Devil’s Due

Craig Chalquist

An archetale of the Assembling Terrania Cycle

 

The name’s Kluni. K-l-u-n-i. Make sure you spell it right.

I’m screwing with you: I don’t care how you spell it. My names are millions and vary with culture, time, and species. The windbags cruising the center of Canis Major call me Xhhthhhthth (note the stylish dissonances). The Solarites in the corona of Cas call me [[[Scintillating Eruptions]]]. The crystallines on Ishtandia intone for me a wildly atonal name that’s only audible there…

You’re from Earth, you say? I’m famous there too. Take your pick: Hare, Turtle, Coyote, Mouse Deer, Agemo, Afrekete, Baubo, Aunt Nancy, Hermes, Mercury, Iktomi, Loki, Lilala Humba, Ame-no-Uzume, Prometheus, Dagonet, Taugi, Veeho, Eshu, Joker, Bobbi-bobbi, Anansi, and the list goes on and on. Way on. What other Power bears as many names?

You human novice Leaguers are a hoot. You want to know about Intervale crossovers, the Tetraverse, Guardians of Renewal, and whatnot, and you haven’t even met a Leaguer of another species? Don’t say it: I already know about your world’s clunky spacecraft. You’re lucky more of you haven’t blown yourselves up in them.

You think other beings get into burning cans and put-put around the cosmos? Many of the ones at your pathetically low level of development converse imaginally through the collective unconscious. Easy, right? How about being a little creative for a change? You live in an abundantly creative cosmos.

Never mind how it all works. I can think of a much more interesting topic: me. Don’t you want to ask about me? Of course you do. I knew it all along.

I’m going to give you the Earthling book report version of some recent doings. Stand by to take notes because I don’t repeat myself unless I’m insulting someone…

My first grand act was the waywardness of the quantum realm, where I rule. Join two particles, then separate them and change the spin of one of them. The other’s spin changes. Why? Nobody knows. That’s the way I like it.

I laugh at all those philosophers and physicists hunting for the ultimate substance constituting the universe, only to find, after millennia of searching, a big nothing. Ha! Would you want to live in a universe built on an elementary particle or two? I wouldn’t. No. It’s fields of force all the way down, baby: a universal serving of teeming energy, with a foamy vacuum latte on the side. Take that, Kanada and Leucippus and Rutherford. Never bring a peeler to a food fight.

Black holes and wormholes, yes, because what’s funnier in an orderly cosmos than doorways going anywhere? Wormholes are theoretical? Oh, they’re real all right. Some day one of you will blunder into one. Maybe sooner than you think. Depends on what kind of mood I happen to be in.

I promised you recent doings, and here we are in the distant past. But these triumphs are too important to overlook. Let’s catch up to modern times via a few brief highlights.

The galactic crashes that made the Milky Way Galaxy what it is today: I was there. I like to break things to see how they reorganize themselves, assuming they survive of course.

A planetoid later called Theia smashing into Earth: a nice interplanetary wildcard, I thought. You can erase a lot of progress with one quick cataclysm perfectly timed; even the rudimentary atmosphere boiled away. But you got a new moon out of it. True, it caused mile-high tides for a while, but you can’t have everything right away.

The dinosaurs got boring after a 165 million years—all they did was graze, slobber, and eat each other—so an asteroid landing in the Yucatan ushered them off the stage to make way for newer and more amusing species to thrive. You were one of them. Quite a prolific bunch. Been in a Neanderthal state of mind lately? Talk about a tangled family tree…

Your hunter-gatherer ancestors knew how to respect me properly, so I didn’t have to mess with them too much. I get riled when people ignore me and obsess about order and tidiness. We live in an untidy universe. You’re welcome.

Take 12,800 BCE in what would become Mesopotamia and Europe. Boring! A lot of people just hanging out being one with the land. So, thanks to me, the North American ice sheets thawed, shifting the serpent-like jet stream while melting Lake Agassiz, its freshwater pour shutting down the Gulf Stream. Score at the end of the first half? The Younger Dryas cold spell, a drought—and an impetus to farm with large quadrupeds, all of which kicked humans out of Eden and into urbanizing near water sources. I hope you appreciate the flair, the force, the economy of effort all this entailed on my part.

The early city Catalhoyuk, established in part to control the local obsidian trade. That’s what I call initiative.

Around 3800 BCE, an opportunity for long-term conflict developed, and I just had to take advantage of it. Pastoralists living on the edges of those growing villages begin to break away. Because they raided for food and cattle, they trained as bands of fighters: prototypes of armies. (Bellum liked that.) They dispersed, eventually to become the Hyskos, the Kassites, the Mitanni, the Arya Indo-Europeans, the Huns of Central Asia, and, in Eastern Europe, the Kurgans who would install patriarchy in Old Europe.

Some of these raiders taught the Sumerians the art of hit-and-run warfare; still others were the ancestors of the Celts, Greeks, Romans, Germans, Scandinavians, and Anglo-Saxons. The stage was set for the long Age of Empires starting with former cupbearer Sargon I. You’re still getting mileage out of that caravan of events.

I was busy in religion too. The Egyptians knew me as Set, the Hindus as Ravana and the rakshasas and asuras. I was the Christian Devil and the Muslim Iblis and the Zoroastrian Ahriman. The Gnostics called me Ialdabaoth, Archon of Chaos.

About me as Devil. That blackness, hatred, and evil? That’s from believers, not from me. I’m just a trickster stirring the pot for the sake of keeping things moving. The real problem is that when you take an underworld god like Jesus—same archetypal family as Dionysus, Attis, Osiris, Tammuz, and the lot: faces of the Power Renastra, basically—and idealize him, all that darkness has to go somewhere. “The Devil made me do it” is a bunch of what armchair psychologists call projection. It belongs in the believer, the real devilish haters of the universe, and I’d appreciate your owning and healing it and letting me get on with my cosmic job. It would give Renastra a break, too.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t wreak havoc for its own sake. You’d need Bellum for that. I also don’t get a kick out of killing people, unlike Doja and Athara. It’s true that they assisted me in Mesopotamia, but then so did brave Cempa and fertile Kerp. Never mind what the other Powers think about this; it was my show.

Humans! You have such a limited attention span. There’s so much to be told: how I slew hubristic Pericles, who wanted to melt down a statue of Athena/Vaeda for its gold; how I tipped off Germania and halted the Roman legions; how I saved Gandhi’s life in 1934 by delaying his car at a railway crossing. The Cuban Missile Crisis that imperiled the world was mine, but so was Soviet chief of staff Arkhipov talking his crazed submarine captain out of launching a nuclear missile and starting World War III. That was close, and, to be frank, kind of exciting.

How about the mix-up in orders at the Berlin Wall that let everyone through? Within a few days, no more Wall. That was a nice piece of improvisation if I do say so myself. So was the hot air I pumped into the Dotcom bubble, just to show those climbers who was really in charge. The entire global market depends on me for luck, but do you think they ever show me a hint of gratitude?

Al Gore didn’t father the Internet; I did, with a little help from nerdy bipeds. Technologized speed, greed, impatience, impulsivity, and ego: my fingerprints are all over it. An entire Worldwide Wack Job as delusional as whatever you upload to it, yet people actually believe what they see on it. For instance, a no-class loser who hasn’t glimpsed daylight in ten years sells a horse paste cure to frightened bigots, and they take it! Wow. It might kill them, but at least they won’t have worms.

How’d you like President Sharpie of all people in the White House? My doing. I thought the system needed shaking up. Fundamentalists prefer their devil right where they can see him, even if they do confuse him with their Savior: ask, and ye shall receive. I might have overdone it that time, but going too far is a habit with me. On the other hand, maybe the American public will finally take corruption, greed in high places, and white supremacy seriously. Overdo it right or don’t do it at all. Besides, conflicts can’t get resolved until brought into the open.

I know what you’re thinking. But I’m not really evil, you see. I’m mischievous, misaligned, chaotic, reckless, and undisciplined. I don’t turn really dark unless I’m neglected. Then Athara shows up, and Doja, and Bellum, all in bad moods, and things really go south. Wouldn’t it be smarter to look at the darkness in yourselves? It would certainly be a lot less trouble for everyone concerned.

I sure hope your species survives. Your world is in bad shape. It would be a pity, not having you all to play with.

If you should ever be an ambassador between us and your people, Leaguer, tell them something for me, will you? I’ll even give it to you, uncharacteristically, for free: Stop worshiping us. Stop being stuck to us. Because when we are your gods, or your God, you act worse than children. Worse because children have to depend on adults. Adults need to learn to depend on themselves and each other, not on us.

We want co-creative partners, not idealizers. We are sentient Powers of the entire sprawling grand shebang of the universe, not the ideal parents you never had. Remember Confucius? I could never be confused with a Confucian–too much law and order there–but he gave you some good advice, namely: “Keep a distance from spiritual beings while showing them due reverence.”

Right now you have only one planet, and you’re screwing it up. Other species point to you as an example of self-genocide. Granted, you learn as much about yourselves through discord (which is why I am here) as through more enjoyable means, but enough is enough. Toss the corrupt out of office, believe in yourselves, get rid of what no longer serves, and govern yourselves. Get your shit together for once and grow up and quit being a galactic embarrassment.

And if you’re in the market for a new set of world leaders, I’ve got a great deal for you…