9.3 / March 2014

Animal Gods

Anteater Gods

Anteater Gods look like anteaters but are small, the size of ants, and they are notoriously difficult to capture, performing tiny miracles of deception to elude the world around them. Hunters have witnessed them crumble to dust in the palm of a hand, the particles scattering in the wind only to reassemble into tiny anteaters on the forest floor. They have the ability to stop time, but only their own time, so if they are captured they will freeze their life for a few thousand years, assuming that the world will have fallen a hundred times over by then, and their predators fallen with it. The easiest way to find an Anteater God is to cut open the stomach of an anteater, as they eat their own Gods all the time, unable to tell them apart from their food.

Camel Gods

The skin of a Camel God is made of glass, and its insides are filled with sand. The two humps on its back act like an hourglass, the granules draining from one hump to the other, and when one side is emptied so ends the God’s life. While it should be possible to calculate the lifespan of any particular Camel God, the Hunters who have tried have always been met with curious results, finding that the rate of the sand can speed up or slow down, sometimes even reversing itself, based on nothing more than the will of the God. This makes the Camel God essentially immortal, although it is important to note that while it has the ability to alter the passage of time as it wishes, it does not have the ability to halt time altogether. The God will always be in constant motion, either forward or backward, the thalassic sands shifting inside its glass skin like the tides of an ocean, and because of this the camels look upon their Gods with both envy and pity, seeing their own history stretching back to the dawn of time, and seeing how tired they all must be.

Mosquito Gods

One of the most ubiquitous Gods in the animal pantheon, the Mosquito God will nestle into the fur of an Anteater God, or attach itself to the ear of a Sloth God, and will suck the slurry of space and time from that God’s very being. When the Mosquito God has gorged itself, brimming with the ages, filled with the expanse, it will set off to find a mortal mosquito to which it will regurgitate its stomach contents, bestowing a few more seconds of life onto the poor creature, a few more miles for it to roam before it all comes to an end.

Sloth God

The God of Sloths clings to the underside of an ageless branch, entombed within corded vines and black foliage, patiently waiting out the world. It has never moved, the Sloth God, living only in places outside of time, and it will remain in its spot, unflinching in the face of the eons, long after all the animals and all their Gods have disappeared from the earth. While the Sloth God is admittedly easy to find, a Hunter would be wise to consider the God’s weight in years, the crushing millennia that it bears on its claws, and the fact that that over all the eons of its existence, no animal, no God, no natural force, no quirk of the universe has had any success in moving the God of Sloths in even the slightest way. The first Hunters who tried to capture the hanging God simply reached out to take hold of it, only to see their hands vanish into thin air before their very eyes. Nets and cages have proven equally useless, all disappearing before they come anywhere near touching the Sloth God. In fact, every conceivable contraption devised by a Hunter’s imagination has been employed for this task, but each one has snapped out of existence on approach, sometimes taking the Hunter with it. There are two expeditions on record which attempted to cut down the branch from which the Sloth God hangs, but both parties returned perplexed and frustrated, each claiming that the branch was not attached to any tree, and that no matter how carefully they followed it, the branch only looped back on itself like a mobius strip. While no Hunters have ever proven it true, it is said that the only way to capture the Sloth God is to stand as motionless as the God itself, allowing the jungle to encapsulate you, its weeds flowing into your blood and its roots growing into your bones, your own time ceasing to be, and only then will the Sloth God move, climbing over to hang on your arms that look like thick, jungle branches.

Fox God

It is not enough to capture a Fox God, although even that is not easy. They are too quick to be chased down, and too crafty to be fooled by a Hunter’s game. The only way to catch one of them is by planning a trap, the more cunning and intricate the better, one which spans time zones and whose execution requires an elaborate cast and the utmost precision. But before you can fool a Fox God, you must first fool yourself, which means it is paramount that you wholeheartedly believe in your plan, assure yourself that it will work whatever its machinations may be. When your plan inevitably fails, and you find yourself hanging upside down in your own wooden cage, you must be genuinely shocked and demoralized that you have been vanquished.

But even if you are so clever, so fast, so worthy as to capture a Fox God, it will sit calmly behind its bars for eons, a knowing gleam in its eye, as if he hasn’t been captured at all, and in fact, it is you who has fallen into the trap. There are Hunters out there who say our lives are merely elaborate traps sprung by the Fox Gods, which is why we are always running, and why we never win.

Fish Gods

The Gods of Fish exist only on the surface of the water, being nothing more than the reflections of fish swimming below them. When you see a large-mouthed bass under water, you are seeing both the bass and its God. It does not matter how deep a fish descends into the water, its God will follow it in perfect mimicry on the surface above, casting a loving eye below. For many years it was thought impossible to capture a Fish God, though many still tried. Hunters tried projecting the image of a fishing lure onto the water’s surface in hopes that a creature made of pure reflection would be enticed by reflected food. They are not. Still other Hunters created floating cages made entirely of mirrors, trying to steal the God right off the top of the water. However, as we know now, you cannot capture a Fish God without also capturing the fish, because although the Fish Gods are nothing more than the reflections of the fish, the fish are also nothing more than the reflections of their Gods, and when one disappears, the other disappears with it.

Bird Gods

We do not know what a Bird God looks like; all we know is that it does not look like a bird. It does not have wings. It does not have a beak. It does not have feathers. The humblest of all the Gods, the God of Birds did not make its creations in its own image, deciding to make them in a far better one.

Frog Gods

Frog Gods are rare and peculiar creatures, easy to catch but exceedingly difficult to find. There is no discernible difference between a Frog God and its mortal creation. They are identical in appearance, the same in smell and feel of their skin, and their behaviors cannot be told apart. A Frog God, though, contains an entire universe within itself, an entire cosmos red-shifting in its stomach filled with galaxies and stars and animals, and all those animals’ gods. While the universes vary in size—the largest one on record being far, far larger than our own—all are created by the ingestion of Mosquito Gods, their stolen space being distilled into star systems, their carcasses digested in the Frog God’s stomach. Only a few Frog Gods have been discovered, but there is no reason to think there aren’t many more. Any and all frogs are shells for universes, created in the image of their God, able to hold within their bodies more space than most can imagine. Frog Gods should be handled with the utmost delicacy as there is always a chance the universe contained within them is none other than our own.

Rabbit Gods

There are few methods for capturing a Rabbit God, none of them very effective. When a Rabbit God is threatened, it will splinter itself into two symmetrical beings, each fleeing in opposite directions forcing the predator to choose only one to follow. These new deities will never recombine with one another, continuing to live their separate existences as surefooted lords, splitting again and again if the need arises, creating Gods upon Gods upon Gods. A common trick among Hunters, performed in hundreds of variations, is to chase a Rabbit God into a confined space—a cave, a hole, a large iron safe—and seal the exit behind it. But a simple trapping method will not work. Each Rabbit God contains within it an infinite amount of material, and any finite space will eventually rupture at the seams, swollen with hundreds or thousands or millions of Rabbit Gods. There is speculation as to whether all Rabbit Gods can be traced back to a single deity, and a handful of Hunters have spent their lives searching for this creature, finding only that every Rabbit God is identical to the next.

Gazelle Gods

The fastest of the Animal Gods are the Gods of the Gazelles. From their horns down to the their hooves, they are entirely frictionless, slipping through the world without ever touching it, with only the bottoms of their hooves, leaden and sharp, gripping the ground. A Gazelle God lives among its creations in the tall grasses and wide-open veldts, unafraid of the many predators whose claws and teeth slip smoothly off its fur. While Gazelle Gods are nearly impossible to chase down on foot, they can be caught in a variety of other ways, such as mile-deep deadfalls or upending them midstride, taking their feet off the ground. Because of its frictionless body, an upended Gazelle God will slide across the surface of the earth forever. All a Hunter has to do is place a cage in its path.

Raccoon Gods

Raccoon Gods no longer exist, having been hunted to extinction.

Opossum Gods

Every opossum has its own individual God. They are born at precisely the same moment, and will mimic each other’s movements for their entire lives, neither one willing to admit that they are the sole controllers of their destinies. Their dependence on one another’s presence is so deeply ingrained within their psyches that when an opossum dies, its God will die with it, although many claim that it is the opossum who follows its God into death, not the other way around. There is no way to tell, of course; there is not even any way to distinguish the mortal opossum from the God. All we know is that the world is so terrifying that neither is willing to face it without its counterpart.

Chameleon Gods

For a long time it was thought that Chameleon Gods did not exist, as not all animals have Gods, and no Hunter on record has ever seen one. But no one has ever seen one for the very simple reason that Chameleon Gods just cannot be seen. Which is not to say that they are invisible. They are not. The color and texture of their skin would look the same as any mortal chameleon if we could see it, but a Chameleon God does not allow us to see it. While the chameleons of the animal world blend their bodies into their environments, a Chameleon God merely erases itself from the minds of the observers, burrowing straight into our brains and blotting out any trace of its existence. No sight, no sound, no touch of its flesh can be recalled, its reality only a myth. A simple baited trap would probably be enough to catch a Chameleon God, but since there is no way to empirically prove that a Chameleon God is contained within the trap, few Hunters have ever bothered.

Jellyfish Gods

The Gods of Jellyfish are ethereal creatures, existing in our world for only a few minutes before fading away into the dark waters. As they enter and exit our reality, they move the oceans ever so slightly, just enough to let mortal jellyfish know that their Gods have not forgotten them. It is not known from where the Jellyfish Gods come or to where they go; all we know is that we cannot follow them. Perhaps it is because Hunters routinely walk on the edges of our world that they are tormented by the Jellyfish Gods. Imagination is a Hunter’s primary resource, and to see a creature disappear beyond the waters, vanish to a place that can never be known, a place beyond even their imagination, is more than most Hunters’ souls can stand.

Armadillo Gods

The Gods of Armadillos move backward through time, forming their beautiful creatures in the moment of death, and then watch as their charges retreat through the years, shuffling through the underbrush of a shrinking universe. Do not attempt to capture an Armadillo God. If you try to catch one, it is already too late—the Armadillo God has moved past you in its timeline. You must catch the Armadillo God before you attempt to capture it, and if you haven’t caught one already, you are never going to.

Gopher Gods

Never follow a Gopher God underground. The burrows of a Gopher God are vast, elaborate labyrinths woven under the earth’s crust, and no Hunter who has descended into them has ever come out. You will know the tunnel of a Gopher God by its precision. The walls are perfect geometric circles, smooth as liquid, and curve through the soil in golden ratios. It used to be thought that these burrows moved around, shifting from one area to another, but actually quite the opposite is true. The tunnels of Gopher Gods never shift, never collapse, and never deform in any way; they are anchored to the universe in an exact position, and it is everything else in the world that twists around them. Even when a tectonic plate falls into the mantle, the shafts of the Gopher Gods stay in place, steady in the face of constant revolution. Openings to their burrows have been found in the middle of mountains, stone having folded around them over the millennia. Others have been discovered jutting out of the ocean’s floor, snaking shafts displacing the lightless water for miles. Even though Hunters know they are sacrificing their lives when they chase a Gopher God down its hole, the promise of a place that doesn’t move, doesn’t crumble into dust or waste away in the wind, a place where they can have genuine rest—who could blame those poor souls, falling to the center of the earth, leaving us all behind?

Dolphin Gods

Dolphin Gods have no edges, no limits to their being. They are little more than waves, existing only in the reflections and refractions of the ocean around them. Dip a glass into the sea and you will have captured part of a Dolphin God, but do not be fooled that you have touched one, because although a Dolphin God touches every living creature in the ocean’s depths, it is unable to be touched in return, a pitiable fate for any animal, mortal and divine alike.

Dodo God

The Dodo God is a sad creature. Only one of them is extant, elegant even in its grief, wandering the globe, calling for its brethren in a melodic, forlorn tone. After each call it walks in a small circle, hoping to hear a voice returned, or perhaps to find a familiar feather on the ground. Often it can be seen in caves or sewers, having followed the echo of its own voice in terrible hopes of stumbling upon one of its creations still alive. It is easy to capture the Dodo God if you want. It is not a powerful god. It cannot fly, it cannot bite, and it is not overly intelligent. Its wail will pinpoint its location, and can be heard from miles away. It is the sound of a God with no followers, a being alone in the world. So, yes, you can capture the Dodo God, it would be easy enough, but no one wants to as its very existence is too much to bear.

Todd Seabrook's work has appeared in Tin House, Mid-American Review, CutBank, Quiddity, New Ohio Review, and 30 Under 30 Anthology. Mud Luscious Press published his chapbook This Semi-Perfect Universe in 2011, and his second chapbook, The Genius of J. Robert Oppenheimer, won the 2012 Firewheel Editions Chapbook Contest.
9.3 / March 2014