Nobody had ever seen or spoken to the Elohim, but there was ample enough evidence for its presence. The settlement of Arden had very strict codes to be obeyed in placing buildings, growing vegetables, and just about any other activity that altered the tenor of town life. When someone violated those codes, the Elohim would act.

There was Mackay, for instance, the architect who built a magnificent building that clashed with the Arden codes on north-south orientation, maximum height, and colors to be avoided (his “temple” was bedecked in clashing neon orange and lime green). The morning after its completion, the Elohim had somehow moved the entire edifice into line with the rest of Arden, all 2000 tons of it. The exterior was freshly coated with white, and the towers were each cut off clean and razor-sharp–including the room where Mackay had been sleeping.

Thugs that operated brazenly within city limits, derelicts who slept on city streets, and preachers or evangelists of any kind all risked the Elohim’s wrath. They tended to disappear, leaving behind all their worldly possessions in a small heap. For some reason, the Elohim wouldn’t suffer vagrancy, crime, or the worship of any deity (including itself) within Arden.

Naturally there was rampant speculation about the nature and form of the Elohim, speculation which it seemed to tolerate. The only thing that people in Arden have been able to puzzle out–other than the Elohim’s obvious caprice and its love of certain rules that had been worked out by centuries of Ardenites–was that it sometimes changed its mind. The city had changed axes once, with all new construction being changed from east-west to north-south in the course of one night. Disappeared people occasionally reappeared, hideously scarred but with no memory of where they’d been.

But that was all before the Descent.

Advertisement