~ a short story 

When she awoke to greet her day, she did not rise. She stayed in bed, under the covers, head still resting on her pillow, with her smallest but most imperative screen instantly in her delicate hands, waving touches upon it to lands and spaces known and unknown.

Entheos lay there for more than an hour at a time, letting herself become steeped once more in her daily ritual. Alighting herself to the world through the phone-that-wasn’t-really-a-phone in her hands, she prepped herself to grace its bounds again. As the star. As the locus of all its content.

She scowled as she scrolled.

Imagine a world where everyone knows you… And you still find the time to bitch about your engagements and your “reach”, your “likeability”, your influence… Ha! Give me a break!!

“Kunikos is setting fire to my comment section again,” Entheos mumbled with gritted teeth. “That bastard…”

Moments later, Entheos’ face brightened as she took in the sight of another longread from Conscientia, on the nature of ‘balance.’ She skimmed it, rating it lesser than her previous brilliant deep dive on the force of ‘tolerance as not nearly enough.’ Entheos could respect her art, however, even when she disagreed, or found the final conclusions wanting. Unlike that troll, Kuni…

Entheos rose from beneath the mounds of her covers, spotting a new Methodikos video essay on the phenomena of Tower-Gazing pop into her feed as well. For now, she ignored it.

Never watch the competition before lunch.

Entheos thought this even as lunchtime dawned upon her right as she set her feet down onto the stone beside her bed for the first time that day.

She strode to her computer with a song in her head.

How might I use that later?

She opened up her laptop and faced the screen. Promptly, it glowed that powerful magenta glow, awakening to life with her careful touch. Outside the seams of the thin window encircling her modest bedroom, Entheos let that mass, peripheral glow light up her sky. It never got old. She delighted at the awakening of the world alongside her. Her world. One eye opened all the others.

Warmed at the prospect of another day starting, she rushed over to her kitchen as her computer buzzed out of its slumber and began to crunch away at the latest day’s metrics and engagement prospects and online demand fluxes. While the machine dutifully heeded her will, priming the stage for her own form to grace its frame and beam out the specter of her presence to her millions and millions of fans…

Entheos considered them. All of them. The whole world’s eyes upon her… What do they want? Why do they keep coming back? How can I improve my — 

“No!” she shrieked suddenly, her insta-coffee in hand. “Spontaneity is your greatest virtue!!”

Stop thinking!

Entheos breathed a sigh.

Just act.

She walked to her window, where the world outside opened up to her.

“To think, in the blink of a single eye, so many others may open…”

There, from the height of her tower, she looked out into the brightening grey. She looked out upon the stony amphitheater where her refugees lay, looking up to her both metaphorically and physically. This was her world. These were her subjects.

Entheos’ nails carved into the stone sill as she balled up her fists. An eerie gale cast itself through her room, from the open air. There was no glass here. They could all see her as she stood there, already dressed in her chosen attire for every stream. She slept in it the night before. Every night. She was so far from a morning person; better to prep in the final deliriums of her day’s close.

“I am not worthy of your eyes,” she whispered down to them. A million million little lights flashed and glared. These were their screens, paired so perfectly to her own. For every person, a machine; for every machine, a user. For every user, a queen, a king. A star.

“What do I have to offer you but my words? My body. My face. Imagery. An icon that is so far from real…”

Blackened storm clouds gathered on the horizon. The eastern winds brought them closer to her tower, the last of its kind along this stretch of desiccated scape.

“My mind, with all of its silly fixations and fanatical stances,” she continued. “My heart, with all of its ships and stans and unrelenting zealotries and manias… What delusions of grandeur I have to think any of it to be worth anything at all! Least of all your attention…”

The sound of rain edged in from the distance. Green and violent, it fell upon the stones in sizzling arrays, weathering them into fresh hovels for the Dregs to crawl into.

“Is that enough for you?” Entheos whispered down to them, her eyes downcast, her gut clenched in the pain of one in the thralls of a strange remorse.

The tears from her eyes reflected the ferocity of the oncoming storm. But the audience of lights below only glared brighter, stronger.

Entheos raised her brow to them, her people.

Why am I ascended? she asked no one in particular. Why am I in the tower, and you are down there? … Is it because…

Alongside the crashing waves of distant but drawing rainfall, came the faint ripple of that most precious fanfare. Their screams were drowned intermittently by the strikes of lightning beckoning from the formation. Like every other storm, it spawned from the darkzone, and its harsh falls would be borne out while watching Entheos’ latest play.

Am I enough? she wondered once more, not for the first time and not for the last.

Below her tower, starting at the direct seat of it where the Uppers reclined and then flowing backward among the natural amphitheater of the scape, from the Mids all the way back to the Dregs, came the sounds of simping cheers. From out of the recesses of the deepest archtrenches that stratified their miserable communities of squalor, the cheers boomed and echoed like the voices of the Gods.

To be one…

Entheos shut her eyes to the miserable sight of them. The cheers ended, not from lack of enthusiasm, but from a shortage on stamina.

She sauntered over to her desk and her computer and her chair. The chat was already raining with emotes of loud and violent love. She turned away from her screen and to the distant speck of azure to her west, already mired in the storm’s clash, and then to the even further glint of crimson to her south, trapped amidst the eversmogs. Kuni. Methodi. In their own towers, their days already well underway, their content flowing.

At long last, Entheos sat upon her throne and faced her audience. She’d forgotten everything that came before this life, everything that she was or may have been in her life from before. Now there was only the routine. The work. The stream. Their eyes.

She took a deep and expectant breath,

“Hi everyone, I am Entheos. And welcome… to my Harem!”

As she spoke them, Entheos typed the words out onto her program, activating her theme song to source at maximum volume.

Below, with the sounds of a droning, exuberant indulgence, the dying people sang along. ~