The God Shark
First published in Feast and Famine, Newcon Press (2013)
So it was in those times that the people came together to choose a leader.
For we are divided and lost, they said.
For we are hungry and thirsty.
For our lives are those of toil and misery.
For the beasts prey upon us at their leisure.
And each man's hand is turned against his brother, and each of us is alone in the world.
Not to mention the God-Shark.
And the people of the next valley do not share our beliefs, chiefly our belief that they should not come to our valley and take our stuff.
And, yea, our lives are brutish and short, not to mention nasty, but of these it is the short that most concerneth us.
And in our various extremities we need a leader who will unite us against these threats and let us lead lives that are secure and safe from predation and want, and that are notably longer than those we currently lead.
So the people of that time called out for leaders, and so stepped up one or another who had a calling or a wish for power, and each one told the people how he would protect them and improve their lives, and each was found wanting in turn.
And so engrossed were the people in their selection of a leader that none noticed a vast shadow being cast upon them until it was too late.
And they looked up and beheld the God-Shark.
And the God-Shark spake unto them, saying: Choose Me as your leader and I shall protect you from all harms.
And the people were sore dismayed, and demurred, saying: But You are cruel and merciless, and have consumed many of our kin, and though we now may hide from You, and cower in the dark places when You approach, if You were amongst us at all times as our leader, You would be able to devour at will, and there would be no defending from You.
And the God-Shark considered their complaints, and argued so: And yet think of the advantages, for I am mighty, and the beasts fear Me and would not prey upon you while I was your leader, and the people of the next valley would come not near you for terror, and, yea, would perhaps give you tribute for fear that I might sate My everlasting hunger upon them in your name.
And the people considered this, and replied: Whilst You make many strong points we do not feel this outweighs being consumed.
The God-Shark appeared suitably chastened by this logic, and was heard to say: This is what follows from having a reputation. Know this: that if you choose me as your leader, to reign over you for evermore, I shall go to the slopes of Mount Nod that towers over us all and inscribe there in letters eight feet wide and nine feet deep my lasting pledge that I shall do you no wrong, nor consume any of you, no, not even the least, save by a majority vote.
And the people fell into serious discussion about the pros and cons of being ruled over by an immortal and ever-hungry God-Shark, and many were those who championed either side, citing on the one hand the proven strength of the God-Shark as it might be deployed against their neighbours, and on the other hand that same strength as it might be deployed upon the God-Shark's own subjects.
But in the end those who spoke out for the God-Shark and his pledge prevailed and not least amongst the reasons was that the people in the next valley were sore due for a comeuppance. And so it was that the people accepted the God-Shark as their leader.
And the God-Shark was as good as Its word and grave upon the slopes of Mount Nod Its pledge.
And in all the subsequent years of Its reign It held by Its pledge, or mostly. And when in Its more forgetful moments It did happen to devour some of the people without first seeking a majority vote, the people directed Its attention to the wording of Its pledge and It was suitably chastened and made reparation.
And there followed a time of prosperity and security for all, save for the people in the next valley, and save for those who fell foul of majority vote for any reason. And always the God-Shark was bound by Its graven pledge, at least after being referred to it a second time.
And now many centuries, and centuries of centuries, have passed, and the God-Shark reigns still over us as It has done since those days when the people first gathered to choose themselves a leader.
And Mount Nod, which once towered over all the land, is now a worn stump of rock.
And each successive year the words of the God-Shark's pledge, that had been written there in letters eight feet wide and nine feet deep, have grown harder and harder to make out, until the scholars of the God-Shark's words try with charcoal rubbings and use of angled lamps to make out just what the God-Shark did or did not pledge.
And there will come a time in the near future when the God-Shark's words are entirely illegible beyond any recovery.
And delegations to the God-Shark requesting that It re-grave its pledge onto some other medium have reported that It grows unaccountably deaf when such matters are raised in Its presence.
And some of them have been devoured.
And we await the God-Shark.
And these days nobody is as keen to complain about that sort of thing as we were in earlier ages when the words of the God-Shark's pledge were easier to make out.
And we sit here by the rock that was once Mount Nod and wonder if our ancestors made the correct choice back in those days.
© Adrian Tchaikovsky 2020