What is a god to do when his goddess becomes tired of existence?
|Ariel sat beside me on a couch at the top of the Tower, looking as young as ever in her iridescent green and silver summer dress, but her presence felt as old as dust and smelled of decay.
“I’m so tired, Adam” she said, using the name that only the gods knew and that only she was allowed to use. I looked deeply into her dark eyes. They showed her true age, unlike her youthful and vibrant body. She certainly didn’t look tired. She enjoyed prancing around the Tower’s forests and glades in a state of near nudity. I hadn’t seen her do it lately; she’d simply lie in the virtual sunlight of the Glitter Forest dreaming, I supposed.
Of course, there are other kinds of exhaustion that can afflict the immortal. Ariel had lived in various forms for more than a thousand years. She was mortal and flesh on Earth for twenty-five years. When she killed herself to escape the suffering of a corrupted Earth, I gave her a spectral form to wear and she enjoyed the ability to travel at will and feel free. When she returned from her travels in the middle of my Purge War, she convinced me to let the human race live and to let her become flesh again. For a few centuries she became several hundred short-lived child savants, virgin priestesses, and druids and helped clean up, design, and expand the Safe Haven Valley. Her various reincarnations improved and enriched the lives of those she existed with. She would visit me in her dreams. It wasn’t until the Conclave of Wizards discovered her true nature, abducted her (she was but a small child then), murdered her and attempted to use her blood as a weapon against me that her reincarnations ended. She agreed to take on the powers and responsibilities of a Goddess and created the first sentient trees on Earth to help fight a passive battle against the magic-users who murdered her body in cold blood. When the war ended she created her own Order of clerics that stressed environmentalism and was pleased with the miracles she bestowed on human kind and designed every garden and forest in the Tower. This was now the Golden Age of human kind. Peace and efficiency was at an all-time high and pollution at an all-time low and, to my joy, she decided to rest within the Tower with me.
I had taken her lethargy as a good sign. We could finally spend more time together than we had in centuries. Now, though, as I look into the eyes of a Goddess, I can see that she meant what she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“I’ve seen everything that I want to see and I’ve helped as much as I can. Even this body seems to weigh heavily over my spirit,” she spoke slowly.
“It is true that things have never been more to your liking and despite my doubts, your goals have been reached, but this cannot last. Things will fall apart again and you’ll be needed.”
“I don’t want to be needed anymore, Adam. Not even by you,” she said sadly.
“But you’ve always needed me, love, and I need you too. What would you have me do?”
She paused, unsure what to say. I wished I could read her thoughts. “Unmake me so that I do not exist any longer,” she said finally.
I stood up. “No Ariel. I won’t do that. I cannot do that.”
Now she also stood. “But you must, love. You said you’d do anything for me and this is what I want.”
“But why?” I asked, exasperated.
She opened her mouth to speak, but gave up and sat back down. After a moment, she said, “I thought I knew how to ask you this. I’d planned my speech out and I thought you’d understand, but this is harder than I thought.
“I’m tired of suffering, Adam. I’m tired of everyone else suffering. I’m tired of feeling so damn much! And I’m tired of being useless.”
“But you aren’t…” I interjected.
“Let me finish!” she exclaimed, tears coming to her eyes. “I know things are great now, but now that I’ve seen the goal achieved, I feel empty and without a purpose. I want to stay and to love you, but I must go away for a while, but not like those other times. Those were just vacations. I want to be dead to the world. Just gone and forgotten by everyone.”
“You can’t just walk away. The universe needs us. And I can’t just make everyone forget you or stop idolizing you. You made a promise to me. You have respon…”
“I know!” she cried tearfully. “I know. And I’m so tired of so many eyes on me as an example to them. I gave and I gave and I can’t give anymore, ok? And when I was helping the most, I was abused to hurt you!”
“That was a long time ago, love. That can’t happen anymore.”
“I still see it, Adam. In my dreams. Don’t you see them too?”
I held her hand. “Yes, I’ve seen them take your infant body and drain it and abuse it to their evil purpose that I was powerless to stop. Maybe I see your dreams differently from you. I see them pay for their heinous crime. What did you see?”
“I saw the same. I saw them suffer for my suffering. I see myself kill them over and over again. I know that you see yourself kill them to avenge them, but after you made me a goddess, I secretly found their reincarnations and bound them to the forest as nourishment. Their blood now feeds the trees in my secret glade. I’ve regretted doing that ever since, but I hated them so much. I still do.” Ariel dropped her eyes from my sight and her voice fought to continue. “I should feel compassion for them, as I have for thousands like them, but none have ever used me like they did. I can’t stand to free them, but I can’t stand to hurt them forever.”
“I… I had no idea. I wish you’d told me this before. I don’t know why though. I can’t say that they don’t deserve it, despite their punishments in Hell.”
“But they don’t know who they are. I never told them why the Goddess of Love and Peace tortures them. I’ve simply watched them writhe and curl and bleed and I hated myself at every moment. I even had them drink of my own blood in order that they would live forever and suffer for crimes they don’t remember. I can’t stand to live and bear this any longer!” she sobbed, burying her head in my chest.
“I can free them for you. Release them. I’ll do whatever you think is appropriate,” I said, caressing her long hair.
“I know you would, if I asked. I also know you don’t terribly care if they stayed, though.”
“That’s… true, love. I can’t lie to you. There is no strong case to free the bastards who killed an innocent child, especially the child who is the vessel of a goddess. But if you have forgiven them, then I will let them go.”
“No,” Ariel said flatly, “I have not forgiven them. I am no longer angry at them, but I cannot stand the thought of that corruption walking free and I cannot forgive them for the violation they subjected me to. But neither can I see them suffer anymore. I am so torn, love! You must do this for me, if I am to be saved.”
“Please! Tell me what you want me to do!”
“Make me cease to exist. I don’t want this to go any further. The pain of my prisoners, the pain of humanity, the expectations, the memories of everyone I’ve loved and lost… it’s too much. I want to be rid of it and gone.”
“No!” I roared, putting her at arm’s length and nearly shaking her. “No,” I said more calmly, realizing how was I acting, “I can’t undo you. I love you and I could not bear to calmly erase you. Once gone, I could never bring you back, not the way you are. There are things in the universe that are even beyond my understanding and maybe it is because I was once mortal, but everything has a place. All the way back through time and further, everything contains an unbroken line. I have tried, love. I have erased an object, broken its time-string, and then remade it. No matter how I’ve tried, the time-string is never the same as it was. I can reproduce that string exactly and there would still be divergence within a few moments. See that vase? For a time, it no longer existed. Even you’d forgotten it had ever been there, though you hesitated when I had questioned you about it. When I remade it and put everything back where it was, I found that the vase had moved slightly and it was made slightly different than I’d remade it. I know why it changed, but I cannot see a way to alter it. Oh sure, I can go to every point in its existence and make the corrections to it along the way, but the universe would not tolerate that and when I returned to the present everything would be different. I am fortunate that I did not choose to test this theory. I had to settle for an imperfect reproduction of the vase. And if I remade you, I’d have to settle for an imperfect you as well. And knowing karma, you’d surely try to kill yourself again if I did bring you back.”
“You can’t be sure of that. You’ve told me of uncertainty many times before.”
“Of course, there is no such thing is perfect fate, but neither is there complete uncertainty. There is a chance that I could save the new Ariel and she might not suffer as you had. But karma is karma. As time passes, impossible events become more and more likely until they become certain.”
“So keep bringing me back until I stay.”
“Don’t you understand? I don’t want to bring you back over and over again. I would know that the copy would not to be you, even though it acts like you and sounds like you. I will know. I will see the difference. I will remember that the real you is gone forever. And then I will see the new Ariel fall into despair and suicide over and over again and I will remember and be tortured by it. I want you, the way you are, to stay. Please stop being so hard on yourself and let me help you. There is no need to feel this way when you can change at will.”
“You know me, Adam. I can’t change my nature as casually as you do.” Ariel placed her hand on my cheek. “You aren’t the same boy I met so long ago, but neither am I the same girl. You changed, but kept the best parts of you; the parts I love, so I cannot fault you that. It’s your choice. I choose the longer path, the painful path. I can’t reverse engineer my life.”
“Yes.” I sighed. “It’s your choice. I can’t force you to stay, but I have to try to convince you to. You understand, don’t you?”
Ariel smiled. “Of course I do, love.”
“So you’ll stay for a little while longer?”
“Yes,” she said, not wanting to look into my eyes.
“A week… to think it over.”
“Okay,” she said softly. It wasn’t what she wanted to agree to, I knew. She wanted to go now. I knew that she’s in pain. More than I could know, I supposed. I didn’t want to make her stay or even to get her to accept a week, but it had to be done if I am going to convince her to get help. But, what help is there for a god, when another god can’t help?
We stood up together. I felt constrained in my shadow gray robes, despite them being my normal attire. I studied her face, as I’d trained myself to do with ordinary people. I didn’t want to give her that penetrating stare, but I couldn’t help it. Tears, pure and full of emotion, dried slowly on her soft brown cheeks. A shame that our eyes don’t get puffy or red when we cry, but it would not be right for one of us. The expression on her face was enough. No need to physiological symptoms, like swelling capillaries. But I still, secretly, missed it in times like this. Ariel saw my look and couldn’t take it more than a moment.
“Let me dry your face before you go,” I said softly. I wanted to cry and let it go; but not now. She knew I would, but this was not the time to share tears. I passed my hand in front of her face, brushing the tip of her nose to feel her aura. It was warm and blue. I never cared to understand auras, but I knew that one too well to enjoy its essence. She was calm, but sad. When my hand moved away, her face was dry and composed. I kept her tears in a vial within my head. A song unwillingly drifted through my consciousness; “I still recall the taste of your tears…” I’ll leave her alone for now. We both had thinking to do.
“I’m going to the Garden,” she said flatly, flashing me her dark, pretty eyes. Dying stars burned out behind them. I didn’t like that vision.
I was surprised by my own unwillingness to meet her eyes. I felt accused and guilty. Maybe she knew. She always did, my love. And she always knew that I didn’t need to feel it.
I embraced her and felt the pressure of her being for a moment before she was gone. The whisper her light dress made in the wind and a fleeting sweet scent were all that accompanied her departure to the Garden, I presumed. I dared not spy on her with anything more than my own eyes, not the all-seeing Sight of gods. I could feel her nearby, though. I could not help that. Even mortals have this sense of nearness. When and if they love.
I departed the Tower for business. A mass wedding here, a miraculous healing there. I knew the words and the actions that I’d written down long ago and that had been passed down through the ages. The people knew what they wanted to hear, so I could easily divide my thoughts. It had been many centuries since so much thought was devoted to Ariel at once.
I sat on a mountain top on a planetoid covered in dense, alien jungle and watched its sun burst and wipe the living sphere clean until even the rocks turned liquid and flew away. A cold core spun and winked and sucked back on the ejected gases with unfettered gravity. Fusion was lost to this star. Its life gone. Only on the surface did something emulating its previous energetic processes occur. A mask over a dead, sucking shell. This place depressed me when before it might have energized me. I deployed a Council research ship in the system to monitor the neutron star and the dead planet. I wasn’t sure what they were watch for, but if something happened, ‘better to know than not to’. That was one of the prime tenants of my Order. There were always more than enough researchers to go around the universe, watching and waiting and writing down endless charts until I called them back. After all, everything has its use; even superfluous data on a neutron star. I’d been surprised before at how often some new insight creeps out of information matrices. The same was true with Ariel. No matter how well I thought I knew her, she could always do something to surprise me. Her request to die had to be the most surprising of all.
I must have thought of a million things to say to her and rejected them all. I was lost without her guidance. Justin wasn’t much help. He conquered worlds without a single shot being fired and spread his and my faith. It was nothing more than exercise for him. At least he did not snuff out life; except for the leader of the world in a test of mettle. No contest, of course, but Justin had always been more honorable than the demon Ixiiz. Another prized lieutenant was born from the leader. He never cared much for Ariel’s presence and was too restless to stay near home. The campaign was all that mattered to him. He suggested that if Ariel was gone I could join the fight once and a while and not have to worry about sparing the trees from the fire. I knew he would not understand, but he did know the value of free will. “Let her go,” he said after I hit him for suggesting that we’d be better without her. “Existence is only a perspective, after all. I once wrestled with a sentient gas, you know. I spread it so thin that it lost contact with its parts. It no longer existed as a living thing, but once pieces drifted back together, it became itself again and it didn’t know how it happened. I know this isn’t the same thing, but even something torn apart can be remade. Nice right hook, by the way. Did I teach you that?”
He only told me the same thing that Ariel had said. Remake what had been unmade. Logistics was his specialty, but the tiniest detail sometimes made the difference to me.
Ariel found me a week later. I’d meant to find her first, but I didn’t want to find her and discover her final answer. Or my own.
I watched two black holes spin around each other towards a merger. I felt like tossing myself into it, but I knew it would be pointless. I would survive. I didn’t even want to die. I just wanted to feel what it would be like to be torn apart. Kind of like how I felt. Space-time rippled in my vision and stars stretched and blurred around them. It almost made me dizzy to watch them.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” A voice said behind me. I felt her presence to be very close; close enough to touch me if she wanted to. She didn’t. “Two of the most powerful forces in the universe coming together to form something even more destructive.”
I understood what she was really saying. I didn’t say anything. I just curled my legs and my arms around me, though I was not sitting on anything, as if I was cold. Old mortal habits.
“It’s been a week, you know,” she said, tentatively touching my shoulder. I registered it but didn’t move. The singularities were almost touching as they spun and the fabric of space became a tangled mess of dimensions. Time spun around in the middle like a top, forward and backwards. There were very few who could see this like I did. So many paths a particle could take. Even a god could get lost in there; at least for a while. “I’ve decided,” she whispered in my mind.
“I know. And I know the answer,” I said. I knew what I would do too. I could not fight her choice. I had no right. “You still want to cease to exist.”
“But you still want to come back?” I said, turning my head to look at her. She moved beside me and curled her own arms around mine, which still curled around me protectively.
“Yes. When you’ve missed me and things are different.”
“Then I don’t need to unmake you.”
“It’s the only way. I’ll know, otherwise,” Ariel paused. “Isn’t it?”
“I can take you apart. Into small little bits of your essence. You won’t be aware because you’ll be spread thin over the universe.”
“I do that already, love. We’re divine after all.”
“True, my love. You’ll be encapsulated.”
“Trapped in a small space?” she said, looking out at the chaos of spinning black masses.
“Kind of. Do you know I keep your tears, love?”
“No…” she said slowly. “But now that you mention them, I can feel them in you. Why?”
“So I feel your presence with me always. I can lock them away if I wanted. You’d feel it for sure; like a part of you was missing. I’ve already thought of how. It’s being made in the center of that merger. Do you see it?”
Ariel looked closely at the swirling and unraveling reality that whipped around the distortions. “No, I can’t. You were always better at these things than I.”
“It’s in there. I can’t describe it as anything except the means by which to contain and quantify the infinite and the ineffable. I’m glad those mages never discovered it.” I regretted that last sentence as soon as I said it. Her pained expression signified her remembrance of her own murder and abuse. “I’m sorry,” I said.
“It’s alright,” Ariel said, her face returned to normal as she looked into my eyes again. “So I will cease to exist while inside that… thing?”
“Exactly. Ariel will not exist because you are a sum of your free parts. I imagine that it will feel like coming out of a warm bath near the end. You’ll be rested and you won’t remember until you’re whole again. It’s safer than erasing you from the universe and more easily reconstructed.” I felt cold and doctoral saying it that way.
“And I won’t be aware of it?” she pressed.
“No. Like the dust we were once made of, your individual parts aren’t aware of their destiny. Only when I bring them all, even your tears, together at once will Ariel be remade.”
“Good,” she said, almost smiling. She stopped herself before it got too far. This was a solemn moment, after all. At least for me. “Let’s do this then… before you change your mind.”
I looked away from her, stung slightly. “Fine. There’s one last thing. I’m going to spread you out over the universe to be found. You must make me promise not to look for you, but to wait. I cannot promise myself. I… I don’t trust myself to.” I could not meet her gaze.
She kissed my exposed cheek. I shuddered as pleasurable memories of those kisses filled my mind. This one, though, felt cold. “I’m glad you understand and that you went to all this trouble. It means a lot to me, love. I’ll be back with you again. Just promise me you’ll wait and you won’t look for me. Promise me you’ll do this.”
“I promise, my love. I will do this for you… because you’ve made the choice. It’s ready.” Without looking at her, for fear of loosing my composure, I reached into the compacted void with gritted teeth and unwavering will and pulled out Ariel’s future prison. It spun in more directions than the eye could follow and tugged at every bit of my being like a million barbed pins being stuck into my form and pulled out again. It was uncomfortable to hold to say the least, but it was tolerable. When it was… full… it would be safe for anyone to hold.
“What do you call it?” she asked, surprising me.
“What? I haven’t called it anything. I just built it. Why does it need a name?”
“Everything does.” I never did understand why that was. Ariel was inexplicable sometimes. Like when she asked to not exist. She wanted her death, her prison and her isolation from me to have a name. So be it.
I thought about it for a short while.
“The Shattered,” I said.
“That’s the name? It seems too formal,” Ariel said, actually cracking a small smile out of the corner of her mouth. I was never sure if that smile was mocking me, since I sometimes smiled that way too. She never did like my names for things.
“You wanted it to have a name. Now it does. It’s a thing, love. A terrible thing. It does not deserve a personal name that one can refer to lovingly. It is broken space. It will break you. And it breaks our love. That is what I designed it to do,” I said acidicly.
Ariel lowered her head. I knew she felt personal shame. I’d seen it in her before. It was usually misplaced and always my fault.
“I don’t resent you, love. If anyone, I resent myself for even building the thing… The Shattered. I’d hoped that I wouldn’t think of a way. I’d hoped I would not be able to even make it. But I’m the last being in the universe to say that something is impossible.” I meant to go on, but nothing else seemed adequate. There was just one technical matter to get out of the way.
“It’s going to hurt. Bad. Just for a little while.”
“Are you sure?” I wasn’t sure if she meant the pain or the amount of time.
“No. It’s what I predict. Hasn’t that always been enough for you?”
“I’m ready,” she said flatly, answering and yet not answering my question. Ariel nodded her head once.
“I’m not,” I replied.
“I know, love,” she said as she rubbed the back of my neck. “I’m scared too. I have to go, though. I wouldn’t if I didn’t. I just need …” She trailed off and I knew that I’d heard it before. I didn’t need to hear it again. It’s done.
“Are you sure you want to do this here?” I asked, referring to the blackness around us and the now singular, swirling void that tugged on our forms with mindless urgency. “Not in the Garden or by the Tree? Not even without a single witness?”
A tear rolled down her cheek. It froze to her face. I resisted the impulse to dry her face.
“No. No witness. No happy places. Just do it and be done. I’m so tired of moving,” she said mutely. I could barely hear her in my mind. I could feel her exhaustion in her voice and now, more than ever, in her essence when I touched her face to dry her last tear.
“I wish I could hold onto this last tear. It will go someplace special, love. I will love you forever and I’ll miss you while you’re gone. Hurry back to me.”
Ariel nodded, choked and holding back her emotions. It bothered me when I felt her impulse pass. “I love you too,” she said weakly. She put out her hand.
I gripped The Shattered and it felt like trying to grip a powerful magnet that was both repelling and attracting at once. I had to maintain a precise hold on it. I held it out to Ariel.
“Take it from my hand and you’ll feel it pull on you. Your natural instinct is to resist the pull or to let go of it. I know you have the strength to resist it, as I do, but for this to work you have to let go of that instinct, but do not let go of The Shattered. You’ll be drawn inside and it will hurt and it might be a terrifying feeling, but you must not let go of your grip on it. I will catch it as soon as you’re inside.”
“Okay,” she said solemnly. Somehow I’d expected more.
Ariel put out both hands to cup the glowing sphere and gritted her teeth as I had when she took hold of it. Her mouth took on a silent ‘oh’ shape as she undoubtedly felt the pull on her essence. She screwed her eyes tightly as she felt the first stab of pain when she let The Shattered draw her in. I couldn’t see it with my eyes, but I could feel it working.
“It does hurt, Adam. I can’t see you!”
I moved closer to her, but I dared not, could not, touch her. It would be too dangerous.
“It’s started love. I can feel you resisting its pull, but it already has you. You have to go in. You can’t come back now, not without damage,” I said urgently into her ear. I knew she could hear me. I wasn’t sure what kind of damage she might incur if she pulled out now, but it would be awful. “I’m right here, love. It will not hurt so much if you let it take you it. Just don’t let go of it!”
“I want to!” she cried. It hurt me to hear her suffer again. “I want to let go. It hurts so much.”
The Shattered glowed a bright blue-white and it hurt even my eyes to look at it. Ariel seemed translucent and blurry around the edges.
“Leave the pain behind,” I pleaded, not sure if she could hear me anymore, but I could still feel her resist. “Just fall in and you’ll be okay. I’m right here and I’ll be here to catch you.”
I hoped she heard me and I hoped she didn’t resist the final, irresistible tug of The Shattered as it drew her near-invisible form into itself. I caught The Shattered before it could slide off into other realms. I didn’t want to chase it. Ariel’s container glowed dimly and spun slowly and tiny specks of indescribable light came into and out of visible existence within it. It made me a bit disorientated to look at it. I stabilized The Shattered’s form and its spinning slowed and all the specks of unearthly light became visible. It looked like a glittering sphere of ice, though it slowly contorted in impossible ways. I wasn’t sure how a mortal would interpret it, if at all. Would a person even realize what it was inside? If I didn’t know, I don’t think I would. I couldn’t even feel Ariel’s presence inside it. I fought the thought that she was dead and gone forever. I’d expected this, after all. I knew that I would be disconnected from her, once she was inside. I could only hope that everything would work out the way it should.
I held The Shattered Ariel close to me and went back to the Tower. I sat in the center of my chamber and stared at the ball of light in my hand. I could bring her back right now. I could free her right now and she’d slide right out beside me and I could throw this despicable prison away. I ran my hand over it and a slight resistance, like that of a magnet, kept my hand from actually touching it. I could still touch it in other ways, but those senses did not feed me any information.
A dozen times I almost opened it. I felt alone. It was unbearable. I’m alone. There was another god, but I was alone without Her. I did not feel Whole. I could not smash her prison with my fist, but I did have a key. I also had a promise. I already held temptation too long. It had shattered Ariel, but now I had to shatter it.
I closed my eyes and found every innumerable piece of The Shattered with my mind’s eye. Each piece contained a small, unconscious and unliving bit of Ariel and my love. I took them all and threw them as hard as I could to the farthest galaxy. Each piece took on the form of a vial like the one I kept her tears in. Each vial was sent to an inhabited place. A flash of ethereal light and the imagined sound of smashing glass were all that accompanied this final act and final promise.
I found my voice and cried in grief.
I wasn’t sure where I’d gone while I cried. Cold and hard places are all that I remember. Places where no one would hear the mourning of a god. I opened my eyes to my cambers in the Tower. The eight walls, which were clear in the middle and faded to black near the edges, were alive with spidery cracks and fractures all the way up to the converging point at the center. Did I do that? I could not remember. Neither the wall nor the ceiling would not fall inward, but I hoped that the rest of the Tower was not like this.
Someone was waiting to see me. He was waiting in the Hall below my chamber. I sensed it was High Theocrat Tendaron. He must have come up here when it was reported that the top of the Tower had fractured. I will have to tell him something. The truth? I wasn’t sure if the world could handle her death any better than I. There were a lot of people depending on her and her unconscious influence, just as people depend on me. They will live without her. I sighed and opened the Hall’s door.
Tendaron appeared from a ripple in the Tower wall. At least the cracks in the wall did not affect his entrance. Tendaron glanced around the room in surprise and awe, despite his training to remain aloof.
“High Theocrat,” I said, glaring at him, to get his attention. I had to quickly find my sense of authority. Even the highest priest cannot know about any indifference to power. The cleric finally saw me and was immediately terrified by my stern look. Part of me didn’t want anyone to be afraid of me, but a bit of fear was part of the respect that a god deserved. I couldn’t let him see how much I wanted to be alone. I gave him no sign as to what to do. I didn’t know how someone who had been able to converse with me freely had become so frozen with indecision.
“Well?” I said, feigning impatience. “What is it?” It must seem as if I couldn’t see what the walls looked like. I wasn’t sure if I was angry with the perpetually silent man or if I just wanted to mess with his mind.
The Theocrat swallowed his fear, finally, and spoke with renewed steadiness. “Two hours ago, the whole Tower shook and a passing aircraft reported that the tip of the Tower was shattered. Also, there have been some unexplained occurrences.”
He paused, expecting me to ask or elaborate on his statement, but I wanted the complete story first.
Tendaron glanced around at the broken walls. Our reflection was cast on some shards and not others. I knew it made the Theocrat nervous.
“I prayed for a sign from you. Then, when none came immediately, I came to the Hall to wait for you. I wasn’t sure if you were up there or not.” Tendaron started to say something else, but bit his tongue. He knew better than to beg for information. It would either be given or it wouldn’t.
“And what of these ‘occurrences’, Theocrat?” I said slowly and unwaveringly. I felt as excited for answers as he was. It was maddening to stay openly indifferent.
“The bees in the Ariel’s Garden attacked a meditating priestess, she was treated quickly by her companion. Three trees in the Glitter Forest caught fire, but it did not spread and were quickly extinguished. Elder Ents Mossbeard, Trunkfoot and Tanglebranch were found a half an hour ago unmoving and planted; they did not respond to those who found them. The Mystic Tessandria fainted during a surgery and has not awoken as of my last report. The patient she was treating died, sadly. Lastly, riot broke out in Tranquill when a domestic dispute somehow spilled out onto the street and escalated to include most of the city within a short time. Containment of the unrest has been slow.” Tendaron, the living spiritual center for humanity, had never been so worried. He wasn’t stupid. He saw the connections and knew what they meant. Of course, he would not make any accusation. I would either confirm or deny his beliefs.
I had not predicted that the removal of her influence from the universe would have such a drastic effect. I knew that her Forests and Ents would have to be looked after, since they had been maintained by her unconscious, just as my own unconscious maintained most of the universe’s unseen processes; but comas and riots? I had to fix these problems soon or at least make sure that nothing worse happens. Several deaths had already occurred as a result and at least one of Ariel’s Order Mystics had lost their abilities. That was a steep enough price, but the loss of Ariel was still the ultimate loss, at least from my perspective.
My shoulders suddenly shook as the grief flowed back into my conscious involuntarily. I placed a hand on Tendaron’s shoulder and I knew my expression had cracked. I couldn’t help it. “Tendaron,” I said as if speaking to an old friend. “As you probably know by now, Ariel’s gone.”
Tendaron’s expression dropped and his stoic appearance cracked. “Dead?” was all he could say.
“I don’t think I could put it any other way. She’s gone and she won’t be coming back for a very long time.”
“So she will be back?”
“Yes. When, I can’t say.” Even though I wanted to collapse and cry and send this fool away, I still had enough sense to maintain my omniscience. I could not say that I didn’t know something. I had to imply that I knew, but that I simply won’t say. It always seemed to work with the High Theocrats. They were trained for it, after all. “As for the condition of the Tower,” I said, regaining some emotional control, “I think you can understand how it happened.” I did not want to tell him exactly what happened. No matter what he thought happened would be close enough to the truth. It didn’t matter. Grief, anger, death. All three possibilities would be passed around like a rumor. It didn’t matter.
Tendaron nodded. He stepped back from me and he wiped a few tears from his eyes. “I’ll go tell the others and organize a broadcast…. With your permission.”
I ignored his two lapses in protocol and turned my back on him. I made a dismissive wave towards him. He knew what to do and knew he had permission. I tried to keep my head up and proud, but I could only manage to get halfway. I felt like I was going to loose control. I quickly sent the High Theocrat back to the Hall. I sensed his quickly passing disorientation and I briefly followed him back to the Council room where he informed the other Theocrats of Ariel’s death and distantly prophesized return. They must have had an emergency meeting as soon as the riot broke out. Tears were shed and faith was shaken. It made me slightly sick to watch. I focused on my own surroundings.
There was the ornate bed where I slept from time to time. Sometimes with Ariel. Sometimes not. There were tables and chairs and stacks of books and rugs. Some here smashed. Some were not. I couldn’t remember breaking them. I couldn’t remember smashing the windows either. None of it mattered. They were nothing.
I felt the sucking hole in my being where Ariel used to be and I searched madly for her presence near me. I had to hold myself back to keep my self-imposed promise to her. I buried the feeling as well as I could, which was not much. I tossed out everything except that bed we once shared out. Opposite the bed, on the other side of the room, I created a metallic crucible in which the portions of Ariel’s essence would be deposited and collected until I had all of them.
In the deepest parts of my mind I knew where her pieces were. I had parts of my mind that were locked away from my conscious mind. It was an unfortunate but required condition of being a once-mortal god. It would never tell me where Ariel was and I would try not to ask it to tell me.
I knew that she’d be back, though. She had the means to be sent back to me, through the crucible. Each vial of her essence that I dropped on all those thousands of distant and inhabited planets was inscribed with incantations that would send the vial back to the Tower. Of course, none of these alien species knew the language the incantation was printed in. It might be a very long time before someone figured it out and said the words correctly. I wondered if they would know what was inside it. Would an alien pick it up and sense a portion of Ariel’s love for me? Her love for nature? Would they fight for the right to own it? Or would it be revered for what it was?
I couldn’t know any of those answers and I might never know them. I didn’t much care at this moment in time. Right now, I was tired. I wanted to sleep and wait for Ariel to be reformed. Maybe I would wake up and try being a benevolent God again and try not to miss Ariel’s presence in the back of my mind and her laugh in my ears. Or maybe I’ll just go to sleep until the first piece arrives.