Photo by S. Stuewer

Pas de Dios

I sat, created from crystal, centered in a blank universe. There was a plane of grass stretching endlessly into the nothingness, and there was a white-hot sun burning fiercely overhead. No wind, no sound.

I sat alone for eternities on the grass and stared up at the sun. There was nothing else. Eons passed.

Dog From Alaska appeared a short distance away and walked slowly through the grass to a point beside me. He looked around and around for the horizon, then squinted up at my sun. Then he looked at me. He turned around twice and Sat on the grass beside me.

He gazed off into the distance for a few minutes, then finally said, "What'cha doing?"

"Staring at the sun," I replied. Stating the obvious. I was closed. The real answers were too long and complicated. Or maybe there were too many of them. Too many answers begging too many questions. Not enough answers. Dog From Alaska had as many answers as I did, just different ones. Dog From Alaska had no answers. I didn't want to waste time with explanations that I'd already been pondering endlessly. That would be too repetitive.

Dog From Alaska was patient. He looked up at the sun again, then at me again, and then into the distance again.

"Why are you staring at the sun?" he prodded.

I made a vague motion and looked around. "Do you see any other damn thing to stare at?"

Dog From Alaska smiled and didn't reply. He got up, turned around once more, and lay down. That meant he was probably not leaving anytime soon. Let Dogs lie, I thought. I went back to staring at the fiercely burning sun, and we remained silent. The dry grass was browning. After a few minutes, Dog looked at me and said, "You seem bitter."

I looked back at him with a look that could have said anything, could have said everything, but really meant nothing. A 'so, what' kind of look. A blank look. If I said anything, it would be an opening. I was not open today. I was closed. I looked back up at the sun.

Dog waited, appraising me, and finally said, "You were in the Wastelands, weren't you?"

I ignored him. Dog sat back up and looked around again, re-assessing this universe. Then he bravely ventured on. "Everyone's been through a Wasteland sometime." He frowned his fuzzy eyebrows. "Most come out of it with more than a sun and some grass, though. What happened to your creativity?" He looked up at the sun beating down on him. "This is lame." He paused, and muttered, half to himself, "This is hot."

I looked back at him with a look that could have said everything but didn't. A blank and ferocious look. The sun was starting to scorch the grass and burn the furry Dog. Where could I begin? I had no time to waste with the answers. I had all the time in the world. I stared at him and said nothing.

Dog's ears started to flatten. "Now you're beginning to scare me," he said And the way he said it was accusing.

"I am calm and reasonable," I said.

His eyes widened and he lowered his head. "Now you're really beginning to scare me," he retorted.

I looked back up at the sun burning hot in front of my eyes and decided I had to give in a little. Dog From Alaska had always been a very good wolfriend. I took a deep breath of the fiery air to stir myself. Where to begin? "I'm sorry, Dog. I've missed you. I don't need to scare you and I apologize. That's not what I want.

"I'm just not used to all this power yet. I thought I was all-powerful when we were soul-stealing, then when I became God..." I trailed off, shaking my head sadly.

"Well... okay," said Dog. "I accept your apology easily enough. But could you do something about the sun?"

The temperature dropped a few degrees, and appeared suddenly a tree with thick leaves a few feet away to shade him. He glanced at it and then gave me a bemused look for a moment. Sighing, he got up and moved to Sit in its shade. With a wry smile, he kept watching me. "What are you trying to prove? What are you trying to say? This is all so trite." He looked away and muttered, "I'm glad you're not my God."

Genuinely confused, I stopped staring at the sun and frowned at him. "Dog," I said, "I can make you cease to exist in an instant. I can make it such that you were never here at all..." I stopped, curious. So much power and I couldn't control my Dog?

Dog glanced around and grinned. "I'm still here," he gloated. "And I'm sitting in the shade while you burn in the sun." His grin slowly faded. "I'm not cruel enough to laugh at you."

I frowned at the burnt grass around me and thought for quite a while. Dog From Alaska waited.

With a rush of breeze there was suddenly a forest, tall trees surrounding us, cool and dark with spots of sunlight glancing through the leafy canopy. An icy stream splashed over smooth rocks nearby as it meandered through the trees, spraying cool mist over us. The droplets hissed on my skin, red-hot glass still glowing from residual heat. Dog From Alaska closed his eyes and thumped his tail in chilled extasy.

"Thanks," he said. "I'm still not impressed, but it's much more pleasant." A fish splashed in the stream. I wondered, did I put that there? "So, why were you trying to melt yourself down?"

I looked at him with a look that should have said everything. But didn't. I didn't want to be open yet, but knew eventually I would have to be. Dog From Alaska already knew everything, or else he wouldn't be here. It was a long story and I had already lived it hundreds of times. I kept repeating it even as I thought I was avoiding it. Avoiding it over and over. Not enough years to relive the story. Cut to the chase, I thought. It'll be easier that way. But I didn't know how to explain, where to begin. At the end, perhaps.

"Why melt myself down to nothing? Absolution of my sins, I suppose." I'm so enigmatic and transcendental and smug in my righteousness. But Dog knew as much as I did, and suddenly started to look strangely confused.

"Absolution?" Dog snorted. "And now you've brought me here. Man, you think I can give you that kind of relief? You think that's why I'm here? You used to be God! I'm not the one to forgive you." He paused, and I could sense that under his irritation, he was a little worried. "Why do we have to talk about this stuff?" Dog From Alaska feared having the upper hand. It occurred to me that I had been about to give him power, some kind of control over me. Neither of us knew what that might have done, because neither of us was entirely real. I apologized. Seems I was doing that a lot. Some deity.

"All right," Dog From Alaska said. "Why are you so upset about a Wasteland?"

I thought for a moment, trying to figure out some way to synopsize the story. I didn't know where to begin a tale that lasts longer than a lifetime. And I didn't want to relive the experience. Again.

We sat amid the forest until I finally said, "You remember when I showed you how to string universes along the timelines?"

"Yeah," Dog said. He smiled, reminiscing. "I always liked the purple ones best. You always liked the blue ones."

"Basically," I continued, "I always thought it was our mission to create worlds, you and I."

"You make worlds," Dog interrupted. "I just jump the timestream between them. But I've dropped into quite a few really nice ones. Lots of chickens. I always wanted to thank you for all the fields and the chickens." He frowned. "We haven't done anything together in a long time."

I shrugged off his memories. I was opening. "Well, it seems that all the time I thought I was creating new worlds, exciting, cool worlds, I was actually destroying them. I didn't even know I was doing it."

Dog looked at me. I waited for a reaction. Dog started to smile. And his smile grew. Then he grinned at me with his big dog tongue lolling out of his mouth. Startled, I too began to understand. Dog's smile softened as he said, "I'm not cruel, but I'll laugh at you anyway. That's your problem, you've lost some universes? All the Strangers are out there destroying worlds. They think it's all so dramatic. Oh, that's rich! You always wanted to destroy worlds, I think probably as some kind of way to prove your omniscience. You went stomping around being The Destroyer all dark and invisible. O, all-powerful Lord and Master.

But you can't blame yourself for everything. Stars will supernova with or without you. It's the way they're made. It's in their nature. You can start it happening, or stop it when it starts, but you have to let most of them do what they're gonna do.

"You caused a few holocausts, but if I recall correctly you thought it was fun. 'Look what I can do! World — gone!' with a wave of the hand, the flick of a finger. The blink of an eye. You were melting yourself because you lost a few universes? That's... that's..." Dog stopped and saw me looking at him. It was a look that might have said nothing. But said a lot more. "That's not all there is to it, though. That's all surface stuff. There's something else." He waited for me to speak.

"I've quit the Carnival."

Dog From Alaska looked stunned. "Umm, you quit the Carnival?" In shock he had to repeat the words to try to make sense of them. He was thinking about the implications of that simple statement. "Wow. Destroying worlds is easy. Quitting the carnival..." He tried to find a way out. "Where is it now, then?"

"I don't know." I said calmly. Talk about destroying worlds... Dog lay down slowly, chin on his paws, considering. I looked around at the large, dark trees surrounding us. Sheltering us. The peaceful brook gurgled. My skin was cooling.

Dog From Alaska looked utterly lost. He still had as many questions as I did. He lifted his head to ask, "And the Strangers? If they've all been let loose to soul-steal on their own, who knows what mischief they may wreak. You never trusted them, even when you controlled them." I shrugged to show my lack of concern and he put his head back down on his paws.

Dog pondered. "Things have sure changed since we went around on the soul-search. Sure, it was a dark time, but it was so easy. No worries, not a care in the world..." He paused, and scoffed. "And not a caring world." He frowned for a while, thinking, then changed tracks. "Is there still a soul-file?"

I was surprised he thought of that. I hadn't thought of it lately. "If there is," I said, "I haven't seen it in ages. I quit going there a long time ago. It pretty much took care of itself, seems like." I tried to give him some hope. "I'm sure it's still floating around, anchored somewhere in the timestream. I'm not too worried about the soul-file."

Dog moderated somewhat. "Of course. You never had a lot of control over the soul-file." He barked a laugh. "None of us did. But if the Strangers are slamming around in there, it could really be a mess, wherever it is."

"It always was a mess," I smiled. But Dog From Alaska was back on the subject.

He looked at me. As if to confirm it to himself, he repeated, "So you quit the Carnival." Then he put his head down again and quietly said, "All our stuff was there."

I slowly nodded. "I thought it was kind of tragic. But I needed to tell you. That must be why you're here."

Dog From Alaska thought about that for a while. "I can see now why you were trying to melt yourself. You want to escape. That is useless, you know. Even melted, you'd still be destroying worlds."

"I know."

Dog From Alaska sighed and Sat up, steeling himself for a changed Everything. "Do you feel any better now that it's gone?"

I watched the water in the stream bubbling by. Clear water flowing, constant, splashing gently. Fish moved slowly over the rocks on the bottom, struggling against the current, then being carried a little downstream, struggling again. Did I put those fish there? I must have done it without thinking.

"I seek forgiveness for the worlds. But I'm well rid of the Carnival. All the stuff was so beat up and depressing. Rotten wagons, dead horse skeletons Everything was always falling apart. It caused misery everwhere we set it up. And the Strangers wandering around — weren't the best entities I ever created."

Dog interrupted, "But we had a lot of good times, too. I liked all the open fields."

"Empty spaces..."

"I liked the flowers in the fields. I liked the chickens. I liked sitting with you, rolling cigarettes and drinking ale and... I don't know, talking and looking at the stars. Rolling in the grass."

I smiled at my Dog. "It was easy."

Dog From Alaska watched the water splashing. "So why'd you have to bring me here and tell me this?"

I looked at him, with a look that might have said everything. I was sentimental and feeling sorry for myself. "It's a little pathetic, but sometimes it seems you're about all I have left."

Dog From Alaska growled low in his throat. "You're so full of yourself, O so Mighty One." He glanced around. "Look at this creek."

I did. The struggling fish were gone, finally giving in to the current as the cool clear water carried them downstream.

"Look at the trees." They were large and leafy, a young forest, but strong and solid with slim rays of sunlight flickering through the branches. Cool shade on my hard glass skin. A forest full of rough-barked trees gathered together, surrounding and sheltering Dog and I as we sat together in a small glade.

"And where were you when I came in? Trying to melt your glass in a nowhere. You can do anything. Blinkslip into the timestream and just see where it takes you. Maybe you should find some timelines and start stringing universes again. Try the purple ones. You haven't created a world in a long time. Make another world or two."

"I'm afraid to," I argued.

Dog smiled at me. "Maybe. I suppose it could be scary, wielding all that power." He paused. "But I eat chickens."

I thought for a long time. I thought for years. Suddenly, I got rid of the forest. I smiled at him, reached out and ruffled his fur. "You're a good Dog." I stood up and, somewhat startled, so did he.

Appeared an endless expanse of cool green grass, and a warm sun in an open sky. There was nothing else.

It was time to begin.