Open Stage Night at the Back Door After the End of the World

One month into the…second or third “unprecedented” end of the world, I follow the crowds and bitchy Reddit posts to find God at the Back Door. The news cycle has finally moved on from their retirement. Even SEO experts are less focused on keywording for “which god is it that’s retiring?” and more on “learning to live in the end times.”

God has apparently been spending their own hours online, too. Even in the dark, it’s clear they’ve managed to contour their nose and faux beard better than I have at any point in my five-year career. They breast as boobily on the stage as the experienced queens do, their beard-tit combo a distilled “fuck you.”

I wait until they finish their “Act of Contrition” remix before I go up to the bar and order my drink. I make eye contact with the bartender. We make a communal effort to ignore both God and the muffled sounds of chaos on the street outside.

(It’s good practice to tip the Queens, of course, but I think I’ll tip the bouncer tonight for all the effort she’s putting into keeping God’s…fans…out of the bar.)

Cecil Rock-a-fella does his damnedest to follow God’s act after the post-performance applause dies down, but I—and, arguably, the rest of the bar—keep glancing toward the stage door.

God doesn’t make an appearance. Instead, when I look away from stage and door alike, I find them stealthily sliding into the seat next to me, wearing their wig cap and dressing gown.

“I noticed your carabiner,” God says with a nod. “What brand of pepper spray is that?”

I take a long, long sip of my drink. “Generic.”

God hums. “Is it better than name brand?”

“More affordable.” I glance down at the shellacked bar, half-expecting it to melt beneath God’s touch. It doesn’t. “I could get you some, if you like.”

God shrugs.

“But if you can’t afford any,” I say, because I can’t stop running my mouth, “there’s a back way out. You don’t—you don’t have to see anyone you don’t want to.”

God’s beard cracks as they smile. “It’s fine,” they lie. “I brought the trouble.” Their smile grows wry. “If my son can manage an angry crowd, I might as well try.”

“At least walk with one of the Queens.” Cecil Rock-a-fella finishes his song. I take another sip of my drink. “We’re used to it.”

God gives me a look like I’m fishing for pity, but all I can do is shrug. Behind their head, there’s a sign on the wall—affectionately graffitied to shit, sure, but as relevant as the day the owner put it up.

“Everyone: welcome. Consent: mandatory. Nazis: punchable.”

When the show’s over, I walk out of the bar holding my pepper spray tight. God—tits, beard, and all—walks behind me.

Celia Daniels

Celia Daniels works as a senior content writer by day and fiction writer by night. Find her creative work in Timeless Tales and The Molotov Cocktail.

Hailey Renee

Hailey Renee Brown is a professional illustrator born and raised in mid Michigan. A former field biologist, she moved across country from Michigan to New Jersey, also moving from science to commercial art. A professionally trained artist, she attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, NJ. She was selected the recipient of the 2017 Norman Maurer Memorial Award as well as the 2019 Joe Kubert Jumpstart Project.