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The God Election

Born in long-ago 1943, British author Ian Watson has by now had about 50 SFF books published, including 13 story collections, most recently The 1000 Year Reich & Other Stories (2016 from NewCon Press, UK). In 1990 Ian worked eyeball to eyeball for almost a year with Stanley Kubrick, resulting in Ian's screen credit for the screen story of A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), finally directed by Steven Spielberg after Kubrick's death. Ian now lives in the north of Spain, half way along the top. 2016 also saw the mind-warping The Brain from Beyond: a spacetime opera from PS Publishing, UK.

At midnight on the final day of the electoral campaign, Jehovah annihilated the human race. Jehovah had done this once before, by flood--apart from Noah and his wife and his family and their zoo--but this time was more final. Jehovah used simultaneous global strokes.
Annihilation meant that us assembled Gods could count souls, to determine how many votes each of us had. I am Dawk, the God of Militant Atheists, biased in no God's favor, thus I was the scrutineer.
Militant Atheists do have a religion thanks to their fervent belief in no Gods. Mere agnostics and milquetoast atheists don't qualify due to lack of sufficient enthusiasm--those people are "spoiled ballot," their lives a total waste of time. Same with babies.
As the deity of crusading unbelievers, I'd gained a following in recent years, enough to rate as a minor Power. Obviously none of the other Gods wanted me to become major! The Primaries began in the Middle East at the time of the Crusades, with much subsequent campaigning, and neither Allah nor JesusDad took kindly to me accumulating followers.
Us Gods exist in eternity, otherwise known as the Overworld, consequently the gang of Zeus and Apollo and Aphrodite and their classical kin still had something going for them. They could always hope for a revival, as happened unexpectedly with Thor and his team. Who could have imagined the Nordic countries reverting to Paganism? Personally I blame Marvel Comics. A revival in even a minor region of a world of 9 billion people counts quite well compared with the original constituency of only 500 million souls.
I remember chatting in the Overworld to a shrunken Zeus when I was scarcely a toddler resembling a homunculus. Zeus had an edge in also being Jupiter, even if his famous thunderbolts had diminished to farts.
"My boy," squeaked Zeus, "passionate disbelief in me is unnecessary these days."
JesusFather had certainly benefited by passionate disbelief in Greek and Roman Gods. Did Zeus feel threatened by the emergence of an explicitly atheist Godlet in the shape of myself?
"Perhaps you could simply disregard me?" Zeus went on. "Pay no attention? Look the other way?"
Looking the other way across the Elysian Fields brought my gaze upon Zarathustra, quite close by. Old Zarathustra rejoiced in a revival thanks to Nietzsche, and also to the movie 2001. Much of Humankind knew Zarathustra's name, even if Mister Z wasn't actually a God but a prophet, thus having little chance of winning the election to become Overgod of the next celestial cycle. The... bergott.
A prophet, indeed, of the God Mazda--who still had maybe 170,000 adherents, which isn't many. Mostly, Mazda survived on Earth as an automobile. Mister Z was a supporter of mine, due to Nietzsche's useful campaign slogan, "God is dead." Campaigns are about slogans.
Location, location, location! Thus far I've only mentioned, in a vague way, the Elysian Fields. Which is very Graeco-Roman.
How can I best describe the Overworld? That's to say, for human beings who only possess a few sense organs such as eyes and ears and noses.
Disregarding for the moment that all human beings have now been annihilated by Jehovah! A narrative requires a target audience. Do I narrate in vain, wasting my sweetness on the desert air?
In the Overworld items may be nearby or far away in space or time. Items may be related or non-related. Items may shrink or expand. Depending upon how much you concentrate. Time passes but at the same time it's still present. We can't go backwards but we can go upside-down, as it were--is that clear? And a reason why I'm addressing you extinct creatures is that your worship had a shaping influence upon us Gods. You influenced our thoughts and our sense of being, in English and Arabic and whatnot, rather than in what you might call Angel-talk. Although we're no angels--angels only exist in the minds of Jehovah and JesusDad and Allah.
I'd better go upside-down to explain. After the cork popped out of Nothing and ticktocktime began, us Beings of the Beginning looked around, just as soon as we'd collected ourselves together. And lo, we'd better wait a few billy years for creatures to whom we'd be Gods--lesser beings with countable souls, alias psyches.
Well, it took us a few billy years to find any worlds of beings with evolving souls! Or at least potentially so. Needles in haystacks! Radiation and plasma everywhere, exploding stars thus new stars being born in a billy galaxies spawning quadrillies of new worlds little and large--but planets with persons, where precisely?
Bacteria don't believe, microbes don't magnify our names.
Courtesy of the Overworld, we searched superluminally for signs of creatures with souls. Eventually we limited our hopes to one world that showed promise--provided that nothing went wrong, such as a nearby supernova just for instance. We compressed the stretch of time and waited.
Dinosaurs proved to be a disappointment regarding devotion; we waited some more.
Why did we have this motive? Before the cork popped, there was Nothing; therefore there was no prior cause. Things were just so! Even so, we had an itch to find future believers in ourselves, no matter how long this took.
Oh imaginary audience of extinct persons: do you have a question?
Why on Earth annihilate your only available worshippers?
Ho ho, how else should we count the votes? How else should we determine our divine dimensions? All of the harvested souls stream upward to form a ring around the Earth, color-coded by faith. After the count, it'll be off to the Sun with the lot of them, fulfilling the promise by many religions of some kind of union with light or enlightenment; all those souls will dissolve in the sun's incinerator. Right?
But what next? What happens afterwards?
Maybe we await the ascent of soulful rats and the dawn of rat religions. That's in the cards. You human people in your cities were never more than fifty meters from the nearest rat. With you lot gone, rats can become bigger, bipedal, handier with their front paws, plus a bit of vocal adjustment. A milly years, give or take. Of course Rattus sapiens won't worship Jehovah or Jove, but we'll fit in smoothly just as we did this time round--we're archetypal forces, even me who gained my identity recently.
Then you'll hold another election campaign and annihilate the rats, too? What are you, some kind of apex-species abortion system? To stop Clevers from spreading to other stars?
No, that's just a consequence of our electoral system.
So in future after enough millennia of religious wars, alias campaigning, there'll be a Dork of Ratdome? Then another election? Long time to wait between elections!
Time passes differently in the Overworld, like I said. And at the same time, time doesn't pass.
So you don't need to occupy yourselves now that this great election is over? No hobbies, for instance?
Election ain't over till the counted souls fly off to the sun. Fat lady has to sing.
That's how it is. There's no prior cause. It's much simpler for Something to exist, rather than Nothing. Simplicity is the engine for existence. Lack of effort, no first cause pushing things, just a sort of fluctuation, a wobble.
Why should I answer this? Damn it that I'm a God of Skeptics! Allah and JesusDad and Jehovah never have doubts about anything. Why aren't you more curious as to what the Overworld looks like, sounds like, smells like? As well as the other aspects that you can't sense! Oh I remember, you're all extinct by now.
Anyway, it's time to count the colors on the pie in the sky chart.
And... Allah has the lead! Though He'll need support from JesusDad for an outright majority. That's because Buddha counts big. Buddha's only a founder, but for a whole lot of voters He may as well be a God. I can't see JesusDad supporting Allah much, which means Allah will be a minority Ubergott.
And now it's time for the rainbow of souls to stream away towards the sun, including all the spoiled-ballot souls--cue Wagner's Rainbow Bridge from Das Rheingold, courtesy of Thor and company.
Away at the speed of multi-colored light!
Something is wrong. The Overworld itself is melting! Us Gods have been fooled!
The sun has achieved a superpsychon! For billies of years we were merely tools to bring this about. We are just puppets of--
The End
This story was first published on Friday, August 25th, 2017

Author Comments

At first it seems difficult to say much about a short-short story because I try to make the story as economical as possible, thus it ought itself to say everything that's necessary. But, without spoilers, this story also aims to be very comprehensive--if not entirely universal, as the narrator discovers.

- Ian Watson
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