Vote for Mithras, part four
There are some who say you learn by experience. Some who say you’re born with some basic truths…or without them. So what is a god born with when he is reconstituted in a laboratory? What lies lurking in those ancient bones and in the microscopic stuff of life? Bones, dust, and that stuff of life mean only one thing: The gods were once mortal and, now, have finally become immortal. They have transcended what killed them the first time around and have become the best that science can make. Better. Reproduced, cloned, preserved. And what science cannot recreate continues to exist generation after generation in the minds of mortal men and women: The memory of the old gods. The acceptance of fantasy.
What did Mithras remember when he woke up? When he became aware? There was a grey cloud. Thick, frightening, and very old. A passage opened up and he moved through. He woke up in a lifepod in a laboratory, men and women gazing down on him. He had to learn the world all over again. How to speak, how to read, how to take care of himself. For the first few years of his artificial life he was as a child. He lived in the lab, learned the ways of the world, and learned quickly. That’s how the old gods once reigned – there was no learning curve. Mithras could become a fluent and native speaker of any language within a couple days. Science came easy to him. He read books cover to cover within a few hours, and that was slowing down to enjoy the experience.
That was how he knew there was a lifeline back to the old days. The old ways. Something remembered. The basics all came easy, but the new things – computers, the internet – came with difficulty. The technological age was not friendly to Mithras, perhaps because whatever ancient memory he was tapping into had never been forced to deal with such things.
But who cares about that? You can hire computer people. Mithras focused on that lifeline to the old ways. Tried to clear the clouds surrounding his reawakening. What else was back there? What else came with him through the veil of death?
Bit by bit, locations came to him. The final resting places of his peers. Buried under ancient lava flows in Greece and Italy, sunken beneath the ocean, consumed by jungle and ice… He could lead the scientists to other gods. Could wake up what he now realized was a species far and above Mankind. A species that had been lost. Lost because Mankind is very much akin to a scourge. An infection. You cannot stomp them out. You can’t even rule over them. Long ago, Mithras remembered – or was he just imagining? – such a trait frustrated the old gods. Threw them into frenzies of spite and corruption, which did nothing but fuel their own demise. Whether actual memory or the impression of images from the mists before his awakening and the consumption of textbooks during his “childhood,” the evidence seemed clear. The old gods shot themselves in the foot. The man-made religions of zealotry and forgiveness embodied in the so-called gods of the modern era were more palatable. Probably because they didn’t exist. Make up a hippie who tells the poor people to turn the other cheek, or a crusading desert warrior who’s good for trade, and you have a religion that’s much more manageable. The old gods had been usurped by the kings and emperors they installed to rule over their subjects. Mankind, as always, was a twisted, power hungry species that you couldn’t ever turn your back on.
Still, as Mithras learned about the new world, and saw what several thousand years of Mankind could do, he was impressed. These little creatures had become greater than the old gods. They had truly mastered their world, manipulated it. They no longer existed like animals but, instead, like a fully functioning hive of industry. Grouped together in cities, pounding away at the hard edges of the world, and creating…destroying…with the same sort of overreaching power that the old gods once enjoyed.
As the distant, lost past became clear, he decided not to share all the details. He pointed out a few locations, allowed his creators to make some significant yet, for Mithras, inconsequential discoveries. The lost histories of empires known and forgotten were recovered. Mysteries of the Greeks, the Romans, the Pre-Columbian peoples of the Americas, and the Chinese were unearthed and the rich tapestry of Mankind’s history was repaired. Rewoven. And Mithras avoided questions about the other old gods. He watched as hordes of people began to demand that the minor demi-gods of Christianity be awakened. That DNA be taken from the dried husks of saints and the Catholic pantheon be brought into this brave new world. Crackpot scientists went in search of Jesus, and the Vatican sealed off access to Peter’s remains. Probably because there was nothing there anyway.
Mithras watched the developing religious fervor with a deep concern. He’d seen the rise of Christianity – those first formative years. What it was truly capable of hadn’t really made an impression at that point. His attempt to usurp and influence the cult is what eventually led to his exile, death, and internment in Greenland. The unexplored and largely unknown polar climes were the last refuge for failed gods. (Mithras often wondered if some shared human memory had resulted in the writing of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Mankind would always have the same gods…)
Looking back now, the Messiah cult built around the name of some romanticized blue collar folk hero was a force to be reckoned with. The ultimate tool of the absolute monarch who need only to see a vision in the clouds to be legitimized. Despite some mild successes on the parts of the old gods to influence and shape Christianity, the feverish and unquestioning loyalty was tough to beat. So, awake again, surrounded by science and agnosticism, despair and doubt, Mithras decided it was time for a change. Two thousand years ago, the cult of that carpenter was strong. It thrived on conflict and was shepherded by saints and leaders who claimed direct lines of communication with god.
Now, it was getting old. It was a tarnished fantasy. More and more of a crutch for the foolish. The shepherds were gone, and mistrusted, and Christianity had become an internalized, fundamentalist idea. Something ruled by the masses instead of the patriarchs and emperors. That is, it had become directionless. Purposeless. Where once it was meant to move masses of subjects, now it was a deeply personalized escape mechanism. Truly the ultimate drug.
Mithras saw the weakness. Saw that the time had come. And, after all, he was truly a god. So he said so. He stood up and told a tale of how the old gods ruled until they had given up on humanity. With human history now an open book, and richer than any historian could imagine, he had tens of thousands of years of evidence. The old gods and humanity thrived until two thousand years ago when the Christians – dangerous, murderous cultists – destroyed the status quo. The fall of civilizations spoke volumes – the Aztec and the Inca, the decline of the Romans… All that was lost in between.
With the complete history of Mankind now being taught, it was clear. Technology and urban life and exploring the stars and all of that meant nothing in light of what had been lost when the great empires fell. The human race had been on an enlightened path and, just now, was beginning to emerge from the embittered, wasted Dark Age that settled shortly after a crucified criminal was deified by his wild-eyed followers.
People, as always, needed something to follow. And here it stood before them, the great horned god of their forgotten, neglected past. A past with more powerful gods. Gods who did not turn the other cheek but, instead, gave the human race the power to create vast empires, to rule the known world. And it was a familiar siren song – profits. All roads always led to the capital of the empire. Where kings may rule, merchants could still make a fortune, villas could still be built by the common people. Mankind naturally gravitated to monarchy. If a country was without a royal figurehead, than celebrities or god-kings of Wall Street were promoted in their place. If a country lacked a peerage, then the movie stars and tiny percentage of billionaires took their place. How else do you describe a country ruled by a single-digit percentage of wealthy, landed elite if not some modern form of monarchy? And, without a god to guide the elite, to humble the masters, it was dangerously akin to a tyranny.
America was the perfect home for Mithras. Another lucky soul to be born on US soil. Here, in the land of opportunity, a vast, poorly-educated population of indentured servants worked for a tiny oligarchy whose only responsibility was to look good on TV. An oligarchy that was more than happy to join a cause that furthered their wealth and control.
As to Peter Willingham… To be absolutely honest about it, Mithras didn’t need a campaign fixer. The fix was in the day he woke up in the lab. Willingham had another purpose. He was the first of many that Mithras had seen. Names that came to him from that grey mist of long ago. For a long time, Mithras had missed what was right beneath his nose. As Willingham worked for the mighty dollar under President Webb, and Mithras enjoyed the status and power of being the good buddy of the most powerful man in the world, things just weren’t all that clear. Those were heady days. And, since, Mithras had cursed himself. For he must kill Willingham in order to continue on his own voyage. And there was his chance, in those early days. Now Mithras had to move cautiously, lest he upset everything he was building. He had to follow certain rules.
And if there was one thing Mithras really hated…it was the rules. Where were soon to become a moot point, if Willingham was foolish enough to leave the city.