If Thou Art God
by Bill McCormick
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
While Tongei thought it a touch odd to be at the focal point of the honor guard’s weapons, it chalked that up to some unmentioned local custom and continued down the ramp.
As it reached the bottom, it spread its arms wide and spoke: “I am Tongei,” it said as it wisely left off its surname in a moment of self-proclaimed strategic brilliance. “Art thou God?”
Some twenty-nine members of the forty-person honor guard facing Tongei were first cousins to the mayor and had been selected for their keen ability to be born first cousins. On the lengthy list of things they expected aliens to say, such as “Take me to your leader,” “Give us your women,” “Eat laser-tinted death, human scum” and so on, Tongei’s opening was not there. Not anywhere. In fact as far as they knew, and they knew this because their mayor told them so, all aliens were godless.
Faced with an alien clearly searching for God, they waffled.
Tongei, sensing their awe at its awareness of their beliefs, proudly went on, “If thou art God, then who am I?”
This deft syllogism was one that Tongei had worked on during the entire trip. It was very pleased to be able to use it so adroitly at such an early interval.
“The poor alien,” the locals all thought, “all this space travel has erased its mind.” While reinforcing one of their many fears about aliens and space travel in general, the thought left the honor guard with a problem. What were they to do with this being? They weren’t by nature a cruel people, they told themselves. They didn’t just run around willy-nilly killing the mentally handicapped. Well, not in recent times anyway.
It was around this time that the formal authority of Okie City, Mayor Art Dinkum, arrived. He briefly conferred with the honor guard, assessed the situation, spoke into a small communicator for a minute or so and declared the obvious solution. “We cans not, in good faith,” he began ponderously, “just kills a mental defective.” He paused for a moment, letting his greatness shine on the gathering crowd. “Well, we can’st do that ever since those crazy bitches, um... er, I mean the Women of Power said they would nuke us into the holy land if we’s kept it up.”
“Aha,” thought the honor guard, “that’s the reason!”
“However,” the mayor went on, “we’s cans certainly not abides an alien staying among us. It is an abomination, an atrocity and and.... and .... other bad things.”
There was a murmur of approval at that. Tongei was having trouble following the mayor’s accent, but was pleased that the crowd looked happy. Things were indubitably going its way.
“Therefore,” the mayor intoned, “I has takens the use of the God-given rights of the powers vested in me to contact the bit... Women of Power.. and ask them to remove this blight from our fair city.”
That brought a great cheer to the crowd. Tongei had no clue as to what was going on or why, but was nevertheless delighted everything was all going so well. Just as the cheer was dying down a small craft landed directly next to Tongei’s. Four black-clad soldiers stepped out and were followed by a woman wearing a simple white robe with few adornments. The crowd shushed.
The newcomers walked directly over to Tongei and surveyed it for a minute. Then the woman spoke.
“It has been said that you speak English. Is this true?”
“Yes I do,” replied Tongei grandly. “It was one of the languages contained in Professor Urbei’s great work on linguistics. It is, also, how I discovered your God.”
The woman was mildly nonplussed. After a few seconds she asked, “Who are you and why have you come to Earth?”
Tongei realized its moment of glory had come far sooner than expected. Nothing on Shuznia had ever gone this smoothly. Instead of waiting years to reap the rewards of its messianic quest, it could get it all done in one day. Tongei had a crowd, an honor guard, an obvious representative of Earth, even if she was female, and a ship full of miracles, like the one that turned water into ice, that would prove its claims of divinity.
“I am Tongei Artgod of the planet Shuznia. Based on the works of your demigod, Robert Heinlein, I have come to this planet to be its God. After all, as he said so long ago, ‘Thou Art God.’ Since I, as I have just stated, am Artgod, I therefore am to be your God. You may begin revering me now if you wish, or you can wait until you erect a proper temple.”
There was a long moment of silence. It was as though the very air had ceased to exist.
No dogs barked, no cats wailed, no mice scurried, no sound at all emanated from anything, anyone or anywhere.
Then, slowly, cautiously, a sound did begin to emerge. It was not at all the sound that Tongei expected, but was one it knew too well from having it thrust in its direction over and over on Shuznia.
It was laughter.
And not just any laughter, it was the explosive sound of abject derision. The original honor guard let their weapons clatter to the ground as they grabbed their knees or their neighbors in vain attempts to remain upright. The Matriarch’s soldiers were holding on to the railing of their craft trying very hard not to fall down.
The mayor and the Honored Matriarch were hugging each other as their faces turned eminently wonderful shades of purple and blue. The local citizens simply collapsed to the ground and, in several cases, wet themselves.
Amidst it all stood a baffled Tongei Artgod.
In fits and starts the laughter finally died down. Yes, it took about a half an hour, but it did finally die down. The Honored Matriarch was the first to completely regain self-control.
“Our God?” She gasped it out and then finally was able to speak again. “You came here to be our God? I regret to inform you that the position has been filled for millennia.”
This brought a renewed round of laughter. While the local residents had no idea what “millennia” meant, they knew it was a great word. Some decided to use it later when everything calmed down and the voice of the bitches left. Exclamations such as “You bet your sweet millennia it is!” and “What the millennia is you talking about, foo?” became common in Okie City from that day forward.
Tongei was crushed. Who was this usurper and why had He not guided them better?
How could this have happened to his brilliant plan? Tongei stared at the Honored Matriarch and asked the obvious: “If, indeed, you have a God, why have you not bred better? Why are there so many types of you? Why do you not conquer? Why do you try to coexist in a universe where coexistence is unheard of?”
A chill came over the crowd. While none of the local residents would have known the word “eugenics” they certainly understood the concept. They may have even been dimly aware of the reasons it had been outlawed centuries earlier. But the one thing they knew down to their bones was that it was a bad thing. A wrong thing. In this, all in attendance were agreed.
None of the humans there that day could have known that on Tongei’s home world such statements would have been met with equal revulsion, although for wildly different reasons. What they did know was that this alien had to go. And go quickly.
“And that, between the interrogations we have concluded and the help of the Shuznian government, is all that I know. The fact that Tongei is now in your tender care is something of which you are already aware.” I looked at the Keln Commander and his counsel of Allies, briefly, and went back to my drink, a delightful concoction called a Jhin n Tonikks. It tasted a lot like good bourbon.
“Ah yes,” said the Commander, “We had asked the Matriarch for something for target practice. That explains everything. Are you sure that Shuznia is no threat?”
“Yes,” I replied, “all they really care about is meeting, mating and making merriment. They were as appalled as the Earth government. In some ways, even more so. They seem to think that this was entirely their fault.”
“Then attacking the Shuznians would be as meaningless and boring as attacking the Padnuu. But what are we to do with this Tongei? The Shuznians don’t want it back, it can’t stay on Earth and, the great-gods know, it is useless to us.”
I thought about that for a minute and then smiled. “It wants to be a god, right? It wants to rule a world without question. Then we should give it what it wants. Do you remember the beings on Xha-La 7?”
“The spiny poisonous creatures who lose their memory every day?”
“Those are the ones.” I smiled even more broadly as the Commander grasped my intent.
“Yes,” he beamed as only a Kelnian can, “that is the perfect solution. If you would please inform the Honored Matriarchs of our decision, we can throw Tongei into a hold until we can spare the time to grant its wish.”
We clinked our glasses together and savored the taste of our drinks. He was having Russian vodka. He mentioned that it tasted just like a Shar-lee Tmpl.
Copyright © 2011 by Bill McCormick