Racing to the Bottom, by Colin Iago McCarthy

A city rises from the touchscreen of a tablet

Written by Colin Iago McCarthy
Photo: ©

“I don’t know where They came from!” Marco’s face was turning maroon, and Sylvia thought he might actually have a heart attack.

“Marco, do please calm down. Their arrival was expected. And no one knows where They came from.” Sylvia’s soothing tone did its trick. Marco sat back down in the chair.

The boardroom was lavishly appointed. The full grain leather chairs surrounded a wood table, which Sylvia felt must be well over a hundred years old, if the wood was pre-Covenant tree – which it appeared to be. Cut glass decanters sat in the bar to one side. It was to these that Dr. Fitz walked and poured a drink for Marco Worth.

The TeleProphet never drank before meetings, but today he poured the drink down his throat as if to quench the very fires he had been warning viewers of for years.

“And They want to speak with me? Why me?”

When Marco spoke in this tone Sylvia wondered how he’d made it so far in the world. And then she remembered that he came from a different warren, and no doubt his congregants heard the plaintive mewlings as supplication to ‘The Greater Will.’

Sociterpreter for the Eye of God had never been a calling for Sylvia. She’d more or less fallen into it. Watching trends and media had been a longtime hobby for her. And when she started tweeting about a “Voice from Outside” The Covenant seemed to take notice. They asked who was the next Eye of God. Sylvia had known of Marco Worth for some time, and he was the only one she could think of that could possibly be seeing visions from the Outside. If it weren’t for Marco thousands of people would be dead. Sylvia had heard him interpret the vision that had saved Ogden from the fire. And that was before he was The Eye. So when The Covenant came to her and asked who The God was revealing his actions through, Sylvia could think of no other. And then when They asked her to hand hold him through the process of conversion into The Eye, she could think of no greater desire. Who could have foreseen that accepting the job of interpreting for the congregants what The Eye of God had seen would lead to today? Here. In a boardroom – with pre-Covenant wood – just next to the room that God had finally seen fit to fill.

The Mouth of God had spoken it. The Eye of God had seen it. And The Ear of God had heard the cry of the supplicants. And now God was in the next room. And God was “Them” not “Him.” And clearly this had quite an impact on Marco’s faith.


In the room next door, 13 individuals sat in the comfiest chairs any of Them had ever sat in. A humming tune was being passed between Them, and among Them. Often just one of Them was humming at a time. But when the melody needed counterpoint, or harmony, those notes would rise from the others as needed.

Eventually the song wound to an end. The guard stationed in the room was overcome. His mind had drifted to a dream he had had the night before of trees. Trees had always scared PFC Rodgers. Especially wild trees. PFC Rodgers had heard that there were wild trees in the world. He very much hoped he would never encounter them. PFC Rodgers, Hank, didn’t understand why The Covenant hadn’t drawn all the trees under its sway. And like any young man Hank felt he understood more than he did. But he had never been out from under The Covenant, so he really didn’t understand anything that They didn’t want him to. And because of his shelter Hank was easily disturbed by his dreams.

That this dream from last night had come so easily to mind during the music these strangers hummed frightened Hank. But when the music ended his musing did not. And he was startled when one of Them touched his shoulder.

“You have strange ideas of trees. I’ve never seen a tree chase someone before. Do you think they can?” They asked.

“Of course they can,” Hank responded. “Why else did The Covenant have to save us from them?”

“I’ve never had to be saved from a tree. What were you doing that you needed saving?”

“Nothing. It’s what trees do. What are the trees like where you come from? No, never mind. I’m not supposed to talk with you. You’re God.”

Just then the door to The Eye of God opened and in walked Sylvia, Dr. Fitz, and finally Marco Worth, The Eye of God.

God turned to look at him. In his mind Marco saw himself walking towards himself and toward Them. It gave him a serious case of vertigo. And he put his hand on a chair to catch himself. One of Them immediately placed her hand on top of his. The double vision faded.

Marco wanted another drink.

Sylvia saw the distressed look on PFC Rodgers’ face and went over to him.

“Is there a problem, Private?” She asked.

“No ma’am!” Hank was suddenly drawn back to the present, and remembered where he was, and what he was doing. Then he remembered what he had said to God, and felt very nervous.

No one was supposed to speak with God except The Mouth of God. (A scheme that didn’t really make much sense to Hank.) Hank had not only spoken with God, but had spoken of The Covenant with God. (How did God not understand The Covenant? Hank wondered. Wasn’t it with God?) So Hank didn’t really want to tell Sylvia Fox, the Sociterpreter for The Eye of God, that he had disobeyed direct orders. She could end his career – and it had only just begun.

A door opposite the one The Eye had come through opened, and in walked Trent Harbaugh, The Mouth of God. Hank preferred The Mouth’s entourage much better, mostly because of The Mouth’s Sociterpreter, Ellen Grace. In Hank’s mind Ellen could calm a hurricane. When she walked into a room Hank felt the tension he had in his shoulders relax. He looked forward to any opportunity to work a detail for The Mouth of God.

The Mouth of God, Trent Harbaugh, had had the pleasure longer than any of the other Servants of The Covenant. He had served long enough to know that Marco needed a drink. Trent walked to the bar along the window, which looked down 42 stories on to the forest’s edge, (was it getting closer?) and poured two drinks. He then crossed the room to where Marco stood, and handed him one.

“Bourbon, neat, yes?” He said as he passed Marco the glass.

“Uh, yes. Thank you Trent.” Marco took the glass, and took a sip. “Thank you.” He eyed God, all 13 of Them, and looked back at The Mouth of God. “Do you have anything to say for Them?”

The distress was evident in Marco’s voice. It was obvious to anyone looking that he was not ready for this. Even though he had been sharing this very day with the people for many months. It seemed more and more frequently The Eye of God had seen this day. And now it was clear that he had not really understood that the what he saw.

His visions had included forests, and people, and this very room. Trent had been with Marco one day when They had entered this chamber, and Marco had gasped.


“What is it?” Trent had asked.

“This is the room that I see the presence of God. This is where I am when They speak to me, through you! I’ve never been in this room before, Trent, have you?”

“This is the Room of Receiving. You weren’t brought here when you accepted the mantle of The Eye? This is where we meet The Covenant. Ah, but you’ve never met The Covenant. It’s been years since They convened.” As Trent spoke he walked over to a chair, and sat.

“The last time I was in their presence was over 20 years ago. I was sitting here when They told me that The Ear of God had transmuted, and that there was a new Ear. And then with your ascension I received a note. Handwritten, to be sure. But still, it stung. I wondered what had become of Richard, The Eye before you. I always looked forward to my meetings with The Covenant.

“And you say The Room of Receiving is in your visions? Remarkable.”

“Trent, don’t laugh, but when I am here, in my visions, this room is filled with The Presence, and it takes everything within me not to break down and weep for the beauty it sees in me. I don’t know how else to put it Trent, but in my visions all I can see is how beautiful everything is.”

“I won’t laugh. Have you told The Ear? Have you told Allen what you see? Because it seems of late that all he hears is bad news. Not enough food. Not enough space. Not enough care. Maybe hearing this from you could cheer him up.”


They had left the Room of Receiving shortly after that.

And now Trent went to the chair that he had sat in on that day. It was the only empty chair in the sparsely furnished room, God had taken residence in all the others, and now They were milling about as well, as the room grew more crowded with people and their attachés. Eventually the only member of The Covenant that Marco had met, Wesley Ambergris, came into the room, alone. Marco had only met him once, and that was when he brought the news of Marco’s transmutation into The Eye of God. And then Wesley had been surrounded by followers and security. He seemed a smaller man, more alone.

Wesley went up to the man who stood next to Trent.

“You are God?” Wesley demanded.

“I have come, as I said I would.” Although the man, God, maintained eye contact with Wesley, it was Trent who uttered the sounds. But Marco wouldn’t have said that Trent had done the speaking. It was Trent’s mouth that moved, and the words originated with Trent, somehow the words went to the very heart of everyone in the room.

Wesley stopped, and looked at Trent. Then he turned to Marco. Next his eyes searched the room. Not finding what he was looking for Wesley turned his attention back to Marco.

“Where is Allen? Where is The Ear of God?” Wesley asked Marco.

“I haven’t seen him, Trent and I only jus-“

“I am here, I do not need my ear to be present as well.” God/Trent said. “I will hear what is said to me, not my vessel.”

Marco felt his level of anxiety rising. On it was layered a feeling… a feeling that he was wanted. For the first time since he entered the room filled with God, Marco made eye contact with God. And he saw himself enrobed in light. And layered with this was seeing Trent, with a fount of light coming out of his head, and Wesley who was a bright hard small diamond of light. He saw everyone in the room from 13 different vantages. And everyone was beautiful, just as in his vision.

Marco walked to the window. And looked down. At the trees.

Waves were moving across the trees. As if the trees were… focusing on the city walls.

Were they closer?

“Why do you not let the trees inside?” God/Trent asked Wesley.

“We have trees.” Wesley responded.

“Trees that do not sing. That do not dance. Trees that never speak with the moon. Or hear the sun’s song.” A note of warning came in to God/Trent’s voice. “Where is The Covenant?”

Wesley blanched. “I am all that is left of The Covenant.”

“You are not of The Covenant.” God/Trent said. “I have never seen you before.” During the talk of trees Marco had crossed the room, and now found himself staring directly in Wesley’s face. Somewhere inside Marco was embarrassed to be so close to a member of The Covenant.

Then in his mind he saw a round table.


At the table were 26 individuals. 13 of Them were God. And the other 13 were spaced every other chair. The other 13 said yes to God. And Marco saw that this was the formation of The Covenant.

Around the table three people stood.

“I am The Eye of God. I will watch, and see, that God may be about other business,” said a young woman. Blanche Fever, the first Eye of God.

“I am The Ear of God. I will hear, and listen, that we may know what needs to be done, that God may be about other business,” said a young man. Stuart Bean, the first Ear of God.

“I am The Mouth of God. I will sing and speak, that God’s will may be known while God is about other business,” said an older man. Phillip Sluice, the first Mouth of God.

Marco was seeing the formation of The Covenant. The rule of law that had governed his society for… Until now, he would have said, forever. But now? Marco wondered. How long?


Marco was back, suddenly, in the room on the 42nd floor. Watching Wesley Ambergris run from the room. Then one by one the visions that had been overlaid in his head burst out of existence. And as Marco watched different angles of view in the room disappear he saw different aspects of God disappear as well. He looked around the room as the number went from 13 to 10 to 8 to 5 to 3, 2, 1. The God next to Trent was still there.

“The Covenant is over. None of those I knew are left. That man,” God pointed after Wesley, “is not in relationship with me. I will think on what to do next.” God/Trent said. “In the meantime, let my trees back in. You are the poorer for not having them in your life.”

At this point Marco’s vision went black.

“Marco? Marco, can you hear me?” It was Sylvia.

“Yes, Sylvia. I can hear you. What happened? I can’t see anything.”

“Marco, They’re all gone.” Sylvia said.

“Sylvia, what’s wrong?” Marco asked.

“Marco, your eyes are gone! What happened? Where did They go?”

“The Covenant is over. God doesn’t need my eyes anymore. I don’t know where God went.”



Colin Iago McCarthy has been pursuing art in one way or another for his whole life – mainly on stage, but sometimes he writes. He’s honored to be included in this collaboration. Previous ventures include: Write Club SF, Saturday Write Fever, Hot Mess, Nomad, Pure Moxie Players, and Orchestrated Happenstance. He loves his wife, and recently talked her into moving back to Colorado with him. Their basset hound, Buddy, is still debating the merits of living a mile high.