A Goddess of Anarchy, Chapter One: Care


1

The Central Committee of Gods was in session. All the higher beings of this universe had gathered for the discussion of a most important issue: the end of their Creation. In order to destroy this reality and birth a new Kalpa, at least two thirds of those present would have to vote in favor, yet there were still too many among them who either abstained or actively objected to this motion. With neither side willing to budge, they had remained deadlocked on this issue for literal eons, and their current mood was one of near-unanimous frustration.

To any mortal observer, the objecting gods would naturally have seemed like the more conscientious faction, considering that the end of reality would involve the sudden extinction of everyone in existence. However, these no-voters were not usually motivated by divine benevolence. Some of them were simply interested in their ongoing pet projects, and didn’t want to see such pleasures jeopardized for the sake of a cosmic reformation. Many others had cast their vote on the basis of vanity, claiming that they had some ambitious scheme to ‘save’ the Kalpa from its ongoing state of decay. All in all, only a select few actually cared about the fate of the universe. Their number was mostly made up of ascended heroes or gurus, those beings who had formally surpassed their mortal existence, but might still hold some sentimental attachment towards it. Unfortunately, these mortal ties also made them less ancient or powerful on average, and so their influence on the voting process was likely to be negligible.

But there was one significant exception to this rule, an eternally divine being who still maintained a great deal of concern for those who occupied a lower rank in the cosmic hierarchy. This was Care, the goddess of Health, Compassion, and Maintenance. As could be expected of someone with her name and designation, Care sought to preserve this reality simply because she cared about it.

Care’s care contrasted quite sharply with the general apathy of other heavenly beings, something which caused her to feel a great deal of enmity towards them. Naturally, she most despised those gods who spoke of Reform and Rebirth, of cleansing the Kalpa and beginning anew. Yet just below them on her list of scorned subjects were the false saviors, who abused the idea of care to mask their selfishly inclined soteriological impulses. The heroic interventions they planned or performed had become just another oppressive imposition on a dying world. If anything, this universe would be better off without its gods and masters! She had reached that conclusion some time ago, and every time she was made to attend one of these farcical committee meetings, she cursed her own complicity in this calamitous Creation. The only thing she shared with these tyrannical omnipotents was her attachment to their simple, yet almost desperate question: what was to be done?

2

However Care was going to answer to the worlds’ needs, she was not going to find any solution in this meeting place. From its non-temporal vacuity, she made her way into the personal realm accorded to any major god, where she would have none to trouble her but her own loyal attendants. Yes, at least she still had these privileges, though a cold comfort they were. What good was a palace when the rest of reality lived in the dirt of your deeds? The other gods were all too willing to overlook such inequalities, mostly because they had created them in the first place, but this ran up against her own primal instincts. Care should be uplifting, not exclusive.

Then again, there was no use for these tirades when she refused to set her mind towards something concrete. The least she could do was her duty. She signed to her attendants for a Helmet, and together they brought it into being. The hefty contraption was this realm’s representation of divine compartmentalization. The gods could not be everywhere at once-even though they really were-and so their tasks had to be spread out over the infinite time that was afforded to them. First there was the central committee, now there was Attention; the order did not really matter, as long as they didn’t happen simultaneously.

So, the Helmet was a mere convention, albeit a useful one. By lifting it over her head and letting its dark burden overwhelm her, she was able to focus fully on the desperate calls that reached her from worlds beyond.  While the messy flow of celestial time ordinarily allowed her to tune out these pleas, she could not ignore them forever. That simply wouldn’t be in her nature, which was of course thoroughly benevolent. Even when hopeless anger would sometimes mark her essence, this was just a dark reflection of the genuine Care that lay at her core. Now she would direct that inner goodwill towards a specific realm.

The plane her Attention turned to had not been serviced in a few decades, but this was no cause for worry. If any mass catastrophes had occurred in the period of inattention, the heavenly bureaucracy of the Time Angels would allow her to rectify these misdeeds retroactively. Time could always be turned back in those realms where the gods didn’t dwell. Then again, perhaps these lost realities were just piling in some unseen corner of spacetime; this was a possibility which unnerved Care greatly, for it tied deep into the paranoia of her feigned omnipotence. Like all other gods, she was prone to vanity, and she knew that her methods were rife with divine injustice. Thus, even in her silent rebellion, she still felt a creature of privilege.  Yet one of these privileges was the power to help people, and she knew she had to serve them as much as she could.

3

Through the Helmet’s focusing power, Care was now receiving the prayers and devotions from several galaxies at once, trying her best to prioritize between them. First on her list were the imminent apocalypses, those world-shattering event that saw people flock to whatever residual hope was left to them. Unfortunately, most of these had been planned into the cosmic calendar by enterprising gods, and she was not allowed to meddle with their schemes unless she asked politely. After logging the necessary request forms-none of which were likely to be answered-she was forced to move on.

The following calamities were either ‘man-made’ or ‘accidental’ in their relevant causation, meaning that they had occurred without a deliberate divine intent. Ideally, that would allow her own influence to run more deeply, but here she was arrested by another limitation. Those who were afflicted by ‘ordinary’ catastrophe were also more likely to be ignorant or scornful when it came to the divine. As such, she received much less attention from these worlds than she needed to resolve their ills; if only they would ask for her help! This category was as depressing as the last one had been, and so-for the sake of her own mental health-she decided to skip ahead to less controversial category: near-death miracles.

Death was hardly ever a pleasant affair, and so the most sincere devotions directed at Care often came from those who were moments away from it. The power of these prayers, especially when it was amplified by the compassionate presence of one’s loved ones, allowed Care to affect great change to whatever unfortunate situation had sparked them. In other words, she was able to turn misery into miracle. However, while these opportunities enlivened both goddess and subject, the bureaucracy of Heaven had still seen fit to interfere. To be precise, it was the Parliament of Death which meddled in her affairs by setting strict death quotas, only allowing her a certain number of miracles per standard time unit. When she hit that limit, the best she could do was to forward any remaining cases to Euthanasia, one of her few allies in that loathsome governing body. Nevertheless, she was happy to be afforded some breathing space for the performance of her duties, and she snuck a few miracles into her routine whenever it threatened to get too depressing-like now.

Feeling a great sense of relief, Care was finally able to do her job, helping people in a real and immediate way by steering them from the brink of death. She took great pride in this task, for contending with the countervailing forces of nature and reality was quite a challenge at times. A good miracle was subtle, a nice-but-ambiguous gesture that didn’t demand any further devotion. Care resented the spectacle of other gods, those who were so in love with themselves that they wouldn’t even care if their followers knew about it. Their miracles weren’t benevolent at all, but mere displays of pride and power. Meanwhile, Care didn’t even care whether the praying masses knew her name; every call for help deserved her attention.

4

Thanks to the meditative flow of attentive operation, Care was soon nearing the end of her allowance. Just to make the experience last a little longer, she took to her last few cases with an even greater degree of care, making sure that their resolution was as meaningful as possible. It was at this point, while sifting through a countless amount of desperate pleas, that she struck upon a most peculiar anomaly. Unlike the usual request for divine intervention, which came to her in some variation on ‘please don’t let this person die’, this one was devotedly and repeatedly asking for “a spark”.

A spark? Did they think she was some kind of flashy lightning god? Care was puzzled by this request, and she decided to look into the matter a little further. The first thing she noticed was that the prayer originated from the domain of a specific god: Radiance. He was the lord of light, electricity, and the sun, basically anything that was bright and radiant (hence the name). If the errant prayer had been uttered by one of his followers, then this was a mere case of mistaken identity, and she could safely redirect it to the proper authority. However, Care had started to feel a strange sense of responsibility with regard to this message; if it had been sent to her personally, then she should be the one to take care of it, protocol be damned. The idea of fate still meant something to her, and she would answer its call.

Care’s attention now turned to the messenger themselves, as well as their reason for requesting something so simple as a spark of electricity. In accordance with her intent, the Helmet granted her an impression of the situation, which came as quick bursts of fact and feeling:

A hut. A man standing over the woman. Pain, but also happiness.

Birth. A baby. Their child.

Trouble. Incorrect heartbeat.  

Defibrillation? Desperation.

Prayer. Please, a Spark!

She snapped back to divine reality, the wave of impressions crashing into her with their immediate tragedy. She now understood why Heaven had seen fit to bring this to her attention: it really was a life-or-death situation, with everything decided by a single spark. Still, shouldn’t Radiance have taken care of this already? After all, having put himself in charge over this area, these misfortunes were his responsibility. Or so Care thought. She realized that Radiance was the sort of god who traded compassion for curiosity; as long as you showed him a pretty lightshow, you would have his divine attention. While these people begged him for a spark, they had not even an ember to offer in return, and so they had been denied.

This odious neglect on the part of Radiance caused another fit of righteous rage to well up inside her, one she tried to suppress for the sake of urgency. These people needed a spark, and nothing was going to stop Care from granting their wish. Nothing, that was, until the helpful Helmet interface informed her that she had reached her quota. Its setting was proportional to the total number of extant beings, and some faraway plane had apparently just blipped out of existence. Her allowance had been lowered, and now she was done.

Done. This realization obliterated every emotional barrier she had erected so far, and the Rage of the Righteous consumed her. In her place, something new was birthed.

5

Among the gods, there had been a persistent rumor that they might not be the highest beings in existence. While they were immeasurably great and powerful, some had sensed the existence of wisdoms that eluded even them. Were they to realize these hidden insights, an even greater state of existence might be attained, although none of the gods had any idea of what that might entail. All they knew was that it involved a most profound experience of moral righteousness, leading to an all-seeing awareness of suffering and its cessation.

Through her moral outrage, Care had now reached this final form of transcendence, and returned from it a different being. She had taken in the full scope of this chaotic Kalpa, and the suffering which pervaded it all had greatly disturbed her moral sensibilities. Yet beneath this superficial misery lay a more potent force, a compassionate emptiness that could power the pursuit of freedom, equality, and community. If she harnessed this energy, her influence could no longer be restricted by the arbitrary justice of a careless Heaven. There would be no more death quotas, no more needless apocalypses, no more neglectful tyrants. In short, the development of this newfound potency would see the complete implementation of her Caring nature, one which tolerated neither gods nor masters. She would become Anarchy, the liberator of worlds.

But this process would take time. At present, her power still fell far short of her ambition, and she was not yet ready to defy the will of the gods. Thus, she would continue to be bound by their edicts, even in the sorry case that had sparked her enlightenment. In spite of it all, would she still be forced to ignore this couple’s plight? No. The transcendent experience had made her aware of a loophole, a divine ability that would allow her to bypass the restriction on death-defying miracles. However, this involved a ritual she had never performed before, one that would transform this life-giving operation into something even more profound.

Her attention turned back to concrete reality, to the desperation of two parents who feared the death of their newborn child. But Care was now ready to intervene, to begin a long process of care and empowerment with a simple act of divine kindness. She knew that these small mercies were all that stood in the way of great social change. Every positive movement needed a space to call their own, some breathing room to collect themselves and cultivate an awareness of suffering and its cessation. And Care was going to be the one to provide it, starting with the sharp electrical shock that brought this infant’s heart back into harmony. When the baby’s parents witnessed the change in their condition, they praised whatever god had granted them this miracle. Yet they did not even know how blessed they truly were. In the process of saving this child’s life, she had made him into her divine Avatar, as that had seemed like the only way to get around Heaven’s restrictions. But while the idea had come to her pragmatically, it also accorded with the path she wished to realize.

Through this Spark, Care had begun her Revolution.

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