1. The Almighty settled heavily into his throne, looking out over his dais and the new realm he had finished creating only minutes before. The Catalyst, the man who had brought him into being, was lying face down on the ground, a bare shadow of the defiant soul he had been. The gall . . . wait, no, audacity, he had held, conquering Hell and Heaven to make humanity one with God. What had he been thinking?
The man before began to move, and uneasily shifted from the ground to his hands and knees. He looked up, muzzily blinking back unconsiousness as he looked around. He'd been out of himself while this entire place was forming. He looked up at the Godlike being on the throne, and full awareness came to him, contorting his face to rage.
In ragged growls he roared out, "That should be ME up there."
Unphased by the outburst, the Almighty simply gazed on his would be opponent. "You're impatience gains you nothing. You tried, you failed. Be happy I view you as a father figure and didn't cast you out for your insolence. It's not like anyone else ever got so far."
His "father" gave him one last glare, then stared away, his face turning melancholy. The Almighty couldn't read him, exactly, but it looked like shame. The words snuck up on him.
"Why does everything look so hollow?"
2. Peace is hard bought, and harder kept. The periodic bout of yelling only subsided to tears and worries. Fear. What had he done wrong, to lose the prize when the war was over? Had not Satan been locked in chains, ready to be absorbed back into the ether? Had not God watched, defenseless and worried, as he looked up and spread his arms. "God, come unto me! Let us both do our job!"
The memory tore him apart.
3. Looking out over the Earth, the big blue ball before him, the Almighty could not help smiling. Mother Earth, his grandmother in spirit, sat atop it. Her hair the black silk of peat bogs, her eyes the sapphire blue of the oceans deep, he caught her smiling back. With a wrench of his hand, and a blow of his lips he sent her a gift, floating through the space between.
A rainbow pendant on a chain of platinum. The emblem of his creation. A motion unseen, the emblem in her hand. A flick of her hand, a strand of hair pulled. A blow of her lips sent back her reply: a lotus blossom, gems studding its center. The symbol of everything she offered him.
4. The new amulet around Her neck, She landed at the foot of His stairs. Only that climb stood between Them. Air around Her coalesced, the shape of a man formed. One of power, no doubt, but not Her Beloved. With a quirk of Her lips a smile formed, as She greeted her new friend.
"Who might you be?"
"My friends call me shadow." The new form disappeared, but his voice lingered.
"Those" his voice called.
"Those" his voice echoed.
"Those . . ." his voice rebounded from the floor to surround her.
He reformed in front of Her, his nose nearly touching Hers. ". . . few I have." He smiled, backing up. "But you, my Lady" on one knee "may call me whatever you wish." He stood at once, straightening like a marionette suddenly pulled up.
An eyebrow raised. "Shadow will do. What do you do. dear Shadow?"
He vanished, reappearing beside Her, his voice a mere whisper in Her ear. "I am the fangs and claws of the Wolf." Another vanishing, another reappearance, by Her other ear. "I am the talons of the Eagle." this time forming behind Her, a heretofore unknown assailant appearing before Her. "I am" Shadow catches the knife blow aimed at Mother, "the assassin's knife." Shadow turns the blade, piercing the assassin's heart. Another disappearance, reforming before Her. "And I am the breath of the Zombie."
At the word zombie, Mother Earth stiffened. "Nature can't make them, you know." The soldier before Her opened his mouth, an obsidian stone dropping to his palm. "But I can." He laughed, disappearing. His voice rang out one last time. "All are equal before death."
5. Resolve regained, only a moment lost to shock, She takes the stairs. One step at a time, Her strength increases. The new knowledge gained, of Shadow himself, drove Her forward. Would the new God harness such a creature? For good or ill, She willed Herself to Him.
With every step certainty grew, positives and negatives swirling around Her. Surely He would use that one, and only neutrality would hold them together. Close to the top, She stopped. She could hear voices, three of them.
A plea heard is a plea considered.
6. Shadow materialized upon the Almighty's dais. Before him stood his brother: his commander during the war for the Afterworld, and hoped-for God in victory. Shadow went to hug him, and fell through the man. He looked from the Commander to the Almighty. A scowl formed. "Why aren't you on your throne, and why can't I touch you?"
A whispered reply. "I am not God. I am nothing."
A sorrowful frown replaced the scowl. "Are you okay?"
The Commander sighed, exasperated. "When I look at him I feel anger. When I look away, nothing matters."
Shadow looked up to the Almighty, and fell on his knees. "Why? Why did You do this to him?"
The Almighty looked expressionlessly down on His subject. "I did nothing to him."
Shadow looked back at his fallen comrade, frustration written in the edges of his face. He looked back up at the Almighty. "My life for his. Take me instead. Give him back his strength."
The Almighty shook His head, no.
"Then I'll do it for You." Shadow drew a knfe from his hip, and placed the tip against his uniform over his heart. "He shouldn't have to suffer alone for a sin we all took part in."
"No, don't." He felt a hand on his shoulder, and looked up into his Commander's eyes. Thunder boomed on the dais.
Both men looked up, realizing their God was clapping. Shadow spoke, "how can you touch me?"
"The act of killing yourself would not accomplish half of what the offer did."
The Almighty spoke. "I did nothing to your leader. He was not strong enough to contain both Satan and God. I am."
Shadow repeated, "How can he touch me?"
"I cannot give him back his body, it is part of Me now. He can, though, share yours. Your offer to stand beside him in a Hell of your own making linked you two forever."
Shadow looked at his commander. The Commander nodded, and Shadow stood, embracing his comrade. Two souls to one, they melded seamlessly. The Almighty spoke, His voice filling the dual man with joy. "From now til the end, you are the King of Shades. Light and Dark, you will walk both."