Nine feet tall, skin dark blue, and in his home—such was Damon’s first visit from the realms immaterial. “Shit,” Damon said to fierce eyes and snaggleteeth. He had just got back from the investment bank and iced mocha fell from his grip. Voiding into cashmere was almost an afterthought. Lash and sword were at the ready—maim and kill, the respective use—but instead a third hand wrenched him up and a fourth cocked back. Coming to, one eye shut, Damon might have hoped nightmares would pass with nap time. Instead the horror was only waiting for attention. The breath stank of tears.

“You cunt. You little fucking cunt. This is what it takes? This is how you learn?”


Mockery—dumb-dumb faces. “WHAAA? DUUUH? Fuck off with the pleas of ignorance and harken well, shitbird.” Tip-first the sword came down at Damon’s eyes. Broken parquet hardwood, what a racket—perhaps neighbors would hear, that or his girlish screaming. The stammering was not well met. “‘Sorry’? Pray tell, you half stack of banana puke—just what are you sorry for?”

“What did I do? I didn’t do anything!”

“I was there. And you”—a slow growl to spell it out—“you made me watch.”

“You’re—you’re—what are you saying, that you’re my conscience?”

The lash sang. The tailoring was left in ribbons, and Damon bled and cowered. “Mine, he says. You walking, talking cumshot—put a capital C on that conscience if it helps. The only mine here is you, my bottommost bottom punk.”

“Is this because of the tranches? Wait—my ex? No—that thing with my stepbrother? The cab driver? Dine and dash? The living trust? Putting my mother in a home? That dog yesterday outside the barbershop?” Three more with the lash. “I’m sorry!”

“No, you’re scared, and you ought to be. I’ve had it—had it with each sleazy tug paid out to fame and gain. You think you’re so sly, monkey dick—but there’s never a time nobody can see because you can see! Isn’t that a simple premise? Know what’s worse? The second I vanish you’re going to think you’re free to sneak one past again. Even now, with the torn-up clothes and the black eye and the shat britches. But from here out it will be different. Now you’ll have fear to guide you. Once I wink out of material existence go to your balcony. Take a look. It’s still daylight out. You can see for miles. Drink it all in. And know this: if you make me come back, ever, for any reason–whether it’s for subprime mortgages or, yes, the dog you kicked that only wanted to make a friend—I claim your fucking head. Onto the pile it goes. No joke. No test. No game. Out.”

The embodiment of conscience winked out of material existence. Damon finished his cry before taking a stagger up to the sliding glass door. All the city beyond his private rail, all the world, everybody in it, had just met the same—a one-on-one seven billion times over. Each car had been stopped with a downstroke clear through the engine block, the doors thrown wide, drivers and passengers hauled out onto the roadway. Airplanes were regaining altitude except where a few had crashed. Here and there columns of smoke had begun to rise. Car alarms were blaring, and pedestrians had taken a seat to tremble on the concrete. A few grownups, but not many, had been spared rough promises, and they all stopped to lend a hand. Because of course they did.

The first days of the aftermath were indoor ones for most. The human species was too frightened to venture out, even for a snack, and their various employers—white collar or blue or service—would have been too scared to threaten them with pay cuts and firings and other petty tyranny. But sooner than many would have thought the ruck of life did return. Where people had to interact they had grown polite in the extreme. It was only around the time that Damon had his first doubts and speculations—just where the lines were drawn between lies and fibs, the hypocrisy of moral inspiration, and so on—that severed heads began to pile up. These were thrown mid-intersection where none could miss the sight—flyblown heaps of skulls. None dared clean up. Traffic was diverted or went around, and riders tucked their noses into their shirts. Months passed and the trophy piles were left clean to bone. Additions had grown infrequent, and then none further came. Posters had gone up—billboards—depicting the four-armed god. People built shrines and burned candles and scripted prayers. Fair trade for peace, many would have said—no more crime, lies, warfare, incest, and kicking of dogs.

Nine feet tall, skin dark red, and in his home—such was Damon’s second visit from the realms immaterial. He had just come home from volunteering with the Sikhs, washing all the pots and pans they used to cook up meals for the poor.

“I’ve been good! I don’t understand!” The sword was forgone in favor of another slap. Damon woke sore and puzzled—but with a head in place. “Conscience?”

“Reason!” Afterwards came Taste.