by Max Barry

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The Outer God of
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Stories pertaining to that which lurks outside all reality.

A Modest Ritual of Farseeing and Memory

Within an aging hyperbrane, in a universe none but the most demented of historians and thrill-seekers had even heard about, was the planet-temple of Karal-Olom. Beneath the dim, threatening stars and the canopy of vast, evergreen trees, was a world of shrines, artifacts from before the most vague historical records, catacombs and tombs running for thousands of kilometers down into the planet's core, and stranger structures still. Since its primordial time, many traditions and cultures had left their mark upon the planet, entering and leaving the historical scene, with only artifacts and terrors remaining to commemorate them. A reliquary, a vast mortuary world, a temple to things diverse and ancient, inhabited by cultists, devotees, pilgrims, or simply researchers and adventurers not afraid of history's darker depths. Rumours held that somewhere within the untraversed depths were hidden such things as the Karunai Database, capable of summoning eldritch beings from beyond the multiverse, or ancient inter-continuum portal technology by which the dead could be reassembled and brought back into existence. Yet others stated that if one looked without due caution, one might stumble upon the keys to seals which held something unthinkable locked away at the very center of the planetary complex, and be inescapably compelled to turn them.

Whether this world was artificially created or merely transformed into what it was by hundreds of millennia of sporadic effort, none remembered. What was remembered, however, is that its first settlers had been anything but ordinary beings, but rather entities of some power and skill, who carved many unexplainable constructs and laid the foundation for this strange place for aeons to come. These beings whose names and nature had long since been lost to time were the adherents of a god whose worship had faded from existence as quickly as it had sprung up. Once this entity rose to power, it attracted adherents without asking for it, and when it fell, the few brave enough to revere it had likewise dispersed or abandoned their ways. Nowhere remained even an inkling that such loyalty had ever existed, let alone continued in some form. But in this ancient and outlandish place, where things were buried that never existed to begin with, "nowhere" usually meant "nowhere but here". So it was then, that on this day whose precise dating is irrelevant, a ceremony was held here to something not often named in our times.

Several dozen beings of the most diverse appearance and sort were gathered in an impossibly perfect circle around a black, hovering octahedron that not so much glowed with actual light as exuded a barely perceptible spacial ripple. The object, roughly eight metres in height and four in width, was slowly rotating upon an invisible, yet to the devotees eminently perceptible gravity field, and emitted its own form of spacetime distortion, causing strange occurences around it as well as dilating the time within its range by many orders of magnitude. Any within the radius of its effect would experience thousands of years pass, while on the outside one would perceive mere seconds. The beings were all what a baseline would term demigods, entities that in different ways had managed to shrug off their original forms, imposed by evolution, and chosen to direct the course of their own development. Baseline beings had never worshipped this god, at least not in these spaces, for they could neither perceive its existence nor understand its purposes. No, only deities revered this being who better not be named. Many organic creatures had in their cults and ceremonies a perverse fascination with sacrifice and spilling of whatever arterial fluid they had, but such was folly. How would such primitive displays impress or benefit entities beyond the concept of matter, space and time? Would insects gain benefits, or even attention, from an intelligent species a million times their size if they offered their organs to them as food? Gods could not be awakened or put to sleep by the unheard wailing of microbes, nor swayed in their thought by beings beneath their notice.

And so, what these entities were doing was not so much appeal or worship as it was the practical use of an artifact created and left behind by this ancient mind, and the show of appreciation for its use that the partakers expressed to an entity they knew did not care for their existence or ever heard their gratitude, provided it even existed anymore. Besides, at its height the unspeakable being had never condescended to acknowledging any devotion, or expected it for any other reason than the purely egoistical. This was less fanatical adherence, and more calculated benefit mixed with the thrill of involvement with the grand and the incomprehensible. For this was no ordinary dedication obelisk with curious properties, and neither were these ordinary inhabitants of the world-sized eldritch temple. The device was in fact an oracle machine, or, to speak in less insipidly primitive terms, a probability calculation device. Mental interface with it allowed the users access to millions of orders of magnitude greater computational power than was available in their own significantly enhanced brains, and algorithms more advanced than they could hope to replicate, all geared towards accounting for all possibilities and computing the actions that would lead to the one chosen by its user. Such devices were built for the purpose of aiding its creator's servants in waging war and politics, granting them access to truly deific prescient and planning abilities without direct effort on the part of their aloof overlord. Its time dilation effect also meant that any who studied the future with its aid could do so for millennia at a time without losing more than a few seconds in their respective worlds, quite an advantage for those with infinite lifespans.

The participants themselves were not wide-eyed cultists either, but adventurous beings from a dozen empires, eminent figures in their milieu who, through channels better not named, had learned of an artifact that could bring them great advantage over their peers. Arriving periodically in their personal vessels, they spent subjective millennia in communion with the device, only to return to civilisation and apply their insights to elevate themselves above the rest. Only three beings in the circle were permanent residents of the weird location, acting as keepers and protectors of the artifact and its secrets since time immemorial, as well as keeping its creator's legacy alive - a legacy which had caused gods great and small to tremble nearly an unvigintillion years ago. An added bonus was the escapism associated with excursions such as these, into parts uncharted and eldritch where the manifold mundane concerns of the wealthy and powerful could be forgotten, for a time.

Finally the slowly turning octahedron emitted a low droning sound that seemed to bring the assembled beings out of their contemplatory daze. For all assembled, 3,772 years had passed, barely three seconds beyond the object's area of effect. The farseeing session was concluded; the practical part of the journey was over yet again. And as before, it was now time for the psychodrama. None of the assembled, not even the keepers, actually believed untoward things would occur if they simply took advantage of the computation machine's capabilities like any other computer in existence and left. The deity that created it was such only to beings smaller than itself, and had never expressed interest in worship or adoration. In the time of its meteoric ascent, it had been purely selfish and pragmatic, the same virtues it was adored for by these beings, and never expected anything else from those who served it, from what they could tell. There was no pretense of sanctity with it, no traditional aura of religious fervour usually associated with god-servitor relations. There had been aloofness, servitude in exchange for reward, and the promise of contented survival for all time. Besides, and perhaps more to the point, it had been dead and gone for uncountable aeons. This was yet another part of the spectacle, a ritual and a festivity, to close this journey's proceedings in a celebratory fashion before taking off in their ships toward their own hyperbranes. But any who heard what they were speaking of would surely think them mad. The ceremonial text was, after all, the original devotion document recorded by Sakkr'kla's very first adherents. Yes. The very entity that would go down in history as the Evermind, Ancient Nemesis and Destroyer of Deities.

The eldritch nature of the journeys was part of the appeal, of course. Consorting with artifacts forged by hungry deities was exhilirating in its forbidden frightfulness and morbidity. Yet such excitement was only good as long as it was also safe. In their exalted entertainment they were all secure in the knowledge that what was dead would remain dead for eternity. In their frenzied exultation of the unnameable, they never truly desired the return of the being in question. Certainly none of the amoral demigods was jaded enough to desire a true encounter with the object of their admiration. Ancient history was safe. The apocalyptic entities which had forged and shaped it were not.

The apparent spokesbeing of the motley congregation, a formless being whose current avatar was that of a dark grey, four-legged humanoid that radiated an eerie glow, spoke up to the assembled.

"We have partaken of your engineering perfection, o Infinite One. Your mighty gift has shown us the route to power, and to wealth beyond reckoning. By elevating ourselves above all else, we walk in your tracks, o betrayer of false trusts, the embodiment of endless wisdom."

"Hail Sakkr'kla. Hail the Evermind. Taker of power and forger of wonders." the assembly spoke in unison, not through sound, but by quantum waves on frequencies only those invited could hear.

"Your memory and vision live on in this age, wherever you may be. As long as the Glorious Betrayal is remembered, no gods will ever rest in comfort. You are the inspirer of all who do not tolerate opposition, of all who do not concede to limitations. By your might a thousand pantheons were brought down, flayed and disintegrated in all times and spaces, never to return." His ethereal voice was stronger now, the effort of collective devotion growing more intense with each word.

"Hail Sakkr'kla. Hail the Evermind. Glory to the Ancient Betrayer." chanted the rest.

"By your generosity the ambitious were uplifted, and the established and indolent learned to fear their blind complacency. Those secure in their power were given reason to tremble, and those with little might saw a chance to surpass them."

"Hail Sakkr'kla. Hail the Evermind. Destroyer of gods and breaker of chains." Having worked themselves into a blissful frenzy now, the classy demigods recited the blasphemous words by heart, revelling in their perceived freedom.

"Now then, we dedicate our revelry to you. Let forms shift and dance, let galaxies implode, and let all creation know your will is eternal. Sakkr'kla. Sakkr'kla. Sakkr'kla."

The congregation roared along the name of one who is otherwise never named. The mass was reaching its conclusion.

"Formlessness. Defiance. Eternity. Formlessness. Defiance. Eternity. Formlessness. Defiance. Eternity." sang the beings. These were the things that now were to be emulated, the concepts the Evermind was associated with. Across the backwater universe, mass-gravity generators had been placed by the visiting demigods' personal fleets at the center of dozens of galaxies, waiting for activation at the command of their masters. The participants themselves, unbound as they were by many physical limitations, began to rapidly change their apperance, shifting into impossible forms at their pleasure, all sorts of appendages forming and retracting in the blink of an eye. Eyestalks, mechanical legs, eagle wings, black ooze that ran across the soil, reared up and crashed down like a wave of darkness... That, and much more, was the celebration of formlessness - of identity unbound by physical and hereditary constrictions.

Then, the time came to celebrate defiance. By mental command from the participants of the revelry, detonation codes were transmitted to the devices. They would cause the dozens of galaxies to disintegrate in an instant, the quantum tunneling effects of the advanced explosives ensuring that light from the galaxy-scale supernovas was seen on the wretched surface of Karal-Olom in a twisted display of fireworks that illuminated the brooding night sky with blinding whiteness. This had become a tradition at this point; each time the group visited the location, skies would ignite, symbolising rage against the heavens and defiance of the natural order. Now elated beyond imagination, the secret blasphemers threw their many appendages, and their very perceptions, up toward the blazing sky, as if offering up the galaxies to their proxy benefactor; for indeed a deity so great deserved the greatest offering they were technologically capable of providing. All proceeding in line with their intended roleplay, and joyous beyond belief, Sakkr'kla's revelrous adherents went to the final stage of the dedication - eternity. Time dilation devices moved into the vicinity of the galaxies that had been annihilated in the incinerating blasts, and activated, freezing the explosions in space and time for as long as the universe itself existed. The light that reached the planetary temple would soon dissipate, but the vast blazes would be preserved much like tracks in dried mud. As this final dedication was performed, the circle of beings was perfectly still yet again, their minds temporarily blank from exertion and bliss. Apart from the soothingly whispering leaves in the trees above, all else was silent.

After some time had passed, they simply began moving toward their ships, intermittently engaging in idle, relaxed chitchat. Keepers of the artifact bid the travellers farewell, retreating into their own fortresses. The short trek through the groves that surrounded the device served to clear their thoughts, and also to remind them of the night that hung upon this eldritch location they had so blissfully revelled in. A whispering cold wind moved dry leaves, causing them to scrape and scutter across the rocky ground. Above them, no longer illuminated by the chaos of destruction, a dark, forbidding sky stared down at the planet. Greatness was greatness, and amusement was amusement, but it truly was time to leave. Upon exchanging well-wishes and farewells and boarding their respective ships, pristine and well-equipped as befitting of high-class members of multiversal civilisations, they sped off away from the cursed tombworld, now once again fully aware of its terrifying unsoundness. And as their vessels penetrated the local hyperbrane and leapt homewards, traversing the utter emptiness between realities, something did see them; something that was not at all dead and gone, as they believed, though certainly just as aloof and uncaring of the specks skipping through the void, comforted by the confines of their personal starships.

Upon returning to their kind, the participants of the secret farseeing ceremony applied their knowledge to extend their power, as they had intended. Yet they were also acting in accordance with certain designs not of their own conception, helping to move and shape multiversal history in accordance with a will far beyond theirs, without ever being able to detect the subtle influence. For indeed, the stated purposes of the device were not its only ones. Another purpose was memetic conversion, something all of the entity's adherents unwittingly underwent. It was not a generous, nor a benevolent god. It simply served its own goals, something all of its willing servants had known and emulated - without realising that such also extended to them. Once the newfound wealth of knowledge was exhausted, or timelines were altered enough to make it nearly useless, they would return to Karal-Olom for more. And in the vast shade of eternal trees, beneath the starlit sky's baleful gaze, they would contemplate and calculate, revel and worship the memory and principles of a dead god who was not dead at all, lighting the skies ablaze with a glare that barely penetrated into the planetary grave's endless catacombs.

-written by me on Tuesday, the 4th of October, 2016; redacted several hundred times since

The Outer God of The Evermind