Fickle Fate

Or “I was feeling lazy and never got past the working title, but it’s been a bad day so have some excuses for my laziness.”

This started off as a joke in a conversation with my friend Lindsey, who is an entirely remarkable writer, and it escalated into this short story. Enjoy. Warpt Factor 6 should be happening sooner than later at this point, but we’ll see where the rest of the week takes me.

Calamity and Slumber had drawn the proverbial short straws. Every century or so, as belief builds up, new Gods and Goddesses have to be welcomed to the Great and Universal Pantheon, and some poor fools always get stuck with showing the newcomers around.

Slumber had just finished making sure much of Europe’s population was nestled comfortably in bed, passing the remainder of her work off to the twins Dream and Nightmare. She was very much looking forward to taking a nap of her own when the dreaded letter arrived, in its standard lavender envelope.

“I bet this won’t be so bad,” Calamity said, smirking. His breath stunk of whiskey, and his jacket smoldered where a few stray cigarette butts had set up camp. Slumber frowned, shaking her head. Her long, sunset-colored hair waved peacefully, and she could see Calamity’s eyelids growing heavy.

“Stop that,” Slumber said. “And this is never fun. I take it you’ve never had to deal with a newbie before?” Calamity cocked his head, and Slumber could see disasters taking place just beneath the blues of his eyes. Tidal waves crashed down on scenic seaside villages in the God’s left eye, while a massive volcano blotted out the sun in his right. Slumber shuddered, averting her gaze; she’d not spoken to Calamity often, especially not since all of the nasty business with Mount Vesuvius, and so she could never get over just how creepy his eyes were.

“Once, maybe twice,” Calamity said, tapping a finger against his chin.

“Sober?” Slumber said, eyeing Calamity suspiciously.

“Hah! Never,” Calamity said. He retrieved a metal flask from his coat pocket. Jeweled letters on its side declared that he was a God who lived by no rules. “Want a swig? It’s the good stuff. Real Irish whisky I stole from a real Irish Leprechaun, who happened to be exceedingly drunk.” Slumber raised a hand to protest, scowling, but was interrupted by a bright and radiant light.

“Oh, good,” Slumber said under her breath. “Salutations, Metatron. How are you on this fine and glorious day?”

“The worlds move to their next marks in this great cosmic play,” Metatron said. “People’s lives begin and end in an instant. Starlings frolic in the sunlight, unaware of the birds of prey circling high above.” Calamity cocked his head, an eyebrow raised.

“Well, then? You’re doing well?” Slumber said, trying to hide her frustration.

“Your new arrival should be here shortly,” Metatron said. “See to it that he receives a proper welcome.” The light began to fade gradually.

“Wait, though,” Slumber said. “Who is the newcomer? What should we expect?” The light pulsed gently, its warmth fluctuating as Metatron considered this.

“Expectations will be met presently,” Metatron said. The light disappeared, signaling Metatron had left to tend to other matters.

“Does that mean something?” Calamity said, taking a long, hard look at his flask as if it would provide the answers he sought.

“Hell if I know,” Slumber said, frowning. “I’m just thankful he stopped talking in riddles. Gods damn it, the paperwork I had to deal with because of that. Put all of Egypt into a three-week long hibernation.”

“Huh. I don’t remember that,” Calamity said.

“Nobody does,” Slumber said. “The clean-up crew was very thorough.” A small cloud appeared not far in the distance, its swirls and puffs gradually growing into limbs.

“Here we go,” Calamity said, waggling his eyebrows. He lit another cigarette, and Slumber swore she could hear the sound of an entire village crying out. A faint outline of wires became visible beneath faint green skin. The God stood up, about as tall as Calamity, and blinked

“Salutations,” the god said. His voice had a heavily synthetized sound to it; Slumber winced against the noise.

“How’s it hanging?” Calamity said, walking up to the new God, a hand outstretched. The newcomer reached out to shake Calamity’s hand.

“You may not want to do that,” Slumber said. She offered a polite bow. “I am Slumber, Goddess of Sleep. This is Calamity. And you are?”

“Synthz, the God of Autotuning,” the new god said, his tone fluctuating wildly. Slumber pressed her fingers against her temples and sighed.

“What, is that some kind of drug?” Calamity said, scratching his head. Slumber gestured to a point in the clouds ahead, and a set of long, ornate stairs lowered to the clouds they stood on.

“Here we are,” Slumber said. “The path to the Great Hall. It’s where most of the Gods and Goddesses spend their downtime, and where I was planning to go for some rest.” Before the trio could approach the stairs, a beautiful young woman descended them, her flowing robes shimmering with each step.

“Goodness, by the heavens,” Synthz said, his mouth hanging open at the sight of the beautiful goddess. “Who is that?”

“Are you certain you’re the God of Autotuning?” Slumber said.

“He’s surprisingly sophisticated,” Calamity said, smirking.

“Shut up,” Slumber said. “She’s bad news. Some call her Lady Luck, and others call her Chance, but her name’s Fate.”

“Used to be damn nice, too,” Calamity said. “Used to smile down on almost everyone, all the time.” Synthz continued to stare. Fate offered a polite wave as she passed.

“She seemed pretty nice just now,” Synthz said, still staring as Fate continued along her way.

“You’ll want to evict whatever poorly-conceived ideas are brewing up there,” Slumber said, tapping Synthz on the forehead. She waved her hands in the air, and a small, deeply violet cloud appeared. Tiny stars twinkled around its outside, and a small stage appeared in its center. Calamity applauded.

“I love this bit,” Calamity said. “Never got the hang of it, myself. Always end up burning the stage down.” Slumber shook her head. The curtains in front of the stage parted, and Fate stood in a spotlight amidst the darkness.

“When the mortal world was first born, so was Fate,” Slumber said. The Earth appeared beneath Fate, the stage fading away as it did. Hundreds of stick-figure people appeared on the Earth, roaming about.

“Fate saw humanity as something of a wonder,” Slumber said, still using her best narrative tones. “The other primordial Gods and Goddesses did not feel such warmth for mortal-kind.” Other deities appeared around Fate, looming over her. She raised her hands in protest, and eventually the others backed away. Fate continued to smile upon the world. Ages passed along; many mortals shuffled off their short coils, but even more were born. The God of Death sulked quietly to the back of where the stage had been, muttering something about modern medicine being a blight on his job.

“As mortals lived longer and longer, Fate noticed many more people turning their prayers her way,” Slumber said. “She soon discovered fulfilling some mortals’ prayers would leave other mortals wanting.” Fate looked from one group of mortals to another, and wept.

“With each passing century, Fate grew more tired,” Slumber said. “The other Gods and Goddesses, who once taunted her, kept their distance. There was a certain chill about Fate’s personality.”

“She finally threw her hands up and said ‘To Hell with them,’ somewhen around the time organized gambling showed up,” Calamity said. “I still have nightmares about those weeks.” Slumber glared at Calamity, but her expression softened as she reflected

“Someone attempted to steal my identity and take out three mortgages,” Slumber said, tapping her fingers against the tip of her nose. “All because I took the last yogurt. Look. The point is, Fate may smile on the world still.”

“She frowns on it even more,” Calamity said, winking. “See? Cleaned up that bit so you wouldn’t scowl at me. You hate scowling.” The cloud-show dissipated, and only then did the two deities realize Synthz had wandered off after Fate. Slumber groaned, rolling her eyes.

“Fifty gold says she drops one of those old, room-sized computers on him,” Calamity said. Slumber narrowed her eyes at Calamity.

“One hundred gold says she buries him in old 8-track players,” Slumber said. The two watched the new God chase after Fate, smiling at thoughts of just how fickle the timeworn Goddess could be.

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