Beyond the detritus of the warp-ship graveyards, against the dizzying backdrop of the cosmos, the god child Qualito floats forwards and bowls a gas giant.
The rest of us godlings hang back in a huddle and watch the shot play out. Vapours hang behind the missile in effervescent trails. The gaseous projectile arcs through space and begins to spiral. It comes to rest in a stable orbit, barely a million miles from the target star.
“Not bad,” Metavolt calls as he drifts forward towards Qualito. His psychic voice is prickly like ripe radiation. “None too shabby. However, my least celestial of friends, just you watch this.”
Metavolt has selected a carbonised cluster for his projectile. A dense world, made mostly of diamond, heavier than Qualito’s gas giant despite being a quarter of the size. He bowls over-arm, adds spin with a flick of his wrist. The rock dances a cute little helix and the shot is good, his aim pure. As the glittering sphere loops around the star and bears back down on Qualito’s planet a grin splits Metavolt’s face. The heavier planet smashes through the larger, tearing the molecular bonding and lighting up the whole system with a polychromatic glare. When the light fades only one planet remains, Metavolt’s carbon cluster. It hangs calmly, maybe half a million miles out.
“Fuck yes.” Metavolt gloats. Dancing a tesseract around the other godlings, he giggles. “I win,” he says. “Again.”
“Quiet down,” Qualito snarls. “Or I’ll bowl you into the star.”
“Such a sore loser.”
“Keep on proving me right, asshole.”
“You probably cheated.”
Metavolt laughs and twirls away. “Grow up, Qual, you’re becoming intolerable. You’re gonna be a god soon, remember? Show a little character, would you?”
“Just fuck off.”
Swooping back up to Qualito, getting right in his face, Metavolt sneers.
The two go eye to eye for a while, the tension visible all the way to the electromagnetic spectrum. Metavolt keeps his cool, Qualito is the first to look down.
“Screw this,” he says. “I’m going home.”
“Go then. Go back to your daddy, you spoiled little mortal.”
Qualito leaves, his body shimmering out of this particular point of existence. Then Metavolt turns to the rest of us, egotistical grin wide on his face.
“So who’s next? What about you, Integon, good for a licking? Phasera? What’s wrong, you scared, missy?” He stares down each of the godlings in turn, none of them willing to rise to his baiting. They all saw how swiftly he destroyed Qualito’s planet. None of them are willing to venture themselves for a whipping.
My essences dilute when he turns to me. I’m not supposed to be out here in the bad side of the galaxy. My parents will totally ground me if they hear of me running around with these guys. I don’t even like most of them, I tag along for the hollow buzz that comes with pretending to fit in somewhere.
“How about it, lifer? Gonna be a pussy your entire existence?”
“I…,” I stammer. “I don’t want to play.”
“Of course you don’t want to,” Metavolt sneers. “Who would want to duel with me?” He sidles over, all smirks and sidelong glances. “Ahh, fuck it. Never mind. Should have known you’d be a wimp about it. Because there’s nothing alive here, right? Nothing to grab your nut-job attention? Well, tell you what, lifer, maybe I won’t let that slide. Maybe I say we’re gonna play and there’s nothing you can do about it. You have a planet, I can see it there. So let’s play.”
“Leave me alone.” I say, tightening my grip on Earth. “You’re a bully.”
“So get the fuck out of our end of the galaxy, you baby. This is a bad neighbourhood, didn’t you hear. If you can’t cut it with the big boys then head home. Go on, you spoiled little shithead. Get out of my sight before I kick your scrawny, life-loving ass.”
I want to stand my ground, I really do. There’s just no point though. Meta is always this way, always acting the great deceiver and destroyer in school. Even Qualito shied away and Qual is no white-hole pansy himself. Every time I hang out with these guys outside class Meta gives me grief because my parents are pro-life. He’s beaten me up a couple of times though he beats people up so often that giving me a kicking barely seems to register in his memory.
I don’t need this. Screw these guys and their cold, lifeless toys. Screw Metavolt and his taunts. These morons will amount to nothing but footnotes in the history of the true gods. Lifers don’t need to bowl rocks to get kicks. I want to work miracles, to give the perfect gift of intelligence so this universe of ours might one day mean something more. These fools know nothing of godliness.
So why do I feel such defeat when I shake my head at Metavolt and drift back, as I prepare to phase-shift home?
Because I’m lying to myself again. None of it means a thing. It’s all crap, life has no worth. All the goodness in this planet-project of mine, this Earth, has expired. My world is a dry fruit, baked in starlight and robbed of vitality. My parents, all the other lifers, they lied to me. My world might as well be nothing but stale water and rotten vegetation and dead meat. It stinks. My dream has become a wound.
Melodramatic? Doesn’t feel that way. Not here with the other godlings, face a burning nova with the shame, stood down again by those that would love nothing more than to see the universe sterile. They are right to mock my faith. What right do gods have to a religion of their own?
Cradling my Earth in the palm of one hand, I stare down at my work. I remember the day my parents gave me this thing, when it was just plain rock coating over a heavy molten core. I remember that before that day I had actual friends.
I remember sprinkling the salts and the sugars and the other ingredients that helped prepare my world for life. Making mountains, clawing out valleys, and whisking up weather. I remember designing all the plants, the animals, and the birds, all according to the grand patterns that my parents had me learn. I turned my planet into a jewel, my pretty little world looked damn near good enough to eat.
All of it was time wasted.
The final stage saw to that. The real test of building a world comes in adding intelligent life. I guess I failed. My life-forms, my “humans”, they are impossible to manage. They undid all my hard work in a matter of Earth centuries, far less time that it took me to perfect my sweet haven. They fight and they pollute and now my world reeks of rot and decay. I asked my parents, and the elder gods at school, to help but they all said dealing with the trivialities of life-forms is part of the test and that I need to figure it out on my own. I tried washing the place clean with floods and ice ages, but nothing makes a slight bit of difference. The stupid humans come back stronger every time, their survival skills refined by the adversities I lay upon them. They simply refuse to behave.
It’s just like the other kids, those without lifers for parents, always tell me. There’s no future in cultivating life. This universe is just not set up for lesser beings than us. It’s too hostile, the life-forms never live long enough to ever truly embrace the gifts we bestow upon them. Hence the squabbling, the prayers to false gods, the wars. Hence the humans ruining my Earth. They are a people of immature children. It’s no wonder so few of the lifers manage to cultivate a world to the point it yields a space faring race. It’s just too damn hard. Intelligence and a mortal body are not a good match, it’s a recipe for paranoia and neurosis. A mortal body can’t contain our godly blessings. Intelligent mortals are unstable.
It’s just not worth the hassle.
Metavolt has moved along and is trying to bait another godling into facing him in the next match. I suspend my phase-shift, fully materialise back into time and space.
“Meta,” I call, my psychic voice sounding far more steady than I feel. “Hey, Meta, you big-headed fuck. You know what, maybe I will duel you. Maybe I’ll beat you. How about it, shit-for-brains? I’m telling you now though, if I do beat you then all this lifer bashing crap stops. Right now. There’s no point, I’m no lifer anyway, not any more. You want a sterile universe to play in? Well as of right now I’m all for that myself. Go fetch your planet back. Let’s bowl.”
Eyes slitted, Metavolt rounds back to face me. “Gladly,” he hisses. “But when you lose I’m going to kick your face in for talking to me like that.”
“If I lose.”
Metavolt laughs. “When,” he says. “Not if.” He flies towards the star to recover his carbon cluster. His diamond world is a tough one, I know that. My Earth is a sturdy little rock though, and its dense molten core adds weight. Metavolt won the last duel so he’ll have to bowl first. All I have to do is get Earth closer to the star than he gets his planet. Either that or knock his out of the way. I can do it. I can beat him.
What of the humans if Earth collides with Metavolt’s carbon tomb world? What if my carefully balanced atmosphere has become too polluted and when my shot goes close enough to the star the toxic soup the humans have created for themselves to live in ignites?
Maybe my world will explode. Maybe the crust will tear to pieces, the core blasting itself apart in a maelstrom. Maybe the death of my dream world will light up the galaxy the way Qualito’s gas giant did.
So what? I hope it does explode. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.
Martin Garrity hails from Mansfield, England. He is an author and avid fan of dark fiction and a heavy metal disciple. He is a co-editor of Solarcide.com and various associated anthology projects. He writes flash fiction and short stories, and has been published in fine company at places such as Thunderdome Magazine, Revolt Daily, and Cease, Cows. His debut collection, Corridors, will be released in 2014 by Solarcide.