Author : Josh Thompson
A planet full of gods is not a nice place. Ancient humans knew this and their legends were full of betrayal and conflict and suffering. If anything, the inhuman powers of the gods brought out what was most human in them. That was the ultimate lesson of those tales, but humanity forgot, as ages passed and gods changed. As civilizations rose and fell, perhaps they became uncomfortable telling the stories of powerful and violent deities because they were slowly becoming what they had told of.
Alberta woke up.
She still needed to sleep. She wondered if that made her at least a little human. She wondered what being human even meant. She looked human. Her thoughts were human. She didn’t feel human. It had been a long time since that.
She stretched her arm forward. Its brilliant, stark outline extended in contrast to the endless ocean that engulfed her. The pure ceramic white of the layer shielding her fragile body from that emptiness shone brightly. She watched it contort and flex. It was not a suit of armour; it was an extension of herself. In the depths of space, it was her.
She uncurled her legs and looked downwards towards herself. Her body was shiny and perfect and the same as it had always been. She looked to her left, then rotated until what had been her left was above her head. There was a cloud of hydrogen a few thousand kilometers away. In a white hot veil of fusion and energy, she was there. She barely noticed traveling there. Her arm still extended in front of her, she watched the gas swirl around it. Maybe this fog would one day make a star. She pulled a swathe of the cloud into an infinitesimal glow in the palm of her hand. She couldn’t be human, she thought, as the tiny ball of light dimmed and shaped itself into a bowl of cereal. Humans could never do this. Was she a god, she pondered, as she turned the hydrogen around her into breathable air in a fiery outpouring of radiation and heat? Her undented, blank white mask disappeared around her mouth, and she raised a spoonful of cereal to her lips. She still ate cereal every time she woke up. She had never heard of any gods that did that.
She wondered if she would ever get bored of her cereal. She doubted that. She’d had a long, long time to get bored of things, but she’d never failed to do this one thing. She didn’t need to eat anymore, but it was some measure of normalcy. Very long ago she’d instructed the artificial intelligence augmenting her own to remove the number of bowls of cereal she’d eaten from its array of tracked data. Even though it was the only constant ritual left in her life, knowing just how many times she’d done it was depressing.
She still had emotions, though she probably had a slightly different perspective than most humans had, she mused. The gods of human legends had been jealous, and proud, and vengeful. She wondered if the absence of other humans caused the absence of those feelings in her, or if the absence of those feelings was in fact the absence of her humanity. Those gods had also been loving, and righteous, and generous. She was none of those things. She wondered if humanity’s legends would have been different if those peoples had known what it was like to experience godhood, but then she caught herself. She knew far better than that.