An essay by Dr. Thomas Ain, as provided by Matthew R. Davis
Art provided by Errow Collins
My friends, I have been called before you tonight in order that I might bring you something that has been sorely lacking in recent days, and that thing is … hope.
Here, then, is a story we all know, and yet must never forget. Here is the story of the greatest human being ever to walk our humble Earth.
Jacinta Crowne was born in Sydney on the far cusp of the summer solstice, on what was then known as Christmas Day. Her parents surely regarded this as the greatest of all gifts, but over the years, Jacinta herself–lumbered with the initials JC–would come to resent the poor timing of this particular miracle. And maybe that was the catalyst for what was to come; maybe that’s what made it inevitable from the very first.
Jacinta’s parents were themselves regarded as giants in their respective fields of mathematics and philosophy, and were duly thrilled when their little girl quickly proved to be a prodigy beyond even their wildest dreams–by the age of five, she was conversant in three languages at a high school level, and performed flawless Bach recitals on piano when bored of study. Young Jacinta–often called Sin by friends and family, though they couldn’t have foreseen the irony in it–was encouraged and supported above all else, and that dedicated love paid exponential dividends. At the age of ten, she began parallel college courses to follow the forking paths of her parents; by the time she was fourteen, she had not only excelled, but broken new ground in every endeavour to which she turned her hand. The eyes of the world, always looking for new novelties and miracles, were soon upon her.
But with unmitigated brilliance, of course, came controversy.
Jacinta became the youngest person ever to be awarded the Norbert Wiener Prize in Applied Mathematics, but in the same year, she also shocked the art world by picking up the Dobell Prize with a pencil piece she claimed to have doodled whilst thinking on a bigger problem: “Erection Conjecture,” a series of tiny Goldbach numbers that resolved into a rather risqué nude portrait of Dr. Brian Cox. In a subsequent Rolling Stone interview, fifteen-year-old Jacinta referred to a number of scientific figureheads as “microcephalic apostates,” suggesting that they strap on some gloves and get in the ring with her if they took issue with this assessment. The only genius inflamed enough to take her up on this offer, Waldo “The Howling Bear” Kaczmarczyk, went down in the second round. At an age when her contemporaries were unable to name a single cogent ambition other than sleeping in as much as possible, Jacinta was proving to be such a prolific polymath that people began to wonder if she ever slept at all.
And so onward and upward she went, her intellectual ascent unchecked, even if her social skills were somewhat less developed. Jacinta spent so much time tackling intellectual disciplines that she had little idea how to relate to people outside these somewhat lofty realms. This was a weakness that her fellow students would target when they felt she needed a healthy dose of humble pie … and on her sixteenth birthday, shortly before she graduated from university with a superstring of honours, they exploited this weakness with a heady amount of Jägermeister. According to her erstwhile friends, this caused an extraordinary sequence of rash and uncharacteristic behaviours that caused her to be rechristened as Fish Fingers. And if there was some doubt cast on the veracity of that tale, then surely it is fair; this incident was not mentioned in any of the early biographies other than Maelina Dawn’s rather salacious JC & Me: The Story of a Girl Called Sin, which was full of enough inaccuracies that it was regarded as fraudulent fiction by the public at large.
But popularity was never foremost in Jacinta’s thoughts–only truth. Knowledge was power, and though she never longed for control over others, she found herself increasingly influential with every breakthrough. As soon as she left university–and before she could legally drink the Jäger that she’d already sworn off–Jacinta was snapped up by a series of well-funded think-tanks that quickly came to rely upon her incredibly refined brain. With her personal successes came showers of scientific regard, matched only by the torrential downpour of cash and blank-cheque grants. The world’s finest minds fell over each other in the mad scramble to work with her, and any postulated project that passed her lips was greenlit, funded, and staffed faster than light itself.
I could speak of that incredible woman’s career for the rest of the night and still barely cover the basics … but not only would it sound dry and dull to the layman, many of its aspects would be incomprehensible without a genius-level IQ. Let it just be said that Jacinta Crowne, who had been tested multiple times with a mean average of 267, became the figurehead of modern science in the way that Einstein and Hawking had done before her–and much more besides.
She laughed old standards out of the building and posited new ones that seemed obvious in retrospect; she revolutionised fields of study that had previously changed at glacial speeds. And somehow, knowing the value of good PR, she still managed to look so amazing at her public appearances that she regularly topped many Best Dressed and World’s Hottest lists, which led to a breathtaking near-nude catwalk turn at Paris Fashion Week. She had three wittily written science books top the bestseller lists, hit Number One on every pop chart with a spine-chilling piano ballad, and made a cameo appearance as herself in Doctor Who. Jacinta was such an exemplar of humankind that by the time she turned twenty-one, people had long since started to wonder if her initials were more than a coincidence.
But all these achievements were ancillary to her, mere diversions to pass the time whilst she built up to something that actually mattered. And so it was that Jacinta Crowne came to the greatest moment of her life–a moment that would change the world beyond measure, that would make her the most important living being since the first protozoa to crawl out of the primordial soup or the first hominid with fully opposable thumbs … a moment that would make her the target of more hatred than a hundred Hitlers.
Spurred on by sour memories of birthdays shared with fake festive cheer, driven by the destruction of life and liberty by baseless myth, Jacinta held a press conference to unveil what one reporter risibly referred to as her “Crowne-ing Glory.”
And we all know what that was. Indeed, there will never be another human being born who will not know it.
Our golden child announced that she was going to disprove, beyond any doubt whatsoever, the existence of God.
And not just the Christian one, either–she was going to put to bed the notion of any god, of all gods. Jehovah, Allah, Buddha, Shiva, Isis, Aswang, Odin, Zeus, even poor old Cthulhu–these and a thousand other deities were on the chopping block, and our little Sin had been sharpening this particular axe for a long time.
The world took a deep breath. Jacinta had long been known for her controversial statements, but this one seemed to be taking things more than a little too far. Given that religious faith was a deeply subjective matter that had managed to survive everything rational argument had thrown at it, her goal seemed more than just radical–it was flat-out impossible.
We all said that, didn’t we? “Impossible!” We shouted it with the surety of our own names, secure in the knowledge that this was so–and that Jacinta Crowne, as some observers had suggested, had just jumped the shark.
Well, as we all know … she did it.
And a new world was born.
I don’t need to tell any of you how she did it; the Awakening is a matter of public record, taught in schools, praised in song, interpreted in an endless stream of movies, books, and other media. You could probably tell it better than I. What matters is that she did it, that she achieved the impossible–she showed us the truth, and we all believed her.
You would also know that everyone believing her was not the same as everyone liking it, and that millions instantly pledged themselves to her death.
Jacinta had prepared for this by employing a virtual army of thoroughly screened security troops, who were well and truly put through their paces. In the first week alone, they encountered and disabled five highly trained hit squads, at least one of which was heavily rumoured to have been sent by the Vatican before it was pillaged and burned; in the second, they shot down a plane that had been loaded with explosives and aimed at her bunker. The gods might have been dead, but their bereft followers were vengeful.
Jacinta had always been a divisive figure, but her greatest triumph polarised opinion to the nth degree. Billions of people thought she was the greatest hero the world had ever seen, while other billions hated her with the intensity of VY Canis Majoris. If the newly unemployed Jesus Christ had cured cancer and then stolen all the world’s children in a single day, he might have been somewhere close to Jacinta in terms of the emotional response. Riots formed as crowds clashed in the streets, half fighting for her, half against. People died screaming her name, either in jubilation or as a death curse. The world had entered a new phase, and no-one seemed to know how humanity was going to handle this change in the long run. The only one who might know was keeping her thoughts to herself for the duration; some joked that she had given us free will.
Of course, we all know what happened in the end.
We all know that eventually, inevitably, someone managed to penetrate her security and get close to her.
We all saw the video feed he sent out to every satellite in the sky, our Jacinta defiant to the end as he cursed her with every obscenity under the sun, his gun aimed directly at her face.
We all saw him shoot her right between the eyes at point-blank range.
We all saw her fall, heard his cry of jubilation, heard it echoed around the world in those seven savage seconds.
And after those seven seconds, an eternity of hopelessness and despair …
… we all saw Jacinta rise up, her forehead unmarked, the useless bullet clutched in one hand as her security team crashed into the room. Amazed, we watched Jacinta coldly forgive her would-be assassin as he was dragged away, before turning to a fellow scientist and cracking a joke that had top-level physicists–and no-one else–howling for days. We all saw, and we all believed.
Jacinta’s people quickly released a statement attributing her survival to a personal magnetosphere, a force field fuelled by the body’s own electrical current that had redistributed the shock of impact and rendered the kinetic force of the bullet useless. It was classic Jacinta, and it made perfect sense … but it was already too late.
People saw what they wanted to see. Jacinta Crowne, the woman who had changed the world, had risen from the dead, and had even forgiven her killer. To many, she wasn’t merely the new Jesus Christ–she was better, born of mere man and woman and pulling herself hand over hand to the heavens, finding them empty, building her own palace of the mind there in our name. They called her The Truth and The Way.
They called her The Self-Made God.
And you can imagine how much she liked that.
For all her intelligence, Jacinta had somehow not anticipated this. Churches sprang up in her name, preachers praised her analytical Mind and almighty Reason, crowds gathered outside any place she was rumoured to be and came bearing gifts, pleas, love. Many of those who had wished her dead now recanted, hesitant to bring her supernatural wrath down upon their heads; of course the Godkiller was not as you and I, but a god Herself.
The irony was delicious, but Jacinta found herself unable to appreciate its taste. Our newfound deity fretted day and night, her incredible mind pushed to its limits by this ludicrous dilemma. What could she do now? How could she prove that she was still just a woman and not some immortal icon?
Jacinta being Jacinta, she found a way.
She simply appeared live on the world’s biggest simulcast, and admitted that every claim made by Maelina Dawn in her scandalous book was true.
Yes, that was why she had been nicknamed Fish Fingers; and that was so, and that, and that. She confessed to every dirty detail without a hint of a blush, and admitted that this incident had been her own personal Awakening. In essence, Jacinta came out of the closet before the entire world, and when she stepped down from the podium, she left a stunned hush behind.
People all over the globe were left to imagine their new god bombed out of her skull on Jägermeister, underage and indulging in acts that were still considered illegal in some countries, and they didn’t quite know how to take it. This confession made for awkward water-cooler conversations the world over, and even some of her most ardent followers seemed embarrassed. There were delirious gay street parties in every major city, while some quarters seethed with offended fury and rattled old sabres. In any case, the world was forced to see Jacinta Crowne in very human terms. Her ploy seemed to have worked.
But not for long.
The watershed moment was another live broadcast, this time a special panel show hurriedly set up to discuss her revelations. A number of academics and religious leaders heatedly debated the topic: some pledged to believe everything she said, and hence that she was no god; others argued that anyone who martyred themselves so publicly and thoroughly had to be divine; still others simply rejected the notion of a queer Queen of Queens out of hand, unable to reconcile this new bombshell with their dusty old standards. But one man swayed the world’s opinion when he stood and delivered a powerful fifteen-minute monologue, and in all humility, I must admit … that man was me.
I ran through the major religious texts, highlighting points where the old gods had, in truth, shown themselves to be rather lacking in godly graces. I listed incidents of murderous indulgence that would not have seemed out of place attributed to Idi Amin or Pol Pot, acts of celestial rape that should have earned them a few hundred years in solitary confinement, directives and orders that were just flat-out insane by any standard … and to all this, I compared Jacinta’s admissions of drunken teenaged prurience. So she was a lesbian–at least she wasn’t appearing to women as a swan or a bull and forcibly impregnating them, and if she ever manifested as a shower of gold, then that was her own business. Was she not in good company by virtue of being somewhat less than celibate? And were her own transgressions not far, far more benign? Was she indeed not the worthiest of all gods old and new, whether she believed it or not?
The world largely agreed. Jacinta’s opinion, though cherished on all other fronts, was to be ignored on this most important issue. The world needed a hero, a saviour, someone to love and blame and worship and disobey. Jacinta Crowne was Earth’s supreme being, and she should just shut up and accept it.
So what did she do?
She threw her hands up and said, have it your way, then.
Ever the genius, she realised when she was beaten and retreated into the heart of her empire. Knowing what kind of uproar would accompany any public sighting of her, she ruled out further appearances and cut off all lines of communication. Years passed, and were it not for the ubiquity of media featuring her beforehand, the younger generations might have wondered if she had ever existed at all.
Once again, the world had a god who answered no prayers, who would not deign to show themselves, and who was even rumoured by some to be dead; and once again, the world was happy.
For now we shiver, you and I, as we look to the skies and the strange, alien lights that have appeared in them. We see such things as we could never have imagined, and we shudder to think what they might mean to do to us. There is a fresh hell up there in heaven, and maybe it means to rain down fire upon our heads and crumble our cities to ash; or maybe it means to prove its own Godliness and absorb us all into its eternal sufferance; or maybe it means to rewrite everything we have ever known, to shatter our understanding of the universe, to reduce even our greatest living mind to the level of a backward child alone in the dark.
We don’t know. We cannot know. We can only do the one thing that gives us any hope in these strange and savage new times.
Tonight, my friends, let us fall to our knees and pray that Jacinta Crowne–Our Lord and Saviour, The Truth and The Way, Fish Fingers the Great–will return to us in our time of need.
Dr. Thomas Ain is an in-demand lecturer in post-modern theology, tenured at the University of South Australia. He won a Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy in 2019 for his book The Lonely Gods: Jacinta Crowne and the New Archetypes of Humanity. His third wife is experimental visual artist HERA; they have no children of their own, but sponsor orphans in need the world over. When he gets a spare moment, Thomas likes to play chess against an AI gifted to him by the university or jam along on his ’65 Strat to Pink Floyd records … badly.
Matthew R. Davis is an author and musician based in Adelaide, South Australia, with an ever-growing number of short story publications to his name. He’s an Aurealis Awards judge for 2016 and 2017 and his own work has been noted by the Australian Shadows Awards. When not writing, he can be found playing bass and singing in alternative metal bands like icecocoon and Blood Red Renaissance, and he’s also in a happy relationship with a red-headed photographer and her cat. Find out more at matthewrdavisfiction.wordpress
Errow is a comic artist and illustrator with a predilection towards mashing the surreal with the familiar. They pay their time to developing worlds not quite like our own with their fiancee and pushing the queer agenda. They probably left a candle burning somewhere. More of their work can be found at errowcollins.wix.com/
“The Girl Who Killed Gods” is © 2018 Matthew R. Davis
Art accompanying story is © 2018 Errow Collins