"I was there at the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind..."
--Babylon 5, "The Gathering"
When you are done perceiving my words, you may perhaps judge me. It may be that you judge my actions, and possibly by extension me, as evil. Horrific. Monstrous. Abhorrent. What you glean may fill you with such revulsion that you may wish that you never had.
Or it may be that the standards of morality in your world vary so greatly from those in mine that I am a heroic paragon of virtue to you. I do not know.
But my tale, I feel, is one that must be told. I do this not to justify what I have done, or even to explain, but simply to impart. What you take from it is entirely a product of who you are.
For an event that changed the very nature of reality itself, my apotheosis was not in any way remarkable. There was no long, slow, drawn-out process of ascension. There were no arcane rituals, no complex machines, no mysterious gems, not even a glowing rock. I had gone to sleep one night, halfway through the second term of my sophomore year at university, an ordinary human. Perhaps like you, if there are humans in your reality. When I woke up, I simply knew what had become true while I slept. For some reason, a reason I never discerned, never discovered, I had become, for lack of a better word, God.
You may wonder at this point about the extent of my power, and I can assure you that it was absolute--to a point. Nothing was beyond my alteration, bar a few matters concerning my own existence. My knowledge was similarly boundless, barring again a few matters concerning myself and my power. But I was not especially concerned with how I came to be who I was, and so I was never disturbed by these meagre limits.
And so knowing my power, and its extent, and the extent to which I knew this, it is natural that you would wish to know how quickly my slide into depravity began. And I would like to say that it did not begin immediately--by the standards that my world had held.
It began, rather, with small things. Little things. I did not wish to reveal myself immediately, but thankfully I had a single suite in my dormitory and so could easily hide any evidence of my supernatural abilities.
You would think what I did innocuous, perhaps. No longer did I have to put my clothes on by hand; I could simply use my telekinesis to do that, or teleport them onto me, or even, sometimes, make my clothes stand as if already filled by my body, then teleport myself inside them. I could make my bed with a thought. I didn't have to worry about cold showers, as not only did I no longer need sleep (though I still found it pleasant), but I could simply order that whenever I went to have a shower, there was always sufficient hot water.
But then one day I awoke to find that I had forgotten to do laundry and had no clean shirts to wear. I pondered my options. I could have, for instance, manipulated time so that I could clean my clothes in the space of what time I had before my first class, but I decided that would require too many other changes in order to keep my powers hidden. The same was true, I concluded, of going back in time to wash my clothes then. Only one solution presented itself to me.
With a thought, I simply made my clothes clean.
Now, you may well wonder how this was a step on my road to perdition. It certainly didn't feel so at the time.
As for my classes, they had become, now that all the knowledge of the universe was at my fingertips, boring. But the same impulse that drove me to hide my powers also drove me not to overperform suddenly. I had no qualms about having my grades improve. After all, academic assignments and tests are intended to measure the understanding of the material, and since my understanding had become perfect, there was no reason why I should not get a perfect grade. But at the same time I did not want the attention of having gone from a middle-of-the-road student to one who aced everything set before her, and so I took a more gradual approach. Even once I had started allowing myself to receive perfect grades I carefully ensured that I made the occasional mistake.
The next step I took down the path, then, took place a few weeks later. I was mentally scanning through my bras on a mid-spring Saturday, having decided that I'd like to wear a purple one that day, only to realize that I didn't own a purple bra. Were I powerless, of course, I would have had to go to a store, get measured, try on various styles, and purchase one or two which felt the least uncomfortable. But I wasn't powerless. So instead I simply thought, ordered the universe to bend to my will, and it did. A perfectly-fitted, incredibly comfortable purple bra appeared on my chest instantly. I teleported my other clothes onto my body and headed off to take a final.
Again, it seems innocuous.
There were other things. A tear in my favourite pants, fixed with a thought. A hole in my shoe sole, mended in an instant. Even oversleeping, remedied by manipulating time.
And slowly, slowly, I came to the conclusion that the normal order of things, the expectations of society, the understanding of how things were done, simply did not apply to me.
It may have seemed small, but I concluded that I no longer needed to make use of society's resources, the usual system of exchanging currency for goods and services. If there was something I wanted, I did not have to expend effort to be able to have it--I simply could.
And so eventually, one day, I thought to myself, if I can simply have what I want in respect of things that otherwise would have to be purchased, why can I not have what I want in other respects? Nobody, for instance, could purchase a more attractive body, at least not one that did not involve significant plastic surgery or other such artificial manipulations. But I could simply have one.
And so while, as with much else, I proceeded slowly, cautiously, I nonetheless used my abilities to reshape my form into a more sexually alluring one. Longer hair here, resculpted face there. Plumper ass here, larger breasts there. Trimmer tummy here, defined muscles there.
By midway through the first term of my junior year, I was easily the hottest woman on campus. I turned heads wherever I went, and I loved it. And I had done it slowly enough that nobody suspected a thing.
This was possibly the largest step I had taken so far down the path to becoming what I eventually was. It was no mere guess that people thought me the most attractive person at my university.
I had concluded that, being all-knowing, there was nothing wrong with simply knowing anything I wished to know. Anything at all.
And so privacy had become, for me, an obsolete concept. If I wished to know what someone was doing, I simply knew. If I wished to know what they were thinking, I simply knew.
You may see, now, how my justifications, my rationalizations, led me down this road. Society's norms were not sacrosanct. The privacy of others was not sacrosanct. And so, ultimately, why should anything be? Why should I feel limited by any external notion of what I should do, when it was within my power to do as I pleased, with no consequences to myself other than those I might impose?
And since I did not wish to suffer any consequences of using my abilities, I did not.
It started with things I could justify as being "good". A student struggling in his classes found himself understanding the material a little better. A woman self-conscious about her appearance became a little prettier. A guy too shy to ask out his dream girl found the courage to do it (and, I should add, with no further intervention on my part, they remained happily married for seventy years until he died peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by his family). A girl stressing over a job interview for which she was, I knew, easily the best candidate plucked up and aced it.
And so it became firmly implanted in my mind that other people were mine to manipulate. Toward what I thought were "good" ends, of course.
But that mixed with what else I had concluded, that I was above society's standards and norms.
And I realized that what was "good" and "bad" were not for anyone to dictate to me.
This, I imagine you may think, was truly the largest step I had yet taken. Having freed myself from externally determined constraints of morality, I could do as I pleased, with none but myself to judge my actions.
And once I had done that, of course, and with so much experience at rationalizing what I had done already, it did not take me very long to decide that all my actions were, in my view, which was all that mattered to me, "good".
Thus concepts such as "human rights" and "free will" and "self-determination" and such became foreign to me. I used others for my purposes, my pleasure, as I saw fit, without care for how it impacted their lives. If I wanted something someone had, I took it. If I wished sex, I simply took someone and had sex with them, no matter what they wanted. If I decided to try out a new method of killing someone, I murdered them. Nothing mattered to me except my desires, my pleasures, my will.
Eventually, of course, my actions became known. But by that point I was beyond caring. There was no challenge that I could not best, no foe I could not simply defeat with a thought. My rise to power, apparent power now, rather than the real power I had always possessed, was swift and unstoppable, and my hold on it unbreakable.
There were, of course, other sentient species in my universe. They too fell before me as easily as humanity had. All of reality had become nothing more than my plaything, and I did not care who suffered the consequences as I toyed with time, tinkered with universal laws, and reordered space to suit my fleeing whims.
But in time I wearied. It was not that I had run out of things to do, but rather that I had run out of other beings who could be shocked by my actions. That was the real thrill for me, I'd learned: not doing a thing, but seeing the reactions of others, others who felt bound by moral commands and covenants which they could not enforce against me, when I violated those same commands and covenants so flagrantly. But in time all had become inured to what I was doing. Morality as a whole had reoriented itself around me, with my judgments being its sole source. Everyone had come to accept what I had long ago accepted: that my actions were "good", regardless of how those actions would be perceived when done by another.
And thus I allowed my universe to end, life having lost its lustre. But I knew my power would survive me, and so I resolved to impart what I knew, what I had done, so that its next possessor might have what guidance I could offer.
If you have perceived these words, you are that successor.
I know you may think it cliché, but I do not pass on my power as it was given to me. Take the orb. Let the power I once held fill you.
I do not know if my words will be of any use to you in guiding how you wield it. Perhaps you will do differently than I; perhaps you will do likewise.
But whatever you do with your power, whether you use it wantonly or not at all, I hope you will find full enjoyment of it.
When Alyssa Naomi Bergman awoke after having touched the red orb in the cavern, she smiled.