Derek begins to scan the cameras at various intersections across town. Traffic is backed up where it is always backed up. That can’t be helped, short of demoing the whole road and dropping in a six-lane highway. Roads are a science that can be conquered without the brute force of adding more lanes and more roads. You have to make attractive alternate routes. Maybe widen a cut-through that encourages some people to take a slightly longer, but perceptibly quicker route. It probably isn’t quicker at all, but you are moving the entire time, so it feels like it is. It’s all mind games.

There is a sign taped to the traffic light pole on Jersey, easily the busiest street he covers. GIVE ME A SIGN GOD it reads. There is no one by the pole. Who made the sign? Derek wonders. The dispatch from 911 buzzes. “We got an ambulance on route down Jersey. See what you can do.” Derek wheeled over to the computer and began typing, occasionally looking up at the Jersey street monitor. The south and northbound lanes were moving. He needed them to stop. The ambulance was headed east west. He fired away at his keyboard. Derek glanced again at the monitor. He could see the flashing lights in the distance. He had switched the north and south to red, but there was a car blocking the intersection to take a left. He hated when this happened. Not just when he was trying to get an emergency vehicle through, but in general. Just wait. He always thought. The ambulance arrived at the Jersey intersection, weaving its way in and out of the traffic. Then, just as soon as it was there, it was gone. The traffic was beginning to move again.


“Good morning.” Billy says. Billy is Derek’s supervisor, but does little supervising. Derek nods toward Billy, but keeps his eyes glued to his monitors.

“Everything cool this morning?” Billy commuted down several of Derek’s roads, so he would know just as well as Derek would, but he likes to do this.

“Everything seems to be pretty good,” Derek responds.

“Good. Great to hear,” Billy says and walks out of Derek’s command station.

“Well,” Derek begins, unsure why he is still talking.

“Yeah?” Billy walks back into his station.

“Look at this sign.” Derek points to the sign on the corner of Jersey.

“Huh. Well, not one you see every day. Did you see who put it up?”


“Wonder if Jimmy saw who put it up.”

Jimmy was the overnight on Derek’s station. A job that barely was one. For all the excitement during the day, the town got pretty sleepy after 7PM.

“Huh,” Billy responds, still looking at the sign. “I don’t get it. How is this person going to get a sign if they aren’t near the sign?”

“You think it’s a play on words?”

“I guess.” Billy gets closer to the monitor. “It’s written on an Amazon box.”

Derek looks closer at the box, considering the meaningless fact.

“Let me know if anything changes.”

“Okay,” Derek responds before his attention is torn away toward a different street he has command over.


At 9:09AM, just over an hour into Derek’s shift, a man arrives at the sign. He wears faded jeans and a button-up. It was buttoned top to bottom, each button fastened and in place. The shirt was tucked in. His shoes are strappy leather sandals. The man stands in front of the sign for a moment, as if reading it for the first time. Then he turns toward Derek’s camera, although he doubted he knew that Derek was watching. He was smiling and stood perfectly still. Derek was looking so intently at the man he completely missed a left lane floater getting slammed into on one of his other monitors. There was no sound. No distinction, nothing to let Derek know that chaos was happening on another segment of road. He continued to watch the man, now straight-lipped, smile gone. “What is going on?” Billy was behind him now.

“This guy just showed up. At the sign.”

“No,” Billy responded, annoyed. He moved near Derek and leaned over his controls pointing up to a monitor in the top right corner. “Here.”

Derek could barely tear his eyes from the man, his face a tractor beam, but he finally managed and saw the destruction.

“Shoot,” Derek quickly began typing.

“Looks bad,” Billy said. Derek glanced at the screen. A woman was standing outside of her car, in the middle of the intersection, she was yanking on a crumpled door. She was wailing. They could both tell. No sound required.

“Looks really bad,” Billy said. He grabs Derek’s desk phone. “Dispatch? We got a wreck on the corner of Tollison and Rocky Ridge. Yeah. Looks like car in left lane stuck by vehicle heading east. There is a woman outside of her vehicle. She appears to be trying to get something out from inside.

The woman has stopped the fruitless endeavor to rip open the passenger door and has climbed back into her car, reaching for whatever from the inside.

The car that hit her is a jacked-up truck. It looks barely damaged. Derek is surprised it stuck around, for whatever reason, those types of trucks always flee the scene.

Billy hangs up the phone.

Derek is watching the wreck.

“Look at this.” Billy points back to the intersection at Jersey. The button-up man is now pointing toward the camera. Derek looks over at him. The man is standing perfectly still, arm raised, finger pointed, right at the camera. There is nothing else there. He has to be pointing at them or whoever he thinks is watching. Cars continue to move past him. Derek glances back up at the accident on Tollison. He had adjusted the lights, making them flashing red. Traffic was beginning to back up now. He looks back and Jersey. The man is no longer pointing.

“What the hell do you think he is doing?” Billy says, barely above a whisper.

He is fiddling with the sign now. He pulls it down from the post. Derek looks back at the Tollison accident. The police have arrived. He looks back at Jersey. The sign is reattached, but now reads: GOD IS DEAD.

“Well, I disagree,” Billy says and shakes his head.

“You think we can just get the cops to take him away?”

Billy chews for a moment on the thought. “He’s not doing anything wrong.” Traffic has stopped on Jersey. Left lanes are turning. The man is looking at the camera again. Wide smile.           “He’s kind of creepy.”

“Yeah,” Derek agrees.

“Let someone else call it in if they want.” Billy concludes then leaves the room.

Derek takes a deep breath and holds it for a moment. A breathing technique when he feels overwhelmed. There are many moving parts to his job and his brain can get into a pattern of not being able to focus on any one thing. He started a process of slowly controlling his breathing. Exhale now. To get his brain back to zero. He has to do it once or twice a day. He takes a wide view of all of his streets. Everything is normal. He looks at Tollison. Firefighters are using the Jaws of Life on the car that was hit. Derek takes another deep inhale. There was nothing he could have done for that woman, and yet, he feels slightly responsible because he knows he wasn’t paying attention to her. He was too busy looking at the man.

One of the lanes on Jersey now, the light green, the car at the front isn’t moving. Derek can see from his camera angle cars behind the stalled car starting to try and get around the car. This commotion is in close enough proximity to the button-up man that Derek figured he would break his gaze on the cameras, but no, he is holding steady. Derek is beginning to feel unsettled. His breathing not doing anything to ease his tension. He needs the late-morning commutes to end. He needs to pee. To get more coffee. To clear his head. The man is pointing again. “What do you want?” Derek says aloud before realizing he did. As if the man heard him, he stops pointing at the camera. His arm slowly falling to his side. The stalled car is moving again. Traffic is flowing. The button-up man is smiling. He is smiling as he turns and begins to walk into the oncoming traffic.

“What the heck?” Derek is quick at the keys. The man has taken two steps into the right lane. A car coming has stopped, letting the button-up man walk. Derek already has the north south lights red. The traffic has slammed their brakes. The man is standing in the middle of the crosswalk. He’s out of his mind, Derek thinks. The man turns toward the camera again and smiles. East and west lanes have a green light. The man runs into the middle of the intersection.

“Billy!” Derek shouts. He fumbles with the keys trying to get the east west lights to flip yellow. It doesn’t work that quickly. Billy hurries back into the room.

“What’s going on?” he asks, but soon sees the monitor. The button-up man is sitting cross-leg in the middle of the intersection, like a monk about to set fire to himself. The traffic lights are flashing reds, but the traffic has stopped, the front cars unwilling to drive toward the man.

Billy reaches, again, for Derek’s desk phone. “Dispatch? We got a loony sitting in traffic on Jersey. Yeah. You’re telling me. Thanks.” Billy hangs the phone back up. “Shouldn’t be too long now.”

Cars are beginning to brave driving past him.

“I’m confused by all of this.” Derek says.

Billy nods. “No point trying to understand.”

The button-up man stands and begins to slap the sides of cars as they pass. Cars are getting bolder, moving faster past him now. One nearly hits him.

“Oh no,” Derek says softly.

The man is moving erratically, then pauses, in the middle of the intersection, to unbutton his shirt.

“What’s he doing?” Billy asks.

Derek doesn’t respond. The man has his shirt fully off now. He’s discarded it on the ground next to him. He sticks a hand in his pocket, fiddling with something. Derek and Billy watch as he pulls something out. They can’t see what it is. He looks to be smearing it across his chest.

“What’s he doing?” Billy repeats.

He is cutting himself with a blade, blood running all over his chest. The cuts are long and precise, practiced or possessed.

“I swear it looks like he carved Hi God into his chest.” Billy says.

Derek peers at the camera, trying to make sense of the smeared blood. How can Billy see anything? What Derek does see is the approaching red and blue flashing lights. The police have arrived.


Derek clocked himself out for the day after his relief arrived. It had been a boring and slow afternoon, the side-effect of an exciting and stressful morning. Billy had left once the man was in custody and didn’t bother the rest of the day. He seemed unfazed by it all. Derek was fazed.


He knew a sergeant on the force and he hoped that he was working tonight.

Derek parked outside of the police station. After hours, he rang a doorbell that looked a couple of decades old, held together by dried scotch tape and glue.


“Is Sergeant Davis working this evening?”


“Can I speak to him?”


“Guy hasn’t spoken to any of us. He isn’t right in the head,” Sergeant Davis said.

Derek was granted access, a favor that he hoped he wouldn’t regret cashing. Derek was ushered back to the small holding cells. There were only two, one was empty, no doubt to be filled later by someone who was drunk.

“Got a visitor,” Sergeant Davis announced to the man. He is sitting, eyes close, with that same wide smile from earlier. His button-up shirt was back on him, caked and stained with blood.

“I got to take a leak.” Sergeant Davis turned and left.

Derek didn’t know if he really had to go to the bathroom or just didn’t want to be in the cells with the crazy guy.

“Hello,” Derek says flatly. The man doesn’t stir.

“Hello,” Derek is louder now. The man turns to him, no longer smiling. His eyes are sad.   “Are you in pain?”

The man nods.

Derek looks him up and down, the bloody mess.

“I saw everything you did today.”

The man nods.

“You kept pointing at me.”

The man looks at him and holds his gaze. Moments pass. Neither say anything. Then the man begins to smile.

“God?” He asks. The first time Derek has heard him speak; his voice is rough, with a twinge of an imperceptible accent.

“No,” Derek raises his hand. “I’m not God.”

“I was pointing at God.”

Derek thinks for a moment. “I thought you were pointing at the camera.”

The man nods.

“Were you pointing at the camera?”

The man nods again.

“So, you were pointing at me?”

Now the man nods enthusiastically, “God.”

“Look, I’m not God. I just want to know why you were pointing at me. Where you playing a game with me? Trying to get yourself killed?” Derek asks, moving closer to the bars.

“You’re God.”

Derek snorts. “How am I God?”

“You’re on the other side of the camera, right?” The man is speaking as if something clearer and saner is being channeled through him. “So, how different are you from God? Watching us like little ants all day. Do you find it hard to care?”

Derek backs away from the bars slightly, “I don’t know what you’re getting at.”

The man sighs. There is quiet again. Then he smiles and begins speaking, in a softer tone, “What is God?”

Derek does not want to play along. “I don’t know. I don’t care. Look, I just wanted to see if you were pointing at me. You were. I can sleep easy tonight knowing that I saved your life.” Derek turns and half-heartedly begins stepping out of the holding cell area.

“And you say you aren’t God.” The man begins laughing again.

Derek, for reasons unknown, becomes frustrated and turns back and hits the bars with an open palm. “Hey, I came here because I thought you should know that someone was watching you today. You’d be hamburger meat if it wasn’t for me.” He pauses. “And I know that sounds like I’m God or whatever, but I’m not. I’m just me. I’m Derek. I’m just good at my job. You could at least say thank you.”

“For what?”

Derek scoffs. “Okay. Have a nice life.”

“Thank you for stopping me from dying? What if I died? You played with my life, just like God would. You watched me from wherever you were. I knew you were watching me, just like we tell the children that God is always watching them.”

“What was with that ‘God is Dead’ sign?”

“I was trying to get your attention.”

“Me as me or me as God?”

“No difference.”

“If I was God, couldn’t I just get you out of these bars?”

“Maybe. You haven’t tried.”

Derek wasn’t going to. He hadn’t eaten. His head was beginning to pound. He was done here.

“I prayed that you would show up and you did.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know that. That is a coincidence.”

“A God-like coincidence. Normal people wouldn’t be able to get back here to speak to me, but I knew that you would be able to.”

“Yeah, well, hate to break it to you, but it is only because I know Sergeant Davis. Are you glad I’m here?” Derek asked.

“I prayed for you to come. Why would I not be happy?”

“Well, you have me here now,” Derek says, beginning to give into the man’s whims. “What do you want with me?”

“No, no, the question is, what do you want with me?”

Derek’s had enough. “I’m not God. I control traffic. If you think that is God, you are insane. I get your logic. I suppose if we can call it that, but I’m just me. Human man.”

The man waits silently.

“Fine. I’m hungry. Get me food.” He says plainly.

The man looks around the cell. There is nothing there. The man smiles like he has an idea. His fingers move to his chest, quick now, with purpose, he begins to unbutton his shirt. Derek watches on. The man removes his caked and red shirt. His fingernails begin to reopen the cuts that had only recently coagulated. He makes a noise of pain, but is determined. Derek is in shock.

The man continues to work; he has the edge of his fingernail under his skin. Now two fingernails, and soon, four. He digs deeper with his nails and begins to peel up on the wound in his chest. The man is trembling in pain. Derek watches him, nonplussed. Blood is dripping down the man’s hands, tiny pools collecting on the floor. The skin is tearing easier now. More blood running down the man’s chest. He’s crying. Whispering “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Derek nods. The scene is horror and he is oddly calm. This is what the man wanted.

Finally, with one final yank, the man rips off a bloody sheet of his skin. He extends his hand toward Derek, but stumbles backward. Derek looks on as he collapses to the small bed in the cell. His hands shaking. He is gripping the flesh. Blood is gushing.

“thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou,” the man continues to repeat, barely a whisper. “God eat my flesh.”

“Sergeant!” Derek yells. Then he turns back to the bloody, fading man, “You’re welcome.”