Deicide by Rory Hughes

For decades, the sound would be ceaseless: the alarms, the sirens, the faults and errors; the seismic death rattle of technology unmanned; the animals of the streets would flee and in the wild seek shelter from the cacophony, becoming new prey to old predators.

After half a century it would all end: the smell of rot and decay, the sounds of terminal machinery and burning megalopolises; the apex predator extinct, the creatures would edge their way into every urban space, turn swimming pools into watering holes, parks into plains; tear apart the homes of the dead and make them into dens, caves and tunnels.

The madness that gripped the last days, the rapture of lawlessness that descended upon a collective psyche that knew it would never be held accountable. Children would suffer the worst of it, their flesh stretched and maimed and torn from muscle and bone. The inconceivable horrors that had since only dwelled in psychic gutters would become a daily reality, sometimes a public spectacle; the latter-day farce of social unity would no longer need be upheld; the mob rules of old would be reinstated; intertribal loathing would be resurrected in the form of hangings, lynchings and mass rape; the genitals of the weak and reviled would be pulverized into formless carrion; the deepest pornographies would become transactive.

Those once in the business of healing would naturally become the most proficient in destruction. What could be put together could be pulled apart; what could be built could be demolished. Agriculture, food processing, distribution: once the last drips had dried on surfaces of marble and melamine and the gestation of criminal hunger climaxed in their feverish minds, the humans would consult their records; detail the ailments and curiosities of their neighbours, drawing grim conclusions they never thought they’d need to

lactose intolerance = calcium deficiency = low bone density = brittle limbs

The Pacific trash vortex would ooze into other oceans; the plastic planet would melt; entropy would become a salviac unfolding of branded litter, crinkling and snapping; the bhut jolokias would shrivel and rot and the elephants would stomp their way into the villages, trumpeting, triumphant; the viruses would evolve into mechanical arthropods, spiritless agents of posthuman warfare; the parasites would lament the passing of their hosts and become angels; the ghosts, with only themselves to haunt, would recount the nightmares of the final days and pray to subjectless gods; the disembodied devils would find nothing but the meat they left defiled at the foot of a grave so tall it would touch the sun.

The tombstones never spoke of defeat or acceptance; only the euphoric disillusionment that intoxicated the dying. Here lay the ambassadors of truth; the captains of abolishment, the masters of absolution, the warriors and stoics, the agents of waves that broke dams and destroyed communities. What can be derived from history can be most explicitly understood through the dialogue of fictionalised accounts.

Our greatest achievement is that we partook, and never forsook

No-one ever said this. At most, it was what they might have called an aphorism, and this sentiment could be found in not one of their scriptures, yet laid foundation for all of their failures; as for the Revelations—they came too late, at just the right time.

Thanatos pulled the plug, accidentally breaking the cord. The phone went dead and the battery melted into bubbled lithium, killing the SIM in the process. The Keres, wings bloody from the collision, fluttered and screeched with laughter, posing for grotesque snaps in the backseat of the white Lambo. Thanatos, usually deafened by this noise, heard nothing and sat, glittered with tempered glass, quietly pondering the nature of his own supposed mortality. Where goes the farmer when all his cattle have disappeared; the banker, when all mediums of exchange are declared obsolete; the artist, when all life is still.

Their newborn prince, now a man, The King of Kings, was dying again, this time fat from pestilence. He clutched an enormous hand at the heavy gold chains adorning his hairless chest; dizzy from irony, suffering the kind of psychosis that befalls madmen made so by the dutiful masochism of their subjects; seeing behind the eyelids a maelstrom of stars older than his ancestors; fatherless and peers long dead, he sputtered in disgust at the human pain of acid reflux gripping his arboreal heart.

His father had been murdered by them amidst the chaos of their second international war. The unimaginable horrors that his creations were prepared to submit their own to, he’d known no comparison; even in the blackened hearts of Gods inspired by limitless hatred, forged by it. They fashioned an ideology, waged war, and then they committed deicide. Every crime was a bruise, every failure a scar, but that was the deathblow. On May 1, 1945, he died. There exists no allusion to his demise in records. The only significant point of interest is that in the annals of 20th century human history, they referred in various contexts to the eras that followed his death as those of postmodernism: in architecture, fine art, literature, music, film, politics. This notion to define a posthumous era was their blind admission of guilt.

Thanatos picked the glistening planets from his crotch. The Keres in the backseat were drained of any playfulness, screaming at him in broken Godspeak to start the fucking ignition, do it again. How the humans had survived for so long after the fact, he thought. How they’d surpassed all expectations, in the century that followed; broke every barrier, unaware they’d already been claimed.

The King of Kings dropped to his knees. He was now certain this was a heart attack, not acid reflux. The branches of his heart laid root in every nerve, coursed through his limbs until every cell was an ember of agony.

One of the many faults of humans was that the experiences they mentally archived the most vividly were those of horror, and they replayed these moments at unpredictable times, making themselves sick with anxiety over something that’d already happened and likely wouldn’t again.

Thanatos rested his head on the dashboard, fraught with his own heartache. The backseat screams had reached orgasmic heights, the blood-spattered wings fluttering wildly, painting the upholstery.

The King of Kings saw visions of the first man, sweat-drenched and wrestling with a beast; its horns were pointing to his father. When the first man reached home, sick from exhaustion and entrenched in a kind of carnal madness, he struck his mate over the head with a carving stone and defiled her. This was only the first of the transgressions he witnessed, from the eyes of both perpetrator and victim. The empathetic symbiosis of sensations was a jarring and sickening cocktail: the godless and violent lust; the unique pain of violation; it was all his to witness.

For a time that only Gods could fathom the length of, The King of Kings then witnessed all of mankind’s wrongdoings; they became his own crimes, and his own sufferings: he was at once Theseus, lifting his sword with weak arms, and at the same time the Minotaur, drunk and dribbling repentance in fourteen dead languages at once, with fourteen tongues; he was the subprime mortgage lender with the symmetrical coiffure; the paraplegic surfing his magic carpet through the red dust of Marrakech; he was Zeus in the shape of a Komodo dragon with a wretched bouquet of spiked phalluses; he was the last gentle sway of the lotus before it vanished, for he too had become Death, The Destroyer of Worlds.

It was not in Thanatos’ powers to free him, so The King of Kings withered, deteriorated; his eyes gyrated like film reels as he sat on his throne and beheld every human misdeed, from the petty to the egregious; flashback-to-back; his bones weakened and eventually disintegrated, turning to ash; his blood became poisoned and turned to urine; his body misdeclared his organs as waste and turned them to shit.

The Keres were dead, discarded. Thanatos chain-smoked as he piloted the night. A notification pinged. He looked with confusion at the SIMless phone, strobing on the front passenger seat. He swiped at it frantically until it went black. He had only to answer to the shareholders. He swiped up on the undead Android and jabbed at the airplane icon: flight mode until he could solidify a course of action; for now, he would stalk the interminable roads, looking for evidence of a new species.

The King of Kings decayed as he documented the postmortem of countless civilisations. He yearned desperately for what he thought was his inevitable death, yet with the passing of every agonising moment his demise loomed further and further across the cosmos, as if his lifespan were approaching an event horizon; dilating to a singularity.

The blood dried and flew off the upholstery like wine-red confetti, and Thanatos rode on; waiting for the first sign.

Rory Hughes is a South London-based writer and music journalist. His challenging short stories have appeared in several publications such as BlazeVOX, Angel Rust and Fleas on the Dog. He is an editor at Astral Noize Magazine, and in 2021 released a collection of transgressive fiction and poetry, Scape: Deselected Works 2013-15. He can be found on Twitter here.