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God is Dead

God is Dead

Estimated reading time — 11 minutes

Even now, I wonder if it was not that damnable Siberian cold that brought the spell upon us of group hysteria and shared hallucination. What else might account for the realization in the flesh of those horrid Nietzschean words? It is dead, and we have killed it. I dare not speak its name.

Vividly, I recall descriptions of the men stretching that accursed pelt between them for the photographer, and the uncanny lens flare that bastardized the picture upon development, which none of them had witnessed at the time. I am by no means a spiritual man, raised in a time of such ration and science, never given to superstition or the trappings of myth. How stupefyingly ironic that now I should wish for some power to call upon, to prostrate to, to beg for mercy! Now that we can be sure, in the vast cosmos beyond the farthest reach of our astronomical instruments, there is nothing to answer back but howling silence. Understand, I have seen things during the Wars no man should, and indeed, I had thought no man could. I recall a photograph of uncanny resemblance to that I have mentioned, and though I was not present for the ordeal, I had it recanted to me later in gruesome detail and shown the physical evidence, forever imprinted by some disturbed photographer.

It was a deed borne out of the Continuation War, and our men found themselves behind enemy lines and desperate. Why they acted upon such base and ravenous instinct, I can fathom. It is an unfortunate relic of our primitive past, sometimes visited in times of unimaginable duress. But why they chose to capture that moment, as if to memorialize it, freeze it as solidly as the Finnish hellscape around them, I know not. In the photograph was spread between several branches and stretched taut by the hand of some obscured soldier, the skin of a former comrade. The effect was like the pale wings of an angel or some monstrous, too-human bat animate in the trees. On a nearby cart were placed the remaining effluence: a portion of leg, a frostbitten hand, and most terrible of all, the head of a man betrayed by his fellows, eyes closed to the deep cold as if asleep. He could not have been more than twenty in life. These, and other atrocities, I witnessed during the war, but it all seems a distant memory now, remains of a more innocent time. I recall those wicked pictures of man’s barbarity only because they pale in comparison to those procured on that expedition.

We had not travelled into the inhospitable country for any tangible purpose. A colleague, whose name was Richard Tater, had proposed a most absurd hypothesis, being as much a man of science as he was of a Catholic upbringing, whose tenets never left him even as he rose to prominence in his field as a geologist and historian. We were both veterans of the Wars and had the misfortune of living to see the first volleys of a third, which began in some remote eastern country, promising to be worse than its predecessors. He divulged to me his belief—for it was a stretch to call it a testable hypothesis—that God had abandoned humanity to its own designs, as evidenced by the succession of wars and the advent of such horrors as mustard gas and the atomic bomb. I asked Richard in jest what God then did with all his endless time if not watch over the panorama of Earth. Where I expected a jocular retort, my companion’s eyes sank, and he quieted. Without a word, he retrieved from his office desk a filthy little book, like the personal journal of some rustic frontiersman. Opening it before me, it showed minute, cramped text of undecipherable content. I asked him what language he proposed it to be.

“The language of YHWH, which I have spent the last year translating portions of. It seems to follow some old Sanskrit variety, with odd instances of Greek, Roman, and even modern Russian. I recovered it during a geological survey for the hydroelectric power plants along the Angara, in a remote cabin of sparse and crude furnishing. Believe me, no man would live out there and thrive, let alone survive. Nothing of the environs showed the telltale instruments of a trapper. There was not even a fire pit for cooking, or a bed. It was barren but clearly maintained and of solid construction. But listen to me now. In a year, I have translated but one sentence out of the four hundred or so pages; one sentence within those cramped, maddeningly condensed lines of prose. It read: ‘I will hide.’ And the signature at the very end of the weird novel, in unmistakable English—YHWH.”

What seemed to disturb poor Richard the most was the memoir’s evident state of completion, the details of which remained a mystery to him. His odd behavior over the past year had not gone unnoticed by me, but I had reasoned it no more than the strain of an overworked scholar, and the pressing little pains of old age. And yet here he stood, refusing to budge on his artifact’s authenticity. That it was real, I could attest to. That some person had signed those uncanny initials, I agreed, but to go so far as to say the Lord himself had penned this? It was nonsense of the most disturbing kind. But Richard would not be assuaged. I decided on a leave of absence for the both of us, hoping another trip to that shack, which was no doubt long ruined by the elements, would put to ease his overtaxed mind, and he would again see rationally. With that agenda, we set into Siberia, taking the Baikal–Amur Mainline a portion of the way, a great marvel of engineering begun by those droves of German and Japanese prisoners of war, and finished by the willing hands of Russian youths years later. Richard fidgeted with his accursed book throughout the trip, as if he might yet glean some information from its ramblings. He eschewed the countryside we passed by, but at one interval made a strange observation: “If the permafrost were ever to melt, the rails and the doomed train upon them would sink into the peat bogs below.” He followed this with no explanation and was silent until we departed for the on-foot portion of our journey.

Of that cold, quiet trek I can say little. Richard busied himself with the book, more engrossed with it than before, so that the task of navigation fell wholly upon myself, with only the occasional hint from my colleague as to where his phantom shack lay. By some mad sixth sense or luck, he led us to the spot without taking much attention away from his reading, and there the cabin stood. Snow banks had nearly covered it, and we set about the task of digging a path to the only door, a labor Richard never faltered in. He pushed inside with zealous determination, and his previous description proved true. The lone room contained nothing of import, besides a stool and table of poor construction. If Richard had hoped to find the Lord Almighty sat at his throne, surrounded by singing cherubs, he was sorely disappointed. But he made no inclination of despair. That the cabin was here seemed proof enough for him, and he insisted upon sitting at that ugly little table and examining the book further, as he’d done for the past year. I did not fight him greatly on this, hoping an hour or so of contemplation might break his trance, but as I shivered outside, I became increasingly worried about the man. After an hour had passed, according to my watch, he burst from the forlorn abode, wild-eyed, and for a brief moment, I feared him.

“The notebooks!” he said. “Give me the notebooks!” We had brought with us, amongst the more practical supplies, our usual scholarly equipment—plenty of paper and pens. He could not wait for me to search the packs and tore into them, tossing out items into the snow with abandon till he attained his prize, and with that, he returned to the desk inside, not even shutting the door behind him. With reluctance I’ll never understand, but know now was all too warranted, I approached him from behind. His shoulders and arm, which held the pen, convulsed as if he’d suffered some seizure or the cold had gotten to him. I called his name and no answer came. And when I stood over him, so that I could see what he was transcribing to the blank pages, I felt sickened.

No man could write so quickly, so feverishly. His hand moved like an insect’s wings, if not with greater rapidity. In seconds he would fill a page and move on to the next. I realized with terror that his outlandish exercise in dexterity was not producing gibberish, as I had presumed, but legible Russian characters. Though the frequency with which he turned the pages and moved onto another book made detailed analysis impossible, I gleaned from a few stray sentences that he seemed to be dictating the entirety of the Holy Bible, as if by memory. But all the time he held in his other hand that accursed journal, which he would study even as he wrote. I refused to believe he was actually translating that demented relic. Surely a man of his background could recite the Bible in whole—it was not unheard of in dedicated men. But in minutes he’d concluded the Book of Revelations and went on still writing, still glancing over at his find, and this madness continued on for perhaps forty minutes, until he’d filled every scrap of blank paper we’d brought. The insane spell seemed to leave him, for he sat at the desk at last, still, breathing heavily, perspiration covering him despite the cold.

He set the old journal aside and turned in his seat to me. I shall never forget his eyes and the multitudes of sorrows and horrors they contained. Those were not Richard’s eyes. It was not Richard’s voice which spoke, but some destroyed thing. “We killed him. We killed him. We really killed him.” This he repeated, and none of my rousing broke him from the stupor.

He soon lost his strength and slid his body against one of the walls, sitting helplessly, mumbling to himself. I knew we were in trouble now, with my companion’s state. I prepared us a meal with the portable cooking set and insisted he eat something, which he did without passion and only at my urging. I hoped to give him time to regain his strength and wits, so we might make the journey back. In the meantime, the table and its scattered books drew my attention. I did not want to feed into his delusions, but I conjectured that perhaps his ramblings held some key to his sudden manic state. I began with the first book. As previously mentioned, this was an accurate recitation of the King James Bible, but not without deviation that perplexed me. I am no theologian, but even my cursory knowledge of the text within told me this translation had additions, some entire paragraphs long which no Bible contained. These addendums and divergences ranged from major alterations to the original text, to completely novel passages adding detail to, or even disputing, the chapters. On and on this went, and it seemed no page survived unaltered. I could bear no more of it, and proceeded to the Book of Revelations, whose details, already strange and appalling, had taken on unfathomable terror and clarity.


Beyond this translation began what I assumed to be a first-person journal. It began, ‘I am’, and recanted an unbelievable tale, like some dark forgotten mythology. That these words were born out of Richard’s imagination sickened me. Truly, it seemed he had convinced himself he was translating the very memoirs of God in the flesh, who had come down from the heavens, taken mortal form as his son before him, and hid away in the forests, as far from man as he might go, to chronicle, and then forget his bastard creation. Such vivid descriptions of lunacy followed, I wondered if I had not myself dreamed up that dreadful read. He described the angels being boiled into a great soup and consumed before his departure, so he would not need to feast upon the animals or plants of the world. Recounted in detail was the agony of taking physical form, the condensing of his totality into one singularity, which took years to settle into a satisfactory shape. He described those years as liquid wandering, a ghost of bloody mist and fledgling effluence haunting the forests. He spoke of the wars with such apathetic detachment, I wondered how cruel such a person must be to describe suffering in such callous terms.

As the diatribe proceeded, it became a rant of exceptional length. Again and again, the writer insisted he was without blame, without guilt, wholly inviolate in every respect. The degradation of his supreme consciousness to a mere mass of fat and electric impulse agonized him, and seemed to instill in him a kind of lunacy. Of all men, he praised the Hitlers, the Stalins, the Genghis Khans, and so many nameless butchers which fill our headlines with garish acts of depravity against their fellow man. They held the key to heaven, he said. I tossed the book away and was prepared to leave at once, but Richard suddenly stood erect and took my hand. He looked into my eyes with steeled determination, not the mindless sorrow he previously expressed. “Read the rest,” he said. “Read the rest.” I took it that he had no intention of allowing our departure until I had obliged him, and feared what state might overcome him at my refusal. So I began on the last book, and its contents disarmed me of all reason and rationality, as their creation evidently had poor Richard.

The narrator gave no year. I deduced from the descriptions of labor camps that it was some short time following the second war. The Red Army had found him by chance alone, and at once knew they looked upon the face of God, though that face be a jumbled mess of eyes, nose, beard, and ragged hair, a person completely dispensed from humanity. The military men and scientists did not behold him with awe, but terror, and they did not fall at his feet to worship him and offer tears, but at once bound him as a prisoner and dragged him off to a facility. Such was his deterioration at this point he could not resist.

An inborn hatred enraptured his captors. Some primordial revulsion toward their discovery drove them on. Even the scientists who were tasked with the analysis of the specimen, in hopes it might hold secrets beneficial to the Soviets, rushed through their task, and only timidly approached the straight-jacketed stranger, not for fear but disgust. Some scientific value seemed to be gleaned from him, and if more was to come, the officers put a stop to it. For ten years they executed it, that bleary-eyed creature which called itself YHWH when it could yet speak. It survived firing squad, writhed at a noose’s end for months, endured burning and electrocution. But each new torture seemed to chip away at the will and constitution of the dreaded prisoner. At last, several hydrogen explosions, detonated in succession, proved effective in penetrating him. He was like a burn victim, and his condition by now so catastrophic that when a lone officer approached him and discharged a single shot from his pistol, it dispatched the thing. Officially, he was executed for crimes against humanity.


Trembling, I seemed to come in and out of my senses. I rallied enough scientific rigor to ask Richard how this narrative had continued, if its author was thus bound and abused. Richard answered without passion. “They allowed him to keep writing, to document everything inflicted upon him, and he wrote till the end, until they detonated the first bomb and took away the journal. He knew then that he would die.”

I can only speculate what has become of Richard since that dreadful excursion. He has vanished, and I fear the worst for him. Even now, I question my recollection of events, without the sole witness to verify my memory. I inquired with a personal friend who held a high position in the military, and he only laughed off my vague questions, and I don’t blame him. Of course, no such madness had accrued, and if by some unfathomable chance it had, there would be no record of its occurrence. Before his absconding, Richard took with him the journal and his apparent translations, and nothing of the event remains except what I write now. Truly, I had thought to bury the whole thing in the recesses of my mind, accept it for the sad deterioration of a once proud man it was. But a certain creeping suspicion, lingering on the borders of my aged imagination, compelled me to save this for posterity, even as I suspect such an action to soon be moot.

Forgive me a philosophical digression, which is not in my normal fashion but possibly befitting this narrative’s conclusion. If that thing which I shall not name was killed for crimes against humanity, and our world yet persists, does that paradox not yield the conclusion that we are somehow rid of a great, unknowable evil that has prevailed over us since the dawn of time? Should we not see a new age upon us, as those hopeful youths proclaim in song? If the source is cut off, where then do the new terrors emerge from? Why did the world not simply disperse as Richard has? And why, as I lay to bed at night and peer into the endless void on cloudless evenings, do my failing eyes perceive fewer and fewer stars each passing day?

We had already found him. God is dead, and we killed him.

Credit: AK77

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