Have you ever played god? Have you ever taken the time to pluck insects from the soil and place them on an ant hill? Controlling the fate of a life can be an empowering moment; it can feel as though you are the most significant thing in the world. You can become the governing power where your word is natural law. Pluck enough insects, and your hand might become another force of nature that insects fear. Gravity binds them to the earth, and the hand plucks them from it. Maybe insects were too small for you; perhaps they didn’t have enough emotion for you to get your kicks. So instead of insects, you played with small animals. Taking one behind the shed where no one could hear their yelps of fear, but slowly, you claim their life, and their cries for help are silenced. As their breath stops under your crushing grip, you feel absolute, like nothing could stop you, no matter how hard it tried. No matter where you start, you always end in one of two inevitabilities. You either stop because you can’t gain pleasure from the act due to your unwillingness to take the next step. Or you are the bold who takes that next step; you move on to bigger and more emotive things. Although you are human and cannot be satisfied for long, you will always crave more. More power, more strength, and more control.
Eventually, the small animals won’t do anymore; while emotive, they pose no challenge. Some might have claws, but they can only hurt, not harm. You move your way up the food chain, you start to hunt the larger animals. Animals that can fight back add another layer to the complex, overcoming something that you assumed would claim you. Returning home, others notice the scratches, the bite marks. You have to lie; you have to deceive those around you so you may continue your acts of power. You are no longer a mindless brute; you have to use your divine knowledge to mentally defeat your opponent, testing your wits against those of lesser beings. But one day, the questions will baffle you; they will unwind your little tale of lies, and others will uncover the truth. Your days of controlling life and death are over; you are going to be losing your godly powers unless…
Unless you act, your run is up, your time as a god is over. You must act quickly. You do to those as you have done so many times before; no longer are you dropping beetles on ant hills, nor are you crushing kitten’s throats. You have moved up to wrestling with dogs and now find yourself at the precipice of power. Claiming the life of your own kind, the ultimate test of your divine abilities. Or so you thought.
You used to overpowering creatures by now, the challenge remains, but you quickly discover it is by far not the hardest challenge for your powers. Before you lay a corpse of an active member of society, to others, they have simply disappeared. To you, they are the rush that gives you purpose. Convincing one person you were doing no harm had failed; how were you to convince a multitude of others that you are a saint. With one, you had to test your mind; now, you must take the final exam. Now you must survive. Lie after lie, you realize, you are no god; you are a fool. Blinded by your own ineptitude, you strode as if you knew every stepping stone, unaware of the fact you had been wading through the water all this time.
Slowly, or sometimes quickly, you are caught by your inability to lie. As that sentence is passed and the hammer drops, you feel your mortality become a reality once again. Sitting in that cold chair, you stare down the man who holds the lever to your fate. He stares unblinking at you with tired eyes, eyes of one who no longer feels from the ability to kill. No pain nor delight, a man who has broken the sanctity of death. Without remorse in his eyes, your life is forfeit; he claims it without a second thought. Later he is never questioned why he killed, unlike you. He is never arrested for murder, unlike you. He is never charged with being inhumane, unlike you. And unlike you, he will sleep without waking; he will sleep as if nothing had happened that day. Meanwhile, you stare as your body dies, convulsing all around you; you feel your consciousness leave.
After a while, you feel your consciousness return to a form, and all of a sudden, you find yourself as a baby once again. Screaming in your mother’s arms, you cry, for your memories start to fade until you return to the mental power of a babe. This cycle seems to repeat endlessly until one day, your consciousness seems to drift away from Hollow. This time your debt of 100 years to Ompti would have been paid, you will be reborn as a god. A true god, not just one you imagined yourself to be.
It is then that you will see how truly small you are.
The preacher concluded, and those in the congregation started to discuss among themselves what the sermon meant.
“Clearly, this is teaching us that there is no point in attempting to be a god, for one day it will come naturally.”
“Wrong as usual, this sermon was about the folly of attempting to be god because even when you achieve it, you are barely stronger than you are now.”
Two or three individuals turned to this man.
“Yea, right, gods are barely stronger than us. I am sure we are a mere stepping stone away from being able to reincarnate all living things.”
“Well, if I am wrong, then how did we manage to crucify and bind a god in our church?”
The congregation turned to the bloodied individual that was nailed to the cross at the head of the church.
“Can’t be that much stronger than us if we could do that.”
The deity remained nailed to the wood that bound him, listening to the conversation that played out before him. Infuriated by the ignorance in the room, he spoke out.
“You are all fools; you deserve my silence. Be thankful that your stupidity has enraged me so much I feel the need to enlighten you. There are a couple of things that gods are weak to; the number one thing is a church to another god. Secondly, they are weak against crucifixion, which nullifies the abilities of a god. None of our abilities seem to work while we are in this state, and none of us know why.”
The people stood amazed that after nearly 100 years, the god finally spoke. The preacher was the first to respond.
“You should have stayed away from here, be thankful we did not call down Anodyne to deal with you.”
“Be thankful? He isn’t here; he hasn’t been here for the last 100 years, and yet you still use him as a threat.”
“Anodyne never leaves, he may not be here for a while, but I can assure you he lurks in the shadows waiting.”
“My name is Xarius; I find it hard to talk to things if they don’t have names; what is yours.”
The preacher seemed hesitant at first but reluctantly gave it up.
“Dimitri, my name is Dimitri.”
“Look, Dimitri, your god has abandoned you. He dipped his toes in the Eternaverse and then immediately dove in. You are now nothing but a dream of a pet he used to play with. Every god goes through it; they realize there is no need to create and maintain life when there is so much more to do out there.”
The preacher scoffed at Xarius.
“Well, then, Anodyne is outlying data because I can guarantee you he is coming back. The more we suffer, the more power he gains, and besides, he hates people touching his stuff.”
The priest moved to another part of the church where a cup filled with stale stood.
“I shifted this once, and his response was to form a water bubble around my home until I put it back.”
Xarius leaned as far forward as his body would allow, lurching his neck forward to stare the priest in the eye.
“You are governed by a child god. Torturing you for touching something like that is a clear sign he has the mind of an infant. I feel sorry for you; living under the rule of a mean two-year-old must be exhausting. I am not the nicest of gods, but I am consistent; why not follow me? The first thing I would do is remove all these roaming nightmares. You actually have a beautiful planet. It is a shame most of you never leave cities.”
The priest looked back at the glass sitting on his table, then back at his people.
“We don’t follow Anodyne; this is a church of Ompti. All we do is acknowledge that Anodyne is not only the creator but the most active god on this planet.”
“Give allegiance to me; give me the power of your fear and respect. When he returns, he will have no power as you all surge me with energy. He will be a visitor in his own universe, an unwelcome visitor I will purge from this world.”
The room sat quiet; no one was sure what to do. Before them, they had an option at potential peace or maybe a fate worse than Anodyne. No one was willing to step forward and remove the pinned deity, for no one knew if he was, in fact, worse than Anodyne.
“If we can capture you, then Anodyne will crush you in seconds. We have tried for generations to capture him to no avail.”
“But if you recalled correctly, you did not capture me. Sylum did. I understand that you mortals have a terrible memory, but this is shocking for only a hundred years. Sylum gave the preachers of the time a spell to disable me, then he watched as you all strung me up how he said. So while it was done by your hands, it was actually him, not you.”
Xarius leaned back against his cross and attempted to obtain some form of comfort.
“Sylum, I would fear, but with your energy focused on me, I know I could handle him too. Even if his lap dog Anodyne came to fight too.”
“But if Anodyne does defeat you, he will destroy us in the most creative of ways.”
“Look, your so-called god could not defeat a simple Holite who accidentally ascended to godhood. While sure he confined him to one island, he was unable to kill a newborn god; he is a joke of a god. Follow a stronger god; follow one that can fight. You will know I can fight soon whether you follow me or not because I have nearly broken my bonds. I either leave my prison as a liberated king or a psychotic murderer. The result is up to you.”
Centre stage stood a broken-looking individual bolted to a cross. A man with a microphone cried out to the cameras that circled the stage.
“How long did we exhaust ourselves under the mad rule of Anodyne? How many lives have been claimed by his mood swings and games? How many years has it been since his last sighting? We are no longer bound to a god because he created our planet; tonight, we give praise to a god that deserves praise.”
Two men with large bolt cutters moved forward and removed the bolts sticking through the deity’s hand and feet, allowing him to drop to the stage. He cracked his bones and stood upwards, his beleaguered form transforming back into one of physical perfection.
“Today, we give praise to Xarius, the risen god!”
Cheers from all over Hollow resonated as those far away watched in unison through their media devices. Xarius flung his arms upwards, and the horrors that roamed the lands disappeared in an instant.
“This is not my world, but ours. Let me rule with an open ear, not a closed fist. Get ready for a god worthy of praise. One that has risen from the muck of this world and will now use his strength to pull the rest of the planet from the diseased pool of snakes and monsters. Let us build a world without Anodyne.”