Vote for Mithras, part six

Peter had walked into the sitting rooms of the rich and powerful many times during the course of his career. What struck him first about this room was that it didn’t show the same trappings of greed and lust. No money-crazed hoarding of art and collectibles. No status symbol antiques and paintings that appeared to have been purchased, at great expense, simply to be shown off and make lesser men grind their teeth.

Excepting, of course, the extravagant underground setting, Mithras lived in a paradoxically humble way. There was no need for him to inspire envy, or fear. He was a god in a time when all other gods were dead. The unchallenged successor to the Earth and its several billion subjects.

“You lied to me, didn’t you? Peter mumbled, speaking without thinking.

Karl turned. “Sorry?”

Peter shook his head, tried to force a smile. “You don’t need me…”

“We do, Mr. Willingham. I assure you.”

Peter walked into the sitting room, the doors closing behind him with barely a sound, and sat where Karl indicated. A large, outdated, unfashionable couch sitting in the sunken living room in the center of the room. Two overstuffed chairs faced the couch, and a coffee table spread with several novels and a few popular magazines sat perfectly centered. Even the seemingly scattered novels and magazines, after Peter examined them for a few moments, looked to have been purposely laid out. More for show. Here’s what Mithras reads – just like you, and you, and you…

Karl took one of the easy chairs and picked up one of the magazines, paging through it without really focusing on anything.

“So…” Peter said.

Karl looked up.

Peter smiled expectantly.

“It’ll be a few minutes.”

“Uh-huh. I don’t care about that.”

Karl put down the magazine. “All okay?”

“Dude. Gin and tonic.”

Karl’s face lit up, “Oh! Oh my! Sorry. I’ll be right back.”

He hurried up the two slab steps that led to the sunken living room and ran along the walkway that led to a wide open kitchen, a false window backlit to give a sense of sunlight streaming into every corner.

As he started to rattle around, Mithras appeared from deeper in the flat (as Peter now thought of it, with the doors closed and the grandeur of the entrance hall hidden away).

The horned god stood ten feet tall, a body built for power and speed, barely contained in business suit. A choice of attire that was all the more comical considering that Mithras had a bull’s head, slightly curved and shaped to appear more human than animal, and giant, curving horns.

The eyes, more intelligent and welcoming than a bull’s eyes, touched with a strange luminescent grey-green amidst a sea of light brown, regarded Peter for a moment. He found himself standing involuntarily.

“It’s been some time, Mr. Willingham.” Mithras said, stepping down into the living room and extending a giant, furry hand. Despite the obvious ability to crush rocks and uproot trees, Mithras shook hands gently and kindly. There was an elegance to this most inelegant of figures.

He sat down in one of the over-sized easy chairs, suddenly making it look like a tiny lawn chair at a child’s tea party. And, as Karl returned with a large tumbler, Peter took his drink and found himself unable to shake the tea party image. He resumed his seat on the couch and took a long, grateful pull on the g&t. Karl had made it weak. Fuck Karl.

“We last met… Webb’s New Year’s party, yes? At his house in Virginia?”

“I believe so, yes.”

“You had just retired…”

“My work was done.”

“Ah, a man’s work is never done, Peter.”

Peter shrugged, finished his drink, then cleared his throat. “I disagree, but, yes, I appreciate the figurative meaning.”

Mithras leaned forward, still huge and imposing even as he tried to bring himself down to the size and level of a human. “Your work is certainly not done.”

“I’ll be honest…you don’t need me. The world is your oyster. It always has been. Webb will endorse you, and your followers alone can vote you in. No one stands a chance against you.”

“I want an election that is clean and fair, Peter. I don’t want to win office simply because I’m Mithras reborn. I want to win the hearts of the people.”

“You have. You’re a god.”

“I’ll still have to face some awkward questions.”

“Like who are the gods I don’t recognize in your hallway out there?”

Mithras sat back and smiled. Or, at least, what passed as a smile. It was more of a terrifying sneer. But Peter had gotten used to it over the years.

“The forgotten ones.” Mithras said. “Some were friends, some enemies. And each has a story. “

“I thought you filled in all the gaps in human history.”

“There is a history from before humans walked the Earth.”

“The old days.” Karl muttered reverently.

“My contemporaries walked the Earth with me as equals. Some of those out there lived and died before the human race was even a spark.”

“That will be one of the issues, if you follow the campaign that Karl outlined yesterday. How do you remember the old days? You were cloned in a lab. You are not the original Mithras, but instead reverse-engineered from that creature’s remains.”

Karl’s sharp intake of breath made Peter’s ear twitch, and he instinctively turned and raised an arm as Karl rose from the chair and made as if to lunge. But Mithras raised a hand and gently told Karl to stop.

“Please, Karl,” Mithras said, “this is why we hired Peter. To speak the truth we have avoided.” He turned to Peter, “The answer, I’m afraid, is not an easy one.”

“I wouldn’t imagine so.” Peter replied.

“Karl, get Peter another drink. And make it stronger this time.”

Karl glared at Peter for a moment, then turned sharply and headed back for the kitchen.

“Reading minds, now?” Peter asked Mithras.

“No, I just know that you like a strong drink and Karl has a light pour.”

“So…the answer.”

“The truth is that I don’t know how I remember the old days. I didn’t, at first. They came to me gradually. And we can talk all night about the nature of our minds and our souls. Yes, I was engineered in a lab, but I am now as alive as you are. Do you believe in the soul?”

“No.”

“Well, something separates us, yes? From the beasts, from the insects. Yes? What would you call it?”

“Solipsism.”

Mithras laughed. A terrifying, animalistic roar. “Oh! Very good, Peter! Very good!” Catching his breath, still chuckling, Mithras waved Karl away after he returned with another drink. Peter took it up and drank half of it in one gulp, and Karl slinked off.

“Now,” Mithras continued, “I, for one, believe there is something there. Some spark of life that is beyond all of our knowledge. I believe that spark never dies. I believe that, when this shell was formed in the laboratory and given life, it became a vessel for the long-lost soul of the original Mithras. But after so many generations, it took some time to…wake up. To come out of the mist.”

“And now it has?”

“More and more every day. I believe all of our souls are recycled in this nature.”

“Then why don’t we all draw upon such fonts of knowledge?”

“I am not human, Peter. I’m an entirely different species. If the old gods are mortal, then how could they have possibly reigned for so long if not through this ability to remember. To carry on. Spiritual immortality. The souls moving from body to body. Whether born or built, the body is merely the vessel. And the old gods were gods because they had been given the ability to tap into their past. Their knowledge. Their infinite millennia of experience and power.”

“Well, fine then. That’ll make perfect sense when you explain it. People eat that shit up all the time. Again, you don’t need me.”

“Do you remember when we first met?”

“Webb introduced – “

“Precisely. You can’t remember when we really first met, Peter. You’re trapped in the here and now. The paltry, short, human existence. Your soul screams out, though, with an eon of memories. You and I first met long, long ago… And I haven’t fully understood any of it until recently. I haven’t completely remembered.”

“Right. Well…” Peter blinked, finished his drink, then rose to make another for himself now that Karl was gone. Though Karl hadn’t left. He stood by the doors with two cloaked figures. As Peter stood there staring, the doors rolled gently open.

Mithras, coming up beside Peter, said gently, “Would you like to see yourself again…old friend?”

“Oh fuck me.” Peter whispered. He had no choice. Mithras placed a huge hand on his shoulder and guided him past Karl and the doors and back into the hallway of statues, torches, and expensive lighting effects. He took Peter to the third god on the left – a giant, angry-faced beast. Bald, with deep-set eyes and a large month, the god seemed to be about to rise from his chair, the stone face caught in mid-shout, six-fingered hands clutching the armrests for leverage.

“This is Molonar.”

Nothing stirred in Peter. He realized that he’d allowed himself to be swept up into the nonsense and half expected his so-called soul to wake up and recognize itself.

“Nothing?” Mithras asked.

“Of course not.” Peter replied.

“I had quietly hoped…”

Peter looked up at Mithras, “What makes you think I’m this god? You can see people’s souls?”

“We gods recognize each other. Even if the god in you is dead.”

“This is all hokum. Look – I’m not interested in the job. I’m retired. Let’s just go our separate ways… Best of luck to your campaign.”

Mithras, looking up at the stone statue, was shaking his head. “No, no, Peter. I’m afraid it’s not as simple as all that.”

“Oh my god…”

“Now that I know who and what you are, I simply must act.”

“Act?”

“You, like everyone else, have asked the big question. Where are the other old gods?”

“Ah…” Peter moved slightly away as it dawned on him. If Mithras was right about the old souls being recycled, then…

“Then?”

Peter jerked back, “Fuck me, you are reading minds?”

Mithras, snarling, turned and leaned in, “Because they’re so small!”

He closed his eyes and put a giant hand to his forehead. “I’m so sorry, Peter. It’s all so exhausting sometimes. When these vessels, “ he swept his hands to indicate himself, “all died, the souls of the gods recycled into human vessels…and have become trapped. I can lead teams to the final resting places for many of the old gods, but the spark of life won’t take hold if the souls are not set free.”

“Shit…wait a minute… You’re not planning something crazy, are you?”

“Define crazy,” Karl whispered, stepping up behind Peter. Peter felt the jab of a needle, but didn’t have enough time to do anything more than leap away and shout incoherently. His world became a grey, senseless mist.

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