The New Gods

Everywhere you go, there are gods new and old.

Fat little house gods, born of happy homes and plump with domestic worship, to be cupped in prayer like dumplings.

Elephantine gods of wisdom at the heart of every library, with skin the leathered brown of old books and trunks that sway like willows, a book or a cup of tea in each of their many limbs, surrounded by offerings from desperate students.

Gods of transit carry the plastic stench of city buses and subway cars, and accept offerings of fast food and convenience store coffee. Bus stops and train stations become their shrines, in which they sit bored-eyed and shaggy-bearded and ashen with cigarette smoke.

Voluptuous gods of fertility, with bodies that swell in liquid curves and eyes bright like hummingbirds, reside in gardens, in places of rebirth. White rabbits huddle around them like clusters of fetal clouds, the offerings of expecting mothers.

Gods of abandoned places, sweatered with moss and grayed with cement dust, that shuffle comfortably into vacant and forgotten buildings like hermit crabs into shells. Brightly colored graffiti is the best offering you can leave in their decaying temples.

Then there are the new gods. You know the beaming, haloed faces they present to the world, the glistening, gilded bodies. Each a messiah of woman born, preaching equality and justice from bejeweled thrones, hoisted upon the shoulders of common men. Legions of worshippers capture their visage and distribute it to every home and every mind, turning each into a temple.

These are not the new gods. These are their vessels, conduits for your worship, funneled to the true gods of your time. Each a leviathan beneath a fragile crust of earth, masses pulsating like engorged organs, tentacles thick as subway cars. Sometimes, a tentacle is uncovered, or a bloody child sacrifice made in their honor. Problems to be patched and amended, to create the appearance of a problem solved. You know it isn’t. You can feel the ground shift, seismic, whenever they stir.

But the new gods are the shortest-lived. When their bulk grows too heavy for their fragile hearts, they collapse, sputtering. Their successors sprout from the soil of their rotting masses, never to be truly immortal.

Every solstice and equinox, you still give your offerings to the old gods of the untamed wild. You build fires that dance like dragons’ tongues, and don the masks of everything you fear. You dance, becoming shadows against flame, paying tribute to the chthonic womb from which you came.

Sometimes, you catch glimpses of them. All liquid sinew and lupine charisma, eyes like quicksilver, the crowns of their antlers brushing the treetops.

They live independent of the new gods, these monarchs of wild places. They don’t need the world you built for them. Here, the old gods have always been. Here, the old gods will always remain.

Brooksie C. Fontaine was accepted into college at fifteen, and into graduate school at nineteen. When she was six years old, she planned to become a princess by taking over the world with an army of robots, and she has changed very little since then. She currently bides her pre-global domination downtime by running the official newsletter of her MFA program, working as a freelance illustrator, author, and private tutor, and drinking her local coffee shops.

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