I spotted the airship coming in over the treetops about a half mile out. I met them on the roof of my marine supply shop, securing the anchor line, as Vanessa slid down to collect their order. Horst stood at the rudder. He almost never set foot on solid ground anymore, but he smiled down to me with cheerful eyes and raised a hand in friendship. Vanessa, his young protégé handled everything, as usual. Together, we hoisted a bolt of sailcloth, 6 tackle blocks and 200 yards of hemp rigging into the gondola. When I offered to help him refit, she laughed and asked, “What kind of God would he be if he couldn’t handle his own repairs?”
I had never met a God before. I saw one once, from a distance, when I was a kid. It was Dolores the Forlorn, Goddess of the sad and disenfranchised. She was in the street, amid throngs of the poor and homeless…not to be worshipped, NO!. She was a REAL God, a working God, teaching them to bathe and cook and forage for food, encouraging them to rob and murder rich fascists.
Real Gods had no need for blind believers. Their job was to inspire us to be better…or whatever. But their existence had been obscured for eons by the big, fake God, who seemed only able to inspire homophobia, racism and war. It’s funny, now, to recall how he was destroyed by the pedophiles infesting his own deranged priesthood. When his followers found out the truth, they gathered on mountaintops by the thousands, drank poisoned cool-aid…and sent themselves to heaven.
The Muslims, the Jews, the Capitalists…all the other false religions fell like dominos after that. You know…I never wanted to go to heaven. I figured it must be an awful, pungent place. It took years for the stench of 3 billion of the stupidest people on Earth to wash away. I remember that smell as a kid, too.
But soon the real Gods began dying off as well. Without cognitive dissonance to hold us back, the human race began to evolve again. We were growing up, shedding childish things. There was no need for Gods any more.
The first to go was Bradley, God of Greed. Rabid fanatics ran him down, along with his friends, Dieter the Angry and Brutus the Incontinent, God of Fear…they burned them like witches and ate them, bones and all…before offing themselves. It’s not as if mankind had suddenly overcome greed and anger and fear, it’s just that we were already good at being horrible and certainly didn’t need help from any God for that.
I remember George the Smarmy, God of Conmen and Corporations. He was ripped apart in a category 7 hurricane, caused by the same global warming he and his followers refused to “believe” in. Then there was Milton the Mediocre, God of Bureaucrats….who sat on a park bench one windy day and blew away, page by page, like a loose stack of photocopies. These Gods and many more like them were never missed or mourned. As the corporate world collapsed under it’s own incompetence, the environment rebounded and people got busy, recovering. They grew food, formed communities…and slowed down.
The Gods who lingered a while longer, were the ones who needed to teach us love and patience…how to be kind and generous again. We needed to recover our civility and common courtesy, which centuries of intolerance seems to have squeezed from our souls. When those Gods finally left the world, they went quietly, in peace and dignity.
But the last one (and in my opinion), the greatest…was Horst, God of Whimsy. He was the God of clowns and tricksters, of bawdy songs and practical jokes. He reminded us to laugh and be happy. It is because of him that I throw away my umbrella every time it rains and splash in the mud-puddles, like an 8 year old kid.
I handed Vanessa the parachute, the last item on his list. He watched us from the rail above. “What’s this…?” she asked absently. I didn’t answer as I stepped away to release the anchor line. She knew…we both knew that this would be his last journey…and she need not go with him. I saw understanding creep into her eyes as she thanked me and climbed aboard. Horst waved his final farewell as the airship lifted away into the rising sun.
I saw Vanessa again a few years later. When the world was already a brighter place. I spotted her from the docks, teaching children to sail. I smiled, glad she had not flown into the sun with God…..she saw me too and smiled back.
***I wrote the short story for this post quite recently and thought it well suited to certain current events, even though it’s slated for a new science fiction short-story, sci-fi book project. The illustration was first commissioned for the April, 2006 issue of Analog Magazine. It was meant to be re-published in my latest book (Bludgeon the Clown), but it didn’t make the cut. We had 200 pages of stuff to try to cram into a 100 page book. More recently John loaned it (with permission) to our friends at Monsterz Tea Party, in France, for the posters and adverts for their upcoming art and music exposition on September 15th (Check it out: monsterzteaparty.com), go there if you can, they are the best. -Marsha