“Owen Nightingale, it is good to see that your soul was not effected…”
I looked around myself in confusion and wonder. Everywhere I looked there was clouds and sunshine, there was even a comforting and soft voice coming out of nowhere and talking about my soul. It didn’t take a genius to connect the dots.
“So… Am I dead?”
I tried to think back to what could have done me in, my head was a bit fuzzy on the details but I did recall some things. I had been on a hunting trip with my dad and aunt, there had been more than a little alcohol involved. Alcohol and arrows mixing could’ve ended poorly, but I didn’t think that was it.
“Wait a sec… There was… that wolf…”
It came back to me in a flash. A pure white wolf with bright blue and unusually intelligent eyes, it had gotten its foot crunched in a rusty old bear trap. It had given me this look, like it knew exactly what was happening and it had accepted its fate. I couldn’t stand the look in its eyes or the fact such a beautiful animal would die like that, so I did something stupid.
“Ah, so the wolf killed me huh? Man Dad and Aunt Cal are gonna be pissed…”
The voice sounded out from nowhere once again, this time it sounded like there was a hint of sorrow in the voice.
“Yes, unfortunately you have died Owen Nightingale. You did a great good by freeing one of my messengers, but my angel needed sustenance to heal itself. It used your body to heal itself, but it preserved your soul and delivered it to me.”
I had a moment of instant panic, but I took a breath and channeled calm thoughts. I died and a voice in the clouds was throwing around words like “Angel” and “Soul”, it was a messed up situation but all things considered I was ok. Here I was in what I assumed was heaven and my death didn’t even hurt from what I could remember, things could be much worse.
“So you’re what? God?”
Unlike my parents I had never been all that religious, but I had believed in some higher order of power in some form or shape. Maybe I wasn’t being as respectful as I should be, but I honestly wasn’t sure how I should act in a situation like this.
“I could be called as such. Mortals have a hard time conceptualizing my kind, they try to attach designations or genders to us when we naturally have none.”
I didn’t even bother trying to wrap my head around that, it seemed like a rabbit hole I didn’t want to jump down.
“Alrighty then, I’m just gonna go with God then. You know, being the puny mortal that I am…”
I wasn’t entirely sure but I thought I heard feint laughter. For a moment I wondered in God had a sense of humor, then I remembered that the platypus and narwhale were both things that existed. Yeah God had a sense of humor.
“So God, what happens next? Eternal Paradise? Reincarnation?”
I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to do with my life when I was alive, I had never thought about what the afterlife would be like outside of a few “what if” scenarios inspired by books and anime.
“That is up to you Owen Nightingale. You saved one of my angels from nonexistence at the cost of your own life, whether you were aware of this fact at the time or not, that is something that both of us would like to reward you for.”
I paused, a reward from God was just a bit out of my depth.
“Up to me?”
An indistinct form shimmered into existence be for me and spoke with the God’s voice.
“Yes, Owen Nightingale was not intended to die in such a way. As such and considering your actions prior to death I have determined it only fair to allow you yourself to decide what is done with your soul.”
The form of an old man in white robes holding a golden shepherds crook emerged from the shimmering form. It was about what I expected god to look like, though I suppose I was kind of hopping that God would turn out to be a needlessly attractive girl in her teens. It was a desire that probably said something about the amount of anime I’d seen and fiction I’d read.
Before my eyes the old man morphed into a blonde twentysomething bombshell in a white cocktail dress. Oddly enough the golden Shepherd’s crook still seemed to fit with the new look.
“Is it weird that I’m attracted to God? Just play it cool Owen…”
“I’m unaware if mortals would find an attraction to one of my kind as strange.”
“That was a thought. I know that was a thought. There’s no way in hell I would say that aloud. How the hell did she know I thought that? Better yet how did she know that I wanted to see her look like that? Huh, I’m thinking of God as a “she” now… That’s probably pretty disrespectful, I should just keep calling her God aloud…”
“I do not mind how you refer to me Owen Nightingale, I am not as petty as that. In regards to your thoughts, well you are a mere soul without a vessel now. There is no difference between your inner and outer speech.”
I didn’t know what to say and I sure as shit didn’t want to think anything if it would be heard all the same.
“Now Owen Nightingale, what would you like to be done with your soul?”
I had no idea. It might be cool to reincarnate but I’d hate to end up as a bug or something. An eternity of anything seemed like it would get boring eventually, so I wasn’t too fond of going for the idea of eternal paradise and peace. It might be cool to do the whole “transported to a fantasy world” thing but that was as unrealistic as Bigfoot fighting Nessie in the Bermuda Triangle…
“Actually it could be arranged Owen Nightingale.”
“It require some maneuvering and I would likely owe a favor to one of my fellows, but if that was what you’d like to be done with your soul it can certainly be arranged.”
I just stared. I could be like one of the protagonists in the stories I loved, that was almost too good to be true.
“Of course if you chose to do so you would become beholden to the authority of one of my fellows instead of myself. I govern no worlds that you would consider a “Fantasy World” but I know of some who do. Your soul would come under their care, so this cannot be said to be a reward.”
I wondered about that. I would normally jump at an offer like that, the only thing that would hold me back would be my family.
“Wait, my family? There was Dad and… Huh… Dad and…”
God’s face turned blank.
“I would encourage you not to think further on your prior personal connections Owen Nightingale, after a mortal dies their bonds with any of the living will rapidly fade. It allows the dead to better move on and enjoy their afterlife or their new life. Rest assured your family and friends mourned you, you were greatly missed, but all you knew were able to accept your death.”
I guess that made sense. It would be hard for people to enjoy a new life as whatever or live in paradise if they were constantly thinking about and missing their still living loved ones. Besides if God take’s the time to give you advice you should probably take it.
God made a small sad smile.
“You’ll need to prepare yourself for this transition. The sort of world you wish to send your soul to is extremely dangerous. Racial and religious violence are far more common than you may be expecting, many have unshakable magically enforced systems of slavery, and illness will be as likely to kill you as a blade, beast, or magic.”
And suddenly I didn’t have such burning desire to be a fantasy hero.
“Uh, how do I prepare?”
“I suppose that’s up to you Owen Nightingale, I am not well acquainted with the way mortals process and cope with stresses. I can only tell you that you should prepare yourself mentally and perhaps spiritually for this transition. You shall be leaving behind everything you know and sending yourself to a world ruled by deferent laws and governed by a different being. Once you’re there I will have no way to help you, and I will have no way to aid you.”
“Seriously starting to reconsider this whole idea…”
“However I can give you a fighting chance in such a world. Is there not a precedent in mortal fiction for the divine to bestow great powers and magic onto a person before they are sent to a new world? I believe that is in line with the trope is it not?”
And just like that I was back on board with the idea of going to a fantasy world. Nothing like the promise of magical powers to change a person’s mind.
“Though I should warn you, I am not familiar with dealing in magic. That said, I shall do my utmost to bestow on you the power you wish for.”
I thought about what would be useful to have in a fantasy world, it was a debate I had considered many times.
“Hmm… Elemental powers would be nice, but it could be easier to counter unless I get all elements. There’s the heal cheat tactic, but I could see myself getting trapped as some noble or country’s heal slave. There’s taming, always fun to be a tamer or summoner, but I can see that back firing in a way that gets me eaten if I mess up a capture. Conceptual Magic? It has promise, but it would probably have limitations based on my own concepts and common sense. The power stealing cheat? That could work but I would be powerless at first and I’d have to steal other people’s power which will get me hunted unless I kill my victims which will get me hunted for a different reason. Than a domestic or administrative type power… No, I guess those sort of powers would cause more trouble than they’re worth without the force to back them up. Wow this was so much easier when it was just about what the protagonist should’ve picked… Fuck, um…”
God held a hand over her mouth as she laughed softly.
“If I may make a suggestion? I phrased my offer as if I could only grant you one power and that is true, but I never specified what quantified as a single power…”
My eyes widened and a grin shot onto my face.
“So I could have as many powers as I…”
God interrupted me with a raised hand and a slightly severe look.
“Only one power. One can’t take advantage of or bargain with our kind. One can only accept what we offer, I merely offer more than most.”
God’s face returned to a pleasant smile.
“And I enjoy offering hints to my people…”
I nodded and got back to thinking.
“A single power, but one that isn’t limited to a single quantified amount. Ok, fun… logic puzzle time… how much can be considered a single power but also cover all my realistic needs in a fantasy world while still allowing me the option to adapt freely? Wait… Adapt freely? Adapt… Adaptation via evolution. Evolution, or maybe mutation? The ability to freely evolve and mutate myself however I please? Seems decent but… Wait, why am I limiting it to myself? The ability to freely evolve and mutate myself and allies? Huh, sounds good? No, wait myself, allies, and weapons? So maybe a conceptual evolution magic? But I don’t really know how fight, I mean I know how to shot a bow and can skin with a knife but… Minions, or pets... I need cannon fodder, reliable but disposable and easily replaceable cannon fodder. So creating and evolving. But that’s still two powers… Or is it?”
A hand on my shoulder shook me from my thoughts.
“Owen Nightingale, I cannot give you any power involving absolute creation or destruction as that is the providence of my kind. I can however grant you the rest of the power you thought of, and I can assure you it is a powerful ability to possess. The power of change, evolution. That is the sort of brilliance and creativity I love in my people. It will have limits as you are mortal, but it should serve as you wish it to.”
It was probably the best I would get, and when I think about it…
“Can’t I just evolve endless minions on my own instead of creating them? If I take an insect or maybe even a cell… Yeah, a cell and just evolve it into something that is useful. I can even ensure loyalty and reliability by specially customizing the brain if I evolve something from a single cell…”
God was silent for a moment and simply stared at me. When she finally spoke her voice was colored in pride.
“I’d forgotten how tenacious mortals could be. Deny one path and they simply take another, its truly amazing… Very well, your soul will be given the power you’ve come up with. You shall also be reborn in a “fantasy world” that is the most similar to what you expect from your prior life’s hobbies. I do hope you will remember me…”
I wondered about that, how could I forget about meeting God?
“Of course I will…”