The holy steppe was on fire. All remaining living humans were making their way to the Final Shard, its thousand step ascent lit by the first believers' arrival. Jenos climbed up on a small hill and gazed upon his flock. Three stake-impaled heretics were on his left, and a single one dangled to his right. The clouds were beginning to darken as if awaiting the massive energy that was about to be offered to the Great Cosmic One. Jenos took a deep breath in and felt his gray robes flutter around him, the long red stripes snaking around his sleeves writhed to life by the morning wind.
“How long until we can complete the ceremony?” Jenos asked softly without bothering to move his head.
“Approximately 36 hours, Archbishop,” a voice came from behind.
The man who spoke was on one knee, his head bowed in reverence to the holy temple, and the exalted Archbishop of the Cosmic Church.
“That is not swift enough,” Jenos clicked his tongue, his features darkening like the clouds in the distance.
Jenos lifted his left hand with imperious authority.
“Give me an exact calculation,” he commanded, now looking over his left shoulder at the kneeling man, “God’s Herald does not abide any forms of delay.” His tone was as grave as the situation would become for everyone if the holy Herald arrived too soon.
“At once, Your Excellency,” the man bowed his head low and sat on the ground.
Jenos did not know this particular servant of God, so he decided to check the man’s work.
“I’m sorry,” Jenos said as he moved his outstretched left hand to his forehead and smiled a disarming smile, “but I’m not quite sure what your name is. The recent influx of believers wishing to be saved has left me unable to keep up.”
“It’s Dhar, Your Excellency,” the young man said without sounding the least bit offended.
Dhar waved his hand in front of his chest, and a moment later, a screen crystallized in the air. It took the shape and form of a glass rectangle. Dhar began to move his fingers over invisible keys, and Jenos saw the stream of numbers slide over Dhar’s retinas. As the man worked, Jenos continued to survey the process, and with each passing second, his stomach began to knot.
“We won’t make it then,” Jenos said just as Dhar’s eyes met his.
The fear that replaced the calculations in Dhar’s eyes was almost boundless.
“I…I’m not sure how this happened, Excellency,” Dhar said as his whole body began to shake from violent convulsions. “Someone must have tampered with the schedule.”
Jenos lifted his left hand, sending Dhar’s body into the air.
“Thank you for your service,” Jenos said and used his mind to fling Dhar into a nearby boulder.
The impact was so strong that Dhar now looked like splashed paint on the rocks. Someone had indeed tampered with the schedule, and now the pilgrimage was exactly 36 hours late. Human involvement was out of the question as only Jenos had the necessary access. Which of the competing beings for Godhood in this part of the universe did this act of sabotage was not relevant now. All that mattered was that the ascension did commence. Jenos turned his head back to the Final Shard and saw a massive hand begin to materialize in this dimension. First came the tips, and then the rest of the tentacles followed. A bright red light accompanied the Herald’s massive body. Soon the venerable hand of God’s emissary was in full view as it began to blindly feel around for the delicious life force gathered around the temple. Near the summit, an opaque red light began to form the hand’s inner structure. Jenos took to the air and began to absorb his flock’s life essence before the emissary could.
“My supremacy over this world will not be challenged!” Jenos screamed, and his voice cut the Herald’s hand almost in half.
The red light faded as the black flesh split, and tentacles began to thrash around the temple destroying the mountains that stood on each side. Jenos held almost all of humanity’s lives in his body already, so it was an easy task for him to consume all that was left. His face and skin became golden as he let the power he hoarded for the emissary leak through. As he assimilated all the energy humans could provide him, his skin turned a deep red, and his features disappeared as he became everyone. Blinking his eyes, Jenos was in low orbit where the Herald’s planetary dwarfing body writhed in pain. Judging by its movements, Jenos surmised it did not expect to be hurt here.
“Or maybe it never believed it could be?” Jenos though as he focused his mind on keeping the Herald in view.
Looking at his opponent proved a bigger challenge than expected as the Herald had not fully broken into this dimension. Nevertheless, Jenos focused his, considerable, newfound power and grabbed the Herald by what would roughly be a human’s shoulders. He swung the emissary around and crashed its body into the Moon. The satellite shattered and hurtled debris outward. Jenos learned that the emissary was not heavier than Earth’s long-term celestial partner. The Herald’s body tried to retreat into the space between dimensions it came from, but its struggle with pain and its following short existential crisis gave Jenos enough time to anchor it to this reality. Its body now looked like a gigantic worm with two hands made out of outward growing tentacles.
“Not much of an imagination, huh?” Jenos thought and was surprised how much of his personality had remained intact if he was making snarky remarks in his mind.
Apparently, domain over so much energy didn’t alter his consciousness to the degree he expected. As he thought those frivolous thoughts, he willed both himself and the Herald’s body close to the sun, and an almost infinitely small time later, they both were there. The Herald’s blind head slammed into the burning, molten ball and began to burn. Jenos kept the emissary pinned for a few human seconds and finally released it. As soon as he did, the red light reappeared, and the Herald began to retreat.
“Tell our master that I shall honor our bargain. He will have his souls,” Jenos hammered the thought into the, currently shattering, presence of the emissary. “Neither you, nor any of the other would-be Gods will meddle in my corner of the cosmos. Am I understood?” The final question was sent into the Herald’s mind with the force of roughly 10% of Earth’s population. Jenos exulted in the pitiful squirm his question elicited from the grotesque being.
The Herald gave final agreement and became fading red light, which soon turned to the cold, dark void of space. Jenos stood in place, closing his eyes to the star which would no longer shine light on any higher living beings in this system, and concentrated, stretching his awareness. He was searching for the life force he had just promised his own deity. When he found it, he warped space around himself and was there. As he got closer to a planet that looked like a bright emerald swimming through an endless sea of dark, he smiled a bitter smile as he thought.
“Even gods must bow down to someone.”