Once upon a time, a long time ago, when the gods still played tricks and games with their mortal subjects, there were two deities quarreling. Hunger and Rest. Hunger was a mischievous god. He liked to toy with men and see them squirm and suffer. Rest was a gentle god. He enjoyed seeing men appreciate the little things in life among a world of chaos.
“I make men move,” Hunger said. “I am the thing that keeps men alive. And yet, I am more able than any to cause death. Clearly I am the better of the two of us.”
Rest laughed. “You are not. You’re just an impulse. A natural reaction. Some men go through life and hardly feel you at all. Whereas a man uses more than half of his life in my presence and all of his death. I am the better of the two of us.”
Hunger was indignant. “Let us have a contest, then. I wager that of the two of us, I will be able to kill a man, and you will not. If you win, the world will know no hunger for an entire century. If I win, the world will know no rest.”
Rest knew he could not win the contest as it was, but he was a clever god. “I will accept on the condition that I get to choose the man. I’ll even let you go first. And if we both fail to slay the man, then you will be the victor.”
Hunger guffawed. The deal was so tilted in his favor that he could not resist accepting it. “You are foolish, Rest. There is not a man that cannot be brought down by Hunger,” he bragged. “The wager is struck.”
“Grand. Prepare to be humiliated.”
“Enough talk! Choose your man.” Rest did not have to look far. He knew the perfect man. King Tyronious. He ruled over half the earth with an iron fist. He oppressed his people by starving and taxing them. He slaughtered his nobles in court when he was bored. He killed his own baby son on the word of a false prophet. He was the man Hunger admired most.
“King Tyronious of the providence Angier.”
Hunger smiled, “You are a fox, Rest. I was quick to say you were a fool. But you are not going to win so easily. I will not show mercy, even to my beloved Tyronious. A wager is a wager.”
“Indeed, a wager is a wager. Good luck.”
And so Hunger set about to starve Tyronious. He made Tyronious feel hunger like it was never felt before. He made him famished at every second of every day. Tyronious was so powerful, however, that there was not a moment that he did not have food. He would take it from the villages. He would take bushels from the orchards. He would take entire flocks from shepherds. There was not an instant that he could not have his leg of lamb. Tyronious grew fat and bitter. He cursed Hunger’s name and vowed to be resolute. He made his cooks work at all hours of the day and night, always making more food in order to satisfy his ravenous hunger. For a whole year this went on, until finally Hunger gave in.
“It cannot be done. You chose the one man with enough power to overcome me.”
“Aye, and with your attention solely upon the king, nobody has died from starvation for this past year.”
Hunger was furious. “You underhanded swine! You planned this! You will pay. When you fail to kill Tyronious, I will plague and starve the world so completely that they’ll curse you for giving them no rest from their pain. And all you will hear are the dying cries of your beloved and hideous children.”
“We will see, sir,” Rest said. And with a wave of his hand, he made Tyronious fall into a deep and peaceful slumber. “I believe I am the winner.”
“This is trickery,” said Hunger. “He only sleeps.”
“No, sir. Don’t you see? Tyronious is as good as dead already. He sleeps, and that is my point. Because men seek to escape you with the greatest of resilience, Hunger. Men search for me in all walks of life for a reason. In times of great desperation and great tranquility, they search for me because, in me, they are unaware and free. That is why I have won. As the dreams of men overlap eternally over one another and their nightmares are unable to invade the impregnable rest, a truth becomes evident. The truth that there is nothing more that men could ask for than to go gracefully, peacefully, and limp into the jaws of death.”