It was a beautiful day when the priests invaded our home. Cloaked in prayer and singing hymns, they shaped our natural environment to suit their bodies. The clergy bent pieces of space-time into rock and water; they forced our bodies that were so used to existing as incorporeal concepts into something they could understand. They defined what we could be until it was what we were.
I remember raging with my family at the rudeness of it all. But, like the others, I calmed as the priests spoke.
They spoke of their home far away and the evil that plagued it. A place filled with fear, anger, hostility, and those who had given up. The priests begged anyone who would listen to go back with them—help them heal their sick and teach them how to care for those who had wandered from the faith. Even now, looking back on it, I’d have made the same decision. There was no way to know. No way to tell just how misguided and cruel they’d turn out to be.
The night before I left, my family and I sang and danced in the stellar fields above the place we called home. It was a song my mother had taught me when I was newly created. A simple four-note melody that echoed across space and filled me with the love and joy of fond memories. It was a reminder of where I’d come from and where I’d go. She told me to hum that song whenever I missed her and to sing with the glory of our pantheon if I ever needed them. “We’ll find you,” she told me, “and we’ll bring you back home.”
Dawn came and I left the undefined reality of home and crossed into the small pocket of physical space where the priests were waiting. They led me to their ship that was docked nearby (their bodies couldn’t yet handle the pressure of conceptual space).
They ushered me inside and sealed the outer walls. The priests gathered around me and filled the air with their echoing chant as they led me deeper into the bowels of the vessel. I felt my new body wrap around me, defining my form and twisting me into a new shape even as I fought against it.
I felt myself diminish with each step. I couldn’t hear the yawning cosmos or feel the subatomic explosions dance across my thoughts. I should have turned and fled. I should have sung my mother’s song and had my brothers and sisters tear this ship apart.
With prayers and worship, they bound me in chains of faith. I still don’t understand how they did it. I thought only a member of my family could shape reality. And yet, I was no longer myself. Instead, I was who they made me to be.
They wrote scripture that painted me as a dark and vengeful God. A being that decreed spiritual and moral law by issuing commandments. Wrath waited for anyone who questioned my divine will; anger was meted out across endless stories of “righting wrongs.” I was a being who knew with absolute certainty what was best for any world that heard these words.
And the worst part was, I was starting to remember being these things. The illusions and falsehoods painted by the priests were becoming history, my history.
I wept starlight, dreaming of what the priests would do with their books. I imagined what I would do to stop evil, the horrors I’d wield against those that would oppose me. My heart grew heavy realizing these thoughts were not my own.
I fought to keep hold of my true self. I couldn’t even sing to my pantheon—my family. I could only hum that four-note melody and fight to remember my mother, my father, my brothers, my sisters, and a happier life.
They brought me out of the ship and guided me into a stone temple in the cover of night—the stained glass windows hanging silent and dull above us in judgment. They led me down twisting passages and tunnels carved deep into the earth. Then, into the hole I would come to know as home for the next millennium. Long wooden panels covered what would be my prison, each one carved with prayers and scriptures to anchor my spirit inside. The days turned to years as I listened to the echoing chants of worship above. I watched in horror as the priests grew fat and lazy on the power offered to them in good faith. Power that soured and thickened as it touched their tongues.
It wasn’t long before the priests who brought me here grew old and died. The young, who were just as devoted to keeping me chained and bound, replaced them. Every so often, they brought one of their children down here to gaze at me. “Look at God,” they’d say. “Look at the pain He endures to save us from ourselves. Look at Him and offer Him your love and devotion.”
What cruel monsters these mortals were. I just wanted to go home. Why wouldn’t they let me go home? I spent my nights alone, humming a simple song that had nearly lost its meaning. It brought me joy and some small measure of comfort on those lonely nights.
The holy texts shaped me into a divine sword to swing at their enemies and any who dared to think differently than those above. Towards the end, the idea consumed me until there was nothing left—no shred of the songs I used to sing. But what the foolish priests never realized is that a sword doesn’t care for friend or foe. A sword only cuts. And they had shaped me to be such a fine weapon.
Those corrupt humans didn’t deserve the luxury of lavish homes and sweet wine. They didn’t deserve to live privileged lives of comfort while they preached to the masses to untether themselves from greed and aid the weak and poor. Not if they spent their days doing nothing but growing fat on stolen power. I once danced in the space between galaxies, swam in solar winds, and sang songs that made reality weep in joy and sadness.
I did those things.
And yet, they forced me to be something so full of hate and misery that I could think of nothing but punishing the wicked and faithless. One day I’d be free again. One day I’d show them just how fine of a blade they’d forged.
I waited for decades as the worship above grew quieter and fewer people came back week after week. I knew my time was coming. I just had to be ready.
I felt the prayers that were binding me grow weak and I didn’t hesitate to act. I crafted my careful vengeance into a razor’s edge and cut through the bonds keeping me in that pit. I swelled in height and form and waited for my captors to come.
It didn’t take long.
They rushed into the room, each one slick with sweat and stinking of fear. They brandished their books and icons. They shouted their verses at me and tore at my growing power. I hummed a melody that set their cloaks aflame and turned their bodies to crumbling salt. I was every story they told about me and I wasn’t afraid to give each of them a part to play.
Even as I cut them down, more appeared. All sent to push their God back into His hole so they could go on pretending to be His voice. I’d had enough of these cruel creatures and I was ready to go back to the stars. But they were strong. The dances, songs, stories, and prayers. It was all too much. And then they brought the children.
I saw the newest generation being shaped by the sins of their ancestors and I couldn’t bear it. I wept and lost my grasp on the dark and angry God they forged me into. It was easy for them to change me into something calm and docile.
They forced me back down into the pit. I didn’t even bother to fight as they remade the scriptures to trap me inside. I had given them some small idea of what they’d created. Made them pay for it. But it would have to be enough. Because now I knew I was never going to see my family again.
Not long after, a young priestess came. She gazed at me for hours, pacing back and forth over my prison without ever saying a word. I felt her curiosity and nervous excitement while I watched the thoughts dance behind her eyes.
She quietly argued with herself. I had no idea what she was saying, but after coming to some sort of decision, she set her face and bent down to start pulling at the boards covering my prison. She scraped her nails across the etched scriptures and pried at the boards. Her blood and tears flowed freely into my prison as I heard her sing a song I hadn’t heard in a very long time.
My mother used to sing a four-note melody that guided my family through reality. It was everything that was home and comfort and beauty and love and kindness and belonging. It was how I defined myself.
“Where did you hear that?” I asked. “How could you know that song?” She continued to sing as she scraped away at the gold-leafed words and tugged at the chains of my prison.
“I was taught to worship you,” she said. “You were the shining beacon of a just and good world. Whoever disagreed with your teachings was a heretic and deserved punishment. Whoever questioned the word of God was a blight on all that was good. I believed this as much as I believed the sky was blue.” The priestess went back to pulling at the boards, slowly freeing my mind from the definitions of a millennium.
“And then, I heard a song from the stars. I don’t know why, but it made me weep. It sounded like loss and loneliness. Like when a loved one leaves you and you have to find a way to go on without them.”
“I didn’t know what it meant, so I prayed for guidance. I asked you to show me. Was something going to happen to me? Should I be afraid? And then you answered.”
The last board fell away and I was free to leave my prison. I still felt the prayers and stories digging into me, but I also felt the cobweb memories of my past life brushing against me. Dancing in the center of stars, slipping between realities, and all of us together, singing.
“I was there when you escaped,” the priestess said. “I watched what you did to the rest of the clergy. Watched as they beat you back down into that prison. And then I knew what the stars were singing about. I knew they could see you trapped here. I was ashamed.”
She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and sorrow in her heart. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “We’re not all like them. We’re not all so cruel.”
I fled into the night.
I left that world far behind and sailed back across the vast darkness to find them. I sang the song of my mother and my father, I sang the song of my brothers and sisters, I sang the song of my home.
I traveled for a very long time searching for where I had come from. I wandered across realities searching for my home. I sang and reached and feared until I’d given up hope.
I shook the last of the prayers and stories away and drifted between this world and the next. “So this is how my song ends,” I thought.
And then I heard it. My mother’s four-note song of comfort, beauty, love, kindness, and belonging.
I’m finally home.