Flounder

This story is paired with “The Fisherman and His Wife” from Children’s and Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free. 


“O, Prince, please don’t think this is a crime, but I need a moment of your time.”

“What do you want now?”

“Thank you for swimming out to see me, Your Highness.”

“This is getting tiresome. I can’t stay in the shallows for a long time.”

“I am sorry, Prince, but please bear with me. My wife sent me.”

“Your wife?”

“Yes.”

“What does she want now?”

“She… well… she…well, it’s difficult to phrase.”

“What does she want?”

“She… wants to be God.”

“God?”

“Yes, she wants to be God.”

“Being pope and emperor isn’t enough for her?”

“No, Prince, I’m afraid it’s not. I am sorry. She doesn’t know when to stop and be satisfied with her lot.”

“Apparently not.”

“Well, can you make her God?”

“I don’t think that you’re asking me the right question.”

“Would you make her God?”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

“Why?”

“I’m not sure you’d like the answer.”

“Is it beyond you?”

“No. I could make her live forever in the body she has now, but I can’t make her God.”

“Why not?”

“Because my powers only extend to what I truly believe in.”

“I’m not following you.”

“I can’t turn her into something that I don’t intrinsically believe in.”

“You mean you don’t believe in God?”

“Bingo!”

“How could you not make her God, I mean, how can you not believe in God?”

“Well, that’s a complicated question.”

“Forgive me, Prince, but I don’t understand how you could not believe in God.”

“I assume you’ve never met an atheist before.”

“A what?”

“An atheist. We’re not a bad lot, you know. We love the world, people, believe in being kind to our neighbors, and we all have a moral compass of sorts.”

“I’m relieved to hear that, but how did you lose your belief in God?”

“Several ways. Through time – I don’t like to mention my age, but I helped Odysseus find his way to Calypso’s Island.”

“Wow! Then you’re—”

“Yes, I’ve been around a bit. Let’s leave it at that.”

“I apologize, Your Highness.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ve seen gods rise and fall. The one who’s in fashion now will be gone in less than a millennium or so.”

“But God is eternal.”

“No, the human need to externalize is eternal.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Humans are a contradiction in terms. You want to rule the world, but you need something bigger to believe in than yourselves because it helps you to deflect ultimate acceptance and responsibility for your condition.”

“What condition?”

“You’re a part of the Universe, my friend.”

“I don’t understand.”

“When you’re as old as I am, you have a lot of time to think. When you have all the time in the world, you’ll treat time differently. When you see history rise and fall and repeat itself, when you see the same soul in the eyes of a hundred different lives spanning the course of a thousand years, then your perspective will change. And, then, there’s evolution.”

“What’s evolution?”

“Something you won’t find in your scriptures.”

“I can’t read.”

“That’s too bad. You’ll never know the thrill of watching a species change from bad to worse, or from bad to better over a very long stretch of time. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen that countless times.”

“Like when you grow up from being a child to an adult.”

“Hmm. Not quite the same thing. But, if you want to accept that as a frame of reference, then I’ll agree.”

“But that still doesn’t explain why you don’t believe in God?”

“Your god, the old gods, the new ones—they’re all false. Would you like to know a secret?”

“Oh, yes.”

“You are God, and so am I.”

“What? No. That’s impossible. I’m just a humble fisherman.”

“No. You are God. You have a divine spark. You are part of the greater scheme of things.”

“That’s impossible.”

“No, that’s the truth. It’s also science. I may be an atheist, but I’ve seen the cycle of creation. All things are born; all things live; all things die, and are reborn into another life, or as part of the Universe. It’s a different type of immortality. The best part of you will never die.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Let me explain it in very simple terms. You have a divine spark; let’s call it your ‘soul,’ for lack of a better word. Every living thing in this world has one. It exists at the subatomic level.”

“What’s ‘subatomic’?”

“It’s something so small you can’t see it, but it’s there.”

“How do you know?”

“I’ve got enchanted vision. It’s one of the benefits of being an immortal enchanted fish.”

“How did that happen to you?”

“We’re getting off topic here. The divine spark is the immortal part of you. It never dies. Ever. It goes on, from life to life, forever, until it joins with the Universe.”

“You mean God?”

“I mean the Universe. It’s too bad you can’t read. I’d recommend you take a look at the Chaldean Oracles.”

“So, my soul will go to Heaven?”

“You really don’t get it—okay, yes. Your soul will go to Heaven. Anyway, I can’t and won’t turn your wife into something she already is. Your God doesn’t exist.”

“How am I going to explain this to her?”

“That’s not really my problem. She’s your wife.”

“She’s not going to be happy with your answer.”

“There’s nothing she can do about it.”

“Wait a minute. If you’re God, and I am too, then how can you be an atheist?”

“I don’t believe in an external god. I guess you could call me a Gnostic instead, but the classic Gnostics still believe in the demiurge.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s something that doesn’t apply to this conversation. Look, the fact of the matter is, I’m not going to give your wife what she already has. But I have a question for you. What do you want?”

“How do you mean, Prince?”

“What do you want? All this time you’ve been doing what your wife has ordered you to. When I granted you a wish, I granted it to you, not your wife.”

“Well, I’m married, and we make decisions together.”

“You haven’t been doing that for quite some time now. Are you happy with your wife as ruler of the world? Is she thinking of you every time she demands to become more powerful?”

“Well… no. But I love her, and I want her to be happy.”

“Were you happy before I granted you a wish?”

“Yes. We were happy. We weren’t rich, and we didn’t have a lot of things, but we had enough to eat, and we had each other. I miss that. Sometimes, I wish we could go back to what we once were.”

“Done.”

“What?”

“You and your wife are now back at the beginning. You’re a fisherman, and she’s your wife.”

“But what about the palaces, the servants, the royalty?”

“All gone.”

“What am I going to tell her?”

“I’m sure she’s very much aware of what has happened. She’ll have to ponder the reason she overreached herself, and you’ll have to find happiness some other way.”

“Your majesty, I’d like to ask for one more boon.”

“Well, my friend, you’ve already received so much from me, and you’ve done nothing with it.”

“I know. But I would like to ask for one gift.”

“And what is that?”

“You’ve given me so much to think about. My mind is floundering in new ideas. I’d like to be able to read about them. Can you give me and my wife the ability to read?”

“Done. And when you get home, you’ll find a copy of the Chaldean Oracles in your boat. Enjoy it.”


 

marie-lecrivainMarie Lecrivain is the editor of poeticdiversity. She is a photographer, a writer-in-residence at her apartment, published in various journals, author of The Virtual Tablet of Irma Tre (© Edgar & Lenore’s Publishing House, 2014), and editor of Near Kin: Words and Art inspired by Octavia E. Butler (©Sybaritic Press, 2014).