ASH: A Singular Fire one-shot

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Thu Sep 10 11:25:08 PDT 2009

     [The cover shows a vaguely Greek man holding up a small clay figure of a
man and contemplating it, sorrow touching his features.  In the night sky
behind him, something is blocking or snuffing out the stars on one side.]

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
  //======================= '|`         A Tale of the Golden Age
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||                  "A Singular Fire"
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||          Copyright 2009 by Dave Van Domelen

     The first thing you have to understand is that you're NOT going to
understand.  Not fully.  You can't hope to.  If you're hearing or reading or
otherwise experiencing this memory of mine, you're a mortal or at best a
Partblood, and the ways of we Purebloods (gods) are barely comprehensible to
*us* much less you.  I will try to relate it in a way that's at least a
shadow you can grasp, though.
     The second thing you have to understand is that this is a true story,
but it isn't The Truth.  That gets back to the first point somewhat, but even
for Purebloods teasing out a singular objective Truth can be hard.  In fact,
that's part of why all of this happened in the first place.  And why it
continues to happen, will continue to happen, will continue to have happened,
and any other grammatical permutation your brain can wrap around plus a bunch
it can't.
     The third thing you have to understand is that true stories always
contain lies within them, and the best lies contain truth within *them*.
This is especially the case when you're talking about the lives of
Purebloods, since we tend to transcend linear notions of logic and causality
thanks to our mageblood.  You might have heard stories about me and my
brother, and they're all true and all lies.  This one will be as true as I
can make it for you, but it will also be a lie.  Sucks to be a mortal,
doesn't it?
     The last thing before I actually start telling the story is to remember
that even when Purebloods use verbal communication (which isn't often, given
all the other ways we can get our points across), the languages we were born
to no longer exist except as shadows and phantoms hidden within your living
tongues.  So on top of all of this being shoehorned down into your linear
perspective, it's also translated into whatever language it is you speak.
Hey, I'm a Pureblood, it's not that hard to ensorcel a message to do that,
and no one ever accused me of being inept.  Just, um, lacking in foresight.
     Yeah, about that.  One of those shadows and phantoms is my name,
Epimetheus.  I get something of a bad rep for being the idiot brother that
Prometheus is always having to bail out of trouble, but given how badly the
Titans are losing in the wars, I'm lucky to only come across as a wacky
supporting character from an obscure sitcom.  Wars my *brother* started, I
might add, not *my* fault.  Okay, a little bit my fault, since I kinda

               *              *              *              *

     "What is it now?" Prometheus asked as I appeared in his chambers.  I was
polite enough to use the designated entry room, and he was off in his
medidation chamber at the time, but little things like physical proximity
don't really stand in the way when Purebloods "talk".  It is, however, easier
to prevent others from listening in if both conversants are at a relatively
short range.  Which means in-person visits tend to mean privacy is called
for.  And that, in turn, usually means I've done something thoughtless and
need Pro's help to clean it up before too many people find out.
     "Why does it have to be something bad?" I countered, pretty feebly.
"Can't a guy visit his brother to see what's up in his life?"
     "Did you create another populated world out there?" he gestured at the
sky, having relocated to the entry room and sealed it off from observation.
"And then forget some important part of the ecosphere, like the one with no
decomposition bacteria that ended up choking on waste?"
     "No, I've given up on that project," I shook my head.  "You were right,
as powerful as we are, naturally-occurring life just does a better job of it.
We can keep a new species or web of species going through raw power, but even
entire teams of Purebloods don't seem to be able to magic up a functional
world.  We can just transplant existing chunks of Earth and nurture them.
Pity...I'm just not comfortable lording it over mortal humans.  We're too
similar, as much as some people like to treat them like cattle."
     "Or worse than cattle.  Isis is rather fond of bovines," Prometheus
smirked, recalling rumors about Q'Nos and Isis that had been circulating for
a while, with the latter god taking on inhuman aspects as part of sexual
play.  Isis and her pantheon were big into splicing animal parts onto
themselves, it was somewhat disturbing to most of the other Purebloods.  "So,
you found something else that looked like a brilliant idea and didn't stop to
think about the consequences, then?"
     "Actually," I paused, reluctant to bring it up now that I was actually
there to say it.  "Actually, I'm here because I'm hearing things about you,
brother.  And I'm worried.  Stirring up portents of doom never goes over
     Prometheus sighed.  "It was a calculated risk.  Even with the Council of
Twenty maintaining order, I couldn't just ask other gods what I needed to
know outright...there was too much chance someone would intrigue against me.
So I invented a false prophecy and sought others to confirm it."
     "Why?  I mean, I'm no oracle myself.  I barely have the forecasting
skill of a clever mortal, as you're so fond of reminding me.  But why would
you jerk around the other oracular Purebloods like that?" I demanded.
     "Time is coming to an end.  And fairly soon," he replied.  I could tell
he wasn't jerking *me* around, and the sense of dread resignation was
     "I thought you said your prophecy was false?"
     "The one I have been spreading around *is* false.  It calls for doom and
destruction that would take place about a century after the end of time,"
Prometheus shook his head.  "I had hoped someone could see past the end that
I foresaw and disprove me.  But none of the other oracles I discussed this
with could do so.  Each assumed they were being blocked by another Pureblood
as part of the usual schemes."
     I nodded.  This much I did understand about sight of the was
never clear under the best of circumstances, and always muddied by the
actions of acausal Purebloods.  But while there was no open conflict amongst
the pantheons, there was a LOT of intrigue, which meant hiding moves from the
rivals' predictions.  Oracles got used to not finding their skills of much
practical application.
     "I picked my visits carefully," Prometheus continued.  "To the best of
my knowledge..."  
     "Which is pretty vast," I snarked.
     " one would have reasons to block all of these oracles in the same
time span.  One of them should have been able to see the date I specified, if
only just to tell that it existed.  Total blocks are rare, a haze is far more
commonly used in temporal disinformation campaigns."
     "Maybe someone does have a big push planned," I countered, "and is
trying to keep anyone from stumbling across it.  There's always rumors that
someone on the Council is angling for a higher position, after all.  And any
one of the Twenty has access to the resources to clamp down on all the
     Prometheus nodded.  "It's certainly possible.  But I've been carefully
feeling around the edges of this ending, and it's starting to look far worse
than a Council power play.  Or far better, depending on your perspective.  I
don't want to say more, even to you, until I know more.  We still have a few
decades, after all, no need to rush things...."

               *              *              *              *

     It turned out to not even be a full year before Prometheus invited me to
a private party that was obviously a pretext to discuss this "end of time"
     "I've figured out what this is like," he told me.  "You know that one
time you tried to make a material denser than neutron matter?"
     "Ow.  Yes.  I created a singularity.  Who knew that reality wouldn't
tolerate density above a certain level?  And don't answer that."
     "I wasn't planning to," Prometheus replied as innocently as he could
manage.  "But what we seem to have here is a temporal singularity rather than
a spatial one.  Or, perhaps more accurately, a *cultural* singularity."
     "Huh?  A cultural singularity?  I mean, some of the other Purebloods are
pretty dense in social settings, but..."
     Prometheus cut me off.  "I think we're about to collectively find our
way up to the next tier of existence.  Centuries of peaceful cooperation
under the Council is starting to bear fruit, even against the drag of petty
scheming.  We're about to make the next leap, become as high above our
current position as we are now above mortals.  If not higher.  We'll find
     "That's great!" I effused, pretty stupidly in hindsight.  "Isn't that
what everyone's wanted?  To not only know if there's a God above us, but to
go meet him as equals?"
     "Think for a moment, brother.  Context.  TIME IS ENDING."
     "Oh.  OH.  So, the price of our ascension is...?"
     "The end of this plane," Prometheus nodded.  "I haven't been able to get
close enough to the actual end yet to see things clearly, things are moving
very quickly and very energetically in the final years.  But it looks like we
absorb the energy of the mortal plane and use that to launch ourselves into
Infinity.  Beyond that, there's nothing.  I don't know if we succeed or fail
in our ultimate goal, but I do know the reason I can't see past the blockage
is because there's nothing TO see."
     "We need to..."
     "Need to what?  Warn everyone that we're about to attain the ultimate
goal?  Very few Purebloods really care about the mortals anymore, brother, we
both know that.  At best, they're favored pets, and I expect most of the
other Purebloods will at best shed a tear and vow to make more like them once
we attain Infinity.  Others may even relish the idea of wiping out our poor
benighted relatives more than the prospect of gaining Infinity.  No, if we
tell anyone about this, it will only accelerate the process...that much I've
been able to see."
     "There has to be a way to see the face of God without sacrificing all of
creation to do it," I insisted.
     "And there probably is.  But for immortals we Purebloods can be awfully
short-sighted.  And with the prize dangling just out of reach, the temptation
to step on a few corpses to get to it rather than finding a more ethical way
will just be too great."  Prometheus deliberately shook his head, a very
mortal gesture.  "Given a few thousand years, the mortals might even find a
path to Infinity, but we're not going to give them even a few more decades,
not with the almost frantic pace we'll soon be setting."
     "Okay, how do we wreck it?" I asked.  "I mean, you didn't just tell me
all of this so you could share the burden.  And there's Purebloods you trust
more than you trust me...oh, I don't take offense, I know I'm not the most
reliable of the Titans.  But I *am* one of the absolute best at making things
stop working, either on purpose or through sheer carelessness.  What's the
thing I need to accidentally drop into a gravitational singularity to prevent
the cultural singularity?"
     "I don't know the mechanism," Prometheus admitted.  "But I don't think
that's actually important.  Or something we can stop.  The specific
breakthrough is merely a product of the culture that will arise, an ever-
accelerating atmosphere of inquiry and cooperation that will come up with
countless plans and theories and devices.  If one fails, another will be
tried.  Again and again until by sheer brute force someone finds something
that works...but at a cost no one is willing to acknowledge thanks to the
social pressures and the thrill of the hunt.  We need to prevent this culture
from coming to pass, ensure that the quest for Infinity remains a solitary,
careful approach, with every move guarded lest a rival sabotage you."
     "Ah.  You need to break the Council, then," I sighed.  "You do know that
without the Council, pantheons will go to war, SERIOUS war, for the first
time in history?  Not right away, but eventually?  I mean, even I can see
that.  Everyone can.  It's why we let the Council lay down the law in the
first place.  Wouldn't a war of Purebloods destroy mortals as surely as your
singularity, just more slowly and more painfully?"
     "I admit the chances are slim for mortals," Prometheus nodded.  "But
it's a crack in the night.  A tiny spark of fire stolen from the gods and
given to man.  It may well burn them, but they'll have a chance.  And we may
still reach Infinity ourselves, eventually.  We're immortal, we can afford
to wait."
     "Unless they kill us when they find out what we did," I pointed out.  I
knew he meant a more collective "we" and that he knew full well that immortal
didn't mean much if another Pureblood set out to kill you.
     "Just play dumb, and you should escape the worst of their wrath,"
Prometheus tried to reassure me.  "And who knows?  Death may be the only way
to reach Infinity, it would be a grand adventure to find out...presuming the
other Purebloods allow me to die."

               *              *              *              *

     Well, he gave you that fire, and some of you even sort of remember how
the story got twisted.  I'll spare you an attempt at the details, twisting it
down to mortal perceptions would rob it of too much.  But he and I, we
started a war.  It looked like I'd made a deadly mistake, and he took an
uncharacteristically rash action to make up for it, setting the Council
against itself as they argued the merits of Prometheus's deed.  Just as we'd
planned, the Council split into factions over it all and lost its moral
authority over the other Purebloods.  It took centuries to blossom into
outright warfare, but it put the brakes on the cultural singularity almost
     Of course, Kronos figured out what was going on.  By that point the
Titans were losing pretty badly to Zeus's spawn and even a few political
marriages like my own weren't slowing the skid, so Kronos served my brother
up on a platter to Zeus, who had been pretty badly burned by the collapse of
the Council and was looking for a scapegoat.
     Maybe someday Zeus will let my brother die.  But as agonizing as the
torture has to be, I know Prometheus takes comfort in the fact that every
moment he suffers is another moment the universe continues to exist.

     I strongly suggest you mortals make the most of it.


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