“You can be more than just a small god now,” The Envy of Households says, leaning back on her velvet couch. Around her, houseplants, luxurious and green, burst from their pots, trailing like waterfalls. The Envy smiles, and one of her photographer priests takes a picture of her half reclining.
“I don’t mind being a small god,” I say.
“Don’t tell me you don’t miss the perks.” She has a lot of perks. Her gorgeous, sprawling estate, servants to attend her. A continuous stream of prayers, people all over the world wishing viciously to live like her.
I sigh and cross my arms. Her house is so white it almost hurts my eyes. It looks good in the pictures, though, and that’s what matters. Her power grows even as I watch. I can feel the shiver of admirers, of prayers and hopes mixed up, and the steady streams of adulation.
“You need new priests, new prayers, new followers,” she says, emphasizing the last word. She bats her eyelashes for her priest’s camera and extends a long leg from under her silk robe. “You need a social media rebranding.”
I laugh. “You think so? I’m Bloodsport. The main reason I’m still around is gladiator movies.”
“Times are changing. Even Hope for Bread has had to update.”
I shake my head. Hope for Bread is an old god, created almost as soon as the first seedy loaf was pulled from its crude oven. “What’s she like now?”
“Hope for Gluten Free Options.”
The Envy frowns and points her thumb down. “You can’t blame her for changing. Besides, I’ve got your transition all planned out.”
I wait, trying not to be angry.
The Envy beams at me. “Not Bloodsport.” She pauses for dramatic effect. “Buzzkill.”
I laugh as she explained. By shifting the nature of myself, just a bit, I could become so much more powerful. She shows me the social media accounts she’s already set up under my new identity.
The new name pulls at me, along with the echo of hundreds of voices in prayer. Don’t be a buzzkill, a thousand people tell their friends, lovers, parents. It’s intoxicating, especially after years of nothing but the occasional surge from soldiers, murderers, or Mad Max films. Still, I hesitate. “I’d be changing the very essence of myself.”
“Not as much as you might think,” she says. “You’ll have to give up the blood part, of course, unless you can factor in blood alcohol content to your divine aura.” She laughs and pulls up a picture that one of her minions had already uploaded. On-screen, silky and gorgeous and revealing just enough skin to stir feelings of jealousy, The Envy points her thumb to the ground, and in her shadow, I stand, arms crossed. The image is strikingly similar to tableaus I’d been part of before.
“What do you say?” She pulls her phone back from my face. “I don’t want to lose you, Bloodsport.”
I don’t want to fizzle out like other small gods of the past. As much as I cringed at Hope for Bread’s change and even The Envy’s, both are alive and thriving while I have been left to wander around, nearly powerless, year after year.
I scratch my head. Someday, in the not so distant future, bloodsport could return. I pictured the fall of civilization, the rise of new ones. Humans couldn’t live with smartphones and easy prayers forever. Soon, they would be back at each other’s throats, and I would be there, judging whether they lived or died.
Bloodsport isn’t dead. With enough influence, I could make it–me–come back.
“I’ll do it,” I say aloud. “I’ll be Buzzkill.”
Immediately, I feel a flood of prayers and humans pressing heart-shaped buttons. Their comments, typed and spoken. The rush is enough to make me stumble into one of the Envy’s rattan chairs, though the layers of pure white sheepskin aren’t enough to keep the wood from hurting my back.
“Sorry it’s so uncomfortable,” she says. “It was very expensive. ”
Greta Hayer received her MFA at the University of New Orleans and has fiction appearing in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and nonfiction published in Booth and forthcoming in Flint Hills Review.