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Short Fiction

Calamity

Avi strode through the burning city, surveying his work. Amidst the screams, the smoke, the roar of fire, and the thunder of collapsing buildings, pity and boredom entwined in the god’s heart. All this continent was swathed with flames and destruction. Another world, another calamity, another heartbeat of eternity passed.

The reptilian people of this planet hadn’t done anything to deserve this. Father had simply sent Avi to this planet to test its sentient life. And where Avi went, calamity followed. It was his nature, his duty to carry out Father’s will and show these life forms the worst the universe had to offer.

Avi turned his gaze to the emerald sea. It sat placid and flat, calmly reflecting the city’s carnage like a mere curiosity. That’s all it was to the sea, Avi supposed. It had existed long before his visit and would endure long past it.

Much like the land of this continent and the other across the sea. Such a small planet, he thought. Why had Father wanted to test it with such little land, so few people? But he had a duty, regretful as it was.

The sea shuddered as Avi considered it, as though the body of water understood it could no longer be an onlooker. Avi cast himself from the burning city into the ocean’s depths, marveling at the diversity of life as he traveled. Fish with many eyes and more teeth, barbed plants that snared passing creatures for a meal, and most fascinating were the strange creatures that looked like pulsating lights drifting through the water. Avi wondered how that one functioned, at what it did for the green world beneath the waves.

Avi could boil the sea and all of the life within, but Father had only decreed that the sentient life be tested, so Avi intended to harm these beings as little as possible. Avi wanted to preserve as much of this sea life as he could – with luck, and a few hundred thousand rotations, one of these creatures could crawl upon the land itself.

But the sea still had a role to play. Avi cracked the planet’s crust beneath the water, triggering a tsunami and directing it towards the distant continent. He regretted using the sea this way but wanted to wash his hands of this planet. Once, Avi had reveled in his purpose and duty, razing planets and upending civilizations with the glee of an infant who had found something sweet. But now the injustice of his actions seemed to grow greater and greater, as great as the wave he had sent across the world.

This planet’s people were technologically inept, lacking any means of communication beyond written messages. It was kind, in a way. People on the other side of the world wouldn’t know the horrors befalling their brothers and sisters. They would be living their normal lives until they were shattered by a wave greater than anything this world had ever seen. Avi estimated that of those living on the coast, three percent would survive.

Bitterness swelled in Avi’s heart. He reached out ahead of the tsunami and split atoms, unleashing a series of explosions that tore across the sea with a god’s fury. The counterforce shattered the tsunami before it would reach the continent. The locals would experience nothing but strangely unseasonal thunder. Avi turned his gaze back to the landform he’d left, quelling the fires with a thought.

Deep inside Avi’s being, something angry stirred. The tiny piece of Father that made Avi a god quivered with rage that he would disobey. Avi felt the anger through every fiber of his being, making the sea itself vibrate. Quickly, Avi struck at the ground. The world rocked, the entire surface experiencing quakes and tears simultaneously. Calamity enough, he decreed, though a tiny part of him feared Father wouldn’t accept such fast and sloppy work.

Begrudging acceptance was his response, then Father’s presence faded from his mind. Avi waited in the sea, surrounded by glowing creatures. Sometimes Father directed Avi towards another planet immediately. Other times he let the stars spin and civilizations grow old before calling on his child. Avi waited as the devastated world swung around its star twice and its cities were rebuilt. He’d have helped if he could, but such an act would grind against his nature and cause immense pain and weakness.

Another few rotations passed and Avi decided that Father was sleeping and satisfied.

Avi left the planet, stepping into the black sea between the stars. He drifted through the eternal night, enjoying Father’s creation in all its glory. He could perceive as much or as little of the universe as he felt necessary to bask in the glory of stars, and planets, and dust, and light, and everything that ever was or ever could be. After an irrelevant amount of time, Avi moved to a new solar system to watch what would occur.

Avi didn’t create every calamity with his own hands. His presence in the universe was enough to tip the delicate balance of being and cause destruction that might not have occurred otherwise. But he was aware of ongoing destruction in the universe and chose to watch the star of this system die.

He arrived at the perfect moment to watch it erupt in all its glory, one that few things saw. Avi noted that sentient life hadn’t adapted to the three orbiting planets lost in the explosion. Even on the others that weren’t destroyed instantly, life hadn’t advanced past a vegetative state. Avi alone witnessed this beauty. Except, any sentient life wouldn’t have seen beauty. They would have simply feared and panicked for a few brief moments before their planet was swallowed in the supernova.

The darkness became oppressive and cold. The loss of the star no longer felt as beautiful as the instant he’d seen it. Was this growing old? It happened to all life, but surely not to gods. He stared at the two planets that had lost their stars, drifting alone in the void. The planet life that had developed would wither away to nothing without much time. Some life would remain, primarily microbial life that cared little about light and could feast on the dying planets. Avi had always been surprised at how well life clung to itself. Few planets he visited were entirely purged of it unless Avi split the core and the planet with it. He’d done so often in what must have been his youth, reducing thousands of planets to rubble in the void with none to witness their passing.

None but Avi, who remembered every calamity, every time he had upended the natural order at Father’s whim or his own. Avi pondered his past as the planets around him grew colder and were drawn into the emptiness left by the star.

Then a thought erupted into Avi’s mind with the force of the supernova. His duty was to bring calamity, to upend natural cycles – but what constituted a natural cycle?

Avi left the cold planets, too barren and doomed for his plans. He raced through the dark sea, hunting for the right system, the right planet. This one had three suns too many, that one had a single planet whose irregular orbit would doom it with another hundred or so rotations.

With time, Avi found the one. A rather small planet with an elliptical orbit around two stars. The planet was coated in purple land with a moderate surface amount of strangely white, tepid water. Avi landed on the planet softly, the soil stirring at his passage.

Avi began with an atmosphere, drawing forces and gases together and creating magnetic poles that would all work to help protect his planet from the twin suns. Then he set about purging the soil and sea and air of universal toxins that all life hated.

Father stirred and suspicion peered out of Avi’s center. He commanded Father to be silent and leave Avi to his machinations. Father had not given him a command and thus Avi was free to pursue his desires. Father growled, making it clear that he thought this went against Avi’s nature. Beyond his domain.

Avi finished purging the soil and created a single cell of life.

The planet split beneath his feet at Father’s whim. Avi fought against him, struggling at first to bring the planet back together, then to stop it from shattering. A terrible scream emanated from within as he fought both Father and his own nature to hold the planet together. Destroying the planet upended its natural order as much as creating life would, and holding it together threatened to shred Avi’s very being, though he didn’t understand what that would entail.

The stars around the planet surged with energy. Avi sensed Father’s intent to create supernovas claiming the planet and sought to delay them, stretching himself further and trying to remind them that they had all of eternity to burn for.

Father’s pity welled up, compelling Avi to just let go of the planet. He had given Avi a glorious purpose and this was not it. Avi resisted, knowing to the core of his being that the creation of life was a calamity. This planet’s natural cycle was death and nothing – how better could he subvert that than to give it life?

They weren’t alone anymore. Avi sensed his brethren flocking to this system, all the gods of creation marveling at the battle between Father and son. The first rebellion since the first breath of eternity. Avi let them feel his will, his passion and desire, and his certainty.

Father sighed.

The first star erupted. Then froze mid supernova. The twins Ori and Iro held the star together, one wishing for new life to protect and the other desiring new lives to reap. Slowly, the will of the pantheon bent towards Avi’s favor and the other gods joined in his effort to hold the planet together, to stop the stars from dying. Some joined in pure support of his purpose, others wanted to just see what would happen.

Avi felt a burst of energy deep inside. The support of his brethren left no doubt that this was Avi’s nature. This was his role to play. Avi directed this new power into the planet, not just holding it together but beginning to mend it.

Father pulsed with surprised rage and Avi suddenly saw the end of eternity. The heat death of the universe would bring oblivion to everything except Father. For the first time, Avi had to consider that he might end.

Oblivion threatened him. But Avi stood tall and proud, gazing ahead. He would bring life to this planet or calamity to the universe. He would work for his purpose and resolved to act with pride in doing so. Avi stood in open defiance to Father, awaiting judgment with his head held high.

A deep sigh shuddered through existence, felt by everything which was. Then a slow pride burned from Father. He undid his damage, restoring the planet and stars to what they had been. The pantheon flitted away, buzzing with new energy and wonder at this turning point of eternity.

Avi was alone on his purple planet. The god of calamity smiled, then life erupted into being.

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