Outside, the morning September air was crisp, the sky vermilion hued with the fiery glow of sunrise. Allan Darque opened the garage door to his mansion situated in the countryside just outside the suburbs of the city of Rochester in upstate New York. He looked at his two sports cars, a black Honda Civic Type-R and a white Subaru STI. Rocking his head back and forth, he decided to drive the Subaru today.
The car doors unlocked as he slid his hand into the passenger door handle and pulled. He tossed his laptop attache into the passenger footwell, shut the door, and walked around the car to the driver side, relishing in the fresh air. He got in, feeling slightly like a klutz as he plopped into the low seat. He paused a moment, taking a deep breath, his racing thoughts gently settling, like sediment at the bottom of a riverbed.
Reversing out of his driveway, Allan drove slowly through his neighborhood. The engine of the Subaru STI roared to life as he dropped the clutch to engage first gear while turning left onto the single-lane country highway. He felt the pickup of his 300 HP stock engine, the whining of the turbo as the pressure gauge revved up to 10 PSI, then 15, before he finally kicked the clutch pedal to shift into second.
He accelerated to 60 in under five seconds as his eyes darted to his radar detector, which signaled the all-clear, and he continued accelerating, shredding through third gear and into fourth. He was doing 90 a few hundred meters from the highway on-ramp to I-490 West when he let go of the accelerator, letting the alternator, engine braking, and air drag do their work in slowing the car back down to a cool 50. His car hugged the inner lip of the on ramp as he felt the G’s in his stomach, his left hand wrapped around the steering wheel like a vice grip while his right hand floated loosely on the shifter.
Radiohead’s “4-minute warning” played gently over the audio system in his car, the one component he hadn’t left stock. The default sound system in the car was abysmal, and he’d replaced both the head unit and speakers within a month after buying it. The Alpine head unit and Focal front speakers with the 15″ subwoofer and dedicated 4+1 channel DSP were proof of Allan’s devotion to music: the entire sound system had easily cost upwards of four grand.
If money could buy happiness, then Allan Darque should have been a happy thirty-something bachelor. For all intents and purposes, he was faring far better than his millennial counterparts in all things career and material, but when it came to life satisfaction, he felt like he was at the bottom of the barrel with the rest of them. Upper middle class was not that much better off than the nation’s middle and lower classes. It was only the upper echelon, the economic elite of society, who were truly financially “free” — if such a thing even existed in the world. Even then, Allan was certain that the filthy rich were equally, if not more, shackled than their poorer counterparts, but by a different set of circumstances. It was a dog-eat-dog world, after all; the cutthroat nature of post-industrial capitalism had a noose around everyone’s necks.
This is just a nightmare… cooed Thom Yorke’s melancholy voice. Allan’s lips parted to lip synch to the song. Soon I’m gonna wake up… Someone’s gonna bring me ’round.
Allan had stopped waiting for someone. He now found solace in the thought of never waking up from this nightmare: the nightmare was his reality. In his heart of hearts, he embraced his quiet solitude so it no longer weighed upon him as it had during his tumultuous twenties.
Instead, he had decided that unquenchable black hole deep in his breast was a gift to be cherished. It was God’s blessing: a vacuousness which propelled him in career and life towards success. It was his inability to be content or satisfied with any station in life that was the infinite engine whose endless supply of energy would catapult him far above the eyes of all onlookers. Age and experience provided the yoke for that incredible spirit, allowing him to harness the vitality of his will to survive.
He had long sought love in his youth and had come no closer to it than a bird might come to swimming the ocean’s depths. Rather than drown himself trying, he had done the only reasonable thing a man could do: give up in his search for love, and play his hand the best he could in this game of life. In accepting himself for who he was rather than contemplating what he lacked, he’d extricated himself from the stormy waters and crashing waves, and had come to soar high above the world. It was from this aloof view that he peered down upon the rest of mankind, who appeared to him smaller than insects, privy to the truth of their cosmic insignificance. It was from here, too, that the stars sparkled with such startling clarity that the vision of the heavens was burned into his mind’s eye, unshakable. From this height, he could perceive of only one all-encompassing truth: God, Yahweh, Allah, the Almighty. Indeed, He had many names, and He was the Most Merciful, Most Kind. Ah-rahmanir rahim, the lord of all worlds.
Though he considered himself a Muslim, Allan hardly considered himself a good Muslim. In fact, many days, he wondered if he could truly call himself a Muslim. He prayed only on occasion, never went to the Mosque, and did not observe Ramadan through fasting. The only thing he did religiously was try to avoid pork, an immense challenge in western society, and recite the few suras he knew on a daily basis. His remembrance of God, though flawed, was still evident in his life, and the gentleness by which he treated others. Though he had felt wronged so much in his life, he long stopped bearing any grudges against his fellow humans, seeing hatred for the disease it was.
Instead, he fostered a sense of compassion and forgiveness, understanding that life was difficult, and the straight path was never the easy one to walk. Indeed, Allan had succumbed to the temptations of this life far too many times to feel righteous in any sense of the word. He was simply a man doing the best he could, may Allah have mercy on his soul.
He also knew that, more often than not, it was the arrogance of those who perceived of themselves as self-righteous that committed the greatest atrocities and sins. The Christians in their crusades, Hitler in his holocaust, the modern militant Islamic factions splintering the middle east, and countless other tragedies that speckled human history like leprosy: at the root of all this devastation was arrogant self-righteousness.
This was the supreme sin, the sin for which Iblis — Shaytan, or Satan — had been cast out from the heavens. It was Shaytan’s arrogant self-righteousness to believe that he knew better than Allah. It was the same self-righteousness that convinced religious zealots to cause such destruction upon the Earth in the name of God. It was again that self-righteousness that had led white Americans to enslave countless Africans during the heyday of slavery, terming them an inferior species of humanity. That trend had not stopped there: racism continued to shackle African Americans with Jim Crowe laws following their emancipation in post Civil War America, then later with discriminatory police brutality combined with a multi-billion dollar socioeconomic prison industry designed to detain minorities.
It wasn’t just America. This trend of oppression was present all across the globe, with the empowered majority quashing the often impoverished and ethnic minority. It was the harrowing song of humanity, a tune whose chords kept repeating in distinct syncopated harmonies, to the rhythm of a broken heart. Allan saw it all, and once upon a time, he had cursed God for creating so unjust a world.
Back then, Allan’s real reason for despising God was his own isolation in high school. Allan desperately wanted to feel close to someone, to have friends who cared about him beyond the superficialities of school, to have a girlfriend whom he could care for. These were all healthy desires, but alas, for whatever reason, Allan had a difficult time finding people capable of keeping up with the emotional and intellectual tempo at which he functioned. Somehow, most people just seemed glaringly inadequate, and did little to bring him comfort. The few women he was interested in had zero, or less than zero, interest in him.
Like the angry teenager he was, Allan cursed God for the angst which consumed him. If God existed, how could he make a world that left Allan feeling so terribly alone? And while Allan’s father was incredibly devoted and caring, this was not something that a parent’s love could solve.
So Allan had decided he would take no stock in a God that created such a world, though he cited all the other far more egregious injustices within it as reasoning for his decision. He decried God and declared himself an atheist, though he would later realize he was much more an agnostic, because unlike most atheists, he still thought God probably existed.
It was in his sophomore year of college, separate from his parents and home, living on his own, that his psyche began to crumble and fall apart. Back then, he wanted to kill himself. Life felt too difficult to bear, surrounded by callous college students who were indifferent to the pains of one another, lectured by professors about materials he enjoyed, but pummeled by exams and homeworks that stressed him out to no end. He wondered why he existed at all, what was the point if there was only this overwhelming emotional pain?
Depression seeped through the cracks of his mind, permeating his every thought with dark ideations of suicide and self-harm. He imagined shooting himself in the head with magnums, slicing his wrists and resting comfortably with the shower on as the world faded, taking that lethal injection of heroin to enter into perpetual bliss. But no, he wouldn’t let himself do it, because his parents loved him too much, and he was bound by that love, he owed himself to them, to see life through.
Thusly, he kept putting one step in front of another, continuing onwards despite all the pain he felt inside. He took a leave of absence from his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon, only to return later, then to take another leave of absence. Each time he took a leave, he found a job as a software engineer and worked using skills he’d picked up on his own, outside of classes, and paid off his student loans. He returned to Carnegie Mellon a third time, completing his junior year and his engineering capstone. He hardly had one semester’s worth of courses left when he took one more leave of absence, this time, seemingly for good.
It was during these years at Carnegie Mellon, sandwiched between coursework and the burden of his existential crisis, that Allan began to ponder about the truth of the universe. What was it all amounting to? Allan began at the quantum level, reasoning that quantum mechanical particles and phenomena gave probabilistic rise to the protons, neutrons, and electrons that comprised atomic nuclei. These atomic nuclei then congealed in different sizes to form the array of known atoms in the universe. Amongst these atoms, certain atoms combined to form the basis of organic compounds: proteins and self-replicating RNA. Allan observed that each “level” was effectively a layer of abstraction whose interactions gave rise to more complex and intricate behaviours at the next higher level.
Organic compounds then interacted in such a way as to form viruses and unicellular organisms: prokaryotic cells such as bacterium which could form colonies with signaling mechanisms, and eukaryotic cells such as amoebae. From the eukaryotic cells evolved collections of cells into organs in a tightly knit organism. These organisms continued evolving to give rise to the complex lifeforms that inhabited the Earth. These organisms in turn developed societies and hierarchies, and from this arose humanity.
Mankind is the byproduct of countless years of evolution and organic pruning. To believe that such a well-ordered and magnificent system could arise arbitrarily seems akin to saying that a microprocessor or computer program can design itself. It cannot. But how intelligent design dictates and leads biological evolution forward is a mystery that humanity may never solve.
All Allan could see repeated through all these layers of existence was one truth: order begets order. Therefore, it had to be that there was a universal order, that everything amounted to something. Here, Allan applied a leap of faith and concluded that, for him, it was undeniably true that God must exist. God must be directing the evolution of everything, by means and mechanisms of which humans knew naught. And so, Allan proved to himself, through his own knowledge surmised from reading, that God must necessarily exist.
If God so definitely existed, Allan decided he had to become closer to God in order to understand his purpose in this life. That was the only path to absolve his suffering, which back then, choked and asphyxiated him. But how does one become closer to God?
Allan first sought the texts which he thought were the least perverted by mankind’s touch. He did not trust the Bible nor the Torah, for he felt both the Christians and Jews had altered the word of God for material self-gain. Instead, he looked to Tao Te Ching and the Quran. In the Tao Te Ching, he found the abstract essence of Allah, the mysterious and all-knowing; the tao was akin to wisdom knotted between the boughs of perplexing paradoxes upon the tree of life. In the Quran, he found commandments, the wisdom of which was not at first clear and initially seemed almost tyrannical, but upon further reflection, felt sagacious and guiding.
Indeed, Allah had sent many prophets to this Earth before Muhammed. Mankind had been graced with guidance all through its existence upon this plane. God had seen to that. For a being so omnipotent and all-powerful, Allan conceived that it was but child’s play to concoct a universe such as this, with physics that gave rise to such complex lifeforms and organisms as humans. It was not mere chance, it was dictated by design.
Nevertheless, it was not a belief that he imposed upon others. “Allah will guide those whom he wishes,” was Allan’s tacit belief. Empirical science would always reconcile itself with Allah.
Allan believed in Allah above all else. More than his parents, more than his siblings. There was a warm constancy in his heart towards the thought of Allah. For Allah had answered Allan’s prayers to be strong: Allan had become emotionally and physically quite capable over the years. Many people tend to pray to God that good things may come of them upon this life. Rather, Allan prayed that good would come to those whom he loved, his brothers and sisters, and all the humans struggling in the world. He prayed that he would be able to grant his parents peace in this life, through his success. But most of all, he wished for strength: insurmountable strength that would allow him to attain his dreams, and to protect those whom he loved.
His parents would say discouraging things, but they did not know the world the way Allan did. They were not privy to its gross underbelly. Allan had a clear notion of it: of the moral sickness and decay that gripped humanity by its loins. He didn’t know what to do about it either. It was not something he could cure, he’d realized.
Part of it was pornography. The western portrayal of love in media combined with a tremendous porn industry disaffected poor males, incapable of being anything other than their horny selves. The sexual revolution of the 80s had given razor sharp teeth and knives to women who now used it to emasculate their husbands and the workplace. Women were far more dangerous now than ever before.
And the men of the day were consequently much quieter, more emotively intense. Somehow, the cards had been reversed. Where men once tread freely, now they had to tip-toe as though walking upon broken glass. What was fair, and what was right? Women in their stupefying, irrational paranoia, or men in their wanton lust? At the very least, one was more innocent than the other; women wished harm upon men where men wished good upon women.
Allan had seen this play out numerous times during his life. He’d fall for a woman, wishing with earnest purity to be with her. In describing his feelings for her and his open intent to court her, she would call law enforcement, evoking that Allan was harassing her. How was it harassment to tell someone how beautiful they were? This, Allan did not understand.
Nevertheless, Allan would cease and desist. He abided these petty games which affected his life negatively. Once, he’d lost a job and the position on a board of directors because of his innocuous confession to a woman. He was never angry at the women for how they reacted. He thought it was rather sad, that women should have to feel so vulnerable and frail that the smallest approach that was to their distaste, they would attempt to unleash the dogs and hounds that were the police.
Women were in general, a sad lot. Pitiable, really. Allan truly loved women, but had no idea how to get along with them. They were intoxicatingly attractive, and yet so cold and ferocious. It seemed that somehow, society had made women backwards. Why couldn’t women be more warm and upfront? Why couldn’t they be more endearing?
Instead, they were secretive and seditious. They said mean things within their circles of friends. In countless ways, women were far more treacherous than men in their covert manipulation of men’s hearts. Men, on the other hand, were far too innocent and pure in their pursuits to be as scheming as women.
That is why Allan loved men, though he was only sexually attracted to women. It was the men in Allan’s life that made him feel comfortable with himself. Women — they were a necessary poison to society. Allan loved women, but knew the havoc their treachery could wreak.