The Unwilling God; Or, The Big Hole

And the Maker said to His First Creation: I grant You dominion over Paradise. As it has always been, may You keep it so.

And the First Creation said: I thank You, Maker, and shall do as You ask.

And the Maker said to His Second Creation: I grant You dominion over Damnation. As it has always been, may You keep it so.

And the Second Creation said: I thank You, Maker, and shall do as You ask.

And the Maker said to His Third Creation: I grant You dominion over the World. As it has always been, may You keep it so.

And the Third Creation said: This is a terrible idea. You know that, right? …Right?

 

Jaque was a simple man, with a simple life, or so he liked to think. He was a hunter, and a fairly good one at that. Or at least, fairly okay. On the higher end of average, perhaps. He could nail a pheasant to a tree with a well-placed crossbow bolt from a hundred yards, which isn’t an easy feat. If he had one flaw as a hunter, it was that he didn’t tend to respect those invisible things called ‘borders’. Particularly the one between his homeland, Magra, and the neighboring kingdom, Eleara, which was just a mile or so from his home in the woods.

It just didn’t matter much to him. He lived miles from any town, and it wasn’t his fault that the best game to be found was for some reason always on the other side of the border. Some clause in an ancient treaty probably called it ‘poaching’, but as Jaque believed, it was all the same forest.

On one clear summer morning, Jaque woke with the sunrise, collected his gear, kissed his wife goodbye, reassured his sons that, yes, he would take them hunting one day, but not now, and headed off towards Eleara to find a deer frolicking in the woods and carefully place a bolt in its head. As he grew closer to the presently-invisible border between the two countries, something very strange happened. Jaque blinked, and when he opened his eyes, what had just a moment ago been a forest in the warm throes of summer was now nothing at all.

Jaque blinked again. The forest ahead of him was gone. At his feet was a cliff, a sharp edge in the geography that went down into an impenetrable blackness. Jaque looked around, bewildered. Behind him was the forest, completely normal, and in front of him was just… a hole. A great, big, massive hole. To the left and right, the cliff extended into the distance, and straight ahead, he could see the other side of the hole, but it was so far away that he couldn’t even tell, for sure, how far it was.

A tree that had been sheared in half by whatever had made this country-sized hole appear tipped over the edge with a wooden creak and vanished into the murky darkness. Jaque heard it hitting the wall as it tumbled end over end a few times, but he never heard it hit the bottom. If there was a bottom.

Jaque swallowed as a thought occurred to him. He had been right on the edge of the hole when it appeared. If he had left home a minute later, or walked even a little bit faster, he might have been…

He shuddered. It was better not to think about that. The most important thing was, he hadn’t.

As sudden as daybreak, a brilliant golden light appeared behind Jaque, accompanied by a chorus of ringing bells and angelic voices. He could feel the warmth of the light behind him, and see it casting his shadow against the darker blackness of the new abyss. “Pardon me,” said a voices from behind Jaque. It was one voice and all voices at the same time, so pure that it hurt Jaque’s ears. “Sorry, Do you have a moment?”

Slowly, Jaque turned to face the light-

“Ooh, no, stop! you should not do that,” the voices said. “Just stand right there and keep looking straight ahead. If you look at me, odds are very good that you might, well, burst into singing flames.”

“What?” was all Jaque could think to say.

“It’s… complicated. Okay, it’s not, but I just don’t have the time to explain. Things have kind of become very, very hectic all of the sudden. Mainly due to – well, that.” Silence. “I’m pointing at the hole, by the way, you can’t see because I’m behind you-”

“I guessed. What is it?”

“It’s, um, a hole. It sort of used to be a country, but – never mind. Um, odd question. Scale of one to ten, how good would you say you are with children?” the voices asked. Once Jaque’s ears had gotten used to the sound of the perfect harmony of an infinite number of voices, he picked up a tone that he had last heard when his eldest had confessed to accidentally burning all the meat in the smokehouse. A childish nervousness.

“I have six sons,” he said. “But what happened-”

“Perfect! Then, um, could I possibly ask you a small – okay, large favor? For various hard to explain reasons, I have recently come into the possession of, well…” The voices cleared its throat. “A, uh, a baby.”

“A baby?”

“A baby. A small human. One that I am not able to raise for obvious reasons. I mean, if I can barely keep track of an entire world, how can I handle a baby?

“What?”

“Damn, Please forget I said that.”

“Now hold on-” Jaque began to turn again, and caught the outline of a bright figure made of light in the corner of his eye-

DON’T TURN AROUND! I was not joking about the bursting into flame thing! Look, I’m really sorry I can’t explain what’s happening, but it’s better if you don’t know. I’ll make it so you don’t even remember me, but you need to understand that this child is important.” The voices sighed. “Please. I need you to take care of the baby for a few – what do you call them – years, teach it right and wrong, try to keep it from dying, you know the drill.”

“But – you can’t just drop a baby off on somebody you just met!” Jaque said. “That’s the most irresponsible thing I’ve ever heard!”

The temperature plummeted as if it had suddenly turned to winter.

“Irresponsible?” the voices said. This is irresponsible? You think you know what irresponsible is? You can’t call something ‘irresponsible’ until you’ve had the safekeeping of an entire world dropped on your shoulders when you’re all of a minute old! That, my friend, that is irresponsible!” Jaque’s shadow moved from side to side, as if the source of the light was moving back and forth. “And it’s not like I haven’t done my best, but is it really my fault that I got the most complicated realm out of the three of us? This place has ecology! Climates! People! A hundred thousand things that I have to keep track of all at once! And then, to make matters worse, some of you get it in your heads to try and wrest my divinity from me! And now who’s got to clean up the mess they made when it didn’t work? Me!

The voices had grown deeper and darker as the tirade continued. At the end, it seemed to force itself to calm down, taking in deep, loud breaths. The temperature returned to normal. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to lose my temper at you, I just really had to vent. The last few years have been a little stressful.”

“It’s alright,” Jaque said cautiously. Antagonizing the voices seemed to be a bad idea right now. “No harm done.”

“I mean it, I’m really sorry. I’m not usually like this, but I did just have a group of megalomaniacs trying to flense off little bits of my existence for their own nefarious purposes.”

“That sounds unpleasant.”

“You have no idea. I’ll just leave the baby on the ground right here, don’t turn around yet, I’ll just head off before I do anything worse.”

“But I don’t know what’s going on-”

“Honestly? That’s for the best.”

There was a flash, and the light from behind Jaque vanished. The sounds of the forest picked back up. Birds chirped, bugs buzzed, and a baby giggled.

Jaque’s memories of his conversation with the god dissipated like morning mist. He turned around, and saw a baby, lying in the middle of a circle of burnt grass, swaddled in a white cloth. He approached, setting his crossbow on the ground, and scooped up the infant. It must have been abandoned there… directly behind Jaque… while he had been staring out at the hole… without him noticing. If it had been there before, he would have noticed it, especially the burnt grass…

Oh, damn, whoops.

…but suddenly those thoughts were the farthest thing from Jaque’s mind. Didn’t even matter, really. “Hello there, little one,” he said, offering the baby his finger to grab on to. It laughed up at him with a little golden twinkle in its eyes. “What am I going to do with you…”

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