Many people believed that the old gods were real, but dead, and many others believed that it was possible to become a god in one’s own right, neither were entirely correct. Much more likely, and infinitely more terrifying, was the likelihood that one of the old gods would inhabit a body and transform into a new vessel for itself, at the same time utterly obliterating every scrap of individual identity that the host might claim to have maintained throughout the years.
This was not always the case, which only further confused the matter.
Becoming a god – or, at least, being a suitable host for one – was a varying and often painful experience. The first recorded case in the recent history of the multiverse resulted in a man losing an eye and his sanity, and destroying a sizeable chunk of his nations’ capital. It did not bode well for potential future hosts of gods, or for the gods themselves when absolute control wasn’t guaranteed.
In a separate incident, in a separate country in a separate universe, Owen Dunleath also lost his eye. His loss was not essential for impending godhood, and had not been on the agenda when he’d been identified as a possible host for godly essence. It was all a matter of sheer, painful coincidence that he would lose his eye in a stationery accident.
It was a week later that the disembodied essence of Odin – just trying to enjoy a bit of an astral trip around the world without the need to stop everywhere and have to put up with people recognising him – crashed into Owen while he attempted to recover. They did not get along, so Odin knocked him out.
“Well, this isn’t ideal,” he said to himself.
Odin had been used to missing an eye, but Owen was missing the wrong one. He had been distracted by the pain of the host body and collided with him rather roughly, and everything felt slightly too much to one side, as well as being smaller and infinitely clumsier (read as: human) than he was used to.
He excused himself from the hospital where Owen was recovering, glaring into a stern nurse’s eyes with all the weight of godhood until she moved out of his way, and went for a walk. “I need to figure out where I am,” he mumbled as he left the building. “Everything’s a lot bumpier and misplace when I’m not just soaring across it like a majestic and deadly crow.”
He was not sure why he was speaking to himself, or why he chose the words he did, and he imagined it had to do with Owen Dunleath’s disposition. He almost cursed the mortal, but he was still – he realised – trapped inside him.
“Trapped. Yes. That’s a problem.” He marched up a hill – Odin loved a good hill as a vantage point – and looked out over the town in front of him. His one remaining eye had to suffice as a conduit for his godly powers. He stared at the town, looking for all the signs of something gone wrong. God-vision was special the way infrared goggles were special, but with a few more applications. He could see where humans walked. He could read magical signatures. He could find pockets of interdimensional catastrophe. He could see sound, if he so desired, though people were much too loud and annoying these days to bother trying. And, most uselessly, he could peer into other universes.
He had done this once, and witnessed a near apocalypse amongst the Celtic gods when they’d gotten themselves bodies, and all of them trapped in a magical barrier, and decided that his infinite capacity for scorn couldn’t handle looking at another foolish universe for much longer than was absolutely necessary.
Distraction shouldn’t have caused him to fall, he realised. Something was wrong. The issue didn’t arise in another universe, for which he was grateful. Or not. He switched his eye from searching for magic to searching for worship, and found an abundance of it near a stationery store. He probed Dunleath’s memories. It was the very same place where the boy had lost his eye. (Odin wasn’t quite sure that Owen was just a boy, but all men seemed young to the Allfather.)
He hailed a cab – he had seen people do this frequently, using the telescopic ability of his eye – and followed the source of worship to the store. When it came up that Owen’s hospital gown did not contain pockets, Odin stared – godlike – at the driver, until he was ordered out impatiently. Cab drivers, Odin had forgotten, were immune to the effects of a god’s stares.
He ignored the hate pouring from the cab in vicious shades of red as he entered the stationery store. A clerk glowed – literally, to Odin – behind the till.
“It worked!” he cheered. “Didn’t it?”
Odin assumed the guise of Dunleath, feeling smaller and more fragile in an instant. “What are you talking about?” he asked.
“The spell! The accident! The week of worship. It worked!” The clerk was every part a fanatic, and Odin was tired of it in seconds. “My Lord Odin, it is a pleasure. You can stop pretending to look like him, now.”
“Pretending,” Odin scowled. “You interrupted my holiday.” The room shook with godly rage. “Do you know how that feels?” Pencils fell to the floor from a nearby shelf, stabbing impossibly into the concrete floor. Odin glared with his one good eye. “I am a God of War, boy. And war demands sacrifice.” He slammed a fist on the trembling clerk’s desk, shattering it utterly.
“I’m sorry?” the clerk whimpered.
“You will be,” Odin snapped, before unleashing his godly wrath.
He departed, later, in an astral storm, causing a literal storm in the process; he still wanted to see Tokyo. Owen was found a day later, with two miscoloured eyes. The clerk, Odin ensured, was not found. Only a god’s eye could find him, if only gods cared.