For centuries, the god of mischief relished in his cunning tricks and manipulations. He traveled to different parts of the world, always with a different name and shape as he played his tricks on both gods and mortals. And although his original name and body had faded from memory, his mischievous nature always remained a constant. But at around the turn of the 20th century, something changed, and he was no longer satisfied with his pranks. The god fell into a deep depression and lost his will to continue. But because of his undying nature, he was trapped in the world of the living, never able to escape. So, he simply wandered the earth, with no real rhyme or reason in the form that he thought would bring him the least amount of attention: a middle-aged white-collar worker.
On a calm spring afternoon in the year 2017, the god of mischief was spending his day lounging around at a pond, staring at passing ducks. He sat on a dirty bench along a sidewalk that looped around the pond. He was beginning to doze off but was interrupted when he heard the loud cackling laughter of a few people nearby. The god stood up to see on the sidewalk across the street to the pond that four elementary school girls were walking by. It seemed that only three of them were laughing, however. Then, the three cacklers ran off without the fourth, who had a frown on her face. The sad girl wore a sunflower dress and a light blue backpack. She also had the most bizarre haircut the god had ever seen. It was a terribly short and uneven bob. Almost like she had given the haircut to herself, which was indeed what happened. Compelled by the faintest bit of mischievous curiosity that he thought was long gone, the god approached the lonely girl.
“Want me to turn them into rats?” he asked her with a flat, almost uninterested voice.
This startled the girl, who didn’t notice the man approach her. She stared wide-eyed at the tired-looking man with fear in her eyes and slowly started to back away from him.
“Hm? Oh, right.” The god realized what was happening and turned himself into a little girl that didn’t look too different from the one he was trying to talk to. He had given himself the same uneven bob and sunflower patterned dress the girl had.
The girl was about to run away, but the man’s transformation froze her mid-step.
“A-a-are you a wizard?” she eventually asked.
“A what?” the god, who still had the voice of a tired middle-aged man, responded.
“The hell’s a wizard?”
“S-someone who can do magic,” the girl answered.
“Oh. Well, then yeah, I guess I am.”
The girl began to calm down a little but still felt uneasy looking at someone who was almost identical to her. “What else can you turn into?”
“Whatever I want.”
The girl thought for a moment. “Turn into a whale!”
“Why on earth would I do that? I’m on land.”
“Fine,” the girl said disappointedly. “But, if you’re a wizard, then why don’t you turn into one?”
“I wouldn’t know how. What’s a wizard supposed to look like?”
The girl pondered the question for a little. “I dunno, there’s so many. They always have wands with them, but some just look like normal people, and then there’s one that wears round glasses, and another that has a long, white beard. Oh, and there’s one I like that has a blue robe and a pointy hat with stars all over.”
The god didn’t know what to do with all of that, but he tried his best. While he kept the body of a girl, he gave himself a blue robe and pointy hat with yellow star patterns, circular glasses, and a long white beard. “How’s this?” he asked.
The girl laughed at the strange-looking wizard. “But what about your wand?”
“I don’t know what a wand is,” the god responded.
“It’s like a stick that wizards use to do their magic.”
This didn’t really help the god that much, so he created a thin tree branch instead. “How’s this?” he asked as he held the branch up for the girl to see.
The girl laughed again and said, “That’s perfect! You’re the funniest wizard I’ve ever seen.”
The god didn’t know how to take that, so he just stood in silence.
“So, what’s your name?” the girl asked, now feeling much more comfortable.
“Well,” the god said after some thinking, “I’ve got a lot. Some people call me Loki or Hermes or Anansi. I’ve also been called Reynard, Sun Wukong, Maui, Puck, and Don Juan. There’s more, I just can’t remember them all right now.”
“Woah,” the girl said, “that’s too many.” She strained her face and thought for a while. Eventually, her face lit up and she asked, “How about Soda?”
“Well, it’s easy to remember. And I love soda! Although my parents don’t let me drink it much.” The girl’s face quickly went from a big toothy grin to a thin-lipped frown. But it didn’t take long before it returned to the former.
“I won’t be called something as stupid as that,” the god said, starting to sound a little annoyed.
“I’m Sadie!” she proudly claimed, ignoring what Soda said.
“Good for you.”
“So, what were you doing around here anyway?” asked Sadie.
“Watching ducks,” Soda pointed to the pond across the street as he said this, “and sleeping. Or trying to at least.”
“Oh. That’s weird. Why were you doing that?”
Tired of the questioning, Soda tried turning it around on Sadie. “Why were those girls laughing at you?”
Sadie frowned. “They were making fun of my hair.”
“It does look pretty ugly,” said Soda, understandingly.
“Hey!” shouted Sadie, “I didn’t think haircuts would be so hard. But my mom’s taking me to get it fixed in a couple of days, so it’ll be fine.”
“I can still turn those girls into rats if you want,” offered Soda, “Or, I could give them the same haircut you’ve got. It’s been a while, but I’m pretty good at cutting hair.” For a few moments, it looked as though the god began to reminisce.
“No way,” refused Sadie, “that won’t solve anything. You can’t perpetuate the cycle of hatred and violence; otherwise, it’ll never end. We have to be the bigger people and decide to forgive so we can help take that step to becoming better. Even if it is just a small one.”
“What?” responded Soda after blankly staring at the girl for a few seconds.
“At least that’s what my mom tells me when I get in trouble,” added Sadie as she shrugged her shoulders. “So, are you gonna tell me why you were hanging out with ducks?”
Annoyed that she didn’t forget, Soda gave in and answered by saying, “I don’t really have anything else to do.”
“Is that why you’re sad?” asked Sadie.
“What makes you think I’m sad?”
“You’ve got sad eyes. My uncle has sad eyes too. He lives alone and spends his days drinking away his sorrows and gambling away what little money he has. He’s lost the will to live and has no sense of purpose, so he just waits for the day that he’ll finally be taken from this world.”
Not sure what to say to that, Soda just stared blankly at the girl.
“At least that’s what my dad tells my mom,” added Sadie as she shrugged her shoulders. “So, are you sad like that too?”
“Uh, I guess?” answered Soda.
“You know what makes me happy when I’m feeling sad?” asked Sadie, “eating a good burger!”
“What!?” exclaimed a shocked Sadie. “You don’t know what a burger is?”
“I don’t really eat food,” answered Soda. “Gave that stuff up a while back. Kind of just got tired of it.”
“You don’t eat?” asked Sadie, who was very confused. “Well, no wonder you’re sad. Food is the best! There’s a place nearby that has some good burgers. My mom gives me too much money for lunch, so I’ve got some left over. I’m sure we could buy a whole bunch of burgers with it! I’m not really supposed to go places without my parents though. But you’re a wizard so I’m sure we’ll be fine!”
“Yeah, no I don’t think so.” Soda turned to head back to the pond, but Sadie grabbed him by the wrist and started dragging him down the sidewalk. He could’ve gotten out of her grasp by transforming, but if he was being honest with himself, the burger thing did catch his interest a little.
The two walked a couple of miles to get to town but got lost as Sadie couldn’t quite remember where to go exactly. Eventually, she figured out where it was and after over an hour of wandering, the two finally reached their destination. It was an old-fashioned diner that wasn’t currently very busy. The two walked in and sat down at a booth. While Sadie ordered for them, their server gave the weirdly haired girl and the small wizard a strange look. After getting their burgers, Sadie and Soda wasted no time starting their meal. After biting into his, Soda chewed a couple of times before his eyes lit up.
“Damn, this is delicious!” shouted Soda. Although, it was hard to understand him with so much food in his mouth.
“I told you!” Sadie shouted back with just as much burger in hers.
After finishing their food and leaving an incorrect amount of money at the table, the two left the diner. They walked to Sadie’s house, and before the girl opened her front door, she turned to her new friend who stood on the sidewalk and shouted, “Bye Soda, see ya tomorrow!” She waved at him, quickly opened her door, and vanished into the house before the god could respond.
“Tomorrow?” He asked himself. After a little consideration, the god figured it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he humored the girl again.
As he sat back down on the dirty bench and watched the ducks paddle through the water, Soda was surprised to find that a part of him was looking forward to the next day. Although he may not have fully realized it yet, an ember he long thought had faded still faintly burned.