GODS OF ILL REPUTE
A history of the deities of Z2*
The ship was wrecked, and worse, a Poet was studying Mona through a crack in the hull. If you had listened to Merriweather’s entire lecture as Mona had, you would know that Poets were the evolutionary pinnacle of Martian life before its abrupt decline. Two hundred fifty kilos on Earth but just ninety four on Mars, these sloth-like creatures would hang inverted from the lichen-spotted limbs of boa trees, swinging slowly in the breeze, reciting their poetry languidly with expressive sweeps of their long arms sometimes kicking up dust. They had huge, primate-like faces, and craniums that resembled a human’s after said human had an anvil fall on it. And as they often fell on their heads in their sleep, a flat head was likely an adaptive trait.
They had twenty toes and fingers like humans, but the distribution was different — two fingers on each hand and eight toes on each foot. The fingers had six-inch claws so one could understand how it was difficult to sew and knit and build blast furnaces and so forth. They did have simple knitted goods — black and white jerseys were fashionable among the younger males, for instance. But those were made by their pets — large, rodent-like creatures with opposable thumbs — ennui. The ennui formed knitting circles where they smiled but never talked. It was possible they were telepathic.
Having limbs with eight toes and two fingers created a thorny theological problem. For the Poets regarded each Martian moon as a god, and though Mars had five moons in those days, phalangeal logic dictated there should be two moons or eight moons, or maybe four moons or sixteen moons, or even twenty moons, but not five moons. Thus almost every discussion of any length eventually got around to The Question —
After the first humans appeared with their five fingers and five toes, most dropped the question as it had answered itself. They knew the end of Long Count had arrived, now that the chosen walked amongst them.
While Poets had flourished on Mars long before humans evolved on Earth, they spoke a language surprisingly similar to ancient Greek (if the Greeks had spoken with a Dublin accent). While the vocabularies were similar, there were many differences in idioms and grammar, so a visitor could misunderstand things in subtle but important ways. This didn’t explain the trouble Mona was about to get into, however.
© 2021 Lou Dischler