Previously in RESUME GOD: The Invader Realm, Kaerbanus, launched an assault on Nataal greater than any they had attempted before, leaving behind icons of corruption made from living Nataalians. While Gisae tried her best to drive it off, she was too late. And where was the God of Nataal? At a job interview.


Part Nine (of Nine)

Carl looked into the eyes of a girl who had seen madness before her time.

“Gisae,” he said, “thank god you’re all right…”

“All right?” she asked.

“I… I mean…” Carl looked around at the destruction of the village of Clan Dharlu. He was having trouble with coming up with words to face his avatar with.

“There is nothing all right here, Carl McCall. Where were you when your world needed you?” Gisae’s hands were tight fists at her side, and Carl wasn’t entirely sure they weren’t crackling with barely-controlled power.

“This is why I appointed you,” Carl said, taking a nervous step backwards. “I told you I couldn’t always be here!”

Gisae took another threatening step towards her god.

“I called for you. I know you heard me.”

Carl didn’t even dispute it. Whatever link he had created between the two of them had indeed been strong enough to reach him even at Hesperides Publishing.

“I know you heard me!” Gisae screamed at him.

Carl closed his eyes. He needed to center. He could fix this, after all, right? I mean, what was the point in being a god if he couldn’t do anything.

He reached out his hand to touch the petrified form of Gisae’s father. The wrongness radiating from it was palpable, but Carl forced himself to keep moving his hand closer until he touched the thing.

There was nothing of Nataal left in it, that much Carl knew immediately. It was Kaerbanus in Nataalian clothing, a knot between this world and the Invader Realm.

“I’m… sorry,” Carl said, forcing himself to keep his hand on the twisted figure despite the pain it emanated.

“You asked me to save this world,” Gisae said, her banshee wail slowly crystallizing into a cold dagger. “You told me you loved it as I did.”

“I… I do.”

“I swore a vow to you, Carl McCall, absent god of Nataal. And I shall keep that vow… but know that this day, while you have my service, you have lost my trust.”

With that pronouncement, Gisae turned from her father and her god and walked away.

Carl knew it was one of those situations where he was meant to go after her, but his shame held his feet to the rotted stone of the bonfire.

He could have tried to explain things, but there was no explanation.

He should have tried to gather his power and shatter the blackened shadows of the village, but there was no rescue here to be found.

All Carl had was his failure.

Gisae was right.

What right had he to waste his time with the mundane life of an unemployed hack when there was a responsibility he carried that no one else in the world could share? Tearing his hand from the corrupted figure he closed it into a fist… but there was nothing to swing at here besides himself.

There, in the burning remnants of a village of his people, Carl made his own vow to Nataal. A vow of commitment, and a vow of sacrifice. He didn’t know how he could explain it to Mindy, but Carl had to prioritize. People were dying here. He knew where his responsibilities lay.

Closing his eyes, he let his body disperse into the quanta and willed his spirit back to earth.

Never had ascending felt so much like falling.

Carl’s spirit slid through the old burgundy chair and back into his body. He opened his eyes just as he heard the sound of a car door slamming outside. Panic of an entirely less cosmic level hit him and he sprung from the chair, racing back into the kitchen. The pot on the stove was empty except for the precipitate left over from long-boiling water. He grabbed the pot and tossed it under the sink faucet, but the water coming in contact with it just hissed into steam. The boxes of uncooked noodles sat accusingly from the countertop next to him.

“Hello, hello!” came Mindy’s singsong greeting from the living room. “Is dinner ready?”

Carl had all of ten seconds to come up with a better way of saying no, but this time he was all out of excuses. He stood there, next to the sink of unwashed dishes with a steaming pot in hand. The table he had promised to decorate was still covered with stacks of magazines and unopened bills.

Mindy’s smile dropped off her face as she turned from the hall into the kitchen, which was sad because it had been a particularly happy one.

“Oh, Carl,” she said after a long moment of disappointment.

“I… I got busy,” was all Carl could say. He couldn’t blame it on demonic invasion or demiurgical abandonment; Mindy would only have heard it as mockery of her blighted hope that her husband might for once take something seriously.

But rather than her anger rising, Mindy precisely set her purse down next to the table and slumped into a kitchen chair.

“Look,” Carl said, lost for a way to describe the situation he was in, “I… I’m not going to be able to do this.”

“Do what?” Mindy demanded. “Act like a grown-up? Be a husband? Make something of your life?”

She wasn’t nagging, though… she was crying.

“I’m sorry, hon,” Carl said, taking a step closer, gauging if trying to comfort her would make things better or worse. “But there’s something I need to tell you.”

“Yeah,” Mindy said into her lap, keeping her tear-washed eyes from making contact with Carl. “I do too.”

“What?” Carl asked, seeing a possible path to rapprochement. “Tell me yours first.”

Mindy looked up for the first time and Carl could see that her hand was clenching her jacket in a tight, shaking fist.

“I’m pregnant,” she said.

RESUME GOD will return January 9, 2014!

Be here next week for the debut of CLOSING TIME!

© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.

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