Anodyne floated in the black of space, staring out past his worlds to another deity who was walking as if the ground was beneath his feet. He was muttering and hunched slightly as he seemed to be counting on his fingers. Shaking his head, he would start the count again. Vure rose to Anodyne’s side, staring with just as much confusion.
“Who is that?” Vure asked.
“I have no fucking clue. But judging by the fact that I can’t read him, I would say someone we shouldn’t piss off.”
The new god walked unaware of Anodyne or Vure. Strolling straight past them, he continued his mumbling.
“Listen here, you tweaking creep; what are you doing in my universe?” Anodyne yelled.
“Great job at not pissing him off.” Vure mumbled under their breath.
The individual looked up, shocked.
“My goodness, here already. Doesn’t time just fly? Which one of you is Anodyne?”
Vure looked up to Anodyne, amazed at the amount of wrinkles his face made when he was angry.
“I will assume the one that looks like he is ready to skin me. It did say in my folder that he was quite a grumpy little man.” He said as he tapped the folder in his hand that neither Anodyne nor Vure had noticed before.
“Listen here, you can’t just walk into my universe and act…”
“Oh, I assure you I am not acting; this is all deadly serious. You have finally reached a point where you are being offered an invite to the mortal wars.” The man held his hand out with a letter in a simple white envelope.
Anodyne didn’t even blink; now furious, he exploded at the man.
“Listen here, this is my universe, and I get to say what happens, not you. I am the one that calls the shots here, so who the fuck do you think you are?”
Vure backed away slightly as he watched as a twitch ran across the newcomer’s face.
“I am a delivery man for Tamag Yark. This is your invite, and if you dare raise a hand to me, I will break it and revoke your invite. Now accept the letter, and let me move on.”
Anodyne stared down the delivery man, but even he knew that conflict was futile. He reluctantly took the letter but never dropped his stare. The delivery man tipped a hat that wasn’t there before, nor was it there after he turned around. He then began his walk, muttering under his breath once again. This time with a hint of irritation. Vure cautiously approached Anodyne, who was still staring at the deliveryman.
“I am just going to take this.” Vure whispered as they slowly pried the letter from Anodynes hand.
Peeling it open, they read it aloud as Anodyne glared.
It has come to my attention that you have finally reached a point where you may compete in the mortal wars.
Below, I have left the name of my base of operations.
I am sure you should be familiar with this location,
I eagerly await your arrival
Vure took a deep breath and stepped in front of Anodyne, obscuring his view of the delivery man. Once again, Vure found themselves staring down Anodyne. The silver crosses in the black of his eyes seemed to vibrate as he squinted at Vure.
“What?” He growled.
“Do you know what this A0602 place is?”
“A0620.” He corrected Vure. “This Yark individual is situated in an Earth Dimension.”
Vure floated back to give Anodyne some space, trying to give him room to cool down.
“You don’t look happy about this.”
“Of course not; not only do I have to make the trip back to my universe, but I have to go to one of the worst places that exist in the Eternaverse.”
“A goddamn black hole.”
Anodyne moved forward, grabbing Vure. The land appeared beneath their feet, and a reflective shield appeared around them. Soon they were plunged into the violent vortex that would take them from their universe to Earth’s universe. The land under them broke apart and cracked. Vure lay on the ground, clinging to what little they could, as Anodyne stood with his hands raised, struggling to keep the shield from collapsing. Eventually, the relentless torrent of energy subsided, and they were once again in space. This time they were in orbit around Earth. Anodyne stared longingly at the planet’s soft blue glow but turned from it and started to fly away with Vure in tow.
“How can someone have a base in a black hole?”
“You wouldn’t be asking that if you knew what a black hole really is.” Anodyne said with a sigh to his voice. “I assume this will be your first time going into one then.”
Anodyne looked at Vure, Vure nodded slightly, and Anodyne chuckled.
“You are not going to enjoy it; it is… harrowing.”
The two of them arrived at the black hole in silence, Anodyne stopping just shy of its range of influence. Vure waited for something to happen or for Anodyne to do something. But as time passed, Vure began to understand that Anodyne was not going anywhere.
“I can’t believe it, you are afraid. I have never seen you scared before.”
Anodyne’s whole body tensed, and Vure stepped back slightly, getting ready to run.
“I am afraid of many things in this Eternaverse. Black holes are not on the list. They are, however, one of the most uncomfortable experiences I have ever gone through. To make things worse, the first one I went into was too large for me to leave. I was stuck in it for a while.”
Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath.
“Fortunately, this one is small. Even you will be able to leave this.”
“That was going to be my next question.” Vure said shyly.
Taking the first move, Vure entered its range of influence and let it take them. Anodyne still had his eyes closed as he stepped forward, unaware that Vure had gone in ahead of him. They both felt their bodies pull and stretch; Anodyne grimaced at the experience while Vure struggled to hold back their screams. Eventually, the swirling became too much, and all either could see was black and the feeling of nausea and complete body pain. With a crack, Vure found themselves pressed against a planet’s surface; their body is bound to the planet by an intense gravity. Struggling to look up, they watched as Anodyne slammed into the planet next to them. Anodyne struggled to his feet before standing upright. His whole body was tense as he fought against the gravity of the planet. Staring back down at Vure, he grinned.
“Welcome to the inside of a black hole Vure. Welcome to what gods consider hell.”
After a short while, Vure found their feet. Looking around, they appeared to be standing on a planet; there were stars in the sky and even a thriving, diverse range of flora and fauna that seemed unaffected by the intense pressures that were crushing Anodyne and Vure.
“Where are we?” Vure struggled out as their back clicked into place.
“Black holes are points that exist in multiple universes. That is why I didn’t need to know the universe Yark was in to get the right one. The more universes that are present, the more intense the pressure.” Anodyne choked out as he started to walk towards a tall spire that rose out of the forest in the distance.
Vure followed, slightly slower.
“So why is there so much gravity, and why are there birds flying around?”
“The gravity is intense because we are standing on millions and millions of planets that are all occupying the same space. The animals are fine because they too are just one of millions upon millions that are now occupying the same space.”
“Anodyne, I can barely stand. How are we going to leave?”
“Don’t worry; your body will adjust. But it will take a while. Now no more talking until we arrive at that spire. My jaw hurts.”
Vure had no complaints; grinding their teeth together, they struggled through the underbrush of the forest. Days rolled by before Anodyne adjusted to the pressure. Another week went past before Vure felt normal. Then once they were both comfortable, they made the final leg of the journey to the spire. Passing through the last bit of bush, they stepped out into an open field that surrounded the spire. It didn’t seem to have any doors or windows; outside of it, hunched individuals sat down at tables, carefully playing with small animals. They were taking pieces off of them and replacing them with others; the animals seemed to be unaware of what was happening, just doing their best to adapt to the new bodies they were given.
Scouring the area, Anodyne locked eyes with an individual who was already staring at him with a grin. Anodyne rolled his eyes and made his way over to him.
“Do you think those animals are being hurt?” Vure asked Anodyne as they hid behind him, peering over his shoulder at the other gods play with the animals.
“I have no idea what you are on about.” Anodyne said sincerely as he made his way to his target.
“Yark, I presume.” He said as he stood in front of the grinning man.
“You would presume correct. Welcome to my little haven, and please accept this as the official invite to the mortal wars.” He said, raising his hand out to be shaken.
Anodyne ignored it as he looked around.
“Doesn’t look like war, just a bunch of hunched fools sitting in hell playing with toys.”
Yark laughed as he retracted his hand.
“You look at the small of things. These gods are creating their mortals for the wars to come.”
“What are the mortal wars?” Vure chimed in. Looking over at Anodyne, they shrugged. “What? You were taking too long to ask; I wanted to know.”
“I am sorry you are?” Yark asked, looking to Vure.
“Vure, I am a free… I followed Anodyne here.”
Yark’s eyes darted between the two of them.
“Strange,” He let slip, eyes opening wide at the realization that was aloud he composed himself.
“Well, Vure. The mortal wars are how we gods pass the time, gamble, or just test ideas. It is a pastime that I created myself.” He stated that he was proud of his accomplishment. The tanned skin of his hand pressed against the soft colors of his shirt. Creating a stark contrast.
“Us gods all go to a universe; we seed our creations into the universe, then we watch them grow and slowly take over the galaxy. The race that defeats all the others wins.”
Before Vure could ask any more questions, Anodyne spoke up.
“You mean a black hole?”
“Of course, I mean the black hole; why would you choose to live here?”
“It is simple; no one will invade me. Here I am safe from being harassed by other gods. Here I can focus on my work, I can even let people know where I am, and I am still avoided. Don’t get me wrong, I still get invaded from time to time, as everyone does. But as my black hole grows in size, less and less gods come.” Yark tapped his nose and pointed to Anodyne with a knowing grin.
Anodyne stared at him, not understanding the gesture.
“I don’t follow.” Anodyne stated as he watched Yark walk away.
“Follow me. You can come too, Vure.”
Vure grinned behind their mask and nudged Anodyne forward. The two of them walked through the masses of gods who all toiled away at their creations. Fine-tuning their creatures as a clay workers might perfect a sculpt. As they walked through the crowds, Yark spoke to them.
“Naturally, you won’t be thrown into a full-blown war right away; we will put you through all the training. I do have in my notes that you can’t create sentient life. That is easily fixed.”
Anodyne caught the snickers of other gods he walked past as they fiddled with their own creations. Anodyne snarled and yanked the table they were working on; their creature fell to the ground and broke its limbs. It screamed as its owner stomped on its throat, killing it. The angry god laughed to himself and grabbed Anodyne’s arm, forcing him to turn around.
“I think you need to watch what you do around here. Newcomers shouldn’t be as bold as you.”
Yark stepped between the two of them, staring down the angry god.
“You should know this one.” He gestured to Anodyne using his head. “Is the one that fell into a galactic center black hole and clawed his way out. Not going to stop this fight, but figured you should know before you got into it.” Yark stepped to the side, watching them both.
Anodyne smiled and gave a little wave before stepping past the angry god, having the way led by Yark. Vure followed behind and whispered to the angry god.
“I would feel sorry for you, but you stepped on your animal thing and didn’t even care. You are a terrible being.” Then Vure ran to catch up to the others.
The angry god scraped up his creation and went back to work begrudgingly.
“Now that we have that all sorted out, we need to address the issue you have, which I swear I can fix easily.” Yark stated as they walked to the edge of the spire.
Anodyne waited for anything to happen, but instead of what he was prepared for, he was greeted with a table and chair. Yark gestured for Anodyne to sit, and Anodyne turned back to the other gods to see that he was to be seated in a table like everyone else.
“I thought you said that this situation is fixed easily. This feels like I am going to sit and study until I have it sorted,” Anodyne grumbled.
“Fixed easily by me, a lot of work by you. I am offering you the techniques; you are the one that is going to have to put the work in to implement them.”
Anodyne started to get ready to leave when Vure grabbed his shoulder.
“I am sorry to stop you, but this might be good. Maybe even be useful in the long run.”
Anodyne sat down slowly, staring up at Yark; Anodyne rested his forearms on the table edge and rolled his wrists.
“Okay, where do we start?”