She kneeled and pressed her forehead against the chapel stone. All around her, other people thanked the gods the way she did. But none felt what she felt. She was sure of it. Her hands were raw from scrubbing the floor the entire night while she had chanted the prays. There had been an answer urging her to carry on what she had done—telling her that her words were heard and she had been seen. Then it had gone wrong, and she had fainted only to wake up as the morning prayers came into the chamber. There hadn’t been time to flee to the quarters where the other maids now prepared meals for the whole parish, so she had stayed, pressing her head against the cool floor, carrying with her the voice she had heard last night. It had been hollow and metallic as it had become from the tubes running the priests’ messages back and forth. The pipes which she and the other children had played when growing up.
“Blessed are your wisdom and guidance…” she joined the others. Somehow, the words seemed empty now. When she had said those exact words last night, the voice she had heard had demanded her to stop.
“Blasphemy,” it had said.
“But my god…” she insisted, but then swallowed the remaining words.
“I’m no god, child,” the voice said.
“Thomas?” she asked.
It laughed, and a small gray creature with an enormous head had walked out in the open from behind the pillar.
She dropped to her knees, pressing her head against the floor as she was doing now. She remembered how fear had made her tremble, as if suddenly the air had dropped cold, and she couldn’t control herself as the shivers went through her body.
It was one of the gods. She had seen pictures of them in the holy book. The priests had taught her that thousand years ago, they had come down from the heavens with their golden chariots and saved humans from annihilation. And ever since The Second Order, the priests had ruled the world, having direct communication to the gods. The priests had told her that children like her, who had lost their mothers and fathers, were proof the divine plan worked. One day, she could become a priestess if she studied hard and devoted her life to the Second Order. In the meantime, she should keep her head down and do her chores. The older children laughed at her when she told them about her plans to become a priestess. No one from their ranks ever did. When they were old enough, they were sent to the colonies to do the gods’ work and slave their lives for the good of the church. She didn’t believe them. Why would the priests lie to her? If it was her destiny to live in the colonies, then why not say that to her, and she would be happy to serve.
“Whenever you humans do that, it makes me uncomfortable. Now, will you please honor me and lift your head so I can talk to you,” the god said.
She feared to disobey but to obey as well. The tremble grew stronger, but she lifted her head, keeping her eyes on the creature’s shoes. They were so much like humans, but smaller than a child would have. The shoes were golden and blue.
“Now, child, do you have a name?” the god asked.
“Seelie,” she stuttered. She was sure she did. And as she said her name aloud, there was a sharp pain in her chest. She could still feel it there as she chanted with the others. It would never leave her.
“Seelie,” the god snorted at her name. “It means blind, child. They keep you ignorant and docile. Do you know what the gods, as you see us, asked in exchange for lifting this church of yours in control?”
Seelie shook her head.
“They took your riches. The colonies, as you speak about everything else outside the walls of the monastery, are nothing but enslavement camps where you dig for the minerals and hand them to us. Here, in your beautiful city where food is abundant, you can live carefree, praying for us. It’s sickening,” the god said.
“I’h…” Seelie could feel her whole body give in. This was a test. They had sent the god to see if she was worthy of their faith, to see if she defied the false claims and rejoiced the divine plan. If she did, she would be welcomed with open arms to their fold, to be taught to become a priestess. But she couldn’t get the words out. They got stuck in her throat. Along with the words, there was a bad memory she wanted to shake away. A child, screaming uncontrollably. That child being her. But it had to be a lie.
Seelie lifted her gaze to meet the god’s big black eyes. They looked sad. She dismissed it. She was portraying human emotion to them. Gods didn’t feel sad. They knew the destinies.
“You don’t need to say anything. I just wanted to understand, but now, as I see you, I know why you have been satisfied to serve. Would you work in the mines if I asked you to?” the god asked.
“I thought so,” the god let out a long sigh.
Seelie wanted to ask if she had answered wrongly, but she couldn’t find her voice. “My god…” she said and then looked back at the creature’s shoes. She couldn’t ask if the other children were right.
“It is okay, my child. You are to believe what you think is right. But I will come back, and when I do, leave the city as the walls will come down. I am merciful, but your kind might not be.” The god took a step forward and, with long fingers, lifted Seelie’s head to meet their eyes.
Seelie felt the room sway and she fainted. She woke up to the rush of clothing against hurrying steps to see it was morning. So now, as she prayed, she knew what had happened last night couldn’t be. Still, Seelie wondered as she got up and took the bucket and brush with her if she should warn the priests and say what the god had said. But even she knew that was blasphemy. So Seelie sneaked back to be amongst the other maids and didn’t say a word. Gods didn’t speak to the likes of her. It had been a mistake, something she imagined.
Thank you for reading, and if you see any aliens, please say hi. Also, have a wonderful day ❤
© K.A. Ashcomb