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Jul 05, 2020 6:17 AM
Christina Theodora and warlock Bruce
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He cooperates with being helped up because this requires less having a functioning brain than anything else.  "I, um. Thank you?" He really has no idea what is supposed to happen next or whether there are any actions it makes sense to take. What do you say to an alien Messiah who wants to steal the fruits of the Two Trees?

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"Do I have to borrow the angels' 'Do Not Be Afraid' schtick?"

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The mental contrast between the woman standing in front of him and the thousand-eyed flaming wheels that generally say that line in history and movies is enough to snap him out of whatever he was snapped into; he chokes back a hysterical giggle. "Nope, sorry, pulling myself together now. So, um, I totally understand wanting to make everyone in your universe immortal? That makes a lot of sense. But also, breaking into Eden and stealing the Apple of Life is like the most classic movie-villain bad idea of all time. So I don't really know what to say here."

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"Why would it be a bad idea? --My world doesn't have movie villains that do that."

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"Because anyone who tries gets killed with the flaming sword? I don't know how omnipotent You are in other universes and even if the answer is 'very' I'm just generally nervous about any plan with omnipotent beings on opposite sides and me in the middle. Sorry."

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"An angel isn't omnipotent," she points out. "...You thought I might be a demon, which implies your world has a Hell. What's your God doing to fix that?"

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"God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," he recites. "Anyone who accepts Jesus as their savior and loves Him with their whole heart is redeemed by grace and goes to Heaven." 

(This is a group which does not include Bruce. Bruce is too full of doubts, of God's goodness and His omnipotence and pretty much everything there is to doubt, not to be damned. But he's not going to bring it up.)

(Actually, now that he lets himself think about it, it's possible that if he dies in Milliways, or in Christina's universe, he might end up somewhere other than Hell. It's not certain enough to be worth slitting his wrists over immediately, but it's something to think about.)

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"...Okay, yes, but like. That's not everyone. In my world we get one or two people a year going to Hell on average and this is still considered a big problem that needs solving."

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"Only one or two a year? That's--that's really good. In my world it's maybe five, ten percent? It could be more or less. We don't have a way to count."

He's spent several nights he couldn't have slept anyway reading the analyses: extrapolations from Dante and from other prophets' less comprehensive but equally terrifying visions and the rarer but less terrifying visions of the souls in Heaven, theological speculation on the fate of everyone in smote cities, differences in self-reported level of faith when you hooked people up to lie detectors and extremely abstruse discources on whether various heresies are sufficient to make someone's faith in their concept of Jesus too disconnected from the true Jesus to render them unsaved. He didn't understand the stuff about the heresies, but the conclusions they came to matched the range of guesses from other sources.

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"Five to ten--shit. What's your population level?"

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"Roughly seven billion."

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"Fuck, fuck, fuck," she breathes. "Okay, your world is officially more of an emergency than mine is. I assume you can't convince the entire population of your world to evacuate to mine through this door and we're going to actually have to fix it."

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Bruce lets out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. "So you think people from my world who die in Yours won't go to my world's Hell? And, wait, fix it, You think whatever makes nearly everyone in Your world be saved is something You could do in mine?"

(Bruce has given a lot of thought to whether a version of himself who was faithful enough to be saved would be the same person, and concluded that the answer is "maybe" but that the modification would be worth it even if it was "definitely not".)

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"I think in my world you go to hell for being a nazi rapist who tortures babies in his free time, not for not being a Christian. I think there's no reason to think souls can jump from my world to your Hell. I don't think I can make everybody believe in Jesus hard enough, I think with enough resources and ingenuity I can squish Hell."

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"Wow. That would . . . that would be amazing. I have no idea if God would permit it, Hell is supposed to be just and deserved but also God was willing to send His Son to die to save us from it but also if He wanted to destroy it He would have . . ." Bruce trails off with a shrug. "It's a pity you got me instead of someone who understands theology at all."

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"In my world, Hell was an accident."

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"In my world, let me try to remember this right, nobody was originally supposed to go to Hell, but Lucifer--um, one of the brightest angels--rebelled and was cast out of Heaven and Hell was created to hold him, and then humans were created with free will and chose to disobey God, and that created sin, which separates us from God and condemns us all to Hell unless we're redeemed by grace." Also he's curious how Hell can be an accident but he doesn't want to sound like he's questioning Christina's omnipotence or anything.

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"There are no fallen angels in my world, demons are just something that...happens. Probably spontaneously, but it's possible they're caused by intelligent action somehow. Hell was an unintended side effect of the invention of a self-perpetuating system of immortal souls and there's a lot even I don't know for sure about it."

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Bruce runs his hands nervously through his hair. "So. There's a thing I should really clarify. Which is that. My world's God claims to be omnipotent but I have a lot of doubts about it. Because there are things where it seems like He's acting under constraints. So I don't actually know." Bruce gets steadily twitchier over the course of this explanation.

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"Yeah, mine's not omnipotent outside of Heaven either."

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"And my impression is that neither one is aware of other universes."

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"Mine is aware that other universes exist, but They're not omniscient about them, no."

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"Okay. By the way, what, er, is Your relationship to Your universe's God? If that's not a rude question. Just, You talk about Them as if They're a separate person." 

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"Ah. Yes. That's accurate. Sorry, thousands of years of Christian theology, but at least in my universe, homoiousios was right all along."

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Bruce is failing high school theology (a predictable consequence of spending every class trying to think about anything else), but he has enough context to remember which one that is. "Huh. I guess enough other stuff is different that that isn't really evidence of anything on my end. So, um, what happens now?"

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