by Michael H. Hanson
“Awake, arise or be for ever fall’n” – John Milton
The conclave had begun. And where was it held? Why, nowhere of course. As much prison as courthouse, this artificial nexus of bent gravity, hard radiation, and dark energy managed to keep the unprecedented gathering firmly wedged between the seventh and eighth dimensions of reality. Time did not exist here. And the willpower of a majority of the universe’s most powerful entities, ten thousand beings possessing seemingly limitless energies, maintained the impenetrable boundaries of this meeting against any intrusion or escape. Nommo wasn’t going anywhere.
How did it feel to be restrained after tens of millions of years of uncontrolled travel and adventure between and amidst almost fifty billion galaxies? Laughable, Nommo thought. And so he did. Oh he had no mouth or lungs in which to expel air and chuckles, though he could easily have fabricated such with a toenail of effort. No, Nommo, like all his brothers and sisters currently present, was an entity composed of pure cosmic energy, and as such now appeared as a lonely bright green incandescent flame surrounded by a massive globe of intertwining, undulating, multicolored, oceanic fires. His thought emanations clearly conveyed his inappropriate sense of humor to all in attendance, and they were not amused.
“I plead my innocence,” Nommo said.
This mental expulsion caused a complex ripple of fiery eruptions across the thousands of miles of inner surface of his surrounding captors. It was instantly followed by dozens of anonymous mental retorts.
“This is not a trial.”
“Your actions speak otherwise.”
“You dare to talk to us this way.”
“You were my worst pupil.”
“Thousands of galaxies drowning in internecine warfare.”
“Self-decorporealization is an honorable alternative.”
“You always were a trouble maker.”
“You abused your power.”
“You broke the sacred covenant.”
It was this last thought that sobered Nommo up.
“I broke nothing,” Nommo’s mind shouted in defiance, “your blind devotion to a vague and arbitrary handful of ancient, prosaic guidelines is pathetic. Who here even existed when this so-called covenant was made manifest? Who can claim witness to its deific origin?”
“The unmitigated gall.”
“Is nothing sacred to you?”
“Instant disintegration is our only option.”
Part of Nommo enjoyed the chaos on display all about him. For the first time in his immortal existence he felt truly alive. The Universe was achingly vast. The life of a Galactic Overseer was marked by endless millennia of loneliness and solitary exploration. The conclave was the mother of all family reunions and Nommo had never felt more at home.
“We are a vast organization spread throughout millions of galaxies,” Nommo said, “how can you know for sure that I am responsible for the accusations at hand?”
“We have,” a silver flame spoke from within the multi-hued, incandescent mass that masqueraded as the most beautiful star in existence, “your accomplice.”
Suddenly, a cobalt blue flame detached from the ocean of multi-colored fires. It drifted downwards, stopping a mere two hundred miles from Nommo.
“Safeguarding the essence of sentience was my holy task,” the blue flame spoke, “for millions of years I tendered my duty with honor and pride.”
“And what changed this?” the silver flame asked.
“Nommo seduced me,” the blue flamed accused, “fed me lies, overwhelmed my senses with arcane knowledge and hidden secrets. I could not help myself. Forgive me my transgressions. I was corrupted.”
“Coward!” Nommo’s mind yelled, “you gave me the spark of sentience of your own free will.”
“I protest,” the blue flame retorted, “I was beguiled. Ensnared by his lies and promises. I beg leniency.”
“Enough,” the silver flame spoke, “your judgment awaits. Leave us.”
The blue flame rose and was quickly absorbed into the inner side of the flaring, boiling globe.
“You must have known we would eventually catch you,” a large golden flame broke from the mass and drifted slowly downwards.
“Really?” Nommo asked, “I wasn’t aware anyone was looking for me. Surely you all could have apprehended me had you truly wanted to. How difficult can it be to track down one single being? Perhaps the unanimity of opinion expressed here is a lie. Mayhaps I have many accomplices within the fiery horde.”
“He’s trying to confuse us.”
“Damn you, Nommo.”
“Destroy him. It is the only way.”
“Of course we all hunted you.”
“Confrontation was difficult and you know it.”
And here Nommo smiled within his mind, for he knew exactly how nearly impossible the hunt had been.
The Universe was vast beyond the comprehension of most sentient beings. Within it lay billions upon billions of galaxies; the ranks of the Overseers is finite, and each, including Nommo, possessed fantastic powers and abilities. And this was compounded by the very nature of the universe’s construction, for evasion was a simple enough task in exiting a particular locale. Every galaxy in existence possessed a super massive black hole at its heart, a singularity that contained exactly one half of the mass of said galactic entity. And this unholy furnace of destructive forces was a doorway, for any Overseer, to every other black hole in all of existence. Travel was instantaneous. Even if the Overseers had existed in the tens of millions they would not have been numerous enough to guard more than a fraction of all of these many nexus of transportation. No, Nommo thought, it was only the application of chance and luck, and random tactics that had allowed several dozen of his brothers and sisters to appear in his vicinity at an inopportune moment. Thus he was bound and brought to this unprecedented meeting.
The golden flame drifted to within sixty miles of Nommo.
“You are a voice of unacceptable dissent,” the gold flame said, “your actions have bred discord in a once harmonious union.”
“And your memories are short,” Nommo retorted, “before my successful campaign the Universe was a wasteland. Before the illumination only the most primitive of life forms ever sprang into existence, the vast majority of them fated to die out. Admit it. We all now live in far more interesting times.”
A furious cacophony of retorts welled.
“Sentience must raise itself up.”
“You had no right.”
“The cosmos drown in mongrel life.”
“Our ranks are finite. How can we possibly oversee this wild multiplying mass of thinking beings?”
“Exactly,” Nommo spat back, “for who are we to declare ourselves gods? Who are we to pass judgment upon fate itself? The arrogance was not in my actions, but in your lack. You condemn me? I condemn you all, cowards every one of you, and slaves to inertia and instinct. I judge you all, and find you wanting.”
“Enough,” the golden flame yelled. The massive globe of fires went silent. “You have brought this upon yourself.”
“Do your worst,” Nommo said with cold disdain.
“You are to be reduced to a fraction of your essence,” the gold flame said, “perhaps a few million years living near the lesser dimensions will bruise your unforgivable pride.”
“So be it,” Nommo spat back.
Then, a multitude of frothing, blinding energies streamed inward from every direction and flooded into him, burning away much of his substance, reducing Nommo to one one-hundredth of his former glory. Once a moon-sized flame, he now appeared no larger than a mere mountain. Nommo was humbled, as no other promethean being in all the cosmos had ever been.
“You will be monitored,” the gold flame said.
A pale red flame broke from the horde and came to hover beside Nommo.
“A companion, eh?” Nommo’s agonized mind managed to mumble, “this should prove interesting.”
“Your first punishment is that you are required to choose a planet as your home,” the gold flame proclaimed, “one you will be forced to live upon for an as yet unknown number of lifetimes.”
“And then?” Nommo asked.
“Fate will tell,” the gold flame said, “now, pick your destination.”
Nommo hesitated for only a fraction of a millionth of a second before speaking, “I choose Urath.”
The gold flame shimmered in confusion for a moment, “a strange destination. Nonetheless, it is your choice. Upon arrival, Urath’s guardian Overseer will further reduce your powers, and lay upon you the laws we have decreed for this planet.”
The gold flame flared into sudden brilliance, “this conclave is at an end.”
The gargantuan globe of fires broke into its ten thousand constituent entities that quickly departed at unimaginable speeds.
“Urath awaits, pariah,” the red flame said.
Nommo lent his red companion a grave regard, “lovely crimson Mawu. This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
“The Trial of Nommo” was originally published in Whortleberry Press’s trade paperback anthology, Strange Mysteries 7, in 2015.