Vignette inspired by: The Plague of Fake News Is Getting Worse–Here’s How to Protect Yourself, CNN, November 1,2016
“Is this the reason there’s so much false news proliferating the human world?” Decilbante, the God of Music, looked down at the neon blue veins etching their way across the exposed flesh of the young woman floating in midair, flowing dress patched with images of newscasts, new stories, news blogs, tweets, social media streams, and scrolling news tickers. Each fragment flickered and fractured with the same blue neon lightning overtaking the woman’s skin.
The mauve-haired male next to him, Demidant the Mender, nodded his head. “Yes, it’s some kind of mystical virus. I’ve never seen its like before.”
Both men looked up at the ebon-skinned woman at the top of the stairs with thick curls of golden fog wafting and flourishing round her head and shoulders; Oriana, the Sentinel of the Storm. “It’s the Godhead Guillotine.” She floated down the steps.
Decilbante’s brow twitched as he looked down at floating form. “Are you quite sure? I thought we overcame that eons ago when it struck down our kind for the second time.”
She nodded. “I was a young wisp when The Heartbroken Romancer first devised how to turn the ailment back on itself, but these blue veins here–” She pointed and shook her head, setting her intangible locks to drifting. “They’re not something you forget.”
“Why is Mediateza the only one who’s been infected?” Demidant asked.
“Likely because she’s a young goddess.” Decilbante reached out and placed his palms on the sides of her head and his thumbs on her forehead. “She hasn’t yet built up an immunity to the old infections and maladies.”
Demidant glanced at the images on Mediateza’s dress, watched as inaccurate news stories were shared with thousands of people engaging in heated debates over their falsely-won conquests or writing up their own reactionary posts or articles inspired by ill-reported events. Accurate news stories about violence and hate crimes ignited by erroneous news articles and broadcasts shifted public opinion and the course of the media.
“This unchecked chaos is bound to act as quite a potent tonic to Asid’hu’hwei.” Demidant shook his head. “Now is not the time for the Rex of Bedlam and Deceit to assert himself even deeper into the soil of humanity. His fruit is sour enough as is.”
“Right now I’m a bit more concerned with who infected Mediateza in the first place,” Decilbante said. “The last strain of the Godhead Guillotine was rooted in the Dreadforest. Only Penvayne knows how to unleash it, and she has hands, eyes, nor tongue to reveal the mystery of it.”
Oriana’s eyes occluded to silver-white for a handful of moments. “I’m not seeing anything or anyone of great concern on the Grand Scales or on the human world.”
“…What about Enlightenment’s galaxy?”
The woman’s eyes faded back to their normal granite gray. She turned to Demidant and frowned at his notion. “You honestly think Enlightenment did this?”
The Mender gestured at splinters in the Goddess of the Media’s dress. “He’s steadily lost power to Mediateza the more humans have come to rely on the media and less on their own intellectual devices. He’s grown weaker, his galaxy smaller and darker. Only those on the fringes of humanity’s society still seek him out, and that’s nearly all that sustains him.”
She dipped her head to the side, released a slight scoff. “Enlightenment is above such abhorrent acts. He’s too consumed with stretching his intellect to the neverending beginning of existence.”
“As long as he remains in that bottomless well of an infinite galaxy,” Decilbante said, “he’s beyond our sight, our touch, and our speculations.”
“As far as he’ll know, we’re just checking up on him.” Demidant crossed his arms over his chest. “There’s no harm in that.”
Oriana swiveled her attention on him. “Enlightenment has existed almost longer than all of us put together; surely he knows what’s going on down on the human world and here with Mediateza. He won’t fall for the ruse that we’re just checking up on him.”
Decilbante blinked as he looked down at the vein-ridden goddess. “It’s either this or allow Asid’hu’hwei to claim more power.” He shook his head. “And we can’t allow that to happen again. Even the smallest of flares from him is enough to cause pandemonium that spans from one end of the horizon to the other.” He lifted his head. “We bring in The Intermediary, he’s the only one whose senses won’t be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of Enlightenment’s wisdom and insight. Mayhap, he’ll be able to bring about a solution that soothes everyone; there’s no one of us who isn’t essential to maintaining harmony.”
Oriana looked from Decilbante to Mediateza to the fragmented mirror. “I’ll summon him now. Perhaps he’s not currently engaged.”
Enlightenment’s galaxy was effused with golden bands and waves glittering and undulating with unhurried ease into the depths of eternity. Motes of wan yellow light sifted and swirled in the glorious expanse. Clouds of gas seethed with a luminance that bent, swelled, spiraled, and twisted of its own accord.
The Intermediary, a man dressed in a light blue silk suit with tails sweeping down to the backs of his knees, stepped out of a braid of light, dress boots sending concentric ripples along the solid surface of the body of water stretching across the galaxy. Light shifted in a vibrant-hued panoply around him, glowing platinum, neon purple, light green, and bruised red.
He walked up to the giant humanoid form with translucent skin that revealed organs, blood vessels, bones, muscles, chakras, and energy meridians laced with the same light bound to the pocket nebula. A golden mandala pooled around Enlightenment’s bald head, pulsing and rippling as s/he sat in a lotus position.
The god lifted his/her head to reveal ivory white pits for eyes. “Intermediary.” Lips lifted, muscles flexed under half-formed flesh. “You’ve come to ask me about the virus, haven’t you?”
The Intermediary opened his mouth, closed it, and replaced it with a smile. He soared up from the water until he was eye-level with the deity. “I guess you wouldn’t be very enlightened if you didn’t already know that.” His coat tails wafted around him. “Yes, I’m here to ask if you know of who or what might have released the Godhead Guillotine; it’s struck down Mediateza.”
Enlightenment brought her/his head and burning orbs forward, peering at, through, and into the arbitrator. “You’ve regurgitated most of the truth, but there’s still a bit left in your gullet. You should release it before you choke on it.”
The Intermediary lifted his hands from his sides, then he released the rest of the truth. “Did you infect Mediateza?”
The glowing god stared at him, or maybe he/she was simply piecing together the equation to the meaning of life. Finally, a response: “Yes.” No evading. No half-truths. No doublespeak.
The Intermediary continued to float in the air. “I appreciate your honesty, but you know very well that gods aren’t allowed to manipulate or control each other.”
Enlightenment leaned back. “Is sickness truly a form of control or manipulation, or simply a natural debilitating condition that befalls every being in one way or another? She won’t die if she hears the Major Key of Karthis within seven hours, and afterwards, she’ll be just as she was before the sickness.”
“Would you mind telling me why you did it?”
The deity lifted his/her hands to encompass the stretch of infinity around them. “This space should be blindingly brilliant, a magnificence that pierces the eyes and scorches the mind. While it might dazzle and delight now, it has yet to fulfill its potential. And the same is true of humans.” Massive radiant hands lowered.
The Intermediary cast a glance at the self-contained galaxy around them. “Are you saying you purposely infected Mediateza to draw human focus back to you?”
The crowning energy around Enlightenment’s head wavered as s/he shook it. “Nothing so self-indulgent. I did it for the humans’ mental and spiritual self-awareness. To keep from overwhelming them as I do my brothers and sisters, I have to communicate with them in epiphanies, realizations, revelations, and ways that don’t immediately seem very significant. I’d love to speak with humans as I am with you right here, right now. The media gives them information on a platter, which doesn’t require much in the way of critical thinking or soul-searching. There’s room for doubt, but most humans are terribly keen on keeping their mental houses quite full.” The entity started to float a few inches from the quicksilver surface. “It’s not just Mediateza who has laid them low, Innovatia has played a part in this as well.”
The smaller being let loose a slight puff of amusement. “I won’t argue that the Goddess of Growth and Fertility hasn’t had a hand in the subjugation of humans with technology, but it’s their own knowledge, insight, and enlightenment that truly allowed them to harness that technology, and I daresay you would agree.”
Enlightenment took a deep breath, drawing light into visible lungs, holding it before exhaling violet shimmering mist that rose and mixed with the clouds. “Insight brings a type of harmony, one that is felt rather than heard. Mediateza and Innovatia have lifted their voices, their influence, above all others, turning the harmony into dissonance.”
“You don’t think humans should maintain their free will, their option to choose?” The Intermediary narrowed his eyes and turned his head to the side a bit. “Or maybe it’s the Elder Gods you don’t trust for their decision to give humans free will in the first place.” He brought his hands behind his back.
The god lifted a graceful diaphanous finger, waved it back and forth. “Not at all. Humans just have a tendency to leave the past and the wisdom it provides them tucked in the pages of history like a bookmark rather than bring it with them into the present and beyond. They can certainly apply the past to the present, but they do so with past knowledge rather than past wisdom; there is a difference between the two.”
“And for that difference you’re willing to kill one of your own kind?”
Enlightenment looked down at The Intermediary. “And for that difference you’re willing to let mankind blindly text and swipe its way to its own eventual glorious demise?”
The Intermediary lowered himself to the glass-like surface beneath him, the simple movement laced with casual finesse. He tilted his head back and looked up at the god, took a single step toward the tower of phosphorescence sculpted into human form. He stood there for a moment regarding Enlightenment, who blinked at him in return. The smaller being spoke. “I don’t even think this is about bringing humans back to their roots, planting them in their original soil.”
Enlightenment canted his/her head to the side as s/he looked down. “You should’ve stayed fluttering in the air if you wish to pluck fruit from the tree of my mind, Intermediary.”
“You feel abandoned, forgotten.”
The divinity burnished a deeper shade of gold. The galaxy burned brighter, motes scattered in the air. “I am the fundamental embodiment of abandonment and forgetfulness. To know the way is to be both and neither at once.”
The Intermediary pressed on. “Your brothers and sisters can’t visit you because your essence overloads their divine senses, even they struggle to process the abundance of information and instruction woven into every strand of light here. Humans still seek you, but do so through devices provided to them by Innovatia, diluting the experience for both you and the humans.
The radiance surrounding Enlightenment was rubbed and robbed of its sheen. “I can sense that I’ve almost felt, heard, learned, experienced, and tasted everything in the known as well as the unknown universes.” A pause. “I’d rather not find out what happens to me or the human world when that happens.” Another pause. “If that happens.”
The Intermediary looked to the side for a moment. “Are you open to the idea of meeting with Mediateza and Innovatia?” He pivoted his attention back. “Perhaps the three of you can come to an agreement on how to balance your shared influence on the human world.”
The galaxy shivered around the two as Enlightenment chuckled. “Innovatia is forever in her laboratory, and were Mediateza not stricken with a divine virus, she’d be scattered across the airways or spread across a host of spectrums.” Head shake. “You would have an easier time convincing Demidant to change the hue of his hair than you would gathering the three of us together, and that’s even if I were able to leave my galaxy.”
The Intermediary exhaled a deep breath of air that failed to glow. “I thought you would say something like that, but was willing to see if you’d open your mind enough to accept the impossibility.” He blinked. “Are you willing to at least tell us where the Major Key of Karthis is heard so we can lift the virus from Mediateza?”
Enlightenment gave something akin to a smile that pulled at the translucent muscles under his/her skin.
“I thought not.” The Intermediary finally released his hands from behind his back and slipped them into the side pockets of his suit jacket instead. “How about if you lifted one virus and implanted another?”
“Hmm.” The sound skipped out into the air like a ripple from the god’s chest. “What scheme are you sketching together?”
“Simply that you infect both Mediateza and Innovatia with your essence. Since I’ve been here, I think I’ve figured out how to pierce your system here so a bit of it can leak out into the rest of the Grand Scales. The tip of a Bjornik Javelin can be dipped into a Sanguine Flask, the resulting chaotic infusion should be enough to puncture at least one golden band.”
Enlightenment became puzzlement for a handful of moments. “Apparently being in my presence has overtaken your senses as well. You just reminded me that compromising another god is verboten.”
The smaller being shrugged. “Think of your essence as an ailment, one that alleviates instead of debilitates. Rather than overwhelming the senses of Innovatia and Mediateza, you instead underwhelm them. Slowly scatter the seeds of enlightenment with a deft and measured hand until you’ve planted a secret garden. Over time those seeds will grow into gentle buds, buds that flower ideas, insightful ideas that reveal to the two of them that maybe they should work with you, and with each other, to strengthen and improve the human race while they do the same to themselves. After all, enlightenment, technology, and information are inextricably bound to each other; you all need each other”
The God of Awareness and Understanding paused for a handful of eternities before responding. “Something like this shouldn’t be done.”
“That’s not an outright refusal to what I’ve proposed.”
The galaxy seemed to shift on its axis. “No, no it’s not.”