Here Be Gods

Tag: short story

The God Of The Gaps – Short story

“Hello.”

I opened my eyes for the first time. I saw for the first time. I saw him looking at me. He was standing there, motionless. We were surrounded by mists.

I opened my… mouth, and spoke for the first time, “Hello.”

He stared at me, with no expression and no expectation. I turned my… head and looked around. There were only him and… me. I looked down at myself. I looked much like him.

He spoke again, “Do you know what you are?”

I thought, and knew that I did, “I am a god.”

He nodded, his face still and passive. He did not seem surprised. I was not surprised. I wondered why. Looking at that calm face, I asked, “Are you also a god?”

“Yes. We are all gods here.”

“Here?” As I said it, I began to see where we were. It was all mist, but the mists had shape, and purpose, and they took the form of what was needed, when it was needed. We were standing in the mists, but there were others there as well, hidden for the moment, in shapes yet unknown to me, their place and purpose shrouded beyond my sight.

He spoke to me again, “Do you know who you are?”

I opened my mouth, but could not answer. I did not know this. Not yet.

He nodded at my silence and said, “This is natural. No god knows themself, not at first. All will become clear when it needs to be clear.”

He turned to leave, and was walking away into the mists before I thought to speak again, calling out to him as he became less defined in my sight, “Wait!” I cried, “Can I walk with you?”

He stopped and turned toward me, his face now solemn, “No one can walk with me. That is my nature. I walk alone.” He did not turn away with these words and I wondered why. He spoke again, “No one can walk with me, but… you can walk where I walk.”

So I followed him. I knew nothing yet, except him, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know everything. Perhaps that was who I was, the one who wanted to know things. I did not know for sure. It would do for now. As he walked alone and I walked in his footsteps, the mists that were before him parted and lifted, and there were now chambers and hallways formed from them, running in every direction that was, and in every direction that was not. There were others, but they did not look like him. They all looked like themselves, and like each other. There were small gods and large gods, there were gods with many heads and faces and gods with none. There were dark gods who were shrouded in shadow and bright gods who blazed and shone, and both were difficult to look at. Some of the gods looked busy and were hurrying about from one path to another, in and out of chambers. Other gods seemed to have no purpose, and were standing there, silent, still, and serene.

Looking around at all of these gods, I asked him, “Who are they?”

“They are gods, like you.”

“Like me. Like you?”

“There are no gods like me.”

“But you are like you.”

“Yes, I am like me.”

“But… who are they?”

“Who are you?”

I did not know this yet, and asked no more then, thinking on his question.

He walked on, on and on, down many hallways, always moving, never hesitating. He seemed to have a purpose. I did not know if I had a purpose. I wanted a purpose. Perhaps he knew. I followed him. We entered a great chamber, larger than all the others before it, larger than anything. There were countless gods in the chamber, and I looked at every one of them in turn. They were all unique, yet they were all the same. None looked like me, yet all of them did.

This made me wonder, and I asked him as I followed him deep into the chamber, “Why are there so many of us?”

“Each god was created to serve a purpose.”

“What is that purpose?”

“To be created.”

“We exist to exist?”

“Gods exist when they need to exist.”

“How long have you existed?”

He stopped and thought before answering, “I have always existed.”

“You have always needed to exist?”

“Yes.”

“Did you create us?”

He shook his head, but did not laugh, “No, we do not create gods. We are gods.”

“What do we create?”

“We create nothing. We are created.”

“Then what do we do?”

“We do nothing. We are gods.”

“But if we do nothing, we must have no purpose.”

He shook his head and started walking again, saying as he strode onward, “Each of us has a purpose. Each of us has our own purpose, and they are all the same purpose. This is natural.”

I did not understand. Not yet. So I followed once more. We passed by many gods of strange and fearful description, we passed by many gods who did not appear as anything at all, but were still there. Some of these gods towered above all the others, and when they moved, the mists took new forms around them. When they stretched their limbs in any direction, the chamber and the hallways changed in turn. I saw one of these gods step on a lesser god, and when he stepped away, I could no longer see the smaller. I asked him about this, wondering where the missing god had gone, but he only shook his head and walked on.

He left the great chamber and walked on, on and on he walked, the steps he took were measureless and the mists billowed all around. He entered a chamber, a small chamber much like where I first opened my eyes, and I followed. There was no one in this chamber, only him and only me. He stopped and he waited, and I stopped and I waited. I knew there was no time, not for gods, but we waited.

At last he spoke, and his word was, “Hello,” and there was another in the chamber with him and with me.

This new god opened their eyes for the first time and spoke for the first time and their first word was an answer, “Hello.”

He asked the new god, “Do you know what you are?”

The new god spoke truth, “I am a god.”

He nodded, his face still and passive. The new god did not ask any questions.

He spoke to them again, “Do you know who you are?”

“I am that I am.”

He nodded and the new god left the chamber and walked away. He left the chamber and walked a different way. I followed him.

I wondered, and I asked, “They knew what they were.”

“Yes. This is natural.”

“I do not.”

“Yes. This is natural.” I did not understand. So I followed. He walked endlessly then entered another chamber. I entered the chamber. There was another god here. This was an old god. This was a very old god. They looked up at him and said, “I am not ready.”

He stood there, motionless, surrounded by mists.

“I do not want to die.”

“We do not die.”

“I can feel myself fading. I do not want to go.”

“You will not go. You will not die. We do not die.”

“What is happening to me?”

“You are. Soon, you will not be.”

“So I will die.”

“No. Once you were not. Now you are. Soon, you will no longer be. This is natural.”

They did not look pleased with this answer. They trembled and they shook. Then they were no more. I was alone in the chamber with him.

I looked at him, him who had been there when first I saw. He was a little smaller than before. I asked him, “Who were they?”

“They were a god.”

“If they were a god, why did they cease to be?”

“Because they were a god. They served their purpose, then they had no purpose, then they were no more. This is natural.”

“What was their purpose?”

“To be a god.”

Before he could turn to leave, I wondered, and I asked him, “What is your purpose?”

“My purpose is my own.” He would say no more. He left the chamber and I left the chamber and the chamber was no more. The mists had a purpose, and they took the form of that purpose. When that purpose ceased to be, the mists took a new purpose.

He walked forever, and I followed and I did not understand. Everywhere he went, new gods appeared, just as I had. Some were small, some were large. All the new gods knew what they were at first, but all knew their purpose, and just as I did not. Everywhere he went, old gods ceased to be, and everywhere he went, the old gods that were no more were forgotten. Only he seemed to remember the old gods that no longer were. Some appeared as new gods, only to become old gods and cease to be before they knew who they were. Every time an old god ceased to be, he was a little bit smaller.

I wondered, and I asked, “Why are there new gods when there are so many old gods? Why do old gods cease to be?”

“New gods serve new purposes. New gods serve old purposes. They are all unique purposes and they are all the same. All gods are created to answer a question. When that question is answered, they no longer need to be. This is natural.”

“You have always been here, but other gods come and other gods go. Will you ever cease to be?”

He shook his head and answered, “No, I will always have a purpose.”

“What is that purpose?”

“I am the god of the unasked questions, I am the god of the unanswered and the unknown, I am the god of the gaps, and I will always be.”

He was standing there, motionless. I saw him looking at me. We were surrounded by mists. I understood. I knew my purpose. I looked at the god of the unquestioned questions with understanding and then I was not.

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Again! Again!

“Again! Again!”

I smiled down at my little boy, “I’ve already told this story three times tonight.”

His eyes shone with glee as he simply repeated himself, “Again! Again!”

The sun had set, and the light outside was but moon and stars. My son was not at all tired yet, and neither was I. Stroking his blond hair I said, “Oh, alright, I will tell it again.”

“A long time ago, long before I was born, they told the story of a mischievous spirit called a pooka. Wherever the pooka went, it played pranks on people, but these were usually harmless. It found humans funny, and they, in turn, found its japes amusing. The pooka could take the form of whatever it wanted, and would often play among the human children, laughing and running about. One day, it was playing hide and seek with the children of a small village, and it really wanted to win. It took the form of a moss covered rock, knowing the children would never find it. Oh how it laughed to itself in glee, thinking of all the humans worrying about the child they could not find, lost all alone, in the woods, as night approached. But no one was looking for the pooka. The children had forgotten there was another playmate that day. They had forgotten the strange little child that none of them knew, and they had finished their little game and gone home for supper.

“When midnight came, and still no one looked for it, the pooka changed into an owl and went looking for the humans, wondering where they all were. There were no humans about, there were no torches lit, no search parties for the lost little child who had not been found. It searched all night for any sign that they had worried, and found none. As daylight broke upon the little village, the pooka had become angry, and vengeful. A dangerous thing is a pooka if you ignore its tricks.

“At first, it played the mean pranks it often played when it felt slighted. Milk soured, animals strayed, chairs broke, and food went missing. Still, the humans showed no sign of remorse. No offerings to the magical spirit were offered to soothe its rage. The pooka grew spiteful, and its pranks became dangerous. The baker broke his leg falling off a ladder, the local shepherd almost drowned crossing a river, and the village well dried up. One by one, the humans grew fearful, and they whispered among themselves, wondering what was causing their misfortunes. They imagined ghosts and ghouls, witches and wights, fairies and fuaths. They blamed one creature after another, but not once did they think of pookas, and this made the pooka very angry indeed.

“No longer was it thinking of simple pranks or jests, no longer did it want the people of the village to fear it. No, now it wanted the people of the village to suffer. So it called upon its kind, and from far and wide did the pookas come, each delighted at the grand caper the angry pooka proposed. One by one, the pookas tempted every child of the village away from the watchful eyes of the adults and the other children, and one by one, they stole the child away, putting one of their number in its place, until there was but one human child left in the village. One small, lone child, a little blond boy, just like you, who never ventured from his house, who preferred to play by himself indoors with his books and toys. And it was this little boy that the angry pooka chose to take the place of.

“It approached the house of the little blond boy one afternoon when his parents were still off at work, and taking the form of a puppy, it yipped and yapped, and scratched at the door of the house, trying to lure the child outside. But the child, who looked out at the frantic little animal jumping and prancing about outside his window, did not trust strange animals, just like you, and he turned away from the window and went back to his toys.

“The pooka returned the next day and took the form of a little old lady, frail and kindly, holding a basket of sweet things to entice the child outside. But the child was not fond of sweet things, just like you, and refused to answer the door for the stranger, and went back to his books. This upset the pooka, but what could it do? Even magical creatures have rules they must obey, and the pooka could not enter the house except in the form of the little boy. So once again, it had to go away, and the boy was safe another day.

“Day after day, the pooka returned, and it took form after form, each more irresistible than the last, but nothing it did could coax the little boy out of his house and into danger, for the boy was obedient, and his parents had told him never to go outside when they were away, and never to talk to strangers. Day after day, the pooka tried, and day after day it was frustrated, and the lone little boy who preferred books to all the silly little things other children found so fun remained safe in his house.”

My child beamed up at me and asked excitedly, “Did the pooka ever get him?”

“Never. Not as long as the boy remained inside, like a good little boy should, like you do, my child.” I kissed the top of his head as I finished my cautionary tale once more.

“Again! Again!”

I smiled down at my little boy and laughed, “You have heard this story four times tonight.”

He just smiled at me in that way every child smiles at their parent when they do not want to let the story end, “Again! Again!”

An owl hooted as the deep of the night settled in. My son was still not tired, and neither was I. Stroking his brown hair I said, “Oh, alright, I will tell it again.”

The Fuath of the Firth

“I would not go out to sea today. No, no, no….”

“You’re mad, old man.”

“Aye, mad. Mad, and alive, boyo.”

The young captain snorted and turned his back to the old timer, but as he lashed his gear on deck, he cast a wary eye up at the clouds for signs of trouble. No one paid attention to the old coot who haunted the docks for as long as any could remember, but the young captain was as superstitious as any who plied the seas. It did not do to ignore any warning entirely. He snorted again at the clouds, tiny and dispersing. There was no sign of storm in the sky, and no portent of any in the offing. The young captain turned back toward the senile old man, unable to resist taunting his elder, “I fear no tempest this day.”

The old man was shuffling about with his back half-turned, collecting trash left over from the meals of gulls and fishermen alike. He just shook his head and replied, “Nay, no foul gale today, boyo. Yet I would not go to sea today, not through that firth. No, no, no….”

“What’s wrong with the firth then?”

“There’s a fuath in the firth, and it’s no friend to sailors. Not today.”

“A fua… Hells take you, you crazy old bastard! You try to jinx me with ancient spirits? There’s no such thing as fuaths! Be gone and let me work!” The young man of the sea spat and gestured rudely, watching the lunatic wander down the pier before returning to the task at hand. He wanted to beat the tide , and could little afford delays, mystical or otherwise. Yet, even as he worked feverishly, the captain cast a glance every few minutes at the wandering form of the muttering madman, and another glance at the opening to the ocean beyond the bay.

There were old stories about the firth, older than any could remember. Old tales told by old men in older taverns when the winds were howling and the shingles shuddering, over bitter ales in the fluttering candle light of the deep night. He had heard these tales, growing up in the village, but had grown up and grown wary. Even had he still believed in faerie stories, he had never heard tell of a fuath in the firth. It seemed such a silly reason to stay in port.

His preparations at last done and his two crewmen arrived and on board, the young captain cast off and set sail, with one final sneer at the old man still rambling about on the dock. For some reason no one could explain later, the young captain never noticed his was the only ship setting out that day.

The old man no one knew well stood up and put another piece of garbage in his sack, muttering to no one in particular, his eyes flickering a little strangely, “I would not go to sea today. No, no, no…”

A Memory of Ash and Snow

Wisps of ash floated down from the growing cloud of smoke. There was no breeze, but the heat of the flames buffeted the smoldering flakes of wood and cloth, gently guiding the delicate remnants of the blaze away from the still raging fire even from a distance. Even without a wind to tear them apart, the flakes were gossamer thin, fragile, vulnerable, often disintegrating into dust before they could reach the ground. Every so often there was a sharp pop from the inferno, and a shower of white hot cinders shot out into the darkness of the night, a spray of short-lived flares, melting snow wherever they came to rest. The cabin burned for hours, sputtering and dying only when the timbers had burned well below the snowbanks, extinguishing only when the still frozen ground would allow the conflagration to go no further.

Between the low lying storm clouds, gathering strength to unleash another torrent of snow the next day, and the thick obscuring smoke from the blaze, the inferno was almost invisible even at full strength, vanishing entirely from view any further than a few yards by the time the last few guttering flames gave out at last and all that remained were quickly cooling embers. The blizzard that broke the next day lasted for a week, dumping layer after layer of fresh snow upon the land, burying all sign there had ever been a fire or home for many months after. When the spring came, later that year than any on record, the gathered snows melted slowly, clumps and drifts lingering over any depression and against any protrusion that could be used for cover. What had once been a cabin offered little shelter for the retreating snows, but it was enough to mask all signs that life had ever dwelt there for a few weeks longer. The days were turning toward the simmering, sweltering summer season before anyone happened upon the ruin.

A small child, enjoying the first weekend the weather had allowed him to ride his new bicycle, stopped in front of the blackened outlines in the ground of what had once been a house. He was far from his own home, far from any neighbors he knew, and far from the paths and roads he normally played along. This deep into the wild, down the badly maintained dirt road, he had not expected to find anything. The weeds and brambles had already started reasserting their natural right over the narrow road, adding to the illusion that no one had lived here for longer than was true. The child wondered about what he found, but made no note of it. There was nothing special about charred debris in the deep woods, and his were not the worries of the grown up world. Laughing away whatever fears or worries the oddity aroused, the child pedalled away toward home, leaving the last testament to what had once been a home behind, to be overgrown, not to be seen again.

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