “Your parents speak lowly of your passion for freeing the imagination. Sounds like a lovely fondness to own, doesn’t it?” His question fell upon deaf ears and non-idle hands frantically engaged. ”My name is Epson. I’m a cleric…a paladin…a handgun harlequin…a limbless mannequin…a fabrication. Oh sorry, I do get astray often. Yes, I am a cleric, a unique one at that. I’m a cleric on an inquisition against the aging brew concocting damnation, eternally failing glory, hindering all naïve noggins, Cordon. Are you listening?”

Negative. The child was absent today. The cleric rubbed his weary eyes.

“I don’t think you are listening.” Epson sighed. Forcibly, he whisked away the youngster’s sheet. The child placed the crayon back into its respective box, and met the stare of the cleric with his own doe eyes. The cleric pointed a grubby finger at the sheet accusingly, leaving a curt stain on the drawings.

“You see this, Lorcan? This is your damn imagination at work. It is an example of letting any unwanted, nonsensical, controversial thought escape your head, where silly ideas such as these…ruffian pirates fighting prehistoric lizards with artificial laser rifles…are best left; left to be forgotten and to decay in that crevice of a brain, having never known the light of day! Now why on earth would you willingly subject yourself to demise?”

“It’s fun” replied Gordon.

“Fun is a buzzword!” screamed a frustrated cleric, his weary throat hoarse with rage.

The child responded not. In the silence, the cleric’s anger burned.

The father of the child, witnessing the spectacle unfolding before him, was bewildered and utterly confused. Perhaps entranced negatively by the cleric’s display, he decided he had to interject.

“Pardon me, but what on Earth are you doing? We hired you to solve his attention-deficit, not to ruddy traumatize him! What kind of cleric are you? Some holy man you are, spouting on about…”

To which the agitated, aggravated Epson interjected, sputtering: “for fuck’s sake, you garbled-brain scrambler! You collected a man who is driven by a mission. The mission which, still stands of today, is the eradication…extermination…elimination of the accursed imagination! Am I the only one who has noticed it since we were born? How it lingers in our heads like some lardaceous, leeching tumor, and building up with every dead potential decision, falsified memories, and expired inspiration? Putrid products soon emerge from the cancer, clogging up your head to the point where it becomes poison!”

He crumpled the drawing, tossing it angrily at the man’s head. It simply bounced off the father’s plump forehead, anticlimactically. The tirade barraged onwards as an angered river. The father receded.

“The foolishness of these ideas is practically insulting! Do you know why the world is so full of evil? It is because of the imagination! Crime is a result of a man imagining an act, and foreseeing the potential victory he may achieve. War has progressed to the point where we can devastate the world eleventeen times over, all because man imagined that he could develop weapons beyond sharpened sticks! Twisted religions and gods, calling for deranged crusades, all exist because someone imagined them!”

He was to continue, but the portly patriarch’s engorged Adam’s apple gulped, attracting the attention of the deranged cleric. The aggravated inquisitor approached the father. His daunting eyes scoped out every inch of the dad’s face, as if he was desperately searching for a chink in the armor. It wasn’t long before he found it either. All it took was a single bead of sweat to drip off the dad’s forehead. There the cleric found an atrocious addition for his argument.

“Well, well, well. Oh my dear sweet auntie. I am sensing a diabolical emotion within you. You’re scared aren’t you? You fear what you’ve introduced into this household.” Epson’s chortles rattled in everyone’s eardrums. The father’s eyes grew paler and wider, betraying him to the interrogator. He was going to falsely deny such a claim, to preserve his authority before his son, but Epson interjected.

“Why do you fear me?” he asked, dropping the menacing act. “Am I not a fine upstanding gentleman? Don’t answer that.” Here, the cleric wandered behind the trembling wreck of a father, maintaining a wicked smile across his face. The child briefly looked up, witnessing the bizarre spectacle. He had given the cleric what he wanted: his attention.

“It’s like this, Norton. At night, you see the shadows move and the monster under the bed. It’s all an illusion. The imagination is generating fear and anxiety. What a curse. It’s the root of the trauma, the phobia genesis, and the sanity vaporizer. The imagination turns on you any chance it gets. Like a snide two-faced friend it will play with you, and then spit in your face!”

The child blinked vacantly, and resumed drawing. Epson frowned ferociously, his soured face scrunching. His patience was running thin. “Flash-forward: your traitorous love has left you. Stabbing you in the back! She was everything you wanted. You’re heartbroken, but why?"

“Girls are icky” muttered the child.

“You prepubescent addled tosspot! It’s a simple hypothetical, for fuck’s sake!” Epson screamed hysterically. “You are distraught! You imagined you would be with this woman forever! You imagined a future! A home! A family! Everything! You imagined so many faulty lies, and in the end it ruined you! Your world poisoned by a force you never wished for!!”

“Is that what happened to you?” Gordon asked.

Upon those words Epson withdrew himself, muttering obscenities under his rank breath. His raggedy body was huddled over, with his grubby hands grasping at his mangy hair. At first, only his eyes were free from the self-imposed paralysis, constantly twitching and brimming with water. His breathing steadily increased. He was lost in a thought that had not surfaced for years, buried deep for a reason lost. The cleric staggered, freeing himself from his own inflicted immobility. The look of grimace on his face would have intimidated most, but not Gordon. The cleric knew this.

Ripe in his maddening, his hatred bubbling, he produced a worn lighter from his back pocket. The flame it birthed smelled utterly vile, as if it were gathered from the very Malebolges of lower Hell. He allowed the fires to touch the drawing’s corner. Smolders crept up like ivy, ruining the juvenile masterpiece. The child made no comment, even as he saw his work give way to ashes.

“The world should be lobotomized,” the cleric said, fondling his mucky hands. His voice, saddened and reclining, lingered away. From his torn pocket, he produced a grimy black pencil. The resembled the mark that rested on the cleric’s forehead. “All you have to do is snap the pencil, and you are wiped clean. Baptized…capsized…bastardized…a shadowy lie. You’ll be like a husk. No way to do any harm then is there? You can’t move, and you can’t think for those who can move. The imagination cannot destroy us if we’re disconnected from it. Can you imagine that?”

“No…” said the boy, who seemed oddly focused on another thought.

Epson tittered to himself, wagging a condescending finger. “Such is the folly of the young. They rely on the imagination…begging it to act as a shroud, to cloud the unrelenting reminder that the world won’t stay shiny and toy filled forever.”

“Have you ever thought that you’re imaginary?” the child asked. It was completely out of the blue, and the cleric had a bit of a baffled brain upon hearing the sentence. However, it soon sunk in and it clicked. Epson realized what he just heard and it tickled. It tickled his head, his sides, his eyes, and his tongue. With the laughter of disbelief trickling alongside his words, the good cleric of anti-imagination requested repetition.

“Heh-heh, I…uh…heh…what did you say?”

“You’re imaginary. We all could be really.”

“Unproven…disillusioned…in conclusion…NO! How could you sustain that idea even with such nourished fantasies? A preposterous ridicule that you fling my way, you dare? See what has happened? The imagination has taken root and has poisoned your head with absurd obscenities, so it seems.”

“Just saying,” the child replied. “We might be a piece of a greater being’s imagination. All your quirks, your beliefs, and everything you are. You could just be a character for all we know, acting as a metaphor or a symbol. We may be a fanciful daydream merely acting as a crude form of entertainment. We could be concoctions to prove a point. An escape from their world into one they’ve never know. Could you possibly imagine that, Cleric Epson?”

The tone of the boy had shifted radically. The enhancement of his vocabulary and speech patterns was a worrying sign. As Gordon unleashed his hypothesis onto the world, subtle changes were taking place. Through those twitching eyes of his, Epson saw the wallpaper peel itself off the walls. The frightened father’s eyes warped, metamorphosing in all sizes. The child’s physical form began to phase in and out of planes, producing jittering static mumbles that rattled Epson’s ears.

The cleric fell to his knees. A vacant expression was painted across his face. Witnessing the monstrous reality-warping, he simply muttered calmly to himself: “All I can hear is snapping pencils…”

The world reset itself to its original state. The child was still staring at him. The father was still in his chair. The mother was…still nowhere to be seen. The world was no longer manipulated by a detestable force; one that would be better off destroyed. Epson saw this stabilization as a small victory for his cause. He sported a vicious grin wildly to himself.

“That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Ha! Could you imagine that? To be just a product of fiction, a ridiculous claim for sure! It appears I am too late to cure you. The rot has ripped its way into your head. I can only imagine what destruction your tainted mind will cook up, but thankfully I can’t imagine.”

Promptly, the cleric arose to his feet. He made no comment upon the boy’s, nor the environment’s, sudden strange behavior, shortly displayed before. It was as if he had formed some semi-permeable block to what happened. He just smiled at the child, before leaning into the child’s face, and he whispered to the innocent boy:

“It only ruins you, you know. The only way to win is to snap the pencil.” He tapped the mark on his forehead, and placed the black pencil besides the crayon. After that, he simply stormed off! The father and mother made no attempt to stop him, and Epson made no attempt to be stopped. He simply disappeared out the door.

The child shrugged, and picked up a crayon.