Chapter Four, continued
Okay, hereâ€™s the official version.
Gods are created by peopleâ€™s beliefs. Everyoneâ€™s been pretty careful to stay off the topic of God with a big G, but He/She/It is the elephant in the room that we all factor into our equation, along with possibility that thereâ€™s gods with an even bigger G somewhere.
Why hasnâ€™t anyone paid more attention to that? Because, I think, itâ€™d mean changing their lives too much. Weâ€™d all been content to bumble along without knowing and now that we did, we were all trying not to pay too much attention to it.
Anyhow, there were a few corporate gods, like Ronald McDonald. But not very many, and the explanation for that was that people viewed advertising with a certain cynicism that was the antithesis of the sort of belief that created a god. Very few ever achieved the amount of power that was necessary to create an actual god.
Or so Iâ€™d been told up till now.
â€œSo let me get this straight,â€ I said. â€œAny piece of advertising has the potential to create one? Any?â€
â€œTechnically, yes,â€ Santa said. His manner had slipped from kindly grandfather to a fussy and overly precise business-man, the sort of bureaucrat Iâ€™d always hated to deal with. â€œBut the Holiday Consortium has certain safe-guards in place to prevent most of them.â€
â€œWhat sort of safeguards?â€
The fingers inside the white gloves steepled. â€œMagical ones. Think of them as a sort of enchanted pest-killer. It removes the ones that are below the level of sentience. Itâ€™s a kindness, really. Otherwise they just blunder around causing trouble. Weâ€™ve suppressed the knowledge of the Bobâ€™s Big Boy incident of the 50s, but trust me – no one wants a repetition of that.â€
â€œSo the ones I would be disposing of are above the level of sentience?â€
â€œIn most cases, just barely,â€ he said. â€œBut yes. Will that be a problem? Your file says that youâ€™ve disposed of several types of sentient supernatural creature in the past.â€
â€œOnes that meant harm to people, yes.â€
â€œTrust me, Ms. Amme, these creatures can cause more harm than your garden-variety vampire.â€
â€œYou said you would give me powers to overcome them – how would that work?â€
He slouched back in his chair. The Tooth Fairy had been listening intently throughout all this, but the Easter Bunny seemed to be paying little, if any, attention. Instead he was staring down at his paws on the tableâ€™s surface.
â€œWe will imbue you with a very small portion of our power. I would suggest a trial run. There is such a menace brewing right now, a grotesque and hideous monstrosity of the kind that only your advertisements could breed.â€
I studied him. I was pretty sure there were plenty of advertisements out there with his image on them, so who was he to be casting stones?
â€œA trial run with your powers?â€ I wasnâ€™t going to be facing some sort of supernatural Iâ€™d never dealt with before unless I had something up my sleeve.
â€œIndeed,â€ he said. He pushed himself away from the table and stood. The Tooth Fairy did the same. The Easter Bunny remained seated, staring down at his hands, until the Tooth Fairy tapped him on the shoulder. I was still trying to fit what he had said earlier with what Santa had told me. What had he meant about the highest levels? was there something that Santa had left unsaid that I should know about? I tried unsuccessfully to catch his eye as he rose.
â€œCome with us, Ms. Amme. We must invest you with your powers and that requires the use of an Artifact.â€
I gulped as I stood and fell into line behind the three of them. An Artifact was major mojo indeed. I wasnâ€™t sure that I really wanted to get that close to one, let alone have it used on me. magic can have a way of going wrong, and when itâ€™s powerful magic, it can have devastating consequences. Ask that poor woman who tried to use those magic coffee beans.
Harriet would have been thrilled to death to be walking with them, I thought, and felt a little pang again. Iâ€™d thought Iâ€™d be able to mend that fence, if I really tried. Maybe a secret knowledge that I couldnâ€™t had been why I hadnâ€™t tried until desperation and a burning building pushed me to it.
This situation might have excited her, but something about it didnâ€™t feel right. What was I getting myself into?
â€œIâ€™m not sure this is going to work for me,â€ I said, stopping in the doorway.
Santa stopped in his tracks as well, swiveling to face me.
â€œAre you quite sure thatâ€™s what you want to say, Ms. Amme?â€ he said softly, in a tone that said, â€œIâ€™m phrased like a question, but you really should be reading me as a threat.â€
Unfortunately, Iâ€™ve never reacted well to threats. So I didnâ€™t move, just looked at him, waiting to hear what would come next, because it was clear as daylight that something was going to come next, something he thought would change my mind.
â€œThere are some minor corporate gods that have survived our winnowing, here and there,â€ he said. â€œSome because theyâ€™re grown too powerful or cagey, like McDonald. Others because they performed some service or were deemed harmless. It would be a shame to call in a marker on one of them. Perhaps one like Lady Sunshine, the trademark of a small soap brand of the forties.â€
He paused, smiling at me as though heâ€™d just handed me a puppy.
â€œWhy would I care about Lady Sunshine?â€ I asked.
His smile grew even broader.
â€œWhy indeed?â€ He turned and started back down the hallway as though he knew Iâ€™d be falling into step behind him. The words trailed over his shoulder.
â€œBecause sheâ€™s your mother.â€
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