The God Squad: Inside the Secret Society of Salt Lake City

It was some real fucked up shit; me screaming in Sumerian while flying through the air, wielding my laptop like a club; me, the last thing standing between a 4000 year-old god and the entire population of Salt Lake City; me, a wicked-cool Vice reporter whose closest thing to demon-slaying experience was dropping a mescaline/MCAT hybrid in the backstreets of Harajuku.

Let’s back it the fuck up, man. I was on the Sundance beat; watching cool movies from Africa and shit, smoking weasel dust with bicycle mormons – pretty pedestrian stuff. I’d just gotten out of this very bae French movie about incest when I ran into this San Francisco hipster type; old guy, technicolour robe, tattoos in cuneiform on his forearms, which of course I immediately recognised.  

“Yo man,” I said, “you holding?”

He bowed. “I hold the secret to ultimate pleasure.”

“Oh cool, disco biscuits?” You’re never too cool to get high with a fun old dude – this is a life lesson I’ve learnt and now I tell to you, my reader. Old dudes basically invented getting high, and you should treat them with respect.

So this old dude, he just walked off, and I followed him – he seemed to be on some powerful shit, you know? So I followed him, then he goes into a vine-trellised alleyway and just walks clean through a fucking concrete wall with a blop. That was kinda the noise he made – organic, liquid; one second he was there, then he wasn’t. Blop. So I followed, because whatever shit I was on was pretty amazing and I wanted to keep the good times going.

I walked through the wall with a blop – there was a holy moment of trickling cold, like praying beneath a spring of young meltwater. Then I was through, standing in a stone alcove, looking down on a circle of cool old dudes in tie-dye robes. In the middle of their circle was a burning altar made from film cameras, wine bottles, and carnival masks.

“MARDUK, MARDUK SUM EH-AH AKITU,” they sang as they danced in a circle. Marduk of course, is the ancient Sumerian god of the festival: sometimes called the Dancer on the Sun. In the earliest days of human civilization, upon the banks of the Euphrates, people would pray to Marduk by putting on plays, and celebrating by telling stories in the firelight. Marduk: the Saint of Sundance. It all made so much sense: all the fucking movies made him powerful – all those stories flying around in the open air. The sunbaked Utah flatlands probably reminded him of home.

I tasted iron, and spices. The air crackled with something like electricity, but more vital – more alive. From the bonfire rose a dark figure wearing a crown of peacock feathers. The old dudes gasped, and screamed. This didn’t seem to be the dude they were expecting. It had too many teeth, and its eyes were empty. Its clothes were beautiful, but ill-fitting.

Shit went wild. Old dudes starting popping like water balloons filled with guts.

“TIAMAT,” cried the leader of the old dudes. He leapt forward with a gold-tipped spear. Tiamat shrugged, and snapped her fingers – with a cricky-cricka-crack of snapping vertebrae, the old dude-leader’s head spun all the way around.

In less than ten seconds, every old dude was dead: their funky tie-dye ensembles stained with the many colours of the human body – reds, pinks, greys and browns. I was alone in the room with Tiamat. Her eyes glowed red. She turned to me and said “you are not worthy of death” “you are totally awesome and up with the times, and we’re gonna have a final showdown later.”

Then she vanished into a cloud of perfumed mist that stank of oranges and decay. I was about to leave, when something grabbed my ankle – it was the old dude from outside. His pale eyes rolled in little oceans of blood. One of his legs was twisted entirely the wrong way, and the other was missing. “Tiamat ha-he mus,” he said, “Tiamat utika, ha-he mus. These words will weaken her, so you can –  can –”

Then he died. It sucked. Pour one out for my cool old dude. For a moment there, I was done – this was like the third craziest shit I’d ever seen. I took out my laptop, and found it was ruined – the screen showed  jumble of coloured blocks, like somebody had covered the damn thing in magnets. I sat beside the old dude’s corpse, and I cried because I’m sensitive. My whole article was gone, and also a lot of people were dead. I know you’re not supposed to get sad when people die, because you’re cool and cynical and whatnot, but it’s easier said than done. Your humanity is always there, lurking below the surface, threatening to pierce the veil of irony.

It’s pretty fucking upsetting, honestly.  

I got up, then went back through the wall of blop, and arrived to a scene of carnage. A great storm wracked the sky, and ancient two-headed dragons swooped down to snap up passing tourists and critics. Out of the alleyway and into the street, Tiamat stood with her arms open wide.

“FEAST,” she cried, “FEAST, MY MINIONS. PROFANE THE FESTIVAL OF THE SUN DANCER.”

She was taller now, and glowing a faint blue. As I watched, a bolt of lightning came down and earthed itself in her chest. She smiled, and grew taller.

“Tiamat ha-he mus!” I said, “Tiamat utika, ha-he mus!”

She glared at me. She stuck out her hand, and I staggered back as a blast of wind nearly knocked me off my feet. “Tiamat ha-ha mush!” I said. No wait, fuck. Tiamat he, uh –  

Fuck it.

I held my broken laptop high, and screamed “I WORK FOR VIIIIIIIICE” as I charged. The storm raged around me, but it meant nothing – I was protected by the old dude’s magics. The sound of cheap plastic casing colliding with a god’s skull is hard to describe – like a tearing in the fabric of the real; like the best idea you’ve ever had and will never remember; like lightning that knows how little time it has left to live. Tiamat reeled back and shrieked. I hit her again, and the dragons fell from the sky. I hit her one last time, and the storm broke. There was nobody there.

I stood, surrounded by the corpses of unhip old theatre critics, and I was the coolest man on earth.

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