It wasn’t so long ago that I finally defeated my lifelong nemesis, in the most spectacular of fashions. Aiza and I had been going at it for a couple dozen millennia, shoving wars and famine at each other like pieces on a game board, playing dice with the lives of mortal men and women. Ignoring the larger picture, as all the gods did. Ignoring the impending end of all existence. The End of Ends.
We hadn’t known, then, that that’s what it was – just that there was something called the End of Ends, and that it was probably not a good thing. We’d hypothesized, of course, as gods are wont to do, about what the End of Ends really meant; when it would come; how it would happen. My bet had swung to a pandemic as time went on. Aiza thought it would be the result of a rampage of demons breaking loose from the underworld and slaughtering mankind in a bloody massacre. Very him. What all of our – the gods’ – guesses had in common was that we expected the End to be the end of life on Earth – the end of the entire planet, at most. We had no idea. Rewind a thousand years or so to the dawn of one of my favorite civilizations. The Enma weren’t the brightest specks of algae in the gene pool, I’ll admit, but they had a level of tenacity and ruthlessness that even a god like me had to admire. They didn’t just defeat their foes: they annihilated them. They obliterated entire nations just to gain control of a single group of plateaus, their reason being that those plateaus were the only place that a certain goat lived. They quite enjoyed goat. Under my guiding hand the Enma conquered much of the southern continent without a single loss, and in record time. Aiza, predictably, grew jealous of my success with the Enma, and tried to bargain with the other gods in order to topple me from my high, heavenly horse. Those days I was on a meteoric rise to the tippy-top of the godly food chain, and none of the others would ally with him against me. Not openly, at least. Those backstabbing, venomous, conniving little traitors, with their glowing halos and sparkly robes. How could they! Even little Uren, whom I Spawned myself, and taught all my secrets too! That Aiza did convince the others is merely insulting, but Uren? My own Uren? It hurt more than I care to admit. Almost as much as the death of the Enma civilization. Now this – this meant war. We went to work like a pair of diligent university students, each plan meticulously engineered to bring maximum frustration to the other. I’m especially proud of the time I tricked his then-chosen people into sacrificing a barrel of scorpions to him, just about the only thing mortals can do to cause him physical pain. You should have seen him: he came bursting into my chambers an hour before the eternal dawn, howling for my ichor, demanding I apologize and give him a free shot. Imagine that – he actually wanted a penalty move. The gall… When I finally caught my breath and stopped laughing hysterically, I apologized, then politely bid him leave my chambers. He refused. He demanded a godly duel. I was shocked to speechlessness. Such a thing had not been seriously considered since far before our generation’s Spawning, and was as theoretical as the thought experiment proposed by Archangel Horii involving twelve Minotaurs and an undead Cyclops. So of course I protested, stating the above. Aiza would not back down. A Council of the gods was called – and, as I no longer occupied the Ruling Throne, I had no advantage in the vote. The other gods had by this time grown weary of our “squabbles”. They wanted an end to it all; a permanent end. The Council voted unanimously in favor of the duel. There was no way out. Let me stop here for a moment to drop some Divine Revelation on you: There are exactly three ways that a god can die – all important things come in threes. The universe just has a thing about the number three; don’t ask. The first, and most common way, is to be forgotten. When a god is forgotten he disappears like mist in the warm light of a noonday sun. He vanishes without a trace, and because no one remembers him it does not even matter to those who still live. The second way a god can die is to be killed by another god or, though I shudder to think of the embarrassment, a human mortal, wielding a Creation Tool. The Creation Tools were lost soon after they were used to create the world, so this wasn’t something any of us ever worried about. The third and final way a god’s life could reach its end was thought to have something to do with the mysterious, inevitable End of Ends. But, as is a theme with us gods, no one was quite sure what that meant. However, a fourth way led to something much akin to death, and functionally the same for all those not participating in the activity of pseudo-nonexistence: an Official Heavenly Duel. When defeated outside of such a duel, a god will not stay dead – but if they are killed in this Official fashion, they will Officially stay dead. So there I was, outvoted by the Council of Traitors and forced into a duel I could not win. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite the formidable entity when I put my deific mind to the task – but a duel doesn’t allow for any such creative means of fighting. The Council is old, and their ways are old. The duel was a face-to-face battle, one on one, in the Pavilion of Memories. The Pavilion was a small building, by god standards, and there was no ornamentation to speak of. Nothing I could try to use to my advantage save for the ceiling, the floors, the wall, and the air itself. Aiza was a master element manipulator, and a proficient warrior. While fairly capable myself, I had no illusions as to which one of us would be coming out of that Pavilion alive. I needed a plan. With the traditional hundred-year wait after important Council decisions, I had time enough for some intensive research into the mechanics of heavenly prophecy, and the mythos of our future. I did my best to uncover everything I could about the End, compiled my findings into an extensive list of facts and theories, cross-referenced them all to extrapolate even more about the infamous End, and was finally able to fill in some crucial areas of the picture. But time was running out, and I still didn’t have anything concrete. Not enough for what I needed to do, at any rate. So I did what no god has even dared to think of in a thousand eons: I descended onto the mortal plane. In my guise as a human, my powers were weaker by magnitudes, but this also prevented any of the gods from tracking me. I was determined to work through the next million years on the mortal plane if it was the only way to accomplish my goal. I was ready for the toil, ready for the hardships of the human world. I was ready to actually work for what I wanted. And then, I discovered something quite interesting. The humans, in their ridiculous, dogged effort towards order and structure, had a far more comprehensive collection of tales and legends about us gods than any of us likely knew existed. It was, I dare say, a godsend. I befriended a certain human, a tribal leader by the name of KaldaGomo. Kalda, as I called him, was a warrior of the highest caliber, but also a scholar. He approached everything he did with such ferocity that I could not help but imagine him striding through the Heavens in full haloed armor, marching against any threat without a drop of fear in the iron cauldron of his stomach. Kalda stuck with me and treated me like a brother, making sure I had all the help I needed in my quest. Of course I never told him exactly what said quest was about, and I could tell that hurt him somewhat, especially towards the later years – but there was no other way. He couldn’t know. I didn’t want him to know. I felt…I think, during that last year, when he finally voiced the question he’d held so tightly all those decades…I felt guilt. I felt shame. Two feelings I don’t recall ever feeling before, and there I was feeling both at the same time, because of one human. I didn’t let those feeling get in the way of progress, of course. When Kalda passed on, so did I. I could no longer stay in that energetic village so full of light and life, yet missing the only life on Earth that had ever mattered to me at all. So I left, and I wandered, and I let myself shed the years I’d gained during my time there, growing young once again. I tried not to make another connection like that, another friend. It wasn’t hard. I wasn’t a naturally sociable person, and I never did meet another person like Kalda. I don’t think another like him ever existed. I finished my quest a handful of decades later, and returned to the Heavens a changed man. A changed god, really, but by then there was so much man in me that being called god felt strange, and foreign. The first thing I did was go to see Aiza, and apologize for skipping out on the duel. He growled, gritted his teeth, and told me we could reschedule, but I’d better not miss it this time or he’d hunt me down and do some terrible, terrible things that I’m really not going to repeat here. He has quite the vocabulary, does Aiza. Being civilized gods, this was enough, and everything was forgiven, if not quite forgotten. So there I was a year later, waiting at the entrance to the Pavilion of Memories on the morning of the duel. Aiza came clanking up the marble stairway, sword resting on his shoulder. He chuckled darkly when he saw the large tome open in my hands. “Getting in a last read?” he said, showing his teeth with a grin so wide and malicious it was obvious he’d been the inspiration for whichever god had created coyotes. “Just brushing up on my basics,” I answered brightly, closing it and tucking the thick book under my arm. “Basics of what?” “Oh, you know,” I replied vaguely, waving a hand. “General matter-displacement, creative uses of Hellfire, how to end the world and everything else besides.” I gave him my own grin, making sure it didn’t quite reach my eyes. “That sort of thing.” He paused, unsure if I was joking or not. He decided I was, or that I was just trying to unsettle him, and opted to enter the Pavilion and begin stretching. Purely for show, of course – gods do not need to worry about straining a muscle in a quick fight. And quick it would be. The Council arrived, and then slowly the rest of the Heavenly Plane, the minor gods and deities, a few demigods, and Cousin Jerry. No one really knew who or what Cousin Jerry was, just that he wasn’t anything any of us had ever seen and he wasn’t going to cause problems. Which was good enough for everyone to either accept or ignore him. I leaned back to avoid brushing up against one of his many tails as he passed, and turned to survey the room. I noted with satisfaction that every single god that had a hand in my fall from the Throne of Rule and that had advocated in favor of the duel was there. They had earned their front-row seats to the apocalypse. I smiled to myself, and stepped into the middle of the lightly glowing floor. I focused on the innate sense inside myself that all gods possessed – the sense of connection to the Heart of the Heavenly Plane, and to the Created Beginning of everything that was. I hummed and reveled in the simplicity of it all. The simplicity that was the trigger to the End of Ends. I heard the Head of the Council say something, and Aiza rushed towards me in a blinding flash of shining armor and the aura that surrounds us gods when we manipulate the elements. I watched as if through a haze of slowed time as his ugly face closed the distance, and brought to mind all the times he had angered me. All that I hated about him. How he’d sabotaged my great civilization of warriors simply to make himself feel superior; how he’d dragged me down from the Throne just because he didn’t like how powerful I was; and how he had brainwashed Uren and convinced him to turn on me. I scowled, and rage boiled inside me. I reaffirmed my connection to the Heart, forging a parallel path to Hell and the Mirror Heart pumping there. Then I thought about how everyone who had ever wronged me, Aizen included, was going to die instantly in the next moment. I smiled. I laughed. I killed myself.