There was a rumour – it would be a myth, but the sort of people who talked about it were of the hard-boiled science-and-reason variety and simply could not be having with myths – of a device. This device, so complex and forbidden and incomprehensible that it danced that narrow path between technology and magic, was the product of one of the great lost civilisations. The Naramax, perhaps, or that dependable fall-back, the Kernians.
The device, it was whispered, isolated the ‘frequency’, the resonance set up on the boundary of reality and unreality on the tiniest possible level, between a God and Its worshippers. Unique from deity to deity, this resonance was what bound the soul of the mortal to the service of the divine, feeding It power. While belief and worship were still conscious choices and the actual observance was tied up in tradition and ritual, it was this deeper connection, this underlying faith, that the deity used. It was a near-universal constant in most sentient beings, a holding pattern in the soul that a deity could tap into and use, siphoning off the energy It needed for Its endless contests with others of Its kind.
The device disrupted this connection, resetting the holding pattern to species-basic and separating the quality of faith from the deity it served. Exploration, wonder, a sense of spirituality and of the overall magnificence of the universe – sometimes even worship itself, in form if not fervour – these things went on. But the device silenced the reverberation by which God and mortal communed, and through which the eternal fed.
It also followed the resonance back, they claimed, into the deep essence of the deity Itself, and closed the interface between Its actual self in unreality and the physical manifestations It could co-opt in reality. It prevented the divine Being from extruding Itself into the physical sphere, essentially relegating It to Limbo. Unable to manifest, unable to call down the terrible lightnings and rekindle the lost parasitic bond with Its worshippers by direct demonstration of might, the deity became a memory. A story. And then nothing.
They called it the God Killer.
It was a rumour, indeed, because of the very inadvisability of discussing such a device in any serious terms. Once Gods got wind of mortals even talking about a machine, a machine that any old person could wield, a machine capable of destroying one of Them – or all of Them – They tended to take a dim view. And that was generally the point at which great lost civilisations like the Naramax, and the Kernians, became lost.
Pottery shards deep beneath the silt on a globe-encircling flood-plain. Flatworlds reduced to vast, lifeless plates of ash-and-clinker-topped glass floating in space amidst frozen hulks of satellites and derelict spacecraft. Compellingly thing-shaped formations of salt scattered amidst jungle-choked ruins. These were the legacies of mortal creatures with the audacity to confront the divine.
And yet … and yet … the evidence that it had been built was too compelling to ignore. Once upon a time, mortals had not only managed to talk about it, they had done it.
And the Spider wanted to know how.