Who or what is Spacelord? Ultimately, Spacelord is beyond language. He is the mysterium tremendum, the Alpha and Omega, a universal force with a face.
But the important thing to remember is that Spacelord was, once upon a time, once before a time, a man. Not a human being like us, perhaps, but a sentient being, with barely understood needs and desires. Achieving godhood is no guarantee when it comes to the extinction of desire; ask the Hindus or Greeks about that. Desire instead undergoes a Great Inflation comparable to that of the universe itself in the first nanoseconds after the Big Bang. Which is just to say that at thirteen billion years old, Spacelord is still struggling with his desires, just like you and me. Sometimes his desires make him do stupid things. Just like you and me.
Some people think that because Spacelord gobbles worlds, he is evil. Not so. Spacelord is, as Nietzsche said, beyond good and evil. Moral considerations are for the mortal. Humor, however, is a divine quality present at every level of creation, from the gross to the transcendent. Spacelord has a great sense of humor. The multiverse glows radioactively with information—Spacelord processes it all, effortlessly. He loves Lolcats and the original BBC version of The Office.
Why did Spacelord return to Earth? He once swore a grateful oath that our planet was forever safe from his predations. But it gets lonely out there among the stars. Spacelord returned to Earth to win back the only man he had ever loved: his former herald, whom he had marooned on our world as punishment for insubordination.
For someone/thing that is more metaphysical concept than entity, Spacelord travels the old-fashioned way: by vehicle. His ship is a moon-sized, mirror-finished sphere that bristles with a thousand unnamed instruments and weapons. It is a physical object, but travels unconstrained by physics. Relativity is of no concern to Spacelord; relativity is relative to him. One moment he is in the vicinity of a certain star, and the next he is in a place so far away that the universe may end before the light of that star could find him. No big whoop to Spacelord. That’s how he rolls. His disco ball of a spaceship winks into existence between the Earth and its moon, and while the computerized defense networks of every nation have a collective grand mal seizure, Spacelord searches for Norrin.
Is Spacelord omniscient? Not exactly. Some things are hidden, even from him. And though he knows a lot, he’s forgotten a lot, too. He once spent the better part of a thousand years hunting fruitlessly for a particular world, positively succulent with life-energy, before he remembered he’d already eaten it. Hey, he’s thirteen billion years old. You try to keep it all straight.
Spacelord reaches out with his nearly-omniscient mind and determines that Norrin is in San Francisco. But Spacelord stops there. Norrin too has Cosmic Awareness; it was one of the gifts Spacelord bestowed upon him at his creation. Along with gorgeous liquid mercury skin and the ability to soar unfettered through the cosmos. You’d think the guy might show a little gratitude. Anyway. The point is, Norrin will sense it if Spacelord pulls too much information from the ether. He will consider it snooping. He’ll be a complete bitch about it, and things will start badly and get worse. But Spacelord has not crossed ten thousand parsecs to fail. He will not pry any further, not even to find out if Norrin is currently seeing anyone special.
He descends under the cover of a raging thunderstorm, the kind that city by the bay almost never sees: black clouds swirling like the sky is escaping through a drain, cobwebs of lightning arcing to earth. Though he exists in every layer of the multiverse at once, to the unaided eye he appears to be a forty-five foot tall man in blue-and-purple samurai armor, with a great antlered helmet on his head. This will not do, however. He intends to keep this visit low key. By the time his boots settle on macadam, Spacelord is a six foot tall man in samurai armor. Seven, counting his helmet. He hopes Norrin will interpret this as self-abasement, and that as a gesture, it will be satisfactory. Spacelord has never had to grovel. But he will tonight if he has to.
The rain continues to lash the streets. Spacelord allows himself to be soaked. This will, he hopes, make him slightly more sympathetic. He stands at the door of a shop, and after a moment’s deliberation, turns the knob and pushes his way inside.
It’s warm in here, and smells richly of leather. One whole wall is given over to the displays of dozens of pairs of boots, both practical and extravagant, and there are racks of jackets and pants and bondage gear. Atop the racks there are mannequins modeling harnesses and restraint equipment. These, Spacelord knows, have been designed and crafted by Norrin. The way this shop smells of treated animal skin, these goods radiate traces of his former herald. Norrin’s residual consciousness makes Spacelord tingle and ache.
There are things hidden from Spacelord, and one of them is the why he cannot put his desire for Norrin aside. Spacelord has experimented and determined that he can, by sheer force of will, arrange 81,027 atoms into a configuration that exactly matches that of his former herald, from the dendrites in his neurons to the cells of his stratum corneum. In every way, shape and form, he can create Norrin’s duplicate. But they are never him. Not even close.
The man behind the counter is older, as human beings go, with a bald head and a white moustache that a walrus might envy. As muscular as a comic book superhero, he is shirtless under his black leather vest. A chain choker, secured with a padlock, is tight around his massive neck. The man hears the bell above the entrance ring, puts down his newspaper, and doesn’t bat an eye at Spacelord’s armor. This is Folsom Street, San Francisco, after all.
“Help you, stud?” he says.
Spacelord clears his throat. “We are hoping to speak with Norrin.”
The man looks at Spacelord with new interest. He is the owner of this shop, and he is Norrin's lover, a position he has enjoyed for almost ten years. They were married two winters ago in a ceremony at City Hall. The shop keeper, whose name is Lyle, wore a white wedding dress. Norrin wore a leather tuxedo and jackboots.
"You a friend of his?" Lyle asks.
Spacelord does not vaporize him with a thought. He does not turn him into a cockroach, or teleport him to asphyxiate on the surface of Mars, or send him back in time to be torn apart by a pack of velociraptors. Which is not to say he wouldn't enjoy any of those options. He nods and says, "We are."
Lyle gets up and moves to the doorway behind the counter. He pulls back the black rubber curtain and calls, "Nor! You got company."
The machine chatter stops. Lyle steps back from the doorway. And then Norrin is there.
Some people say that because Spacelord is not human, he knows nothing of love. Human beings, especially intelligent ones, can be chauvinistic that way—as if human beings invented love. Spacelord has been in love with Norrin since before the Earth was formed. He fell in love with Norrin’s long shining limbs, the sublime geometry of his face, but most especially, his courage in the face of the vision of wrath and terror that is Spacelord as he prepares to feast; Norrin traded his life for the survival of his world. Spacelord made him his slave, but in doing so, he became Norrin’s slave, as well. He made Norrin into something beyond the reach of death, imbued him with powers I can’t describe to you, because they are exercised at levels of reality neither you nor I can perceive. But the one gift he didn’t have to give Norrin was numinous beauty. That, he only externalized.
Spacelord trembles at Norrin’s appearance in the doorway as whole worlds tremble at Spacelord’s approach. Norrin is wearing leather pants and a white undershirt. Around his throat: a choke chain and padlock. The reflections of the overhead track lights dance across his chromed skin.
Of course Norrin knew he was coming. He says, “What are you doing here, Galen?”
Only Norrin, of all the sentient beings in all the universe, is allowed to call him that. Galen was Spacelord’s name, when he was a man.
“We were hoping we could talk,” Spacelord says.
Norrin sighs. It’s for effect: Norrin doesn’t need to breathe. “Now is not a good time. I’m way behind on an order.”
“We have come very far to speak with you.” A puddle is spreading between Spacelord’s purple boots. “We are soaking wet.”
Norrin and Lyle exchange a look. “We were just about to close,” Lyle says. “So unless you wanted to purchase something…”
Spacelord apports bills from the cash register into his hand and buys a pair of leather pants without bothering to try them on for size. Then he leaves and rents a room in a SRO hotel down the street from the leather shop. Upstairs, with his neighbors hacking the last of their lives into crumpled tissues and fighting over who has the radio turned up too loud, he puts on the pants. They are a perfect fit. Spacelord materializes thick-soled combat boots, a white undershirt, a wallet on a chain, a little leather hat. And a mustache. His purple armor he leaves strewn across the floor.
Every day Spacelord visits the shop. But Norrin remains behind the black rubber curtain, and the machine chatters idiotically. After a week Lyle takes pity on him, and they begin to talk. Spacelord tries very hard not to read Lyle’s mind. He learned this was necessary one morning after Lyle and Norrin had shared a particularly ferocious bout of lovemaking. Usually, Lyle wasn’t especially curious about Norrin’s rather exotic origins, or his preternatural abilities. But the evening before Lyle had asked Norrin to instantiate himself twice over, so that their bed groaned under four bodies desperately coupling.
Something you need to know: Spacelord and Norrin, during the several hundred thousand years of their association, were not lovers. Not the way Norrin and Lyle are. Spacelord acknowledges that was entirely his fault. He was a little caught up in his god-complex, thought he was above such things. He couldn’t understand Norrin’s obsession with fucking. It seemed so…biological. But in the decades since he condemned Norrin to eternal exile on this planet located in the ass-end of nowhere—what it came down to, really, was that on Earth Norrin had found the pleasure palace of his dreams, and had sided with the natives when Spacelord had arrived to gobble the planet whole, and yes at the time Spacelord was furious, but in addition to lust, Spacelord had discovered forgiveness (funny the way one directly influenced the other)—anyway—Spacelord has come to share Norrin’s attitudes towards the subject of fucking. In a big way. Spacelord wants to drag Norrin into the heart of the Sun (only a G2 class star, but it’ll do) and get it on until the space/time fabric tears beneath them. Sex, he has come to understand, transcends the biological. Or at least it can. With Norrin, he’s sure it will.
What changed his mind? If you’ve ever lost someone you loved, you already know. Some things are hidden, even from Spacelord; one of those things was the true nature of his feelings for Norrin. Only when Norrin was gone did Spacelord recognize the void his herald had filled. Andus III, Bergeron X1, Leonides IIa—planet after planet, with all their cities, seas, flora, fauna, blogs, reality TV shows, celebutantes—all were converted into energy to feed Spacelord. But somehow, none of it satisfies anymore. If you’ve eaten too many meals alone, you know what I’m talking about.
Spacelord read Lyle’s mind by accident, and what he saw there made him wish he’d perished along with the rest of his universe, those long fifteen billion years ago. That day he didn’t spend the morning in the shop, hoping Norrin would come out from behind the curtain. He went home, put on this armor, and teleported back to his sphere, still in orbit around the moon. “Fuck this shit,” he kept saying to himself. It was an expression he’d overheard from a couple arguing next to the bondage harnesses. The next morning, though, he was back in the leather shop, in his jeans and chain wallet, talking to Lyle. Lyle talks to Spacelord because he is sure Spacelord is no threat to his happy home; the things Norrin says to Lyle about Spacelord are another reason Spacelord tries to avoid reading the shopkeeper’s mind. Which brings up another thing that Spacelord cannot comprehend. Why would Norrin prefer a dimensionally-delimited pressurized bag of fluids like Lyle to the immortal power and glory that is Spacelord? Why? Why? Why?
Weeks go by like this. Spacelord is aware that his leather pants are hanging on him. If he doesn’t feed soon, he will lack the energy to return to his ship. He will be stuck here, on Earth, for a working definition of forever. In six billion years, when the Sun goes nova and consumes the Earth completely, Spacelord will be left floating in space, a wraith waiting for the Big Crunch to compress all the matter in the universe to a single point so the whole cycle can begin again. But the thought of leaving without Norrin by his side is equally unbearable. Spacelord decides to play the only card he has left.
The next morning he does not visit the shop. He takes a seat in the window of Pizza Love, across the street. Spacelord sips Diet Coke and waits for the world to complete a half rotation on its axis. When the sky has gone dark and the halogen street lights coldly glow, Lyle and Norrin exit the shop. Norrin walks over to start the motorcycle they ride together, while Lyle bends to lock the deadbolt on the front door.
For Spacelord, will and action are synonymous. He is sitting quietly sipping his soda. Then he is standing beside Norrin. He says, “It is imperative we speak.”
Lyle clears his throat. “Maybe it’s time you had that talk, Nor. I’m going down to Brainwash for a cup of coffee. Be back in twenty minutes?”
Norrin stares after him accusingly. Then to Spacelord he says, “Say what you have to say.”
Spacelord does. He reminds Norrin of the boundlessness of the universe, of the wonders that await in the furthest removes of space. He abandons English and speaks in wavelengths, in atomic decay rates, in quasar pulses. He apologizes for being a megalomaniacal shithead. He swears he is committed to becoming the best trans-dimensional omnipotent entity he can be. But to reach that lofty goal, he needs Norrin, because Norrin makes him want to be better. Norrin is his pole star.
“I broke my board,” Norrin says.
“We will make you a new one,” Spacelord promises.
“I don’t want a new one,” Norrin assures him. “I’m done roaming space and time. Home for me is a two-bedroom apartment in Hayes Valley. Lyle is my home. And I’m not leaving. Ever.”
"I can destroy this place." Spacelord hears the desperation in his own voice, and hates himself for it. "You know that. You and your monkey and your terra cotta dinnerware will be so much excretory effluvia trailing in my wake."
Norrin smirks. "That's the only way I'm getting anywhere near your ass, you bullying fuck."
Spacelord loses it. He is forty-five feet tall, in his blue-and-purple samurai armor. The sky has turned black and lightning forks to strike the antlers of his forehead. The hills tremble. The blacktop cracks. The Bay Bridge sways. People are running and screaming in the street.
“RETURN, HERALD!” he thunders. “WE ARE SPACELORD! AND WE COMMAND YOU TO LOVE US!”
“You’re making a scene, Galen.” Norrin sits back against the chopper’s sissy seat, his arms folded across his chest. “I’m sorry you’re hurting. But the answer will always be no.”
One hundred thirty thousand miles above them, Spacelord’s spherical ship deploys the Elemental Converter. In a matter of minutes, the Earth could be returned to a state of embryonic malleability, its oceans boiled away, its mantle running like syrup. Spacelord would sink slowly towards the planetary core, and linger there for the next several days, absorbing everything that made this world such a shining jewel, such a unique treasure in a universe overflowing with riches. Spacelord will be nourished by the sentience of its every creature, from the one-celled eukaryotes to the astral beings only a few orders of evolutionary development below his own, the ones whose existence human beings could never quite credence. Doing this would not be wrong; in fact, it would be in agreement with the universal order. For inscrutable reasons, this is what Spacelord was created for.
But he doesn’t do it. The Elemental Converter returns to its cradle, and Spacelord returns to his room in the SRO across the street. He takes off his armor and sits at the end of the single bed. He won’t destroy the Earth, because destroying the Earth would mean putting an end to Norrin’s happiness. Spacelord bitterly wishes he didn’t care.
That night he takes a walk. There is still time. Not much, but for a little while, he still has the strength to return to his ship. There is another life-sustaining world, not too distant. No sentient life there, unfortunately, nothing with hopes, hurts and dreams, so it will not be enough to return him to full strength, but it will keep him going until he can find someplace more suitable. Perhaps on that next planet he might find another herald. A little company for the endless night between stars. That’s later, though. Tonight he walks a few blocks down Folsom Street, until he comes to a bar called The Stud. Outside, a little claque of beefy men in strap-shoulder t-shirts stands smoking; they look him over appraisingly. One nods.
Spacelord goes inside. It is dark and the music is loud. Spacelord knows this song: “Ring My Bells”, by Anita Ward. The dance floor is crowded with shirtless men. Spacelord orders a beer, leaves the change from his ten on the bar, strips off his t-shirt, and joins the melee. The beer is cold. Hands grope him. It’s bliss. If you are ever heart-broken and want to forget everything, there are worse places to go than The Stud on a Friday night. Just so you know.
Hours later Spacelord leaves. Or rather, he is pulled from The Stud by a man named Tom. Tom has a shaved head, a Van Dyke beard, and rings through his nipples. Spacelord takes Tom to his SRO room. The man behind the bulletproof glass at the registration desk nods at Tom as if they are old friends.
High above, between the Earth and the Moon, Spacelord’s ship is keening. His energy levels are critically low. It’s time for him to return. Spacelord ignores its entreaties. Is it the beer that’s gone to his head? Or just the prospect of sex? Like I said before: sometimes desire makes us do stupid things. All of us. Even demi-gods.
Tom loves Spacelord’s armor. He insists on trying it on. He won’t take it off. He kisses Spacelord roughly. Then he turns Spacelord around, forcing him forward until he is braced against the bed’s iron frame.
Tom spits into his palm and says, “I don’t have any condoms. Do you care?”
“No,” Spacelord says.
So this is sex. It’s not quite the weightless, spiraling, gamma-ray explosion Spacelord had envisioned. There’s a lot more grunting than he expected. And it hurts. But that’s not a bad thing.
“What’s my name?” Tom says. “Say my name, bitch!”
“Tom,” Spacelord says.
“Bitch, look at me! Do I look like a Tom?” Spacelord turns to see a vision of wrath and terror whose antlers are scraping black paint chips from the low ceiling. He sees what, for the denizens of uncounted millions of worlds, was the last fact of existence. “Now say my name!”
“Spacelord,” Spacelord mutters.
“Ah! Spacelord! Spacelord!”
Tom spends himself. He slumps over Spacelord’s back. His skin is slick and hot. His arm circles Spacelord’s waist. Spacelord breathes hard, although he doesn’t need to.
After a while Tom gets off him. Tom says, “Got any smokes?”
“No,” Spacelord says.
“Well, fuck me," Tom says. "I’m going to go buy some smokes. But don’t you fucking move. I better find you in exactly the same position when I get back, or you’re gonna pay. You understand me?”
Spacelord’s thighs are burning. His back aches. Sweat beads at the end of his nose, then drips to stain the bare mattress below.
“I’m not going anywhere.”