A Feeling of Joy

Ever since my summoning, I marveled at my new experiences. Before, I glimpsed the lives of humans in visions. As amusing as their affairs were, I never watched them for long. The blessings I granted them didn’t last, so why bother? Only after someone allowed me to inhabit a host body did I begin to see, hear, taste, smell, and feel in the way a human could.

The last one is especially interesting. From their view, “feeling” can mean two different things: something physical, like brushing a hand across wood or cloth; or something intangible, like a stirring the heart. An emotion, by their count. The good doctor who summoned me explained it as such.

“Good” may not be the right word. My host body is her dead husband, and according to her, she did him in herself. As to who I am? Based on all the prayers and calls for blessings sent to me, the people of this world have given me many names. However, they all attached the same epithet. To them, I am the God of War.

Then again, I know little of human cultures and have less interest in learning about them. From my usual view, they all live on a speck of dust. I do admit, however, that seeing the kind of world they live on through their eyes has taught me many things. I can better understand why they’d think so much of themselves, for one. How could they not when they can’t leave their planet? They wouldn’t know of other beings in the universe, and it’s a miracle they contacted my kind in the first place. I never once believed they could see things from my point of view, and now I know they won’t.

I suppose fair is fair. I doubt I’ll understand their views of what is “good” or “bad,” either. The doctor said people first defined “good” based on what they liked or disliked, which sounds simple enough. I can identify my likes and dislikes well enough.

So far as anyone on the planet can tell, nothing has changed between the doctor and her husband, and she would prefer to keep that way. Summoning me was just the start of her experiments, and she can’t very well continue if she’s caught or killed. As long as I don’t give her away and cooperate when she asks, I can explore and flex my powers as I see fit. She must have some interesting plans in store. She did summon a god, so I’ll indulge her for now.

She won’t return to the penthouse for a couple hours, so I’ll head out to explore this city. “Penthouse” and “city”—two terms among many I’ve learned since my arrival. I also learned different tastes, such as sweet and sour; the textures of bread and meat; and how to identify wood, plastic, cloth, ceramic, and others based on touch. Even flexing the fingers on my hands felt interesting.

I witness my first sunset once I leave the apartment building. The sliver of light in the otherwise dark blue sky bathes the clouds in shades of orange, violet, and a touch of pink. The city’s tall, rectangular buildings form a rigid but jagged horizon line, and thick shadows obscure their details. I pick up on numerous sounds, including the rev of cars and the murmurs of the crowds. They’re all new to me, each one filtered through borrowed ears.

Now, how much of my power can I use? Since the moment I awoke in this body, I felt weakened by a tremendous degree. It would be hard to draw a comparison, given the unfathomable nature of my true self. I can still use some powers, however, like keeping the host body from decaying too fast or levitating either myself or different objects. Each action doesn’t strain me any more than moving my head or limbs, but I have to keep the first one going all the time. I don’t need to worry about it failing now, though.

Someone bumps against me, apologizes, and walks away with her head down. She didn’t have to apologize, but the quick instance does remind me I should blend in with the crowd. I can’t do that if I bump into everyone on the streets, so I may as well test something in the meantime.

A spiritual power permeates every facet of the planet, but it’s largely dormant, and the few who sense it don’t recognize it for what it is. It swells when people draw a portion of it into themselves, and it exists alongside life itself. Using this, humans can channel the blessings granted by my kind, though the doctor tells me they do so far less often than they did in years past.

When I channel the power, I can feel it focus around and within me. A normal human would have to use motions to achieve the same effect. As a god, I just have to think what I want it to do—and right now, I want everyone to ignore me, to act as though I’m not among them. The power flows out of me like a gust of wind. Seconds later, anyone who might’ve bumped into me instead goes around. They don’t spare me a second glance, and in theory, they also won’t detect me with their other senses, not even their cameras. The crowds distance themselves, indicating my success.

The lights from the buildings, signs, and lampposts grow brighter as the sun slips away. I memorize the path I take and absorb what I can through the limited senses of the human body. I realize how free I am then, and the corners of my mouth perk up. Is this what they mean by, “being at ease” or “free as a bird”? Whatever it is, I know I like it.

I wonder how much farther I can stretch my powers? Can I still hide in plain sight when I do? I close my eyes, utilizing more of the spiritual energy to see beyond myself. A vision shows me the city from high above, and I zero in on the sounds coming from the darker and isolated alleyways. About five blocks ahead and three blocks to the right, I catch sight of two figures approaching an alley. They conceal money, knives, and guns beneath their long coats. Huddling a block away from them are two groups of ten people each.

I make my way there. I duck into the nearest empty alley and use another quick burst of power to hasten my steps. I run by a few folks, but thanks to the glamour I conjured, no one notices a man running faster than the wind. Something new stirs within my chest. Is this what they call anticipation? A fluttering heart, perhaps?

I arrive at the scene as the two long coats meet each other. The tension in the air is so thick, I can taste it. The one on my left mentions a deal; the one on my right responds with an affirmative. Their discussion goes on, and the tension eases. The fluttering I felt on the way here slows, and the corners of my mouth sink. They can do better than this.

I focus on the thin but lingering unease, preparing a new spell. A dim red haze builds at the edges of my vision, but unlike the metaphor describing extreme anger, this haze is quite visible to me. Anyone who can utilize the world’s spiritual power could see it, too, if they could see past my glamour first. Once the haze grows thick enough, I compel it to spread to the long coats and their hidden compatriots.

My spell hits them while they’re in the middle of exchanging briefcases. The tension spikes, and they draw their guns. Neither one can pull the trigger before the other intercepts with a punch, only to take a kick to the leg in return. As their fight draws the attention of their fellows, the two sides collide in a shower of muzzle fire, knife swipes, takedowns, and shouting. Blood flies in thick streams as the red haze intensifies.

I ride in the energy, reveling in every punch thrown, every shot fired, and every blade swung. I sail on the currents of their screams of rage and pain. As mistrust brews within both sides, I clap my hands together and soak up the shock from those losing all their common sense to dread. As the sounds of combat crescendo into pure chaos, a sensation of flight comes over me, although my feet remain on the ground.

During this, one of my hands slides down my face. I take my time with it once I notice, feeling the shape around my mouth and cheeks. It’s a wide smile. The doctor did say people smile when they’re happy.

The last of the brutalized bodies fall. The one man standing staggers away with a knife buried in the side of his chest and slumps against a brick wall. As I draw closer, his eyes fixate on the carnage on the pavement, the ruined wooden fence, the dumpster, and the brick walls. I bet the sight would’ve turned him mad if not for his final breath leaving him.

With everyone dead, I flee the scene by levitating to the rooftops. Red and blue lights flash atop some black-and-white cars scurrying to the scene of the slaughter. As I start my way back to the doctor’s penthouse, it hits me: I really am wearing someone else’s skin. This emotional sense of “feeling” came so naturally, just like everything else I’ve learned since my summoning. Naming emotions isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, and now I know how humans experience them in both body and spirit. I never would’ve known this had I remained in my original realm, viewing the universe with my true eyes.

What else can I discover? Where are my limits? I can’t wait to find out. After a little rest, I should ask the doctor if she has any plans. If she doesn’t, then I can conduct a few experiments of my own. Either way, I have something to look forward to.

It feels good to learn new things.

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