Audio by Dan McAdam
It’s a small hut, nothing fantastic but…well…forgotten gods take what they can get, you know what I mean?
They stopped praying at some point, gave it up for other things. For “better” things so I was relegated to the back burner of history, one or two followers and mostly as a joke.
Martin though, he’s nuts but he’s a real believer. I like Martin but this isn’t about him. He’s locked away in some place getting “treatment” because he believes in gods. If only they knew.
Well this farmer builds a temple, fills it with some candles and the things you’d expect. Mostly as a joke but he builds it. Maybe six feet by six feet, a temple slash shed we might call it.
He puts the items on a pedestal and leaves the shrine to do the thing, the summoning of a god.
I think it was mostly a joke. Problem was it wasn’t a joke to me.
To me it was real.
So I went. I answered the call.
I had to wait for him to come back. I was trapped in the temple slash shed for a good three hours just standing there, sitting cross-legged, tapping my foot, drumming on the pedestal, all the things a god might do to kill time.
Until he came back.
“What the hell are you doing in here!?” he shouted at me, which was very offensive and confusing since…you know he asked me here.
I told him as much and he laughed, told me to get lost.
Even more offensive.
“I can’t leave without completing your request,” I tell him, which is true…also I’m a bit lonely, “you asked and here I am. What do you want?”
“I want rain for my crops and my family to be happy but you’re some lunatic that’s broken into my property!”
He yells at me, getting angry. I stare at him and he comes at me with a thick, calloused finger until he hears rain hitting the roof of the temple slash shed.
“Lucky timing,” he says, narrowing his eyes. I roll mine and stand from the cross-legged position on the floor.
“Yeah, sure. Let’s see about a happy family. A big request but hey, I’ve got nothing but time. Not exactly a line of people coming to worship Geb, who the hell even knows who Geb is? No one. You just got lucky.”
“What?” he’s confused, so I point to the crude pedestal with the flattened goose and barley. He’d thrown the goose on because it’d been hit by a car and sat out for too long to be good to eat and the barley…well he just had an abundance of that.
“You summoned me. Now will you let me help?”
He looks out the temple slash shed door into the rain and shrugs, deciding it can’t hurt to let a strange man that has randomly appeared help him out.
Things must truly be desperate.
Well hey, like I said. I’ve got nothing but time.
He’s got a nice little family, pleasant wife and a handful of rats that he calls his “kids”.
“Are you really a god?” one of them asks me, tugging at my sleeve.
I cup my hands and a flower blooms from nothing, a bright purple set of petals. I offer it to her and she takes it gently, carrying it away into another room gleefully.
I smile. Cute rat.
It’s a small but cozy house and I don’t see much that needs changing. The man’s wife sets a bowl of steaming food in front of me and I dig in with my hands. They look shocked but I don’t really care, I don’t trust those metal things they eat with. Seems weird.
There’s some fowl in this goopy mix and I hope that it’s not the goose from the temple slash shed, that would be gross. I gulp it down and look to the farmer who is staring at me. So is his wife.
“What?” I say, dribbling some of the mix down my chin.
I roll my eyes at them both.
“Yes, a god. All powerful being. You know, master of the earth and skies, lording over the dirt. That sort of thing? Gods. Making all your dreams come true. Or your nightmares, I guess it depends on the god. Phobetor is a bit of a dick like that, constantly sneaking in and making grinning doctor pandas that threaten to eat your face or something. Weird guy. Don’t much like him.”
They seem to be taking this well, listening to the rain as it soaks the fields just like he had asked for.
I lean back in their little chair and wait for it to sink in.
“Yes. A god.”
“Alright,” the farmer shrugs and leans on his elbows, looking me in the eyes which causes me to lean further back, it’s disconcerting.
“What can you do?”
“First,” I hold up a finger, “I’m not a genie. I don’t just go around, willy-nilly granting things to you. You built a…temple, we’ll pretend, and I granted you rain. You asked for happiness, I don’t know what makes you happy but you know, I’m willing to give it a go. Mostly because I’m incredibly bored but also because there’s a mutual relationship that comes with these things. Since you’re the only ones in my corner…well the benefit will tend to be towards you.”
“So…we help you and you help us?”
“Sure, let’s go real simple. Yes.”
They look at each other and then to me.
“Uh, how do we help a god?”
We stare at each other for a while and I remember the drink of the people from all those ages ago.
“Got any beer?”
The farmer smiles at me. It’s creepy. I wish he’d stop.
“Yeah, that we can do.”
I had no idea how much these farmers liked beer. As a god you are gifted with a stomach of steel and a capacity for things that mortals cannot grasp.
After helping with the harvest in the community (which I had now somehow become a benefactor to and of), they held a massive celebration in a barn. It’s like the temple slash shed but much larger.
There was music and dancing and beer. Oh was there beer.
I woke up the next morning with little memory of the night before, laying in a pile of straw. It was wet straw and I was too scared to find out what the wet had come from so I pretended it was water. Probably for the best.
I forgot about the world that had forgotten me for a time as these people became…friends? Can mortals and gods be friends? Perhaps, we never tried it before. We had stories and jokes that only we understood, we worked hard in the sun and when it was time I would bring rain or deepen the roots of the earth so that it was richer, more bountiful.
One day I woke up in the area they had set aside for me and I knew.
We all did. I heard the laughter from the kitchen and it was different than it had been before.
I could feel that the others were jealous, there are so many others. They felt it unfair that I had been summoned. And honestly I don’t blame them. In terms of ranking, I’m somewhere between a nobody and a nothing. Just bad luck for them and great luck for me.
So it wasn’t a bad time to take my leave of them, I had done the thing for this man and his family that he has asked for…and then some.
I sat with them and we didn’t acknowledge it, mortals get so sentimental on these things.
Just before I left their home the rat tugged on my sleeve again. I looked to her and she held up a bright purple flower for me.
I took it from her.
“Thank you, rat.”
She made a face, pushing out her top teeth at me as had become our joke. Like a rat.
The temple slash shed hadn’t changed a bit since that first day, except the goose was gone. Thank goodness. It would be so rotten by now. No god wants rotten things. If they do you don’t want them.
The farmer was there, happier and not yelling at me this time. It’s an improvement to say the least.
“So long,” he says.
“Good riddance,” I reply. We laugh. It’s funny to us. I will miss this man and his rat children and pleasant wife. I liked them. I’ll never tell them that though. Gods do not feel these things.
Before I am gone I look around the temple slash shed and I think to myself that I could have asked for no better place of worship. Unencumbered by gold or thousands of prayers like the old days, just…simple.
It is the last thing he says before I am gone.
“How was your trip?” the others ask me and I tell them the standard response. Mortals, you know? Always asking and never much good for anything aside from that! We all laugh. It’s funny. I am funny. They all crave to hear about the world but none of them want to hear the truth.
The truth is we’re needed more than ever but believed in less than ever. That’s how it is.
I don’t tell them that. Anything but that.
Instead I place the purple flower between the pages of a book I’ve been reading again and again for millennia. It’s a good book. Has to be, right?
I close the book.
I say it and she looks up at me and smiles, pushing her top teeth out just like she used to do. Like a rat.
“You came.” She says as I sit beside her, the temple slash shed hasn’t changed much from those days and it’s familiarity is comforting.
“Of course I did, you asked me to.”
Her hands are wrinkled and weak, she takes my unchanged hands in both of hers and presses them together.
“Can I ask you for something?”
“Make it rain?”
Simple enough, I can do that. I make it gentle though, not the ones that soaked the fields before, this is a different rain.
“Anything else you want?”
“Just…sit with me?”
She leans against me and I let her. We stare out the door into the rain as it falls melodically. While we sit there I open my hand and show her a flattened purple flower. She grins ear to ear and looks up at me.
“You kept it!”
She holds it in one hand and keeps the other on mine. And together we sit and listen to the rain.
Just me and rat.
Who the hell knows who Geb is? He just got lucky is all.
And the farmer did too.
One thought on “Of Gods And Rats”
Simple and fantastic! Very heartwarming!