Cataloging Creation

This is an older story that was originally published in Nonzine in 2006.  However, since I have nothing new at the moment I wanted to share it with you!  Enjoy!

Cataloging Creation

She moved towards him, carefully pacing herself so her anger didn’t get away from her.  Auburn ringlets framed her heart-shaped face and enhanced her large spring green almond eyes.  As with all gods, her beauty was so perfect and so visceral that it hypnotized any mortal who happened to look directly on her.  Right now, however, it was her son that was the focus of all her attention.  She slid her hand under his chin and pulled his face to hers.

His face looked like little more than a dollop of lumpy clay with two dark and deeply set eyes, a small hump for a nose, and a crude slash for a mouth.  It had not refined its features yet, had not decided exactly how it would turn out.  At this point in a young god’s life, their personality would be the final say in what kind of beauty they would end up with.  Though, if she had to say right now, Riza was afraid that Nokth’s face would end up being perhaps the most horrible of all those to ever grace the upper realm.

Snot bubbles moved out from the holes where his nose was supposed to be and around his thin mouth, briefly mingling with his tears before being wiped off his knobby cheeks with the back of a grubby hand.  She shuddered with mild repulsion before she could get a hold of herself.  Her son was not supposed to act this way.  He had been sculpted from the very beginnings of all gods, the clay of creation on the banks of the high river by her loving hands and using her own hair to bind him together and her own blood to give him life.  No matter how many times she reminded herself of that fact it didn’t alter the behavior he’d displayed since his resurrection yesterday.  By now most god children were halfway to learning how to blend and mold the wonders of the universe for their subject’s enjoyment.  But Nokth couldn’t even seem to learn the simplest part of their work: watching.

Riza was the guardian of all creations.  What other gods created from either carelessness or as by-products of their own frivolity she guarded as precious celebrations of life.  It was her job to tend to the unwanted, but even so her patience was being sorely tested.

“Calm down and remember what I told you about the carelessness of a god’s tears.  You wouldn’t want to cause life or death somewhere when you weren’t paying attention, would you?”  She asked, her voice while crystal clear and flawlessly human sounding still made everyone who heard it remember the most perfect day in their lives.  Right now, however, she was using all her energy to reign in her emotions and convince herself that this limbo was only temporary and that by tomorrow, everything should be stabilized.

Nokth looked at her for a moment, his near black eyes clouding with confusion before stubbornly shaking his head back and forth.

“Good, then quit crying and explain your problem.”

He opened his mouth and then clamped it shut as if he were a fish struggling for air.  She let go of his chin and looked at him from her full height, her hands on her hips as she waited.  While Riza’s voice was a soft and beautiful perfection and brought to mind the same clear spring day that was reflected in her eyes, his voice sounded like broken shards of glass scratching against metal, and again, Riza winced.

“I not want to watch.  Watching is silly.  I want to make things.”

“You can’t make anything because we’re not makers.  You have to learn what I do so that in the future you can help keep track of everything.  I know it’s not a glorious job, but it’s our duty as guardians to keep all of the information in order and catalog everything in the universe.  It’s a hard job, and that’s why I created you, so you could help me.”

Nokth put his head down once again and said nothing.  Believing that the foolishness was through, Riza turned back to her clipboard, walking ahead of him to begin the next round of cataloging.  She would never understand why the creators kept on churning out more and more creations every day when they knew that she would never be able to keep up with all of the items in the universe as it was now.

Looking ahead of her, Riza noticed palate after palate of cushioned items.  Some were nothing more than blades of a new type of grass or tiny replicas of a new species of animal.  But every now and then she would come across an orb no bigger than a marble that had been set on a pedestal and put aside for her to carefully examine.  An entire new world to put in her lists before she plucked it from its resting place and set it somewhere among the other stars and creations.  These were her favorite things to do, even though it meant more work, because these small, new worlds were always full of real, live interacting beings that hurt, cried, loved, and laughed.

In truth, a part of her could understand Nokth’s desire to create.  She had also wanted to be a creator, to see new flowers and grasses as they grew up under your feet as you walked or more involved beings when they first came from your eyes as you slept.  What a joy it would be to wake up in the morning and find a small animal that you had dreamed up and created resting on your pillow next to you, your imagination now a gateway to reality.  But over time she had come to realize that her job was almost as good as theirs because she at least got to study and observe what they had created, while for them the process of actually giving birth to new life forms was somewhat tedious and not often an altogether pleasant experience, if she understood correctly.  She hoped that Nokth would see things that way to.

Looking over her shoulder, she realized that she could no longer see him and she took a few steps back to see where he’d gone.  It didn’t take her long to spot him.  In fact, there were not many places you could go in the warehouse behind her, for whenever she finished cataloguing a new item, she placed it where it belonged, and the pedestal it had been on vanished, leaving only those items in front of her.

Nokth was standing over a small glass pedestal that held an orb even smaller than a marble and was surrounded by a special glass that allowed Riza to see everything on that tiny surface and even some stuff below.  It was the smallest world ever created, and even though she had cataloged most of the things from its planet, she had not placed it where it belonged yet.  This was partly because she couldn’t seem to find the perfect atmosphere for it and partly because she was so enamored with it.  In her opinion, it was possibly the greatest item ever created.  And that wasn’t just because it was small, either, but also because everything living within that sphere went together in complete harmony.  There had not been a single conflict between inhabitants the entire time she’d been cataloging it, which was an incredible first for her.

“What are you looking at?”  She asked gently as she leaned down behind him, happy to take the opportunity to support any faint trace he had of learning her trade.  It had taken a lot for her to convince the other gods that she was ready to create a god child to train and work with, and so far she had been worried that at his week review the other gods would smugly assure her that she had not created a higher being and force her to unmake him.

“It’s so pretty.  So perfect.”  The edge was removed from his rough voice by pure awe as he watched the inhabitants of the planet move around without even being aware of his presence.  Without stopping to think about what he was doing, Nokth reached up with an extended forefinger as if he were going to try and push the tiny ball around on its cushioned setting.

Riza quickly snatched his arm back and looked at him sharply, her beautiful face flush with anger and impatience.  “Do not try to touch that, you could unmake everything for them.”  She said, barely able to keep her voice below a scream.

Nokth turned and looked at her, his crude face turned into a scowl.  “But I want, I want, I want….” He said as he tried to pull free of her and began stomping his feet and throwing a holy temper tantrum.  Riza had never seen a superior being behave this way and was unsure of what to do.  So she immediately let go of his arm, afraid that any struggle would harm a number of creations around them, but she wasn’t soon enough.

As she was loosening her grip, he was pulling back with such force that his arm continued to move through the air until it struck the glass pedestal and caused it to sway erratically on its base before completely falling over and shattering.  The world went with it, tumbling end over end until it fell to the floor and smashed into a thousand glittering pieces.

Riza clamped her hands to her ears as the horrified screams of the entire population poured through her head.  She heard that cry every time a species went extinct, and it was ten times worse now with the death of a whole planet.  The only other time she’d ever felt anything comparable was when some careless god had thrown a pebble and it had landed on that planet full of giant lizards, but that had been nothing compared to this.  The death of the only perfect society rang through her head until she was unable to control her tears anymore.  She removed her hands from her ears and held them under her eyes, careful to catch every drop so that no other careless incidents occurred.

When her eyes dried up after they had cried ten drops each, she looked to Nokth, holding her pain in front of her in liquid pools of glimmering fire.  He had matured into a young man and his face had finally taken shape.  It’s rough edges, meticulously carved prominent cheekbones, brooding eyes, and black hair were so different from her own features that she immediately knew what he was going to be—one of the mysterious outsiders.  Guardianship had passed him by and the title of destructor had been handed down instead.  Even though he was no longer technically in her care, she felt it her responsibility to teach him one final lesson.

Transferring the tears to one hand she reached out and tilted his chin back again.  “This is so you never forget what goes with a god’s carelessness.”  She reached above his head with the tears and let them fall into his muddy, chocolate eyes.  As the tears entered his exposed lenses they soaked into the iris, changing them from a dark brown to a beautiful yet violent shade of red, not quite dark enough to be maroon but not light enough to be crimson.  He called out in pain, but it did no good.  His eyes had already been filled up with only ten tears each.

He shook his head and looked at her through eyes of infinite sadness.  Nothing would remove the haze of pain and loneliness that covered everything.  None of the creations held the beauty and importance they had only moments before, and every sound he heard was tinged with the echoes of a million voices reaching out to him in pain.  He started to say something, to beg her to take it all back, but a door appeared beside him.  The carving on its massive walnut surface showed a great man, handsome but dangerous, walking down a solitary road holding only an axe.

“That’s your door.”  She said as it opened and pulled him through before disappearing again.  Riza then picked up her clipboard and returned to her tasks.  There were a million more creations to be put into the register, and she did not have time for useless good-byes.  He had chosen his path, and she had given him her pain so that he would only view the universe through images of pain and sadness, and so that he could never take comfort or joy in the job of destruction, never take anything from it but guilt.  She looked up at the unending warehouse in front of her and the emptiness behind her, sighed, and walked over to the nearest specimen.  It was an elegant purple flower with drooping petals ringed in gold.  It would have been so much nicer if she’d just had someone else to share it with, and she wondered how long it would be before the other gods let her try her hand at building another helper.  This time she would try to make it a daughter.

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