The Last Goddess in Existence Saves Someone at Last.
A Deliberately Anachronistic Oracle sees only Dead Ends.
The Oracle Meets the Goddess, who is Invisible in All her Sight.
The World is Falling Apart in Unpredictable Ways.
Gods Born from Nothing, Blind to Consequence.
What was Normal, or what Peace could be.
There was the Quiet before the Storm
“I shall tell you three statements about myself that not even Elizabeth knows of. You may or may not find them satisfactory, the choice is yours.”
“One: I have no idea why you can’t see my future. I’ve not met any other Oracles in my life.”
“Two: I am not who I say I am, it’s but an alias.”
“Three,” she smirked. “One of my statements is false.”
A few seconds of silence. Gradually, the Oracle lowered her weapon. “I guess we’re all in this game of lies, aren’t we?”
“Except Elise, of course.”
“Leave me out of this.”
On the surface, from myths and tales, some type of higher beings that brought miracles to mankind, given the right moods and whims.
In truth, few shared the same forms, or even the same language. A diverse group of species, thrown together by various events and means, squeezed into human, bestial, or inorganic Vessels.
Their manifestations grew fewer as time went on, for reasons currently unknown, leading to their near extinction in the 20th century.
Appears to break far too many laws of physics casually, but they are governed by the same rules of the universe as any other creature.
Any form of supernatural occurrence, miracle, or ‘magic’, are only just actions of their invisible selves tucked away in their vessels.
For example, telekinesis is nothing more than an invisible appendage. Flight is just their vessel affixing itself to a gigantic torso, and the god itself standing up.
How such enormous creatures hide themselves in plain sight is currently unknown.
Gods are no more than another animal. Perhaps, not quite aligning with our reality, in dimensions, or colour, but are animals nonetheless.
To see the true extent of their forms all at once is impossible for a human eye; equal to the difficulty a sentient line will have viewing a cube.
They reach into other dimensions of space, and slip within them, out of sight. There, they manipulate the world like a puppeteer, or stagehand. Mere carnival magic tricks, performed in higher dimensions.
An illusion that cannot be seen through by conventional means. Proper equipment will easily see past it, though.
According to Phillipa, an inevitable beginning to the end of the universe at large.
Reality begins to creak in its machinations. Unusual happenings occur, without warning. Unlike godly miracles, physics as it is known might not perform as expected, and various glitches sporadically churn the land.
Chaos bleeding from wounds, essentially.
There is no possibility of stopping it from ruining reality.
A consequence of gods abusing their strength.
The universe rejects their claims of power, and reacts with immune responses. Therefore, an autoimmune disease-like infection spreads, breaking reality into sickening chunks.
A fatalistic Oracle, first appearing in an attempt at an unpredictable Goddess’s life in panic. Fails horrifically.
Foresaw the end of the world, with no possibility of salvation. Has grown dejected, and fatalistic, in that regard.
Introduces herself as ‘Phillipa’ to the Goddess.
Has a strange, anachronistic sense of fashion and weapon choice, seemingly in an attempt to hide her identity.
Wields a flanged mace, and has a thinly-veiled hobby regarding firearms. No stronger than a fit human, but has a perfect sense of pre-cognition.
Human reflexes and other biological limits are the only source of hindrance to her foresight.
Phillipa’s future sight is nothing more than a rapid reading, calculation, and simulation of present data. A supercomputer could, theoretically, perform the same feats.
Annoyingly, the Goddess cannot be seen anywhere in her calculations, and has to be taken into account separately.
An odd goddess from times past. Survived an unknown extinction event before, and has since been the last god on Earth. At least, according to herself.
Introduces herself as ‘Lilith’, though it is uncertain whether that is her true name, a pseudonym, or an attempt at hiding her real name as an alias. Her only response to that question is ‘Yes’.
Dislikes fighting with anything flashy, and hence only utilises her strength, durability, and a standard-issue longsword. Standard at whatever medieval era she snitched it from, anyway.
The Oracle struggles to see her at all in her foresights, as though the Goddess exists outside of fate.
When push comes to shove, is capable of miracles her kind is known for. They always involve some sort of relation to the concept of Light, or its derivatives.
The human girl Lilith saved from a burning church. Given a mark seared onto her right shoulder, healing her back from Death’s door.
Given that that would make her Lilith’s one, and only, follower, the detriments of such a curse was diminished to mere benefits.
Learnt basic combat techniques from both her companions, though Lilith is adamant on a proper theoretical education too, for some reason.
Embers swirled upwards from the cold snow beneath, now melted into a watery, boiling grave in the middle of winter.
The Goddess stood before all this, an indirect consequence of her actions, she admits. She could leave now, and her victory would not be undone, the witnesses accursed to a burning spire in the unlikeliest of places.
Like all the times she had done so before.
But she didn’t do that. For one last time, she thought, why not make a change, for once? There wasn’t much time left and, in all honestly, it wouldn’t make too much of a difference on her track record.
Not that there was anyone left to judge her; only corpses and graves remained.
There was no reason to save anyone. In a century, they would perish one way, or another, and they would be forgotten in not much more. Another speck of slight interest in the Goddess’s life.
Was so she had done before.
Throwing apart the ruins of charring timber, the Goddess had a unfaithful hope that someone remained. Someone who she would save. Entire pillars of smoking wood were thrown upwards. As some nearby witness would swear by, some even reached heights greater than the full moon.
Like a child emptying a toybox in desperation.
Someone. Something. Anyone.
Then, beneath the beams and splinters, something twitched. The face was half present, and how such a person held onto dear life baffled the Goddess. “They must have had something to fight for, then!” Was her conclusion.
She rolled away the last of the rubble.
“This will burn, for one last time.” She said, leaning close. A point of white light pricked the looming flames.
“I’d always wanted to say this.”
The spark outshone the stars themselves.
“And, let there be light.”
The world goes on, oblivious to their fates. Perhaps it was in their best interests to remain so; the poor soul who knows all is doomed to be buried in events and emotions not yet past.
Out of all disasters life has to face, the final one is inevitable. Filters upon filters weed out the weak, and eventually, one will find themselves prostrating at the walls of an impenetrable will.
Death was closing in.
This final frontier would be the end of all that was. Gods, humanity, creatures that roamed the forest of stars, and all their history, rotten. Eaten by ravenous rats and bugs, until the end of time arrives.
Reality chewed through by pests.
The saying goes that all roads lead to Rome.
It was at this point when fate bent into a singularity, when all roads across space and time lead to nothingness.
It was half-past midnight.
The Oracle, in a solemn gaze, wandered the streets without a destination. The roads were cordoned off for the evacuation, awaiting the arrival of trucks, or helicopters. They didn’t know what, but help will come, they were sure.
But it won’t. Three hours ago, world governments had an emergency meeting over calls. A near unanimous decision was made; the largest population centers first. Only when the situations there are all resolved will smaller settlements be considered.
They will not manage to save even half the populations of the capitals.
The people here can wait all they want, but it will be made clear to them in two hours. Riots will break, and will be quelled by the slow creep of the Rot.
The Oracle could leave at any point, the Rot didn’t bother her much. As far as she was concerned, it was impossible to save them all. A poisonous piece of nostalgia, yet she was doomed to repeat it.
In all honestly, she didn’t want to be anywhere near the crowd when they start screaming. Sudden mass cremation will be unpleasant to be around, she reckoned.
Buildings were almost all dark. The only light came from streetlamps, with a faint backlight of stars. No one here but her. Occasionally, a vehicle would stop, offering transport. She turned them down, and gave some vague directions to safety. Whether they believed her or not was none of her concern. To them, she was no more than a lunatic seeking death at the center of the Rot.
She was a lunatic seeking stress relief, so they weren’t all that off.
The town square was quiet. The ground was torn asunder, ripped with ugly fissures and footprints, but there was nothing else. Was she wrong? The Oracle rechecked her foresight. This place should be infested with rats. It was where it all began, when absurd deaths were first reported.
But, no, it was devoid of any signs of inheritance. No bodies, or body-shaped stains, or suspiciously large effigies of charcoal. Nothing.
Then, the Oracle experienced something she never had before.
She was surprised.
A loud hiss filled the air, and the Oracle clenched her heart.
Was I so zoned out, that I misstep-ed in prediction?
The hissing grew softer, vanished. The Oracle blinked, and ran away. The entire square erupted in a flash of light. A geyser of energy came upwards from beneath the earth, and with it, a fountain of charred rat corpses. Carbonised limbs and organs of various shapes rained down.
Seriously? Overkill, much?
The Oracle readied her senses, and widened her eyes. A faint blue flash, and in that millisecond, omnipotence. She ducked out of cover, avoiding a concrete chunk the size of her head. The sinkhole was still collapsing, but she had no time. If the culprit could blow up the entire residency, they could escape in a moment’s notice too.
Down the hole she went. Try as she might, a few wet lumps of flesh were inevitable in the fastest path. Harmless, but stained her cloak in multi-coloured gore. It was like falling into a landslide, with a chance of entrails.
Not too unfamiliar, then.
Twenty seconds of free-fall, into a quick personal barrier deployment for the landing at terminal velocity. The Oracle glanced upwards. Not even a star in sight in the small pinprick of night sky. Twenty seconds fall; approximately a kilometer deep.
How on earth do you punch a kilometer deep hole the size of a city square?
“The hell was that, Lilith?” An angry tone echoed through the depths. Hiding behind a wall, the Oracle listened. “When it said ‘Clear the rats’, they didn’t mean ‘Obliterate the general area!’”
Sounds are simple vibrations in the air. Given enough precision, entire scenes can be reconstructed from sound alone. The Oracle looked at the wall behind her, where the echo reflected towards her. Shockwaves in the air formed a dim recreation of the scene before her eyes.
A girl, early twenties, and an undefined person, much taller. Such ‘acoustic sight’ resulted in rather two-dimensional shadows, and certain angles messed with depth perception. Not perfect, but the Oracle was getting there with practice.
The initial outburst, then, was from the young girl.
“Yeah, yeah, but we got rid of them, right?” That must be ‘Lilith’. “And everyone evac-ed, probably no collateral. Not a trace of rats left behind.”
“You dragged the half-eaten bodies down here, had us chased by ten thousand of those bloody bitey things, set off a cache of crystalised nitroglycerin, and blasted them with the temperature of the Sun! That last part wasn’t even necessary! You probably made it worse!” The sheer not-quite subtle annoyance was impressive.
“Net gain, definitely. I ran the numbers. Spawned no more than a hundred of them, tops. They can handle it above with shotguns or something.”
“Fine. Lets just go.”
A few words caught the Oracle’s attention. Were the rats created? By what, excessively large explosive charges? She had never found a clear reason for the rot ever since it began, and well before. It seemed like another chaotic whim of the universe, this time far crueler than the ones before. There must be further leads.
Once she was certain the duo turned around, she peeked. The young girl was local, probably. A single small pistol, standard issue Blackplate armour, not very different from the one the Oracle herself was wearing. The other woman, Lilith, was notably foreign. Middle Eastern? Bit hard to tell, could be a local, still, given the accent. Two meters tall, very long hair, and entirely unarmoured.
Most alarming of all, a longsword by her side. Five years ago, hilarious, bringing a sword to an era of projectiles, but it was a troubling sign now. Blackplate armour, reactive platings, personal shields, have rendered most firefights sounding like a bunch of peashooters hitting a brick wall. A sword, or perhaps the flanged mace hanging on the Oracle’s belt, swung at the right angles, with the right force, renders most modern defenses as brittle as porcelain.
It was a sign of capable self-defense against not just the Rot, but against others. The Oracle herself had both her arms and shoulders wrapped in a thin hydraulic frame. This Lilith had nothing.
Instinctively, the Oracle brought up her sight, again.
This isn’t right.
She brought it down, and up again. But it was there, or rather, it wasn’t. She wasn’t. Lilith was invisible.
She scrolled through time. Before, after, all the way to the end of time. She wasn’t there, not even a hint. This sinkhole, a consequence of Lilith’s actions, didn’t exist, only the cavern below it. There were no pieces of rats. As far as fate was concerned, this Lilith person doesn’t exist.
The Oracle, in panic, tripped, splashing a puddle of oily rat blood.
“Oh? Someone here?”
And again, in panic, she struck, eyes electrifying.
Three years ago was when everything began to fall apart.
Before it, was the greatest era of civilisation man had ever seen. To some, it was by luck’s hand, and the age was the aftermath of an incredibly fortunate series of event.
Warfare had grown into an unparalleled threat to not just one’s enemies, but oneself as well. Unstable blobs of antimatter, light enough to be carried by ants, could turn anything into a crater in but a moment. Massive orbital blasts could, in theory, ionise the entirety of a city’s worth of air.
All in theoreticals, but the danger of self-annihilation loomed. None were quite sure just how humankind could accelerate from nuclear fission to efficient hydrogen fusion in a mere decade. While the results were expected to arrive eventually, the velocity of research and development was incredible.
Rumours of otherworldly existence spread. Extraterrestrials, perhaps, or a cache of text from entities long deceased. There were even brief revivals of cults, in the ancient sense of the word, but none of them reached a believable conclusion.
The natural response to such imminent threats was, naturally, an impenetrable defense. Material science and high energy physics soared in funding. In particular, an exotic metamaterial formed of tightly weaved polymers; so tight, it looked closer to a solid block of metal under magnification, impossibly smooth, held together by a concoction of fundamental forces. Along with it, the once-fictional idea of forcefields was realised. They were closer to ‘Highly-energetic ions in a crystal-lattice configuration under strong electric fields’, but the public were more inclined to ‘forcefields’.
Then, the offensive gave up.
Try as they may, but once the two fields of defense grew into maturity, the battlefield became closer to a friendly game of paintball. Casualty rates dropped to near zero. No amount of heated plasma would shatter a forcefield, and no projectile could overcome the sheer tensile strength of the so-named ‘Blackplate’ metamaterial. Occasional deaths were due to idiocy such as ‘standing directly under an orbital bombardment’, and ‘looking down a live artillery barrel’. Otherwise, they might as well be wielding pool noodles and water guns at the beach.
And thus, the paradox of immovable object meeting the unstoppable force was answered: No one was pleased, and everyone left from boredom.
The forced peace lasted two decades.
Rot, as they soon came to call it, spread its threadlike roots through reality, like hairline cracks through glass. Then it all broke altogether. The fragile porcelain universe shattering all at once, the breaking the most prosperous age of humankind into smithereens.
It came beneath notice. Abnormalies of gravity were ruled out to be incidental side-effects of research equipment, boiling lakes to overtuned microwave transmitters.
The one thing no one could explain away were the rats. Called such due to their tendency to scurry around dark, moist places, but they had nothing to do with small mammals. They were varied in size and shape, numerous in their legions. Some had claws of bone, or malformed maws thrice the size of their bodies. Most the size of actual rats, but a few capable of razing a block if given the chance.
Given the firepower humanity held, the first few were of no worry. The first few specimens sent for autopsy, however, set a new emotion throughout the scientific community. Confusion.
The rats’ internal structure had no rhyme or reason. Some could have ten stomachs of different shapes, or they could be hollow, filled with loose teeth. Their flesh were of myriads of colours, from blue, to pitch black, swirling around unpredictable organs. They were nothing more than accelerated stillbirths, set loose from the ether to eat, die, and be replaced.
More came. They never stopped. As much as they could be vapourised, melted, torn, shot, or burnt, more took their place. Cities drowned in a torrent of flesh.
With each appearance, the world was reportedly warped, the horizon twisted into knots, and the air rife with cracks. The cracks began small, but subsequent events had them wide enough to send equipment through, or live participants. None returned, and the reels of rope the cameras were on were gnawed through.
Some rifts never went away, creating seas of darkness, where nothing but hoards of rats flowed through. Not many could realise the reason behind the Rot. The few who did threw away the thought to be too crude to be true.
For one reason or another, the universe was breaking down. Its fabric eaten by a legion of pests.
“I’m not going to stop you from living.”
Half of the Oracle’s stress garnered in her current lifetime vanished all at once. The pinnacle of her hopes, pinned on this one statement, had paid off.
“I do hope your future will be better than what my domain can provide. Most regret it.” Thanatos didn’t quite look like what Pythia was expecting. His dress code was appropriately solemn, but it wouldn’t make sense to anyone but her, for one.
“Thank you,” She said. “But if I may ask a question: Why the suit?”
“I supposed you deserved the formality.”
“I appreciate it, but, it hasn’t been invented yet. It won’t be invented for millenniums!”
“Yes, well, it’s warm.” Death itself is afraid of cold weather, what a twist. “You understand that some of us exist outside of time, too. You cannot traverse it, but you can see it.”
The hills were silent in the evening, the citizens below heading home for dinner, then rest. Days like this were not to be taken for granted. They were fleeting in the grander scale.
“Life works like a projectile, Oracle. The greater the inertia, the harder death hits. You’re but one soul in a corner of Earth, in a point in the universe. You can run all you want. Even without your eyes, humanity can develop immortality within centuries, if they so wished.”
“But given a heavier, massive concept, it will surely crash and burn in due time. It is unstable, Time will take its toll, and so will I.”
The presence of this anachronistically dressed man, given any other perspectives, would be strange indeed, but Pythia had spent her life studying the future, the past, and all of history. Such trivial temporally disjoint matters didn’t bother her. Mostly.
“Thanatos, why are we speaking in English?”
“To fit the mood, really.”
“Tell me, if death is inevitable, then would all my doing be for naught?”
“If you keep your sights narrow, yes. But there will be hope in unusual bedfellows. The only unavoidable doom is the heat death of the universe, and I’m certain you’re wise enough to join me before that occurs. Even then, I’m not sure if there is an end to the trajectory of life.”
Thanatos adjusted his watch, and gazed out onto the sprouting civilisation below. It will grow, burn, and grow again. Rebel and live until its last breath. Refusing to die in spite of it all, like stubborn pests hiding in the fields. In their mortality, they find desperation.
“You humans are frightening.”
Gods are capable of recruiting ‘disciples’, as Lilith puts it. The greater the number, the sparser their blessings are spread.
With a small enough number of followers, they, too, can perform similarly miraculous feats as their deity. Be careful not to burn your body up into subatomic particles by accident.
In contrast, a global religion would hold almost no sway on the gods’ domain.
All disciples are capable of holding a mental link, of sorts, to the main god, and each other. Those with few underlings can communicate plans, warnings, and information in an instant of time.
Unfortunately, such attempts are uncontrollable in the number of people they connect, similar to a free-for-all radio frequency. Large populations attempting communication will lead to mass hysteria, confusion, and occasionally madness.
Hence, gods with large followings shut off this method of communication.
The logic of how miracles function can only lead to an awful realisation.
Seemingly supernatural acts a god, or their disciples, are capable of performing.
Self-constraint must be practiced to avoid symptoms such as: spontaneous human combustion, insanity, atomisation, transmutation of blood to pure fluorine, instantaneous nuclear fission of every atom in a human body, rapid onset of osteoporosis, etc.
A god itself, however, only needs to worry about its vessel breaking.
Every god is capable of miracles restricted to a vaguely defined subset. Often, it is right in their title, though often it is far less obvious.
It is known that gods of war can manipulate specific emotions in a population of human minds, or that gods of fire do exactly what one thinks they do.
More abstract titles, such as ‘Truth’, ‘Wisdom’, and ‘Ranged Weaponry’, often require some extrapolation to deduce the real extent of their capabilities.
Not all gods are born equal.
In reality, miracles are no more than physical actions done by a god’s main form, hidden away from sight. A Disciple performing one is really just unconsciously sending a request to their god, who performs it in their stead.
Some sort of life-support devices that hold a god.
A broken vessel means the lost of a tangible form, and hence, gods should always watch their own capabilities, less they unintentionally shatter themselves.
A vessel’s creation is complex.
On the surface, they might seem to be no more than a clay doll, but it holds an intricate circuit of gates and mechanisms within. The insides of one appears to be larger than it seems.