There was a request to let out my more sarcastic side, so here is a go at that. And I would like to note that this story in no way reflects my theology. This is just creative speculation on a biblical legend.
The gods didn’t look anything at all like Trevor expected. He was looking for something powerful, transcendent, wise and maybe a little more….holy would be the best word. Instead, what he found was utterly disappointing.
Trevor looked at the collection of male and female figures lounging before him on couches. Each was dressed in white robes, but the dignity was lost because of food and wine stains that littered each one. It looked as if children had been eating unsupervised and then had wiped their mouths with their clothes.
Each of the gods, as they called themselves, was handsome or strikingly beautiful, as should be expected. But this beauty was marred as well. There was a vacant look in the eyes, a dull pallor that draped over the faces of the gods that made them look on the verge of stupidity. Their mouths hung slightly open as they looked at a great glass window on the other side of the court. Some drama was being acted out on the other side of the glass and the attention of each god was focused solely on the performance. They would laugh or cry out, and wine would spill on them unnoticed or food dropped out of careless hands. Trevor even saw what looked like a ball of meat roll out of a hanging mouth.
Trevor was utterly repulsed. Who were these vulgar and disgusting figures that called themselves gods? How could they be gods?
Then again, Trevor knew he should have expected little else. Life was so miserable, only worthless beings like this could be responsible. He had held out hope for a long time, that maybe after life things would get better, that there was hope after all. What had Professor Lamison always told him? Trust in God, Trevor, he is good. The world may be a mess right now but we know God is good.
A sigh drew out of Trevor, long and sad. Was this to be the end of a miserable and disappointing life? To be brought before the council of these uncouth and vile creatures that called themselves gods? Professor Lamison couldn’t have been more wrong.
One of the divine attendants came forward and motioned for Trevor to step towards the gathering of gods. He was another strangely unexpected figure. Short, with wild white hair, the man was dressed in bright red pants held up with red suspenders, equally garish and large red shoes, with a plain white shirt. There was a look on the attendant of long suffering disgust, much the same emotion Trevor felt within himself. Heaven was truly turning out to be no better than life on earth.
“The gods will see you now,” the attendant said.
Trevor stepped forward hesitantly. At first the gods took no mind of him. The pile of eating, lounging figures still watched the drama behind the glass, stuffing their faces and laughing a loud, braying laughter. Finally, another attendant pulled a curtain over the glass, eliciting a loud groan from the reclining gods.
“Ah, put it back, put it back,” a curly headed god complained. His face was fat and stained with some sort of red sauce. It looked too much to Trevor like blood.
“We have a new soul to judge,” the attendant said with a heavy touch of condescension. “I will put the viewing on again when we are done.”
Another soul!” a thin, shrill voice cried out from a goddess. “Didn’t we already judge one today?”
“Souls dying all the time, I’m afraid,” the attendant answered with a bow.
“Oh, it’s such a bother being a god,” a drowsy looking figure complained. “Why must we do such tedious things.”
“It is our duty,” the curly-headed one exclaimed. “We must judge. We must see if this human soul is worthy.”
“Is he worthy?” they all cried out. Some raised goblets and smashed them together, sending wine spilling out over them.
The curly-headed god gestured for Trevor to come forward. Disgust gave way to a trembling anxiety in Trevor’s legs as he came closer. He had no idea how he was to be judged by such strange creatures. What was their criteria? Professor Lamison had always told him he would be judged by his actions, whether or not they were virtuous and good. But looking at the drowsy, slovenly beings in front of him, Trevor could not even begin to guess what they would consider good.
“So, human,” the curly-headed god began, Trevor immediately took him to be the leader. “What have you learned in the course of your life?”
Trevor thought for a moment, feeling comforted by this question. “I have learned a great deal,” he answered. “In fact, I dedicated my life to learning. And to teaching others. Mainly history was my focus of study with a concentration….”
“Nooooo! Booo!” the council of gods cried out. Some even threw food at Trevor.
“That’s boring,” the drowsy one said. “We don’t care about your stupid studies.”
Trevor shook his head, genuinely confused. He looked at one of the attendants for an answer who only responded with a long suffering shrug of his suspendered shoulders.
“No, that’s not what we mean,” the leader replied. “We want to know what you’ve learned to use in the window.” He gestured a dirty and beefy hand towards the large glass window that was covered by the curtain.
Trevor shook his head again. “I’m afraid I don’t understand,” he said. “I know nothing about the window.”
“What has happened to religion these days,” a voice from the gods complained. “Are you men not taught your duty towards the gods anymore?”
“Well we try….” Trevor began.
“What do you spend your time doing down there?” another god interrupted.
Trevor laughed in spite of himself. “We try to survive if you want to know the truth,” he said, indignation rising in him. After all that he had suffered and gone through, after the all the effort he had put forth in building something good, only to see it all fall apart. And then, to hear this… this superior dismissal of his efforts made him seethe.
“You know, it’s all quite a mess down there,” Trevor continued. “We just try to eke out some sort of decent existence, but you have let violent men run rampant all over the place. To be honest you’ve not made it easy at all.”
The gods looked back at him, confused. Trevor thought he might be getting through to them, so continued.
“My daughter was killed, you know,” he told them. “Raiders came into town and after… well after they killed her. And there was nothing I could do to avenge her. My oldest son killed his younger brother over a woman, and that broke my heart. My wife couldn’t take it and she just gave up until she died. Violence and violent men rule the world and all you, the gods can seem to do is lounge up here and eat and drink and carry on about some window of yours. What kind of gods are you? What kind of life have you’ve made of us down there? What do you expect us to learn in a world like that?
“I can tell you what we’ve learned. We’ve learned that life is a misery, and there is no consolation for it at all. Only this hope that you have thoroughly dashed here today. It’s pointless, that’s what I’ve learned. You, all of you, have made it pointless.”
Confused silence continued to grace the faces of the gods. Heads shook and looked to each other for explanation. Finally, the leader spoke up.
“Is that supposed to be your audition?” he said. “Because if so, that was terrible. How can you entertain us with all that… moping of yours? No, I don’t think you’ve learned anything at all.”
“Perhaps if you explain then he would be able to answer better,” one of the attendants stepped forward and said. He gestured to the curtained window.
“Very well then,” the leader said. “Open the window.”
Another attendant pulled aside the thick curtain to reveal the great window that took up the entire wall. An applause went up from the gods as it was opened. All eyes turned to the drama that was being played out there.
A man was kneeling in a wooded clearing. He looked up at a woman sitting on a rock. Her dress was partly torn and she held it close to her with trembling hands.
“But my dear,” he said. “Don’t you know I love you.”
“But my husband.” she plead. “If he ever finds out.”
“I must tell you then,” the man answered. “That man, your husband. He is also my father.”
A gasp went up from the gods. Excited chatter followed the gasp about this new revelation.
“Then I should tell you,” the woman replied. “That your father, is really my third cousin.”
Another gasp came up from the gods.
“Then I should tell you,” the man countered. “That your third cousin is really my best friend’s ex-lover.”
An even louder gasp from the gods. One of the female gods even screamed out in surprise.
“Then I should tell you,” the woman said. “Your best friends ex-lover. He isn’t a he at all. He was born a she. And she is my mother.”
“I knew it!” one of the gods cried out as the others expressed their shock and dismay at the unexpected turn of events.
“You see what they are doing here,” the leader pointed out to Trevor. “They’re using the skills they learned in life to entertain us, to bring pleasure to the gods. Marvelous, you see.”
Trevor didn’t see. In fact, he was more confused than ever. What skill could he possibly be witnessing in the window before him? A penchant for unbelievable melodrama? Since when was being irretrievably stupid a skill?
The gods must have seen the confusion on Trevor’s face. The leader gestured to another attendant who responded by moving a giant wooden wheel that stood out of the wall.
“There are many ways you can entertain us,” he explained. “We have all sorts of groups that put together fun displays for us. Each are set in this window, and when we turn the wheel we get a new performance, or a new appearance. We call them apps for short. Ah, look here is a game for us to watch.”
Inside the window, Trevor could see the scene rotating, moving away, like a stage upon a huge wheel, slowly replaced by another. This one showed a broad field filled with men. Each man held a staff in his hand and was running after a small, leather ball. They would smack the ball one direction, then another. The group would chase after the ball and push and shove so they could get their chance to smack the ball.
“Oh, I hate the sports app,” one of the women complained. “We just watched a game last night.”
The curly headed god gave the signal and the wheel was turned again. Again, the scene inside the window moved. This time, a man at a forge stood pounding a fired piece of metal. Sweat dripped from his face and sparks flew off the forge at each blow of the hammer.
“We want to keep the pressure on at this stage of the forging,” the blacksmith explained. “It’s crucial that we take advantage of the metal at just the right state.”
“This is a bit boring,” one of the gods said. “I don’t care much for the DIY app.”
“We have all sorts of apps for all sorts of talents,” the leader explained. “People get together into their interests and become part of an app. There’s all sorts of apps to join if you have the talent. They have to accept you, of course, but we always encourage new blood. There’s really something for almost everyone. There’s teaching apps, sports apps, all sorts of drama apps, apps for astrology, predictions, music apps are real big, we like musicians here. Even have an erotic app, if you’re any good at that. By the looks of it that doesn’t seem your thing really.”
The wheel was turned again to present another app. This scene featured the street of a small town. Snow fell in the background, coating the cobbled streets and the red tiles of the buildings. A man in a suit stepped up to the glass and addressed the gods.
“Today on the Milestone App we have a special treat for you,” he promised. “An ambitious, young and beautiful business executive goes to a small town to close down the creamed corn factory. Little does she know she’s about to fall in love with the town’s bookstore owner. He also happens to be a hunky, single dad. Sparks fly when big town girl meets small town love interest. It’s happening now, on the Milestone App.”
“Let’s keep it here,” one of the female gods insisted. “It sounds so good.”
“They’re all the same,” another complained.
“But we end up watching them anyway,” the leader pointed out. “It’s strange, really. We all know exactly how it’s going to turn out but we can’t seem to help ourselves.”
They all agreed heartily and the leader turned back to Trevor. He pointed to the drama playing out behind the window then pointed back to him.
“So, history teacher,” he said. “Is there a place for you? What have you learned or what skill have you acquired that can bring us entertainment?”
Trevor thought for a moment. He certainly couldn’t see himself prancing around for any kind of drama. He didn’t play music. And he had no talent for sports.
“I’m a teacher by trade,” he said. “Maybe a history app would be…”
Loud boos came from the council of the gods. The curly headed leader waved the suggestion away immediately.
“We already have a history app,” he said. “And it’s boring. We never watch it. What else?”
“What are my options again?” Trevor asked.
The leader sighed. “You have to have an idea for a new app, be able to join an existing app, which means you have learned a talent for it, or you go to the pit. It’s really that simple. Have you been listening at all? Really, you humans have neglected your duty to the gods.”
Trevor was scared to ask about the pit. Whatever that was it sounded intensely more horrible than being forced to act out dramas behind a window. Then again, he could hardly stomach the humiliation of being a trained monkey for these creatures who called themselves gods.
A sense of righteous indignation rose up in Trevor. He looked back on his life, through all that he had suffered. Being subject to vicious rulers who only exploited the people. Suffering violence and deprivation. Losing so many people close to him. Struggling to eke out some sort of peaceful existence. Living with greedy, rapacious and self-interested people. Only Professor Lamison was the only decent person he could remember throughout his entire life. All of this, enduring the weighty suffering of life, and where did it lead? To an afterlife where he was forced to entertain a bunch of overgrown children. It was enough to make him feel like bursting.
“Well? What do you have to say?” the leader impatiently asked.
“Oh, off to the pit with him,” one of the ladies retorted, losing patience with it all.
If only they knew what it was like to suffer through this, Trevor thought. And just like that, a stroke of inspiration came to him. Later, he would attribute it to divine intervention, but that was much later. In that moment, it only meant an opportunity for survival.
“I have learned something,” he quickly said, realizing it was a long shot as he spoke. “I have learned what may be the ultimate in entertainment.”
The gods fell silent. As one they leaned forward, intent on his next words. Here goes nothing, Trevor told himself.
“For years you have sat up here and watched entertainment,” Trevor began. “But if you want the real stuff, you have to experience the entertainment for yourself. I call it…. the immersive app.”
A collective ooh went up from the gods. The curly head furrowed his brows. He alone looked skeptical.
“This doesn’t sound like entertainment at all,” he said.
“Oh, but it is,” Trevor promised. “It is the best of all. Instead of watching the games, you become a part of the games. Instead of watching the drama, you are in the drama. You are behind the eyes of those who experience it closest. So close, you can reach out and touch it.”
“How would you do this?” curly head asked.
“You will enter into the lives of one of the beings on earth. You will be born yourself, and experience all the drama of life first hand.”
“Become human?” the thin one asked, horror in his voice. “Is that what you are suggesting.”
Trevor scrambled to think of something. How could he convince them it was anything but sending them down to be born in the hell they had made of earth.
“We could curate the life for you, of course,” one the attendants spoke up.
Trevor looked over at the strangely dressed figure who had ushered him in. He didn’t know what to make of his cooperation, but had no choice but to go with it.
“Yes, we curate your life,” Trevor said. “We choose the life you go into. As a historian I am perfectly qualified for this, having studied human life and knowing which are the best. From up here we will choose for you the most pleasurable, entertaining life. And of course, we will have you in scenarios that will be dashing fun for everyone. It will all be great fun. And when it is all over, you come back and get to tell everyone about your experience.”
There seemed to be a sharp tension in the room. Trevor scanned the faces of the gods and saw the slightest bit of hesitancy warring with their eagerness to try out this new entertainment. He needed something, anything, to push them over the edge.
“And there will be a prize for the god who has the best story to tell when he gets back.”
A hurrah rose up from the gods as they cheered this new possibility. Wine was toasted and splashed in the air. Boasts and bets were made, and the gods demanded they start immediately.
The next hour was a whirlwind as Trevor talked with each of the gods and decided with them the best possible life to place them in. More attendants came hurrying in to take them to their selected life. And Trevor couldn’t help but notice that they seemed even more eager than he was to have the gods sent to their lives on earth. Before he had time to take a breath, the council room was quiet. Only Trevor and the attendant who had been there with him from the start remained behind.
A sigh came out of Trevor’s mouth, reveling in the blissful silence. An attendant closed the curtain on the window, though the scene had long grown quiet, The actors crowded the window, looking in at the strange drama playing out on the opposite side.
Trevor sat down on a wine stained couch abandoned just minutes ago by the gods. Sitting back, he realized it was the first moment of peace he could remember in a long time, in life or death. The attendant who had helped him out came and stood across from him.
“They’re not gods,” he said.
Trevor looked up and smiled. “You don’t say.”
“I just wanted you to know,” he clarified. “They call themselves gods, but they aren’t. And you’re right. They have made a mess of things. When Father gets back he’s going to be furious.”
Trevor’s curiosity was piqued. For a moment he held out a hope that maybe the universe may not be so terrible a place.
“What are they?” he asked. “If not gods?”
The attendant sat down beside him and folded his hands. “Father calls them Watchers,” he said. “Which is what they were supposed to do. Watch over things. But they got too close. They enjoyed the human drama too much. Some even enjoyed human women too much. Which is where some of the nastiest creatures on earth came from. It went to their heads, I guess.”
What the attendant was telling him made a lot more sense than believing those slovenly, stupid creatures were actually gods.
“Where is the Father?” Trevor asked. “Why did he leave everything to them?”
“The Father works in mysterious ways,” the attendant shrugged. “He has his reasons. He made earth to be looked after by Watchers. This may change things.”
They say for a moment looking at the window. The heavy curtain was pulled across it, but it still seemed to dominate the room.
“We’re grateful for what you’ve done,” the attendant said. “You’ve bought us a little peace. And I guess since they left you in charge here we will be serving you for a time. Maybe you’re human but certainly seem like a major upgrade. At least until Father gets back.”
“What do we do?” Trevor asked. “How much time do we have?”
“The Watchers are being born right now, which gives us a at least twelve years before they wake up to their powers,” the attendant calculated. “Which, even though they are human will still be considerable. I imagine the first thing they will do is get themselves back up here once they realize how terrible life is down on earth. Of course, they’ll be mighty angry when they get back. Unless Father gets here first.”
“So what will happen to me when they do?” Trevor asked, afraid he knew the answer.
The attendant held up his hands in helplessness. “I’m afraid it will be the pit for you.”
Trevor nodded in grim acceptance. It was worth a shot, he thought. Then, another idea came to him.
“What happens if they die on earth?”
“Well, if they die then their souls go right to the Father,” the attendant said. “Wherever he is, doesn’t matter. The Watchers will go right to him. And boy, wouldn’t I love to be there when that happens.”
“I know what you’re thinking,” the attendant cautioned. “But despite what we said we can’t really choose their life for them. That was all bluff. It was an act. Honestly, we don’t know where they’re born. Could take us years to figure it out, and we would have to do so before they came into their power.”
Trevor thought for a moment, wondering how he could possibly get out of this situation. Another idea struck him, this one as divine in origin as the first.
“What if we killed everyone?” Trevor suggested.
The attendant turned to him, shock and horror on his face. “Are you mad, kill everyone?”
Trevor shrugged. “Not like there’s any good people down there anyway.”
The attendant opened his mouth to protest. He thought for a moment, then nodded in agreement.
“You have a point,” he said. “But how would we do it?”
An image came up in Trevor’s mind, a memory. He thought back to the time when the Euphrates overflowed, destroying everything in its path.
“Flood,” he said. “We flood the earth. Is that possible?”
The attendant nodded. “We have a storehouse of water up here we have never released. Something we call rain. But wait, would we kill everyone. We have to preserve something.”
“We save just a few. Two of each kind. Get someone to build a boat and we help him ride out the storm.”
“Who would we pick?” the attendant asked. Trevor could feel the creature thinking already about how to carry out the plan.
Trevor thought back on his life, on all the cruel and vicious people he had lived with. Even his wife had been mean and violent. The only one he remembered ever showing him any compassion and kindness was Professor Lamison. If anyone deserved to live and start the world over again it was him.
“Professor Lamison” Trevor said, decided. “Was save Professor Lamison and his family. They can build a boat and gather two of every kind of animal. We flood the world and start over again.”
The attendant stood up. “Professor Lamison,” he said. “We will start looking for him immediately.”
“No bother, I can find him for you,” Trevor promised, an image of the professor bending over the soil with a spade in hand came to his mind. “Professor Noah Lamison loves his plants. We will find him in his garden.”