Search Crossed Genres

“Distant Gates of Eden Gleam” by Brian Trent

“This will be your desk,” his new boss told him, and the man extended a bony finger. “It’s from here that you will help rule the world in glory.”

James Porlock swallowed hard. “It’s a nice desk,” he said, because he couldn’t think of anything else to say. And it was entirely true: The desk was astonishingly nice. It was a triangular cut of exotic wood the color of wine, blood, and tobacco sunburst guitars. Its veneer gleamed like ice. It sported two triangular drawers that together formed a diamond pattern. Their knobs were black pearl. There was no artistry other than a geometric purity that would make Euclid weep. And there was no ungainly desk-lamp to mar its smooth woodscape. Instead, a single light fixture hung above it like the Sword of Damocles.

It was the nicest desk he had ever seen. Porlock’s hands began to sweat as they did when he was around really expensive things.

Stationed throughout the darkness, other identical desks formed neat rows. Each had a computer. Each computer displayed a shining gold triangle icon like a branding iron in the shadows. Each computer, like his own, was illuminated by overhead light fixtures, so that the effect was that the black-drenched office appeared to be scattered with gleaming pyramids.

His new boss was named Lothian.

“Sit down,” Lothian intoned.

Porlock sat.

“You’ll want to familiarize yourself with our Employee Handbook. It’s there on your desk.”

Porlock saw three books on his desk, neatly stacked in diminishing sizes. The largest book – forming the base of this literary hillock – was a black leather tome with a gold pyramid stamped on it and lettering underneath that said: HANDBOOK FOR THE NEW ILLUMINARY. The second (middle) volume was a red leather book emblazoned with an image of the world… or at least he thought it was the world. Something about it didn’t seem right – it might have been crowded with too many continents or something. This suspicion was confirmed when he read the book’s title: AN ATLAS OF THE WORLD’S FOURTEEN CONTINENTS.

The topmost book was a thesaurus.

“You’ll want to set up your email account,” explained Lothian, sighing as if wintry winds were passing through his frame. The man was as tall and thin as a tree that’s been burnt to a cinder and yet still manages to stand.

“My email account,” Porlock agreed.

“It’s very easy,” said Lothian. “Just come up with a password. Three characters, no more or less.”

“Got it,” Porlock nodded.

“Any questions?”

Porlock fidgeted with his sweaty hands. “Well,” he stammered, and was embarrassed because when you’re hired to secretly rule the world in glory and all that, stammering didn’t seem appropriate. You were in charge of the world, after all. What on Earth was there to stammer about?

“Will there be… um… training?”

It seemed a neutral thing to ask.

“Training?!” asked his boss reproachfully.

Porlock felt a blush mount into his cheeks. “Just don’t want a mistake.” He tried a disarming laugh.

Lothian contemplated him for a long while, as if realizing that a monumental mistake had been made in the HR department.

“Training was done,” Lothian said with a sour look, “during the Lapis Age of civilization.”

“Ah. Lapis. Got it.”

“You don’t need to be trained, because we’ve had nearly five thousand years to perfect our programs. You merely follow orders when they’re given to you.”

“Orders. Will do.”

“An email will come through,” his boss droned on, “and you will be asked to do something. You just do it.”

“Looking forward to doing it, sir. Thank you.”

Lothian turned aside and began to melt into the blackness that existed beyond the cone-like gold light. He hesitated just as he was about to disappear; one of his ears, a cheek, and an eye were drawn in the backsplash of shimmering luminosity.

“You get an hour for lunch,” Lothian said, and then was gone.

Porlock slumped into his chair with relief. His neck hurt from tension. His cheeks ached from smiling. He regarded the computer and tapped a key.

The screen cleared. Lettering appeared against the void:

WELCOME, NEW ILLUMINARY. YOU ARE NOW AMONG THOSE WHO RULE THE WORLD IN GLORY. PLEASE CREATE YOUR PASSWORD AND NEVER, EVER FORGET IT. EVER.

James Porlock hadn’t been born to rule the world. Neither had he been raised and trained and schooled in the art of Earthly overlordship, unless you count the dreams of all children which involve placing themselves at the center of creation. As a child, a world crisis was if you wanted to play with your toy Styracosaurus and instead could only find the Ankylosaur.

Porlock hadn’t even come from money. He had been raised in a lower-middle-class home on the shoreline; a rickety house like an old shoebox which might have washed ashore with driftwood and bottles years back. It was “beach-front property” in the same way that you can travel “first-class” if you’re a stamp. An extravagant Christmas in the Porlock family meant there was enough food for a second helping. He had gone to an average high school and average college, then secured an average job for an above-average legal firm until, in a below-average economy, he found himself laid off.

“So you just applied for a job as Illuminary?” asked a husky female voice.

Porlock shrugged. He had gone to the water cooler which was absolutely invisible in the dark because, unlike the desks, it had no cone of overhead light showing where it was. He only knew it was there at all because he saw an email from a similarly unseen coworker which said, “Welcome aboard, new Illuminary. If you get thirsty, there’s a water cooler thirteen degrees off your portside bow, seventeen paces straight ahead.”

When he got to the water cooler, someone else was there, in the blackness.

“I didn’t realize I was applying for job as Illuminary,” replied Porlock. “The classified ad read: HELP WANTED.”

“Exactly. There are three pyramids in the first three letters of WANTED. Classic Illuminary recruiting tool.”

Porlock drank his water.

“Welcome aboard. My name is Godiva.”

Porlock realized that a slender female hand had emerged from the darkness like a spear-thrust. He shook it.

“Porlock. My name is Porlock.”

“It’s good to have you here, Porlock.”

“Thank you. Have you worked here long?”

Godiva edged forward into the fuzzy light from the nearest desk. Porlock could now see that she was a pretty, if rather angular, woman. She was tall, raven-haired, and slit-eyed, with ruby lips like a solar flare beckoning from the galactic rim.

Godiva shook her head. “Oh no, I was raised in an Illuminary household.”

Porlock said, “Ah.” It was a single syllable, likely one of the earliest sounds that proto-humans had figured out how to say, and it possessed an infinite plasticity. People often said it to cover up for an embarrassing moment, such as when you ask your friend where they’re going for vacation, and the friend innocently tells you that he’s just gotten a great deal for a resort in a Russian town called Chernobyl. When Porlock said “Ah”, it was an alternative to saying what he was really thinking: If you were raised in an Illuminary household, then what the hell am I doing here? How could I possibly be qualified for this?

Maybe HR really had made a mistake.

“How is your first day going?” asked Godiva. “You read through the training manual?”

“Not yet.”

“That’s okay. It’s really just a three-hundred-and-thirty-three page excuse to say, ‘Do what you’re told!'”

“Ah.”

“If there’s anything I can do help your transition, just let me know. You can email me. I’m the only Godiva in the address book.”

“Thank you. I was wondering…” he struggled for the words.

Godiva nodded vigorously, her raven hair shaking around the creamy landscape of her exposed shoulders like a pair of bat-wings. “You were shocked to learn the world actually has fourteen continents, weren’t you?”

Porlock gave a conspiratorial chuckle. “You said it!”

“That was a shock to me too! Even my Illuminary parents never told me.”

“They count Europe and Asia as a single continent,” said Porlock. “So really, that means there are eight new continents.”

“They’re not new,” chided Godiva. “They’re as old as the others.”

“But how is it that no one else knows about them?”

“We control all media, airlines, navies, and satellites. We simply make sure no one encounters these other lands.”

Porlock wanted to ask why but he stopped himself. His brief perusal of the handbook hadn’t been very illuminating thus far, but there was one brightly illuminated theme, oft-repeated, until it was dancing in his head like a corporate jingle. Y IS A LETTER OF THE ALPHABET, it warned. NOT A QUESTION THAT IS TOLERATED HERE. NEVER, EVER ASK IT. EVER.

Godiva gave a musical sigh. “Well, back to work! Nice meeting you!”

“Wait!” said Porlock. “What is your job here? Is it like mine?”

“I’m clerk for the Secret Master of Eurasia. I’m also Keeper of Office Addresses in case there’s a disaster. What about you?”

“I’m clerk for the Secret Master of North America.”

“Ah,” she said, and then was gone.

***

His first week on the job was almost embarrassingly easy. In fact, it wasn’t so different from any clerical job he’d ever held.

He spent each morning reviewing emails. Being the clerk for the Secret Master of North America, most came from a fellow named Soyal. Soyal was succinct to the point of rudeness. “I need a recession in Indiana,” Soyal would email. “And a front page feature in Kentucky on the dangers of vaccination; a power-plant failure in Connecticut; and a traffic-jam in Florida that lasts three hours.”

Porlock would then spend the day calling Illuminary agents assigned to those sectors of commerce, industry, media, or government, and relay what was needed.

The second week began by Porlock sending an email to Godiva: “Can we meet by the water cooler? I have a question for you.”

“No, I don’t know why they keep this place so dark,'” whispered Godiva when they met.

“Oh. I wasn’t going to ask you that.”

“Oh?” she looked surprised. “Almost everyone asks that. What were you going to ask?”

“Well, it’s about, um, last week’s email on the energy crisis.”

She raised an eyebrow. “I thought the email was perfectly clear.”

“It was perfectly articulated. But I’m unclear on the… um… well, what I mean to say is, there’s really no energy crisis at all. Our office is powered by a fusion core. So fusion technology exists. So…”

“So…”

He struggled. He wanted to ask, WHY are we not letting fusion technology be known to the rest of the world? For a horrible moment he thought the syllable might escape his lips like a runaway train hurtling across his tongue.

But Godiva seemed to realize what he wanted to say. She poured herself some more water from the cooler and whispered, “I suppose it would be as bad as giving nuclear technology to a bunch of lemurs. In a week, you’d have mushroom clouds sprouting over Madagascar because of an argument involving a banana.”

Porlock considered this. “Okay, that makes sense. But then wh… I mean… I couldn’t help noticing that the hidden continents are stacked with natural resources. Food, clean water, metals. I’m guessing the wood of our desk was carved from some unknown tree that grows out there.”

Godiva smiled politely. “Your point being…”

“Okay, okay.” He waved his hands like erasing something from a blackboard. “Forget about that. Let’s talk about Thursday’s email chain.”

“The elimination of the penny? Oh, I agree! I can’t wait!”

“I meant the other email chain on Thursday.”

“Revolution in Canada?”

“No, no. I’m fine with that.”

She laughed. “Of course you’re fine with that! We really don’t have an option of not being fine with it! You’re funny! I like you, Porlock! Got to get back to work now!” And she was gone again.

Porlock lingered a bit longer at the water cooler, filling, draining, and refilling his cup, just to get his thoughts in order. He was concerned about the other other email chain, the one concerning the systematic ravaging of the world’s oceans, atmosphere, and rainforests; the methodical increase of mercury content in tuna; the collapse of several world currencies; exacerbation of economic disparity; and the deliberate over-farming of the American Midwest.

In the privacy of his own head, he asked the forbidden question: WHY are the secret rulers of the world so determined to make the world unsuitable for human life?

Was it because the secret rulers weren’t human?

***

Being clerk for a secret master of the world did have some benefits, Porlock had to admit. Like his new charge card.

It was black and gold, without visible numbers, words or logo. He wondered how he was to place online orders with it, so one day he tried. He went to Amazon.com to order a few books. When he clicked on PROCEED TO CHECKOUT he was instead whisked to a black screen. For a moment, he thought his computer had died. After a few seconds of staring at his worried reflection on the screen, a golden pyramid appeared, thanking him for his order.

In person, the effect was even better. Just showing the card got him whatever he wanted. The card looked important, so cashiers just swiped it and presto! the order was completed.

“Why shouldn’t it work?” said his boss Lothian, when Porlock arrived in the man’s office for his 30-day review. “Money has been a consensual hallucination since we abolished the gold standard. It has value because we say it does. Why should a black-and-gold plastic rectangle be any different?”

Thereafter, Porlock used the card to buy a new apartment. And a new car. He discovered that he wasn’t receiving a paycheck from his job. He was receiving the concept of money itself. He imagined there must be limitations. What if he tried to buy the Louvre? Brazil? The moon?

Yet there was no such thing as a free lunch – even in a world where money was a consensual hallucination. The secret masters, Porlock was soon to realize, didn’t allow secrecy for anyone on their staff.

One day he was on the phone with an agent in Wyoming, explaining that Soyal required a mad cow disease outbreak to drive up beef prices and conversely edge buffalo closer to extinction, when he made a mistake. He misquoted a dollar amount.

At once, a brittle voice came over the line. “Mister Porlock,” it croaked. “You misquoted a dollar amount.”

Porlock blinked. “Oh. Sorry, Mr. Soyal.”

“I will return you to your phone call,” the voice rasped, “And you will correct this mistake.”

And suddenly, he was back with the agent from Wyoming.

One day he was typing an email – hadn’t even sent it yet – and he misspelled Soyal’s name. Dressed it with two Ls instead of the one.

His phone rang.

“It is spelled with one L,” said the brittle voice.

“Oh, sorry.”

“You will correct this mistake.” And the line went dead.

Porlock went back to work, bringing together the proper agents for a major oil spill off Virginia.

***

“Buy you a beer?” Godiva asked him during another of what they had affectionately come to refer to as a visit to the watering hole.

“Are you asking me out?” Porlock asked.

Godiva’s angular face sharpened into a seductive isosceles. “Of course.”

“But I’m not…” he cut himself off, visions of blue-blooded aristocrats and upstairs-downstairs romances in his head, and how the wealthy elite didn’t hob-nob with the lower plebeians unless they were, as the street-slang put it, slumming.

“We are both Illuminaries now,” she said merrily.

They don’t frown upon office romances?”

Godiva’s cherry lips framed perfect ivory teeth. “Of course not, silly! Now that you’re in the club, so to speak, you can only marry an Illuminary anyway.”

“Oh.”

Her smile faltered. “Don’t sound so excited,” she said accusingly.

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” replied Porlock. “I don’t often get asked out by attractive rulers of a fourteen-continent world.”

This disarmed her. She gave a lecherous wink and sauntered off, melting into the inky dark.

Porlock went to the bathroom to splash cold water on his face.

Being an Illuminary, he realized in horror, meant that he would only be able to confide in other Illuminaries. How do you confide in people like that?

He stared at his eyes in the mirror, the water like fresh dew on his brow.

And that’s not the worst of it, he thought sullenly.

Encountering Godiva had seemed like luck. Now he suspected it was part of their plans. That made sense, didn’t it? She’s probably been assigned to the new guy. To make sure I’m not making waves.

Porlock splashed water again on his face.

How could I make waves in a place like this anyway? You need power to make waves. And yet…

He realized he did have power. He might be middleman for the real rulers of Earth, but that also meant he was the priest with the power of the godhead working through him. He was the Staff of Moses, or maybe the better example was Aaron, since Moses was always tapping Aaron to do stuff. AARON, BRING ME MY STAFF. AARON, CAST MY STAFF ON THE GROUND. Porlock suspected Aaron was the one with the real power, and Moses just had better charisma.

Porlock regarded his anxious expression face in the mirror. He splashed water a third time across his face.

From the ceiling, a brittle accusation boomed: “You have splashed water on your face three times. It is surely clean by now.”

***

“It makes perfect sense,” he told Godiva over drinks at the local bar, an hour after their shift had ended.

It was a dusky, faintly-lit establishment with lots of brass furnishings, glass tabletops, a lounge singer and piano. The menu was as slender as a ruler. It said MENU on the cover, written in large gold script.

MENU. Porlock grinned bleakly as he saw the three pyramids in those uppercase letters.

“What makes perfect sense?” Godiva purred, sipping her drink as if measuring it by micron.

Porlock turned his bleak grin into a winning smile. “Say you’re a kid, and your mother warns you not to leave the yard. The kid might not realize there’s a world of cars and trucks and other things that hurtle down the street. So we do what we’re told because the secret masters –”

Godiva’s eyes brightened. “Are our parents!” She sounded genuinely delighted; the pleasure of a teacher who has finally made her student comprehend why ten minus seven is three.

“Exactly!”

“Exactly!” She took a real sip of her drink, and added in a confiding whisper, “You know, I’ll let you in on a secret. You’re perfect Illuminary material. That’s why they tapped you.”

“Oh?”

“They want people who are comfortable following orders. You don’t rock the boat, Porlock. That’s how to rule the world in glory.”

He clinked his glass against hers. “To ruling the world in glory.”

“To ruling the world in glory together.” Her blush deepened to match her scarlet lips. Her eyes flicked away as if embarrassed by her brazenness.

But Porlock could see her reflection in the glass tabletop. Could see the calculated application of demure expression as if it was merely a tool from her purse.

“Together,” he agreed.

They slept together on their third date.

***

Summer hatched like a green, fuzzy thing from a gray spring. Porlock had been at the job six months. He no longer groped in the office darkness. He no longer made mistakes of any kind.

He was Soyal’s man. The mouthpiece of God Himself. The Metatron. Aaron with Moses’ staff.

“You know a lot of literary and mythological references,” Godiva commented one night as they were walking along a moonlit beach, arm-in-arm.

Porlock chuckled. “I used to read a lot.”

“Ah.”

They stopped at the end of the pier, gazing upon the endless ocean.

“Isn’t that a lovely house?” Godiva inquired, pointing to a mansion by a lighthouse.

“Very lovely.”

“I’d like to have a house on the beach someday.”

He nodded absently, staring at the smooth expanse of seascape and imagining the secret continents out there.

Godiva squeezed his arm. “Wouldn’t you like a beach-front house?”

“Sure.”

She stood awkwardly, like an actress waiting for her stage partner to remember his cue.

“So,” she prompted, “We both like the beach…”

“And houses.”

“Am I boring you?” she snapped.

He jerked his enrapt gaze from the ocean. “Boring me? Godiva! You are the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known.”

Godiva gaped. It was one of the few uncontrived expressions he’d ever seen her angular, isosceles face. “That was so sweet!”

He turned back to the sea. “And our home here would be sweet.”

She clutched his arm in delight. “You know, the sea is where it’s at. They came from the sea, did you know?”

“Really?”

She whispered, “Only a few of us know. Even building security has no idea the kinds of creatures we’re working for! But the secret masters come from the deepest trenches in the ocean off the coast of the hidden continents. That’s why they need the lights off; they’re conditioned to the murky depths.”

“Sounds terrible!” he proclaimed. “To be killed by sunlight…”

“Not killed, silly! The sunlight just stuns them. They become like deer in headlights. My family knows because we were entertaining two of them on the High Festival of Ukupanipo. They arrived by night in armored limousines and pulled into our garage. We had the lights off. Only candles on the table. The secret masters plopped down into our dining room chairs, but then someone accidentally turned the lights on. It stunned them into immobility. They collapsed like piles of Jello, mouths puckering, fins snapped open like umbrellas, eyes transfixed by the light.” She shuddered. “Our family was punished for that.”

“You were the one who turned the lights on,” Porlock guessed.

Godiva settled into a dangerous silence; the very air seemed charged with electricity like the stench of overwarm electronics. When she spoke, it was in a flat tone that cracked the quiet like a pencil-thin sundering of an icy pond.

“I was only four years old,” she said.

“You were a kid. No harm done. Now that you’ve grown up, you know better than to ask questions.”

She gave a curt, stiff nod.

Porlock continued, “You confided a secret in me, it’s only fair that I do the same. I have no one to invite to our wedding.”

She staggered back. “James!”

“I’m serious! And that’s bad luck in my book, because your side of the aisle will be crammed with your powerful Illuminary family, and all I have is my Mom and Dad. It bothers me. I’m guessing they have already given us the green-light to tie the knot. To allow us to be together?”

She gave an energetic nod. “Oh, definitely. Yes!”

His forehead creased in an anxiety that almost made his ears droop. “This is going to sound so stupid, but I was wondering if I could invite our coworkers to the wedding and have them sit on my side.”

“Invite who, sweetheart?”

“Just some of coworkers. I’ve gotten to know some of them by email, anyway. They’re not friends, but its close enough for me, and I’d make it a personalized invite to each of them! You have everyone’s address, right? Couldn’t I send them our wedding invitations? Wouldn’t that be okay?”

By way of an answer, Godiva kissed him long and deeply in the moonlight.

***

A week later, Porlock paged through a tower of emails demanding an influenza outbreak in New London, a chemical spill on Interstate 40 at the North Carolina-Tennessee border, and a forest fire in Colorado which was to burn unchecked for three days, no more, no less.

“Three days,” Porlock repeated into the phone. “Yessir, Mister Soyal.”

When the line went dead, he began composing his email to the Colorado office about the forest fire which was to burn for three hours, no more or less.

His phone rang.

“It is three days, not three hours,” the brittle voice hissed.

“Ah. Sorry, Mister Soyal.”

“You will correct this mistake.”

Porlock deleted the sentence. He then recomposed his message, detailing how a florist fire was needed on Interstate 44.

The phone rang.

“You typed ‘florist fire.’ It should be ‘forest fire.’ And it’s Interstate 40, not 44.”

“My apologies. Haven’t had my coffee this morning.”

The line died yet again, but after Porlock typed an email about needing a forest tire to go rolling down Interstate 24601, it enjoyed a miraculous ringing resurrection.

Go get your coffee!” the brittle voice roared. “And then you will correct these mis– what is the meaning of this? What’s happening!!?! Don’t you know who we are?

Porlock hung up the phone.

It took several minutes for the upstairs commotion to spill onto the main work-floor. By then, Porlock had already set the portable disco lights on the empty desks around him. The room blazed with scintillating purples, pulsing blues, siren-like crimsons, and spears of flaming orange.

In that mad carnival of luminosity, he saw the Illuminary security guards in their armor and flashlight-sporting headgear as if they were heavily-armed spelunkers emerging from a lost mine. They were dragging three monstrous creatures, squat, gray-green things resembling the freakish hybrid of lobster and sailfish; the security officers hauled them onto the main floor by their fins.

Godiva exploded out of the darkness. Seeing Porlock, she yelled, “We’re under attack! Call the Illuminary guards!”

“They’re right there,” he replied. “See? They’ve arrested the secret masters.”

Godiva squinted through the pulsating disco lights. “Those are the Illuminary guards! What the hell?” She was so startled by all the chaos that she barely registered the very disco globes she was using to view her employers. “We can’t have lights in here! Who brought these things?”

“I did. Pretty cool, huh? Only $24.99. Bought them with my Illuminary credit card.”

His lover recoiled from him with numb, disbelieving steps. She suddenly noted the strange absence of her coworkers. “Where is everyone? What the hell is going on?”

“You gave me their addresses. You know, for our wedding cards?” He winked. “I mailed each of them a letter with secret instructions to stay home today. Said it was being ordered by Soyal. That’s the beautiful thing about a secret society: Everyone is so used to secrecy that they assume any secretive action is part of the secret society’s secrets! Oh, and I had a few of them send instructions to building security, advising them that our facility had been invaded by enemy creatures.”

Lothian materialized behind Godiva and glowered at Porlock. They stared in murderously mute silence, stammering, their lips like the lids of tea kettles under high pressure.

You?!” they screamed together.

Porlock shrugged. “Yep.”

“But, but, but!”

Porlock looked confused. “But… what?” He turned to the guards, nodded, and saluted the lobster-like abominations as they were dragged out into the next room. A moment later, the sound of gunfire punctuated the silence.

“We thought you were perfect Illuminary material!” Godiva yelled.

Porlock turned to her. “Why?” he asked, and they shrank from the word like vampires confronted by a garlic-strewn photo of the sun.

“You were a clerk with no ambition!” Lothian screeched. “You’ve worked as a clerk your whole life! Always taking orders! Forever following orders!

“So? They were the only jobs I could get.”

“But you were also a C student!”

“My Mom got sick when I was in high school. I was needed to help around the house and sort of lost interest in school. But not in learning. I read books on my own. When Mom got better, I got a job in a below average economy. But really, I’m just brimming with ambition. For example…” He picked up the phone and dialed a number. “Yes, this is headquarters. Soyal wants fusion power to be unveiled on national TV as a gesture of goodwill to the world. I know, weird, right? But that’s the order of the day.” He hung up and dialed another number. “Soyal’s man here. Let’s reveal the true calculations of Eratosthenes, showing the actual size of the Earth. I know, right? Weird as shit.” He dialed a third number. “Next Tuesday we will cure cancer. Soyal’s orders. Peace out.”

He hung up.

His coworkers stared in slack-jawed horror.

Lothian filled his lungs with a huge intake of air and blasted it out like an air-horn: “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?

“Not really.”

Lothian’s outrage made him resemble a Japanese Noh mask, with bulging eyes in a red face. “NOT REALLY?!?

“The only thing I do know,” Porlock explained in a cheerfully patient voice, “is that fusion power exists, that there are actually fourteen continents, and that cancer sucks. So I figure, let’s throw all cards on the table. Put everything in play.”

This isn’t a game!

“Oh please. It’s been a game since the Lapis Age and I think it sucks.”

“Sucks?” Godiva sneered.

“Big time. So I figure it’s time for a change.”

“You’ll ruin everything!”

“Ruin what?” he scoffed. “Do you even know what the end-result of your grand plan was?”

He was met by a pair of perplexed expressions.

“You don’t?” he exclaimed in disbelief.

“It’s gotten us this far,” Godiva said sullenly.

“It’s not far enough.”

“Says who?

“Says me. You know… the one who rules the world in glory.”

And with that, he made another phone call. A few minutes later, he advised HR to discreetly place two more HELP WANTED ads.

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About the Author

Brian Trent‘s science-fiction and dark fantasy has appeared in numerous publications. He is a 2013 winner in the Writers of the Future contest and his work regularly appears in ANALOG, Daily Science Fiction, Apex, Clarkesworld, Escape Pod, COSMOS, Strange Horizons, Galaxy’s Edge, and much more. He lives in New England, where he works as a writer and screenwriter.

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