Alex Inoue

Dead End, Zo's Journey, and more stories

The Gods Won’t Leave Me Alone

Posted by on November 15, 2020

Yes, the gods really, actually exist. They won’t leave me the fuck alone! And now I’ve got one especially useless god half-stuck in a useless-i-fying body. I don’t even know where to begin. Just hear me out on this one.

Once upon a nobody-cares-birth, some lowly god lost their mind. At least, that’s what I understand happened–the gods who keep coming by through avatars have proven themselves liars over the years, so who fucking knows. Anyway, that nobody god the others forgot about poured their essence into a freshly-born baby me for not-even-the-gods know why, and now I can’t be killed.

Doesn’t stop the gods of the great Outside from trying. Constantly.

It didn’t exactly start out so bad. As a little baby, no one noticed any issues. The gods didn’t, at least; my mother did, obviously. She dropped me on my head once when I was a few months old, or so she used to recount. Squishy-dome first onto a rock while on her way to the well. She told me it was those shoddy hand-me-down straps from her poshy aunt that finally snapped. Anyway, her story continues that the rock chipped while I rolled half a foot away with a confused look on my face. If I saw that happen, you know, if I were her, then I’d probably shit a brick. Not that that would hurt me.

Well, eventually, I was discovered. Haven’t had any peace for ten years straight.

Let’s skip to the part when I was walking out in the mountains because there was little else for me to really do. That’s when things changed a little.

Why there?

Can’t stay near people. Almost murdered half a town once. Technically, it was the god of earthquakes who tried to murder me. At least he picked a time when everyone was out celebrating in a festival. Needless to say, quickly went about a month’s walk away from there. You could say it took a month, but I don’t exactly have all the same issues as regular people. So I spent two weeks jogging. Ever heard of second-wind? I got about thirty of those, back-to-back. Not counting brief power-naps. Hallucinations get real bad after your fifth day without any sleep. But with only an hour or two every other day, it’s as if you never stopped running.

Anyway, my time out there over the past year in the mountains just north has been an ever-increasing Underside. The god of pestilence decided to pester me after his buddy failed to quake me to death. Have you ever been so hungry that you start eyeing your left arm? Took a bite once, just to see if I could. My teeth just stopped the second they pushed into my flesh; I’m not sure if I should have been disappointed, but I got over it. Sucks the feelings of starvation and thirst won’t fade even though I’m convinced I can’t perish even without food or water. I’ve been consuming anything reasonably unreasonable so whoever else has a vendetta against my sanity will let me suffer in only mild discomfort. It seems to work for the god who can only wilt and taint tasty looking things before I get my hands on them. Gods do I want fresh water and juicy fruit; don’t let me touch your stuff, though. Just in case.

Right. Sorry. I’ll get back to why I’m here.

Well, it started back at the end of fall. I think I remember most of it. Here’s how it went.

“Hey, buddy!” a voice squeaked from somewhere nearby.

I looked around my cave-cabin bedroom for the source and spied a gray cave-rat standing upright with its limbs painfully adhering to that day’s beggar and their godly posture.

“I’m Perenere Arepe! God of Shoes!” it declared. Don’t quote me on pronouncing that right. Or his brother’s name.

I sighed. “Why aren’t you inhabiting a shoe, then?”

The rat turned awkwardly, casting its red eyes away from me as I stood over it. “Look, I’m not that powerful. Perenere Orepe, my older brother, has cornered the market on sandals. He’s got two kids and several temples to grow his power.”

“Can you give me some shoes, then? I don’t really like sandals anyway.”

“Oh! You’d like shoes?” The rat’s mouth opened as if it was trying to smile–its incisors just made it look like it wanted to bite me. “I can make you at least one shoe by the end of the week!”

“What good is half a pair of shoes?”

The rat shrugged unnaturally, presumably forced by the stupid god of shoes as he inhabited the poor creature.

This was probably one of the more invasive avatars I’d seen in months. Most of the time, they just speak with a ghastly voice from the general space of their choice animal as it waited patiently. Or, actually, they probably held the animal in place while talking to me. But the god of shoes seemed to think you’re supposed to move around in the poor beast as if it were yourself, all while abusing whatever vocal cords were available.

“I’ve heard you’re tricky,” the god of shoes and rats replied, “but I guess if you don’t mind waiting two weeks or so, I could have both shoes ready for you. What color would you like?”

“Hold up a second. I never said I was agreeing to do something in exchange; if you’re going to give me a nice pair of thick, blue, and black shoes, then I hope you know I don’t plan on helping you.”

I wasn’t sure how desperate the god was at the time, but most who come peacefully listen to my requests for nothing in return. That is, if they even take a request. Usually, they just give me some random crap.

The god of shoes moved the rat’s arm up, then awkwardly pointed at me with a digit. “Blue and black! And thick, huh? Okay, buddy! I’ll get right to work for you.”

The rat turned around and ran off into the darkness–on just its hind legs, of course. I felt bad for the cave-rat. Maybe I should have found the poor thing and checked up on how screwed up it was. Too late now. Anyway.

“Expect a shoe by the Sun’s day, then another maybe on the Moon’s day the following week, buddy!” The rat-god’s voice trailed off as it fled.

Fucking gods. Every day someone has to come by and bug me. I guess I got something useful out of it, finally.

So, after a long wait, the god of shoes and rats dropped by in similar fashion as before. Same animal, too, I think.

“Hey buddy! I hope you like this one!” he said. Then the rat bolted as directly opposite of me as it could while the god presumably returned to The Outside.

It was Tree’s Day. Two days later than the god of shoes and rats promised. I looked down at the shoe that materialized on top of my wooden desk–by desk, of course, I mean a large, heavy, gold-plated mirror turned shiny-side down and onto the sharp, rocky bits along the edge of my cave. That was a present from a few months ago, a special something from the god of youth. Fucking good a mirror does for a guy who’s not interested in looking good. There’s never going to be anyone to look good for. I feel bad even being around you for just this short amount of time. No way I’m going to have time for a lover.

Anyway, now I had a singular shoe to inspect. That’s right. A shoe.

The blue was a decent tone, though it was hard to discern in the dim torchlight exactly how blue it was. It held up in appearance when I later inspected it in better light. Anyway. I really liked the black accents. If nothing else, the god of shoerats had a good aesthetic eye. Well, at least for me. Who knows, maybe he sucked at pleasing everyone else in the world. His brother was the popular one between the two of them. Then again, I’m the outcast so, it might be fitting that I like the tastes of another outcast.

So I picked up my new half-a-pair and inspect the material. Never before had I felt something that was so strange. It was a bit squishy when I pressed in, but still firm enough that I thought it could handle some stomping around on the sharper rocks outside my home. There was that one time I was gifted a bouncy ball of “rubber.” This reminded me of that stuff, though a little less sticky and smelly. But that ball disintegrated in a week, didn’t it? So I thought to myself, Fuck, this shoe won’t last me long enough to put on its belated little brother, will it?

Well, I figured I might as well put it on and see how I liked it.

I took off my crappy left sandal, which, to be fair, was probably two years old at this point–much too old to still be helpful out there halfway up that stupid mountain–and sat down in my porcelain chair with a dozen carved mythical creatures colored in gold and emerald. With a little effort, the shaped shoe slipped on. I tied up the thin rope that bound the top and hopped around my cave-room. It wasn’t bad at all!

Feeling springy, I bounced my way through the priceless rug depicting some “amazing battle” the god of war gave me last season that I’ve since driven two stakes through to act as a door. The air outside my cave-house was lacking moisture, like always, but also without the weird dankness I got while inside. Winter was getting closer by then; it’s just started down here, too, hasn’t it? Back then, I recall hoping I would be gifted food when the god of pestilence wasn’t looking. Anyway.

Yeah, so it’s only been a few weeks. Well, just over two since I got my first shoe. Back to when I first got a shoe.

Jump. Nothing bad happened. Jump, jump. Good. I leaped over to a particularly pointy boulder by where I dug out a path to my home. Impressive, I remember thinking. The rock didn’t break and nor did my shoe. I nodded to myself with satisfaction. For testing purposes, I moved my foot over and tested my sandal. Crunch. Unfortunate.

So I ended up with a small hole in the middle of my right sandal.

And then, like clockwork, a familiar female voice mocked me. “Hah! How goes it, Fake? I see you’re losing your mind? Dressing with mixed footwear, are we?”

I didn’t even have to look up at the robin that would be sitting up high on a spindly branch. “God of courage. What do you want?” I said.

“What do I want? Every month since I heard about you, Fake, I think you’ve heard what I want.”

I sat down in the dirt and inspected my holey sandal.

The god of courage, who I’ve begun calling “Robin,” continued to speak after I remained silent. “Since you refuse to die, something for which I believe I’ve apologized aplenty for, I have since seen no other role for you than to be my champion.”

I was thinking to myself, Damnit all, this is going to take a week to fix. I’m going to have to climb down to town for straw. Really wish I had that other shoe from the shoerat god.

“Now, then, I believe you’ve suffered aplenty. Now, won’t you come with me to the arena? Please?”

I should have enough coin to cover a repair. But that might take a few hours. No, can’t risk it. It’ll be cheaper just to buy the straw myself.

Robin’s ethereal voice coughed as if to get my attention. “Fake?”

“Yes, god of courage?” I finally looked her way.

From the general direction of the unmoving robin, the slightly garbled sound of a sigh escaped. “Fake-god, won’t you tire of all this suffering? Just pick someone and fulfill your destiny. Fulfill your existence. At least I’ll help you become famous. Outside and Underside be damned, I’ll help you become one of us. At least, I’ll try.”

What? You’re getting confused? Okay, fine. I’ll try to skip to where you come in.

So, after that, once it had been another week, the god of shoerats arrived with my other shoe. And wouldn’t you believe it, I think I accidentally gave him too much faith. That’s right. Too much.

What, you’re a priest, and you didn’t know how the gods of The Outside work? It’s easy.

The more faith a god garners, the more power they have. The only tricky bit is how they can express their power. See, the god of shoerats can pretty much only make shoes. And speak to us mortals through an avatar. But the god of shoerats…I’m just going to call him Shoerat, like how I’ve been calling Robin, Robin. His name is too complicated to keep saying. I hate even trying. So Shoerat can’t even make sandals. But his brother can’t make shoes. Neither of them can make lightning strike, earthquakes rumble, or wars begin. But the god of war, the freaking maniac, can’t make a shoe. None of them can take another’s job, so to speak. So when I say they gain more power, I just mean that they can do their job better. Or more. More better.

Yes, that’s why there’s a lot of war. I think if she had no followers, she’d only have the strength to make a new couple argue or two siblings throw dirt at each other. Maybe that’s how the god of war had to start out? Nevermind that.

Point is, I need you to help me get Shoerat some followers before Robin can’t stop the other gods from screwing with me anymore. Right now, she’s convinced them I’m heading into this ridiculously over-sized city to train and prepare for the arena as her champion. It’s only a matter of time until they’re onto my real intentions.

What? Oh, right. Why does a shoerat god need followers? Gods, I’m stupid sometimes.

Look, I agree that it sounds stupid. I get it. So, Shoerat got a bit excited with the boost in power and tried to fully inhabit a cave-rat so he could express his gratitude more in-person. Unlike the nobody who disappeared as their essence made me into a “fake-god,” Shoerat seems to still retain his personality while as a cave-rat. But I suspect if we can get at least a dozen followers, you know, actual believers in him–shouldn’t be hard when I can literally bring Shoerat to them–then he might have enough faith to empower his godly abilities. Namely using avatars. Well, in this case, leaving one. I think both he and the cave-rat deserve some dignity back.

Why do I care about a god?

Ah, fair enough.

Look, I shouldn’t. You’re right. But I guess after ten years, I’ve gotten a bit tired of it all. You know, running from it all. Living at the edge of town. Living like a zombie. Treated like a troll. I’ve crossed several borders to get here, you know. I liked the mountains this kingdom had to offer, and I thought it was nice to know the guards gave up shooting arrows at my back when they saw how they would just bounce and break. I’ve been around half the world by now. Seen some weird shit. Now, it’s gotten kinda boring. Don’t you ever get sick of the same-old-things?

Okay, I guess your life and my life aren’t all that comparable.

Still. I’ve decided to get over myself and do something about all this nonsense. No, I’m not going to become Robin’s champion. I’m her partner.

Gods, no, not like that! A business partner. Along with Shoerat. First, we need Shoerat back in The Outside. Then–we’ll figure out what to do after that, I guess.

So, will you help me out? I can pay. Probably twice as much as a year’s donations.

What, you think I’m bluffing? I’ll pay you twenty platinum coins now. That’s more than a year’s donations, isn’t it?

You’re a priest, not a tax collector. Or are you one, too? I forget the rules of this kingdom.

You’re not? Then stop pulling my leg. This place is hardly prestigious. I’m sure you’ve done what you can with what you get, but I think it’s a sign when you have a hundred seats and only five occupants.

Fine. Thirty platinum first. Ten after.

Don’t make me look up this temple’s counting records. I can easily bribe the tax house to find out your collections.

Excellent! Under the name of your god? Thank you. I’ll be back tomorrow with Shoerat.

What do you mean, “how am I even supposed to convince people to follow a god of rats?” Do you not see these shoes I’m sporting? Shoerat’ll make each of them a pair. And teach someone who wants to learn how to make them themselves. They’ll be a famous shoesmith and cobbler in no time.

Fine. I’ll make sure to clean them off for tomorrow.

You want to try them on real fast?

Okay, you make a good point. But you can’t keep them. I still gotta walk around this city, and I’m not doing it barefoot.

Drawn by Ingri Ned

This story was a contest submission in 2018. I plan on coming back and reworking it into a proper novel!