Naturally I just had to pinch myself.

It's not every day when the voices inside my head actually manifest into living flesh, and never into a drop-dead gorgeous woman. "Hello, figment of my imagination," I muttered, inhaling deeply. She smelled like an exotic combination of citrus and ginger. "Go back inside my brain now... you're distracting me." Instantly I felt a searing hot flash of pain on my left forearm as the woman slowly cocked a perfectly sculpted eyebrow and made the sign of the cross with her index finger. "I've seen the various figments of your imagination, Novice," she whispered, pointing at my arm. "They're just disembodied portions of your twisted psyche, and I'm pretty sure they can't burn human flesh." I glanced down to see a two-inch long blister in the shape of a crucifix just above my wrist. "Son of a bi..." "Don't even try to say it, pal," she snipped. "God frowns on those who use inappropriate language during divine intervention." Okay, she was real... the burn proved it. Unsure whether she meant me any harm, I slowly knelt down to pick up my buck knife, but it slid across the floor just as I reached for it. "Nice trick..." I said. "Sit.... now," she snapped, this time in a voice that stabbed right into the pit of my stomach. I plopped onto the floor of the toolshed without thinking. She meant business. "W-What would God want with me, er... Rebecca, is it?" I asked, trying to avoid her gaze and hoping she wouldn't assault me again. She folded her arms across her chest and an amused smile formed on her perfect face. "That's more like it," she nodded. "I'm well-pleased that you've decided to accept the reality of your predicament." "T-Thanks," I whispered. "Not like I have a choice here..." "Don't thank me... thank her." "W-Why?" "Because there's a special little corner of hell for despicable insects like you, Novice," she said. "Try to imagine spending eternity in a prison shower room where your sole purpose is to bend over and pick up an an endless supply of soap because that's where I'd be sending you if I had my way." "B-But I haven't killed anyone," I whispered. "Don't I have to commit a cardinal sin first?" "All of humanity sins, Novice," she snorted. "Just because you haven't carried out the physical act of murdering your fellow man doesn't mean that you haven't killed God knows how many innocent people inside that dead thing you call a heart." Of course she was right about me. I'd killed scores of people inside my mind, that is. From the woman who delivered flyers to my mother's house (I'd say it was my house, but that wouldn't be consistent with mom's daily reminders that it was somehow a privilege to live in a ramshackle bungalow in a part of town where people use their front lawns as automotive repair facilities.) to Mr. Brill, my seventh grade science teacher who drove a customized van with a steering knob, many regulars fell victim to my homicidal fantasies. The little old man who'd lost his memory was just murderous way of dipping my toe in the swimming pool to test the water, and given the crummy nature of the community where I lived, nobody would ever suspect the quiet young man who worked at Taco Bell and who shoveled snow for the less fortunate. At least that's what I believed. "What precisely are you?" I asked, very businesslike. "Better yet, why would God possibly be interested in a nineteen year-old who likes to fantasize about disemboweling people? I'd expect the supreme being would keep better company..."

Rebecca gave me an ice-cold glare and then she looked up at the ceiling of the toolshed. "See," she said, talking to what I assumed was God. "I told you this was a bad idea." I looked up, half expecting to see the face of God but was disappointed only to see particle wood nailed to an A-frame. "What's that?" she asked, as she glanced at me through the corner of her left eye. "Dumb it down for him, huh? Well... if you say so." "If who says so?" I asked. "Shut up, Novice," she grunted. "By rights you should have burst into flame when I appeared in the shed." "Why?" "Because this toolshed is now a holy place... anywhere God decides to send one of her angels, scratch that... any place that a heavenly entity sets foot into instantly becomes holy." "LIke a church then?" I asked, innocently. "I go to church, and I haven't noticed my body smoldering... even when I am thinking of killing the parishioners during a boring sermon." Rebecca made a huge effort of shaking her head in disbelief, then she let out a tremendous sigh. "No, Novice... not like a church. God hates churches." "Say what?" I asked, sounding mystified. "Why the hell would god dislike churches?" She gave me another icy cold stare and stabbed her finger in my chest. "What did I say about cursing, Novice?" she asked, sounding pissed. "Ummm... sorry," I muttered. "The "H" word is a bad one, huh?" "Yep." "I'll try to remember that," I said, sourly. "If God dislikes churches, there are going to be a heck of a lot of disappointed ministers all over the world if they find out." "Big deal," she shrugged. "They're all blowhards." At this point in our discussion, I began to wonder if I were, in fact, losing my mind. Now try to understand, just because I had displayed sociopathic tendencies at an early age, I didn't consider myself to be nuts. The voices in my head always told me that I was ill, they're good that way... it made the job of twisting pidgeon's heads off at 11:30 P.M. in Grosvenor Park seem like a hobby, if that makes any sense. Actually, from the time I was thirteen years old until the day I met Rebecca Harris inside Mr. Avery's toolshed, I was probably history's greatest pidgeon murderer. (This was before anyone ever mentioned the words "bird flu"... had I known then that my habit of pidgeonicide might possibly lead to my untimely death, I would have taken all forms of fowl off my list of animals to kill.) That one of God's messengers was now telling me that her boss disliked the very buildings in which humanity had spent the better part of the past two thousand years worshipping in, well... you'd question your sanity too. "With all due respect, Ms. Harris," I said, cautiously. "I'm starting to wonder if I am now officially insane." "Why?" she asked, tilting her head. I pulled my knees to my chest and sunk my head into my shoulders, then looked at her with a wimpy expression. "Well... I would expect that an angel would have nicer things to say about churces and ministers... I guess." "Why?" "Because... well, it's church," I winced, expecting another slap across the face. "Church is supposed to be all about God, isn't it?" She gave me another stab in the chest with her index finger and furrowed her brow. "Where in your bible does it say that God intended for churches to be buildings?" she asked.

"Umm... I'm not exactly a theologian," I muttered. "I have trouble remembering the menu at Taco Bell... and I work there for crying out loud." "Look," she huffed. "I don't have time to do a bible study with you, Novice. If you're too stupid to realize that worshipping God doesn't require regular attendance in brick building with creepy stained glass depictions of bible stories, then you're dumber than she thinks you are." "God thinks I'm dumb?" I asked, sounding slightly hurt. "Really?" "For crying out loud," she sighed, heavily. "Don't take it personally... okay? God still loves you... you know, like a pet." "A pet?" I asked, this time sounding flustered. "Yeah... like a puppy," she nodded. "I see... can I ask you a question?" "Is it a dumb question?" "Well... not really. I mean, I don't think it's a dumb question." "Ask..." "What could God possibly want with me?" I asked, in a serious tone. "I'm a bad person... remember?" "That you are," she nodded. "But for some strange reason, God feels that despite your homicidal nature, you can be put to good use." "In The Ten Commandments, Charleton Heston mentioned that killing people was a bad thing... why would God associate with a killer?" Rebecca's face became somber and she gave me a disturbing nod. "Because the end of the world is at hand, Novice," she said. "Your job is to stop it from happening."