Together, they gazed into the galaxy of colorful orbs behind the glass. “Every gumball dreams of growing up to become a planet,” the goddess told him. “They are child worlds, waiting to be adopted by a sun; but, as you might imagine, almost none among them will survive long enough to see their dreams come true.”

He slid a single quarter into their universe of metal and plastic. One of the little planets fell from its resting place, spiraling into a downward orbit before arriving in his hand. “A whole world, huh?” He held it up to the light in wonder. “Are there people living there?”

“Of course there are,” she nodded. “Though time does not progress for them as it does for us. From their perspective, everything that we do is happening in a time beyond memory. That is the nature of mythology; all divine events take place in the same impossible moment.”

“We?” He strained his eyes. “You speak of me as though I’m a god like you.”

“You’re holding their entire world in the palm of your hand. No matter what you consider yourself to be, they will remember you as one.”

He stopped to think for a moment. Then: “What does it mean when someone eats a gumball?”

“It usually means that the world never comes into being, which, all things considered, is actually quite normal. The failures of the gods are rarely witnessed by mortals, but they greatly outnumber our successes.”

“Why do you only say ‘usually?’”

“Because the end of the world takes place in the same mythological moment as its beginning. Sometimes- and its hard to say exactly when, but it happens- there are worlds whose entire histories amount to one long, slow apocalypse. When this is the case, biting into a gumball initiates both the beginning and the end.”

“So, if I bite into this planet, it’s possible that I’ll become its one and only god?”

“Well, you’re certainly welcome to try.”

His attempt to do so was punctuated by a sudden snap, followed by a loud gasp of pain. He spat the orb into his hand, and it emerged alongside two new moons which were once the tips of his teeth. 

“As it turns out, gobstoppers dream of becoming planets, too.” 

He responded with something between a growl and a moan, all the while clutching his wounded jaw. “You knew what it was this whole time, didn’t you? Why didn’t you say something?”

The goddess smiled widely; her teeth were still perfect. “Another basic lesson in godhood: there's a trickster in every pantheon.”

Gods and mortals are not always so far apart in power.

Mythological time and statue chronology are closely related.

Some gods are more trustworthy than others.