ONCE I WAS A GOD
by FIONA SKYE
I had worshipers and power beyond imagining. I had women and men alike throwing themselves at my feet, begging me to bless their milk cows and give them good weather and a good harvest. All I asked for in return were their first-born sons. Not such a bad deal, considering everything that I did for them.
I only wanted the boys, you understand, never the girls. I didn't have anything against girls; well, nothing they didn't already want against them, if you catch my drift. It just seemed rather stupid to eliminate my source for sacrifices. If I took the girls, who would provide the next generation of strong warriors?
Then that sodding Roman slave came along and drove out the old gods, replacing their worship with that of a benevolent peace-loving hippie. Yeah, I went there. I called your shepherd a peacenik. I much prefer your Old Testament god, the one who got promoted from his original gig as a Mesopotamian storm deity. The whole "eye for an eye" thing really appeals to me. Turning your cheek and loving your neighbor is for the weak.
It's disgraceful that Patrick, the weak-willed, peace-loving slave who wasn't even from Eirin but Albion instead, toppled my center of worship and all but erased me from history. Believe me; I never lived that one down. 'Course, I got off much better than poor Lugh Samildánach; his skin turned green and he developed an unhealthy attachment to rainbows and pots of gold. I was just relegated to the dust bin of history.
I languished for 1,500 years in the recesses of the Collective Unconscious which, if you're curious, is like that cupboard under the stairs where you stash your Christmas and Halloween decorations, or that hideous piss-yellow vase your Great Aunt Maggie gave you. The Collective Unconscious is dark and dusty and filled with all sorts of wonderful things. Demons that were driven out by the peacenik — they go by the name ‘Legion’ — live there. They're just itching to get their hooks into the hippie's followers. There are entire pantheons of gods and goddesses who were around long before you knuckle-dragging monkeys ever figured out fire. Leviathan, Cthulhu, Baal, and even the Morrighan and her sisters, Babdh and Nemain are all here. It's like a never-ending high school reunion sometimes, only without the annoying touch football games and insipid mixers.
It was okay, you know, as existences go. I got to swap stories with the Old Ones and learned some pretty cool tips and tricks on how to sow terror and destruction from the Morrighan. My dream was to somehow break out and become real again. That was the worst part of being trapped; I had all these ideas and urges and needs, but I couldn't act on any of them. Where was I gonna find a virgin or a cute little puppy dog in the hidden cupboard of humanity's mind?
Then one day, it happened. A monkey spoke my name, but it wasn't just dropped in casual conversation or in a history class. Oh, no. It was whispered like a lover's name, spoken like a prayer. It was an invocation. Someone wanted me, and in a bad way, too.
Do you have any idea what it's like to waste away, completely forgotten and ignored for millennia, yearning with your entire being to break out of your prison, wishing day after day to be important again, to matter to someone once more? Yeah, I guess some of you do. You 50-year-old housewives married to Wall Street execs, lawyers, and politicians probably understand me, don't you?
It was disturbing, hearing my name spoken like that again, after so long. I didn't know what to do. I wasn't sure if I could be on Earth again. There aren't really any concrete rules to being trapped in the Collective Unconscious, you know? It's not like Heaven or Hell, or even the dining room of the Waldorf-Astoria, where someone meets you at the door, hands you a menu, and points you in the direction of a plumb table or your afterlife. No, it's more of a catch-as-catch-can kind of thing. You figure things out on the fly. And my latest discovery was now that someone had at long last remembered me; I could get the hell out of Dodge.
But how? After 1,500 years of nothing, how did I make something? I'd completely forgotten what I looked like, what I sounded like, what kind of food I liked. I had a vague memory of bloody heads, but I couldn't remember if that was my preferred form or if they had something to do with my sacrifices. I needed to figure out a body. I kinda dug Cthulhu’s whole tentacle-head thing, but that's his signature and I didn't want to rip it off. Then the Morrighan suggested I take a look at the dude who had invoked me and use him for inspiration. I was stunned. I could do that? Sure, she said. It’s a rule.
So I looked...well, I guess it was down, but honestly, it could have been sideways or even up for all the spatial relations the Collective Unconscious has. The dude who'd invoked me was tall, nearing six and a half feet. He was broad chested, muscular, with raven's wing black hair and eyes as green as the grass that had covered my hill in Eirin.
I tried to make a copy of him out of the stuff of dreams and ideas, but after many failed attempts I gave up. However, Legion told me that I didn't have to make a body; I could just take the dude's. Did they mean to tell me that I could have been wandering around Earth for the better part of 15 centuries, killing and raping and pillaging, and I didn't even know it? No, they assured me. It was only possible if someone remembered me first. Well, I felt a hell of a lot better and not quite as stupid after they explained that to me.
But how did I take someone's body? Legion explained that in detail, too. Honestly, I don't understand what the hippie's deal with them was. They were extremely helpful. Sure, they liked to munch on souls, like that Snookie chick from Jersey likes to munch on… well… everything, apparently. But really, is that any reason to be so mean to them? They told me that all I had to do was pretend I was a thought and sink into the dude's brain. Just move myself through the ether and into the guy's head, like I was an illegally downloaded movie tripping through the wires of the internet and onto a computer. Once I was in the guy's head, it would be a battle of wills to see who would retain control of the body, but I wasn't worried about that. I was — or at least, had been — a god at one point. I could easily overcome a monkey, right?
After a few unsuccessful tries, I finally did it. I imagined that I was a thought, that I had no form except for that of electricity. I was crackly and blue, arcing between objects like cloud-to-cloud lightning. And then I shot myself out of my existence in the Collective Unconscious like a .375 caliber bullet exiting the barrel of a Chey Tac sniper rifle at over 3,000 feet per second.
I hit that guy's head like a ball-peen hammer. I knocked him flat on his ass and started wrestling with his subconscious for control of the body. I should have remembered Beowulf, Agamemnon, and Doctor Faustus, sad sacks who were smacked upside their pointed little heads with a stick called hubris.
The dude kicked my ass, wiped the floor with me, and cleaned my clock. Hell, he even made my lunch and then ate it, too. I was simply unprepared for the level of resistance I encountered. I had figured he would be as easy to overcome as the ancient Celts had been. But no. You monkeys are sophisticated now. No more room for the supernatural or the mythological in those over-sized brains of yours. Nope, now they're filled with empirical evidence and string theory and the all mighty Church of Science.
I'm afraid I didn't do all the other forgotten deities in the Collective proud. I was utterly, thoroughly humiliated. The dude kicked sand in my face, gave me an atomic wedgie, and flushed my head down the toilet. But I did manage to hang onto a tiny, unused corner of his mind. I put my back against the wall and quickly camouflaged myself with thoughts of what he had for breakfast last Tuesday and the exact amount of the water bill the month. I became a deer tick, burrowing under his skin and slowly feeding off his life's blood, unnoticed until it was too late and he was sick with Lyme disease.
I bided my time, forgotten and overlooked in that dusty corner of his brain. I was afraid to speak to his subconscious, afraid that he'd try to throw me out again. I wasn't strong enough to maintain my foothold. So I became the passive observer, watching him live his life, and waiting until I was strong enough. I'd waited for 1,500 years to be on Earth again; I could wait a little longer before I had a body of my own.
The first thing I learned about this dude, whose head I inhabited, was that his life was rather small and that he was rather Irish. Caldwell Brennan Fitchley or, as everyone he knew called him, Fitch. His life might have been boring, but his wife was hot and she clearly loved him. I'd even venture to say she worshiped him. That felt good. It had been a long time since anyone had worshiped me, and despite the fact that it was vicarious, I was enjoying it. Even the dude's spawn was kinda cute. He was seven months old, which was just when kids started getting interesting. They had personalities at that point; they weren't the whiny, clingy leeches they'd been since birth. They could laugh and smile and interact. That was fun and it made the wife happy, which in turn made Fitch happy.
His job, though? That was a complete waste of time. Teaching mouth-breathing teenagers about history? No thank you. Don't get me wrong; Fitch made it interesting and engaged his students, but the subject matter was as boring and dry as his Aunt Maggie's Thanksgiving turkey. He glossed over all the cool historical people like Vlad Tepes, Pol Pot, and Josef Stalin, in favor of concentrating on pussies like Martin Luther King, Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, and Thích Quảng Đức. I fell asleep during most of his classes.
Prior to my invasion of his head, Fitch had been a pretty nice guy. He was even-handed and fair with his students. He would let kids out of a lower grade if they could convince him of the merits of their arguments. He was, in fact, quite democratic in his classroom and in his home. He often sought his wife's opinion on a variety of things and even backed down on a few occasions when she refused to compromise. It was disgusting. Was this how monkeys behave these days?
Sure, back in my time, women were often the equal of men, but only if they could prove themselves. I had the feeling that Mrs. Fitch wouldn't equal him in most things, yet he still treated her as if it were a partnership. And those students of his? No way were they of his caliber. He was smarter, older, wiser, more experienced. But he seemed to think that treating them as adults, instead of the snot-nosed brats they were, would prepare them for something he called “real life”. The whole thing was so annoying that I tended to sleep through his classes.
In a way, my daily naps proved to be a good thing. They allowed me to be wide awake at night, which was when his subconscious was the most open to my presence. I invaded his dreams and filled them with memories of my life; the power that the sacrifices gave me, the rush of pure orgasmic bliss I felt when I controlled the weather. I had held, in my hands, the continuing existence of an entire race of people; whether or not they could feed themselves from year to year was entirely up to me.
That was the first change I pushed for. I showed him what his life could be like, how people would fear and respect him if he quit treating them as his equals. He had a god living inside his head now; no one was his equal. Slowly, gradually, over a three-month period, he stopped allowing students to argue for better grades. He quit treating his wife with such an even hand and started making decisions without her. The beautiful thing was that because it was so gradual, no one noticed until it was too late.
He'd been pretty much faithful to his wife during their three years of marriage. That was the second change I made. See, there was this one incredibly hot student who made it painfully obvious that she wanted to call Fitch ‘Daddy’. Until I came to visit, though, he'd only flirted harmlessly with her; mildly inappropriate comments about how awesome she looked, innocent caresses of her shoulders when he helped her with class work, a single dance at a school spring formal. But man, the dreams he had of her! Scorching. Letter-to-Penthouse worthy.
So, when his wife announced that she was taking the spawn to visit her sister in some place called Seattle, I practically did back flips. We'd have an entire weekend to explore the young, nubile body of this 18-year-old sweetheart. I presented scenarios in his dreams for five whole nights before he acted upon his urges and invited the girl to his home for some “special tutoring”. She was so hot for it, so willing and able to do anything I put in his mind. We were thrilled to discover that she did not hesitate to fulfill any demand he made of her. When she left Sunday night, we were sore and chafed and she was honestly walking a little strangely, but wow, we felt awesome.
She was the first in a string of affairs, usually with students, but there were a few of his wife's friends and his friends' wives, too. Over the next six months, he slept with a grand total of 42 different women who were not his wife and I am proud to say that he enjoyed every single affair. He'd gotten a taste for the heady freedom his new power had given him. He was addicted and the only way to get more was to keep escalating the changes to his personality and his behavior.
Fitch's ‘extreme makeover’ needed two final steps before it was complete, and after digging around in his head for six months, I knew these changes would be the most difficult for him. They were the ones that thrilled me the most. Yeah, the sex was nice and the power his family, friends, and students gave him without question was definitely heady, but I really missed blood. Strong blood; from first-born sons who knew what an honor it was to be given to me. The sort of power I got from those rituals was unlike anything I could possibly describe adequately enough that your modern brains could comprehend. The closest thing I've found within your realm of understanding is the feeling a surgeon has when he's in the operating theater, elbow-deep in someone's guts, literally holding someone's heart in his hands. With one quick, simple squeeze, he could crush out that life forever. Can you possibly imagine that sort of power? And after living with it for thousands and thousands of years, can you possibly imagine losing it? Now maybe you can understand why I needed it back.
But Fitch was a follower of the peacenik and abhorred violence. He'd much rather talk things out than bash his enemy's head in with a piece of firewood. I guess that's why he taught more Gandhi and less Stalin in his classes. Training him to love the blood and the killing would be a long, arduous process, but I needed my sacrifices like a heroin junkie needs a fix. So, I put on my big girl panties and got to work.
I've heard that the average human being only uses between ten and twenty percent of his brain power. What's left untapped in the remainder would amaze and astound you. Did you know that every single one of you monkeys could read and project thoughts, start fires simply by wishing, or even move something as heavy as a 150-ton blue whale just by thinking about it? Yeah, it's true. But somewhere along the line, probably around the time that your parents start teaching you logic, you lose the ability to access that part of your brain and all those really awesome powers go untapped.
While Fitch slept, I started making new connections in his brain, joining the seventeen percent with the eighty-three. Then I sent him to the gym and had him start a weight-lifting regimen, and because his wife was worried about his cholesterol levels, I had him start jogging and swimming, too. Never let it be said that I don't care about my host. He slowly gained a body worthy of a god, one of those Greek ones who look as though they were sculpted out of marble.
When I felt that Fitch's physical training was at a point where I could test his strength against others, we went to a biker bar where some neo-Nazis hung out. I softly whispered in his head that he should wear a "Hitler was a bed-wetting pussy" t-shirt on our outing. He didn't seem to think this was a good idea, but he went along with my suggestion after I showed him a vision of his wife on fire.
Once we got to the bar, we hadn't even ordered a Schlitz malt liquor before the skinhead thugs set on us like deer hounds after game. There were six of them and they were all huge and mean and armed with chains and knives. I think one of them had a crow bar, too. A knife wielder went for us first and after that, the next five minutes and thirty-seven seconds are something of a blur. I have vague impressions of the sounds of bones breaking and men screaming, and the distinct feeling of hot blood spilling across my knuckles, but anything clearer than that is lost.
When the fighting ended, I stood in the middle of a circle of broken bodies; my own body having suffered nothing worse than bloodied knuckles and a broken nose to show for it. The bar owner called the police but everyone agreed that Fitch had acted out of self-preservation. His wife was horrified by the fight, but at the same time, she was totally turned on, if that night's session in the sack was any indication.
After that first fight, I sent Fitch out every weekend, hitting biker bars wearing the same Hitler t-shirt, or wandering through Crypt country wearing red, or Blood country wearing blue. I prompted Fitch to pick fights with everyone over everything and then sat back and watched as he used our amazing body and telekinetic powers to mop the floor with his opponents. And though the police were often called in to break things up, nothing ever happened to him. He was never arrested or issued a ticket or even a verbal warning. In fact, he was thanked for cleaning up the streets and making the city safer. Of course, Fitch's new mind-reading and thought-projection abilities might have had something to do with that.
But even all of that glorious ultra-violence wasn't enough to quell my blood lust. I had to step it up a notch and kill someone. I needed a sacrifice. Fitch fought me; oh, boy, did he fight me. Visions of his wife on fire, or decapitated, or disemboweled weren't enough to motivate him to behave and do as I commanded. I was getting desperate. The fights didn't give me enough release. I was like a 50-year-old man before the invention of Viagra.
Then I discovered that, while Fitch was sleeping, I was able to take over our body and wear it like a suit. I could get out of bed, drive around town, go home and Fitch didn't remember a thing the next morning. It was wonderful! The freedom!
A week after I discovered this, I killed my first victim in 1,500 years. Just some homeless guy who stank of booze and his own waste. He'd lost his mind to schizophrenia twenty years before and thought I was an angel when I stepped out from behind his dumpster home and strangled him with my bare hands. Watching the light slowly leave his eyes as he died was exquisite, but it wasn't enough. There were no rituals, no songs praising me, and worst of all, no blood.
I'd been hitching a ride in Fitch's head for a year now, slowly carving him into someone worthy of having a god in residence, and I figured it was time for him to start repaying me for my charity. I'd completely turned his life around and made it a thousand times better than it'd been before he'd called me up and invited me to become his new roommate. He wouldn't be where he was without me. Killing someone was the least he could do.
Taking that homeless guy's life, watching him slowly fade away into whatever fate was waiting for him, was like going to a live sex show and then going home alone to an empty apartment, where the only thing awaiting me was a jar of Vaseline and a box of Kleenex. Sure, I got my rocks off, but it was empty and left me unfulfilled. I wanted to take one of the strippers home with me. I wanted the all-you-can-eat buffet, instead of the a la carte menu.
So, during our nightly pow-wows, I began explaining to Fitch what he needed to do to further his way along the path to godhood. I reminded him that he'd asked me to come visit and now that I had improved his life, he owed me a lot. He was resistant at first, especially after I explained exactly what I needed and how he would go about fulfilling my needs. But since I'm the Tony Robbins of the ancient Celtic pantheon, I convinced him to cooperate and even got him a little excited about the project.
It was June when we began our work, and Fitch was enjoying his long summer break away from school. The first thing we had to do was find a suitable place for him to collect my sacrifices. Luckily, since we lived in Denver, Colorado, it was relatively easy to find the perfect hill in the western suburb of Golden, not too far from the Colorado School of Mines. As an added bonus, since the school was full of egg-head engineering students, our pool of potential candidates was enormous.
Once we'd found our hill, we began making arrangements. First, we found some large stones and placed them in a circle. The largest stone stood in the center, surrounded by twelve smaller ones. Under normal circumstances — and by normal, I mean two thousand years ago — my head priest would stand on the large center stone and a first-born son would be ritually slaughtered in front of each of the smaller stones by one of my other priests. Obviously, that couldn't happen here, so I would have to make do without the help of other priests.
After the circle was ready, we began searching for our sacrifices. Fitch wanted to stalk them one at a time since we'd be killing them one at a time, but I knew that would take too long and increase the chances of us getting caught. So we found them in pairs instead. They were different ages, different races and religious beliefs; hell, they even had different majors. The one thing they all shared was that they were the first born male child in their families. What a stroke of luck, huh?
We took them using Fitch's new-found mental and physical abilities. After tying them securely to their respective stones, I fed the right words into Fitch's brain and he repeated these while slitting the first boy's throat and standing directly in the spray of arterial blood. When that blood showered over Fitch's face, the power hit like a freight train going full speed on a straight, downhill track. It brought him to his knees, made his skin glow like moonlight on virgin snow, and gave him sexual release like he'd never, ever felt before. The second boy's death was even better; the power expanded a hundred times over the first. Fitch finally knew that he was special. And he couldn't wait to do it again.
Unfortunately, he had to wait. I didn't want to take any chances. I forced Fitch to see that he had to lie low for a month or two, but the next two sacrifices would bring us even more power than the first, and things would only escalate. He was disappointed, but could understand my hesitation, and was even grateful that I was being so pragmatic about things.
The missing boys were a hot news item for the next week, with huge searches being led to find them or their remains. But thanks to Fitch's friendly god-in-residence, there weren't any remains to discover. Though it was dicey for a while. Fitch was worried that somehow the police would tie the missing boys to him and he'd be arrested. I distracted him with whores, however, and he soon stopped worrying and instead focused on what I could offer him.
Mrs. Fitch knew that something was off about her husband, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. The changes to Fitch's appearance and demeanor were unavoidable, unfortunately. His self-confidence skyrocketed and while he had always been a handsome guy, he was even more attractive now. Apparently, this is what happens when you get a small taste of godhood. Women couldn't keep their hands off of him. He took them to bed and didn't even try to hide it from his wife anymore. It hurt her, but at the same time, there was no way she was going to leave him. She was so in love with him and if sleeping around was what he needed to be happy, then she'd gladly let him. In fact, she was willing to give him much more than that. She proved herself willing to do anything for him when she seduced the next two sacrifices and even helped us kill them.
It was a mistake letting Mrs. Fitch in on the secret. I see that now. After the killing, she lost her nerve and went to the police. They investigated the missing college students but couldn't find their remains or any connections they might have had with Fitch. The police were willing to chalk it up to a very bitter wife whose husband slept with anything in a skirt and flaunted it in her face; that is until the chief of homicide decided to stake out our hill, just on the off-chance that Mrs. Fitch was telling the truth.
I was completely ignorant of the ring of heavily-armed police and SWAT officers that surrounded us. They waited while Fitch dragged the nearly-unconscious boys out of a rented van and secured them to the stones. They didn't even move in when Fitch pulled out the ritual knife and began chanting. Then, just as he moved his hand to slit the first boy's throat, the officers popped out of the bushes, screaming and yelling at him to freeze. Fitch's head whipped around and I could feel my control of him slipping as the adrenaline coursed through his body. I tried to slit the last two throats before a hail of bullets struck Fitch, but I couldn't, and Fitch broke my control and ran. The hail of bullets came then, bringing him down and killing him, and it was his blood that stained the grass of that hill in Colorado.
The next thing I felt was empty, freezing blackness. I cried out and the ringing in my own ears was my only answer. The realization of where I was hit me and I began weeping. This was far worse than the Collective Unconscious. This was the Void, where ideas go after they've died. I was lost now, far beyond the scope of memory, permanently forgotten. This was my punishment for thinking I could come back after humans had moved on. I could feel myself fading and I didn't fight it. I'd already forgotten how.
Fiona Skye is an urban fantasy novelist living in Southern Arizona. She has been writing for the better part of her life and is only occasionally distracted from storytelling by her love of crochet and the search for the perfect plate of cheese enchiladas. Her first novel, “Faerie Tales” will be coming out in the fall of 2013. Visit her website: http://www.fiona-skye.com to learn more.
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