I used my two normal eyes to examine my third eye in the middle of my forehead as it glared back at me from my reflection in the mirror.
“I hate this third eye,” I said aloud.
“I like it,” my girlfriend said as she strolled by in her bathrobe. “It’s so blue.”
It was indeed a brighter, more vibrant blue than my other eyes, and the puffy, red corners and swollen blood vessels of my normal eyes were blue in the third.
“I still don’t like it,” I said. “I can’t go to work like this.”
My girlfriend sighed from the edge of the tub where she sat pulling on her pantyhose.
“Well, I’ve got something for you,” I told the eye as I removed the mask in the drawer next to the bathroom sink. The mask looks just like me. It even has a short, red beard and a large freckle on its cheek like I do.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” my girlfriend said. “You could probably see God with that eye.”
“You don’t even believe in God,” I scoffed. “And anyway, I can’t see anything with this eye. I don’t even know how to close it. It’s like it has a mind of its own.”
As in response the eye protruded alarmingly from my forehead as though it would leap from my face and scamper off.
“I can’t go to work like this,” I repeated and unfolded the mask. “It’s obscene.”
“Do what you want,” my girlfriend sighed. “You always do anyway.”
She got up and stormed out of the bathroom.
“What? Are you mad about it now?” I shouted, but she didn’t respond. She was already gone.
I tucked the bottom of the mask into my shirt and stretched it across my face where it zips up. I used a forefinger to tug at the heavy, steel chains around my neck, which tend to become unbearably tight around midday, especially when I wear my mask. The mask is so snug I have to hold it closed with one hand as I yank up on the zipper with the other. Starting at my neck, I wrenched the zipper roughly over the chains and pulled it over my chin and up around my nose. I hesitated at the third eye, which blinked sadly and shed a single tear.
“I’m sorry,” I muttered under my breath. “I’ll let you out this weekend.”
We both knew the weekend, if it was to come at all, was a long way off.
I pulled the zipper over my third eye and tucked the toggle into my hair. The eyeholes of the mask fit my other two eyes perfectly. If you don’t look too close, you can barely see the zipper and hardly tell that I am wearing a mask at all. I tightened my tie and felt ready for work.
Inside the mask I could tell my third eye was closed, maybe sleeping, maybe even dying.
I hope you do die, for both our sakes, I thought and immediately felt guilty.
And you, reader, you expect me to teach you anything? Hypocrite reader, my double, my twin!
Giles is standing on the bridge of the spacecraft, and though he knows he is going to die, he is happy because he knows it
will be a heroic death. Despite a number of bloody scuffles and violent explosions in the past few hours, he still believes
himself to look soap-opera-star perfect: bright eyes, square jaw, blonde hair shiny and combed back into a Gordon Gekko
power-mullet, face smudged in all the right places so that he looks more like an “Abercrombie Goes to Space”
advertisement than a space pilot who has witnessed his crewmates’ excruciating deaths, and who has just learned that
the reason for these deaths has something to do with his ship passing through the space version of the Bermuda
Triangle, and now the Devil—yes, that Devil, capital D—has assumed human form on the ship and…well, it’s all
complicated really, but here’s the important part: Giles plans to look the Devil in the eye and say, “If this is God’s will, then
so be it. If not, then I’ll see you in Hell!” And then he will hit the bright-red self-destruct button and blow the spacecraft to
bits, and man, can you top that? To be a hero, and to also deliver such a clever one-liner? This is the year 2022, and if
people are still using the expression “OMG,” they will save it for moments like this one.
So don’t get nervous, Giles. Try not to remember that your entire life has led to this point. Try not to think about the fact
that, no matter your previous humiliations or failures, you get to tell off the motherfucking Devil!. This is it. This is
But now Giles is thinking that there are so many moments in his life worth regretting. The idea of one’s entire life passing
before their eyes is about as cliché as a bright-red self-destruct button, but damn, it really happens. Giles is re-living
every regrettable moment. Every. Single. One.
Pound the chest, Giles. Pound it. Shake your head, shake away the thoughts.
Giles is not afraid of dying, no sir. Right now, he has the chance to be a hero. He was born for this. He could have died
gruesomely or painfully like his unattractive crew-mates, each of whom was eviscerated in ways suspiciously similar to
scenes from the Alien movies. How embarrassing, how pointless, to die a rip-off death. But not Giles. No, the fear of
imminent death does not make him nervous. Blowing up a trillion-dollar spacecraft to destroy the Devil is a good way to
die, heroic enough to wipe away the memory of his mother walking in on him while he was masturbating, or a dozen fly
-down/penis-poking-out-of-his-boxers situations, a hundred cliffhanger boogers or oregano-bits-in-between-his-two-
Giles is ready to confront the Devil, ready to say “I’ll see you in hell!”
But shit, maybe this death isn’t so awesome.
Although Giles will suffer his death in the year 2022, long after the release of the 1998 film Armageddon (in which Bruce
Willis offers himself up in an equally heroic space sacrifice-for-the-good-of-mankind (it should be noted that Willis did not
have to contend with the presence of the Devil, only with a potentially Earth-destroying asteroid, so maybe it’s not quite
the same thing)), we can’t be certain that Bruce Willis hadn’t made this final stand (1998, remember) after first watching
the film Dark Side of the Moon, released in the year 1990 though the true events upon which the film is based (the events
being recounted here in this story) occur in 2022. One does not need a graph to see the inherent difficulties in
attempting to unravel and determine which character’s sacrifice came first. Whatever. The thing is, Giles is living in
the year 2022 and he is now suddenly aware of that Bruce Willis death scene, and he thinks: Shit, I am going to die a rip-
But wait, it gets worse.
The more that Giles thinks about it, he comes to understand a much bigger problem: he will have an awesome death, but
no one (aside from the Devil) will be around to see it.
Giles is the type of guy, remember (handsome, eloquent, golden-haired, deliciously thick-muscled, but not in veniy-gross tradition of professional wrestlers or football players), who should be the center of attention. But that’s not the case. No one ever seems to listen to Giles. When he cracks jokes or tells stories back at the base on Earth, other pilots seem to always interrupt the narrative just as Giles races toward the punchline…and despite another five or six attempts to butt back in and start over and regain the attention of the other pilots, Giles is always drowned out by the gravelly voices of his more assertive co-workers, his joke falling away to burn in the atmosphere. “Giles is still talking?” someone will inevitably ask, and they all howl with laughter, and Giles shuts up and shuts down.
That’s not to say Giles is ignored entirely, of course: the women off-base, the ones who work the bars around Cocoa Beach and look like True Blood waitresses, every one of them taut and supple and pouring out of cut-off jeans and ripped t-shirts better used as carwash towels, 20-something model-types who are too good for this backwater Florida town but hey, they love the beach and the sunshine, and most of all they love space pilots, and they like telling Giles to fuck them to the song “Take My Breath Away,” or “Danger Zone,” because they love—oh God, it makes them hot—love love love his late ‘80s/ early ‘90s Hollywood mullet. It’s like Beverly Hills 90210 or Melrose Place to the next fucking level. It’s Days of Thunder meets Poison meets MacGyver. And they run their fingers through the hair and ride him like a rock star, each living her own fantasy to which Giles has no access.
And he likes that they do this, he doesn’t want to complain…but none of the girls ever want to talk to him or listen to him. Most can barely remember his name. Shit, why can’t any of the pilot-groupies just tell him that they appreciate his thoughts on the unending Afghanistan War, or on the possibilities of uranium-powered cars, or on the future of the Transformers franchise (yes, it’s still going strong in 2022)? Is he just a joke-fuck? Are they making fun of him?
Shannon—she of the shortest cut-off jean shorts, she of the insatiable sexual appetite—actually tackled him as he left simulation training a few weeks ago, then recorded the two of them fucking in the Zero Gravity Room. When he finally went into space, she put it on YouTubeXXX. “Fuck me, Maverick!” Shannon screams in the video, and you can tell that Giles is uncomfortable, that he wants to ask her to call him by his real name.
And because his spacecraft only has poor-quality black-and-white television sets (NASA budget cuts: recycling old parts from the ‘80s and ‘90s, rather than using brand-new digital sets), Giles has not even seen his own amateur porn video. “You’re on YouTube,” Shannon told him on the TV phone a couple nights before the bizarre events depicted in Dark Side of the Moon, the gruesome deaths and the Devil and the explosion and all that.
Giles was curious. “You put me on…YouTube?”
“The world loves your hair,” Shannon said.
“My hair?” he asked. “You said that the video was for your career. Your acting.”
“Yeah, that too,” Shannon said. “The Zero Gravity Room made my body look fantastic. But really, you can’t even see my
“Can’t see your face?”
“The camera is mostly focused on you.”
“Wait, what? On me? You told me that—”
“You’re bringing that hair back, baby,” she told him on the TV phone, and she laughed. “You should see the
“Oh God,” he said. “Oh God, what?” And he tried to think of something else to say, couldn’t, then tried to muster a laugh so that Shannon might think he “got” the joke, but before he could, Shannon said, “Gotta go. Talk to you later, Maverick.” And the TV phone clicked off and Giles sat alone in the Communication Room with a half-eaten tube of freeze-dried strawberry paste, wondering now whether anyone took him seriously: when the other pilots joked about how he needed a larger helmet, was it friendly or mean-spirited?
But really, Giles, who cares about that anymore?
You are standing in the bridge of your spacecraft and you are ready to become a take-charge hero and to tell the Devil “See you in Hell!” and it doesn’t matter that you have a mullet, or that you were in a sex tape, or that you have been ridiculed by the entire planet, because this will make up for all of it. This is it, Giles. This is it, and your heroism will be immortalized, of course it will, of course this will become a movie because why else am I writing about it?, and with elements like this—mullets, explosions, spaceships, the Bermuda Triangle, the Devil—it will make the best fucking movie ever and everyone in the world will see it and you’ll be redeemed!
And it happens, sort of. Giles confronts the Devil, says his line, doesn’t mess it up.
But Giles never considers the other problem: that he is (was) agnostic, and that he should have known that—when you
see the Devil face to face…the Devil, remember, literally the Devil—you don’t continue your agnosticism. That’s stupid.
Instead of trying to talk shit to the Devil and trying to make a great final scene for a movie, shouldn’t you have recited John
3:16 or something, because now, Giles, you will literally see the Devil in Hell—no pun intended, hey, these are the rules of
the world, sir, and you had your chance—and in the end, the most accurate depiction of your confrontation with the Devil
was a 1990 movie called Dark Side of the Moon that is available on Netflix Instant Play, but who will ever watch it? And on
Earth, rumors will circulate about the ship explosion, and do you really expect that anyone will imagine that you—Giles,
the mullet-haired guy from the sex tape—sacrificed your ship and your crew in order to destroy Satan? I mean, really. Is
that what you think?
The more likely question asked by Earthlings on the ground will be this: Did you see that one of the pilots in the spaceship explosion was in an amateur porno? Dude must have been unstable.
Among the hundreds of thousands of online comments and blogs and news articles written about the space tragedy, not one will hypothesize that Giles might have stared the Devil down and uttered such a big-balled statement.
To the contrary: after the tragedy, Shannon the Cocoa Beach waitress will finally, under pressure from both NASA and her new agent (“I see big roles in your future, baby,” he’ll tell her, rubbing her leg), remove the video from YouTubeXXX, and the TV movies about the explosion will not resemble the 1990 film Dark Side of the Moon in the slightest, will not characterize Giles as Bruce Willis but instead as a weird Hal 2000/Paris Hilton/Ash-the-insane-android-from-Alien hybrid, a malfunctioning sex-crazed spaceman who went crazy and obliterated his colleagues, and film critics will lament that the story offered so little honest exploration of the tragic explosion, that the villain at the story’s center—Giles—felt like one of the biggest rip-off characters in cinematic history.
You can’t believe what your daughter did. Heather just unzipped her jacket and then crossed her arms, pushing up her teenage cleavage at the college boy standing behind the register here at Smash Burger. It’s too late to do anything other than grab Heather by the elbow and pull her away to a table.
You don’t know where Heather got one of those plunging deep v-neck halter-tops and why she would wear it today. You don’t know a lot about where your daughter has been and why she does the things she does. You promised yourself that you would try not to say anything about anything. So, disregarding the death-stare Heather gives you; you go back, pay, and pick up the two all-Angus-beef burgers and one order of rosemary fries. You expect the college boy to say something about the two of you looking like sisters, but he doesn’t. At the table, Heather stares at the floor. She scuffs her feet on the restaurant’s linoleum and you remember how when you still thought of her as your little girl she used to sit on the swing at the playground and drag her shoes through the mulch chips.
As soon as you sit down, Heather gets up.
“What are you doing?” you ask, condemning and congratulating yourself for taking this long to ask that question.
“Going to the bathroom,” Heather says. “Okay?” She lifts her eyebrows and tilts her head toward the side hallway.
You realize whether or not she has to go she’ll walk by the boy again, but you think she’s already done everything anyway. Heather doesn’t see you nod. You think how easy it is to just let them go, do anything.
This morning—one day before Heather made today’s appointment at the agency, two days before she told you that she was pregnant, and three days before she found out—you glanced at the World-Herald’s headline about the Greeks leaving their kids in the streets, because they couldn’t afford them. You remember a few years ago when a man right here in Omaha left his nine children at a hospital. He could afford them, he just didn’t want them. Heather comes back to your table and sits down. She puffs a breath from her bottom lip to get her bangs out of her face.
“They put mustard on my burger,” Heather says, slumping into her chair.
“Just scrape it off,” you say, reaching for some fries.
“I can’t eat this,” Heather says.
You want to tell Heather that she doesn’t know about sacrifice. It isn’t about eating mustard on a burger. Still, you trade burgers with your daughter.
“Thanks,” Heather says. Her cheeks pull into a closed-mouth smile.
After lunch, on the ride home, you glance at Heather nodding off in the co-pilot chair of your sedan. You remember when she was a newborn and would fall asleep in the backseat with that gummy, toothless grin of hers and you couldn’t help but smile back and coo in the rearview mirror. You realize you were Heather’s age now when you were pregnant. You consider how you knew then as you know now—regardless of everything—you could never give away your child and you wonder how Heather was able to make that decision.
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