“So long as I retain the approval of one person, my existence is vindicated. Just as memories keep one alive long after they die, being forgotten kills them before their heart stops. Today, I still matter.”
Tom gazed another moment at his reflection, adjusted his tie and picked up his bag. It was time to go to work.
Life as CEO of a tech company is extremely stressful, but Tom made it all seem like a breeze. So much so that several directors would joke about Tom not being human, a praise he’d brush off by pointing out he didn’t have a domestic role like the rest of them.
Fatigue didn’t trouble Tom physically, but the mind can get angry or annoyed regardless of how the body feels. At the end of 10 hours of meetings, Tom was glad to be going home. At Springfield Cross, he decided to turn left into Sterlington Avenue, hoping to grab dinner at his favourite restaurant before it closed.
Nothing could’ve prepared him for what came immediately after he turned and sped up — a kid ran into the car’s path from the sidewalk. Tom cranked the steering wheel all the way to the right, narrowly avoiding the invention of Kid Sauce, but he was unable to control the vehicle enough to stop it crashing into a lamppost on the sidewalk.
The next thing Tom knew, he was waking up in a strange, dimly lit room. He collected himself, ran to the unusually thick door and pulled the handle, but it was locked. He rammed at the door first with one hand and then both, yelling, “Who is this? Let me out!”
He heard a voice from the other side, its clarity uncanny given the thickness of the door between them. “Ah, the sacrifice seems to be awake and lively. Get the others, we may begin soon it seems.”
Sacrifice? What crazies were these?
The Voice continued. “You may eat the meal kept on your table if you wish, but it is optional. You will soon be prepared for the Invocation Ritual. Rejoice! You are about to meet a Holy Being”
“Fuck your food, man! And where are my clothes?” asked Tom, only just realizing he was captive and also naked.
“Sacrifices are offered to the Gods as they were offered to the Earth — unsullied by worldly decorations. And given that you do not wish to eat, we may proceed immediately”
Five tall, large men burst through the door, restrained Tom and tied his arms and legs. He was dragged outside and down 4 flights of stairs and tied up to a large wooden pole in the middle of a pyre. The five men, and the audience they had gather, were all clad in black robes. “Looks like you’ve bumped into some cult shit, Tom”, the captor thought to himself.
Tom looked around, desperate, and spotted the same boy who’d run in front of his car. Was it a trick all along? Regardless, this individual was the most likely to be influenced.
“Hey Boy.”, said Tom, looking into the kid’s eyes. “Let me go. Tell them to let me go. This is not going to end well for you and your friends here, you understand?”
“Threats!” bellowed what seemed to be the headman of this cult. “I suppose you do not appreciate the gift being bestowed upon you. We understand, we were the same before our eyes were opened. Regardless, it is good to find a sacrifice who isn’t scared.”
“Yeah, your sacrifice isn’t scared. He’s angry. And not very tasty at all, before you try”, Tom said.
“Well, that is both strange and a shame. You may pray if you wish. Also, we don’t eat sacrifices. You are only for the Goddess.”
Tom saw that the cult wasn’t willing to listen to reason and made up his mind. When the headman was done with his incantation, Tom would begin his own.
“We have with us a worthy human sacrifice with us here, at the altar of Goddess Janaha, who will grant us food, shelter and health”
Janaha? Relief was now replacing Tom’s anger. Clenching his fists, Tom yelled, “Janet, get out here and stop this!” in a voice twice as loud as the loudest human on the planet.
The devotees were stunned motionless. They had never heard a voice as powerful and threatening as that out of their sacrifice’s mouth.
Tom shouted once more, “Janet! Don’t test my patience!”
Not a second later, a blinding light illuminated the altar and then lifted, revealing a middle-aged woman dressed all in white, wearing a crown of rose petals. Her bright, blue eyes stood in stark contrast to her ebony skin. She put her arms forward and flashed a smile.
“GODDESS JANAHA” the awestruck leader knelt, and the other devotees followed suit a moment later. “Rejoice, sacrifice! The Goddess has come to claim you herself!”
Janet ignored them, however, and chose to address her summoner first. “Tom! It’s been two centuries! Look at you, you had a suit and everything! My, what is this new skin? You still do that mirror prayer every morning?”
Tom laughed. “It’s just a reminder to keep myself honest. Besides, why would I pray?”
“Fair point”, said Janet, and turned to the devotees. “You are to release this man immediately”, she proclaimed. “If any harm comes to him, you can expect it to be returned manifold.”.
The devotees, apologizing profusely to someone they had now decided to call “Assistant of the Goddess”, untied Tom immediately, and handed him his clothes. Janet then began to walk Tom to the ground floor entrance.
Tom used this walk to air his annoyance “Your scriptures still ask for human sacrifices? That’s fucked up. I mean, get with the times! We stopped doing that shit in the 50s!”
“I am old-fashioned that way”, she said. “Besides, the Gods Amendment of 1945 outlawed many of the easy ways to keep the population in check, so this is how I do my bit for the planet. Having unchanging scriptures is also good for your legacy, Tom. Stops potential followers from getting suspicious, see? Humans have now mastered record-keeping and have a keen eye for detail. Your gifts to them from long ago.” she smiled. “And what have you been up to?”.
“Oh just granting requests, answering prayers, finding new leads and today, not killing all your followers. Look, I get that you want a myth and a legacy and everything, but it’s alright to modify rituals to keep your followers out of harm’s way, you understand? You don’t want to attract attention or get in the cross-hairs of that Jesus guy.”
“Oh, none of us want that. I’ll keep that in mind.”
“You should. Followers are the only things keeping us alive, after all.”
Tom and Janet let that thought linger.
“Tom, why this human body?”
“Surely you didn’t get kidnapped, stripped and tied up for no reason. For a laugh? No, you were pissed off. To show off? No, you’ve always been in the shadows. The truth is, you didn’t see them coming, you didn’t sense them coming. You are wearing a human body.”
Tom shrugged. “You found me out.”
“Why, Tom? A Celestial Body is nearly omnipotent, while there’s only so much a God can do occupying human flesh. You can still grant many a wish and answer many a prayer, but you become mortal, incapable of invisibility and mind-reading, susceptible to permanent erasure unless you change bodies with the Human Embed Ritual when the time comes. Also, you don’t get to make entrances like I just did.” Janet chuckled.
“But you’ll have to do that forever, Janet. Maybe your dedication to one form and one gimmick is unwavering, but I bore easily. Humans can be anything they want to be — an athlete, a CEO, a writer, a movie star — any Living Legend that has all of humanity in their thrall. People have no idea. The skins I’ve worn, the bodies I’ve been. As per the Celestial Contract, any request made to these entities, even by a child who doesn’t know what it’s doing, is binding to my Celestial Person as a Human Wish. It’s not too bad. I’ve done a lot of good deeds, made a lot of people happy, and made it all the way to 2022 AD as a Tier 1 Deity. It won’t be long before I get to stick it to those Tier 0 fucks.”
“Besides, the world is changing”, Tom continued. “History and religion are now studied separately. People have begun to deify these Living Legends and dead humans more than us. Statues of them, some of which are mine, are everywhere, while yours dwindle. And every God that is forgotten, that is not prayed to for 30 earth days… well, you know what happens. I know you all think of me as some body-jumping freak, but I’m just keeping up with the times. We can learn from humans just as much as we can teach them. They even have a word for what I’m doing.”
“Very funny. It’s called diversification. I have an interest in survival, not in being remembered by name. We all make history our own way. While some of us like to maintain one enduring narrative, a legacy as old as the earth’s, do remember that humans bore easily, just like me. You’ll find yourself scrambling to come up with something new before long, so I suggest you get cracking right away. Ah well, ground floor, here we are.”
Tom opened the door, tipped his hat, flashed Janet a smile and made for home.
Now dressed in nightclothes, Tom stood in front of his mirror, and recalled the most memorable event of his day: The kid who jumped in front of the car hated sacrifices, and prayed hard to his favourite TV commercial hero, Washer-man, for Tom not to be killed.
That prayer was everything, for Tom was the guy under that ridiculous Washer-man costume when the commercial was shot back when Tom was just a guy trying to make a quick buck. And in deciding to call out Janet and free himself, he answered the prayer without killing the person who prayed. And thus, He would remain a God for another 30 days. At least.
Time for bed.