The Unworthy

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“Rise, oh God of Creation,” they sang, and so I did. I rose and called the sea. The waters came and washed that place clean as I swept my arms east to west, delighted at the bewildered sounds they made. I bore the tiny priests no ill will, despite the inconvenience their little ceremony had caused. Troublesome vermin are never worth one’s enmity, though one does not abide their gnawing presence when it can be helped. So I washed them away, smiling.

I found more of their kind to the north, living on top of one another in piteous shambles of clay. The sound of my approach drew them out of their holes in scurries and staggers, some fleeing in terror, some falling to their knees in reverence like those at the temple. In a moment of charity, I weighed the fates of these a heartbeat longer than the last, nevertheless reaching the same end. The sea could not find that place on the hills, so I called to the heavens above, raining hail and lightning between each mirthful heave. Soon their earthen abodes were but dust on the wind, and those still living spent their last breaths begging for mercy as the maelstrom of my will took hold and ground the life from them.

All but one. One stood in brazen defiance of my wrath as the ashes of her home billowed about her. One dared look up at my form with malice in her eyes and fire in her heart. She stood at the center of the ruins, boiling with a fury so palpable I could taste it on the breeze. In my merriment, I set aside the desire to extinguish the stubborn light behind those eyes and decided to indulge this fleeting curiosity.

“Speak, insignificant one,” I said, half expecting the sound of my voice to cleave her in two.

“And what would I say to a beast who laughs at the scattered lives of the ones I love?” she said. “I will not play at your mercy, destroyer. I can see it would be of no use.”

“A fool’s bounty has been sown, and I am the reaper. I destroy but for the good of these lands, to purge them of the ignorance that brought me here. Only the unwise would invoke that which can summon the likes of me.”

“Were they not doing the bidding of their creator? Was it not your sigil carved into the very face of the mountains? They followed your commands. They called out to you, seeking guidance, and you reward them with death.”

My laughter shook the hills and stoked the flames in the woman’s eyes. “What arrogance, to think those words were written for you! You and your foolish ilk have deemed yourselves central to my design, never pausing to consider the likelihood of your own insignificance. Do you think the birds hold their own kind to such high esteem, even as they soar above the valleys? Do the slithering vermin of the fields think themselves masters of the cosmos, favorite of the gods? I wrought this world and it wrought you. But I have no more love for you than a baker’s love for the mold on his bread.”

She tested my patience with a spell of silence then, which I allowed only that she might have learned something before I destroyed her. “You are a pitiful spirit,” she said at last. “You don’t deserve the power you wield. What kind of demon destroys the fruits of his own labor?”

“You’re not listening, little creature. These lands were not made for you. I forged this world as a beacon to the divine. I sought to attract an equal, that I may quench the loneliness I’ve endured across the eons and share the breadth of infinity with a mate. Imagine my disappointment when I answered the summons to find you people gawking at me. Your entire existence makes me regret ever having labored over these lands. The least I can do is cleanse them before I depart.”

“You are the disappointment, old one. And you are as blind as you are vile. Your equal stands before you — and has judged you unworthy.”

The moment the words left her lips, her perfection became apparent. As realization struck, the ground opened beneath me and I fell into the arms of darkness. I called to the heavens and the sea, but they did not hear me; they did not come. Earth enveloped body and soul as I plunged into the black embrace, haunted by visions of what might have been.

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J.W. Alden

About J.W. Alden

J.W. Alden has always had a fascination with the fantastic. As such, he’s made speculative fiction his domain.

He lives just outside West Palm Beach, Florida with his fiancée Allison, who doesn’t mind the odd assortment of musical instruments and medieval weaponry that decorate his office (as long as he tries to brandish the former more often than the latter).

Alden is a graduate of the 2013 class of Odyssey Writing Workshop and a member of Codex Writers. Read more from him at AuthorAlden.com.