According to Gullen, I was the most powerful Visitor who had ever come to this world. According to Angel Rose, my powers were negligible (later updated to a cause for concern). Who do you trust in these matters?
Bear in mind, Marisa Tomei won an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny, so the idea that there are these experts who decide what’s good and bad on our behalf is something of a misnomer.
Some people have better taste than others, some have a deeper understanding of a subject and can highlight quality work, but the only thing we know for sure is that none of those people work in A and R for any of the big record labels. The only reason there’s a best album of the year is because it’s a useful marketing tool. There is no best song, this or any other year. People like to be guided in the direction of popular shit so they don’t feel left out, but then people like to vote for politicians based on a good head of hair.
The sword assessed me on various readings it took, which only reflected my condition at a particular point in time. My abilities tended to be inconsistent. Wildly so. Perhaps Angel Rose wasn’t yet aware of what I was truly capable of. Maybe no one was.
Gullen, on the other hand, had a lot of experience to back up his assessment. But why tell me? I assumed he would only do so it if it benefitted him in some way. While I quite liked him, I didn’t trust him. He was certainly my favourite fascist, and I’d be interested in seeing how he measured up against the Fairy Queen when it came to running things smoothly (over the bones of your enemies).
Not that I approved of Gullen’s proclivities for torture and silencing dissent, but as a leader myself, I could appreciate some of the benefits. You have to be able to separate the art from the artist, otherwise how could you enjoy the works of the greats, all of whom were terrible people. Oscar winner Woody Allen’s movies are better than his foibles, at least the early funny ones are.
I don’t think people can fully appreciate what it’s like to be a leader, in art or in business or in war. As soon as you start relying on others, you have to use your judgement in how to get them to do what you want. How to get them to do it properly, rather than the half-arsed attempt they would like to give you.
There’s a long-standing understanding that morals have very little to do with anything when it’s not a game. You can afford to be sporting on a court or a pitch, but that sort of nonsense in an actual battle arena will ruin your life, and the lives of everyone you’re responsible for.
People like to think there’s a natural order to these things. Survival of the fittest. Triumph of the righteous. Rise of the machines… but order isn’t natural, it’s enforced. Chaos is the default condition. The universe is entropy.
We are mere blips in time, the gods are meant to be eternal. You would think that would give them time to get their shit together.
Joshaya wasn’t happy about his new role as town bicycle. Everyone got to use him as they saw fit, with no consideration for where he wanted to go. He might toe the line for now, but that kind of treatment was eventually going to produce blowback. You can’t piss off a god forever, they get all wrathful and moody. I read a book about it.
How do you train a god?
Technically, Joshaya wasn’t a god, he was a fairy, but same diff.
He was a ridiculously powerful being who could bend the laws of physics to his whim (or to my whim). By that definition, I was a god, too, but I lacked the kind of ego you need to think others should do what you thought was right. They shouldn’t do what they thought was right, either, but that’s because they were idiots.
My plan was to get Joshaya to raise an army of fearsome warriors and monsters, use them to back up Caim as he vied for global supremacy, and then peace out when everyone was dead. I didn’t intend to put too much pressure on Joshaya so that when he did finally breakdown and start throwing around plagues of locust and raining frogs and whatever other bizarre meteorological events gods considered a signature move, it would be with someone else at the helm. Take them to the precipice, let someone else push them over.
The ogres finished singing and headed off into the mountains. Gullen marched off with his troops and didn’t leave anyone behind to keep watch; I got Flossie to check from the air. Dudley had been tasked with locating the Elf who I felt might come in useful. I was reluctant to get people to fight if they had no interest in doing so, like the ogres, but if they were going to get involved anyway, I considered it okay to try and get them to fight for me rather than against me. Solid principles to live by.
The windswept and craggy field we were in didn’t seem like the ideal place for a battle, but supposedly it had been a grand affair.
“Who fought here?” I asked Caim. “Just people?”
“No,” said Caim. “There were monsters and giants, too. Visitors and natives. Huge war machines rolled through this valley and crushed everything in their path, and were then smashed to pieces by the raw power of airborne wizards.”
“Alright, JRR, no need to turn it into a sweeping epic. Joshaya, how many prospective recruits have we got here?”
Joshaya closed his eyes and shivered. “Thousands. Many, many thousands.” I could feel him searching for a way out.
“And will they retain any powers they had when they were alive?”
“Not at first,” said Joshaya. “They may return in time. It all takes time,” he added pointedly.
“And how many do you think you can summon before, you know, system failure?”
Joshaya opened his eyes and gave me a look that suggested he wasn’t impressed by how casual I was being about his certain demise.
“First this body will wither and die, then my true form. Once that is gone, nothing can bring me back.”
Jesus, Fairy Queen on one side, Drama Queen on the other. “Well, that sounds like you should be good for the first couple of hundred, right?” I turned to Caim who was going to be our guide. “To start us off, I want you to find the biggest thing here and bring it back. Just one, okay? A big boy.”
Joshaya sighed morosely.
People have unreasonable expectations of gods. They need them to be perfect, infallible, when clearly they’re not.
Even our God back home, who we all place on a pedestal, whether we believe in him or not, has made mistakes. Logic dictates that he therefore cannot be infallible. Why is that so hard to grasp?
The Christians and Muslims both accept their God is the same as the Jewish one. No one disputes it. But that means He tried his luck with the Jews, and then went for a do-over at least once, if not twice. Does that sound like someone who got existence together in six days? I cry foul.
Jews, on the other hand, could claim the other two major religions are pulling a fast one, infringing on a six thousand year old copyright. What about our rich heritage, they cry. They should shut up and not bring attention to it. They are, after all, descended from idiots.
Anti-semitic? No, indisputable fact.
Let me prove it not only beyond a reasonable doubt but also any unreasonable ones, too.
Moses said, “Yo, my chosen ones, I’m going up this mountain, be gone about five, max ten, just chill here don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” I’m paraphrasing. “No golden calf, no cavorting, you get me? Don’t look at me like that, I know what you mashuganas are like. No golden calf for any reason. We good? Okay.” Off Moses goes to get a couple of tabs from a guy he knows.
Cut to: Moses returns to find exactly cavorting around a solid gold calf.
That is not the way the Chosen People are meant to behave, this the opening to an NBC sitcom.
“Joey, I’ve just cleaned and tidied, don’t make a mess while I’m gone.”
“Sure, Chandler, you can trust me.”
Cut to: Chandler comes home to find Joey hanging from the light fitting and the living room full of live penguins.
Admittedly, the golden calf routine (a classic bit) did set the Jewish people up to be the greatest comedy writers of all time, but handpicked by God for being special? Special Olympics special, maybe.
God is working by trial and error and in an environment of pure RNG. It doesn’t take much brain power to work out He doesn’t know what’s coming next, either.
Created us in his own image, did he? Then why are none of us happy with the way we look?
You don’t need a theology degree to see the subject is not omnipotent, not omniscient.
Your God doesn’t love you, doesn’t even know you, or care. Your gods don’t care, either. And neither do I. This whole, let me be your subservient follower in exchange for bonus points in luck is clearly gambling addiction speaking, not devotion to the divine. None of the guys up here in the pantheon are going to enable your bullshit by fixing the odds in your favour. At that point, it isn’t praying, it’s begging for handouts. Try getting off your knees and do something yourself, you lazy fuck.
Joshaya set to raising the dead, reluctantly and with the face of a teenager forced to visit grandma on the night his mates are having a party.
There was no party for Joshaya to go to. He was under my power and he knew I wasn’t going to let him wriggle his way out of the task I’d set him. This whole fascism thing was starting to make sense to me. Nobody wanted to do the crappy jobs but someone had to. Not me, obviously, so I guess it has to be you. Time to design myself a new flag.
Joshaya’s first summon was a medium-sized animal, sort of looked like an elephant without a trunk. It was hard to tell what it was for sure with the skin sticking to the bones and the face all mushed in. Time had not been kind. Is it ever?
The creature rose out of the ground where Caim had indicated, turning over the turf as it climbed out of its shallow grave. It made a loud mewing sound and didn’t seem that happy to be back. Once it was free of the earth, it shook its body and staggered about, not really knowing what to do. Welcome to the team.
“Bigger,” I said to Caim. “I need something like, humongous big.”
Joshaya tried again. This time he pulled up a humanoid creature. Not as big as the giant we’d faced on the way to Monsterland, but close. An entire hill cracked open to let it out. The giant had a slight zombified look to it, which was good. Gave it a menacing air, as long as it wasn’t vegan. The giant saw the elephant thing and stumbled towards it. The two embraced like old friends, bits of skin slaking off as they hugged. Very touching and disturbing at the same time.
“Perfect,” I said. “Can you assume control of the giant and use its body to fuel for the rest.
Joshaya’s eyes widened. “You mean… yes, yes, that might work.”
What a beautiful example of colleagues pulling together, hm? I help him to survive this ordeal, he treats me like Androcles.
Why hadn’t he figured this out, you might wonder? If he could take over any body and use it to power the numerous resurrections required of him, you would think the solution was pretty obvious. I told you, not infallible. Quite the opposite in fact. Your God made you, didn’t he? What more proof do you need?
Not that I had any interest in pleasing Joshaya. He was an unmitigated disaster who would fuck me over when he got the chance, preferably from behind when I was asleep. My true intentions were somewhat more direct.
“You should take control before he gets too used to being in charge of his own destiny. Might make him tetchy.”
Joshaya nodded. Arthur collapsed. I slipped into the adjacent world.
The vine growing out of Arthur’s head had detached itself. It was floating across to where the giant was, hanging down like a string of shit from a goldfish. Or in this case, a fairy.
I could see it now, flying slowly towards its new host.
It only took me a second to confirm how Joshaya made the transfer. When I returned to my body, I looked at where I’d seen the fairy and I spotted the disturbance in the air. It was small and it was invisible. Sneaky piece of shit.
In a pure RNG universe, you play the cards you’re dealt, and if the last card is the one your opponent needs and not the one you were counting on, you lose. Simple as that. But there are ways to improve your odds. Not all RNG is fixed. It changes as you add and subtract variables. One thing that can help you is to know what is in your opponent’s hand. Even if it beats what you’ve got, you can still win if you know that. Knowledge is power, but sneaky knowledge is god-like.
The giant shifted its body and stretched as Joshaya acclimatised himself to the new host. Of course, my suggestion would mean sacrificing the giant, but fuck him. He was already dead when I got here.
Over the next few hours, the dead rose all around us. Hundreds of them. Then thousands. The giant eventually collapsed into dust, but by then we had found another one. My army was almost ready. Next, Fengarad. I wondered what Jenny was up to, and if she’d be pleased to see me.
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Afterword from Mooderino