“What is God?”
The old man bent his head. When he raised it, he looked rueful. “God, my dear,” he said, hesitantly. “God is love.”
Emeril stood upon the platform as it rose higher, her parents behind her. They were level with God’s knees now. Massive metal sheets flexed in His skin as servos adjusted to tiny changes in air pressure. Oxygen tanks, resting on a table, would be required once they were at shoulder height. Beside them lay the knife.
The old man was waiting for something. She thought hard.
“What is love?” she asked tentatively.
“Ah.” The old man smiled. “Love is sacrifice.”
Project Deus had begun almost immediately after the Fall. While the theories differed in specifics, all agreed: the Fall had occurred the absence of God. For redemption, His return was required.
So thirty-seven years passed in hard labor. And even as hurricanes raged, radiation seals failed, birth defects multiplied, hopes rose with the growing juggernaut. And now… Now the machine was built.
But a machine was not God. To become God, more was required.
“What is sacrifice?” she asked.
But the old man shook his head. He reached for the dog collar lying on his desk and led her out to the platform where her parents were waiting.
Her parents led her from the platform onto a metal grill set into God’s head. Through it she could see the funnels that fed into the AI engines that sat behind God’s lake-sized eyes.
“They could have used synthetic blood, couldn’t they?” she had asked her father, as they rose past God’s navel.
“It’s not the same,” he said.
“It’s identical,” she objected.
“No,” said her mother. “Not for the worshipers.”
Her father fetched the table with the knife. He placed it between them, closed his eyes, whispered a prayer.
Emeril seized the moment and the knife. She lunged, thrusting it into her mother’s neck. Blood sprayed. Thick. Arterial. She whirled. Her father put up his hands. She slashed his wrists.
“Why?” he asked as he bled out.
“God is love,” she said. “Love is sacrifice. And apparently no one cares who is sacrificed.” She wiped a smear of blood from her cheek. “Except me.”
Emeril stood upon the platform as it descended. And she prayed as God began to stir.
the musical breath of trees
their limb-rending dance
That dang thousand-legged monster, squatting in the woods out past Coaling. Been there since the tornado went through, or maybe the storm released it from some Paleolithic prison. Started small, at any rate, and the first I saw of it was a peculiar letter to the newspaper from some feller lived out that way. Not really a letter, it was a haiku. Kind of disturbing. I remember thinking he must have been on some kind of hallucinogen. I had a professional interest; trained as a forester at Auburn, though I work as a real estate appraiser now. So I drove out there on my next day off, those winding roads, overhung with trees, they make Midwesterners claustrophobic. Not me, but something about the woods that day did make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I parked out by Lake Lurleen and walked the trail that goes all the way around. It’s been closed since the tornado; part of it got blown away, they claim. The trees tossed in a stiff breeze that didn’t penetrate to ground level. I didn’t see any washouts, the path was clear, but I did hear distant shouting, or singing; maybe chanting, carried on that unfelt wind. I struck off uphill into the woods, but never did find where the sound was coming from. Started to get dark and I began to hear things shuffling in the leaves. Sounded too big to be coons or possums. I got spooked, headed back home.
on her belly the ebon
hoof and snout of God
It all fell apart after that. The freakish weather, people cleared out or disappeared, something happening in the woods west of the lake, two deputies gone out to investigate but they never come back. Sheriff wouldn’t do nothin’ after that. I went out there again myself. Looking for something, the heart of this thing, its root cause. Oh yeah, I found it. Found the little clearing, the black hoofprints burned into the dirt, and all the time the trees moving in a wind I couldn’t feel. Found the Mother too, poor thing; think I was supposed to. I’ll do for her as I can, and what I must, when it’s her time. I have seen the future, and I know what side my bread is buttered on. My advice? Go to ground. Stay out of the woods.
the Young come
and they will hunger
Iä, Shub-niggurath, baby
[O]n the contrary, everything in it is both head and tail, alternately and reciprocally…. We can cut wherever we please…. Chop it into numerous pieces and you will see that each one can get along alone. — Charles Baudelaire, “To Arsene Houssaye”
It was that great modernist monk of the late fourteenth century, Baudelard, who first codified the principle of spontaneous generation. He had stowed away a porcelain saucer of skunk meat high in a cupboard where no animal–including the human kind–could reach it. In truth, he had set it aside like manna, afraid that one day the countryside would have scant meat if he and his fellow monks kept hunting as they had all that blustery fall.
A week later, as Baudelard dusted the cupboard, he rediscovered the meat, writhing with worms, and quilled his findings in a thirty-pound volume of accumulated observations.
Yet Baudelard was no one-trick pony of a natural philosopher who folds his hands and rests on laurels. He understood this principle had to be developed to its fullest, for “To understand the essence of nature,” as he was fond of informing his fellow monks spraying a sibilant mouthful of his noon meal: day-old bread, goat cheese and wine, “is to understand the mind of God.” So Baudelard cut worms at varying lengths to see if life might sprout again.
And, lo, they did grow full and wriggling blood-red with both head and tail intact, whichever was the original of which. The confusion brought him to recall a minor poet friend of his, the Englishman Geoffrey Chaucer. He had started a series of semi-bawdy, semi-humorous tales of wanderers mocking the Old English tales of heroes, using the vulgar, common English tongue. Chaucer and Baudelard both saw the stories–pale imitations of Boccaccio–as best fit for lining refuse bins.
To test just how far the principle of spontaneous generation went, they took his original manuscript, mulched it, stirred in earthworms, water, and ink, and let the rotting mass germinate for several months. Chaucer was probably over-eager and exhumed the manuscript prematurely. The Canterbury tales were still unfinished and a bit raw, but Chaucer corrected the earthworms’ grammatical errors and found ways to punch up the bawdiness.
The triumphant success of Baudelard’s literary experiment, logically lead him to human beings as his next test subject. The rest, as you know, is history–eternal glory springs from temporary gore. Even now, a century later, Baudelard’s achievements remain the high-water mark of natural philosophy and letters.
Thief Bowlsalot’s girlfriend dragged him to the artsy-fart reading at the Thebes gallery. He couldn’t even wear jeans. It was for some fancy-schmancy writer lady who won the Bigwad award, and his girlfriend had read him the Bigwad o’ crap and he’d wanted to say, “So what?” but said, “Oh, baby, that was great.” The things he put up with to get down a girl’s pants. Only she thought he liked novels that rich heiresses wrote–those who never dirtied a fingernail except as snot-nosed brats slumming it with her girls at the Everyman’s Mall.
Ms. Bigwad wore a pink feather boa and was trailed by a ham-handed, bodyguarding knot-head, who looked like he was itching to pound any one of these balding scrawny sycophants, and by a waiter with a tray of black goo on crackers, which Thief found more lively than anything else in the gallery.
Ms. Bigwad read. Nothing happened to the characters, so they never had to deal with anything: no air raids, no gun-toting fourth graders, no fistfights after a night of booze and schlepping through the streets with some other guy’s girl. They never disobeyed signs: no fishing, no hunting, no shoes, no shirt, no service. Just a dentist who collects famous photographs and trades them with friends who blow their never-ending wad at Macy’s and not at the hooker’s or on a line of blow, and the characters blab, blab, blab about zip–enough to make you gouge your ears out. Somebody gets a brain aneurysm, but fuck talking about that–too interesting. Who cares about death? What did Ms. Bigwad know of ticking time bombs ready to explode in her head? Thief’s granny died of one. That meant something–to the family at least: an inheritance of quilts, several dozen balls of yarn, and thirteen feral cats.
Thief tried not to snore as the writer lady droned in a voice parched as the Sahara. Thief’s girlfriend elbowed him awake before he’d been ready to, so he left the reading. No chick’s pants were worth that much.
The rich lady’s lousy limo was blocking the alley when Thief went to kick start his motorbike. A steel bar with a large knob concrete at one end got Thief to thinking: He’d give the poor lady something to write about.
With the first stroke of luck he’d had all evening, he found a diamond as big as the Ritz on the back seat.