Okay...so sometimes I have these dreams. I see weird things. Things I don't understand usually, until later when it's explained to me by the wise one, who is a chinchilla, but don't let that fool you. He knows everything. Anyway, the dream went like this...
It was a bright sunny day in a city somewhere. It was hot. The pavement swayed side to side in the heat waves and a Magnificent Man stood in the parking lot outside a pet store. He was wearing a white suit. He had long, wavy blonde hair. He was good looking. Like charismatic. He looked powerful, not just in body but his face reflected the awesome integrity of his soul. I knew he was good. A good man. He kinda looked familiar, but in dreams you forget all kindsa stuff, so I didn't remember him.
He strode (like a king) into the pet store and began to look around. It was funny, seeing him be so curious. I got the idea that he wasn't used to being curious, and that he might not have been in a pet store in a long time.
Well, the first thing he saw was the rats in the front window. They were directly in the sun, and they were dying. They had no water, and their food was all gone. Some of them were already still and bloated. The rest looked up at him pleading for their lives. They were trapped in that stupid aquarium, and someone had left them there to perish.
Then the magnificent man got a horrible look on his face. A look of anger that would scare anyone. His eyes turned dark and some wind from the door blew his hair back. His eyebrows came down and he was scary. Scary Magnificent Man. He stood straight up, and went over to the other small animals. The mice were packed into a tiny aquarium that was way too small for so many. There were easily a hundred in a fifteen gallon tank. They were swarming over each other, fighting each other for what little food there was, and sleeping in their own waste. They had no water. There were dead mice - lots of them, and the rest were sick. They looked up at him the same way the rats did. Help us, mister. We're in trouble.
Then he looked at the hamsters, the gerbils, the guinea pigs and the rabbits. Same story. All neglected, all sick.
This is where the camera would have zoomed in on the magnificent man's terrible face if there had been a camera in the dream. His face grew tight and he walked as calmly as could be over to the manager.
"Excuse me, your animals are sick and hungry," he said politely. He even smiled.
The manager was busy with pricing items to put on the shelves and ignored him. Believe me, that must have been hard to do. The Magnificent Man was easily six foot seven.
The man put his wide hand on the manager's shoulder. When the fat, round leader of that store looked up into his face, I saw terror. Really. Not fear. Terror.
"They're waiting for the vet," the manager whimpered. "He was supposed to come earlier this week. And we ran out of food. We get more tomorrow."
"Not true," said the blonde man. "You haven't called the vet at all." He was scowling now.
The manager visibly shook but his face became ugly. "You don't know any such thing," he tried to raise his pathetic voice. "It's not my fault. The air conditioner is broken. It'll be fixed by tomorrow morning."
"The animals will be dead by tomorrow morning," Magnificent Man said. His face was inching closer to the manager's.
The manager was pale enough, but he went bone white. I could feel his thoughts. Why should I put up with this! I'm the boss here! I'm in control! "We'll get more animals. Your snake can wait one day," he said.
Now, I got the idea that of all the things the small man could have said, this was the absolute wrong thing. The blonde man's face went all placid and calm, as if he was completely at peace. I knew he wasn't. I could feel it. He smiled softly at the manager, as if he'd done this thousands of times. It was a terrible calmness.
"I'd like to buy every animal in the store," he said. "Every animal...living, dead, or halfway between."
Well, the manager perked up immediately. He was saved from a disaster that might have his name written all over it!
"Why, yes sir!" he said cheerfully. "You're a righteous man for such a kind act, yes sir," he beamed and ran to the register. He totaled up every animal in the store, looking forward to telling his regional manager that he had sold all their product in one day, and avoided a media incident to boot.
The Magnificent Man gathered up every animal in the store, and made a phone call. In a short time, a giant air conditioned moving van showed up to take all the creatures someplace better. The good man bought all the cages, aquariums, and all the food and toys the store had as well. He did not comment to the manager that there had been plenty of food on the shelves, for he knew that the fat man had lied intentionally. While the men who came with the van were loading all the animals, and supplies, Magnificent Man took one of the 50 pound bags of rodent food (the good stuff!) and went into the mail place right next door to the pet store. He came out without the huge bag of feed and went back into the store. He went past the manager and straight to an old lady who was mopping the floor. She looked up at him and smiled.
"You are the only good person in this place, Ruby," he said.
Ruby looked up at the handsome man and smiled sweetly. "I try to take care of the poor animals," she said. "I have hundreds of them at home. Too many. I can't afford them all, and I can't take any more. I try."
The man gave the old woman a compassionate look. She was half his size, stooped over. Much too old to be working such a poor job, and she spent all her income on the animals she took home. They ate before she did. She spent all her free time cleaning cages, only to return to work the next day and clean more cages. And there were too many to clean. She never got to them in time. No one else helped her. In fact, they laughed at her. Even the manager ridiculed her for actually caring about the animals. "They're just food," he said. "They're product, Ruby - nothing more. It's all about money. You're always going to be poor unless you get that."
"Oh, I get it," Ruby said. "The only reason I don't quit this wretched job is because then these poor victims would have nobody at all. I'd rather be poor and kind than rich and cruel."
I saw all of this, and I saw that Magnificent Man saw all of this, too. He wasn't a normal man. I'm not usually that slow - it was the dream. I swear.
So he said to Ruby, after seeing her past, "Kind lady, your mercy on these poor animals is today rewarded. Go to the nearest store and buy a lottery ticket. The numbers are here," and he wrote them down. "When you win, please do a thing for me."
She laughed, humoring him. "Sure, whatever you want, if I win."
He smiled that winning charm on her and said, "When you win, please take this amount," (he wrote more stuff down), "to this address," (more stuff), "and hand the person who answers the door this message." He wrote more stuff and gave it to Ruby. She looked it over and smiled back.
"No problem if I win," she said.
"You shall," he said. "Now, get yourself and any others you value out of the store. Go now."
She smiled, and almost turned to leave. Her smile faded as she looked into his face, and suddenly she took him very seriously. I have no doubt that she went right out to the nearest convenience store, used those numbers, and won millions of dollars. But first she went to the PA system and announced over the store loudspeaker, "Excuse me, but there is a fire. Would everyone please exit calmly to the front or rear of the building? This is not a drill. Thank you and have a nice day."
When she left the animals were all loaded and all the employees were evacuating the building. Except the manager, who was searching for a fire, swearing under his breath about firing Ruby.
Magnificent Man was standing in the parking lot, a hundred feet from the store front. He paid the men with the van, and gave them an address. He gave them a large envelope too. They seemed happy, and left.
Then, swaying to and fro in the heat waves, another man, a beautiful man in a black suit, came walking up from behind the magnificent man. Despite the heat, he wasn't sweating. Neither of them were. The new man had reddish blonde hair, yellow eyes, and a way about him that was elegant, but seemed very deceptive. I knew he was a dangerous man. As beautiful as he was, I knew he was to be feared. Yet the magnificent man did not show fear (or smell like fear) at all. He wasn't even surprised.
"Hello, Lou," Magnificent Man said.
"Hello, Mike," Lou said.
They sat in silence a moment and stared at the pet store. Inside, the manager could be seen tearing out what little hair he had left. He was stomping and cursing and screaming at his employees in the parking lot that they were all replaceable, that they were fired, that they were all two-bit idiots.
"Come to watch the show?" Mike said.
"They do amuse me so," Lou said. "Plus, this hasn't been done on earth in over a millennia. Had to see it for old times' sake."
"They know no better," Mike said. "But sometimes they cross the line."
"Still doing your job," Lou said, smiling a little. "Will you never learn? They refuse to evolve. They are hopeless."
"No, they are not," Mike said.
"I heard you recently incarnated as a rat," said Lou, stifling a giggle. "I haven't been paying attention to rodents lately. Maybe they have more hope for evolution than the apes do."
Mike looked right at Lou. "Maybe they do," he said flatly.
"Oh, you've gone over the deep end. Too many ages of working for a megalomaniac, brother. Rodents throughout the Bible, and man's history, have been the scapegoats for evil and plague. They attribute those animals to me and my domain." He smirked in Mike's face. "They call them evil."
Mike was already past the limit, and I felt he had been in this place many times before. He had a handle on it. He smiled back at Lou.
"They are far from evil," he said. "They are, like all animals on this earth, deserving of every chance that humankind has received."
"That's not what the book says," Lou feigned surprise. "It says they're food."
"At first they were," Mike said. "At first so were humans. Times change. Things evolve. Everyone gets their chance at immortality. Our Father is fair, and knows nothing can stay the same. All things grow and evolve."
Lou became irritated. "Are you telling me He's actually going to give rodents a chance at sentient intelligence?" He shifted uncomfortably.
Mike smiled. "He already has."
Lou sneered and gnashed his teeth. I can't be sure, but I think Lou had fangs. "That's ridiculous. I won't have it."
"You cannot prevent it."
"That's what you always think," said Lou. "Well, I'd stay for the fireworks, but I have a sudden appointment with your boss."
"Of course. It was meant to be that way."
"Isn't it always? The game is on. You have chosen a champion then?"
"It isn't a game, Dark One. But yes, Father has chosen a champion, and yes, we are opponents once again, though the innocent stand in the middle, as usual. It is unfortunate."
Lou smiled a frighteningly friendly expression at Mike. "You could always join me," he said.
Mike stared back at him with no expression at all. It clearly stated that the idea was unthinkable. "Go and make your petition to your master," Mike said.
That pissed Lou right off. He swore in ancient Hebrew (or something close) and stormed off, shaking his fist over his shoulder on the way out. "He's your master, puppet boy! NOT MINE!" Then the man in the black suit was gone.
Mike then went to the front of the store and the manager was there, seething in the middle of the empty store, angry as could be.
"You did this!" the small man said. "You've ruined my day!"
"It's about to get worse, thou selfish, wicked man. Begone from this place. Because you are only stupid and not evil, I will give you thirty seconds. But know this. If you do not receive justice this day, surely it shall visit upon you soon." Then Mike walked out.
The manager spent twenty of his thirty seconds swearing. He knocked stuff off shelves, he stomped up and down. He spent the next five seconds in a cold sweat, with every instinct he had left screaming at him to run as far away as he could right now.
He resisted for another three seconds, out of pure, self-destructive stubbornness.
He made it out the door just as the magnificent man was raising his hands to the sky. There was a deep, booming thunder, and the air sizzled hot. Sparks flew. A wind rushed down from above, and after it followed torrents of meteors, fire, and brimstone. The store was consumed in holy fire and burned to the ground in seconds under thousands of tons of thundering wrath.
Miraculously, the buildings next to it were not even black with soot. The manager caught on fire from being too close, and although he was put out, he had a fear of fire for the rest of his days. His scorched name tag fell to the ground at Mike's feet. It said "McOrley."
Mike's stern face raked across the people gathered. None could meet his intense gaze.
"For its cruelty to helpless animals, this place was found wanting when judgment came," Mike said. He stared hard at the crowd, his eyes blazing blue. "Prepare yourselves, for judgment shall not pass from you soon." He squinted. "It may even rest in the tiny paws of small animals."
Then, as the crowd watched in awe and horror, the magnificent man turned his back upon the crater where the pet store had been and walked away.