If you are new to the SDS Challenge, a little background.
Three writers will each write one story a month going down the list of deadly sins. The stories can be anywhere from 666 words to 6,666 words in length, although those numbers are not set in stone. If ambitious, the writers will provide accompanying graphics. These stories will not be anonymous because some writers may want to use the same characters for each story and write a series — or book — encompassing all seven sins. Finally, interpretation of the titular sin is up to the writer. Meaning, each ‘sin’ can take multiple forms.
The fourth set of stories cover the sin of Wrath. This is my offering. Some might be surprised I’m offering anything at all since I’d hinted I might abstain . . . well, I got an idea and had fun exploring it, so here we are.
Disclaimer: The writing challenge has no restrictions and the stories will likely span a wide gamut of genres. The majority of the stories fall in the PG-rating range with a few perhaps pushing into the soft R-rating. Some readers might find a few of the stories disturbing because of the topics, language, and/or plot points, and if so, stop reading and move on.
Wrath Will Cost You (Parole)
Copyright 2021 — E. J. D’Alise
(2,785 words – approx. reading time: about 11 minutes based on 265 WPM)
“Wait … what?”
“You’ve been chosen to argue against granting god’s parole.”
Ed looked around, trying to spot the hidden camera or the film crew, for this was surely a set-up.
“I assure you, it’s not a joke or ‘set-up’, as you call it.”
“Did you just read my mind?”
The tall bearded person in the Armani suit briefly closed his eyes as he replied with a small nod, his head slightly off center in gracious acknowledgment.
“Spam and eggs, pasta with butter, and castagnoli,” Ed thought as he looked at the man.
“Three of your favorite foods,” the man replied.
“OK, I’m intrigued. What’s this about God’s parole? Wait, who are you, exactly?” Ed asked.
“You might know me as Hyperion, or the Pillar of the East.”
“Wow. Son of Uranus and Gaia and … well, not much else is known after the Titanomachy. What happened to you?”
“Obviously, I’m still around, although I’m mostly retired, and I’m occasionally called to handle these hearings.”
“Occasionally?” Ed asked.
“The last time was for a different God, Sisupala, the reincarnation of Ravana, eventually sliced in two by the Sun Disc. His parole request was denied; they figured three incarnations were enough.”
“And now, which god are we talking about?”
“That would be Yahweh, banned into exile after found guilty of ordering the torture and murder of his son.”
“Barely two thousand years and he’s eligible for parole? You guys are lenient,” Ed quipped.
“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, Ed, and if it were up to me, both Yahweh and Allah would be permanently banned to Before Time. Nasty pieces of work.”
“OK,” Ed said, adding a small wave of the hand. “This has been fun, and while I don’t know how you did the mind trick, I’m late with a story for my blog, and I need to …”
“… go eat a few snacks as you watch YouTube videos hoping to get inspiration for something?” Hyperion finished. “How is that going for you? I mean, last night you watched clips from movies you like, and the night before you watched clips from anime shows hoping to find one you like. Tonight you’re going to watch clips of tennis matches and then some dance mashup videos, whatever those are.”
Ed focused on the person claiming to be Hyperion more closely and was now seriously flummoxed by how this guy was doing this. Maybe his computer was infected with a key-logger or somehow hacked. Wait … Google tracked everything, so of course his YouTube viewing history might have been hacked, but still …
“You know I’m an atheist, right?”
“Of course,” Hyperion answered. “It’s why you were selected.”
“That don’t make no sense!” Ed replied.
“You’re throwing movie quotes at me? Seriously?”
“OK, let’s back up . . . you — one of the supposed ancient gods — are asking me to come and argue against granting Yahweh’s parole request, and you did this knowing full well I don’t believe in deities in the first place?”
“You’re putting me in a bind. How can I sit in judgment of someone or something I don’t believe in?”
“Ah, I see your dilemma,” Hyperion replied. “But you’ve answered this quandary before.”
“Yes; when a believer asked you what you would do if you found out if there were a god, you answered you would still not worship it, and you’d have some tough questions for her,” Hyperion said. “You purposefully used the female pronoun to make the believer question their perception of god, but in this case, Yahweh really is a male god, and many goddesses resent you lumping him in their camp.”
“Wait . . . I pissed off ‘many goddesses’?”
“Yeah, but don’t worry, they’re busy with the latest brood of unicorns and—”
“There are unicorns!? … oh, of course — Greek mythology. Hey! That means there be dragons!”
“Look,” Hyperion interrupted, avoiding the question. “I need to know if you accept the task.”
“Well, it depends … what does it entail?”
“You making the case why Yahweh should be remain in confinement and prohibited from meddling in the affairs of humans.”
“Isn’t it a little late for that? You have about 2.5 billion believers doing a pretty good job in his stead, competing against the 1.9 billion followers of Allah, each group vying for who can retard humanity’s progress the most.”
“So,” Hyperion asked, “you don’t think Yahweh could make things any worse than they are if he were paroled?”
“Hmm, good point. But, who would I be arguing to?”
“Themis sits in judgment in these proceedings.”
“Wasn’t she one of the Oracles of Delphi? Can’t she tell the consequences of letting Yahweh loose on the world again?”
“Her role is that of judge, not jury.”
“I have to ask … who exactly jailed Yahweh? Did he run afoul with Zeus?”
“I sense sarcasm, again,” Hyperion answered. “But, if you must know, Nyx did not appreciate the hubris of this minor god, and directed Nemesis to banish Yahweh. The incident with his son was a convenient excuse.”
“Again,” Ed said, exasperation tingeing his voice, “it sounds like you all know Yahweh’s a jerk who should be kept locked up, so why even have a parole hearing?”
“Same as humans, we also have laws we wish were more … ah … flexible. Banishment is not forever and Yahweh may petition for freedom, which he has.”
“Let me get this straight; I’m asked to get mixed up in the affairs of powerful deities — which I don’t believe in — deities I’m likely to offend if I meddled in their affairs?”
“Have you ever worried about pissing off any gods?”
“Good point,” Ed replied. “But, just for the sake of argument, say I lost the case and Yahweh goes free; what’s to keep him from messing with me? Worse yet, Yahweh is known for indirect punishment; someone pisses him off, and he takes it out on their kids, spouse, friends, and pets. Just ask Job, and that was only for a bet. Heck, ask the Egyptians! I’d be safe, but everyone I care about would suffer god’s wrath.”
“Conditions of parole,” Hyperion replied. “He’d be prohibited from seeking retribution and besides, you would make the argument anonymously.”
“No offense, but felons violate parole all the time and data leakage is a fact of life. Not even Mighty Google can keep their data safe, and, if I remember correctly, there are scores of minor gods willing to incur favor by leaking such information.”
“Remember when I said ‘you were chosen’? It’s actually just me; I chose you. No one else would know.”
“Hmm . . . what about the parole board? They’ll know who I am,” Ed said.
“I’ll be reciting your testimony; they’ll never see you or know anything about you,” Hyperion replied.
“Well, then, why can’t you just make something up? You said it yourself that if it were up to you, Yahweh and his buddy Allah would be banished forever.”
“Would you go into a court and lie?” Hyperion asked.
“Uh … no.”
“Do you think me less honest than you?”
If voices were described in degrees of temperature, Ed would have gauged Hyperion’s voice to be close to absolute zero.
“My apologies; that was a dick comment on my part. I meant no offense with my poorly thought-out remark.”
Hyperion slow-blinked as he nodded, presumably indicating acceptance of the apology.
“So, let’s review,” Ed said, changing the subject. “I’m asked to argue against freeing what is arguably a psychopath with a fixation on human sexual habits and prone to unpredictable and genocidal bursts of violence. So, how does this work? Can we do it here? I’m not sure my wife would approve of me gallivanting off to some other part of the universe without her. Plus, what do I get out of it, besides the satisfaction of keeping a psychopath locked up?”
Hyperion smiled and waved his hand in what must surely have been a practiced solemn move … and they were suddenly in the parking lot of Tex Drive-In on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.
A huge smile made Ed look positively friendly — well, at least less surly — as he voiced his pleasure.
“OK, let’s talk!”
After ordering a couple of dozen malasadas — the extra dozen to take home as evidence of this unbelievable tale — Ed and Hyperion sat on one of the far boots and got down to business.
“What exactly do you need from me?” Ed asked as he split open a freshly made malasada and let the aroma waft past his nostrils.
“Three instances that prove Yahweh is a danger to humanity.”
“Mmmm …” Ed replied.
“Having trouble coming up with three?”
“What? No. I was just enjoying the smell of the Tex Drive-In malasada and anticipating the taste; nothing quite like it, except maybe some Arizona Indian fried bread,” Ed answered. “But, to your question, it’s going to be tough keeping it to just three. Yahweh’s wrath pretty much defines him.
“Let me ask you something; is it possible that had he not been banished, Yahweh would have gone the way of other gods?” Ed asked.
“What do you mean?” Hyperion asked in surprise.
“Well, there’s a long history of minor and major gods who make quite a splash in their time, but humanity outgrew all of them. Is it possible the only reason Yahweh and Allah are still going strong is because they’ve been absent and misguided humans embellished their stature?”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Well, take the old testament, please! … sorry, couldn’t help it. The god of the Old Testament had original conversations, with back-and-forth exchanges, was often surprised, sometimes angered by things that — were he all powerful — he should have known. Plus, he has regrets, hence Noah’s flood which, by the way, it’s probably one of the three examples of god’s wrath I’ll use. Many instances in the Old Testament point to a god who’s not omniscient, and is bound by the same ignorance about the future as humanity itself; more like the gods of old who influenced, but could not control, the shape of things to come.
“I mean, yes, Yahweh could control the local weather, perhaps toss out a curse of two, but certainly not as powerful as what modern Christians and Muslims make him out to be. Really, he was barely a step up from a mob boss, ruling through violence and fear.”
Hyperion said nothing and cracked open another malasada, the escaping steam briefly visible before being swallowed up by the humid Hawaiʻian air.
Ed stopped, his hand halfway to his mouth, and contemplated the now serious Titan. After a few seconds, he put down the malasada and wiped the granulated sugar from his fingers before grabbing his phone and firing up his browser.
“Don’t bother,” Hyperion said. “I’ll tell you.”
“Reading my mind again?”
“Yes … you’re wondering how the Titans lost their war with the gods, and came to be imprisoned after the Titanomachy,” Hyperion replied, his voice suddenly carrying the weight of eons.
Ed said nothing, opting instead to sip on his coffee as he waited for Hyperion to explain.
“We … we Titans stood above it all and cared not for the fate of men and women. Humans were but yet another life force springing from matter, much like plants and other animals. The younger gods intervened in humanity’s affairs, often attempting to thwart the will of the Fates, and by their contacts with humans, began to be revered as— well, gods. Worship from humanity gained them strength, fresh and renewable spiritual energy that they harnessed.” Hyperion stopped and munched on the remnant of a malasada.
Ed processed the information and picked up the narrative.
“Numbers. The power of the gods depends on the number of worshipers; the more worshipers, the more spiritual energy. That’s why the Olympian gods supplanted the ancients gods and then were themselves supplanted; as Christianity, Islam, and other religions gained converts, the power of the Olympian gods diminished.”
Ed stopped, his brow furrowing before smiling.
“Ah … single gods gained power quicker because monotheistic religions focus all the spiritual energy into a single individual. Polytheistic religion spread the energy over multiple gods.”
Ed smiled at having worked that out, bit into a fresh malasada but stopped on the first chew, his brow again furrowing before quickly chewing and swallowing so he could continue.
“But, wait . . . that means that bringing Jesus into play would weaken Yahweh. Already weakened by introducing the Holy Ghost, Jesus would further dilute the spiritual energy. In fact, Jesus would be a rival of …” Ed stopped and looked at Hyperion who was nodding in agreement.
“Jesus wasn’t there to offer salvation for the Original Sin; he was attempting a coup!” Ed exclaimed.
Hyperion picked up the narrative.
“Yahweh is not one to willingly share power, that’s why the kid had to go. Much like previous gods, the son was trying to supplant the father. The problem Yahweh ran into is that Jesus had the bright idea of going directly to the source. Visible, approachable, promising eternal life, mingling with the people on a one-to-one basis, and it worked. By the time the other gods figured out what was going on, it was too late. Even after Yahweh had him executed, humans picked up the narrative, and the religion grew even in his absence.”
“But, the Bible, the New Testament—”
“That came after. You would call it damage control. Yahweh was losing ground, and he had the great idea of combining the old and new with him as both god and his son. That’s why much of the Old and New Testaments weren’t written, let alone finalized, until hundreds of years later,” Hyperion explained.
“Ah,” Ed picked up. “That’s why the rise of Islam, founded by people who objected to worshiping multiple gods. There could be only one!”
“Yes, that was an unfortunate miscalculation by Yahweh, giving Allah an opening.”
“But,” Ed pressed on, “that lends credence to my hypothesis; had Yahweh not been banished, he might have directed and influenced humanity away from the Christ cult. Instead, with his absence, humans built on their ignorance!”
“You forget the Fates,” Hyperion said. “They have a hand in human affairs.”
“That’s the second time you mentioned them. They exist?” Ed asked.
“Oh, yeah. Had my share of run-ins with them,” Hyperion said, his tone taking a slight edge to it, and while Ed would have liked more information on what happened, he wisely surmised it was best let that sleeping monster be.
“So, wait . . . you’re saying my life, my future, it’s all destined, predetermined?”
“Well, kind of,” Hyperion responded, his voice taking a vague tone.
“Well, for instance, I may sway you to take part in this judgment, but nothing I do changes your ultimate fate.”
“You mean, I’m going to die,” Ed said. “I already knew that.”
“No, I mean you have some latitude in individual actions that do not alter major milestones in your life,” Hyperion clarified.
“Do you know what those milestones are and when I’m going to die?”
“Would you want to know if I did?” Hyperion answered evasively.
Ed thought about it as he took another bite from the last of the dozen malasadas they had shared.
“No,” he finally said. “No, I’m certain I don’t. People always want to know the future, but that’s just a giant trap that is best avoided. Life should be lived as it comes, good or bad as it may be.”
“You are wiser than you look,” Hyperion said.
“Uh … thank you?”
“You are welcome, but, unless you want to crack open the other box of malasadas, let’s get to the business at hand,” Hyperion said, all serious. “Have you chosen your three examples?”
“You know I do,” he answered, “you can read my mind.”
“Yes, and good choices they are. I especially like your take on the plagues of Egypt and the cursing of the fig tree.”
“You’ll let me know how it turns out?” Ed asked.
“I will,” Hyperion answered.
And with that, he stood and did his hand-waving, but not before grabbing the other box of malasadas.
“Hey! I need that for—” Ed yelled, but he didn’t get to finish.
Ed found himself back at the Home Depot parking lot.
“Sonofabitch!” he said, but then, as he checked the time, he smiled.
Only one minute has passed from between the time Hyperion had walked up to him, and now.
“May I have a minute of your time?” Hyperion had asked.
Here are the links to the other two stories:
Liar, Liar (Wrath) <<link
Writer: Perry Broxson
Word count: 8,820 words – approx. reading time: about 33 minutes based on 265 WPM
If you’ve read all the stories and care to cast a vote, here’s the link to the Poll:
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