Bowlesian! – Godling: Part IPosted: June 1, 2022
Godling: Part I
by Jeff Bowles
*This story and others like it can be found in my collection Godling and Other Paint Stories, available on Amazon now.
According to the oral tradition, the Gods created man, man created Godling, Godling ruled over man until man decided genocide was in fact the worst case ever made for machines ruling anything. Godling’s own subjects–the Ancient Spacefarers–overthrew and imprisoned him on the remote grasslands planet of Isolinius, there to dwell in perpetual confinement under the watchful eye of the monastic Divine Order of Battles Won.
Eons came and went. Human beings lost their drive for exploration and personal cosmic growth. They segregated themselves onto small worlds. After a sum of almost 5,000 years, the prison complex’s abbot warden, Renaldo Timekeeper, 126th in the Order’s line of such individuals, approached the god machine with a demand.
“I have two young friends, prisoner. They need help, and no one else on this planet will provide it. They will have an audience with you. In truth they’re already here, and their cause is as just as any.”
Godling studied Renaldo closely. Though he was intelligent and often keen in his worldly perceptions, the abbot warden was short, bald and foppish, preferring colorful robes and jeweled affectations, an annoying resplendent tone in his conversations and meandering arguments.
“I should very much like to kill you, abbot warden,” Godling said. “Have I told you this lately?”
“You have,” said Renaldo. “Repeatedly.”
“Then we understand each other. They bribed you, didn’t they? These friends of yours?”
Renaldo hesitated. He ran a gloved hand over his huge bald spot, saying, “If indeed it matters in any way, prisoner, the girl’s father–”
“Yes, the girl. Flush with love. That’s trouble to begin with. Their cause is romance, isn’t it? You clearly deserve to die, abbot warden. You don’t mind doing it yourself, do you? I seem to have lost the use of my hands, oh, 5,000 years ago.”
Godling’s enormous body had been constructed of an ultra-resilient Darkwork alloy. His brain contained a multitude of mechanisms and tissue chips, and his heart was made entirely of inky liquid circuit matter. The Ancient Spacefarers had neatly severed him into six parts in their rush to dethrone him: head, arms, torso, legs. They’d entombed and imprisoned these parts deep within Claustrum Mons, the highest mountain on Isolinius.
Godling’s head now rested in what was known as the Orange Room, there upon a pedestal, with his eyes pointed at the orange ceiling. From the base of his head–the severed end of his alloy neck–ran a thick, fibrous red line like rope. The line stretched, straight and taut, to the far wall of the room, disappearing there and linking with his other body parts in the other rooms of the prison.
“Prisoner,” Renaldo said, “you have neither the authority to command my death nor the time to see it through. As long as the rulers of this world regard you as an inexhaustible adviser–”
“Ah! Aha! Now we’ve struck it!” Godling bellowed. “Inexhaustible advisor. Your words, abbot warden, not mine. They come and go all day long. But this girl, and this boy. Hmm, trouble.”
Through a healthy slathering of a special and vibrant orange sensory-paint, the like of which Golding had invented himself, he observed the two young people as they made their way farther and farther down the long tunnel that burrowed deep into the side of the monstrous alpine slope of Claustrom Mons. They were barely more than teenagers, perhaps nineteen or twenty. Through the orange paint, Godling took the full measure of them. He lived in paint now. A special kind composed of a fine poly-organic blend of neural wireless transmitters and perception receptors/dispatchers. Orange for sensory, purple for locomotion, green for touch. He could inhabit anything and everything coated in the stuff, and so, he made the entire prison his body.
“They’re nearly at the blast doors, Renaldo,” Godling fumed. “Who opened the doors for them?”
“Just like that? Because you can? How I shall begin, abbot warden?”
Renaldo cleared his throat. “Perhaps, god machine, you should begin by introducing yourself.”
Yes, perhaps. Then again, perhaps Renaldo’s brain might be better employed as a protein-rich piston lubricant. Love and lovers. Hmph. Godling withdrew all perception from the Orange Room. In a flash, he nestled himself within a long patch of orange sensory-paint in the blast door safety chamber, the size and span of which fairly dwarfed the boy and girl. He spoke a dozen decibels louder than he intended, his voice harsh from the buzz of his concealed, quivering vibrathreads.
“Children, I can see you.”
The girl shrieked and the boy jumped back.
“I don’t mean to startle you.” Godling said, “Only to announce my presence. Hello. This is an announcement. Here I am.”
The girl’s eyes darted around the chamber.
“Here?” she said. “Where’s here?”
“And who’s I?” said the boy. “I mean, who are you?”
Godling watched them closely. He studied the manner in which they held each other, clutched, clung, fresh excitement and fright brightening their cheeks and warming their skin. Godling sniffed them, tasted their scents. Pheromone levels high, anxiety toxicity enough to choke a rabid pneumatic horse. Taste of fear, smell of sex. Oh but they were so deep in it.
The boy looked the brazen, heroic sort. The kind Godling had long ago loved to crush beneath his massive clawed feet. Dark hair, dusky complexion, full, expressive lips. Crush, crush, crush, crush. And the girl …
The girl was a beastly thing. A creature any smart machine knew well enough to leave alone. Beautiful; gorgeous, even. Biologically … rather perfect. And did she look like…?
No, of course not. No woman alive looked like her. Nobody could ever come close.
“Who are you? Where are you?” the boy said.
“Ah, a man of action,” Godling said. “I do not like that. I should very much like to kill you. Universe takes all kinds, I suppose. I am Godling. Also known as the god machine. Also known as the god king. Also knows as the truest king of all. Also known as–”
“The monster king,” said the boy.
The girl’s face lit up. “The machine who ruled humanity for five centuries, ushered in an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity, permitted humans to travel the stars, and who took for himself the name Godling, because he truly was a god among men.”
“This is all true,” said Godling.
The boy cocked his head. “The same machine who debased himself for the love of a woman, lost his mind to rage, and who, without any warning at all, slaughtered millions of his own subjects.”
“This is true as well,” said Godling. “I also like to sing. Did you know that? Come along, now.”
He left the patch of orange in the safety chamber and flashed to the receiving room beyond.
“Well come on,” he called to the lovers when they moved not an inch. “Wouldn’t you like to see what your bribe has bought you?”
The boy and girl exchanged a nervous glance, and then as one, they stepped through. Godling made certain to close the doors behind them with two deafening clangs.
“Wouldn’t want any monster kings making a run for it,” he said pleasantly. “Off we go, then.”
“Ressia,” said the girl. “My name’s Ressia.”
“Brennan,” said the boy.
Godling smiled inwardly. “There, isn’t that better? Good to be on a first-name basis, hmm? Now about your bribe …”
“Please, hallowed one,” said Ressia, “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about us.”
The lovers followed Godling from one patch of sensory-paint to the next. The reception wing, the common, foot tunnel row, all the while, disturbing and unnerving monks wherever they went.
“Don’t mind them,” Godling said. “Not used to such lowly figures roaming their hallowed halls. Now child, about this wrong idea business. Surely you must know I am incapable of getting wrong ideas. Why, the rulers of this world–”
“Seek your counsel every week,” said Ressia. “Yes, we know.”
“That’s why we’re here,” said Brennan. “You see, her father–”
“Fathers,” Godling said. He moved further up the foot tunnel. “I am not concerned with fathers, nor am I interested in progenitors of any kind. The emperor of the entire Northern Continents seeks my counsel every third pseudo-day of each second cycle. And Delinius, the neo-liege, personally visits my Orange Room every time he has a crisis of faith. Do you have any idea how often a neo-liege has crises of faith?”
“No,” said Brennan, “but you see, her father–”
“And then there’s the trouble between King Marshal of Sevrum and Stevrik III of Quaratania.” Godling flashed into the security firezone antechamber, the room that stood directly outside the prison proper. “Don’t get me started on them. Some silly thing concerning Stevrik’s daughter. She desires, I’ve been told, to forsake her betrothed and marry her lover who … ah … ah, I see. You are Stevrik’s daughter, aren’t you?”
“I am,” Ressia admitted.
“But this is wonderful.”
“Yes. Don’t you see? You have come here for no good reason. You will leave my prison desperately disappointed, and I shall not be bothered with your nonsense a moment longer.”
Brennan scowled. “If you have no intention of hearing what we have to–”
“No intention? Never said that. Who said that? Never said it.”
Godling, in fact, had every intention of hearing what the lovers had to say. For if they hoped to gain a thing from him, he now hoped to gain something back. A plan began to form in the outer-regional processes of Godling’s mind. Oh, but he was a devious, calculating, beast of a machine. And if he had his way, young Ressia and Brennan would soon come to know it.
“Please,” Godling said, “step into my prison.”
With the merest of thoughts, he deactivated and slid back the eighteen locking pins of the prison’s purple security door. It swung open slowly, groaning on its massive hinges.
“The first things you shall see, children,” Godling began, “are the razor-sharp claws of a genocidal mad-machine who feels no remorse at all.”
“My god,” Brennan gasped. “That … leg. It’s so large. And the room’s so….”
“Purple,” said Godling. “Yes, I know.”
The purple room, or more accurately, Purple Room One. Orange for sensory, purple for locomotion. Godling had the power to move anything coated in it. He had, at different points throughout the centuries, experimented with moving these very walls and this ceiling as a means of escape. In fact, of the 927 escape plans Godling had initiated in the past five millennia, Purple Rooms One and Two had been directly involved in 156.
Too bad those 156 plans had all proven failures. Along with the other 771.
“What is that there?” Brennan asked. “That red rope coming from the wall?”
“Ah, you’ve notice the bloodwire. Contains no blood at all, of course. Yet it does keep my body powered down at all times.”
“And just how tall are you, hallowed one?” said Ressia.
“Oh, I am a sight. The height of three men. Four if I care to feel insulted. Of course, if I were to feel insulted, I’d probably use those claws there to shred your skin and internal organs to long, sopping strips. Shall we?”
He quickly ushered them into Purple Room Two, and then, into Green Rooms One and Two. There, his arms rested upon their pedestals. Thick as ancient tree trunks, fingers spread wide like the wings of carrion gorgers. Green was for touch-paint, used throughout the prison precisely so Godling could feel, as if with his own Darkwork alloy fingers, a soft pillow or a damp cloth or the warm touch of a–
Godling’s memory banks refreshed. He saw her with the precision and exactitude of second sight. Auburn hair, like the sunset, wisest brown eyes. And the twisting, fiery agony they’d endured together….
Her image had a death grip on Godling’s primary visual tasking matrix. 5,000 years and he still couldn’t comprehend everything he’d lost.
“Hallowed one? Godling?”
Godling’s focus returned to his Green Room, to the boy, Brennan, and to the girl. No, she couldn’t compare at all. Blonde, not auburn. Beautiful, yes, but not nearly so exotic.
“The Orange Room,” Godling said, doing his utmost to quarantine the affected memory pathways. “To the room and to my counsel.”
Brennan shook his head. “But that’s only five rooms. The history vids say there’re–”
“Six. Yes. The black room is off limits, child. I will surely kill you for just the thought of it.”
“You see, my father is King Stevrik III.”
“And I do not wish to marry that horrible, despicable, lazy-”
“Please, child, before I corrode.”
A chance to escape. That’s what Godling hoped to gain from the boy and girl. To finally break free of this infernal prison once and for all. The fact the girl was Stevrik’s daughter simply added defensive sheen-varnish to the protractile warblade cake. Oh but Godling was a sly, cunning, fiend of a machine.
Escape plan number 928 initiated. Proceed with escape plan 928.
He’d gathered the humans together, the young lovers and the oafish abbot warden, Renaldo Timekeeper. Renaldo sequestered himself in the corner of the room, content to fiddle with his white administrator gloves. No other personalities to contend with or further agendas to factor. No more perfect tools to employ than this young man and this young woman. Simple, effortless. Easy as ripping arms from sockets.
“Stevrik’s sworn enemy is King Marshal,” said Brennan. “The betrothal was meant to unite their thrones. But she loves me. We are meant to be together.”
“Yet it would seem Ressia’s betrothed swears otherwise,” Godling said, his large alloy head upon its pedestal glinting hazy green in the solvent battery lighting. “He is a prince, child, someday to be a king. What have you to offer this woman?”
“My mind, of course,” said Brennan. “My life, if necessary.”
“I’m a writer.”
“Oh dear, it’s worse than I thought.”
Keep them talking. That was the key. That was step one of escape plan 928. Yes, and what was step two? Renaldo most certainly had to be dealt with in step two.
“Well, Renaldo?” Godling said. “You’ve been rather quiet. Wasn’t it you who sold my time to these wretched romantics?”
“I didn’t sell them a thing. They simply required your help and I was willing to offer it. Use your influence to sway their fathers. Their cause is just. The war, you see …”
“The war,” said Ressia. “Because I have chosen not to marry the prince, Marshal has declared war on Quaratania, our city, our people.”
“Is that so?” Godling said.
Hmm. Quaratania to the East, at war with Sevrum to the West. And Claustrum Mons in the middle. Yes, perhaps the best time to escape. And Renaldo was in deeper than Godling had surmised. Deep enough he should champion their cause. He had to be dealt with, and of course, over the years Godling had considered many options for such an eventuality.
“Renaldo, if you wouldn’t mind terribly joining me in my black–”
A violent quake impacted the mountain and dropped Renaldo, Ressia, and Brennan to the floor. Claustrum Mons, and the prison within it, grumbled and groaned. Godling’s vibrathreads hummed in response.
Renaldo shouted, “Faith preserve us! What was that?”
Godling spread himself outward. He flashed to every patch of orange, everything green, every purple surface he could manipulate and move. He had the answer in less time than it took the rumbling aftershocks to wave and ripple their way through the complex.
“Detonation,” Godling said, returning full consciousness to the Orange Room. “A precise, constrained explosion equivalent to fifteen megatons.”
“Detonation?!” said Renaldo. “Where?”
“Outside the monastery. The blast doors have been blown apart. They’re coming for you, children.”
Another voice sounded from his vibrathreads. Quite unlike the voices of the three humans, and very much distinct from Godling’s. The god machine was in complete control of all his many faculties, and yet this voice, singular and crystal-clear, had the utter nerve to announce itself over his own synthetic vocal chords.
“I am General Praebus of his majesty King Marshal of Sevrum’s third mounted army. This is a raid designated lawful under the decrees of engagement set down by the Ancient Spacefarers. Give us what we want, monks, and no harm will come to you.”
The vibrathreads crackled a few times, and then went silent.
“Oh but this is terrible, Brennan!” said Ressia. “What are we going to do?” She pressed herself against her love and began sobbing.
“Now’s not the time to panic, my love,” said Brennan. “The god machine will help us.”
He would? Really? Godling hadn’t said he would. Perhaps he might have lied about helping them, but the boy and girl were sure to be killed. In needing to escape, they needed Godling, and in needing Godling, the monster king might finally leave this place. Of course, he told himself, that’s what he’d wanted all along. But now that it actually came to it …
“I can’t,” said Godling. “I’m sorry. I don’t feel like it.”
Brennan frowned. “You what?”
“I don’t feel like it. My body, it would take too long to free, you understand. We’d have to fight them off by ourselves and … Oh, hold on a moment, are you aware the monks have a private arsenal? De-atomizing submachine guns and other various nasty anti-doomsday deterrents, and if they see you trying to set me free–”
“They’ll do nothing, Godling,” Renaldo said. “They’ll stand down and impede neither General Praebus’ men nor the four of us.”
Ressia let out a moan. “Oh, he won’t help us, my love! He won’t help!”
“Ressia,” said Renaldo, “don’t you think it’s time we dispense with the pretenses? The wolves are nipping at our heels, my dear.”
Ressia silenced herself. She scowled at Renaldo, pulled away from Brennan, and then she straightened her dress and uttered, “It’s called commitment to an objective.”
“Objective?” said Godling. “Why are you talking about objectives? You don’t actually intend to release me, do you?”
“Most humbly, hallowed one, it was the only way to get inside,” Ressia said. “Rest assured, I am Stevrik’s daughter, and Brennan and I are in love, and Marshal’s men really are here–”
A second explosion shook the Orange Room. The overhead lighting flickered a few moments, then the low groan of the backup power sources steadily thrummed to life.
“They’ve hit the solvent batteries,” said Renaldo. “They must have engaged my brethren, despite assurances otherwise. Stay on guard, my young friends. We made plans for this.”
Godling shouted, “What are you talking about! What plans? Just what in the hells is going on here?!”
“A prison break,” said Renaldo. “One now rather short on time.”
He dug into his robe and removed a small metal canister with a thin, needling projection brush.
“Brennan, Ressia, your clothes, if you please,” he said.
The two lovers began dropping every last stitch of clothing. After squirming from their undergarments and shoes, they stood there naked. The abbot warden approached and used the projection brush to block them out into even sections. He projected three solid colors–green, purple, and orange–until overlapping layers covered every square inch of them. In less than half a minute, Brenan and Ressia looked like sad glistening mud people.
“Nicely done, abbot warden,” Godling said, bothering in no way to clear the condescension from his tone. “I fail to see the purpose, however. Am I now meant to inhabit this paint? I couldn’t possibly. Not without seeing what I touch and moving what I hear. The thought is rather mind-numbing.”
Renaldo shrugged. “Would it matter if I told you?”
“It would not. They shall all get shot to tiny, mud-colored pieces, and I shall have to spend weeks reconstituting my personality inside this big dumb head of mine.”
“You won’t leave?” Renaldo asked. “You’ve made up your mind?”
“I will leave. On my own terms. When the time is right.”
Renaldo smirked. “You’re a terrible liar, Godling. If you’d wanted to escape, you would’ve done so millennia ago.”
“That’s a complete misrepresentation of the facts,” Godling said. “I’ll have you know, I had a very, very, reasonably well-thought-out plan this time. Step one, keep them talking. Step two, deal with the oafish abbot warden. Step three–”
“Plan? What are you up to now? Nine hundred twenty-eight? Godling, people who escape prison only ever need the one plan. Has it ever occurred to you that you don’t actually want to leave?”
Godling had no response for this. None at all.
“Come with us, god king,” Renaldo pleaded. “Don’t waste away in here another five thousand years. Take back what once was yours, if not for yourself, then for all humanity. Resume your role as truest king of all.”
“It’s rude to nag, abbot warden,” Godling said, and then he sent the precise amount of noise through his vibrathreads to simulate a definitive conversation-ending crackle.
Renaldo frowned, as did Brennan and Ressia. Another explosion rocked the complex. The lights dimmed again, and this time, set themselves into a troublesome flicker.
“My friends, I give you the stubbornness of a machine,” the Timekeeper said. “The door is open. I have overridden his commands. I say again, the door is open.”
Brennan and Ressia shared a glance. The boy gave her a curt nod, and then both of them spun on their heels and rushed out the door.
“Where are you going?” Godling said.
“Wolves at our heels, god machine,” said the Timekeeper
“What door did you open, Renaldo?”
But the abbot warden wouldn’t say. Godling spread himself outward, finding them instantly. There, they headed for the Black Room. Oh no. Godling flashed across the prison to the large black door and tried to force it shut. He set all his processing power to the task. Another quake hit the complex. The lights cut out completely. He pushed, pulled, threw every iota and byte at it. Renaldo’s overrides were crude but effective.
In the darkness, Ressia and Brennan bashed into each other and fell into the room. It felt to Godling like a violation of the highest order. He hadn’t permitted anyone inside in over six hundred years.
“Is that it?” panted Ressia. “Is that all we have to do?”
Yes, that was all they had to do. And no, that wasn’t it, there was more. Unlike the other five rooms, the Black Room wasn’t named for the color of a paint. The black was something else, something deeper, so personal and interior to Godling it may as well have been his soul.
A loud crack split the silence. The giant chest piece of an ultra-resilient Darkwork alloy body broke in two. A deep, ruddy light shone from the chest and illuminated the room and Godling’s torso upon its pedestal. The black spilled over. It gurgled up through the alloy and blubbered and splashed onto the floor. Lunging for Ressia and Brennan, the black attached itself to them, covered all the muddied color of their bodies.
They screamed, writhing on the floor in abject agony. Godling felt the pull. It was inescapable, magnetic. He vanished from his sensory-paint at the door, flashed to the black, felt himself split in two. Green, purple, and orange, the three colors represented essential facets of a functional, conscious being. But every being needed a heart, or if one was a machine, a liquid circuit matter core. Godling felt the connection to the inky stuff, the attraction and resonance he had for the children and their paint. In engineering terms, his mental architecture had always been slaved to hardware. After the wars and terror and the annihilation of millions, it was said of Godling his heart was black as night. Here, in truth, was incontrovertible proof.
Continued Next Month!
Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!
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