The Götterdämmerung Show
At the end of time, humans invented a machine that trapped all the gods
of the universe so that they could be put on display in the Ontology
Wing of the new World Culture Museum.
Finding themselves imprisoned, the gods at first tried to cajole the
humans into freeing them. "After all, we created you," the gods told
"It was we who invented you through our belief," the humans replied.
"You are our children."
"You are physical manifestations of ancient and primitive neuroses,"
the humans told the gods.
Infuriated, the gods hurled threats at the humans. This brought
more humans to see the opulent display of divinity.
The Norse gods were the first to rebel at their captivity. They let
loose Fenrir, the wolf, to devour the sun and, thus, begin Ragnarok, in
which both gods and humans would be annihilated. But the human's elegant
machines provided all the light and warmth they needed and protected
the earth from such trifles as a missing star. Odin, Thor, Loki, and the
other Norsemen attacked each other in frustration. More humans came to
observe the divine carnage. The other captive gods grew restless and
Shango, the Yoruban war god, called down storms on the museum. Mithra
threw armored horsemen. Durga, riding a Tiger across the heavens,
transformed into Kali, who took frenzied slashes at the humans with her
eternally bloody scythe. Leopard-cloaked Huitzilopochtli called down
lightning and thunder. The Christian, Muslim and Hebrew deities called
down fires, floods, plagues, earthquakes, swarms of locusts and worms,
hurricanes, madness, miscarriages, impotence, blindness. The energy
fields that protected the earth from the destruction of the sun
shrugged off most of the gods' collective fury, though a gray rain fell
on the museum steps for a moment or two, much to the delight of the
line of patrons, which now stretched from the museum's door and wrapped
around the planet twice.
Then the gods did something unexpected to the humans they prayed.
Being gods already, the humans didn't understand who the gods were
praying to. But pray they did, on hands and wings, floating in the air,
banging sealskin drums and standing in fire, all the gods humanity had
ever dreamed of prayed in unison to something the humans couldn't
The world rumbled. The sound was muffled by the earth's many protective
machines, but noticeable nonetheless. Then the gods began to change.
They shrank in both stature and anger. Just when the humans though the gods
might shrink to nothing at all, they realized the gods had
metamorphosed into hundreds of golden hummingbirds. As if at a signal,
the glittering birds rose up in a clatter. With a whoosh, they rose into the sky,
climbing higher and higher, far beyond the range of mortal birds. And
when they reached the protective shield that surrounded the earth to
keep the universe at bay, the birds were vaporized one by one until
they were all gone. The only god who remained was Uxmal, the crippled
Mayan dwarf who was very good at building, but slow to walk and,
apparently, to fly away.
With the loss of most of the gods, humans quickly deserted the museum.
Uxmal was raffled off to the family of a patron who took him to his estate
in the ruins of a human city that had been built thousands of years
earlier under the polar ice cap. Missing the sight of the stars, Uxmal
returned to the surface world and built himself a mile-high tower of ice
and local stone. Warm in his tower, Uxmal enjoyed the company of
children and taught them magic tricks, though he kept the best tricks
to himself, so that he would always be asked to perform at the
children's birthday parties.
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Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, including William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s. He also creates art. He lives in San Francisco.