by Jeff Ronan
It was always exciting whenever we had an animal as God. It certainly shook things up, anyway. Some of the folks here (never myself, of course) would place bets on what button a God-fish might flop onto, or which lever a God-orangutan might investigate. One time, the control room expanded a millisecond too late for the incoming God’s arrival due to a system lag, which normally wouldn’t have been a problem except that the next in line happened to be a humpback whale. It took us awhile to clean that particular mess up, and the effects on Earth were catastrophic. The weight of the whale had crushed a panel of buttons and accidentally initiated something called Black Plague. Afterwards, we all had a vote, and from then on, animals were officially barred from being God.
I don’t know precisely when the system was implemented, but I’m sure it made sense at the time. Whoever is the most recent being to have died is given the position of God. Once the next person dies, you get booted from the control room, regardless of how long you’ve been there, and join the rest of the ex-Gods on the other side. It’s a very diplomatic system, and in your time as God you can pretty much govern as you see fit.
Of course, when the God Term protocol was first activated, there were far fewer people on Earth. When someone passed, they could expect to have anywhere from a few minutes to the better part of a day at the controls before being replaced by the next interim God. The current record is held by an Ellingham Red, who was kicked in the head by a horse in 1752. He enjoyed a full thirty-seven hours at the helm before the next God, Xiu Lin, fell off a cliff and took over from him.
The control room naturally shrinks or expands to house the interim God, a feature designed for their comfort. It mattered more when we allowed animals as God, but nowadays the room stays more or less the same size. It only changes significantly when we have a Goddler in charge.
For a variety of reasons, it’s tragic when a small child dies, but I do wish that we could have a vote to set an age minimum for God. Whenever an infant takes over, the controls shrink to ground level for better access, and I have to peer through my fingers in dread (what I consider fingers, at least) whenever I see a Goddler crawling willy-nilly over the buttons. One small girl in the 1870s actually took her very first steps in the control room. What I call my heart would have swelled at the sight, but she then steadied herself by gripping onto a nearby lever and accidentally caused the Great Chicago Fire.
At least when the really young ones muck something up on Earth, it’s by accident. I can’t tell you how many pre-teen boys think avalanches and mudslides are the height of hilarity. One middle-schooler, in his six seconds at the helm, managed to set up a thunderstorm program that incessantly poured buckets on his math teacher’s house for a month straight. A few newspapers ran stories on it, as no one could figure out why the storm never extended past the teacher’s property. Most unexplained phenomena, everything from UFO sightings to exploding toads, make perfect sense if you’ve seen the look of maniacal glee in a boy’s eyes once he realizes he’s been given the run of the place.
Nowadays, the current God never has time to accomplish much of anything. Even when they do, you’d be amazed how many people don’t touch the control panel. So many who claim to want world peace, an end to starvation, for their baseball team to finally win the World Series…once they’re actually in charge, most freeze up, paralyzed by the potential consequences of a wrong action.
I will admit, it also might have something to do with the learning curve. You see, in the early days I had time to teach the Gods about each of the buttons and levers and codes to input. Now I barely have time to explain to them that they’re dead before they get whisked out of the room and replaced by the next in line. It’s really quite annoying. On average today, one-hundred and sixty point six people die every minute, which means one point eight are dying every second. I’ve worked hard to get my welcome speech down to the bare minimum, but I can only do so much.
Occasionally, the interim God is able to have a small impact in their time at the controls. A man from Chile made a rainbow over his hometown. An elderly woman from Dubai managed to stop a traffic collision. David Bowie used his time as God to ensure that the person in line after himself would have a painless death, which I thought was rather considerate.
More often than not, the interim God tends to just make a mess of things. Howard Lamont of Omaha, Nebraska tried to input the code for World Peace, but before he had a chance to punch in the remaining 759 digits, he was booted from the chair. Instead of peace, the numbers he had entered up to that point created a hailstorm in Texas and simultaneously sent the fourth film in a sub-par horror franchise to number one at the box office.
Every millennium or so, the God Term protocol is put to a vote, and we debate maybe having just one person be God for an extended period of time – even just a week or two. Nothing ever comes of it though, as there are never any candidates who actually want the job. I suppose I can’t blame them. Honestly, who needs the stress?
Jeff Ronan is a New York-based writer, actor, and podcaster. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Fabled Collective, Dread Machine, Dream of Shadows, and City. River. Tree. For more, visit jeffronan.com