Prologue: Two gods, who are perhaps not the brightest of gods, decide they no longer deserve their station and go forth to seek out another place where they can finally be the big guys. This isn't quite as simple as it seems, even for gods.


Look! What’s that in the distance?
Torno and Zapho had been travelling for such a long time they momentarily forgot what a light in the far off distance meant. Actually, it was just Torno who forgot, since he did tend to be quite forgetful at times.

That, my good Torno, is the end of our long trek.

Torno glanced at Zapho in that quizzical way he often does. Zapho didn’t mind Torno’s absentmindedness. They were brothers; all right, not real brothers but brothers through the remarriage of their parents. Torno, son of Lisi, emerged from Lisi’s nose when she sneezed on the day before Lisi wedded Omophro. A small fly had flown into her nose, and thinking she could avoid a sneeze she looked up at the sun; naturally, it didn’t work.

Lisi let out the biggest sneeze the world had ever experienced and Torno was propelled into the air. Unfortunately for Torno, he fell on his head. Since he was a god it didn’t hurt him very much, but to this day his fall has always been blamed for his slowness.

Zapho was born in a fire; at least that is what Zapho has told Torno. The honest truth is not quite so romantic.

It was already late in the evening when Lisi and Omophro were celebrating in a tent the night before their wedding day. Naturally, it being so late, some of the guests already had had much to drink. This is largely the reason why a clumsy, or rather inebriated worshiper knocked a candle over onto a precious silk shirt that was given to Omophro as his wedding offering. No one noticed until another guest became alarmed at the growing flames coming from the corner of the ten and shouted.

Omophro too had much to drink – much much to drink! Still, he managed to rouse himself quite calmly, slowly made his way over to the growing fire, and lifted the robe he was wearing exposing his genitals. He took a deep breath, and farted. Realizing his lack of decorum, he looked over his shoulder at the guests, who upon noticing his glance made sure to behave as if nothing had happened. One picked up a goblet for another drink, and another guest put his hands in his pockets and kicked at the sand.

Satisfied that no one had noticed his gaffe, or at least that no one risked admitting having noticed, he turned back to his task, already in hand.

After another deep breath he began pissing on the fire, all the while thinking how fortunate for these ephemerals that the fire had started when it did because he was about to leave the tent to relieve himself anyway; Omophro had had much to drink.

When the fire was finally out, Omophro sighed in relief, though not for the extingushed fire, but he did play up his accomplishment and bravery for his guests of course. His guests surely would have been doomed were it not for him. Now, he turned to glared at them.

It was a bit tense at first, to say the least. The guests knew Omophro was a mighty god, and he tended also to have a mighty temper. Finally, one of the guests who thought himself to be the one guilty of starting the fire, fell prostrated at Omophro’s feet.

Omophro sneered at the quivering ephemeral and glared back at his guests. Then, still glaring at his guests, he reached down, slowly lifted the offender and bit off his head. Naturally this terrified his guests, who shrieked in fear as Omophro proceeded to eat the rest of the dead offender. During all this excitement, Lisi quietly picked away at her wedding offerings. She was a bit of a picky eater and thought these particular ephemerals to be somewhat tasteless. She had only tried them once before, long ago, and then never again. When Omophro was finished, he reached out toward his guests and grabbed another to whom he growled and spoke.

“I hate cowardice, which is why I ate that one. I also hate the cowardice hidden inside liars, of which I see you as one. You are the one who started the fire that destroyed my silken shirt.” That second hapless guest shouted and pleaded for mercy right until Omophro bit off his head and consumed the rest of him also. Omophro then glared back at his guests for a moment. They were all a touch frightened; a few whimpered. The only match to Omophro’s anger was his mighty appetite.

He slowly surveyed the subjects under his tent, and then smiled and opened his arms. With a joyful roar he laughed and said, “Rejoice, my honoured ephemerals. Your evildoers are vanquished. I, your God have saved you from their sins. Celebrate in their demise, and celebrate my wedding to your Goddess Lisi.”

The crowd immediately, and very nervously, broke out in cheer and praise.

“Praise Omophro, our protector,” they shouted in nervous unison. “All praise his bravery. He vanquishes our foes. He save us from their sins. Praise Omophro!” Pleased at this, Omophro walked back to his betrothed, who looked up and smiled as he approached. She held the deepest of love for him, though she did have a problem with what he ate.

“It’s disgusting. Why do you eat them? They’re tasteless, and they never wash!”

“Oh – I forgot about the washing thing,” replied Omophro.

Just then, a cry came from where the fire had been. Omophro tensed as a shiver drove up his back. He sighed and then whined “not again!”

Right there was a wiggling baby covered in wet ash; Zapho was born.

Torno looked off at that distant point of light and asked, what do you mean?

It’s a universe, silly. It’s the end of our search, said Zapho.

What! A universe! But it’s too soon. We’re not supposed to see one for a while yet, replied Torno in surprise.

Yet there it is, and it looks deserted.

I guess so.

This new universe was deserted only of gods. It was, however, teaming with life.

Why is it deserted if there are so many ephemerals?

How should I know! Torno, it’s ripe for us, and that is all that matters. Why did we leave home, eh?

Torno sighed. Yeah, I know, but this is unnatural. No gods?

So maybe none have looked here, I don’t know. What do you want to do? Move on for another age? We should check it out. Imagine, a whole universe for just us.

But we’ll be all alone!

Others will come, eventually, but if we move in now the others will have to bow to us rather than the other way around. Do you want to continue to another occupied universe were we’ll have bosses! Here, We can be the big guys.

Torno looked back at that distant speck of light. But it’s so deserted! He thought for a while longer as Zapho hovered behind him, but then nodded. OK! We’ll check it out.

Zapho cheered and slapped Torno on the back so hard it almost knocked him over.

It’s going to be great. We’ll have time to make this place our own before others come. Then We’ll be the big guys. The Big Gods!

Not only did Torno have an inferiority complex to the other gods of home, but Zapho did too. Just like his father had insisted Zapho was an accident, so did Torno’s mother tell him the same. Their brothers and sisters were also not very kind. This was, ironically, because all of them thought their families loved the young newcomers more.

Torno smiled broadly as they both hurried on their way to that distant speck of light that was the first universe they had seen since leaving home.


As psychiatric wards go, Ward 6 of St. Boniface Hospital was not bad. The smell of medicines mixed with spilled milk was a bit heavy, and the occasional rant coming from the south corner of the large room mixed with the constant hum coming from the air conditioner, by themselves, were not that bad either. However, all that mixed together was enough to give Samantha a very regular and splitting headache.

Samantha sat alone, hunched over with her forehead on the table and her face hidden inside her arms. She preferred sitting alone, and always sat there the same way. The last patient who dared sit down at her table was calmly told that if she didn’t move she would have her lungs ripped out. Needless to say, that person thought her life was in danger and shouted long and loud enough, about Samantha being an alien, until the nurses came to rescue her.

Samantha was not antisocial. She was sick and had enough voices in her head putting her down and telling her what to do without having someone add to the chorus. She should have been taking her medicine to stop those voices, but like some she stopped because she thought she was better and because she didn’t like the way the medication made her feel. When she stopped taking her medication, the voices returned and she landed right back in Ward 6 after taking a baseball bat to a neighbour’s car, which she thought was telling her to run over children playing in the local schoolyard.

Her voices regularly told her terrible things. They would tell her she was fat and ugly, and that if she only pulled out a butcher knife, go to the supermarket and cut off that cashier’s face, she could sew it onto her own face thereby looking that much more beautiful. It was fortunate for all who had ever encountered Samantha that she had just enough control over herself to only lash out at the objects that told her to do these awful things.

Still, here she was again in Ward 6, celebrating her 27th birthday. Soon her ever-loving parents would arrive to try and help mark the occasion. Samantha was their only child, and she was so sorry for having been a disappointed them, not that it was her choice. Maybe she should go back on the medication, she would think from time to time, but then she would remember the way she felt when on it. Naturally, her voices were also doing their best to convince her she did not need the medication.

How many voices were there? She lost count after the 25th, and all but Nancy were nasty. She gave only Nancy a name, and could only recognized her by the high pitch of her voice. Nancy was the one who would tell her to beat up on the object rather than using the object on a person. Samantha appreciated Nancy for this, but Samantha still hated her and all the other voices for always telling her what to do.

The voices never stopped. At night, while asleep, she would dream about them. Even now, slumped over on the table, she was being told to rip the leg of the chair she was sitting on and ram it down someone’s throat. It was only a half hour until her parents would arrive and she was not given a single break. She knew she would barely be able to respond to them and was also worried that Nancy might not be around.

Just as she was thinking this, she heard two unfamiliar voices join the fray. Oh well, she thought. The more, the merrier. However, as they came closer though, she found one thing a little odd. These two were talking to each other!

Let’s try this one here.

OK. You go first.

In his best and most authoritative god voice, Zapho spoke.

I bring you great tidings and joy, ephemeral, for your gods have arrived to care for you. On your knees and bow to your mighty gods Zapho and Torno.

Samantha didn’t so much as flinch. This was just another voice telling her what to do, though at least it wasn’t telling her to harm anyone yet.

Zapho was briefly taken aback by the lack of response from this ephemeral and he took quick glance at Torno who too was shocked.

I said drop down and prostrate yourself before your god, Zapho! He said in an even more commanding voice, but Samantha still didn’t move.

Maybe this ephemeral doesn’t understand us, said Torno. Maybe this is a zoo.

No, it can’t be, replied Zapho. You saw all the others walking about outside. This is the dominant ephemeral on this ball.

Then why isn’t it doing anything?

How should I know! Maybe it’s dying. Maybe this one is dumb.

Samantha did think this rather strange. Her voices never argued amongst themselves before. In fact, they never so much as acknowledge each other. Not even Nancy. After one voice would tell Samantha to, for example, run children over with a car, Nancy would simply tell her to pick up a bat, or chair, or anything and “whack it until it dies.” She never managed to get around to doing any of these things, but the thought of them kept her institutionalized.

This current situation was quite different, however. These Torno and Zapho characters were also talking about her, though she’s never before heard herself being referred to an ephemeral before. The other voices have never introduced themselves, nor have they ever talked about her amongst themselves.

Samantha took a deep breath and sighed. She then slowly lifted her head while keeping her eyes closed.

Her face was pale and gaunt and her hair matted. Dark rings and bags under her eyes not only spoke to her lack of sleep, but her illness. Still, one could tell that on a good day, Samantha could be very attractive and that her illness had taken all that away.

I’m not dumb, she said in a calm voice, still keeping her eyes shut. I’m schizophrenic, and you are just two more voices in my head.

Zapho and Torno looked on in shock and disbelief. They had never before encountered such defiance. Once he recovered from this slight, Torno spoke.

Zapho, this one can’t be allowed to speak to you like that. Do something! Eat her, or something!

Eat her? This brought a faint smile to her face as she contemplated that thought.

Look at her, Zapho! She smirks at you.

Zapho growled, Insolence! Your gods come to protect you and this is your gratitude?

“You’re another voice telling me what to do. Take a number. I’ll get to you eventually,” she said with her faint smile. This new conversation was putting her in an unusually good mood.

Torno shouted, Look at us when we speak to you, you swine!

Samantha slowly opened her eyes. The bloodiest of bloodshots surrounded the deepest of blues and she looked straight ahead. She took another belaboured breath and exhaled.
“Where should I look?”

Fool! The insolence continues. We stand to your left, shouted Zapho.

Samantha turned her head to look and spoke. “OK. Where are you?” Then, realizing she should play with it some more if it was putting her into good spirits, she teased and chimed “ come out, come out wherever you are.”

I have had enough, toad!

Zapho looked on and asked his brother, what happened?

I don’t know! She should be a toad…

You need to practice more, said Zapho.

Fine, I will later. Now eat her!

You know I don’t like the taste of them, pleaded Zapho.

Samantha raised a brow at that comment.

Fine, then you turn her into a toad! Throw her out the window, but by the gods do something.

All right, all right!

Torno looked on in amazement.

It’s not working!

By now Zapho was beyond fuming. He was apoplectic, and he reached out to grab Samantha to trow her out the window and into the street below. Of course, this being all in her mind, or so Samantha thought, she could not see the massive had shooting toward her.

Torno smiled as he saw Zapho motion toward her, but that smile turned to absolute shock when he saw his hand pass right through her.

What in the heavens is this, exclaimed Torno.

I don’t know. Is it magic?

Of course not, replied Zapho impatiently.

“What’s happening then,” Samantha mocked without emotion. “Need a knife and fork? Maybe some salt and pepper to taste?”

Zapho hissed. I think the laws in this universe are different.


I think we’re able to speak to her, but we can’t do anything to her directly.

That doesn’t make any sense.

Of course it doesn’t, growled Zapho, but so it is.

But you’re supposed to know what to do. You’re the Big God!

Will you shut up!

Torno huffed at the way his brother had just spoken to him. He never liked the way he was spoken to by the others when they were home, and Zapho had never done so until now.

Zapho immediately realized he had done his brother wrong. I am sorry, Torno.

Hearing this, Samantha raised her eyebrows in surprise. These voices argue with each other and then apologize! This was indeed bizarre.

“I must say, I’ve never had voices quite like the two of you before.”

Zapho shot another glance at her, but realized it was pointless since she could not see him.

Torno asked, so what do we do now?

Zapho sighed. I guess this place is not for us. We keep looking for another universe.

“What? You’re leaving?”

Zapho did not respond to her question. We’ll find another place to make our own. I don’t feel like staying here and chatting with these imbeciles and longer.

Agreed! I’m tired of their look anyway.

“Is this the way it always happens,” Samantha chimed in. “Love ‘em and leave ‘em?”

In a massive fit of anger Zapho took a backhanded swipe at Samantha, but of course his hand passed right through her without affect and he hissed.

Come Torno! No wonder there are no gods here. Lets leave this godsforsaken place.

As quickly as they had arrived, they were gone.

“Oh well. It was fun while it lasted,” Samantha said to herself. Of course, she then also realized she was talking to herself and frowned. For a very brief time she actually enjoyed her condition, but now it was back to the same.

She took another deep breath, bent over and put her forehead on the table. Then she hid her face inside her arms. In a couple minutes her parents would arrive. Perhaps she’ll be able to at least try and respond to them.

She fell asleep and didn’t hear the door open.

In stepped two massive male nurses, followed by an elderly couple. The couple tried to keep in good spirits despite the condition of their daughter. Like good parents, they thought that if Samantha saw them well and happy, she might be better also. However, when they saw their daughter slumped over the table, their demeanour changed to the sadness they felt every time at seeing their once bright hope fade and languish in a place as drab and hopeless as this hospital ward.

Samantha was sound asleep, but awoke when she felt her father’s gentle hand on her shoulder. She knew it was her father without having heard or seen him. He had that special way of putting his hand on her shoulder that would comfort her on her darkest of days.

Without a word, he moved around to the other side of the desk to sit where his wife already was, and they waited. Before them and on the table was Samantha’s birthday gift wrapped in cream coloured paper and tied in red ribbon, Samantha’s favourite colours.

Despite the noise in the ward, they could easily hear Samantha breathing as she slowly gathered her energies. Slowly she raised her head, and her long matted hair covered her face. She thought to herself that she must have been in deep sleep since she felt more tired than usual.

It all seemed to take so long, but her parents waited patiently, hoping that this time they might be able to finish a conversation with her without the distraction of the many voices in her head. They wished this every birthday and every day for the past three years. When she took her medication, she was well. Unfortunately, she would rarely stick with the medication for any length of time. The roller coaster rides were a physical and mental drain, not just on Samantha, but her parents. Sometimes it’s the family of the one who is sick who suffer the most. Despite their wishes, they knew this was going to be yet another one of those days.

The huge nurses stood far enough away to not intrude, but close enough that they could act quickly should anything happen. Not only were they there to protect her parents from Samantha, but they were also there to protect them from the other patients.

Samantha opened her eyes and slowly brushed aside her long black hair so she could better see the comforting faces of her parents smiling back at her. Except, when she brushed her hair aside, they suddenly stopped smiling, which surprised her.

In fact, they looked positively shocked. She quickly glanced at the nurses in the back who too looked just as shocked, looked back at her parents and groaned.

“How bad do I look now?” she moaned, cupping her face in her hands.

They didn’t respond.

“Is it that bad?”

She moaned again, and kept her face in her hands for another couple seconds before realizing that something was wrong.

She looked at her hands, at her parents, then side to side as if searching for something. She stood up so abruptly that the nurses at first thought she would go into another of her fits. When she did nothing but turn and look around the ward, they stopped.

“Something’s wrong,” she said, and her parents merely looked up at her in stunned silence and with their mouths wide open.

“Something’s wrong,” she said again and walked over to the shiny reflective metal doors. She knew they would be locked from the outside, but escape was not her intention. Sometimes, she would see her reflection in those doors, and this would send her spirits so low that she avoided looking into those doors. This time, however, she walked straight for them and brought her face to within a foot of her reflection.

Her mouth fell open when she saw who was staring back. The person had colour in the face. She no longer had bloodshot eyes. Nor did she have those massive bags under those eyes. Rather than that terrible zombie, who kept her company for the past three years, the person looking back was beautiful.

The involuntary spasm of giggle slipped out, and she tensed as she immediately clasped her hands over her mouth. Samantha raised her eyes, and without moving her head looked side to side.

My voices, she thought to herself. Where are my voices?


She tensed and her heart sank when she heard her name being called.


“Eeep!” she squeaked in delight when she realized it was her mother calling her name and not Nancy.

As quickly as she could, Samantha turned to face her parents with a smile they had never seen before, and they cautiously smiled back.

“Nancy’s gone,” she said. “They’re all gone!”

Another involuntary giggle forced her to cup her hands over her mouth. She smiled and giggled again.

“I’ll have to get used to this.”


Do you think that ephemeral is still alive?

I doubt it, answered Zapho. Those ephemerals don’t live very long. I doubt even their star is still shining.

How long do you think it will take us to find another place, Zapho?

Torno looked over at Zapho, who was by now smiling.

Not long.

How do you know?

Take a look ahead.

Torno looked and off in the far distance was another point of light. Seeing that light made Torno smile.

It looks occupied, said Zapho. I can’t tell how many gods there are, but there doesn’t look to be too many.

Do you think they’re friendly?

There’s only one way to find out, Torno. You interested?

Well, if there are gods there already, it’ll be much better than that place we left. Let’s go, Torno said as he looked over at Zapho. When he did see his brother though, Torno looked puzzled and tilted his head rather quizzically at his brother’s strange facial contortions.

What’s up with you?

Zapho just stood there without answering, waving his arms at his side.

Ah, Torno said in understanding. Look at the light. Sometimes it helps.

At that moment, Zapho let out the loudest sneeze any universe had ever heard. It was louder even than a Big Bang.

Now, anyone who knew of Zapho’s sneezes, would also know they were quite wet events. This one, however, was the Mother-of-all-wet-events.

As this was happening, Torno looked down at the spray and noticed a form take shape. Zapho and Torno glanced back and forth at each other as the female figure walked toward them.

She looked at Zapho, and addressed him first.

Hello father.

Zapho’s mouth dropped.

Her eyes then slowly, and quite intensely, examined Torno from head to toe as she walked around him, humming to herself as she did. She gazed into Torno’s eyes, smiled, licked her lips and spoke.

Hi Torno.

Y-y-you know my name? replied the nervous, yet surprisingly excited god.

Of course, silly, she replied.

Then, with a giggle, she added and you can call me Nancy.