Never try to fly with the gods, not even in first class. They can be any size they want to be, but somehow they always end up hogging both armrests. They expect to get all the in-flight snacks, and you can forget about getting the stewardesses to notice you, especially if they're virgins.
I can't be too hard on 'em, though; if you're a god, you fly yourself unless you're really in a bad way...
It was about 1975 or so. I was flying into Denver on someone else's tab, up in the first class cabin for the first time in my life. In those days they still treated you like royalty, instead of like some minor shareholder in the company they're taking over, the way it is today. Who would've guessed that it was Denver's turn to host the decennial Deities' Ball?
If I'd known, I would have taken the bus.
As Fate would have it (she wanted a window seat, so I traded with her) I ended up next to Zeus. He smelled. I mean, sorry, but you'd think that in a couple, three millennia, a god would take at least one shower, right? No use complaining, either--the stewardess was practically in his lap the whole time before we took off, except for when she was off servicing Thor or Dagon or somebody.
Rather than tangle with the odorous Zeus, and risk one of those thunderbolts in the crowded cabin, I curled up with my little airline pillow (no blanket, naturally; they had the cabin temp way low, to suit Odin and the rest of the Norse contingent, so Pele and the other Polynesians had scored all the blankies for themselves) and my copy of Stranger in a Strange Land, and settled down to try to ignore the godlike carousing going on all around me.
I must have fallen asleep, even in the middle of that bedlam, because the next thing I noticed was the plane going into a steep dive. Even gods aren't immune to that particular gut-wrenching fear, especially when they're trapped in a metal cage, so all eyes went forward when the cockpit door opened and a guy in a green suit stepped out.
He wasn't a pilot. I could tell that right away. He had much more than a healthy glow... he was shining from within. Somehow he looked about 20 feet tall, but I could see all of him fit within the airplane's height. The stewardesses leaped off of Pan's lap so fast they knocked him over onto Osiris' tray table, and threw themselves at the feet of this new god.
For he was a god, but not one of the pathetic has-beens who were riding with me in first class. This god was a real god, in the prime of his belief system, and even I felt the tug of His incredible charisma.
He cocked one knee over Aphrodite's armrest and she swooned over his highly-polished wingtips.
"Hi," he boomed. His voice was deep and mellow, well-oiled and unctuous. "I'm Mammon, God of Money. Worship me and I'll save you from this plane crash."
Hey, I was game. On my knees, in the aisle, no dignity at all. Arms outstretched, going "Save me, save me Mammon." Of course, my voice was lost in the clamor of the rest of 'em shouting for their own lives.
Mammon just stood there, above us all, smirking and drinking it all in... until he noticed that one god was still in his seat.
Yahweh. Dammit. Ol' Blue Eyes (yeah, he's a blond). Always the spoilsport. He had a whole row to himself, of course--he still commanded that much respect, even in '75--but he wasn't happy about having to share the plane with so many of what he'd always called "false gods." At least he wasn't taking advantage of the stewardesses and the food, the way the others were; apart from that one little Judean fling he never fooled around much.
Mammon didn't seem all that upset with Jehovah's defiance, though. He leaned forward a little, resting his elbow on his knee, and the plane tilted a little farther as if to compensate.
"Come on, J. Give it up a little," Mammon wheedled. A frantic hubbub arose around him as the other gods lent their voices to the effort. Jehovah shook his curly locks petulantly.
"Why should I? I've still got congregations... they'll pull me out of this. You're all false gods anyway. What do I care if you bite it?"
See what I mean?
Anyway, despite his earlier attitude, Mammon wasn't about to take this kind of shit. His mighty brow clouded and his voice thundered "Worship me!"
Jehovah sneered. "Get stuffed."
Mammon sneered back, and his lip curled even more viciously than the God of Abraham's.
"You pay for your kid's seat, oh high and mighty one?"
Yahweh couldn't help but look a little defensive.
"Why? He's not even two..."
Mammon seemed to swell.
"You mean you didn't pay?"
Yahweh hung his head. Mammon shook his head mockingly.
"How have the mighty fallen. Whatever happened to 'render unto Caesar'?"
The lesser gods quieted instantly; even the plane paused in its headlong flight toward the ground, to see what Jehovah would do.
Mammon twisted the knife a little further.
"You know, you're already aware of my power... otherwise you wouldn't feel so guilty about not paying." He chuckled. "And I thought you were the one with a monopoly on guilt."
I sneaked a sidelong glance at Jehovah (you still can't look at him head-on, you know) to see how he was taking this. Not very well, I must say. Looked kind of green, and not Mammon's kind of green, either.
Mammon chuckled, and relented a little.
"Okay, tell you what. How about... you don't have to worship me yourself, but you turn over all your worshipers to me. Deal?"
"You know better than that, shekelhead."
See, you can't take all the worshipers away from a god, or he dies. That's what happened to Fard, Tu'lumnus and Abbadhu, for instance... when their last worshiper (or the last person who even half-believed in them) passed away, they disappeared from human memory. (Before you ask how I found out: I overheard Zeus explaining this to one of the demigods from coach.)
Mammon backpedaled gracefully.
"Okay, then. One more chance. You just give me your loudest 25%, and you can keep the rest. I'll even let them continue paying you lip service, whaddaya say?"
Yahweh smiled thinly. He seemed to know this was as good as he was going to get...
Mammon smiled too; they shook hands and he disappeared in a blaze of celestial glory. The plane leveled off, and we landed in Denver without further incident.
That was twenty years ago, and I think you know the results of that deal. I sometimes wonder what I would think had happened to Christianity, if I hadn't been on that plane... would I be more baffled, or less?
"Credo in un dio crudel', che mi ha creato simile a se."
--Alfred Bester, Tender Loving Rage
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