Author’s Note: You may notice certain similarities between this story and “A Seaside British Pub” by Caitlin Spice. They’re intended and with permission. A while back Caitlin wrote a story in my voice, and I agreed to write one in hers. Mine took me a bit longer… because I’m lazy. Caitlin has a Collection coming out soon of many stories set in the Seaside British Pub universe.

 

I have been called by many names.

 

Long ago, I was called Flayer Over Sand Under Stars.

 

Centuries later, I became Enlil Who Brings the Storms. An empire rose, and I was Marduk Calf of the Sun. Ages turned and I was Dumuzid, the Dying God.

 

Now, I am called Ramanu min Suria.

 

I am a year six student at the Scarborough Bilingual Free School in England.

 

Mr. Chulain requested that I write this diary about my experiences in England. It is an exercise meant to teach me English and help me adapt to a new culture. As if such an exercise is needed. As if my tongue has not tasted a thousand times a thousand languages. Yet the task gives me something to do while the other students bow their heads and struggle to make words. Mr. Chulain and I both know that I do not require help.

 

I am no mere child.

 

I detest this class, these children with no respect or discipline, and this country. I loathe how I have been stuffed into this woolen uniform that smothers my whole body. I simmer in rage that I am treated like a mortal simpleton. And these absurd, suffocating shoes are no substitute for even the most poorly made sandals.

 

Mr. Chulain thinks himself wise, and so ancient, among these children.

 

He is not.

 

I’ve met countless wiser and more ancient than him. Many have felt themselves superior to me. I’ve left them all trampled and broken beneath my sandals. Sooner or later, Mr. Chulain. will be made to taste the bronze of my blade and feel the leather of my soles.

 

It is only tragedy that has brought me here.

 

When I was young, it was usually famine or drought that sent my people scurrying from village to village. My people were always hungry and thirsty in those days. Thinking back on how simple that used to be, I’m almost lonesome for their empty bellies and dry throats. The land and language changed little when we went from one village to the next. The people that welcomed us to their homes were always our people.

 

The world is no longer simple.

 

Now, my people run from bombs and armies and madmen. No village is safe from such threats. No place in our land offers food or water. So we fled farther, and the people we fled to were not our own.

 

The fathers carried me on their backs. The mothers hid me in baskets. The children, sisters and brothers, smuggled me in jeeps. For twenty-five hundred miles, I passed from hand to hand as sacred cargo. I was their history and their pride and their dreams. I could not be left behind. Always, they kept me hidden and safe, knowing I was too weak to survive on my own so far from our sands and stars.

 

Three months ago, my people paddled a raft to the white cliffs of Dover and I set my sandled foot on this shore. I found myself in a strange land, with a strange plodding language, a pale plodding people, and none of the comforts of home. Worse, I became stuck in a school with a teacher who thinks himself guilesome and worldly, chained by custom to a one-piece desk and a crude writing implement called a “pencil” that lacks all the elegance of ink.

 

I hate it all.

 

I hate the boiled food of these uncultured British. I hate the dull gray skies of Scarborough. I hate the water in the air I breathe on this entire island. I hate the false sad eyes of the people who pretend they want to help my people. I hate being cultivated slowly, day by day, so that I can feel the life slipping out of me by inches until I am as pale, dead, and dull as the people of this land.

 

Above all things in this land, I hate Bormana Covenant.

 

Always, she barks and whines at what she styles as my “invasion” of her land. She claims I have stolen from her people, and that I am sucking the life from her tiny wet island. Even when Mr. Chulain commands her to stop, she persists in these delusions.

 

What a chit! What a dullard! What a toss-pot!

 

She is lucky I did not invade. She is lucky I did not come in my power, with hot bronze to spill the blood of her entire line. I would have burned her alive to give sign of my supremacy. I would certainly not have allowed myself to be bound to this tiny school, and these hurtful shoes, where I must listen to Mr. Chulain drone on and one about the history of this land.

 

My history and my people are greater.

 

Yet, if my people endure ten-thousand years into the future, I could not imagine a more loathsome creature than Bormana Covenant.

 

With all the powers that remain in me, I curse her and her line!

 

*****

 

Today, I have decided that I must sacrifice one of the students in my class in the name of my power. It is too dangerous to wait any longer. My power dwindles with the dawning of each gray day.

 

Yesterday, one of the peace-keepers of these people was able to perceive me against my will. With my mind far away, flying over the sands of my home and beholding the loveliness of the stars, the peace-keeper grabbed hold of my arm and forced me into his horseless carriage. The keeper handled me roughly, but returned me to my accommodations. He said I should be grateful that he caught me and that I was not found by someone else who would have been less kind.

 

I was powerless.

 

I was as powerless as the child I appear to be.

 

I have need to remember what it was like to be strong. It is so easy to forget myself here. This far from the sands and stars of home, I do not know if I can endure without a virgin’s blood to slake my thirst. My soul is more empty here than my belly ever was when my people ran from famine. At least then I had their prayers for sustenance.

 

Though I have considered it endlessly, I dare not move on Bormana to make her my sacrifice.

 

For all Mr. Chulain’s professed neutrality, he may take offense if I move against one of his people. A power still hangs on him like the hero’s mantle. Not a power like that which hung upon me in old days, but a power like I held before the Conqueror came and changed the shape of my name. A power such as I held when my people still half-believed. I dare not put myself against such power in my current state.

 

There is a girl called Gemma that I believe will suffice. Red of hair, what they call a ginger, and every bit of her awkward posture speaks of virginity. She looks at me with curiosity, something that in time will become desire. A virgin touched by fire who is curious. It is not worship, but it will have to be enough. I can already feel the jolt of power that will leave her and become part of me when I plunge my bronze blade into her heart.

 

This morning, Bormana shouted at me as I entered the classroom.

 

“You don’t belong here! Go back to yer own country! My people built this! You hain’t got any right to what’s ours!”

 

A group of mostly boys hovered around her, drawn by her will. It took all my power to force them not to notice me in the crowd of my people. Still, there were fists thrown. Rocks too. The adults of Bormana’s people broke it up and tried to pretend it was less than it had been, but a young child of my people was bleeding in the street by the end. They took him to the hospital, out of sight, and none of my people were appropriately outraged at the affront.

 

Once, a drop of my people’s blood would have been a call to war.

 

This land has diminished them as much as it has diminished me.

 

“I’ll wake ’em up, yet,” Bormana promised, “This was nothing. You wait and see! I know my people. They’ll drive you and yours into the sea a’fore long.”

 

Bormana smirked at me all through class.

 

As near as I can tell, Bormana and her true family live out somewhere as far away from anywhere as a place could be while still a part of this land, and her accent is strange even for the country of this pale people. She sounds too much like she wants to belong. Too much, like she wants to still be a part of their present and not their past.

 

One day, when I have sacrificed several virgins and am strong, I will find the place where Bormana’s true family lives and I will end them all on the edge of my bronze knife.

 

My people are becoming weak, but their strength will grow as my power grows.

 

This I vow upon my name, Ramanu min Suria.

 

*****

 

Mr. Chulain has taken away my knife!

 

He has left me a pencil and taken away my knife, and in return did not even give me the dignity of death!

 

As if I had no right to my violence! As if my terrors were the mere fantasy of a child and it could do him no harm! As if my power were a joke to him! He reached into my bag and he took away my knife before Gemma could even see a glint of its ancient power.

 

Then, in the same motion, he took away my pens as if they were the same as the knife and put them in his desk. He promised to return them at the end of the school year and admonished that I should learn to rely on my pencil for now, as it would be more generous with errors. With all his false wisdom, he said that ink did not allow for mistakes.

 

And he laughed! As if it were a joke! My power, my ancient blade, a joke!

 

It is as if I no longer have eyes, or hands, or a mouth.

 

I am a husk now, withering and waiting to die.

 

I begged him. Begged! Like a dog!

 

I pleaded with him to end my life.

 

“That’s not how it works anymore,” Mr. Chulain sighed.

 

I could sense at least he had the mindfulness to be as weary of the new world as any of us.

 

“If you must take it, then plunge it into my heart!” I begged. “Do not leave me defenseless and weak, like one of them! This is not anything at all like the way it should be! We always killed or were killed, and you know that was right! It was simple and clean! There were beginnings and endings! Don’t make me suffer in this cruel new world!”

 

“That’s not true. It wasn’t like that,” Mr. Chulain muttered, but he rubbed at his eyes and his hand shook.

 

I could tell even he did not want to believe in the new ways. I could tell he was as sick of these “civilizations” and their “laws” as all of us were sick of them. I could see the barest glimmer of murder in his eyes when he looked at me.

 

“Kill ‘im!” Bormana spat from her seat in the back, “He was going to take from our people! He was going to sacrifice one of our stock! You should cut out his heart like he would have done to that girl! Throw him into the sea so that the dream of his people may end! They are broken now and defeated. Kill their dream. It’s right. Do it!”

 

Mr. Chulain waved his hand and the other students of the classroom, both my people and his, promptly lost themselves in their stupid primer books.

 

Somehow, I felt excited.

 

If I saw Mr. Chulain come at me with his own great power… if I saw him take up the mantle of the hero and summon his spear, as it had been in the old days when we decided what was right with sharp edges and quick thrusts… then even as I died I would feel peace. I would feel, at least, that my traditions lived on beyond my death.

 

“What would you do with the girl, Bormana?” Mr. Chulain asked, “If I let you loose, and gave you the same chance he wanted. What would you do?”

 

Bormana leaned forward and her mouth almost watered.

 

“It’s the right time of year. Sun is almost in the right place. Her blood would make a fine Spring. That’s what I gave to ’em, before you stopped me doing my job. I brought the Spring to ’em. Every year! It isn’t wrong to sacrifice one of our own. She’s ours, Cu! That’s the covenant they made with us, blood for meaning! Fire red hair and freckles? What people she come from if not ours? Her blood is our blood to spill! That’s the way it’s always been.”

 

Mr. Chulain pulled my knife back out of his drawer, and inspected its ageless blade. He rubbed his eyes and the struggle in him seemed to ease the slightest bit, as if he was reminding himself of something he had learned long ago.

 

“What happened to the Spring when I stopped you and held you here, Bormana?” Mr. Chulain asked. “Did the seasons stop? Did the women grow sterile? No. They haven’t needed you to bring the Spring since they figured out that the planet tilts. Since before that, even.”

 

“It’s not the same,” Bormana muttered. “Spring hain’t what it used to be without the blood. Doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s just plants getting warm if there hain’t blood.”

 

I nodded, with no conflict in my heart, that I was in complete agreement with Bormana.

 

“She’s right!” I roared. “They don’t care like they used to. They don’t burn with life anymore. It’s too easy for them now. They sit in their little houses, eating meals out of… out of boxes! And they call it living! It was the blood we took that made it mean something. They gave blood to us, we gave meaning to them. That was always the deal. I tell you, Cu Chulain, Hound of Ulster, the fire has gone out of their eyes! Only blood can awaken that fire again! Better we lead them to their deaths than to leave them in this sorry state they call life!”

 

I shook in excitement at my words. Bormana came to stand next to me. She held my hand. It felt nice. It felt good even. It was a hand of alliance.

 

“Listen to ‘im, Cu,” Bormana said gently. “They try to pretend they’re better, but they’re still scared animals. You remember. You were there. The bleeding made them something better.”

 

Mr. Chulain walked to the window and looked out at the city skyline– at the buildings, taller than any of us could have ever dreamed, even when we were gods, at the streets and the cars faster than any beast. We all stared at the endless, sickening wealth that our people had drowned themselves in. Endless wealth, like a flood that threatened to consume the whole world until the fire of living burned out forever.

 

“I’m tired of this,” said Mr. Chulain, “You both need to make your peace with the way things are. I can’t keep either of you here forever. Both of you… do what you will. I, for one, hope you grow up. It’s never going to be like it was. Not ever again. They still need us, though, beyond bleeding. We still have a purpose beyond sacrifice, even if you’ve forgotten that.”

 

Mr. Chulain settled himself and walked back to me and placed my bronze knife in my hands. Warmth returned to my chest. My fingers tingled with energy. I felt power like I had before, in the old days. Power to let blood flow and bring the sun to rise over the desert.

 

“Neither of you will last long if you don’t figure out how to want something better. The people who look ahead, who see the future? They need me. Once I decided to start betting on them, I knew I’d never fade. If you want to fade away, go right ahead.”

 

Then Mr. Chulain left, and Bormana and I turned to look at Gemma. We smiled at one another.

 

I am writing this on the bus as we make our way to a place of power. I wish to remember this for the days ahead when my strength returns so that I do not spend it frivolously.

 

I am so thrilled!

 

Who would have thought Bormana and I would become such close friends?

 

*****

 

“My da was the sun,” said Bormana as we pulled the dull-eyed girl toward the place of our rebirth. Gemma ambled dumbly along behind us. We had tied a rope around Gemma’s neck and we led her like a cow. “Eventually they made it more complicated than that, but that’s who my da was in the first days. My da was the light of the whole world.”

 

Bormana tilted her head back and smiled up at the sun.

 

“My father was the sun too, but my mother was the desert,” I said.

 

“My dad’s named George,” said Gemma in a far away, dream-like voice. “My mum’s name is Mary. She’s away in Liverpool on business.”

 

Neither Bormana nor I made any special comment to say that we were related. Once, there had been as many suns as there had been people. We both knew that.

 

“My da sang the whole of this land into being,” Bormana continued her reverie. “He made the song out of the quiet. Made the light out of the dark. Made being out of unbeing. His breath made the melody of all creation and at first, there was only land and sea. Then an oak tree came. It gave birth to the first gods. To us.”

 

I tugged on the rope around Gemma’s neck to quicken her pace, as we approached the rise on the hill. She stumbled forward, almost tripping. I was so eager to get there. Earth, Sea, and Sky. A place of edges, as it was in the old days. I was so desperate to feel the power again. It had come in a rush when Mr. Chulain gave me the knife.

 

Then, the power had faded again.

 

I was certain it would return when we made the sacrifice.

 

“My dad sells life-insurance and my mum manages–” Gemma began in her foggy stupor, but I cut her off.

 

“My father married my mother in a storm,” I said, “It was the first storm ever to touch the sands. The biggest storm then or since. It was the storm when heaven and earth touched, and all things were all that they could be, and time was yet to begin. It was that and more. My father made love to my mother and planted seven seeds into her womb. This is how the world began.”

 

Bormana and I worked together as we tied Gemma face-up on a wide flat stone.

 

“This is a lot of fun with the ropes and such, but I want to say right now I only want to kiss,” murmured Gemma.

 

“My da was the most powerful god,” said Bormana as she tightened a length of rope around the middle of Gemma’s stomach. “More powerful than any god anywhere. He was the god of Origin itself and all powers belonged to him. He was god of gods. If your people had dared to touch his land back then, he would have thrown them back into the sea.”

 

I leaned over and helped Bormana secure another rope around Gemma’s torso.

 

“I believe you are mistaken,” I said. “My father was, in fact, the most powerful. He held power beyond power. My father was all-powerfully powerful. He was Lord of the Land and all things that walked on the Land were his to command. He drank the Water of Abundance, and he ruled over a city Clean and Bright.”

 

“My dad got a bonus last Christmas. Almost five-hundred quid,” said Gemma.

 

I opened my back-pack and my hands shook so badly with excitement that my bronze knife tumbled out into the grass halfway between Bormana and I.

 

“My da was highest of the high,” Bormana said through gritted teeth, “All-enduring. All-knowing. All-wise. All-powerful. He could defeat anyone.”

 

I shook my head.

 

“My father was all-conquering, all-cunning, all-shrewd. He was unending,” I said.

 

“My dad gets to work from home three days a week, because he told his boss to sod off,” said Gemma.

 

Bormana reached down for my knife.

 

So did I.

 

Our heads hit one another and we bounced back.

 

Bormana looked at me, astonished at having been wounded by something so mundane. From her place across from me, she scowled with tears in her eyes. For my own part, I was no less offended to have the solemnity of my sacrifice dashed. We were both red and flushed with ungodly embarrassment.

 

“My father could beat up your father,” I hissed.

 

“He could not! My da could beat up your da!” Bormana shrieked.

 

“My father would stab your father through the heart, wind him into long strings and braid him around the haft of his spear,” I sneered, as I tried to pick myself back up.

 

It took me a moment to get on my knees, as the world still rocked from when Bormana’s head had struck mine.

 

“My da would throw your da up into the sky, until your da fell into the sun and burned and then my da would forge your da into a bright jewel to wear upon his crown,” Bormana said, her hand moving slowly back toward the knife.

 

“My dad sued me uncle Ronnie once. Said it wasn’t right for grandmum to keep him in the will when he was only adopted. Mum said it was bloody ruthless,” said Gemma.

 

Neither Bormana nor I cared to listen to her.

 

“My father would lower your father into a bit of vipers,” I hissed, “who would fill his veins with venom to burn him with liquid fire and devour him entire. Then my father would take the vipers and tie them up into a doll of your father and make it crawl over the hot sand, to be slowly burnt alive, for all time.”

 

I was closer to the knife, closing the gap with Bormana.

 

“My da would… he would… he would fucking kill your da!”

 

“Oh dear, can’t they talk it out?” said Gemma.

 

Bormana grabbed hold of the knife, sobbing, and slashed at me.

 

I dodged backward and grabbed her wrist.

 

She twisted and pushed forward. The bronze blade, with which I had ended so many small lives, came near to my own heart. It would have been fitting, perhaps, if she had managed to end me with my own power. But it was not to be. In the form of a child, she was too clumsy.

 

I let Bormana’s charge overwhelm me, but pivoted and flipped her over my back, turning her own power against her. Now it was I, on top of her, pushing the knife down toward her neck.

 

“Enough of your one-eyed father!” I hissed, my tongue now forked and lustful for the blood of another god.

 

Bormana pushed against me but her arms were weak.

 

“My… father…” Bormana grunted, “had… both… his… fucking… eyes. Better… than… your dad… who married… fucking… nine-year olds…”

 

“She was twenty-one,” said Gemma, “I watched a video on YouTube. It was one of those translation type things. Mr. Abidi told me to watch it.”

 

I felt the power fade from my arms, suddenly.

 

“My dad… never married… a nine year old,” I grunted, kitten weak.

 

Bormana and I broke apart all at once. I fell to the side, exhausted. Bormana gasped for breath, unable to take advantage then she also collapsed.

 

We lay side by side in silence, breathing heavily but unable to catch our breath.

 

“Your da ain’t Allah?” Bormana asked after a moment.

 

I shook my head.

 

“No, my father is Enki. I’m Sumerian.” After a moment, I added. “You mean to say that your father isn’t Odin?”

 

Bormana shook her head.

 

“Nah, my da was Dagda. Kinda like this sort of general Father spirit. I’m Celtic. How come you thought I was Norse?”

 

“My father’s half Polish,” said Gemma, who sounded half-asleep. “Did one of them DNA tests in the mail. Grandmum had a lot of explaining to do after that…”

 

“Dunno, seems like it’s what most things here are,” I noticed I was able to catch my breath better the more we spoke. “How come you thought I was Muslim?”

 

“What do I look like?” Bormana humphed, “I’m a god not some kind of comparative religion expert. Who can be bothered to know everything?”

I had, in fact, known several omniscient deities in my time but it felt impolite to say so.

 

We looked over at Gemma who had fallen asleep on the stone and was snoring.

 

“Your father dead, too?” I asked.

 

“Yeah,” said Bormana, “he’s dead.”

 

Mr. Chulain appeared after a while. I don’t know how he found us, but he was leaning on a long spear when he arrived. It wasn’t threatening. He leaned on it like a staff, like something to help him walk. He helped both of us to our feet and cut the ropes that we had used to tie Bormana to the stone.

 

“You both look like you could use a drink. I know a place,” he said.

 

Then he roused Gemma and informed her that she was to report to the school counselor first thing on Monday.

 

****

 

“I remember,” hiccoughed Cu Chulain over his pint, “when a fella could get himself killed for wearing the wrong kind of plaid.”

 

Mr. Chulain was bigger now, almost two feet taller than he had been in the classroom, and he slapped his hand down on the bar. It was a powerful enough blow that it made all the glasses rattle. The mute bartender gave him a dim look, but went back to polishing his glass.

 

“Oh fuck! I remember that,” Bormana slurred. “Wasn’t just plaid, though. They turned goddamn fabric choices into their whole family. They’ve always been funny that way. I ‘member when Normans and Saxons were a bunch of goddamn immigr- invaders.”

 

Bormana’s head was laid flat on the bar, which I admitted looked blissfully cool and refreshing.

 

“We usedta charge five shekels of silver,” I burped loudly and had to swallow some vomit, “for deflowering another man’s virgin slave. Usedta need a contract to fuck a widow.”

 

A general cry went around the bar and several people murmured “virgins” and “slavery” but there wasn’t much heat in it. It was nostalgia for a past that all of us knew wasn’t going to come back.

 

“I mean, it’s nice. Don’t get me wrong. Freedom. Prosperity. Written Laws. You walk into a store and there’s more food there than there ever was anyplace back in the old days but… it was nice when you could go home and make someone else do everything and nobody complained because you could just kill ’em, and if you killed ‘em it meant you were in the right,” Cu rubbed his red nose and sighed.

 

I raised my drink in agreement. I missed being able to murder people who disagreed with me. I missed that more than most anything.

 

“Fucking met that cookie man once. One who fucked it all up,” said Bormana, her words mashed together from the way she was leaning her head against the bar.

 

“Newton?” Cu asked.

 

“Yeah, him,” said Bormana.

 

“Fucking naturalists,” Cu roared into his drink, “Take a cookie over any of ’em any day.”

 

“Fig Newton more like it,” I agreed before politely throwing up into my pint glass.

 

There was enough power in me to make sure the pint glass was exactly big enough that my vomit didn’t spill over.

 

“Was gonna kill Fig Newton,” Bormana sighed, “Turn the whole suh… socie… people back around. People miss the old days as much as we do. In their hearts, I mean. They’d have loved it. Human sacrifices to bring the Spring. Little bit o’ cannibalism to get through the winter. Kings and egos turning nations on their heels.

 

“Saw that fucker under a tree with one of his fucking gravity apples. Came at him with all my power,” Bormana shouted, standing high up on a stool, “was ready to bring the full power of Spring at him and then…” she snapped her fingers, “he wrote something down in the margins of one of his notebooks and I woke up under a barrow hill in Eire fifty years later wondering what the fuck had happened.”

 

Cu laughed, slapping the table harder than ever before. We all laughed. It had been that way for all of us. In little fits and starts, they’d driven us all back in their own tiny ways.

 

“Wheelchair fella passed me in a limousine once,” Cu said. “Didn’t even know it. Must’ve been thinking about Black Holes or some such. My damn hound ran out and that was the end of her. She’d been with me for centuries. Still miss her every day.”

 

We all brushed tears out of our eyes at that. We’d all lost companions that way. I caught Bormana’s eye and she blushed. She was rather comely now that we’d both grown up. Appearance-wise, we’d aged twenty years each when we let Gemma up from that rock.

 

“Kid in one of my tribes independently discovered symbolic logic. Gave me syphilis,” I paused and looked at Bormana, “but it went away after a while.”

 

I made sure to add a wink.

 

“We’ve all been there,” said Bormana softly as she put her hand on mine.

 

The melancholy in the bar turned to laughter, including a great big fat man who hadn’t stopped stuffing his face since we’d come in from the rain.

 

None of us said anything for a while. We simply sat there, letting the alcohol flow through our veins. It was a good feeling. An open feeling, like I’d found a new family and a new people. It had happened this way before, hadn’t it? New people coming together and becoming one people? I didn’t need to be powerful here. I could be weak and trust my friends to see me through until we all found ourselves again. We’d be reborn. We’d find new names, together.

 

“All peoples fade and change,” Cu said at last, raising his drink in a toast. “Time is the real enemy. Nothing to be done for it. Every time I think something will last, it changes again. Stone turns to dust. Dust becomes soil. Soil turns to oak. Even when a people keep out another people, they still change. No people anywhere can keep out time. So, all people change until they’re not even the same people anymore. I miss my people and I hate that they’re gone,” said Cu, rubbing a tear out of his eye. “But I love ’em still.”

 

Cu Chulain drank his pint in a single swallow.

 

We all quietly took a moment to remember the first people who had ever called us into being, to protect them from the chaos of reality. They’d created us, all those years and ages ago, to stand in place of the answers they could not yet imagine. It was hard to remember their faces, but I’d loved them all, I’d cared about each of them personally and I’d had an opinion about everything they did every day, all the way through the generations and the thousands of years that had passed.

 

All of our love for them was still there for those people who no longer existed, that fire still burned inside all of us, undiminished.

 

“Ah, they think they change,” Bormana muttered. “But they’re basically the same. Look at what they think is new. Men dressing up as women. Women dressing up as men. People with both bits downstairs. And all of them run around, shrieking their heads off like it’s only them that’s seen it. Like they’re the first people it’s ever happened to. Making up their new words for it like it’s all theirs. I knew a Greek fella with both bits downstairs. Very good at delivering packages. Nice shoes, too.”

 

“Worse than that,” I said, remembering when the Conqueror had come and brought his new God to unite the tribes. I remembered how the Conqueror had murdered the last memories of my father with his little book of poems. “They make the words and then it makes the word be. They describe the shape and then they push reality around to make it work. More magic than we ever did.”

 

“You think they really do still need us? I’m not lying to myself, right? I mean, I think they do. They’ve got to need us still, right?” said Cu more to himself than anyone.

 

A woman came and took away my vomit filled pint glass.

 

“Quit your moaning!” the woman said, wrinkling her nose at the mess I’d made. “All of you come in here moaning about it, one time or another. You’re not going anywhere. Night ain’t any less dark. Winter ain’t any less cold. World ain’t any less crazy. You’re free to go about doing your dark deeds and people will still need you to carry meaning and memory when their own dark times come, same as they need buckets to carry water. You’re their dreams. As long as people are people, they need to dream. They need their history. They need someone to care. Just make sure you leave a tip.”

 

I could tell the last was meant for me.

 

The waitress walked away, and I noticed a ring glittering on her finger and she gave a long look to the mute barman.

 

“Yeah,” I said, “they still need us. Who else is going to care about everything they do? Who else is gonna teach ‘em how to get along and become new?”

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