No divine scent preceded it, and no herb or blossom sprang up in its wake; the god simply plodded across the park, trailed by its probation officer. Their unvarying route had been easily clocked by the kids at the nearby junior high, who began to wait in the trees to film and mock it. Gabe, on her lunchtime runs, occasionally stopped to watch too; it was hard not to.
Today, though, the kids were flinging pebbles at the god and shining laser pointers into it, making it flinch and waver. “Hey!” Gabe yelled, brandishing her own phone. “Smile!”
They fled in an adolescent combination of fear and disdain. Gabe awkwardly approached the shivering god. “I’d like to apologize on behalf of our town,” she said. “We’re not all…”
They do not respect me, the god said; she winced as the voice resonated in her jawbones and ribs. She had no rebuttal: Some feared the god, others were indifferent, but no one worshiped it.
The officer — a thin man whose unfamiliar maroon uniform boasted strange badges — shrugged. “Thanks,” he said. “I’m not allowed to intervene. My contract.”
We go on, said the god. This is not the way to regain what is lost.
Gabe shuffled aside to let it pass: a towering orb of blue-gray mist, broken glass, claws, feathers, scales, eyes, like a traveling hurricane in an exotic birds exhibit.
Weightless, it still seemed to lumber. Perhaps it wasn’t suffering, but how could you tell? It was struggling — even clutching the plastic grabber in one insubstantial extrusion, it needed several tries to pick up each pop can, chip bag, broken flipflop. Maybe it didn’t like the gravity here, Gabe thought. Or friction or the composition of the atmosphere — or the mortal discomfort of the passage of time.
Back home she hunted down the little brochure city council had mailed: This is to inform you that [unreadable symbols], deity of [more unreadable symbols] will be performing community service in… Her first question had been, But what was its crime?
It could have turned the hurled stones into soap bubbles, or made them burn the kids’ hands, or something, right? Was it that it couldn’t fight back? Or wouldn’t? Gabe shook her head. Why did she want to know?
The god and its minder found other parks; the kids too wandered off, seeking fresh novelty. Their godtoks had never gone viral, and Gabe found herself meanly pleased. Weeks later the god approached her near the river, where she had paused to stretch.
I remember you, the god said. You showed respect.
“Uh,” Gabe began.
My sentence is over.
Gabe started to ask the obvious, then stamped it down. No, it really didn’t matter. “Well,” she said, “good luck.”
The pair vanished in anticlimactic silence, none of the theatrics she’d expected: no distant eerie chorus, not even a flash of light. She stared at the patch of grass, then turned and jogged home in the long autumn light. She’d never seen the park so clean.
Premee Mohamed is a Nebula award-winning Indo-Caribbean scientist and speculative fiction author based in Edmonton. She is an assistant editor at the short fiction audio venue, Escape Pod, and the author of the Beneath the Rising series of novels as well as several novellas.
This article appears in the September 2022 issue of Edify