The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
Chapter Thirty-seven: The
Congress of Gods
Higher Powers met in the roofless ampitheater of Olympus, a
half-circle of stone terraces confronting a wide stage open to
the sky. Most
pantheons were represented by only one or two gods or goddesses,
and some of the minor sects were absent entirely, though there
was at least some kind of representation for every religion that
It was quite a
crowd, radiantly resplendent in displays of unearthly power and
beauty. Zeus/Jove was a towering giant, wreathed in flickering
lightnings, and Shiva's massive phallus was prominently priapic.
The Great Mother, Ishtar -- the naked
globes of her world-nourishing breasts high and proud -- was
there with her sword and bow, the evening star upon her brow.
Beside her was black Olodumare, who
was brought from Africa to a new world in the bowels of slave ships.
Hawk-headed Ra shone as the sun, and the feathered serpent
Quetzalcoatl gleamed with vibrant colors.
They were not all
glorious. Sun Wu-Kung, the 'Handsome Monkey King' that even the
gods could not keep out, capered and spun -- threatening to disrupt the
proceedings -- and Coyote, the
Trickster, changed his shape to fit his mood. A few stone and
wooden idols sat impassively, and on one side a bush burned
proceedings resembled a cocktail reception, as much as anything
else, with the various deities mingling freely, drifting from
one impromptu conversational group to another. Odin excused
himself to talk to the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu, and Sara
wound up talking to Karl Marx.
it's kind of ironic, you being here, huh?" said Sara,
"...considering what you said about religion."
of the masses," Marx scowled. "This farcical
assemblage proves my point. Those here exist at the sufferance
and invention of the masses. Their inevitable overthrow will
occur when the people of the world unite to throw off the chains
of their ignorance."
exactly sound like you're on the side of the gods."
makes no secret of it. Prometheus' admission, 'In sooth all gods
I hate,' is its own admission, its own motto against all
Sara said, "That's the Titan that stole the Gift of Fire
and gave the knowledge of the gods to mankind. Right?"
"Prometheus is the noblest saint and martyr in the calendar
of philosophy. The eternal revolutionary, he is fastened to his
rock still, until the gods have fallen."
"Eternal torment? For helping mankind?"
"The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain. I
wrote a verse when I was a student...
Hah, eternity, our eternal pain,
Indescribable, unmeasurable death!
Disgusting, artificially conceived,
To despise us --
We, who ourselves, as a clock mechanism
Blindly mechanical, created to be
Foolish calendars of time and space,
Without any purpose,
Besides accidental appearance for destruction."
prettty gloomy," said Sara (...and pretty bad, she
thought). "What about the soul? Isn't it..."
"A soul appears at
first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis
brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical
subtleties and theological niceties. Devoid of materiality, it lacks
both the ability to sense and the ability to reason. Reason has always
existed, but not always in a reasonable form. Therefore, materialism is
the only basis for the dialectic of the soul."
uh," Sara mumbled uncertainly, "very philosophical,
I'm sure. What do these other guys think about all this?"
Marx snorted contemptuously,
"On a level plain, simple mounds look like hills; and the
insipid flatness of our present 'divinity' is to be measured by
the altitude of its 'great intellects'. The philosophers have
only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to
said Sara "Your philosophy certainly changed the world. Not
for the better, either. An awful lot of people suffered from
"I am not a
'Marxist'," he replied, seemingly somewhat offended.
"As with any philosophy -- whether it be under the
auspices of a 'religion' or formally based in scientific
reasoning -- so it happened with mine. Few people read my work,
and fewer still understood it. The masses were swayed by faith
in what their 'priests' told them, deluded by opportunists and
their own fancies. My theories concerned the 'thesis' of the
inevitable collapse of capitalism from its own internal
inconsistencies and structural weaknesses, and its 'antithesis',
the inevitable rise of the the dictatorship of the proletariat.
A new 'synthesis' would eventually emerge as a historical imperative,
not as the result of the distortion and misapplication of my
"Russia -- bah! China -- bah! Backwards proto-economies
peopled by slavish idiots! They never achieved capitalism --
how could they be expected to even understand, let alone embrace
and implement, communism? Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot -- they
all used me to excuse their own agendas."
of your basic premises were just flat-out wrong," Sara
insisted. "The bourgoeisie weren't nearly the bastards you
figured them to be, and things got better. Freedom made it
possible for the workers to become consumers and democracy gave
them the power to hold governments accountable for their
economic policies. Your slogan, 'From each according to his
ability; to each according to his needs,' just doesn't work,
'cause it flies in the face of human nature. Communism turned
out to be some kind of totalitarian hell and people suffered and
died by the millions."
may very well serve a movement of history as its mouthpiece, but
he cannot of course create it."
care what you say," said Sara stubbornly. "I still
think that you're responsible for starting it."
"I am a
bloodstained god?" he mockingly replied. "Show me one
here who is not. How many have died enforcing the loving
doctrines of their gods? And how many have been slain for
righteousness' sake? If there is no other purpose for the gods,
then they serve as mankind's excuse for butchery."
off, confused and maybe even a little bit hurt by his attitude.
She recognized that a lot of what he'd said was basically
paraphrases of some of his more famous quotations, though the
context was somewhat skewed. He wasn't really the original Marx,
she realized, but some kind of simulacrum or representation --
an 'avatar', Brunhilde had called other humans raised to godhood
by their worshippers. He was therefore made to represent their
expectations and prejudices. As with all the gods and their
minions, he wasn't really 'live' -- he was Memorex. And if that
was so, then what was she to make of herself?
She came across
the Buddha, serenely meditating at the edge of the crowd in the
guise of a fat beggar. She thought, Well, here's a god that
doesn't have blood on his hands.
she began humbly.
There was no
response, other than perhaps a deepening of his beatific smile.
battle-scarred barbarian god in furs and leather growled,
"You'll get nothing from him."
Sara looked at
him and guessed, "Mars...?"
Hah!" he laughed mirthlessly. "Call me Crom -- a name
that suits me well enough. I heard about your 'duel' with my
friend Thor. Ho, that I could have seen it!" He slapped her
appreciatively on the back hard enough to fell a redwood and sat
beside the Buddha.
talking with Mr. Marx..."
talks with that asshole," he sneered. "He lectures,
if you don't have the sense to get away from him."
anyway -- he pretty much said that all the gods are just
excuses for a lot of bloodshed..."
he nodded. "It is good to crush your enemies, see them
driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women."
you," she snorted, "Or your followers. But what about
the Buddha? From what I've read and what I've heard, his
philosophy is very peaceful -- there's never been a Buddhist
war, has there?"
uproariously at this. "Mankind can corrupt any
teaching. On the plain, you will find warriors infused with the
Zen of bushido whose masters embraced the sword not only
as a way of cutting through delusion, but as a way of cutting
through their Emperor's enemies, as well. Let me tell you what
their great Master Shaku Soen preached: 'I wished to inspire our
valiant soldiers with the ennobling thoughts of the Buddha, so
as to enable them to die on the battlefield with confidence that
the task in which they are engaged is great and noble.' The
Buddhist leadership of Imperial Japan did not just hop aboard
the wartime bandwagon -- they were the bandleaders. The Rape of
Nanking followed, and other un-Buddha-like atrocities. Thus is
such a peaceful philosophy so adaptable."
that he wasn't as ignorant as he looked. "Alright, so maybe
that's the exception that proves the rule."
was King Ashoka," he went on, obviously enjoying himself,
"who conquered most of India and spread the Buddha's then
relatively unknown peaceful philosophy at swordpoint, embracing
repentance only when he was finished."
"OK, I get
your point. Still, better Buddha than... Than, uh..."
than Crom?" He laughed again. "I don't give my
followers anything but a hard life and cold steel. They become
tough and proud and self-sufficient, taking what they need, yet incorruptible.
They are engaged in the experience of life, and
live it to the fullest -- they are not parasites who dive into
their navels, abandoning the world to the uninitiated."
are they now?" asked the Buddha, ever so politely.
on the plain, every one of them!" Crom spread his arms
wide. "And tomorrow, they will kick my ass! Hah,
smiled, and Sara became enlightened.
the Congress to order. Of all the gods, she may have had the
greatest claim to some kind of intellectual capacity other than
Marx and Jehovah (who was, after all, at least a best-selling
had settled down, she called Sara forth, bringing her up on the
stage to confront the audience.
know why you are here?" Athena asked her.
really," Sara replied.
our link. This all becomes possible because of you. You
represent the unification of mankind through technology, the
ascendency of information over insularity. Your Earthly arrival
deliberately coincides with the potential ability of all mankind
to unite in knowledge, to rise above the prejudice of ignorance
and control their own fate, to provide for themselves the
instrumentality of their own destiny."
said Sara uncertainly. "I don't think I get it."
helpfully, "It's a metaphor."
gaze affixed him as if he were a naughty schoolboy. The
barbarian grinned back at Sara, winking.
Sara protested, "the Cryptos -- I mean, Cryptoaliens --
sent me. I don't think I can take any kind of responsibility
her eyes and patiently explained, "It's a metaphor."
Crom elbowed the Buddha and looked pleased with himself.
continued, "You were sent at a turning point of human
history. Your presence represents a choice for both the quick
and the dead."
Crom added boisterously.
Athena swore. The Buddha elbowed him back.
said Sara reluctantly. "It's my dream, so -- whatever...
But I gotta tell you, I'm determined to try to stop this war if
I can. Maybe that's my test. And if I can't, then for
sure I'm not going to fight anybody, or fight for
anybody. Humans or gods."
Athena asked, "How do the gods communicate with
Well... I guess, dreams and stuff. Visions and prophecies --
inspiration? Probably not very well, come to think of it. I
suppose that most of the time, some people just claim to
have spoken with the gods. It's kinda hard to tell real prophets
from false ones, or revelations from hallucinations."
"And how do
humans communicate with their gods?"
Prayer, I guess. Maybe sacrifices. I dunno... Not too reliable,
considering. You guys don't have anything like zip codes."
humans communicate with each other?"
easy. They just talk to each other..."
depends... Uh, what are you getting at?"
"Tower of Babel, Sara."
The other gods
glared at him.
Mister Crom," Athena said icily.
back to Sara, "And how do the disparate armies on the plain
communicate with each other?"
They've got radios. Not a whole lot, but they've been scavenging
some from planes and some of the tanks and ships and stuff,
along with batteries and generators. Every single command has at
least one, though -- even the tribal guys."
cannot understand one another."
-- I'm helping. Anyone sends a radio message and I intercept
it, translate it and rebroadcast it. No charge. It's all
automatic -- I don't even have to think about it."
said Crom. "Instant Internet."
barked Athena, "Up!"
down heavily and menacingly beside the unrepentant barbarian,
who only grinned.
composure, the goddess said, "And now, we can all
said Sara, as the lightbulb over her head finally lit up.
Soon, all the
vast hordes of human warriors were clustered around their
commanders' radios, listening intently to their own gods,
occasionally firing back questions that Sara relayed as fast as
she could. The gods all talked at once, which wasn't really a
problem for Sara (who simply separated out the different voices
and routed them to the appropriate frequencies), but she could
only handle one return query at a time, since the gods didn't
have their own radios and she only had one speaking voice.
revealed, each in their own ways to their own peoples, what the
stakes were and what they were up against. Some roared
apocalyptically, others harangued. Stentorian pronouncements
were handed down, reasoned discourses were expounded. There were
invocations and oaths, calls for sacrifice and calm acceptance
of the inevitable, intellectual positions and blatant
Sara was the universal acceptance the listeners accorded to
their fate. These were their gods, after all. In many cases, the
soldiers had died defending their beliefs. And now that they had
unequivocally heard from their gods, it all seemed like such a
waste. They understood that the gods proposed their own
destruction so that humankind would never be subject to them
again. This was a duty they could embrace.
The sun passed
the zenith and was well on its way to the horizon when
long-winded Karl Marx, the last speaker, ended his antideical
polemic. (Crom's speech was the shortest -- he bellowed to his
barbarians, "Do you want to live forever?" and they
bellowed back that they'd see him in Hell, followed by coarse
laughter on both sides.)
said, "OK -- I've got a question and maybe an idea."
responsible for all this?"
been universally ordained in the collective subconscious of
mankind since before the dawn of civilization."
said Sara. "Somebody had to whip up this little
vacation Paradise and call out the Marines. Who?"
reluctantly replied, "The angel of this place."
angel of Hell told me I'd meet another angel, and I don't think
the feathery fellows qualify. I want to talk to him."
out at the gods for a moment. "He's -- indisposed."
out, "Nailed to a rock."
him, adding, "Until the issue is decided."
a rock?" Sara wondered. "You don't mean..."
by one name. He has others."
he?" Sara asked.
in an unformed time and place. The door can be neither found nor
opened until the issue is decided. Not even by you."
said Sara, sounding somewhat irritated. "Then here's my
idea. There's a few million formerly dead dudes out there
with food for maybe a week or two. There's a huge, empty city
all around us where the food never runs out. Or at least the ice
cream, anyway. What the heck -- it's Heaven, y'know...? By the
time everybody gets bored out of their skulls, maybe we can work
something out. I mean, you all are gods, right? Who knows? Maybe
this is the real test. This could be what'll set
old Prometheus free so we can all go home, or to the next level
or whatever. So -- whattaya think?"
course," said Athena. "That is why the city is
is?" Sara asked uncertainly.
Crom jeered. "Temptation."
glared at him briefly, then replied, "All that would be
necessary is for mankind to accept the everlasting dominion of
the gods. Is that what you want? Is that what they will
you mean?" Sara asked suspiciously.
the price of acceptance. The humans can enter Heaven only if we
agree to it."
"We're the landlords."
"As it is
here," Athena said, "So shall it be for all of
humanity. It is a Faustian bargain."
Sara thought for
a moment before replying hesitantly, "Well, it wouldn't
necessarily have to be forever."
happens to humankind while the inevitable is delayed? Shall
ignorance and superstition turn back the clock? It can happen
-- ask the Ayatollahs, the fundamentalists, the commissars."
Sara crossed her
arms stubbornly, but couldn't think of anything to say.
"And if a
million years pass without the heros fulfilling their destinies,
will they be too full of ice cream to care? Will they even still
be here? Souls are mutable, and between Hell and Nirvana
accumulate Karma and experience. We are unchanging. Perhaps
mankind never goes forward."
"Ask them, Sara."
"They have heard every word of this, have they not?"
numbly. She had continued transmitting translations
automatically. As the sun sank below the horizon, the humanly
host conferred grimly among themselves. In the darkness, she had
begin in the morning.
© Patrick Hill, 2000