I dreamed I stood on a raised platform in the entrance to a church. Anubis stood at my side, tall and dark and silent. He handed me a thin gold wand; when I touched it, both ends lengthened until it became a staff with a sun on one end and two long prongs on the other. I glanced down and spotted a similar wand, only silver, laying on the floor at my feet. I bent to retrieve it and handed it to Anubis. When He took the wand it began to grow as the other had, lengthening into a silver staff with a crescent moon on one end and a single sharp point on the other. He gestured then toward the far end of the church, indicating I should walk forward, and though He didn’t speak I somehow understood part of his meaning to be “do not be afraid”. I stepped off the platform and found myself standing on air. I took another step and the invisible path held; in this way we made our way down the aisle of the church with the pews laid out below us. As we approached the altar something appeared in the air before us; a dark, twisting mass which radiated menace. I knew even before it began uncoiling itself that it was A/p/e/p, the chaos of absolute nothingness manifested as a great black serpent bent on the destruction of all existence. It opened its fanged jaws and struck at Anubis, who repelled it with the sharpened end of His staff. The creature then lunged for me and I did the same with my own weapon, bellowing as I drove the points into the serpent’s armored face. I think I might have spoken as I beat it back, might have yelled out the names of its victims, my lost loved ones, but I can’t remember. I do know I held their images in my mind as I struck and found some measure of comfort in harming the force which took them from me. A/p/e/p fled after this and from there the dream changed, yet I will never forget the fury with which I fought, nor the quiet, solid presence of Anubis at my side.
Alice floats through space, sliding past stars and the dark bulk of distant planets. She bumps against a glyph and loops her arms around one end, leaning on it as she sees what looms before her – a gaping black hole. It’s ancient, a monster that has lurked at the center of the universe for countless eons, swallowing everything in its reach. Yet overshadowing this event is an even greater threat: Mage rises beyond and over the black hole, grander than the hungry beast itself, and when she smiles her eyes are twin suns and her teeth are supernovas. Her jaws unhinge, devouring the black hole, and Alice’s glyph shatters into stardust. Alice feels herself start to fall toward that cavernous mouth, pulled inexorably into the waiting jaws and their eternal grin–
and then she wakes in a cold sweat.
Mage travels through a forest, a beautiful walking staff adorned with mother of pearl in her hands, and on either side of her walk Tanim and Daren. Through the treetops a low hanging moon winks in and out, its pale glow casting soft shadows on the forest floor. Suddenly the moon peels wide into a sun which blazes brighter and brighter as it climbs into the sky. The face of it becomes Alice’s helmet; its fiery tendrils burst forth, becoming her wings that engulf the entire sky. The light touches everything, so bright and burning that the leaves on the trees burst into flame, so white hot that it becomes magma boiling the earth alive. Mage’s clothes catch fire, her hair chars, her skin blisters and peels back in crisp black strips–
and then she wakes in a cold sweat.
The blankets shift and Mage looks over to Alice who sits up, breathing hard and still trembling. She meets Mage’s haunted gaze with her own. “I dreamed you… ate me alive. I was so small and you were the entire universe. You sank your teeth into me and every atom of me was crushed.”
Mage pushes herself up with a shaky laugh. “Well, I dreamed that you shone so bright there were no shadows. You outshone the moon, the sun, blotted out the stars from the sky. You were the sky. My clothes burned, my flesh charred, my bones were exposed. I was naked and had no secrets.”
They look, at each other, each thinking, Did I choose right? Is this who I want to spend immortality with? And then, without a word, their hands meet across the space between them. Because yes.
“Remr, which silk do you prefer for your pact-night dress?” Lady N’batshi strode into her daughter’s room without warning, a pile of expensive silks overflowing in her arms. She lay them gently on the bed and began sorting through them. “It’s traditional to wear red or pink in honor of Our Lady, but you would look so lovely in this dark blue; oh, maybe with this white for a trim, the gold embroidery would set off your eyes so nicely!” Ignoring the open book in Remr’s lap, she draped the bolts of silk over the tiefling girl’s shoulders and tutted to herself. “Hmm, or perhaps the white with the blue for the trim? Which do you prefer?”
“Oh,” Remr stared down at the cloth, frozen. “Um. Yeah, about that.”
“What?” Lady N’batshi cast her daughter a quick glance as she set out a selection of velvet ribbons. “Did you have another color in mind?”
“No. I, uh…” Remr carefully set the silks aside, afraid she might rip them to pieces if she held them in her nervous hands. She tried to remember the words she had rehearsed, the ones which she was sure would win her mother over without fail. They had fled somewhere, though, or perhaps were trapped in the cold pit of her stomach where they could be of no help. Instead she closed her eyes and quickly confessed, “I don’t want to make a pact with Verenestra. I want to make a pact with The Seeker.”
“What are you talking about?” Her mother laughed haltingly, as if uncertain whether this was some practical joke she didn’t quite grasp. “Every woman in our family for the past two hundred years has made their warlock pact with Verenestra. It’s the tradition which has built our family into what it is now; we have served her faithfully and she in turn has granted us countless blessings. How can you possibly think to turn your back on that history?”
“Because I don’t want to be a succubus!” Remr leaped to her feet, yellow eyes pleading. “I don’t care about love and beauty and sex and all that. I want to serve The Seeker! I want to make new scientific discoveries and uncover answers to the mysteries of the world. I want to learn everything I can about everything there is to know!” As she spoke she swept out one arm to encompass her bedroom and its collection of books, diagrams, tools, and jars full of various captured creatures. “It’s not fair to make me pact myself to a patron I don’t want.”
“This is not up for discussion, young lady!” Lady N’batshi waved one stiff finger in her child’s face as she lectured her. “You may be turning sixteen this month and making your pact, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t still a daughter of this house. Being a member of the N’batshi clan comes with certain responsibilities which can’t simply be thrown aside because you want to keep…” She gestured helplessly at the cluttered room. “To keep running around in the woods collecting lizards!”
“You don’t understand!” Remr stomped her foot, her tail lashing back and forth. “You don’t even try to understand. Uncle Tao’rumi is the only one who does!” She dropped her head to hide her tears and muttered, “And they’re snakes, not lizards. They’re not even in the same suborder.”
Her mother ignored this last comment. “Uncle Tao’rumi,” Lady N’batshi replied with a weary sigh, “isn’t the matriarch of this clan. Now, let’s just calm down.” She took a deep breath; when she spoke again, her voice was gentler but no less patronizing. “I know you’re nervous to make your pact; I was too when I was your age. It’s perfectly natural to feel this way. You have a big journey ahead, and it’s okay to be a little scared of where it leads.”
It was no use arguing. Remr knew her mother would never understand what passions drove her youngest daughter, nor how confining were the expectations which came with the N’batshi name. If she wanted to change her fate, this was not the way to go about it. “You’re right, Mother,” she conceded, wiping away the tears shining on her red face. “Maybe I just need some time to think.”
Lady N’batshi smiled and patted Remr on the arm. “That’s my girl.” She rose, gathering up the silks. “Now, think about which colors you want, we need to place the order with the seamstress by the end of the week.” And with that her mother was gone, bustling back out the door to continue ensuring her miniature empire ran smoothly. Such arguments were so common place by now that she barely registered them as disturbances; she was certain her daughter would see the rightness of the path laid out for her in the end.
Mother’s right about one thing, Remr thought to herself as she shut her bedroom door. I do have a big journey ahead of me. She dug out a large traveling pack and began stuffing it with clothes, books, and parchment. If I leave now I won’t even be missed until the morning, and by then I’ll be far from here.
The day is dark
I’m all alone
If you are there
Please let me know
Please let me know
It is time to rest, brave one. Your father has been dead these seven years and now you must follow him into the Undiscovered Country. You have traveled far and seen many things no one else has ever seen; take your discoveries and images back to him with our gratitude. Thanks to you two we have walked among the stars, we have tread in red dust, we have touched the loneliness and vastness of space. Sleep now, faithful friend, and wait out the storm. Perhaps someone will find you one day and stir your cold heart, open your darkened eyes, but it will not be us. We will be long gone by then, a fading memory of a half-buried ruin in the sand fifty-four million kilometers from where you lay. Forgive us our trespasses, for we cannot forgive those who trespass against us. We have done much evil in our time, and even now we hasten our end, but at least we have done this one good thing. At least we birthed you and sent you forth to explore where we could not go. Stay safe, child of science and man’s yearning for knowledge. Dream great dreams. You are our legacy.
I have faith
That you are safe
Looking at how Lucky goes now, the backstory that led him to joining Whiskers’ Syndicate will be beyond the wildest imagination. He was six weeks old when someone dump him and his sibling at the market; and I was with fourteen pounds of steamed tuna for our buddies at home when a lady from whom…
I tell three kinds of lies:
the lies he tells me that I know are lies
the lies he tells me that I do not know are lies
and the lies he tells me that he does not know are lies.
Can you tell them apart, dear reader?
No, sometimes I cannot either.
A friend was posed the question “Does God exist?” by an ethics professor with a clear far right bent (says you have to believe in God to be moral, purposefully deadnames his trans students, etc). I offered to answer the question for her and pounded out a few paragraphs that I probably wouldn’t have written with quite so much snark if it had been my grade on the line. She has a bunch of other equally biased prompts so maybe I’ll make this a little mini series. Enjoy!
“Does God exist?”
The first question is not whether god exists – it’s what concept you mean when you say “god”. Do you mean an entity that created the entire universe, each animal and plant and miscellaneous whatever, in a particular number of days? Do you mean an entity which in some way initiated the birth of the universe in a big bang type event and then let things continue to evolve on their own without much, or any, interference? Do you mean an entity which, regardless of its own true existence, has so shaped life and culture through the sheer belief of its followers that for all intents and purposes it exists as much as anything else? The debate regarding whether god exists changes greatly depending on which version of god you’re debating. An omnipresent, omniscient god requires a different level of proof than a remote god which only had a hand in the very beginnings of our world. A god which exists through belief requires no proof at all, depending on how loose you’re willing to be with your definitions of concepts like belief, existence, power, etc. But for simplicity’s sake let’s ignore that particular rabbit hole completely and go with a concept of deity which hinges on the actual existence of some all powerful being which still actively takes part in our world and its fate.
The second question is also not whether god exists – it’s what entity you mean when you say god. If we’re discussing whether it’s possible for such an entity to exist in the first place then to be fair we should consider any god, or every god. It’s just as possible for Odin to exist as for Yahweh or Krishna or Ra or Zeus. Any argument which can be made for the existence of God can be made for the existence of The Morrigan and Aphrodite and Inanna. The same could also be said for the existence of all gods simultaneously. Edging even further out on this metaphorical branch, you could then include what gods we might create from our own beliefs – and are they not just as real when they so influence our actions? But I won’t spoil the plot of American Gods by expanding on that topic here. Besides, you capitalized God, so perhaps you mean the Christian god. Do you mean him and only him, though, or do you also include Yahweh and Allah who share so many remarkable similarities? See, the question isn’t so straightforward. Yet, once more for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume you meant the Christian god. Let’s be honest, other possibilities probably didn’t cross your mind – or, having crossed it, were quickly dismissed due to the western-centric view that, well, of course THOSE gods wouldn’t exist. So we’ll agree we’re discussing Christianity’s God who created the world in seven days, did the flood, all of that. Now we can move on.
The third question is, I suppose, whether the extremely specific concept and identity of God we’ve chosen to debate exists. But before that, I think there’s one last question to consider: is it ethical to ask students to answer a question like “does God exist” in such a public forum? Can the debate over such a personal topic, one which may risk alienating or even endangering certain individuals, really be considered ethical when you’re also requiring them to participate for a grade? Sure, a person too uncomfortable to share their personal views could lie, or stick to safe comments and vague arguments, but that’s not the point. The point is that, given the complete impossibility of ever proving with concrete evidence that this particular God exists (and exists in the manner that we have come to expect), choosing this topic for a class discussion feels purposefully antagonistic.
(At this point I lost steam because everything I tried to write after that was probably too combative for my friend to submit for her assignment, but I think you get my drift.)