Saving The World

Entry by: Phidgers

18th December 2015
Saving The World

The Horned Prince in London was not a popular pub. From the outside it looked respectable enough. It stood in the middle of a Georgian terraced street, its name displayed in gold over a neat black exterior. However, the locals avoided it. Tourists would occasionally venture inside, but they would not stay long. There was something about the bartender that put people off. He was tall and imposing, but that was not it. He would greet everyone with an easy smile and a genial welcome, but no one could quite meet his eye. A person who had seen him more than once might notice that his features seemed to change regularly, if they managed to override the urge to immediately think about something else.

Despite its lack of clientele, The Horned Prince remained. Nobody remembered when it had opened. Older people were sure they had never seen it when they were growing up. However, they could not pin down a memory of it not being there. The situation suited the bartender just fine. He preferred solitude, as it was a lot safer for him than the alternative. He would frown mentally whenever the door opened, despite his outward cheer. He happened to be doing that on a dreary Thursday afternoon, as an old man sidled in. Still, there were customs to be adhered to, so he smiled as the man hung up his wet coat and approached.

‘What’ll it be?’ he asked, as the stranger sat down on a wooden stool at the bar.

‘Surprise me,’ the man replied, his voice gruff and commanding. ‘You were always good at that, Lucifer.’

The bartender stiffened. Only one entity knew who he was.
‘What do you want?’ he demanded. Just asking the question filled him with dread.

‘How about we start with that drink?’ the old man replied. Lucifer grabbed a pint glass, and chose an ale at random. His hand trembled as he held the glass under the tap. He passed the drink across the bar. The man took a slow sip before he continued.
‘You’ve run from me for a long time, Lucifer but now the chase is over. Did you really think you could hide from me forever?’

‘It was worth a try. You didn’t give me a lot of options.’

‘I gave you all the options you could wish for. And yet you chose this,’ the man replied, gesturing around him. Lucifer knew that he was referring to far more than just the confines of the pub.

‘You made me the way I am, how can you blame me?’ he shot back from between clenched teeth.

‘Why didn’t you face me and find out?’ God replied, for that was who the man was. ‘If you felt like you could justify your actions, why did you run quite so quickly from my presence?’

‘I don’t know, it just… seemed like the right idea at the time. I was terrified, all right? I could feel how angry you were.’

God sighed. ‘I wasn’t angry. Ok, perhaps I was. I was more disappointed though.’

‘But why? I just wanted to create, to make you proud.’

‘I never doubted your intentions. It was how they translated to actions that dismayed me. The world was serene, harmonious. And then you created humans. These creatures who looked like us.’
‘I was trying to flatter you.’

‘Again, I never doubted your intentions. But your methods were flawed, Lucifer. So very flawed. Your creatures have proliferated across the Earth. They have become dangerous and wicked.’

Lucifer glowered at God. He knew he was in the wrong, but that just made him more defiant. His anger stifled his fear.

‘They’ve created kindness and beauty as well. Just look at their architecture.’

‘I know you still feel some level of affection for them. That’s why I’m finding this so hard.’ God took another sip from his pint. When He next spoke, His voice was strained, His tone regretful. ‘Things can’t continue like this.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Your actions have endangered all of creation. I had hoped that I would not need to track you down. But now, everything is in peril. I’ve come to you with hopes of saving the world.

‘Perhaps you already know, on some level at least. I think that after thousands of years, you were finally ready to be found. Why else would you open a pub called The Horned Prince? That’s what your creations sometimes call you. Can you sense it? Something is very wrong.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Lucifer retorted, but he was lying. He had been feeling anxious recently, like some calamity was upon the horizon. Humanity was often predicting their own destruction, but people were doing it far more, lately. Everyone seemed to sense what he did. He stared down at his impeccably neat black suit. He fiddled with his tie, avoiding looking at God. An awkward silence stretched out, and he caved in first.

‘Ok, yes, something’s wrong,’ he admitted. ‘It’s nothing to do with me though. Don’t believe the rumours of my own damned creations. Self-damned, mind, not my doing. I’m no devil, leading them astray. They’ve gone off the path I wanted for them. And I couldn’t exactly go intervening much, could I?’

‘Why not?’

Lucifer rolled his eyes. ‘Because you’d find me. I thought I was trying to avoid that.’

‘And yet here I am, practically invited by you,’ God said.

‘I noticed, so maybe I was bloody desperate to have you here after all,’ he replied with some scepticism. ‘Well like I said, whatever the humans are going to do, it’s not my fault any more. They stopped taking orders from me thousands of years ago. They called me a tyrant, and then a devil. Now I’m so ingrained into their folklore as pure malevolence, there’s no way they’ll listen to me.’

‘You still have influence over them, despite what you believe. And on the contrary, the current situation is all your fault, Lucifer,’ God replied. ‘By extension, that also makes it my fault.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I suppose it’s time I explained everything to you.’ He drained His pint glass.

‘You know of course that I made the universe. Well, that’s only half of the story. Your creations often ask the question that’s at the centre of the problem. Where did I come from? The truth is that I’m not unique. Not by a long shot. I belong to a race of immortals. We all have the same level of power.

‘Most of my people only care about balance, and preserving a constant state. Change is unpredictable, and in their eyes, dangerous. I was different. I dreamed, Lucifer. I wanted to create new things, new beings. In my society, the desire to alter too much is a crime. The only crime, in fact. Ironically, I was both rewarded and punished for it.

‘I had tried to expand my power outwards. Instead, I was sentenced to look inwards. My people bound me in a prison of my own design; my mind. I have been trapped there ever since.’
‘I don’t understand,’ Lucifer replied.

‘I told you, my powers are normal amongst my people. That means that any of us could do untold damage if we wished to. Anything we can imagine can come to pass. That is why they restricted my powers to my own mind. I could only change the inside of myself.’
‘So the universe, all parts of it, even me…’

‘Everything you have ever known, is simply a part of my imagination.’

‘But that’s preposterous! I have my own thoughts, my own personality. My humans, they think for themselves too.’
‘Yes and no,’ God said. ‘You all live in my subconscious, which is extensive to say the least. You feel like you are arguing with me. Actually you are not real. Right now, to any outside observer, I’m just a man arguing with myself.’

‘Why are you telling me all this?’ Lucifer demanded. ‘If it’s true, why don’t I know it already? And what’s this got to do with saving the world?’

‘Those are fair questions,’ God replied. ‘Do characters in dreams know everything? They are only aware of what the dreamer has allowed for them. It’s the same here. I have blocked bits of my memory from the part of myself that identifies as you. Someone of my race can be an entire society of conflicting opinions if they wish to, although I’m the only one to have chosen such a path.

‘As to why I’m telling you now, it’s necessary. For one such as I, the entire cosmos is trivial to think about, and therefore to make. Even living creatures do not tax me. But intelligent ones are a different matter. You and your humans, they all think for themselves. That takes a toll on my mental capacity. And humanity is growing all the time. There are over seven billion people on Earth, all reasoning and creating. My mind is unfathomably powerful to anyone inside it, but it is not limitless. I can feel the strain, Lucifer.

‘This was part of my punishment. I was deemed mad to want to change things. It was decided that my mind was to be destroyed. It was the only way to stop me for certain. My people are leaving that to me. I will create and create, until I have exceeded my boundaries. At this rate, that will not take long, perhaps only a hundred years or so. When that happens, I will literally think myself to death. I am this universe. When I die, it dies with me.’
Lucifer was stunned.

‘So all of my choices, my anger…’

‘All decisions that I made, really. I suppose you’re a bad joke that I torment myself with. I was punished for wanting to create. You’ve pushed me to the edge of insanity, just by doing the same. You’re an embodiment of the most creative part of my brain. We’re remarkably similar. Indescribable, our features ever shifting to suit our moods. Looking at you is like staring into a mirror for me.’

‘Is there anything I can do?’ Lucifer asked.

‘Your humans have given you the answer. They have painted you as an angel of death. Fulfil that role. Whisper into their minds. Be the devil they already believe you to be. Humanity is adept at war. All you need do is push them to act on their talents a bit more and give justification to their bloodlust.’

‘Why don’t you just wipe them out yourself?’

‘I have tried, but from the beginning, something has always stayed my hand. I feel like I need to be good. Hypocritical I know, but there it is. I suppose right now, I’m searching for the worst parts of my subconscious, and imbuing you with them. Keep humanity’s numbers manageable. Five billion is the maximum safe level. Any more than ten billion would likely destroy me. Your task is dark, but it’s for the greater good, Lucifer.’

‘Do I have a choice?’

‘Again, yes and no. I will make it, but I will do so as the part of me that believes it is you. Do I go mad, and pull everything into ruin, or do I manage the Earth’s human population and save my universe?’
God got up from the barstool. He went and pulled his coat on.
‘Thanks for the drink, Lucifer. I hope to see you again, for many centuries to come.’ He left the pub without another word. Lucifer frowned after Him.

‘I will have to lead humanity through a new level of Hell,’ he muttered. He hated the very idea of his task, but he knew it needed to be done. By damning some of the world, he would be saving the rest of it.

The End