Blood from a Stone, Prologue

The mob screamed with bloodlust as they tore their god apart. Tennan let it happen, his face tranquil in the vidfeeds as they stormed the platform in Freedom Square from which he spoke so openly of their sins. A sad smile played about his lips as they reached for him, and he spared a glance for the recording lenses that said Now do you see who you truly are? The masses who had accepted his rule and cheered for his miracles for more than a century now frothed and raged as he condemned them unfairly.

His peaceful mien survived the pushing and shaking, the blows to the face and the tearing away of his worker’s suit. But when two burly men latched onto his arms and began pulling in opposite directions, a flicker of unease passed across his shining countenance. When others got into the act, taking hold near the men’s hands or, as the press of the crowd increased, simply pulling on the shoulders and waists of those who had managed to get a handful of him, confusion and anger began to appear in alternating waves. His emotions can be seen clearly in the feeds that survive from that time. When his left arm tore free at the elbow, an exclamation of pain thundered from him. “No!” he cried. It’s unmistakable, even recorded as it is on the crude vidcaptors of three hundred and fifty years ago. The sound was unnaturally loud, and everyone heard it. “No!” he said, and the crowd fell silent, awed by the evidence of their god’s frailty.

Then the man who held Tennan’s detached hand and forearm (the infamous Marlonus Linnhow, a children’s teacher at a nearby crèche), grimly wiped the spray of blood from his face and wielded the god’s limb like a club, slapping him in the face with his own hand. Tennan stared at the man in shock, and fear appeared on his face for the first time.

Frenzied by the gruesome sight, the crowds surged forward again, grabbing hold of whatever scrap of Tennan they could. Within minutes he had been torn into ten pieces, and the boldest among the mob took turns parading parts of his body around the square to the cheers of their compatriots. One fellow named Daw Blakeley even bit a piece of flesh free and pretended to eat it, though he was soon seen to spit it out again. He was murdered by his neighbors less than three weeks later; his body was fed to a herd of pigs.

God was dead, and the revelry didn’t survive him by more than ninety minutes. A few members of the mob sought to extend their spree by breaking into the shops near Freedom Square, but the local constables who had stood idly by during Tennan’s murder and the abuse of his corpse now stepped forth with vigor, employing clubs and sleeping gas to keep the riot from harming the business interests of the normal, natural folk of Good Harbor. In short order, the masses dispersed, and soon the only ones left were the true followers of Tennan. In sorrow and silence they gathered the discarded bits of his body and brought them back to the cement platform where he had stood. When it was discovered that his head was missing, and that the alderman of Good Harbor had kept it as a memento, Elezear Phister, the one known as Tennan’s prophet, stood at the man’s door without moving, speaking, or sleeping for two days. Finally, shamed and scared of retribution, the alderman delivered the god’s head to him.

He brought it back to Freedom Square and placed it in the cairn of stones that the other devout had erected on the platform. There they stayed for seven more days, praying, singing, and weeping. Tennan had told them this would happen, they said to each other. He knew it all before it happened. On the ninth day, Elezear Phister declared that they would build a temple around Tennan’s cairn, and that his words would sweep once more through the world like a storm of goodness, until one day he would return to them.

Each day more people came to the square to worship at the shrine of the god they had killed. News services took note, sending vidcaptor crews to interview Elezear and other important disciples. Politicians came from all over the continent, standing next to Tennan’s cairn to proclaim their allegiance to the simplistic ideals of peace and progress that he had preached. The canny ones promised to raise funds for his temple and shelter his followers. It was the beginning of a new moment in human history in the world, and the wise and influential everywhere spoke of a sea change in humanity. We were on the cusp of a new era, they said, one of unimaginable peace, goodness, and prosperity that would surpass even the halcyon years of Belastes.

And then, on day forty-one, precisely one thousand hours after Tennan’s death, there was a shifting in the cairn. Everyone noticed immediately. The cornerstone for the temple had already been laid, and Elezear Phister was in the middle of a sermon before the platform, which not even he was allowed to touch now. The clatter of rocks stilled his speech, and ever the faithful servant, he immediately discarded the worship service. He turned and knelt, eyes toward the tomb, ready to receive whatever revelation Tennan wished to give. A hush came over the crowd of five thousand, and no fewer than ten vidcaptors trained their lenses on the cairn.

Tennan himself arose from the cairn, naked, whole, unblemished, and alive. He glowed with an inner light, and he rose effortlessly into the air, gazing serenely over the assembly of his believers. He opened his mouth, and every ear strained to hear. Across the continent, millions craned toward their vidwalls as the breaking news of Tennan’s resurrection interrupted their breakfast.

“I don’t know what I ever saw in you people,” the god said. “I taught you truth, I healed your sick, I never once said an unkind word. Literally every moment I had among you I devoted to your care and well-being – and in return, you tore me apart.” He shook his head, a perfect vision of confused sorrow. “You don’t deserve a god.”

Then he pointed to Elezear and held out his hand. With tears streaming down his face, the prophet reached into his pocket and brought something forth. It was torn from his hand by an unseen force and Tennan snatched the thing from the air. Endless speculation centered on this mysterious object in the years following these events. The quality of the vidcaptors of the age was low enough that it cannot be determined exactly what the item was. It was small enough to fit in the palm of the hand without being seen, and it moved too quickly through the air for the old feeds to be able to parse it. Some have suggested it was a stone, or perhaps a ring. The prevailing theory – in that time long past when people still cared to theorize about Tennan – is that the object was some token of Elezear’s priesthood. Whatever it was, Tennan took it back, and Elezear crumpled to the ground.

With this small task done, Tennan looked over the crowd, a small frown creasing his face. “You’re all bullshit,” he pronounced, “and I’m done with you. Take care of yourselves, if you can.” And then he was gone, ascended into the sky.

That was the end of Tennanism. Most adherents got up and left right then. The dissatisfactions with his reign that had led to his death were now amplified a hundredfold by a near-universal sense of betrayal. A handful of diehards held onto the faith publicly during the immediate backlash, and in a few cases they did indeed die hard as irate friends and neighbors overreacted to their continued defense of Tennan. Elezear Phister never moved from where he fell that day. He stayed in the same spot, refusing food and water for more than a week before he died. He was buried in a grave for the homeless and destitute. Doubtless there were a few who continued to believe and worship in the privacy of their own homes, but even that died out within a generation. For the vast majority, the prevailing sentiment after Tennan’s disappearance could be summed up as, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

Indeed, from our perspective, looking at these events from a distance of three hundred and fifty years, it is apparent that this singular moment was the end not only of Tennanism, but of religion in general. There has not been a significant deist movement in more than two centuries, and the ascendance of the natural sciences has entirely displaced more mystical belief systems. After all, with clear, abundant evidence of a god having been in our midst, and with copious documentation of his failure to a) maintain control over humanity and b) provide clear explanations of humanity’s origins and destiny, there seems to be no benefit in having any truck with the supernatural. We discover more about ourselves with every passing day due to our own efforts.

Regarding Tennan, who quite likely still exists somewhere out in the ether, we recognize him as an important stepping stone in our evolution. Had he not abandoned us, we might have never learned to think for ourselves. And so to Tennan we say: thank you, and never come back. We’ll make our own miracles from here on out.


– Gemma Graçeda, Savant of the Repository

excerpt from her influential essay series All of Us