The Gods (Story by R.C. Peris)

There were once many gods. Gods you could touch and feel. There was the god of the sea that washed over you like liquid silver. There was the god of the wind that cooled your skin. There was the god of the sun that warmed the ground beneath your feet. There was the god of food that fills your belly. There was the god of the air that fills your lungs. We had many gods and every day we thanked each god we encountered for the gods were life and sensation. Our minds bloomed with feeling.

And then the Israelites came with weapons. They had one God.

“How is this so?” asked our diplomatic party sent to negotiate with the Israelites.

“It is so because there is only one substance and that substance is God.”

“But what of the sea and the fishes and the golden rays of the sun? Each one is peculiar and unique. Each one is an element of life.”

“There is only one God and God spoke to Moses and when Moses went up the mountain and spoke to God some of our people got anxious and made a golden calf and danced around the golden calf. They worshipped the calf and this made God angry and Moses ordered the death of many. Now…give us your land. It was promised to us by God. This land of milk and honey is ours.”

“I’m afraid it is ours and we cannot grant you any land because you will wreck our gods. You will destroy all our gods with that God in your mind that is not a sensation but something so very abstract and unnatural.”

The Israelites grew angry and killed the diplomatic party. They took the land to the north and all the way to Gaza. They did not bow to the trees or the sea or the hills or the goats. We were pushed into caves. They killed our flocks. They pummeled the land. Our gods withered and so did our bodies. But we told our children…never forget our gods. Our gods were never angry like their God. Our gods we felt and touched. Their God was somewhere high and punished those who would not sacrifice for them. Our people knew little pain until the Israelites made us suffer the wrath of their God.

“Children,” said our leader, “remember there is a god in everything thing and even in our deepest sensations and feelings. You can feel the gods. Never pray to one God who spews from your mouth and resides somewhere in the sky or punishes or strikes you down.”

We remembered but the Israelites starved us so we approached God and when we did the gods receded. The land ceased to be beautiful and we toiled and suffered but the Israelites said this was all good.

“Now you understand God.”

But we did not understand anything. A single God was baffling. We could not touch him, play with him, kiss him, or give proper thanks to him and so it was our minds that withered as we worked for the Israelites and soon we were unhappy and desolate.

“God wishes it so,” said the Israelites.

A thousand of us piled rocks in the pockets of our clothes and we walked into the sea and died in the embrace of the god we once frolicked with. We could not, ever, accept God. Oh, gods of the Earth come comfort us as our last breath wrings from our lungs.

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