The world had a history of gods, strange and mundane. Gods of miracles. Gods of wrath. Gods of love. Gods of hate. There must have been thousands of them. But the one thing all these gods had in common was that they were always somewhere else. Atop Mount Olypmus. Above the clouds. In the firmament. Beyond.
Gods didn’t hang out with mortals, and now that they did, everyone understood why.
The gods weren’t anything humans had ever imagined. Powerful titans rising from the oceans, beneath the earth, astride passing comets, they came to this world without explanation. Great and terrible things, hideous and inhuman.
Anna lived in the shadow of one of the sea gods. A monster fish the size of a skyscraper, it had washed ashore one day. There it sat. Its glistening flesh undulating while its gills opened and closed. Its eyes, like all the gods, were tremendous green orbs. If you stared into those eyes long enough, you saw secrets. Anna, from her beach house, had a perfect view of the god. If it rolled over, it’d easily crush her. She didn’t care. If it was the will of the gods, so be it. Who was she to argue with them?
Occasionally, people came to worship the god. It didn’t seem to notice. In that way, it was more honest than the gods of old.
Like all gods, these ones had missionaries. Anna didn’t get many here, in the shadow of the fish, but every so often, someone was enterprising enough to try converting her. A pair of believers, one man, one woman, came knocking on her door. She let them in. She always did. Anyone with the courage to do so deserved to be heard.
They were young. Teenagers. Both bore the ritual scarring of their god on their cheeks. They worshipped at the altar of the worm that had erupted from Nevada. Like the fish, the worm didn’t do much other than lay there and breath, staring with its sickly green eyes.
“The Worm offers paradise to those who follow it,” said the woman. “When the time comes, we will walk into its maw and be carried to the next world.”
Anna nodded. “I see. Sounds promising. But why should I believe you? Aren’t there maw worshippers in China that claims the same thing?”
“Heretics,” said the man.
“Liars,” added the woman. “They believe in a false idol and will surely be punished for it.”
“And what about the fish?” asked Anna.
“It’s just a fish,” said the man. “Why would anyone consider it a god?”
“Why, indeed?” She opened the blinds. Whether they believed or not, the missionaries turned their gaze away from the sea god.
“You can’t believe it is anything other than a fish, a genetic mistake,” said the man.
“I think so,” she said. “But what if it isn’t?”
“As we feared,” said the woman, “we’re too late for you.”
They rose, pulling knives from their backpacks. “If you insist on worshipping a false idol, then you must be cleansed.”
Anna laughed as she removed a pistol from an end table drawer. “And if you insist on killing heretics, you should be prepared for some of those heretics to fight back.”
She shot them. Two in the chest. One in the head. Their worm did nothing to save them.
Anna dragged them to the beach and laid them in the sand before the sea god as her offering, beside the decaying corpses of other unbelievers. It didn’t notice. It didn’t care.
But sometimes, when she stared into those eyes, when the nights were quiet and the world was little more than whispers and shadows, she convinced herself it just might.