And I Was Present At The Death Of A God
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September 10, 1936- Sydney: Lovely country, Australia. Lovely people, lovely weather, lovely wildlife. Lovely gods, too. Live as long as I have and you meet a few gods. Oh, it’s not as big a deal as you might think- they’re literally everywhere, and lots of people meet them without even realizing it- but in most places they sure act like it is. Met Quetzalcoatl once. Guy’s religion is nearly dead, the main thing he’s the archetype of is kept alive only by archaeologists, and he still expects a heart to be sacrificed to him. Naturally, I wasn’t going to do that, so I fulfilled the letter by sacrificing the metaphorical heart with a truly miserable poem.

But I digress. Point is, Australia’s gods are as laid back as any, and I’ve been friends with some. Walmajarri, for example. God of the thylacines, also known as the Tasmanian tigers. I hadn’t known why he’d summoned me, and I’d visited him a few months ago. Usually we only met every two years or so. Calling me back this early was unprecedented, especially when I was off in the Soviet Union smuggling out a few parahumans. At least, I wasn’t sure until I received the paper with my tea, flipped it open, and read that the last thylacine was dead as of the seventh.

Despite the name, gods can die. A better name for them might be archetype manifestations, but it’s too bloody long. Gods die when everything they stood for vanishes. Gods are tied both to the culture that venerated them (if one did- if one didn’t they’re much less powerful without the link to the ideals of a human culture with a massive impact) and to what they were the archetype of. Walmajarri would die without any thylacines left. At least, he probably would. I’ve heard of a few gods who survived after everything they stood for vanished, despite being reduced to a voice on the wind or a figure in the corner of the eye. Usually it was because what they stood for captured the imagination, and if it happened after they died, they’d start to return.

“You know, I met that one once. Liked her quite a bit,” I said, knowing that Walmajarri was next to me. “This mean what I think it does, Jarri?”

“Prob’ly so.” He spoke in a rather resigned voice. “Few still running around, maybe.” I put down the newspaper and turned towards him. He resembled an Australian aboriginal, which was enough to get him shot around most places. He was a god, though, and that came with certain advantages, such as making himself nearly impossible to notice. Good thing, too, because normally Jarri had a feral, predatory glint in his eye, claws, long canines, and a build similar to the thylacine’s. This time, though, he looked very human. Jarri never looked human. It simply wasn’t an option for a feral god.

“What,” I asked cautiously, “was the last thing the Rainbow Serpent said to us before-”

“We never met him. He’s still stuck under Uluru.” He gestured towards himself. “This is going to be normal from now on. I can’t even shapeshift anymore.” I recoiled in horror. Shapeshifting was necessary for the sanity of a feral god. Jarri’s mental stability was about to take a plunge for the worst. I knew the symptoms, and so did he. Irritableness first, followed by total loss of instincts and feral edge. Then the god lost all initiative, and became delusional, seeing things that weren’t there that almost always were visions of past glory. “Yeah, I know,” he said quietly. “I’ve been hanging on by my claws for a long time now, traveling the continent and trying to preserve my species by sticking a few of them on the mainland. It doesn’t work, Peri. The Europeans have nearly killed me, and I think they’ve just about finished the job.” His eyes swam out of focus, then swam back into it. “I’ve seen quite a few of my fellows disappear. Seems I’m next.” I adjusted my bush hat.

“Doesn’t have to be like that. You know that.” I was thinking of the bird. The Dodo.

“Dodo was an unusual case,” he said flatly. “Everybody remembers the dodo as an emblem, and so he gets to hang around Mauritius and taunt the Dutch. No one’s going to remember me, Peri, at least not for long. They never do. And if they do it will be as vermin, something to be eliminated for their mythical predator-free utopia.” He took a drink from a beer that hadn’t been near him before. Like I said, there are some advantages to being a god. “I wanted you to be with me when I go. I know you were busy in the Soviet Union, but to a certain extent I need you. When a god dies, there are things that need to be taken care of.” Australian gods might be more laid back than most, but they did have their limits. I could refuse, but Jarri would be incredibly offended, and I didn’t know how important the ‘things that need to be taken care of’ were.

“Can’t say no to my oldest friend,” I said, sipping the herbal.

September 11, 1936: I’ve hiked through the Outback countless times. Whenever I’d meet up with Jarri the two of us would inevitably end up on walkabout. I’ve always enjoyed those times. As One Who Walks, I don’t become tired from walking, ever. Nor do I become thirsty, or hungry while walking, and I don’t suffer from the environmental conditions. I’m ageless, too, even when I’m not walking. Walking’s in my blood, and hiking is my life.

This time was different. The red sands shifted in the breeze, and when they flew away from an area, it seemed like they would expose skeletons of the gods who had died. They wouldn’t, of course. That just wasn’t how gods died: They never left a body. You could kill a god without them being dead permanently, of course. They reformed elsewhere, near what they represented. I didn’t know if Jarri would have that benefit. Probably not. I wasn’t going to ask.

Wildlife was absent. Not even a soaring bird broke the monotony. I recognized the signs- emotional change for the negative, lack of wildlife, unusual weather conditions, weird music playing in the back of my mind- from my thousands of trips through the Ways. But we couldn’t be entering a Way; gods simply couldn’t enter them. Gods were bound to the land. They could send something which they represented through a Way and experience what that saw through telepathy, they could make use of spatial anomalies, but they couldn’t leave our dimension. On the other hand, here was Jarri walking in front of me, leading the way as he always did, and to all appearances he was leading me through a Way.

“There are other places, Peristrixalo, than the other worlds you walk through. We are going to a Dream Place. It is different,” Jarri said when I asked him, and refused to say any more. He’s not usually so secretive.

That night we camped near a pile of red sandstone rocks inhabited by venomous snakes and great big lizards. Jarri instinctively curled up beside me when I lay down, and I, out of habit, stroked his back. It was different, since no longer could he become a thylacine. But when one lives as long as we do, one starts to find it hard to change some habits, and I wasn’t going to try to change this one. It was a memory of better days.

Jarri only stayed next to me for a while. Like the thylacine, he’s nocturnal, though capable of daytime activity. And while he might not be running free in thylacine form anymore, the heart and soul can be feral too.

September 12, 1936: Uluru is a beautiful sight. The Europeans call it Ayers Rock, but the true masters of this land call it Uluru, and if they wished they could create a storm that would cleanse Australia of the Europeans for a generation or more.

We’re going to Uluru, I’m nearly sure of it. The Aboriginal caretakers of the site are a dead giveaway that there’s something paranatural about the place. Don’t know exactly what it is. Something connected to the Dreaming, yes, but what and how?

Walmajarri had his old feral glint in his eye today. He even was quivering with excitement when prey came near him. It’s good to see that he is partly wild again, even if he isn’t as feral as he used to be. Personally, I still hold out hope that he’ll survive. Maybe the thylacine will capture the public imagination in such a way that Walmajarri survives. But Jarri doesn’t think so. Understandable; he bears no love for the Europeans and automatically thinks badly of them- something I can hardly blame him for. I’ve seen them commit horrific acts too. But I see a distant possibility for hope. They just need to be directed, and that’s what I’m doing: directing them to different paths.

I can feel my mind changing. Walmajarri’s always had that effect on me, and I’ve always enjoyed the effect: a kind of feral alertness and edge like his own, a kind of instinctual undercurrent. But while Jarri’s is thylacine, mine is not. My species has legends that we are descended from cats, even though we don’t look like them in the least. And when I’m with Jarri, sometimes I wonder if they are true.

The two of us saw a goanna today. Walmajarri clearly wished to kill and eat it, but I was too fascinated by the lizard for him to do so. Its scales shimmered in the light like granite, and for so long it looked like the stone it sat on.

September 13, 1936: We’ve reached our destination. It’s basically a giant canyon, though the walls… there’s something about them that tugs at part of my brain. It’s like I’ve seen the pattern before in something extremely significant, and I should know what the pattern means. Whenever I look at the canyon from the cliff face overlooking it, I get this feeling of deja vu.

The music is getting stronger. It’s not actually coming from the environment, it’s coming from my mind. Whenever I start to get lost in though, it’s there, but somehow not there at the same time. Not the only strange thing, either. When I woke up this morning, I could have sworn my body had altered, like I was taller with my arms and legs longer. There was more coiled energy, less steady endurance. I tried entering the Walk. It works, but I could have sworn there was something different about it.

I mentioned all this to Jarri. I didn’t like the look on his face when I told him about the second part. It was a cross between ‘this worries me’ and ‘everything according to plan’. Make no mistake, Jarri is no Machiavelli. He’s the polar opposite. But it would be just like him to keep the details of a location from me on the grounds that it’s a sacred place.

Sometimes people think that the gods are the focus of religions. That’s not entirely true. In many places, they are the most devout adherents of it, as much as they may be able to coexist in perfect harmony with those holding other beliefs. Many gods disdain worship, Jarri included, even (or especially, in the case of many more chaotic, freewilled gods) when it is of them. Jarri doesn’t see himself as something to be worshipped up high. He sees himself as a creature of the Dreaming, perhaps more wise than most mortals, but only because he’s been around longer- but still fallible. He makes mistakes.

Like his tendency to misuse British swearwords.

September 14, 1936: I trust Jarri. He’s been a friend for a very long time. Hundred years, in fact. I can still remember when we met.

But this… this is strange. As I said before, Jarri’s always had a wilding effect on me; it comes from him being a feral god. But never before has the effect been physical. I can barely move, it seems, without a slight ache in my bones, and I know that my body morphology is changing dramatically.

It’s not Jarri, I’m quite sure of it. It’s the canyon. I’ve spent all day analyzing it, to Walmajarri’s evident annoyance, and there’s something this place is doing that is changing me. Whether it’s magic or science, I don’t know. Probably magic, but who is to say that magic and science are not the same thing here?

September 15, 1936: Jarri’s looking reinvigorated. His body morphology is changing slightly too. I suspect it’s the effect of the canyon.

I’m beginning to grow impatient. I might not want Walmajarri to die, but I would very much like to know what it is he wants me to do. Even if it was actually nothing of import, I’d stay with him until the last. But I should know.

September 16, 1936: I stopped worshipping the gods of my people a long time ago. I saw them for what they were: entities like Walmajarri, like Bast, like Lugh, like Thor. I have tried to stop swearing by them, though it is often instinct.

I swore by the gods of my people today, when Jarri finally revealed why he had brought me here. I should have guessed something along the lines of what he told me.

Gods are archetype manifestations; I know it, the gods know it, anyone who associates with them knows it. Therefore a god has an incredible amount of energy- potential energy- bound up inside of him or her. Energy cannot be created or destroyed. When a god dies, that energy doesn’t just vanish, it’s got to go somewhere. Sometimes it dissipates. Sometimes it creates an explosion so vast that it dwarfs anything that has ever been seen. Sometimes the god creates a new sacred place with their last breath, or works a miracle.

Walmajarri intends to work a miracle. He has had enough, he says, of the Europeans driving species extinct. He has had enough of his friends dying because of the actions of fools. He has had enough of entire ecosystems collapsing around his ears, and entire ethnic groups being driven to ruin.

And so he intends to stop it. With his dying breath, he will create a sacred place where the essence of species can be stored. The canyon will trap the essence of any creature that dies within its borders. The god associated with the creature would still die if all specimens died, but there would be a chance of coming back in the future.

We will make preparations tomorrow, he says. I must find the last thylacine and bring it here. Jarri knows where she is now. Jarri knows that she is hunted, too, and old and weak and sick.

September 17, 1936: I found her. She was fearful, but as Jarri said, she was weak. But she delayed me long enough for the hunters to catch up with us.

“Stand aside. Damn thing killed my best laying hen,” the lead hunter said, brandishing a long-barreled firearm in my face. I crouched down next to the thylacine, which I had soothed with a small pipe Jarri had given me.

“Can’t do that,” I said as I shook my head, and vanished into the Way with the last thylacine before the bullet left the barrel of his rifle.

September 18, 1936: It is done. Jarri turned to floating motes of light before me. I stayed with the thylacine until she died. Strands of light traveled from her body into the soil as she did so. Because what thylacines are is still intact, Walmajarri might return, someday. Until then, though, for all intents and purposes, he is dead.

My body is returning to normal, but my mind will never be the same.

You said they would never remember you, Walmajarri. I say differently. I say they will never forget you, I say that they will never forget the thylacine, because I will not let them. I will travel from place to place, planting evidence for your continued existence. I will place you in art whenever possible. And ultimately, I will bring you back, though I do not know how.

You will see a new dawn, Walmajarri.

September 18, 2006- Sydney: “The genetic programming is completed. We’ve reached stage three of integration. The pups should be ready within a few weeks.” Dr. Jacobsen stood next to me. How I loathe him! The man has no ethics; he’d gladly kill a thousand sapients to make a few dollars. But I need him. All of the others I had approached had rejected me. Understandable. They believed in what they were doing; they were into science, not hare-brained plans to resurrect a species. Jacobsen was in science for the money, and unlike most of his colleagues, he was a member of Marshall, Carter, and Dark, so he believed what I said. And so for the proper fee he was willing to convert an old warehouse into a lab.

“Soon,” I whispered, stroking the glass holding the preserved specimen. I could hear the slightest whisper in the back of my mind, a whisper from a voice I hadn’t heard in seventy years. Across the waters, I saw the sun rise.

Later that day, I sent a coded message to California, asking an old friend for a favor.

November 1, 2006: Today ten people wielding assault rifles modified to shoot tranq darts entered by a hidden doorway, darted Jacobsen, and took the thylacine pups to a sanctuary for careful nurturing. Odd how some organizations turn up in supposedly secure locations. Shame Marshal, Carter, and Dark don’t understand such things.

They should stop chasing me by next month. Jacobsen can hold a grudge, but he has better things to do than go after me. For that matter, eventually it’ll be more cost effective to let me go.

Jarri and I’ll meet at the usual place in 2010. With the advances in transportation technology, we can meet far more often, but he needs a bit of time.

In the meantime? I haven’t been to the Southwest since that skinwalker episode. Time to pay a visit. Figure after that I’ll go through Mexico and Central America. Maybe visit some Mayan ruins; I always liked Mayan ruins.

Librarian’s Notes- Project Uluru is doing as expected. As of September 2011, the thylacine colony at Legacy has reached thirty-six individuals. Advance scouting for possible reintroduction sites completed. Reintroduction will begin once a suitable cover story is announced that doesn’t involve anomalies and the colony reaches one hundred individuals.

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