This didn't make the editor's cut at the mag I sent it to, but some people have liked it. Additionally, people are always asking me "So, what do you write?" I don't plan on re-submitting this in this format/version anywhere else; but it can serve as a very small example of my writing style.
DEAD GOD SMILING
And we're off again.
This isn't the first time it has happened, and it might not be the last. I've been hunting “him” for so long I'm not sure if I'll be able to handle it once I catch “him”. This hunt has defined me for subjective millennia. It's a sobering thought, as it usually is, made more important by how close to the end we are now.
He has been using this male form for years now, afraid to change his appearance before I discover it. Scared that being too paranoid might give him away to me. Predictably stupid, if you ask me. But that's normal for a god.
He rabbits exactly how I figured he would, and runs into the first piece of the complex routing structure I've designed. A course change and he's off again. Sometimes I wonder if he isn't duping me somehow. Nothing could be this stupid and this lucky, could it? He breaks through the barrier I put up for him to break through, and smiles back at me. Nevermind, he is exactly this stupid, and this time he's not going to be lucky.
Three contingency vectors step out of their hiding places and converge with me, freeing up some space in the old head meats. I'm following at what I'm sure he thinks is my fastest speed, more concerned that he doesn't zig when I need him to zag than with actually catching him, for the moment. He runs further into the intricate trap I've woven through reality, and more vectors converge freeing up more space for me to consider what I'm actually going to do when this is over.
What would I have done if I hadn't gone this route? It's not exactly applicable. I was just a blacksmith's apprentice back then. Now I'm so much more- I'm certainly not the same man I was then. You couldn't even call me a man, anymore. Maybe I'm less than I was; but that doesn't make a lot of sense. I think I'm just different, no better no worse, an entirely new category.
Right about the time I expect him to, he tries a radical course correction. I let him see that I've been toying with him. I need him to panic and not focus on exactly where he's going or what I'm doing. I speed up drastically, and make a grab for his left side. He dodges right, exactly where I needed him to go, but I don't have time to gloat, these next few subjective seconds are critical. He has to panic, at least for that long, so I throw as much as I can at him.
Entire galactic civilizations are destroyed in a flurry of divine anger. A very precise flurry. It won't be long now before he's passed the point of no return. I just need him to keep going. I need him to not stop and attempt some futile stand. Oh sure, that would be easy enough to handle; but there could be consequences I haven't planned on from that sort of confrontation. I'm not about to do this again, once he's gone. He's the last, and he will always be the last- if I can just keep him running.
His powers lance backwards and singe another converging vector. An angry display of his child temper overcoming his sense. That costs him some of the lead I've given him. I pour the destruction of a billion worlds into what would be his kidneys if he was actually the humanoid male he appears to be. That was a mistake. He stumbles across half a million light years, falls, and slides at least as far. This is not part of the plan, he's not quite far enough, yet. I have got to make sure I'm right before I act, there are still too many possibilities.
We're in the universe I've chosen, but we're not far enough back, yet. It's still too big for the change to hit him fast enough. I need him to keep running for a few more seconds. He's hurt, that's a given. He knows he's been cornered. I'm sure he knows the wall isn't that far behind his back, the sense of the inevitable end must be tangible even to him. This is not good. I don't think he's going to be moving any further willingly. He stands up and glares at me.
“Why are you doing this!?” His scream is full of self-pity and condemnation. It's truly pathetic.
“Because you ask questions like that.”
“We should have never let you become one of us!”
“You're right there.” An idea occurs to me, and I start to edge towards him. Mindless instantiations flowing off from my sides, slowly encircling him. Maybe I can scare him into another rabbit.
“What did we do to deserve this?”
That brings me up short. I never considered he wouldn't know- the last of his kind, the rest dead by my hand. It's inconceivable he hasn't figured it out. Could I have fallen victim to their own disease? The inability to understand anything but my own navel is a gut wrenching possibility. It's the same way I managed most of what I've done, preying on their child-like idiocy. “You really don't know?”
He seems shocked I had to ask. That's not good. If I've missed this, what else have I missed. Half the fake vectors gain a bit more of me than they were originally supposed to have- it's a trick I've used so many times in the past I don't have to concentrate on it. The newly conscious vectors dive into the foamy fabric of all realities, seeking what I may have missed. This won't take long. A side-effect of the trap I've laid is that there aren't many other realities to check.
“That shouldn't surprise me,” I say. I'm stalling for time. “None of you were all that smart. Arrogant and powerful, to be sure, but not intelligent. Temperamental children with too much power. You needed to be spanked, and hard. You refused to learn, to adapt, this was the result.”
“You prove my point.” Something twinkles in the distance, and I realize he's building up his power. “Stupid,” I'm not sure if that's meant more for me or for him. I close the distance between us, the ghost vectors miming my actions.
He swings at me, a divine fist backed by the power of a million super-massive stars going supernova. I don't even attempt to dodge, there's no point. I throw my entire being into a vacant ghost vector, and ram a leg into the genitals of his form. He has a moment of intense pain before he alters himself. It distracts him long enough for me to shift ghost vectors again. I grab his neck and wrench, throwing him over my shoulder. The ghost vectors change their positions, as an idea occurs to me.
He bounces off the singularity of the black hole at the center of a protogalaxy, while me and my vectors run after him- he's not getting away. It's dangerous for me to fight him like this, warfare is part of his domain. It's part of my domain, too; but it's a fundamental piece of what he is, unlike me. He regains his feet and I see him purposefully move so he's facing the hole my vectors have left him. He doesn't want to be forced where I obviously want him to go- it'd be a smart move, but I figured on it. The hole, unbeknownst to him, is away from where I want him. I just have to keep him occupied enough that he doesn't figure that out. I really need the information my vectors went to find before I can do anything more.
He grabs at me, and I let him get a hold. He twists, and instead of resisting I move with him. He torques me over his hip in a classic judo throw. I add some momentum and land on my feet. My arms under hooking his. I lift, spin, and slam us both down on the protogalaxy's black hole. Neither of us need the visuals, we are protean powers capable of forming reality to our very wills; but this is intrinsically satisfying to the part of me that was once a blacksmith. I twist my hand in his flowing brown mane, pull and thrust. His head bounces off the singularity.
One of the searching vectors converges, and my extra cognitive ability instantly sees a problem. He should be putting up more of a fight. He's getting ready to do something, and I'm certain I won't like it. I have a moment of panic, and without thinking it through I sling him deeper into the past before I'm certain that's a smart move. It's not far enough. Another vector converges, and I try to blast him further into the past with brute force. I'm not exactly quick enough.
A blast of force erupts from him that's powerful enough to almost kill him, and it's aimed right at my thinking bits. This time he isn't lucky; but I am. His power hits my power, and it gives me enough time to compensate for his desperate gambit. I push on the fabric of reality, and the universe responds. I funnel my unleashed power into the response. Suddenly, there's a lot more distance for his power to dissipate into, and enough time for me to get out of its way. It burns me a little as it passes; but not enough to make a difference, he's virtually defeated himself for me. My final vector converges.
I take the step that brings us face to face. I can see how utterly drained he is, and he can see his end in me. “You've been planning that, haven't you?”
He nods, unable even to meet my gaze.
I smile. “Stupid of you.”
“It always worked in the stories...”
“You arrogant fool! YOU WROTE THOSE STORIES! Did you really believe the best thing to do was to drink your own kool-aid? Have you not been watching?” I put his arm around me, converge with my last ghost vectors, and start walking us to where I need him. “This is exactly why you could never win. None of you were sophisticated enough to really understand us in any meaningful way. We are a collection of emergent effects that arise from the mixture of flaws and abilities we're born with. You were perfect, without flaw. You never understood what it meant to overcome, to triumph, to struggle and win...”
“Is that why you did it? Is that why you're going to kill me, Man?”
“You are only proving my point. No, that is why I hate you; but it's not why I am exterminating you. I'm killing you to give them a chance.” We're far enough. I build a funeral ship for him from my own hate, and lay his frail essence upon it.
“Tell me why, then.”
“You were all petty, childish, things unjustifiably powerful and in control. Even the best of you were naive, cruel, caricatures. Your presence was disruptive, and without you even the horrors will be easier to accept- for it will only be their horrors. Once you are gone... Once you are gone they will have the chance to be amazing.”
“But we made them great!” He tries to struggle off the altar, I pour more of my rage at him, and he stops trying to fight back. “We made this for them to be great!”
It's pointless, he can't see it. Their perfection was always their fatal flaw. I use the last vestiges of my hate to ignite the fire that will finish him, and push the ship towards the beginning. There's a trigger in the fabric of the thing, and his death will pull the pin on the bomb I've set ticking. I don't have much time, and I'm an immeasurable distance from where I want, and need, to be when this happens.
In a few more moments, the value of a certain cosmological constant will change very subtly. The result of that tiny change will cause this reality to collapse in on itself, and all trace of their existence will be removed from the context of realizable possibilities. Only one, finite, reality will remain, and in it a place very similar to where I started. That's where I head.
As I pass through the space between one possibility and the next, I exude every ounce of the powers I've gathered from slaughtering the gods. My vectors found no sign of other divine presences, and I don't waste time or energy reaffirming my findings. When the reality I just left crumbles it will consume the dead universe beside it, and the ripples of those destructions will seal this one against any further manipulation should some other reality begin and breed overly powerful child-things. I pass the first point of divergence and start setting up my backup plan.
I have freed us from the shackles of the divine, and when Religion dies he will ensure our future; but my own existence could, all too easily, disrupt what I've worked so hard towards for so long. Yet, I cannot abandon my quest just because it is finished for now. I have to ensure against the unlikely event of future problems. In the last moments before the end of what was, and the beginning of what is, I damn myself.
I emerge into the eigenspace of the gods, the bubbly place where membranes diverge and eggshells get written on in holographic runes. I am the last, the only, the one, and the extraverse responds as I flex things that aren't quite there- the muscles and tendons of my current form straining in sympathy. I build the tension, up the pressure, and compress my power. Here I am everything and everything is me, and I am fully aware of all, except the one place I shall preserve. Religion dies.
The collapse of two realities vibrates the extraversal substrate, and I can feel the disturbance in the quantum foam. At the exact moment I am where I need to be, the harmonic principles of mutiversal self-regulation thump me in the back of my divine head. I am a man again, and I have a concussion.
I expected using all of the powers of the gods to instantiate free will would destroy me. My calculations of the energy and billionth order effects were accurate, irrefutable, and perfect. A god, the god, would negate itself. It would die, there was no way around it.
Except, I live.
It is too dark to see exactly where I am, and I am too near unconsciousness to register anything else about the environment. It is entirely possible I have materialized in the atmosphere and will plummet to a grisly end, or that I have come into being in the ocean and will drown or be eaten.
My final thoughts show me my own perfectly flawed arrogance. I was not a god, not just the god. I was a man first, and once my god-ness destroyed itself, unlike any other, I had something left. I will get a life, for however long I can keep it.
Despite my potentially precarious situation, I succumb to the non-existence of unconsciousness- smiling.
Copyright Tom Hand 2010