The challenge at terribleminds.com this week was to write a story with the title The Fire of The Gods. Word limit under a thousand. Mine; 999.
The Fire of the Gods Louise Sorensen March 19, 2012
Life on Mars was good.
Until two years ago, when people started coming down with a fever. Most of them die, but the ones who recover… are changed.
I’m reclining in a comfortable chair, but my arms and legs are strapped down. Mark, Singer, Rebesie and Idaho are staring at me, worried expressions on their faces.
Underground. Cold. An abandoned storage chamber so huge our voices echo. Behind me, our only light a frosted globe, is dialled down to a feeble glow.
Mark stands close, the heat of his body warming me as he checks my restraints. The heart monitor, brain scanner and record cube emit a chorus of strangled chirps when he waves them on, and he quickly mutes them. I smell burnt wires.
My heart beat slows. My team takes their seats.
I lean back and close my eyes.
And follow the double helix down.
A gift of Mars, this new ability. People who can start fires, throw lightning, and stop hearts with a thought. And see into the past.
Mars, you old god of war, what’s your game?
We are searching for answers.
Past star ships roaring to new worlds, past hordes of people blackening the face of the earth, past world wars, and holocausts and dark ages I speed, deeper and deeper into ancestral memory. I shoot past desert shepherds on yellow plains, tribal skirmishes on the long walk, savannahs dry, wet, dry, wet, faster and faster, until I overshoot my time.
I’m hiding under a log, gnawing on the finger bone of a giant. A scaly face leans down, and I drop the bone, scurry out the back of the log and up a tree. The monster down below cocks an orange eye at me and sniffs the air. Lumbers off with a snort. I eye his meaty fingers and give a defiant squeak.
Pushing back from this place, I slide forward in time, down ancient memories.
Walking through dry grass with a long line of my kind, I’m the only one holding my hand over my hairy brow for relief from the blinding sun. Thunder rumbles on the dark horizon. We skirt a pride of big cats sprawled panting under a thorn tree.
Our troupe leader halts, nostrils flaring. We all tip our muzzles up. Rain! The leader shambles on.
A change in the air. The fur on my arm stands up. A deafening crack! The male third from the front is struck by lightning. Everyone freezes, stunned. Then the rain pours down and we all scatter screaming.
Those of us not picked off by hunters regroup at the usual place. The leader is very excited. The two strongest males have dragged the body of our dead brother here. His skin is black, crisp. The leader is pointing to the sky, then the dead body, then the rain. He rips an arm off the dead body and gives it to the two strongest males. As they sink their teeth…I push out of this place and slide into further memories.
Another hot dry place. Lightning dances on the dark horizon.
I’m in the body of a little girl. We’re in a crowd of people standing a little ways back from a stone platform. Three men, bound and naked, stand beside the altar platform. A fourth man wearing a clean white robe, a priest, stands facing the crowd.
He holds a sharp knife in both hands and lifts it up to the sky.
“We offer you these our enemy, Oh Powerful One.” He whirls quickly and slits the throat of the first prisoner. Blood spurts and the man slumps. Two assistants grab him before he hits the ground, and catch his blood in a bowl. A murmur of awe comes from the crowd.
“Defeated in war, Oh Powerful One,” the priest continues, his robe dripping red. He whirls again and slits the throat of the second prisoner. Two more assistants catch the slain man and place the bowl under his throat to collect the blood.
The third prisoner growls something at the priest, spits at him. A muscular guard cuffs the prisoner and asks the priest a question. The priest nods no, turns and throws his hand out in a movement as graceful as dance, and slits the throat of the third prisoner.
“These we offer unto you, Oh Powerful One. That you may grant us rain for our fields,” his arm sweeps out to encompass the dry land, “sons for our women,” he opens his arms to the crowd, “and victory against our enemies!”
The crowd roars approval. Thunder rumbles in my ears. I feel a spatter of rain on my head and get out of there.
Next stop, it’s overcast. Raining. The air is a glittering gray sheet. I look down on the slimy surface of a log raft sinking under the weight of many people. The spiral edges of the logs hurt my small feet. Crowded against a woman, I warm myself from the body heat radiating through her sodden dress.
Lightning bursts from the sky, illuminating a man near the mast. Thunder smashes us all onto the deck. When I look up, the man and mast are gone.
I wait. Sure enough, the rain starts to slack off. A new scent is on the air. Land! A giant picks me up, my face rests against his hairy cheek.
A tap on my shoulder and I lose the ancestral thread. Someone is shaking me. My head throbs.
“Stop it!” Is it me, or is it Mark yelling? I open my eyes. The team is here, waiting for my findings. Mark unbuckles the restraints and rubs life back into my wrists.
“Learn anything?” he says.
“Maybe.” I’m thinking of the fire in the dome last night.
But no one was hurt.
Drought. Dust storms.
The stain of Mars on our skin.
Someone‘s got to die.