When I Was God

By Kevin J. Phyland

sfgenreA long time ago I worked in a leper colony. Leprosy is not particularly contagious or easily communicable, but that wasn't widely known at the time. I seemed like a god for merely wearing a small mask.

While the lepers lived and died around me … some for a reasonably long time … they still thought I was somehow magical, even though all I did was feed and comfort them. Doctors can sometimes seem like that. Through technological advancement, cargo cults, and simply acts of war, some humans invariably appear as godlike to others.

Much later in my life, during my time as a military medical officer, the same psychology seemed to be at play.

Saving lives is actually just a matter of accurate diagnoses, correct intervention, and a shitload of luck. God wears a caduceus.

Later still, I was in charge of triage. If ever you are a god it is then. You make on-the-fly assessments of who will probably live, who will most likely die — and then make the ones in between into priority cases. That's when a god feels vulnerable. You sometimes save some in the middle but lose all of the last category, as well as some in the first category. Time is not your friend in disaster situations. You try not not to dwell on it, but it's always there.

You are never actually a god, of course. It just appears that way to people who have no access to the hierarchical information that you have.

That's why we all started getting nervous when the aliens arrived. They were surprisingly benevolent considering how hard we used our animal reflexes and tried to destroy them.

They ignored that and simply helped us with medical treatments and fixes for some of our more … inequitable … economic policies. Pretty soon we had all the things that we thought we couldn't possibly fix or have — and some interesting but non-lethal, smart technology.

They were like gods.

God-given gifts? They have a habit of destroying civilisations.

So we became the cargo cultists. Worshipping the magic beads that the aliens brought with them.

Oh, we tried to reverse-engineer the technology that they bestowed upon us, but it was so far ahead of our abilities that Clarke's Law became practically an axiom. Even if we knew it wasn't magic, it appeared that way.

We did, however, discover a few things about our visitors. They were just visiting. It appeared they had their own agenda for moving through the local area of the Universe and passing out free beer.

They left after about twenty years. In a hurry.

Something spooked them. Almost as if they were the ones that were cargo cultists.

And it finally occurred to us that they may not have been gods either. That maybe there were even more advanced races in the Universe, to whom our visitors were like annoying cockroaches.

Like Russian dolls, it's possible that gods just get bigger and we only see the smaller ones.

No gods last forever. And that’s frightening for all of us.

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About The Author

Kevin J. Phyland

Kevin J. Phyland

Finally officially retired. Writing will now take up a bit more of my time. Still working on longer pieces. 33 years spent teaching. Writing since I was 12 on and off. Something had to give. I have a penchant for short, choppy, staccato sentences with too many adjectives.


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Coming In Issue 231

A Game Of Strategy
by J.M. Williams

A Human's Life
by George Nikolopoulos

Apha-Sidhe Space Opera
by Russell W. B. Kirkby

by Katrina Pekin

by Kevin J. Phyland

by David Scholes

Manny's Best Friend
by Dianna Zaragoza

The Blood Parrot
by PS Cottier

The Journey
by Wendy Stackhouse

by Eugen M. Bacon

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CSFG/Conflux 13 Short Story Competition (Closed)
Conflux wanted your stories of 4000 words or under, in any speculative fiction genre, on this year’s theme, which is, BLOOD, GOLD, LIES. More information here: <http://conflux.org.au/c11-competitions/>

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Grimmtales. Canberra 29 September through to Monday 2 October 2017. Guests of Honour: Ellen Datlow, Angela Slatter, Kaaron Warren. You can now read the provisional program here <https://conflux.org.au/program/>. More information: <https://conflux.org.au/>.

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Scary Doll competition! This year Conflux is offering an extra creative outlet for those of you so inclined…Riffing off the theme of Guest of Honour Ellen Datlow’s 2015 anthology, The Doll Collection, we would like you to try and creep us right out by creating something horrible for our Conflux 13 Scary Doll competition.
Artshow Awards. The Conflux Art Show, including the E G Harvey Award for Australian SF Art, an annual award sponsored by the Harvey Australian Foundation, offers both new and established artists the chance to display and promote their work, as well as qualify for cash prizes and obtain sales opportunities through the convention. Art works should relate broadly to speculative fiction genre and/or popular culture. More information <https://conflux.org.au/c11-competitions/>

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