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Chapter LI

Part 3:

The church, Inglesia del Amor Inmortal de la Virgen Madre por su Santisima Nino de Santo Sacremento, stood as it always had, at the back of the town at the end of the road in the middle of Atacama Desert. A long, long time ago the ground beneath the inglesia had been a temple, a simple stepped mound of the sort The Master commissioned everywhere he stayed more than a fortnight. At some point those original people disappeared and the sand swallowed all their labor.

The church offended him. All these later religions were either acts of rebellion or the crude approximations of his dreams, nothing but the work of people. He had little respect for those.

Back when he had dwelled in this part of the world he had been known as “The Staff God,” a fertility god for the most part. They credited him with the advent of potatoes, or quinoa, or maize. He tended to lose track after a while. He had not created every animal of use to mankind in the world but some of his more drastic interventions happened in the Western hemisphere. He had come to the New World very late, the captain of a ship out of Tyre, purple sails billowing as he landed in Mesoamerica. As was the case in the Old World, he let himself be greeted as a god and grew once more optimistic. His experiments in the old world had all crumbled, victims of the ambitions of men and the sloth of their subjects.

But here was a fresh start, among people who knew few diseases, had little contact with the outside world. One last chance at paradise. However, little of the raw material he needed existed here. No horses, no cows, no wheat or rice. Nothing but a few wild grains too bitter and hard to be eaten.

He did what he could do, pressing the ancient stalks of teosinte against his forehead as he dreamed of its future. He bit into an unpromising tuber and spit out the potato. And he had been loved. And worshiped.

And abandoned and forgotten.

He sighed. Always the same.

The problem were the people he dreamed for. Stubborn and willful, ungrateful and perverse to the last. He had tried in Tical, Chicama, and Cahokia to dream at them, tried to thresh out the threads of evil and greed. But it was same in the New World as the Old. Patterns could not be changed past a certain point without monstrous results. And he had bred armies of these in his stubbornness; were-jaguars and bandersnatches, wendigo and stone giants. Each dream some tantalizing sliver away from completion, each one ending in disaster.

So he gave up. He left the New World and attempted hibernation. He saw enough of the world to see things were changing. Perhaps given enough centuries the peoples of the earth would wipe themselves off the planet and he could start completely fresh. Or, perhaps, they would come up with enough clever devices to return to his plans.

Spaceman pulled himself from the car, took his hand and lead him to the church. They were surrounded by the zombie-men. He knew that his time had come for the boy from Dymi, that it was time to pass on the dream to a new vessel. For the first time in many centuries, that prospect terrified him. In the wake of the disaster at Delta Omega, he found himself at the mercy of another being. A lesser being to be sure, but one with the power to destroy him.

He had found others like Spaceman before, those willing to serve, desperate to serve, but few that had demonstrated new talents he had not previously encountered. He suspected Spaceman shared a lineage with one of his monsters. Certainly his powers of persuasion were formidable. It was a shame that he was contaminated. He might have served as a good vessel.

But the purpose of a vessel was to contain, not adulterate. Spaceman could protest all he wanted, but in the end, some confluence of events had conspired to create within him a unique and willful being. To merge them together as he had with young Nikolas was impossible. One or both of them would be destroyed in the process.

They opened the doors of the church together and Spaceman went to check on how the ceremony proceeded. The Master waited by the door, watching his hands grow stronger in the morning light. There was still life in this vessel, and still resources for him to command. Alone among all the creatures of creation, a god must have choices.

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