THURSDAY: Playing Gods


Copyright his held by the author.

IN THE beginning there was Checkers.

And so there was forevermore, because Gods are sore losers who know how to bear a grudge.


Five centuries had passed since their last game and now these two, great Gods, sat at opposite ends of a barren, cosmic plain, which had recently been cleared of stars, planets and anything else for that matter that had gotten in the way. They were not just any old Gods either, no, there were plenty of those, they were The Gods. So powerful and divine were these two celestial lords that they hardly bothered themselves with those who worshipped them. They didn’t need to, they had lesser deities for that sort of thing. They stood apart from everything and everyone, answering to no-one but themselves. They were the Gods that other Gods prayed to. They were Everything. Everything there ever was, is and will be. They were there when our universe was just an idea, and will be there when it’s nothing more than a distant memory after all the lights have gone out.

Over the years they had gone by many names: Zeus, Mephistopheles, God, The Devil, but to each other they were simply known as brother. As they lined up their playing pieces, formed of planets plucked from across the cosmos, they gazed upon each other.

“How art thou, brother?” God asked. His voice was smooth, calm and collected, which had the effect of making him sound perpetually wise, no matter what he was actually saying. This naturally infuriated his brother.

“Good mate. Same old, sin and stuff you know?” replied The Devil, who sounded about as trustworthy as a car salesman.

“And your side. Treating them well I hope?”

“Well, no,” replied the Devil incredulously, looking down at his well-manicured talons. “They’re damned, yeah? The whole burning forever in the fires of hell, it’s . . . a sort of barrier to the whole treating them well thing. How’s . . . up there?”

“It’s settling down,” replied God hesitantly, shuffling uncomfortably on the nebula beneath him.

“Ah. You had some problems, didn’t you? I can’t believe how many fallen angels we’ve had recently. We must have half the clergy by now.”

“Yes, it —”

“I mean,” interjected the Devil. “When they arrived up there, they must have thought they’d hit the jackpot, all those little cherub things running around?”

“It was not well thought out.”

“Whose idea was that? Not bloody Peter again? Must have caused a right PR shi —” God coughed loudly, bending the fabric of space as he did so, sending ripples cascading through the universe in a vain effort to silence his brother. “Storm,” finished the Devil with a wry smile. It was great when the cloud dwellers got it wrong and he hated to waste a gloating opportunity.

“Well, I am sure they are being well managed in your care.”

“You have no idea!” The Devil giggled maniacally. Even hell had standards and they could, after all, do some pretty nasty things if they wanted to. Who could stop them anyway? “A lot of pokers right up their —”

“Yes quite, well, shall we play? I’ve got a tight schedule today,” God asked hurriedly, rolling up the sleeves of his long, draping robes. In actual fact he had all of eternity but was rather desperate to get on with it after losing the last time they played.

“Same stakes as before?” queried The Devil eagerly, as the small fires which burnt constantly deep within his eyes flickered in anticipation.

“Sure,” came God’s cool reply as their gazes met.

His eyes, unlike his brothers, were full of radiant stars which twinkled gently, though this did not look nearly as pleasant as such a description might suggest. If it were possible for any mortal to witness this scene, they would note how similar the brothers were. The Devil did not look as evil as perhaps he should, nor God as holy. This is because, in reality, they sat on different sides of the same coin, their existences more intertwined and complex than any of us would ever be able to comprehend. To even begin to understand their relationship, you must acknowledge that good and evil exist to serve the other. Without darkness, there cannot be light, without despair there cannot be hope, without death there cannot be life. They were The Balance and both knew, albeit begrudgingly, the importance of the others’ ubiquitous existence.

The game began.

The Devil moved first, pushing his piece forward a couple of spaces. The inhabitants of this world were sent spiralling backwards through time and within seconds they were crawling around on all fours, banging rocks together and communicating with “oo-aa” sounds. God mirrored his brother’s move, creating a post-apocalyptic society where AI had taken over a world dominated by ones and zeroes. Several moves were shared, a few tsunamis here, a few volcanic eruptions there, but these were early days and they were just getting warmed up. The game continued in this manner for decades. Eventually, things began to get interesting.

The Devil cracked his fingers and thoughtfully stroked his spiralling horns. Planets had really started to tumble now and each knew they ran the risk of losing their grip on the game. Slowly, he moved his piece, trying to hide his uncertainties. God smiled and daintily danced his piece across the board. The Devil shook with visible rage as two of his planets were taken, each falling into newly formed black holes. He slammed a fist down on the galactic board, sending earthquakes sprawling across multiple worlds. God laughed heartily.

“Brother, thou are not so patient. You view everything so . . . one-dimensionally.” The Devil didn’t comment on his brother’s rather condescending assessment of him, but rather blew a splenetic ball of scorching flames from his nostrils onto one poor, unsuspecting planet some light years away. He would have claimed that this was an accident, should anyone have been around to challenge him, but God’s never make mistakes. The inhabitants of this planet did get to enjoy a few generations of warm weather however, before they were all burnt to death, as is the balance of such things. “Take your time,” continued God.

“Bah, still got plenty of centuries to beat you!” spat The Devil, as the planet between his rotting fingers boiled and cracked.

“As it is said kindred in my . . . apparent, holy book, make the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” The Devil rolled his eyes and scoffed.

“I’ve been sinning since before the beginning of time,” he replied derisively. “Load of old bullshit anyway, that book was just some elaborate joke.”

“A good one though, even if it did get a bit out of hand and . . . well, it was a bit self-serving wasn’t it really?” acknowledged God, as The Devil shook his head and moved another planet forward.

“Bah, they all are! But look, talking of such um, things. Gabriel, how’s she . . . how’s she doing, by the way?” The Devil asked airily, delicately trying to change the subject.

“She’s good. Asks after you a lot actually”.

“Really?” The Devil replied a little too eagerly.

“No!” God bellowed haughtily. “She’s got 12 disciples to keep her busy, of course she doesn’t!”

“Don’t like her anyway. Always blowing her own horn,” muttered the Devil under his breath.

The Gods continued to play as more worlds disappeared into the eternal abyss beyond the galactic playing board. On these worlds, the inhabitants blamed wars, famines, natural disasters for their untimely demise but really, it was just bad luck.

“I hate this game,” grumbled the Devil sourly, gazing forlornly across the board.

“Just because you’re losing. You’ve always been a sore loser, ever since you fell out of heaven,” taunted God. “Especially after the second time.”

“How many times?” came The Devil’s immediate and exacerbated response. “I didn’t mean to do it! I’d been cooped up for so long and she said she was single! I didn’t think to check her credentials! And that baby was just an unfortunate, unplanned, consequence. I didn’t know I could do THAT! You made it work though. Gabriel, as I recall it, played an absolute blinder! Got a promotion out of it if I remember correctly?”

A look of incredulity crossed God’s features.

“Do you have any idea how hard it was to convince that lot that he was my son? Especially when all he did was go on about drinking blood and eating his flesh! Luckily, they’d already written half the book.” The brothers glared at each other for a brief, infinite moment before they both let out a small chuckle. Thank Gods for humans, only they could come up with something as crazy as religion.

Centuries passed and conversation between the Gods grew stale, both firmly focused on the game in hand. The Devil had been joined by his hellhound, Cerberus, and was idly patting one of its heads.

“Any thoughts on the end of everything?” he murmured casually, as one of God’s pieces fell into oblivion. “Just, the horsemen are getting edgy, feel that these things called governments, which seem to be spreading like a bad rash, are having all the fun. They’re concerned there won’t be anything left for them, when the time comes you know?”

“Impatient bunch. Always about the apocalypse with them,” replied God, who was hardly concerned with such trivial matters. “They know they get it once a universe. They really should try to enjoy the build-up a bit more! Live a little, or whatever it is they do during their down time.”

“Well, yes, I agree. To be honest it’s War who’s the problem. They’ve bought a new, rather fetching, I must admit, pair of boots. Itching to wear them out,” The Devil said, feeling quite embarrassed about the whole thing. War had always liked the Black Friday sales.

“They can just wait then!”

“They have a union, unfortunately,” replied the Devil slowly, drumming the tips of his claws together. “That’s how I know about it. It was brought to my attention via official channels I’m afraid.”

God rolled his eyes. “Fine, we can open a discussion. Have your people meet my people and we’ll figure out something. I’m not quite finished with this universe yet!”

“That’s all I can ask. I’ll get Judas to sort something out,” replied the Devil, tossing a recently harvested soul into Cerberus’s gluttonous mouth.

“Ah Judas, the one who got away. He knew how to throw a good dinner party,” said God longingly.

“Oh yes, he was one of the boys wasn’t he? Mates with my son, sorry, your son?” The Devil reclined, interlocking his fingers behind his skull. “You know, we’ve been talking about it a lot this century but I never did say . . . that whole cult idea was magnificent.”

“Yes, well, er —” stuttered God, embarrassed by his brother’s sudden turn of unexpected affection.

“Seriously, some of your finest work. What did they call themselves again?” The Devil rubbed the bridge of his flat nose. He knew the answer of course, he knew everything, but there was nothing quite like watching his brother squirm.

“Oh, Christians or something like that,” came God’s sheepish response. Pride was, after all, a sin.

“That’s it!” The Devil bellowed, clicking his fingers. “Bloody genius, the whole thing. I’ve always liked those Christians, still do actually.”

“Really? You?”

“Hmm,” the devil nodded gently, readjusting the supernova he was using as a headrest. “Always good fun.” God shook his head.

“I suppose you’re right. Well, once they got the crusades out the way.”

“That was a shame, granted,” said the Devil dejectedly. He of course meant that it was a shame the crusades had ever ended. Modern weaponry was far too impersonal for his liking. Took the fun out of it all.

“But yes,” continued God, “Good bunch. And creative, always thought that the whole orange, ribbon, thing was a nice, albeit bizarre, touch.” The Devil slapped his knees, laughing superciliously.

“And confession! The gossip you get from that!” The Devil clutched his stomach as he continued to snigger, trying to disguise the fact that he had just taken several of God’s pieces and crushed them quietly between his palms. God had, however, noticed. To be fair, it had been, given the current company, expected. God feigned laughter and nonchalantly took his turn. He could play dirty too. Moving in a blasé manner, God slid his planetary piece across the board and hid it between several dimensional layers. He was grateful for the vacuum of space, planets looked like they would sound crunchy otherwise. God looked up cautiously and breathed a silent sigh of relief. His brother hadn’t noticed, too busy enjoying one of life’s little vices.

“Oh yes,” God replied cheerily, “The confessions. The secrets that come out in those little booths. Love a sit in in one of those.”

The Devil finished taking a long draw on his cigar, before he looked down and took a thoughtful pause. A grotesque smile then gradually crept across his face, his finely pointed and polished teeth shining from inside the perpetual darkness that formed his mouth.

He had him.

The Devil’s excitement was palpable as he stretched a ragged arm towards the board. This hadn’t been the longest of games, but he had never won twice in a row and it was a moment to savour. Looking arrogantly upon his brother he hissed, “And now I will end you!”

God met his adversary’s damning gaze.

“Amen, brother.” The Devil took his final planet, which burnt and glowed like an ember between his claws, and unhurriedly moved it across the board as black holes came and went, devouring planets in mere seconds. He hovered over God’s final piece before smugly dropping it into place, sending a dense cloud of cosmic dust flying up into the empty space around it. God watched as the planet, like its predecessors, swirled around itself for a brief moment before it too was gone, sucked into oblivion. The game was up.

The Devil sat back and shrugged his shoulders as an unpleasant, obnoxious grin formed upon his lips. “Champion of the universe, again!” He flexed his arms and winked slyly at his brother. “Well bro, this has been fun, but I gotta shoot. No rest for the wicked and all that jazz. Sooooo, if we could get the old prize sorted I’ll be . . .” He made a conceited sounding click with his tongue before finishing his sentence “. . . off.”

God stood up, rising high above The Devil who had forgotten how formidable his brother could be when he wanted to.

“Please?” added The Devil meekly.

God scowled at him before he spoke in a voice that reverberated through ages. (Scientists did later pick up these vocal vibrations but mistook them as echoes of the Big Bang.)

“I will say this to you and advise you heed my words hereafter. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient and er . . . oh blast, there was more but it has completely slipped my mind.” God slumped back, disappointed he’d ruined such an extravagant performance. “To hell with it . . . with you,” he finished, waving his hands across the board.

Unseen forces peeled back the black fabric of space, revealing God’s hidden planet that exploded into view, throwing itself towards the Devil’s final piece. The Devil, in disbelief, threw his arms forward, creating a supermassive black hole which quickly consumed everything. The Eternals were plunged into nothingness. It was not dark, or light, or anything, it was just absence. It was the absence that a universe will only experience once, at the end of its life when the last light, from the last star, finally fades away and dies. Cerberus took the cue and disappeared back to the much safer realms of Hell.

“No fair!” The Devil huffed, pouting childishly.

“I told you, you have to look beyond what’s there. Plus, I know you cheated last time. Don’t think I didn’t notice you slip a few extra planets up your sleeve.”

The Devil made a “hmph” sound, knowing that he couldn’t get angry about these accusations because, well, they were true. “It’s my nature, I’m sorry.” The Devil wasn’t really sorry, but lying was his thing and it made him feel good.

“And I forgive you,” replied God kindly, which he did, but only because it was his job. “This time, I win, no arguments.”

“Fine.” The Devil blew a raspberry. “Can I go now?” he asked churlishly.

“In a second. It’s time for my winnings, but first . . .” God clicked his fingers and the universe reappeared again in all its splendid glory. “There. All better. Now, you know the rules.”

“Yes, fine,” said the Devil hurriedly, not wanting to hang around. They’d already know about this in Hell and order would need to be restored quickly by way of fire, torture and a firm prod with a rather large fork. The Devil proceeded by rustling around in an empty pocket of space, plunging his hand deep into the blackness, as if he had misplaced something.

“I think you’ll like this,” said God, though the usual peaceful composure of his voice had been replaced by a sinister sneer. The Devil paused. God only sounded like this on special occasions.

“Are you being serious? Please tell me this is not a joke!” The Devil shrieked in joy. He knew what was coming.

“Not at all brother. It’s been a while and I’ve missed working with you,” replied God.

“Yes! Couldn’t agree more actually! I’ve got so many id . . . No, this is your thing, sorry what’s the plan?” The Devil asked, rubbing his palms together. His brother was right, it had been a long time.

God’s voice grew in menace. “I want a brand new plague with a sprinkle of miracle. To remind them all who’s boss.”

“Wicked idea bro. May I then offer up some of own, carefully crafted, plague ideas? It’s a speciality of mine.”

“Please do.”

A list appeared suddenly in the Devil’s quivering hand, along with a feathered quill (he enjoyed the traditional things in life). His forked tongue wrapping itself around the tip of the reed.

“So we’ve exhausted animals I think, frogs, locusts etcetera.” God nodded in agreement as the Devil spoke. “Natural disasters are OK. Limiting though, no imagination. Personally, I’m quite into viruses at the minute. We’ve done quite a bit of research and development down in the 10th circle. Results are promising.”

“Interesting. Something to keep the angels busy too.”

The Devil’s flickering, reptilian eyes were ablaze, as an insidious plan formed in his mind. He had to stay calm though, not let the giddiness show otherwise He would call it off. This was still business after all. After taking a moment to calm himself, the Devil continued.

“I’ve actually been working on one especially for such an occasion as this. I’ll get the cogs in motion when I get back to the old Underworld, needn’t stress you out with any details. ‘ppreciate you’re busy . . . O’Lord,” he added whimsically, trying not to throw up in his mouth.

It was then that a sudden unease descended upon God. Was this a righteous path? Was there any such thing? There had been whisperings amongst the disciples that belief had been waning recently, people had begun to doubt him. This was not ideal God had thought, as less belief meant less power and if there was one thing Gods liked, it was power. As much as they could get.

“And, as per the rules, I know just the place to unleash our celestial sickness,” continued the Devil, plucking a planet from deep within the universe. He rested it on a decaying palm, gently rolling it back and forth. God leant in and studied the world, taking a moment to appreciate its swirls of white clouds before realizing it for what it was. He moved back apprehensively.

“Oh must we? They’re doing such a good job of messing it all up by themselves, can’t we just leave them to it?”

“Rules are rules brother. Your fault anyway, you kept wanging on about them.” The Devil responded matter of factly.

God let out a weary sigh. They were both fully aware that he couldn’t be seen breaking any sort of agreement between the two of them. He did, after all, have standards and an image to uphold.

“Very well, make it so,” God whispered reluctantly as together, the brothers looked down upon the Earth.


Image of Alex Broad drinking a cup of tea.

Alex is a British-based scribbler who spends his days drinking copious amounts of tea. Beyond his wordy rambles, Alex is a proud father to two mischievous moggies and is most content when out in the sticks getting covered in mud. 

Twitter: @thealexwj