August 03, 2015 11:57:41 PM





Alexander Meets the Vegan God

The sun rose and everything fell.

Alex mourned for his great one-and-a-half year vegan empire, reduced to rubble in an instant.

He gazed in horror at the corrugated cardboard boxes newly stacked in the freezer of his father’s grocery. Meat. It was over, all over. The meat-craving madman had betrayed him, had had this garbage delivered in the middle of the night. Alex took a good long stare at the box directly in front of him, the one labeled FRESH HAM that had a little dent in the top right corner that pissed him off, and threw his fist into it with all of his might. It made him angry that cardboard couldn't feel pain. He made a mental note that, when he became rich, he would invent cardboard that could feel pain and step on it all he wanted. That made him feel a little bit better. But not a lot. Something would have to be done.

Shaking with rage, Alex slammed the freezer door behind him and kicked through the stupid screen door that was standing in his way at the top of the basement staircase. He began stomping his way towards his father’s room, but before he got there he realized that he had to calm down and focus all his willpower into controlling himself. His breaths became deeper and more consistent, his steps fell into a careful rhythm, and he silently apologized to the screen door for breaking it. He recalled how often the aging store owner—no, co-owner—lectured about the importance of self-restraint, but Alex wasn't doing this for him. He was doing it for himself. What his father didn’t understand was that people who are geniuses know when to control themselves and when to just forget about everything and go wild. Even though controlling yourself is important a lot of the time, when you're angry people kind of have to listen to you because you're so loud and you might hurt them if they don't.

Contemplating this, Alex suddenly realized that, given the weight of the situation, this was going to have to be one of those times. When he arrived at his father's bedroom, he didn't even bother with knocking or anything. He just grabbed the knob, twisted it as hard as he could, and threw his shoulder into the door. It opened with an explosive bang and made this super-loud cracking sound, and Alex hoped that this would let his father know that he was actually really angry and wasn't just making a show of it because he couldn't handle change or something stupid like that. He knew that this was the most angry he'd ever been because he'd never shoulder-charged his father's door that hard before.

“Alex?” His father's waking brain took a moment to grasp the situation, but not too long. His expression contorted from confusion to anger. “Alex!”

After staring straight into his father's eyes for a few long seconds, during which only the accentuated breathing of the two was audible, Alex couldn't help but laugh. He found it hilarious that his father actually had the nerve to be angry at him, that he was so insanely stupid that he didn't even realize who was in the wrong here. Sometimes Alex wondered how the man had fathered such a genius.

“Alex, what are you doing?” His father's face had contorted again, this time to an abomination of fake concern. It did make Alex feel a bit happier for some reason. But not a lot.

“What, exactly, do you think you're doing to our store?” Alex said this with such restraint that he knew that his father would be proud of him, if he actually cared about his father's pride at all, which he didn't.

The aging man looked at Alex, the cracked door, and then the sheets in his hands. “Oh, so that's what all this is about.”

His voice was weak. A weak voice for a weak man. Alex said nothing; he simply stared at his father angrily, or disapprovingly, or both at the same time, or neither. Alex actually had only one face for being upset. It was cool because nobody could guess what he was thinking. He'd formed its basics when he was very little, and perfected it when he was only kind of little. Now, in high school, he had it down to a science: Alex knew precisely which muscles to adjust, and how far to adjust them. This time, though, he found himself jutting out his jawbone farther than he'd ever jutted it before. He could feel himself looking cooler and more intimidating than ever. He realized that at that very moment that his technique had evolved past a science and into an art form. Alex had been celebrating this new development for what seemed like hours when his father rudely interrupted him.
“I was going to tell you over breakfast–”
“What, exactly, do you think you're doing to our store?” Alex had seen people in movies cut off other people by repeating a question, and he'd always thought that it made them look pretty awesome. Alex felt giddy doing it to his father for the first time.
The man paused for a moment to collect himself, and then spoke. “I'm sorry, Alex. We just can't support ourselves as we currently–”
“What, exactly, do you think you're doing to our store?” Alex couldn't suppress his pride and giggled a little bit despite himself. He imagined that he was interrogating his father for top-secret information, or something, like, “What, exactly, do you think you're doing to our store? The safety of my country depends on this!” and then his father would say, “Never! You'll never make me talk!” and then the music would pick up and maybe there would be a fight scene or something. Suddenly, there he was, in the middle of the fight: the camera was flying everywhere and the action was getting crazy. There was a flurry of punches and kicks that only the best martial artists around could keep up with. His father seemed to be getting the upper hand when Alex revealed that his right arm actually wasn't broken and that the fight up to that point had only been a test! Suddenly the alarms went off because the enemy was attacking the base, and only he could stop them. Everything was one big blur, and Alex was the hero, striking down bad guys left and right with his bulging muscles. Alex was reveling in the chaos when he noticed that his father had probably been talking for a couple of minutes.
“–It's, you know, not all that bad if you think about it... I know you're very attached to your eating habits, but, trust me, you'll be happy once you see how–”
“Don't talk to me ever again,” said Alex, and he really meant it. “I'm going outside.”

During the summer months, Alex liked to take a stroll through the neighborhood park when he needed to calm down. When he was feeling especially bitter, he would lie down on the grass with his eyes closed, waiting for a gently rolling breeze to sweep up his negative thoughts and carry them away to people he hated, especially his dad and Mike. This time, however, Alex's blissful reverie ended less than peacefully. He had just barely settled down to rest when he was shaken awake by a sudden tremor, rising in intensity and accompanied by deafening cracks and a deep grating sound like stone on stone. Startled and confused, Alex barely had time to wonder if this was some sort of karmic justice for what he did to the screen door before the ground exploded before him in a magnificent shower of soil and stone. After lying on the ground, speechless and covered in dirt, for a good long time, Alex realized that the earthquake had ceased and began throwing his limbs about in an attempt to get up.

“GREETINGS.” The voice rang out in a tone so deep, so powerful, that Alex's body was once again frozen in awe. “ALEXANDER.”

It suddenly occurred to Alex that there were a pair of legs in front of his face. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the legs, really; they were longish, kind of pale, and, he thought, would probably benefit from a good workout every now and then. Alex decided that they were a pretty good pair of legs overall, and that he wouldn't mind too much if they were his, even if he would definitely have exercised more and therefore make better use of them. It was, of course, the person attached to the legs that drew his attention: His deep, booming voice, the fact that he knew Alex's name, and the way he'd burst out of the ground were all good talking points if Alex ever got the chance to discuss them. And yet, even in the face of all this sudden craziness, Alex was most surprised by the fact that he wasn't surprised at all. Despite finding himself completely unable to move his body, and therefore unable to see the upper three quarters of this mysterious stranger, Alex felt like the two of them had something in common, like maybe some sort of weird spiritual bond. Regardless of this, he decided that he wasn't going to take any chances. Summing up all of his might, he jutted out his jawbone a little. He remembered hearing somewhere that you should never show any signs of fear when you're being attacked by a bear, and maybe this was one of those situations.

“Who are you?” he forced his mouth to form the words.

“I AM THE VEGAN GOD,” came the stranger's reply.

That answer caught Alex off guard, and he struggled to piece together a reply. “You–that doesn't–I mean...”

“YOU ARE TROUBLED, MY CHILD.” Now, Alex prided himself on being tough, but there was something within these words—some sort of slight intonation, the tiniest and most beautiful trace of genuine, sympathetic emotion—that hit Alex like a sack full of frozen tofu bricks. Of course he was troubled! Of course! Didn't he have a right to be? How could he not be? Alex felt his eyes tear up. Suddenly, there was a huge sphere of everyone he ever knew flying above him and around him and through him, and they were inside of his mind but real at the same time; dancing around him was a ghostly parade of these people who should have known him so well but didn't, and they were pointing and laughing at him and eating meat.

“WHY?” Alex screamed out in the midst of this chaos. “What–what is–what is the point of everything?”

While Alex decided in retrospect that this was an embarrassingly dramatic thing for him to say and that it was more than a little bit cheesy, especially considering the image he liked to hold of himself, he realized that it was probably the truest thing he had ever said. And it wasn't as if he regretted it, anyway, not to mention the fact that no human was there to hear him. Those words would change the course of his life, because after he spoke them, everything stopped. The images, the confusion, everything—even some things on the inside that he didn't know about until then. He found himself standing in front of his home, clean and unhurt, with a set of life-changing words etched into his mind:


At that moment, Alex knew exactly what he had to do. He threw open the front door, dashed across the store and flew up the staircase. And there he stood, heart pounding, breathing heavily, his will screaming “vegan” at the very peak of its capability. Even his father. Even his father was part of the plan.

Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.