Breathing the sacred chants passed down through a thousand generations of ‘kanik priests, the acolytes roll hands wet with the sacred waters of the deep earth across the smooth skin of their god. Each step is measured, each word precise, each inch of cold, unyielding flesh warmed, joints massaged to taut flexibility. Above them, the avatar watches with half-lidded eyes, lets the rhythmic cycles of their words wash over and through him, prepares to become one with his sleeping god. Conductive paint itches, almost seems to stir on his skin in the flickering light. Three more cycles, and then the high priest will come and guide him in the Joining. Three more cycles, and he will cease to exist. Three more cycles, and he will fall upward into the body of his god, disappear into divine glory, and then there will be only Him, only the iron body, and the strength of the soul within it.

“It is time,” the high priest whispers into his ear.

“Awaken, god of the ancient ones.”

“God of the final war at the end of days.”

“God of the eternal aftermath in which we live each day.”

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