A short story
“So, tell me a little about yourself,” Málndur said. “What’s your name? Where are you from? What’s your background in providing prophetic support to minor deities?”
“My name is Mitch,” Mitch said. “I…”
“Not much of a prophet name,” Málndur said. “But no matter, We can always edit that out in scripture.
“Anyway, enough about you. Let me tell you about Us,” Málndur said. “As you already know, I’m Málndur. I’m a god of art, specializing in pottery art, mainly. Especially clay pottery. You know how people love drawing little pictures on the sides of their bowls and shit? I’m basically the god of that. I’m pretty new as far as gods go — you mortals might say I’m somewhat of a ‘startup’ — but I already have dedicated worshippers as far away as the North. I’m looking to expand into the Northwest as well.”
“Wow, the North?” Mitch said with astonishment. It was always hard to break into the worshipper market in the North.
“Oh yeah, they love me up there,” Málndur said. “Sacrifice people to me all - the - time. Which reminds me, We still do human sacrifices here. Hope you’re okay with that.”
Mitch considered saying something, but thought better of it and nodded in agreement. “Yeah, sure,” he said. He wasn’t a big fan of sacrifices, especially human ones, but the prophet job market had dried up and he needed this gig. With his meager résumé there was no way he could land a job with any of the good gods. If he didn’t want to be waiting tables for the rest of his life he’d have to take a job with a mid-tier morally ambiguous god of niche pottery art.
The interview continued for another ten minutes or so. The normal types of questions: Do you have any public speaking experience? Do you know any magick, or at least party tricks involving alcohol? Are you willing to die in Our name?
Eventually Málndur signaled they were drawing to a close by placing this exact feeling telepathically into Mitch’s mind.
“So, now that we’re wrapping things up, what questions do you have for Us?” the god said.
“Well, I assume you’ve had prophets in the past,” Mitch said. “What ever happened to them?”
“Oh, yes, of course. We don’t talk about them,” Málndur said, with a bit of an awkward laugh. “They’re not around anymore.”
“Let’s just say I’ve had a bit of a smiting streak in Me,” Málndur said. “But you wouldn’t have to worry about that. Just don’t cross Us or question Our Word in any way whatsoever and you’ll be fine.”
And that was that. All things considered, Mitch thought it went pretty well. The fact that he even got the interview was a good sign. Most gods never responded after you sent them your résumé. It’s not like they didn’t see it, either. They’re gods, Mitch thought, they see everything.
Mitch took his leave. Málndur thanked him and assured him he would be in touch.
Mitch walked down a few flights of stairs from Málndur’s office out into the street. The Olde Gods typically had their headquarters on the tops of cloud-draped mountains, or in the middle of the desert, but modern gods were moving to the city, seeking to connect with a younger, hipper generation of disciples.
Málndur’s office was located in a chic building downtown, next door to an art studio and a tavern where famous bards were known to sing from time to time. As Mitch walked past the building’s window display he saw the flier that had first informed him about the opportunity. It looked like this:
Mitch didn’t have any direct experience as a prophet, per se, but who did? That wasn’t really how it worked. You found your god, and you stuck with him. Barring a disaster where your god was destroyed in some sort of metaphysical battle with another god, you didn’t really get to switch allegiances.
This was one of the parts of being a prophet Mitch didn’t like. You didn’t get to test the waters, try out a few different things to see what fit. You knew you were supposed to be a prophet, but which god you ended up with was pure dumb Luck. And Mitch knew this was true because he once got beers with the Goddess of Luck’s prophet, and she told him as much.
“Art deity, eh? Sounds like it could be a pretty laid back gig,” Baldrig said. They sat at a table in Kneebender’s Pubbe, the local prophets’ tavern. “Hell of a lot better than what you-know-who ended up with.”
Baldrig had been hired as prophet to the Goddess of Cats a few years back and was not enjoying it. He spent most of his time cleaning the hairballs she was always coughing up, then selling them to her followers as sacred relics. He thought he was freed from his prophet duties a few months back after she was killed in a fight with the God of Dogs. If he had read the onboarding handbook he would have known cat goddesses aren’t that easy to kill. (Depending on the breed, they have between six and fourteen lives.) He went into the temple the next morning to gather his things and be on his way, and there she was on the altar, licking herself as feverishly as ever.
Of course, he couldn’t just come right out and say he hated being the prophet of the Goddess of Cats. The gods were always listening, and she was not the type of god that you wanted to cross.
“Probably no hairballs,” Baldrig continued. “And I doubt he’ll be pissing all over the furniture at your office.”
“You’re right,” Mitch said. “It’s just that, after all these rejections, I’m starting to think I’ll never get hired as a real prophet.”
“Different prophets peak at different times,” Baldrig said. “You remember the stories about the Great Prophet Khal? He didn’t become a prophet until age 40, but he went on to be the godfather of the entire industry. He ended up being prophet to, like, 20 or 30 different gods. But before that he was a slave or something.”
“I thought he was a prince, and he used his family wealth to buy off a bunch of different gods and play them against each other?” Mitch said.
“The details aren’t important,” Baldrig said. “Point is, he didn’t become a prophet until later in life, and when he did he was the greatest prophet that ever lived. You’ve got plenty of time to make your mark.”
Weeks passed. Then months. Mitch never heard anything back from the God of Niche Pottery Art. He applied to other gods but never heard back from them, either.
Life went back to normal. Waiting tables, getting beers with Baldrig and the others, finding time to fast and harden his body for prophet-like tasks whenever he could, which wasn’t as often as he’d wish.
One day while he was working at the inn, a group of disciples came in with their prophet and ordered nothing but bread and water. Mitch listened as the prophet preached. His followers clung to every word. He watched as they ate bread. He watched as their prophet turned water into wine. He watched as they drank and listened all through the night, totally engrossed in their prophet and his teachings.
“How did you land your prophet job?” Mitch asked the prophet as he cleaned their table at the end of the night. “I’ve been trying for years, but no luck.”
The prophet looked at Mitch with love and power in his eyes. When he stared at you he stared deep into your soul. Mitch could tell he truly was a holy man.
“Family connections,” the prophet said. “God happens to be my dad.”
“Oh?” Mitch said.
“Yeah,” the prophet said. “It’s actually a pretty innovative business model. Industry disrupting.”
“Oh,” Mitch said. He knew it wasn’t all that original. Gods’ sons and daughters became prophets, or heroes, or even gods all the time. They were a big reason, in Mitch’s opinion, that it was so hard to break into the industry as an outsider. They took all the best jobs.
“You know, we’re always looking for disciples,” the prophet said. “No experience necessary. Sure, you won’t be paid and you’ll probably be persecuted for your beliefs, but something to consider.”
“I think I’m good,” Mitch said.
“Suit yourself,” the prophet said. “But if you change your mind, all are welcome. Just let us know. I’m telling you, we’re gonna be huge.”
“Sure,” Mitch said. As the prophet turned to leave, Mitch thought maybe he should keep his contact information, just in case. “In case I do change my mind, how do I get in touch with you?”
The prophet was walking out of the room now. He paused and looked back over his shoulder at Mitch.
“That’s easy,” he said. “Just pray.”
They didn’t leave a tip.
Mitch tried a sip of the wine after they left but spit it out. It was clearly just stale water with red food coloring. Classic prophet trick.
Mitch got back to his apartment that night after a long day. He was hungry, but didn’t feel like cooking, so he ate half a loaf of bread that was leftover from the disciples’ meal and went to bed. The bread tasted curiously like human flesh, but he was too hungry to care.
He lay there with his eyes closed wondering when he’d catch his big break. Tomorrow it would be back to work waiting tables and washing dishes. But maybe one of these days he would be able to spread the word of some god or another to the faithful masses.
As he faded into sleep, he heard a voice in his head.
It said, “Hey, Mitch.”
“Uhh, who said that?” Mitch wondered aloud.
“It’s me, Málndur. You interviewed with Us a few weeks back,” Málndur said.
“Oh, yes, of course I remember,” Mitch said. “Thanks for, um, calling.”
“Yeah. So, after careful consideration We decided to bring in someone else as Our prophet,” Málndur said. “But We greatly appreciate your interest in serving Us as your Lord and Savior.”
“Okay,” Mitch said. “Thanks for letting me know, I guess.”
“No problem,” Málndur said. “I will say, We really liked you though, and you were definitely in Our top five candidates. I just sort of got the vibe that you’re not that into human sacrifices. The guy we went with is all about them.
“That said, if you’re interested, We happen to have a few openings for disciples. It’s an unpaid internship, but if you serve me faithfully for your entire life I could definitely secure a good spot for you in the afterlife. And hey, you never know, if this new prophet doesn’t work out you could be next in line.”
Again with the disciples thing. Gods were always trying to sell you on the whole “afterlife” spiel. It was an enticing pitch, but just like with the last offer, Mitch needed a job in the current life.
“Thanks anyway,” Mitch said. “But I’m not interested. Got bills to pay, you know?”
“We totally understand,” Málndur said. “If you change your mind, don‘t hesitate to let Us know!”
“Sure,” Mitch said. “Thanks again for…”
But the god was already gone.
So much for that opportunity, thought Mitch. He would be waiting tables for the foreseeable future.
He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but was awakened by a knock at the door.
Mitch ignored the first few raps and buried his head in his pillow, hoping whoever it was would go away. But the visitor was persistent. Mitch staggered out of bed to the doorway.
“Good evening, sir,” the man said when Mitch opened the door. He was small, balding, and slightly built. It was after midnight and he was dressed like he was going to the office. “Are you Mitch?”
“Depends who’s asking,” Mitch said.
“My name is Fred,” Fred said, “and I have an offer for you, if you’re willing to listen.”
Fred was carrying a rather large satchel. From it he pulled a stack of papers nearly a foot thick.
“Mitch, in the past five years you have applied for more jobs than any other aspiring prophet on the planet, and you have not received a single offer,” Fred said. “Even more amazingly, nearly 95 percent of your applications were never read by the gods you applied to, or even their HR staff. This large stack of papers I have in my hand lists every one of your applications and the result. I’ve never seen a job applicant get rejected or outright ignored as much as you.”
So that’s what happened to all those applications.
“Thanks for rubbing it in,” Mitch said.
“Apologies, not my intention,” Fred said. “In fact, I think you are eminently qualified for the position I am about to offer you.
“You see, I am the God of Neglected Job Applications. It’s my job to ensure that whenever someone applies for a job — be it as a prophet, and accountant, a blacksmith, or what have you — their application is either lost, destroyed, or otherwise remains unseen by the hiring party. On the rare occasion someone actually lands an interview or gets hired, it means I let one slip through the cracks.
“Now, it appears to me you are especially adept at not slipping through the cracks. I’d like you to bring your particular set of skills to my team, as my prophet.”
Prophet to the God of Neglected Job Applications. Fitting, thought Mitch.
“You see,” Fred continued, “I’ve been a one-man show for the longest time. Most people used to be born into their jobs, so there wasn’t much application-neglecting to do. But, the economy the way it is, the application rate has spiked. I need to bring on a team to help me out. A prophet, maybe half a dozen or so disciples to do the grunt work.”
“And you said your name was…Fred?” Mitch asked.
“That’s right,” Fred said.
“Fred?” Mitch said to himself. “Not much of a god’s name.”
“Mitch isn’t much of a prophet’s name.”
“So, what’s our first order of business?” Mitch asked. It was his first day on the job. They were at the Temple of the God of Neglected Job Applications, a small, indiscreet office building on the industrial side of town. The interior was plainly decorated, with stacks of papers strewn about and walls lined with half-open filing cabinets. The exterior was gray, totally unmarked. This wasn’t the type of church that wanted to attract followers.
“Well,” Fred said, “we have to hire some disciples if we expect to get anything done around here. We have this whole pile of disciple applications piling up. You feel like taking a look through them?”
He handed Mitch a stack of papers. Mitch, like instinct, knew what to do.
“Not particularly,” Mitch said. “I was thinking of going to the bar instead.”
“That’s the answer I was looking for,” said the God of Neglected Job Applications. He gave Mitch a nod, and Mitch promptly tossed the stack of applications in the trash. “You’ll do great here, kid.”