"I'm afraid the rules are non-negotiable. If you don't like them, you don't get to go to Earth." I stared at the mountain of teeth, stone-carved skulls, and grass skirt in front of me.
"What? I'm god!"
"No," I corrected, hands arranged on the desk, "You are a god. Look around," I gestured to the building around us – the one made of flickering, glistening glass and diamond, "We are all gods here. The rules are the rules. If you want to go to Earth for a vacation – or whatever you have planned." I flicked my gaze at him over the top of my glasses. I didn't have a vision problem – I was a fully-functional goddess – but the glasses added something to my demeanor cheaper and easier than lightning bolts and tidal waves. "Then you have to play by the rules. No god, goddess, or demi-god can be cleared for entry into Earth unless they agree to uphold the rules and to be held accountable to them should they..." I traced a finger down the file on my desk, "Decide to get creative."
He clenched his jaw. The necklace of actual skulls around his neck jittered to the side, and each of the skulls turned their hollow glares on me.
I stared back over the top of my unnecessary glasses.
"I have killed warriors," the god growled, the runes and symbols painted across his face (in what looked like permanently fresh blood) glistened as he shifted in the light, "I have killed men, I have killed gods—"
"Really?" I leaned back and pretended to be impressed. "I suggest you go hand yourself in to the Divinity Police. Times have changed, Mr," I glanced back at his file, "Balang, and we tend to frown on that type of thing these days. Plus, if you are trying to convince me that you are a stable and reliable enough sort of fellow to be let loose on the streets of Earth, I suggest you tone down the murder talk. If you want to be let in," I smiled wanly, "Sign the damn contract." I refrained from asking him to sign the goddamn contract, though the word was on my lips. Goddamn had a different meaning when you yourself were a god.
Balang looked ready to kill me.
I didn't react. I'd seen this type of thing before. I'd been looking at godly tantrums for centuries.
"I'm afraid unless you sign that contract, you will not be allowed through customs," I pointed out one final time. "If the details are not in place, you will not be allowed entry."
Balang settled. From his file, he was one of those composite gods. Death, destruction, war, crops – you name it – he stood for them all. A lucky thing. For now he was stepping aside from the warring side of himself and falling back on the crop-growing side – the side that appreciated the logical, methodical, sensible approach to growing maize, potatoes, and signing necessary divine contracts in order to process his visa application.
He didn't mutter a "Fine," or an "Okay then." He grabbed the scroll and scribbled his name across it using the pen propped in an inkwell on my desk.
I let out a small sigh. Thank god for that. I smiled at the thought. Thank god because it was a god who'd presided over this victory – me.
What was I the goddess of? What particular skills did I have to bring to this situation? Details. That's right, facts. No fancy elements or abstract concepts for me, thank you very much – just the parts that constitute the whole.
Throughout all the pantheons that existed there were all sorts of extraordinary gods and goddesses – creatures who stood for and symbolized the greatest forces of the galaxy. In the human pantheon alone you had gods of thunder, death, war, wisdom, and love. They lived their lives through and commanded those forces.
They were the big guys.
Then there was me. I stood for details. I couldn't call the denizens of the dead from the underworld. I couldn't command the oceans to rise up. I couldn't inculcate wisdom into a man's soul. I could, however, dot my i's and cross my t's. Which made my job perfect for me.
As soon as Balang signed his scroll – which bound him physically to the rules of the Integration Office – he stood, his necklace of skulls indignant. He marched away immediately without as much as a "Goodbye."
I watched him go, the light streaming in from the sun behind me catching each leaf in his grass skirt. When he disappeared down the great glass stairs that led through customs down to planet Earth, I gave a hearty sigh.
I cleared my throat and glanced at the clock. It was time to go home.
I scanned my office one last time, nodded in satisfaction that everything was where it should be, then closed and locked the door.
"Knocking off then?" one of the cleaning gods asked from down the corridor as I headed for the stairs.
"See you in the morning," he mumbled back.
"Yes," I confirmed. I walked for the glass steps and took to them gingerly.
He would see me in the morning. This was my job, and I took my job seriously. I had to. I was the sole immigration officer at the Earth Division of the Integration Office. It was up to me to sign and stamp the visas that allowed gods and goddesses transport to Earth. It was up to me to keep the riffraff out. It was up to me to ensure every visiting divinity knew the rules and accepted to abide by them. It was up to me to ensure Earth stayed as it was while the various gods and goddesses of the universe secretly took their vacations there.
Oh yes, it was an important job, and one I took very seriously. I was Officina, goddess of details and facts.
I stopped past the shops on my way home to pick up some cat food. I lived in a nice but modest cottage on the edge of a city. I had roses, a well-kept lawn, and a nice white clean kitchen where I baked things like muffins and pies. I spent my time – when I wasn't working – poring through books and catalogues of data. I was never more at home than when I had information before me, and the more specific, the better. Numbers, calculations, variables, patterns – I didn't watch television like some of the entertainment gods when I got home from work, I studied.
Surrounding myself with hundreds and thousands of facts made me feel alive. It made me see the divinity in the universe and, importantly considering what I was, the divinity within. The universe literally opened up for me when I had my nose stuffed into a book of weather facts or an almanac or a catalogue of engineering tools.
By the time I made it through the front door the sun was already setting. It was strange seeing it from far away again. The Integration Office was located, of all places, right next to the sun. It was made of diamond and glass. It didn't, however, melt or burn to a cinder. It was constructed and run by gods, not humans. No one complained of being blinded by the light streaming in through the great glass windows – though they offered an unshielded view of the sun's bubbling corona. Only gods bothered going through the Integration Office.
After work, each night I would come home to my Earth cottage. Unlike some of the other divine permanent-residents on Earth, I didn't bother living in the abandoned ruins of some temple, castle, or palace. I'd gone for an affordable delicate cottage on the outskirts of a large city. I had a small pond with tadpoles and frogs, and rows of neat white roses along the fence. I wouldn't trade those for all the semi-abandoned sacred ruins on Earth.
I had a library, too – a great, grand, wide library. Mundane things like frogs and roses aside, my library wasn't... ah... normal. Technically, when you stepped into the room between my lounge and bedroom, you came upon a rip in the space-time continuum. A rip that took you to any library that had existed on Earth: the Library of Congress, the Library of Alexandria, and every public library you could think of. I would grab a great handful of books after making my dinner and before sitting down in my lounge room, and every night I would read through them all.
It was how I liked to live my life. Or rather, it was how the divine quality of details and facts established itself within me.
Not all gods were like me. There were a few gods and goddesses who had been granted permanent residency on Earth. Some of them chose to live like hermits in the forest, flitting through the darkened ruins of their once great temples. Still others abandoned the old for the new and became rich – but apparently ordinary – women and men of power and play.
They didn't, however, break the rules. While using your godly powers to create small space-time rifts in your living room didn't break them, the rules forbade direct interference with the human populace. That would break the rule of Freedom of the Will. The rule which stated all creatures – all beings, from slime molds to birds to humans to non-corporeal energy entities – had the freedom to choose the ultimate direction of their lives. Break that rule – interfere in such a way that a person loses their freedom – and you go straight to Divinity Prison.
There were other rules, too. The business of keeping Earth safe was an important one. There were a great many burgeoning life forms on this planet, all trying to figure out their place in the universe. Despite a god or goddesses' ultimate predilection – be it to wisdom, death, or war – they had to safeguard the sanctity of life. These days that meant staying out of things and letting all those entities figure it out for themselves.
Us gods and goddesses were still creatures and still had rights, though. If a god of war wanted to visit a temple of peace on some far-off planet, he could – as long as he didn't get creative halfway through his holiday and start carving up the monks for some light exercise.
As long as people respected the rules of integration – and people included gods – they were free to go anywhere and explore whatever experiences they may.
All you had to do was accept to live and behave in accordance with the rules. Yes, that often meant leaving the golden chariots pulled by man-sized scarabs at home, along with your marching army of dead and angry warriors. But it wasn't all bad. You could bake pies, you could read books, you could walk on a street full of humans and watch their expressions, emotions, and lives – all without anyone knowing who or what you were.
I did love to watch. Some of the other gods – like the ever-irritating Thor/Zeus/Jupiter – would prefer to be sitting on a mountaintop throwing lightning bolts at goats, but they had to find other ways to indulge their creative passions these days.
Thinking about Thor/Zeus/Jupiter brought an angry flush to my cheeks, and I took a hearty sniff as I turned the key to open my front door. My cat appeared around my ankles. It meowed with all the force and passion of a warhorse eager to go into battle. The battle it intended was some nice prolonged meowing until I fed it, but the sentiment was there.
"Yes, yes," I said softly, "You'll get your food, Chia."
I took one last glance at the sky and the rays of sunlight filtering down. They were long, purple, and orange – rich with the colors of dusk. I smiled up at them.
If I'd had the time, I would have counted them – though it technically isn't possible to count rays of light. I would have noted the exact hues of each ray. I would have noted the way they interacted with the objects they hit – how they shined off the clean white of my picket fence and the glorious pearly-color of my roses.
It was always in the details for me – everything was.
The end of Chapter One. The rest of this book is available from most ebook retailers.