Stories Beyond Good and Evil
By Neal F. Litherland
Have you ever heard of the gods Czernobog and Belobog? These were old Slavic gods, a Black God and White God respectively, who were responsible for bad things and good things. In some myths they were brothers, in others the same being who changed with the seasons (a common motif). While there’s still research going into understanding the beliefs of the Slavic peoples these gods come from, the point is that these figures represent one of the earliest points in world religion where there was a definite good god and a definite evil god. There was an angel and a devil, a light and a darkness, and you could always count on them to be responsible for their chosen deeds.
Before that was chaos. One day your crops might get rain, because the gods have deemed it so. The next day savage predators might sweep down from the mountains, kill all your livestock, and cripple your son because the gods have deemed it so. The gods were to be feared and placated, and their favor curried, but there were no labels put on their actions. Whether they were helpful or harmful the gods did as they pleased. There was no good, and there was no evil; only power.
My story “Little Gods” takes that sort of old-world chaos and sets it down in Chicago’s seedy underbelly to play in the muck.
What’s Compelling About That?
The story’s premise is simple enough. Warlock-for-hire Richard Blackheart is given a job by a disgraced Santera to help her steal the mantle of the little god of murder. If she can usurp the Hook Man’s place in the pantheon of the city then she’ll gain immortality and power, finally able to leave mortal flesh behind and step into the demimonde where mortals can only tread on little cat’s feet. She can’t do it without one of the city’s occult heavies backing her play, but The Bad Luck Man has motives of his own when he agrees to help her.
Why should you want to read that? On the one hand it’s a dark modern fantasy that steps off the path and drags you through the dark forest alongside the wolves instead of to the path to grandma’s house. Also because without a hero or a villain you’re left to make your own decisions about what’s right and wrong, what’s deserved and what isn’t. In the absence of a white knight (or really any sort of knight) every reader has to decide for themselves what the story means. Or if in the end it’s another of the myths we tell where there is no hero or villain; only the gods throwing rocks into the little mortal pool and making the ripples that shape our world.