A Hunt for Gods

“Your town cripple told me I would find you here,” I said to the woman who crouched close to the earth beneath her, sowing seeds with more care than was necessary. Sowing seeds at all should have been unnecessary. So little technology on this planet, which meant everything took more time.

I’d had my fill of time.

“Are you deaf? Does everyone on this backwards planet suffer from some malady?”

Finally, she stood, and I could nearly hear the creak in her bones. The motion was eternal, but when she eventually met my eyes, at least there was some spark of intelligence there.

“My name is Aki-Atopo” said the woman, her smile fracturing her sun-worn face into countless wrinkles. “What is yours?”

“Jor Derenell.” The woman, like the rest of the village, was garbed entirely in a vaguely luminescent moss. It was green, and ugly, and gave off some odor I did my best to ignore.

“They say there is a god on this planet, that souls linger after they pass on.”

“Who is this ‘they?’” she asked, chuckling. “Sounds like someone needs a slap on the wrist for spreading our secrets.”

Such distastefully bland humor. “Will you take me to it?”

“Why?” she asked.

“I will ask it what comes next. If it is truly a god, it will know.”

She began to walk away. The gall of these people. I hurried to follow, but she was surprisingly quick, and matching her stride as she marched down the village’s main road took precious more energy than I would’ve liked.

“How did you find yourself here, Jor Derenell?”

“I flew here.”

“On your starship?”

“Yes, on my starship. Obviously.”

My lungs heaved. Even this minor exertion made me feel as though my body were stitched together by a half-blind seamstress. I needed to cycle. Soon.

“You are quite forthcoming in your answers, Jor Derenell. I’m sensing…” she said, rubbing at her temples in a poor pretense of mysticism, “that you are a people person.”

“Just tell me what you want.”

She turned to face me, suddenly serious. “You have not earned the right to know what I want. But do exactly as I bid, and I will show you a god.”


We set out at sunset, leaving the village behind and wandering deep into what were apparently known as the mosslands. An uncreative name, for every surface was covered in the parasitic gunk. It pulsed with a faint glow, as if feeding on the trees and stones that lay hidden beneath it, leeching their life force one carbon dioxide gasp at a time.

Compared to my perfectly sterilized spaceship, the whole place reeked of plant waste, of fertilizer, of water not fit for consumption. What a disappointing terminal planet. No wonder no one made it out this far.

“Sit,” said Aki-Atopo. “Wait.”

I scowled, but still, I sat. I waited. Others soon arrived. Younger, older. They were all children to me. They carried trinkets and knick-knacks with them: a small wooden spoon, a handkerchief, a photograph.

Nothing more than simple back world tradition, then. Another failure. I took deep, slow breaths, doing my best to calm my mounting fury. I could not afford to waste my blood on fury.

And then the first sphere of flame grew in the night.

It came from nowhere, materializing waist-high above the ground, a floating ball of fiery blue.

I had read of mysterious flames before. Air pockets, rising gas, some bit of magic. Never a god. But De-Ha-Ta-Gu-Ee was a planet little researched. Perhaps a god would, in fact, choose to live in a system nearly a thousand lightyears from its closest neighbor.

More spheres materialized, dozens of them, hundreds, hovering among the mosstrees. A villager dropped her handkerchief into one of the rippling orbs, and a thin, white smoke rose from the flame.

How I envied their misguided faith, their “knowledge” that they would live on as something else, still visited by loved ones, still adding warmth to the world. I had spent a lifetime looking for that certainty, had tracked legend and hunted myth, but each mystery I encountered had eventually been explained, and whenever I did meet a so-called god, the being bled beneath my hands–as mortal as I. Some of them had magic, but magic was little more than parlor tricks and misdirection–magic had nothing to do with what came next.

“So these are your ‘Lost Souls’?” I asked, unable to keep the derision from my voice.

“I’m getting the sense you aren’t particularly moved,” said Aki-Atopo, as pleasantly as if I had commented on the weather.

“You know, most people are more put-off when I talk to them.”

“Most people are not Aki-Atopo. And who knows, perhaps I will rub off on you.”

I shook my head, bemused.

“Here. Let me show you.” She placed her hands over my eyes.

The moment her skin touched mine, the bedrock of my being eroded into loam beneath a pattering rain, and Aki-Atopo flowed into me, her essence spreading to my peripheries as vines seeking sun. It took but an instant, and then my eyes were infused with hers, gazing out onto the world before me through a lens of her perception.

All around me, the moss glowed, a garden of symbiotic phosphorescence, a blanket of deep greens and blues radiating on a spectrum I had forgotten. There, the shade of the cobalt sea on Algradon, here the midnight forests of Kytar.

Though the stars in the sky were distant, though the night was moonless, I saw that one need not fear a journey through the mosslands, for each step was guided by the glow, and every footprint came alive.

I turned my gaze to the river that flowed behind us–I had paid it no heed before, but I saw now that it teemed with pink fish which sparkled beneath the surface. Their scales gave off an amaranthine light, which rose above the water and refracted among the steam that drifted leisurely between the shores.

I took a breath, and the air that rushed into my lungs was filled with the scents of rebirth and of growth.

The air was filled with smoke.

I looked again to the spheres of fire, past the hot surface, into the quiet furnace beneath, and I could almost make out a shape, nearly human, laughing, swaying, beckoning, and when a villager, a man brimming with the muscle of the outdoors, added a wooden spoon to the flames, the fire delighted in its consumption, burning an incandescent gratitude, and the man breathed in the smoke, and I could sense the calm it gave him. I reached out to the nearest flame, searching, and–

The shaman pulled away her hands.

I was myself again.

“So?” asked Aki-Atopo.

It took me a moment to adjust to seeing the world once more through my eyes. Where had the song gone? And where the glow?

“A bit of magic,” I said, dismissive.

Aki-Atopo smiled a knowing smile, and the rage built in me. Who was she to think so highly of herself? Who was she to spin a veil of golden lies before my sight?

But as I stood to leave, the moss seemed perhaps a tinge more vibrant, and the steam rising off the water still beckoned.

I might yet find a god.


After a breakfast of strange, spiraling nuts and a long blue fruit with waxy skin, we headed for a cave system Aki-Atopo said was of particular importance to their faith.

It was a hard walk, though it took less out of me than I expected, for the ground was springy and forgiving. Even still, eventually I had to stop. “I need to cycle,” I said.

“You take too many breaks, old man,” said Aki-Atopo.

“Not everyone is lucky enough to have a touch of magic to keep them going.”

“Magic has nothing to do with it. You need to stretch more.”

I took off my pack and removed the god-forsaken Hemalock I’d been tethered to for so long.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“My blood isn’t what it once was,” I said, opening my shirt and removing the sanitary plug from the gaping hole in my chest. “I should’ve been dead a couple decades ago, but this concoction of platelets and O2-absorption boosters keeps me chugging along. Barely.” I pulled one of the cell vials from the pack, clipped it into the Hemalock, and inserted it into my semi-mechanical heart.

“How old are you, anyway?”

“One hundred and eighty-three.” I had needed to fill my ship near-to-brimming with boosters to have plenty for the trip here and back.

“You must have trouble meeting people your age,” she said. She stretched while she waited, as if to rub in her youth. Her very relative youth.

“We don’t need to talk,” I said, gritting my teeth as the cold slurry of the booster crept through my veins. I had enough for three months of exploration, if I kept myself fairly inactive. It was not much time to track down a god.

“Suit yourself,” she said, and dove into an acrobatic routine. She was certainly flexible.

I chided myself, disgusted. It had been decades since I’d last been with a woman, and she’d been substantially more attractive than this faux mystic. What a hideous thought.

Eventually, the cycle was complete, and we continued. Having been only semi-conscious for my journey to De-Ha-Ta-Gu-Ee, I’d been running off weak blood for nearly a month now, and as the fresh concoction ran through me, I felt alive for the first time since the god known as Kalzak had perished in my arms.

When we finally reached the gaping mouth of the mossrock, a family came out to greet us, and a number of overactive children screeched at our arrival, teetering up to Aki-Atopo and wrapping themselves around her legs. I had neither the time nor the inclination to deal with children. Especially these unruly beasts, whose tangled hair flopped wildly and whose hands were coated in a sticky, glowing ooze.

“People live in your holy caves?”

“Of course. These are the Ta-Wah-Nees. Ta-Wah-Nees, meet Jor. Jor, Ta-Wah-Nees.”

A liver-spotted man stepped forward and made his hands into a sphere, placing them over his heart. “Mok-Ta-Wah-Nee,” he said by way of introduction.

“A pleasure,” I lied, mimicking the gesture.

“Aki told us you would be helping with the Rahlen,” he said.

I shot her a glance. This was no holy search. Aki-Atopo’s eyes glittered at her deception.

“You must do as I bid. That is the deal.”

“I–”

“Our god appears at the strangest of times, Jor Derenell. You must trust me. This is the way.”

She took my hand. There was a firmness in those wrinkled fingers, hardened bone beneath sagging skin. “Come.” If she did not lead me to her god, I would find someone who would, by coin or by force.

Mok-Ta-Wah-Nee led us into the caves, which reeked of earthy wetness. Deeper and deeper we went, until the tunnels opened into a massive chasm of stalactites. Down each dripped rivulets of brightly glowing liquid–rains filtered through moss filtered through rock, I learned–which served as the base for Rahlen, the semi-sweet alcoholic drink the locals favored.

Hours we spent, collecting runoff in woven baskets, stomping the blue fruits we’d had for breakfast between our toes, then pouring the strange mush into a flowerbed. The flowers would feed on the mixture, Mok-Ta-Wah-Nee explained, and once they bloomed, their petals would cry. Apparently, fermentation took place within the stalk. The tears were Rahlen, and quite potent.

When the work started, I roiled. I had not journeyed this far, I had not lived this long, to become a common laborer. But as we went, I found my mind clearing. The toil held an agreeable monotony, on par with the calm that came whenever a ship’s medpod pumped you with benzodiazepines before hypersleep.

By the time evening rolled around, I found myself laughing. It was an unfamiliar experience, for joy took even more strength than rage, and a bit of laughter was never worth the blood it cost to produce.

And yet I laughed.

Perhaps it was the Rahlen, of which I’d drunk entirely too much. Perhaps it was something else.

Soon, I found myself stumbling through the caverns by Aki-Atopo’s side, woven cup in hand.

“So, decade after decade travelling the stars?” she asked.

I took another sip. “I wouldn’t call it travelling. I saw no sights. I tasted no cuisine. I simply searched.”

“For gods,” she said. I nodded. “And did you find any?”

“Nine,” I said.

“Nine. That is quite a few.”

“Nine and none,” I amended. She turned a curious eye on me, weaving a bit as she did. I realized I was none-too-stable myself. I hadn’t been drunk in a century. It made me feel…honest. “I killed them all.”

“What?”

“They were not gods,” I said quickly. “If it bleeds, it is no god, merely a pretender masquerading as a god. I did those worlds a favor.” My cup sloshed in my hand.

She looked unconvinced, perhaps even afraid.

“Osh’hahllet was a great wingèd beast who could control the rains,” I continued. “It worshipped gold, and so with gold its people prayed, ever poor, a necessary trade if they wished for crops. The watery veils it cast as protection for its wing membranes were no match for my rifle.” I gestured to the gun strapped at my waist. A more powerful weapon, money could not buy.

“Not all who use magic do so for evil. Or claim to be gods.”

“Of course. I’ll cede you that. But these nine, they had grown beyond reason and into myth, and I was the gravity that pulled them back down planetside. Kalzak, the great warrior whom no blow could strike. Mordianus, the serpent who could slither between stars. Byagrodar, the conjurer. Noshfatur, the blinding light. Each of them a liar,” I felt spittle fly from my mouth. “Not one of them knew what comes next. A god is supposed to create. A god is supposed to exist outside our reality. A god is supposed to know what comes next.”

I panted, and the seams of my being began to come undone. Impossible. I had cycled that very morning. But I had toiled, and I had laughed, and my liver had not been put to work in ages, and what strange, unbidden feelings lay inside me. I could hardly place them. I knew only that without the boosters, they would lead me to an all-too-timely end. An end I refused to accept.

I stumbled, and Aki-Atopo caught me, lowering me to the ground. I leaned against a stalagmite as she put a hand to my forehead. Her fingers were cool and gentle.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

“I’m fine. But no more of your games, shaman. You will take me to this god, and we will see what it is made of. If it is what you say, then you should have nothing to fear.”

“You know,” she began, leaning beside me. I felt her arm against mine, felt the warmth radiating off of her, the strength of a human heart. “I’m not entirely sure I agree with you.”

“If you won’t take me, I assure you, I can find someone who will.”

“I’ve found,” she continued, “that god is what you make of it. A feeling. A choice. An idea you commit to in the name of doing what is right. I know nonbelievers with faith that ‘runneth over,’ to steal a line. I know devotees whose wells are dry as sand. And perhaps if we were to know “what comes next” as you have so repetitively referred to it, that just might take the fun out of things.”

“Yes, yes,” I said, still working to catch my breath. “I’ve had many lonely hours to read the great philosophers, and yours is a simplistic argument, which is to be expected. You have led an easy life on an easy world, and you know nothing but what was forced into your mind by those who came before you. Let us agree to disagree and move on from it.”

I tried to stand, but my mortal body had other ideas. It had ever been a traitor to me. And I was wasting it on this place, these people, the muck of plants, the relentless dripping of the water, the bitter fruits and hideous fish and ceaseless glow that could keep you up at night. This woman. As the disgust surged in me, I found the strength to stand. My pack wasn’t far. I would cycle, and that would be the end of it.

She stood and took my arm in hers. “I am not so different from you, Jor Derenell.”

I scoffed at her obvious attempt to forge a connection.

“It’s true,” she continued. “I travelled among the stars for many years, planet to planet. I saw the waters at the edge of Perethria. Held my grandchild on the jade moon of Quanrar. But I have chosen this place. It is a good place.”

“You weren’t born here?”

She shook her head. I looked at this strange woman anew and saw the subtle strength in her. Despite her age, she held me up, and reflected in the mosslight of her clothing, her eyes shone as playful and knowing as when she’d first met me, despite all that I had said. Her head sat high on her shoulders, looking ever forward. She had given up a life of wandering. She had chosen.

We reached my pack, and I once more plugged the Hemalock into my heart. The near-frozen sludge forced me to take halting gulps of air. She leaned down and rubbed my arms, generating friction. I could feel her breath.

“So you have grandchildren?” I asked, and I heard the hedging in my voice, the shallow attempt to mask my desire.

She cocked her head, letting the moment linger. Damn her.

“We are a loving people,” she said at last. “I have had many husbands, many wives, many children. Now, I am mostly ‘grandmother,’ and I spend my days among the mosstrees.”

I had taken lovers, of course. Plenty of them. In my younger days, I had almost been able to believe physical pleasures were reason enough for existence. But I had never truly shared myself. Not fully.

There had been opportunities, but no matter how certain I felt about someone, even more certain was the knowledge that it would end. It would always end. Despite what the foolish holofilms might say, love did not conquer death. Death was absolute.

But maybe here, if this truly were a planet of gods, perhaps things could be different. I had time enough to consider it. Vials enough.

Her hands rested on my shoulders, her face still close. It was a good face.


The world spun, the dark night skies rose, the mosses glowed, and we searched.

The god appears here, she said. The god appears there. You must try this, do this, feel this. The god is fickle, she said. We are close, she said. And in my heart–or what parts remained of it–I did not know whether to believe her.

We leapt from the high waters of Ka-Wei-Na falls, screaming all the way down. I learned to dance the Cha-He, a strange shifting of feet and flailing of arms, filled with energy and song, and we whirled, two bodies revolving, locked in a tidal pull of laughter and joy. I cycled. I cycled.

She taught me the hundred words for moss. I dined on countless plants and roots and fruits and nuts, ceaseless permutations of flavor. We raked algae from the whisper bog and tilled it into the gardens to nourish her flowers. We wove the garments of her people, and I reveled in the feel of them, the soft touch, the protection. I cycled. I cycled.

I ran with the children of the village. I communed with the flames, and in their burning light, I could almost sense the souls of the ones who came before, cherishing the offerings bestowed upon them and returning their thanks in an aromatic smoke that filled our lungs with wonder. I cycled. I cycled.

Aki-Atopo took me into her home, into her life, into her. Hers was a kind soul, a brightly glowing moss woven with a loom of belief–in god, in good, in her fellow man.

I delighted in her, a kindred spirit with whom I could share myself. An equal. And her wrinkled face held boundless joy, and she was warm beneath my hands, and I was whole beneath her weight, a conjoining I had often attempted but never achieved. I cycled. I cycled.

And held something back.

For always I knew that it would end. It had not yet proven to be a planet of gods, and though I burned with a longing to relinquish myself, I knew I would have to return to the stars for more boosters, and it was such a great distance, and if it were to end, what, then, was the point?

And as much as I gazed into the orbs of fire, as close as I came, I never fully believed the lost ones danced within the flames.

I cycled.

I cycled.

And had no vials left to spare.


Her eyes shimmered with sorrow. But she had shown me no god. I had lost myself, and I needed to depart or be trapped here forever.

I would return one day, and she would be long dead, and then, perhaps, I could seek my answer.

Still, I was loath to go.

“You never could accept the end of things, could you, Jor Derenell?”

We held each other, watched the sun set, watched the mosslight glow. I gave her a final kiss. I released her hand a final time.

I went to my ship, out past the edge of the village, and could not shake the feeling that something lay just beyond my grasp, like a word I could not recall, even though, somewhere within, I knew exactly what I hoped to convey. As I boarded, I thought of distant stars, of endless cycles, of new rumors, new planets where I might yet find gods. And with them, answers. I thought of what would come next.

I strapped in and felt the metal beneath my palms. It had been so long. The vessel seemed an alien thing, and I a foreign body within it.

The ship rumbled, gaining thrust, and soon I was making my slow way into the sky, staring at the world beneath, but I did not truly see it, for Aki-Atopo’s hands no longer touched my eyes, and I gazed only at a holoscreen, a pixel-hue facsimile of what truly lay below.

I felt myself begin to cry–I had not expected this. Wasteful. Tears cost more than joy cost more than rage. Still, I wept.

Then the boosters failed.

Alarms blared. Safety features engaged. I cast images of the damaged systems onto the screen.

Moss had strangled the drive core.

It wound through the coils, coated the reaction tanks, glowed and sprouted and climbed into every cavity and alcove, turning the lower half of the ship into a nearly living thing.

The ship had not caught it. It had never been trained to guard against such a slow, creeping enemy, and the moss had found a way in.

The propulsion sputtered and died, and I fell to the surface.


I awoke in the bed where I had spent so many months.

“Welcome back, Jor Derenell,” she said, choked with relief.

“Aki.” I touched her face. Why did she look so sad? “My ship?” I asked. “My vials.”

Her eyes told me what I needed to know.

“How many?”

“A few months left, at most. I am so sorry.” And I could feel that sorrow washing off her in waves. She loved me.

And I didn’t care.

I tore out of the bed, grabbed my shirt and rifle, and raced outside. The wreckage of my ship still smoked in the east, but I turned north, into the heart of the mosslands.

The horizon glowed a fiery red as I reached the edge of the village, a mirror to my thoughts. A few months. After one hundred and eighty three years. A handful days strung together on a line, brittling in the sun.

I moved through the moss, deeper, deeper, and lost my way, all around me a monotonous glow, each mosstree the same as the next. I barked a laugh.

I would finally learn what came next.

But I already knew.

Nothing.

It was nothing.

I screamed into the empty air, screamed until I choked and trembled and fell to the ground. The sanitary plug ripped from my chest, and a viscous ooze began slowly to beat out of me, congealing in the mud.

I fumbled for the emergency vial I kept on my belt, fingers clutching, finding nothing. I had fallen prey to the shaman’s tricks. I wheezed. Was the night growing dim? Were the flames going out? No, it was merely my sight.

And then my fingers were on the vial, freeing it from its clasps. I thrust it into my heart. Without the Hemalock, the pain tore the air from my lungs, and I tasted iron in my throat. I could not swallow.

But the glacious booster slowly calved its way through my arteries, and as the wet-spinach glow of the place came back into focus, a sphere of taunting sapphire flame coalesced before me.

I stared into its light, too weak to look away, and as the brilliant bright began to crisp my corneas, I thought perhaps I could see something dancing within. And wasn’t the possibility enough? Couldn’t I simply choose to believe?

I had months left. Days stretched out as leaves along the branches of a great tree, and I could spend mine with her. I did not need immortality. I did not need to know. I still had the rest of my life to live. Love cost more than tears cost more than joy cost more than rage.

The price was a pittance.

I laughed, alone out there among the mosstrees. A full, deep, rich laugh. My lungs burned. My blood soured. I did not care.

I fitted the cap back into my chest and forced myself to my feet. The spent vial rested in my hand, so small a thing to cost so much. Cool and precise and manufactured. I tossed it into the orb of fire and breathed in the smoke. As it swirled into me, the twining heat soothed my bitter throat and cleansed my lungs.

Invigorated, I turned toward home.

Toward our home.

But before I could take a step, I saw it–a strange flame, unlike the rest, nearly human, ethereal, striding through the trees. Where its feet touched ground, moss rose up to meet it, not scorched, but rather infused with a brighter glow.

“My god,” I muttered.

The being turned to face me. Its face was solid flame, always rippling, the features variations in blue, hotter or cooler, tending more toward white or further away. Its body was a coiling conflagration of cobalt depth, somehow deeper and more mysterious than any other god I had lain eyes upon, and I lost myself in the fathomless crackle of its blaze. To stare at a fire is a feeling primordial, and in the flickering embers, I could feel the choices I had wrought, could imagine endless futures, could cast my mind back to the moment man had reached out his hand and accepted that great promethean offering.

Could it be? The one who creates. Who exists beyond. Who knows what comes next.

The hunger, so long corroding the lining of my gut, might finally be sated. What fortune, here at the end of things. What fortune had grounded my ship. What fate had fueled my fury. The answer, at last.

The god reached out a hand.

The bark of my rifle rang clear in the calm night.

And the god bled.

It bled.

It collapsed to the moss. It bled. No better than the rest. A false prophet, conjuring spheres of lies, burning the possessions of the innocent, an all-consuming falsehood that dazzled upon a pyre, and in the end, was naught but smoke.

I turned away, casting my rifle to the ground, but just before my eyes left the creature, its face changed.

“Aki?” I cried out, rushing to the god’s side.

The flames dissipated, leaving only her. She bled from a deep wound. I forced my hands onto the gaping hole in her breast, but it was too wide, and too slick, and too red. Nothing should be so red, here in the green.

“It seems that you have found me out, Jor Derenell.” She winced, eyes searching to lock onto something.

“I’m so sorry, Aki. I didn’t know.”

“You were always a little slow on the uptake.” She cried out, and the sound lanced through me.

“I love you,” I said, and I could hear the pleading in my voice. “I love you.”

I thought she tried to smile then, but she managed only a dwindling grimace. Had I lost her smile?

“I suppose now you have earned the right to know what I wanted,” she said. “I wanted you, to show you the person you could become.”

“I don’t understand.”

I watched her fight, watched her steal back a bit of strength. “I told you you might be surprised by our similarities, my love. A few centuries ago,” she gritted her teeth. Continued. “I found myself where you are now. As the mage’s flamesoul bled out between my fingers, his power transferred to me. Such is the way on this world.”

“Centuries?”

“The people’s offerings to the fire give us endless life, should we meet no undue harm, and in return, we provide them solace, hope. It is…worthwhile.”

I cradled her. “We still had time.”

“I suppose,” she said, trying to laugh, failing, “that god has other plans.”

God. This was the last one I would find. But she knew nothing of the beyond. I think she saw the fear on my face, for she kept going.

“We had each other. Let it be enough, my bullheaded love.”

“How?”

“Is it not wondrous that you came here, to me?”

I wanted to say yes, to ease her passing, but in her eyes, I saw a demand for truth. “It’s only a coincidence.”

“Ah,” she said, and managed to smile then. “But it is a beautiful coincidence. And you are free to make of it what you will.”

With that, she drifted off.

“Aki. Aki!” But I had lost her.

The flames of the forest winked out. The moss grew dim. The world became a shade darker, a shade colder. I had lost her.

And I had not. For as she grew cold, I felt the fire of her spreading into my fingertips, growing in me, as a vine seeking sun. Her flame spread through me, sublimating the machinery that had kept me breathing, making me whole. I felt a surging, roiling potential here at my apotheosis, and I knew that within me lay the power to incandesce a thousand thousand spheres of fire.

And yet, without her, what was the point, knowing it would never end?

All my life, immortal, and when I finally chose to die, to die and truly live–

I picked up the rifle, praying she’d be waiting for me on the other side. My hand wavered. I could hardly maintain my grip, it was so slick. Tears streamed down my face. My finger waivered on the trigger.

I couldn’t. She was right, like always.

I let the rifle slip from my hand, took a breath, closed my eyes, and cast my will out into the world. All through the mosslands, orbs of fire winked into existence, burning for those who’d been lost.

I had killed a tenth god, and now, alone among the glowing moss, I would have to see what came next.

R.K. Nickel works as a screenwriter in Los Angeles. His first feature film, Bear with Us, is available on Amazon Prime, and “Stellar People,” a sci-fi comedy series he wrote for Adaptive Studios, will be coming out sometime in 2018. He dove into his prose journey in 2017, and since then has made 6 sales and attended both the Odyssey Writing Workshop and the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop. When he’s not writing, he’s probably playing an escape room or some Magic the Gathering. Or drinking coffee. Mmm…coffee. For more, check out @russnickel on Twitter or www.rknickel.com.

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