Published June 16, 2003

The gods were having quite the noisy era when a very timid little girl grew up in the great forest. There was almost always an immortal to be seen in drunken flight above the mountains, but their reeling and rumbling seemed pointless; they only bothered to argue amongst themselves when bored, and if they spotted a mortal who sparked their interest they were just as likely to invite him to an orgy as they were to sic a swan on him for fun. No one ever got much sleep.

illustrationThe timid little girl was terrified by the nonstop hoo-ha; as she grew older she fixated on the fear that the gods might specially notice her and include her in some custom-designed sport. In fact, she was very plain, slow, and dull: the gods would have ignored her if she'd cut off her head wearing a flaming corset, even if they weren't hung over. But the timid little girl, sure she was ever under scrutiny, found an equally timid little boy to enlist in a program of good monotheistic marriage and digging an underground bunker to hide in.

He grumbled, burrowing in the loam, but when the bunker was finished he dove inside as fast as she did, spotting an oncoming platoon of nude demigoddesses in pursuit of a flock of geese. That night the couple consummated the marriage. (The timid little girl was horrified to catch herself, mid-ordeal, pumping along to the thought of a certain blond god, Giuglio, who usually girt himself with a silver beaver skin.) Nine months later they were faced with an uncommonly handsome, black-haired son. The beautiful son began to cry as soon as he was born, like any baby; but he had an outlandishly big voice that terrified his parents, who were sure the gods could hear him through the earth above their burrow. They dug a nursery bunker underneath and cloistered the boy inside. For twenty-five years, the beautiful son would never see the sky. He hardly got to see the living room.

It wasn't long till the timid boy and the timid girl, being rather more fear-filled than gentle souls, grew tired of keeping their timid mouths shut and began to have screaming matches with each other to blow off steam. They couldn't do this in the upper bunker, of course, so they did it in the nursery. Soon the girl began to linger there, screaming at the beautiful son, long after the timid little boy had stomped upstairs. It felt really good.

For twenty-five years the beautiful son would never see the sky. He hardly got to see the living room.

pull quoteFortunately for the beautiful son, he could hallucinate at will. While his poor timid parents cowered upstairs, the boy was entertained in the darkness by a teeming mass of imaginary friends. When they came downstairs to fuss he rarely cried. In his head he built pretty symphonies around the swooping whine of her voice; his only outward reaction was to smile vaguely over her shoulder, which tended to make her tantrums much longer and louder. If she went on for too long he would hear such compelling harmonies that he would begin to sing eagerly along, at which point she would give his face a smack and stomp upstairs after her husband.

The timid couple got the usual early cancer and retirement from their mandatory jobs in the gods' immortofuel mines, and took seriously to drink. Once they drank so much they didn't come down to bother the son for a week; after another week he noticed they hadn't fed him, either, so he got up the nerve to break the lock on the basement door.

illustrationUpstairs he found his timid parents passed out in a pile of filth, but there was nothing to eat - even the whiskey was gone. He was just vaguely aware that anything outside the bunker existed, but he could hear noise overhead and he was sickeningly hungry so, curious and desperate, he opened the door of the hovel and saw all this, all at once: not just the heavens, the oaks, the horizon, and the mountains leavened with the mine tunnels where the humans worked to supply the gods, but the gods themselves -- specifically, the blond god Giuglio was slaking his kinks atop a thick white cloud with a chesty and ripe redheaded goddess named Azienne.

Now the gods had idly wondered from time to time what the reclusive, boring, and ugly timid couple had been up to in their ridiculous foxhole, and at the sound of its ouverture Azienne and Giuglio interrupted their pleasures (they had all the time in the world) to snoop. They continued to stare, for what they saw crawl from the dirt was a limpid, finely muscled mortal in the prime of guileless bloom -- and this creature, upon devouring all at once the immensity of the world, the terror of the skies, and the power of the immortals, held out his lovely white arms and began to sing. The gods had never expected the like: the mortal world returning a sound whose power they couldn't comprehend, whose unheavenly beauty made them drop their jaws as they hadn't for a million years; the goddesses swooned, in the trees the squirrels squirted, and the beautiful son's lungs burned with pleasure - he took his song for granted, but the spectacle of the world ravished him with joy. All over the skies blow jobs were halted, mortal virgins left stranded nude on altars, and firstborns returned to their peasant mothers, who tried to look happy, as the gods dropped their eons-old amusements for the heartrending concert. There were even humans in the forest who realized, without heavenly instruction, that they were being blessed with a hard-refined and unpriceable essence.

Story Copyright © Ann Sterzinger