The Gift Bestowed Upon You

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I saw him often, sitting on that rock and staring out across the vast ocean. He became a facet of my life that summer, a constant. He was normal, even if everything about him was anything but. Out of him came this power that I could barely understand, like a feeling deep in your bones. I've known powerful beings before, unspeakable echoes from a time before creation, their power flowing from them, evident to all like some testament to the universe itself. But his oozed almost sickly, as though some great well had begun to run dry. If I'd known then what I know now, I would have turned away. Sometimes the truth is better left unknown.

As I busied myself with petty things and the trappings of existence, I kept careful note of him. Not once did I see him depart, nor did I see him arrive. He was there, or he wasn't. Sometimes both. Perhaps I fancied myself Nick Carraway, watching the mysterious Jay Gatsby in his mansion. Perhaps I was Gatsby and the man was my greenlight. I am not far enough removed to tell you or to even know myself whether my interest in him was curiosity or envy. I would have been better off snaring the tides than to try to make a prisoner of him.

I still remember the night I first spoke to him. It was cool and the stars shone down like ten thousand gems lighting up the dark depths of the ocean. He was expecting me. Perhaps he had been watching me even as I had been watching him. I do not recall approaching him, nor do I remember sitting beside him. But in that instant, all the lights and sounds of humanity faded to nothing and I found myself on a primal island, untouched, virginal.

"Wh…Who are you? What happened?"

He turned to look at me and I saw a man unlike any other. His hands were rough as though he had toiled with stone and shell for untold millennia, his skin dark and tanned like leather. But in his eyes, I found the most peculiar heterochromia, a duality echoing that of humanity. In one, verdant green, I beheld a nurturing love unequaled and the love of the mother I had never known. In the other, a dark and wild blue, I saw only fury. A black unfeeling rage that will bend the mountains to their knees and turn their bones to sand. I was afraid, I was loved.

I could have stared into those eyes for ages, seeking to uncover the paradoxical soul behind them until the last star burned out of the sky, but my reverie was broken when he spoke my name. I cannot dream of putting it on paper, it was not something that could be constrained by a form. In one word, one inexplicable word, I felt my essence laid bare. Everything I was, everything I am, everything I will ever be was encompassed in a single word. I sat in stunned silence until he spoke again.

"I've noticed you watching me. You keep such studious notes, even though they will not survive the storm."

"What are you?" My voice trembled.

"I am what is, and what will always be." He chuckled with a humor I did not understand.

"What do you mean? 'Always will be?' "

"Look to the stars. What do you see? Do you see burning balls of gas or the lights of heaven."

I was a man of science, a doctor, yet I stumbled for words. "Balls of gas. Um.. Billions of miles away."

"Do you know how many have life, in this infinite universe? Do you know how many dead planets orbit a dying star?"

"Well, the universe isn't…"

"A few thousand. Each one a mere grain of sand scattered across a beach extending across all of existence. My master taught me that before She left me behind." He stared upwards, with a longing in his eyes that spoke of eons of separation.

"Your master?" Here stood a being who was beyond time, and the fact I had caught his attention set a terror in me that raged like fire.

"Look into that void, past the stars. That great and terrible expanse of Non-Existence and ask yourself. Are you worthy of the gifts bestowed upon you? What have you accomplished that merits the spark of life?"

I said nothing. I only sat and stared into the blackness of the Heavens above.

"When you can answer that question, come back to me."

All the clamor of the island rushed back to me, the music almost drowning out the crash of the surf and the lights dulling the stars. I wish I could say I welcomed the noise, but I longed to hear the sounds of unspoiled creation once more.

I am not a prideful man, nor do I strive for perfection, but I do not revel in the time I took to answer his question, for it took up much of my sabbatical. Three times I approached him and twice he rebuffed me.

First I came to him in the early hours of the morning and as the sun rose on the unspoiled beach, I regaled him with the stories of how I had protected humanity from nightmares, from aberrations, from oblivion. I told him of all the things I had done through the Foundation and how I had played my part in protecting our existence, but he simply shook his head and sadly told me that deeds could not prove my worth.

Next, I came to him and told him of the good I had done for others. The moon shone and faded as I showed him photographs of family and friends. I told him of love, of hate, of heartbreak, of joy. I poured out my existence to him and tried to show him how my life had touched others. But underneath the black night sky, he closed the photo album and told me that my legacy could not prove my worth.

Then on Midsummer's Night, I approached him with my final answer. He sat on his humble throne and as I came near, I did not notice the sounds of humanity weaken as they had always done before. Unnerved, I sat on the log next to him and waited for him to address me.

"Tell me, Michael Ganymede. How can you prove you are worthy of the gifts bestowed upon you?"

I gulped, trying to quell my anxiety long enough to speak. "I cannot."

"You cannot?" His voice grew somber.

"I can't. I mean, no one can. Nobody asked for the gift of life, so we can't really be worthy of it. I guess the only way to prove you deserve to live is by existing."

He chuckled. "You finally understand. It took me 200 years to answer that question for my master." Once again, I saw his longing as he turned his eyes to the stars.

"Who was your master?" I asked with great trepidation.

"She was the first, but now I am the last. There were once many more like me; guardians, caretakers, builders. But they have all faded." He spoke with such sorrow I felt it grip my heart. "Not even the Gods are exempt from nonexistence." A tear rolled down his cheek and he spoke no more.

It was then I began a tutelage of sorts under him. I will admit I stumbled through much of it, for how is a man to understand the mind of a God? How can a mortal vessel expect to learn the history of everything?

He told me about the tides, the eddies, and the flows of the currents. He would talk for hours about the length of the fins on a particular dogfish. His domain was the ocean and over it, he held power, absolute. When we were parted, I felt his touch when I walked the beaches or took to the sea by boat or simply to swim. I spent the summer with him and came to love him like I have loved no other. He was a father, a brother, a teacher, and a friend.

On those clear crisp nights under a blanket of stars, we would speak and I began to learn what no mortal has known about the Gods. He was the last of his master's first creations, of that he was sure. Of Her second creations, very few remained. He told me of a Shepard who wandered America, guiding the dead to their rest. When I asked about the others, he fell silent.

"Teacher, how do you prove your worth? As an immortal being, surely your gift is the greatest of all." I asked, ever eager. The question had been burning deep in my mind since we had first spoken. He turned away from me and looked towards the ocean, where distant white caps broke on a sandbar. I became afraid. Perhaps my familiarity had lead me to overstep my boundaries. I was preparing an apology when he finally answered.

"Would you like me to show you?" There was no passion in the answer, only a sense of finality.

"If you would like to show me, I would be honored to," I replied, perhaps too hastily.

"Follow me." Was his simple command and like a good student, I obeyed and walked into the dark waters, his hand holding mine.

Only I emerged from those waters. Alone utterly in this new existence. In an instant, I knew everything. How do I describe such a terrifying and wonderous revelation? How could I? Words cannot encompass this feeling of absolute being. The spark of life within me grew to a raging star, burning eternally. All I could do was weep. What a tortured existence is that of a God? This was not the path I sought. I never wished to carry this burden but now I have no choice. He made it for me.

I staggered onto that beach, gasping for air I no longer needed. As my hands grasped the soft sand, I felt the lights of a trillion lives beneath the water. All of them spoke to me at once, a cacophony of misery, of fear. I screamed, trying to block out the madness before it destroyed me utterly. In my mania, I did not notice the tide retreat from the shore or the winds that grew to tear the trees from the earth. But I did hear the screams as the wrath of the hurricane was visited on that peaceful island.

Lying prostrate on the beach, I thought of him. His mantle fell on my shoulders as soon as I walked beneath the waves and I knew the answer to my question. I am his greatest deed. I am his legacy. And I am his reason to be. How do you cope with that? How do you process this? Rather than pass to the world beyond like his brethren, he chose to remain at his post out of loyalty and love. Surely no master could ask for a more loyal servant?

I found my peace in the eye of the storm. As the voices inside me grew quiet, so did the wind and the waves and a bright sun shone. I gazed upon the desolation I had caused. Every human life on that island had been extinguished, of their creations none remained. In my remorse, I constructed a monument of living coral upon that beach, engraved with the names of every human who's lives I had cut short. If the Foundation comes to this graveyard, then they will find this account and know it is not my fault. How bizarre! A God asking for forgiveness?

Surely he knew I would unleash this devastation? Why would a God chose such a broken vessel? Perhaps he chose me because he knew some part of me I did not. Perhaps it was destined. Perhaps the pain of existence grew so great that he was forced to pass it on to me, a hapless fool. All I ever wanted was him and now I must wait until the stars burn out of the skies to see him again. But for now, I must carry his legacy through the absurdity of infinity.

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