James stayed up watching the blinking lights of his modem. In the dark to which his eyes had adjusted the pinpricks of green illuminated the walls, his posters, his mirror. He would wait until 3:33am and then no longer—it should have been all it took, but he knew he had no right to demand anything, certainly not consistency. Marc Suskin had opened that evening, had had a lot of things to say about spontaneous visitations—the most salient point being that they could occur with the right preparation in the waking state, with one’s eyes open. James hadn’t masturbated for a week. Rose hadn’t so much as been in his presence, and that had been difficult. Pastor Obed had been at the ceremony Sunday, though was tired, and very obviously was there just to make an appearance before Stewart, James’s father. There were some things the Pastor liked, and others he did not. Staying up late was not something he liked, even if it were to do the things that he did. Lights darted and fizzed in front of James suddenly and without a shift in mood of any kind—phosphenes most likely, he thought. He had been all day in the woods with his dad, cleaning up, had returned eyes blood-shot, clothes wet from snow. The sheriff had dropped by to check in, give his two cents about various things he hadn’t been invited to opine on, like changes to their shoemaker, who he said could be moving to Alaska, leaving very probably a vulnerability in the inevitable changing of hands to outsiders. What you wanted, he had said, raising a boot to a fallen tree and leaning on his fat leg, was a legacy-type business—if not handed from father to son and so on, then from interested party to interested party, people with files, with leashes on them. He had winked and his father, the senator, had turned, raised up and inhaled tiredly. He had given him the “are we done here?” look, steam pouring from his flared nostrils and the sheriff had returned the gaze several fractions of a second too long for either James or his father’s liking before raising his hand deferentially and trudging through the snow back to his car. It wasn’t the time really to be butting heads about trivialities like that. Not with elections around the corner. In his room James tried to picture his father as the president, and smiled when the image of a handsome auburn-haired Jew, perhaps with traces of grey, white stubble if one were close enough to see, and round reading glasses put his hand to his heart and took the oath.
Something began to vibrate. Was he drifting into sleep? For a moment he saw the inside of his dream—an endless tunnel of reverberating thoughts, and forgot entirely what it was he had been thinking about, where he had been. Disoriented he blinked and tried to focus on the things around him. He was unable to move, and gasped for air as a swift, brilliant and inhuman presence filled the room. The buzzing in his ears jackhammered; rhythmic now, an intelligent signal.
“Jesus Christ,” he screamed in his head. “Jesus!” Managing to inhale he regained command of his emotions and steeled himself for contact. A light appeared, a real one, glowing faintly in front of his wardrobe and he watched as a vapour spread, a kind of insubstantial, effervescent static growing inside an upright, man-shaped matrix. This was the power of sacrifice, thought James. This was what happens when humans are put through a lemon squeezer. He felt once again the way he wished he felt all the time; touched by an angel, binary, important.