Story Thread: Jul 21 – Aug 3, 2016 Flash Fiction Contest “Forgotten Deity”

The LinkedIn Comment Thread can be found here.

This post is for STORIES related to the Theme: “Forgotten Deity”. The Required elements are:

  1. A God/Goddess who is powerless because no one worships them at the beginning of the story.
  2. New believers by the end of the story.

We’ve provided the beginning and the end, you must tell the story of how they got their new believers.

Critiques, comments and feedback are encouraged on the LinkedIn Comment Thread; non story comments here will be deleted.

The point of these friendly contests is to hone our craft and create successful stories within a predefined set of limitations. There is no monetary compensation.

Please Note: comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:

One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.

Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be under 1000 words.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

***NOTE: Starting with this contest, the next writing prompt will be chosen via the Writing Prompt Roster.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last three months. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


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11 thoughts on “Story Thread: Jul 21 – Aug 3, 2016 Flash Fiction Contest “Forgotten Deity”

  • July 21, 2016 at 1:22 pm
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    Tech Support

    By Dean Hardage

    The IT department was in an uproar. Some kind of super virus had gotten past their supposedly impenetrable firewall and was wreaking all kinds of havoc on every machine in the network. Clarence was at the console of the primary network server struggling to keep it contained and failing.

    “Gods of technology, help me now!” he said to himself. Or so he thought.

    The lights of the room flickered for a second, unnoticed by the frantic technicians trying to root the invading code out of the network operating system before it completely crashed everything. A man dressed in a neat suit and tie and using a cane to help him walk appeared equally unnoticed at the door of the server room. HIs eyes swept the room and came to rest on Clarence. He walked over to where the young technician was frantically rebuilding another directory the virus had wiped out. He started violently when the man tapped him on the shoulder.

    “You called for me.” The older man stated simply.

    “Huh?”

    “You have trouble with your system you can’t fix. You called for help.”

    “Oh, yeah, I guess the bigwigs finally realized we needed the assist.”

    The man smiled, a little sadly.

    “Something like that. Now, if you’ll let me take over I think I can get rid of what’s troubling you.”

    Clarence, desperate for some kind of resolution, quickly vacated the chair he was in. The older man leaned his cane on the desk, took of his jacket, and sat down at the terminal. Clarence watched in amazement as his thick fingers virtually flew over the keyboard and the display changed with dizzying rapidity.

    “You got yourself a nasty one. Rapidly mutating, highly aggressive, designed solely to destroy systems like yours. Haven’t seen one of these in….a long time.”

    “I’ve never seen one like this. It’s like it knows we’re trying to get rid of it and it’s fighting back. No program can have that much capability to change in that small a kernel.”

    “This one does and there’s only one way to stop it. Have to get to its base code and stop execution.”

    “I tried that. Somehow it still managed to recreate itself and re-infect the system.”

    “You didn’t reach the base code, son. That was just a cover.”

    Even as he spoke the older technician was typing commands at a furious pace, encircling the offending program with an unbreakable barrier and penetrating deeper and deeper into its interior. Clarence watched in awe as the final layer was peeled back and jumped back from the horrific image that appeared on the screen for a split second before the virus was wiped from the system.

    “What the hell was that?” he asked.

    “You saw it?”

    “Hell yes, I saw it. Looked like something I saw in a bad dream after cramming with Red Bull and diet pills.”

    “You get your users back online and I’ll explain.”

    Clarence got his team on their tasks, fielded the calls from users and insured the system was well on the way to full restoration before settling down with the older man.

    ‘Clarence, you’ve got a gift. You were on the right track and, given time, you’d probably have figured it out for yourself. But you called on me.”

    “No, I didn’t make any calls. That must have been someone in Management.”

    “No, it was you. Don’t you remember? You prayed for help.”

    Clarence thought for a moment, then remembered the desperate remark he’d made.

    “How did you know what I said?”

    The older man smiled and handed Clarence a beautifully but simply engraved business card. H.E. Phaestus, it read.

    “I’ve been dealing with technology for longer than you can imagine. I don’t know if they still teach it but a lot of what you have been taught were myths were just disguised fact. Yes, gods exist. We guided humankind for a long time and let them go when they were ready to handle things on their own. Sometimes a thing from that past age slips out into the modern world. That’s what infected your system. You called for help, I answered.”

    “You’re some joker, man. H.E. Phaestus. Why not V. Ulcan?”

    “The Romans were poor copies of the Greeks, despite their accomplishments. By then, we were no longer involved in human affairs. You asked what you saw on the screen just before it blanked.”

    “Yeah, I did. It was freaking awful,” answered Clarence, caught off guard by the sudden change in subject.

    ‘That was an imp. Its sole purpose is destruction and it was, until recently, contained in another place. Lately there have been more episodes of their destructive powers. Remember the blackout a few weeks back?”

    “Sure. We had the backup power to ride it out.”

    “That was an imp of another type. But I digress. The fact that you saw it means you’re going to be in the vanguard against them. You’re one of Mine.”

    Phaestus put His hand on Clarence’s shoulder. “Welcome to My army, Clarence Williams. A battle looms and you will be a general. If you know anyone else who has a problem like this, give them my card.”

    A strange calmness and clarity came over the young technician, memories of millennia suddenly his.

    “We’ll see each other again soon, won’t we?”

    Hephaestus, the God of Making and Makers, smiled.

    “Believe it, my young friend. Believe it.”

  • July 23, 2016 at 12:47 pm
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    STEFAN

    Once upon a time there was a village, and on the edge of the village there was a crooked little house, and in the crooked little house there lived a mother and her son.

    The mother was poor, possibly the poorest person in the kingdom. She had no skills, no strength, no job, no money, and they had next to nothing to eat. Every day she would leave her son in his cot and go into the woods to forage for edible leaves and berries. If she came back with some mushrooms too, then that was a good day.

    But they had love to sustain them. The mother adored her little boy more than anything in the world, and Stefan – for that was his name – adored his mother, although he could not put that into words because, well, he was only one year old.

    Stefan’s father was a tinker who had stayed in the village a day and a night and was never seen again. He had been a good talker, and Stefan’s mother had been flattered by his attentions. She regretted their liaison almost as soon as it was over, and she regretted it more in the following months as her belly grew, reducing her mobility and ability to forage.

    When Stefan was born, though, and she held the little treasure in her arms for the first time, all of the regret evaporated. But life was difficult; her milk was meagre, and Stefan was often sick. Love can achieve just so much.

    Before Stefan was born, the villagers had been kind to the mother and helped her, remembering Stefan’s grandmother, who had been a popular figure in the village. Having a child out of wedlock changed all of that and now she was cruelly shunned.

    One day – it was Stefan’s first birthday – a woodsman was cutting down a tree behind the crooked little house when his axe slipped and sliced into his foot. The mother heard the screams and ran to him; she was a good woman and did not hold the villagers’ contempt for her against them.

    She helped him into the house and while she was at the well getting water, the man hobbled over to the cot where Stefan was lying. When he saw the man, he smiled a natural, radiant smile. The man felt a warmth pass through him and he smiled back. The mother returned and did the best she could to clean and dress the wound. The man thanked her and limped home.

    When the woodsman woke the next morning, the injury to his foot had simply disappeared, as if it had never been there. He told his wife about the feeling he had had when Stefan had smiled at him, and word soon got round the village that the boy had special powers. But instead of rejoicing in the discovery, the villagers were suspicious and a meeting was held in the church. The boy was surely a demon, or the devil himself. And he must be destroyed.

    They grouped on the village green with any weapon that came to hand: knives, clubs, hammers, scythes. The woodsman’s wife led them towards the crooked little house – she was keen to see the child killed in case he could still cast spells over her husband.

    As they neared the house, an opulent carriage appeared around a bend in the lane that passed by it. Inside the carriage were the King and Queen and their young daughter. She had been asleep for three years after catching a chill on a boating trip, and they were headed for the coast to take the sea air that the royal physicians claimed would do her good. The King and Queen were desperate and were trying anything and everything that the physicians suggested.

    The crowd of villagers and the carriage met outside the crooked little house. When they realised who was in the carriage, they fell to their knees. The King was just about to ask the driver why they had stopped when the little princess opened her eyes.

    “He’s here!” she said dreamily.

    The King and Queen could not believe their eyes and ears. The Queen hugged the little girl to her breast, crying copious tears of joy.

    “He’s here!” the princess repeated.

    The King got out of the carriage and bade the villagers stand. He asked the woodsman’s wife, who was at the front of the crowd, the name of the village. As they were talking, one of the villagers pointed to the crooked little house.

    “Look! Look!” he cried.

    One of the windows of the house was glowing, but it was a glow that was richer than candlelight. The King went up to the door and knocked.

    The mother answered, and when she saw who it was, she fell to her knees. The King lifted her up and looked inside the house, towards the glow. There, in the corner of the poor room, was Stefan’s cot, and around it a dome of light.

    The King moved to the cot and peered in. Behind him, the villagers were forcing their way into the room past the mother, their hands now free of weapons. And that is when they witnessed it: the King dropped to his knees by the cot and began sobbing.

    The villagers let out a collective gasp and fell to their knees again, this time in awe of a presence other than the King’s.

    The King and Queen took Stefan and his mother to the palace, where they lived happily ever after. Stefan died on his 111th birthday, leaving behind him a multitude of good deeds for which later he would be worshipped by all.

    .

  • July 24, 2016 at 8:37 pm
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    Mr. & Mrs. Omnipotent.

    © 2016 By Ken Cartisano

    Every member of the entire Omnipotent family was bickering nervously on the front stoop when God answered the door. “Can I help you?”

    Zon waved his family to silence and said, “I’m here about the advertisement you placed. ‘Nice planet. Needs a firm hand?”

    God greeted the visitors graciously, “Ah, yes. Nice to meet you.” Inviting him and his family in with a wave of his inscrutable glowing orb-ness. “Are you Zon?”

    “Yes. This is my wife, Zorta, my sons, Zim and Zot, my two girls, Zelda and Xylene.”

    As immortals, there was no need to engage in ordinary mortal exchanges of information, but in social situations it was the polite thing to do.

    For his part, God knew all he needed to know about Zon and his immortal family. They were competent, powerful, and more than sufficient to handle the task at hand.

    Zon addressed the situation directly. “I uh—that is we—yes we, think we’d be well suited to set ourselves up as corporeal deities on your little, shall we say, out of the way planet.”

    “Well, yes,” God admitted, “it is off the beaten track, as you say, but it has amenities. The water, for instance.”

    “Oh, no question about it,” Zon gushed. “The water is a very attractive feature.” He looked at his wife. She picked up his cue and added, “It’s quite lovely, such a pretty blue, especially from up here. And there’s so much of it.”

    Gods glowing form beamed brightly. “Good, good. So—what else do you know about earth, and its, uh—inhabitants?”

    “Well, I know that it’s had quite a long history of corporeal deities, Olympians, Titans, and—how shall I put it, none of them have worked out? It appears to be godless now as the ad implies and,” he waved a silver appendage at his assorted family members, “I think we could fill that void rather nicely.”

    “But you don’t really know that much about humans, do you?” God pointed out.

    “Well,” Zon replied, “I’ve studied a little of their history and it’s clear that they’re eager to worship superior beings, or, if I may say so, even inferior beings, considering what I’ve heard and read about them.”

    God’s orb dimmed perceptibly. “They’ve been known to worship planets, each other, inanimate objects…”

    “Exactly,” Zon interjected. “With their history, I think we could step in easily and have this planet straightened out in no time.”

    “Some of them have even worshiped cows. Can you assume the form of a cow?”

    Zon laughed. “I’m sure that won’t be necessary.”

    God glowed thoughtfully, then said, “Let me get you up to speed.” Without further comment they linked minds, and God transferred the entire history of humanity in the twinkling of an eye. They disengaged their link and Zon blinked and flushed, it took a moment for him to regain his god-like mental footing.

    “They killed your son? I had no idea. That’s incredible!”

    God’s beam of attention was unfocused. He was silent.

    “I’m surprised you haven’t destroyed them.”

    “Actually,” God replied, “I have. Twice. The last time I inundated the planet with water, leaving only two survivors. Once they’d repopulated the planet…”

    Zon cut in. “You sent your son as an ambassador to re-establish your authority. I know.”

    “That’s correct.” God said.

    “And they killed him? Unbelievable!” Zon said.

    “And they blamed me,” God added.

    “WHAT?”

    “That’s right. They spread rumors that I’d sent my Son down in order to be crucified—to save their souls. As if it was my idea, as if I’d ordained their bad behavior.”

    “Incredible!” Zon looked protectively at his own sons and daughters. “What arrogance!” He said, while shaking his giant plumed head. “How did this happen? I mean, you created them, right?”

    God nodded in affirmation.

    “Well, what would make them so arrogant and devious? It might be useful to know.”

    The glowing orb burned with a pinkish hue. “Well—I just, you know, concocted them out of clay and star crap, much like any other species.”

    Zon was suspicious, but trying to be polite. “But surely, they’re your creations, you must have put something in them to make them that way, some peculiar ingredient that you wouldn’t normally use. No?”

    Zon cleared his throat as an uncomfortable silence settled on the group of god-like beings.

    “Well.” God’s orb pulsated with what could have been the clashing of embarrassment and infinite wisdom. “I uh, I may have possibly added a little, just a tiny little bit of myself into the mix.”

    Zon stood up so abruptly it startled his wife. “Oh my,” he stammered, “look at the, uh, the time. We really must be going.”

    The kids were baffled too, and even though they were all-powerful, they lacked the sophistication to hide the fact. “What’s going on Dad? Why are we leaving so soon?”

    Zon behaved as any mature deity would and refused to be drawn into a debate with his kids in front of a strange God. “Come on kids, let’s go. We’re already late.”

    “Late for what?” His daughter whined. “I want to know more about the humans.”

    “Some other time Zelda, some other time.” He looked at his wife, imploring her to cooperate.

    She did. “Oh yes, Zon. I completely forgot about that appointment in Andromeda, my, how time flies. Goodness. Come on children. Get up. Come on, everyone up. I’m sure God is a very busy, um, deity. We don’t want to take up too much of his time.”

    The kids looked genuinely puzzled as they watched their father Zon, backing towards the door. “Yes sir. We’ll be in touch. There’re just a few other contacts I have to make, formalities really. I’m sure you understand. You’ll be hearing from me soon. You have my word on that.”

    The heavenly door slammed and they were gone.

    God sighed. His glowing orb dimmed with despondence.

  • July 26, 2016 at 12:58 pm
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    The Friend

    The man stumbled on the path strewn with rocks and loose soil. His throat was parched and the salt and pepper beard was unkempt. His once white clothes were now dirty but his eyes were bright and searching.

    A boy of nine gingerly came near him and held out his hand. Before the man could say anything, the little boy ran across the road and vanished inside a small thatched hut. Minutes passed and the tired and thirsty wanderer knelt down under the big banyan tree a few feet away.

    A cool touch startled the man and he opened his eyes. The small boy stood there offering him water.
    The man soon emptied the pitcher.

    Watching him awestruck, “Who are you?” the boy whispered.

    “I am your friend,” replied the man.

    “Don’t you have a name? Everyone calls me Chotu. It means small one. My mother calls me Chooootuuuuu as if she is singing a song,” explained Chotu.

    The man laughed out loud. Then looking down at Chotu’s innocent face, he replied, “You can call me Dost (Friend).”

    “Why are your clothes dirty? And why are you walking barefoot?” asked Chotu.

    A brief pause later, Dost answered, “I am in search of someone, Chotu, and I don’t know where my slippers are. But do you know where the man, who recently lost his vision, lives in your village? He has two small daughters and his wife is asthmatic.”

    Chotu knew instantly, “Ramcharan Kaka (uncle)? Yes, he lives on the other side of the village. My father says he stole jewelry from the local money lender and that’s why he became blind. But how do you know about Kaka?”

    “He didn’t steal the jewellery. The moneylender is cheating him. Chotu, will you please show me his house?” requested Dost.

    “How do you know all this, Dost?” Chotu asked in an astonished voice.

    “Let’s go Chotu. Your Kaka is in danger,” and in an instant Dost stood up and was walking away swiftly. Chotu, taken aback by his friend’s speed, ran after him.

    A huge crowd was gathered outside Ramcharan’s house. Ramcharan’s wife, Sukhia, was crying her heart out and her two small daughters were sobbing and repeatedly pleading, “Don’t hit him.”

    In an instant, Dost reached Ramcharan and his family. The henchmen of the moneylender froze.

    Eyes blazing, Dost glared at the moneylender and his men at which the moneylender cowered and tried to slink away. But the villagers blocked his way. Dost lifted Ramcharan gently in his arms and took him inside the hut.

    Chotu slipped through the door and watched Dost put a soothing hand to Ramcharan’s wounds.

    Sukhia knelt down praying hard for her husband’s life.

    “Don’t worry, Mother. He will be fine by morning,” saying which Dost turned to comfort their two little girls and walked out of the door.

    Chotu stood mesmerized because he could swear that he could see some sort of faint light in the dark hut where Dost had stood a few moments ago. He hurried outside. Tied to the tree, the moneylender begged Dost to be spared. The villagers stood at a respectful distance. No one could catch what Dost said to the moneylender because of his low tones.

    Soon, Dost untied the moneylender who walked away slowly with his head bent. With dramatics over, the disappointed villagers started dispersing. Dost, looking tired and haggard, sat down under the tree.

    Dusk turned to night but Dost did not open his eyes. Chotu, tired of waiting for him to wake up, lay down and fell asleep.

    _____________
    “Wake up my darling. Do you know that Ramcharan Kaka has got his vision back. It’s a miracle and is an auspicious day. Wake up, my son,” Radha’s soft voice woke up Chotu.

    Rubbing his eyes, he suddenly he remembered his whereabouts last night.

    “Ma, where is Dost? And how did I come home?” Chotu asked Radha.

    She smiled, “My baby, you came back just before it became dark.”

    Chotu couldn’t believe his ears. Dost had put his hands on Kaka’s wounds and now he can see again.

    Remembering Dost sitting under the tree in the next village, Chotu ran to meet him. When he reached he only saw a group of villagers sitting under the tree meditating.

    Chotu had never seen anyone sitting like that, except inside a temple. Chotu tapped on one man’s shoulder, “What happened, Kaka?”

    The man opened his eyes and said, “Son, our God has arrived. Ramcharan can see again. Our God has arrived.” Ecstatic, the man continued, “We saw him walking by the fields,” saying which he stopped, tears streaming down his face but his lips smiling.

    Suspicious, Chotu asked, “What did he look like Kaka?”

    “He had the brightest of eyes and the smile of a child. Just like yours. Though he wore dirty whites, his hands and face shone like crystal. I have… why just me… none of us have ever seen such graceful and divine countenance. We fell at his feet and begged him to stay back but he declined. He said I am here as I am there elsewhere but right now, a mother is in trouble. She needs me. So I must go. But don’t worry, I will come again and this time with Chotu. He turned a corner after that and was nowhere to be seen by anyone,” the man replied.

    Suddenly as if awareness dawned, he asked Chotu, “Are you Chotu?”

    Chotu, dumbfounded for words, nodded in affirmation.

    The group of meditating men gasped aloud and plied Chotu with questions. But Chotu didn’t know anything about Dost. His eyes, without his awareness, brimmed with tears.

    In his innocent heart, wordless words were echoing that his friend, Dost, was special because he truly was the personification of the universal unconditional love.

  • July 28, 2016 at 1:39 pm
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    No More Mr. Nice God.
    © 2016 by Ken Cartisano
    (Revised, edited, reworded, renamed and reformatted to fit the theme.)

    The Supreme Being, whose nickname was God, meekly answered the door. “Can I help you?”

    Zon waved his entourage to silence and said, “You called us.” He produce a card and said, “Zon and Associates, Veneration Consultants. You mentioned a possible need for our services?”

    The Supreme Being greeted the younger Gods graciously, “Ah, yes. Nice to meet you.” Inviting them in with a wave of his inscrutable glowing orb-ness. “And you’re Zon.”

    “Yes. This is my partner, Zorta, our assistants, Zim and Zot, and their assistants, Zelda and Xylene. ”

    As immortals, there was no need to engage in ordinary mortal exchanges of information, but in social situations it was the polite thing to do.

    For his part, God knew all he needed to know about Zon and Associates. They were competent, powerful, and stern.

    Zon got straight to the point. “My associates and I are confident in our ability to temporarily assume the mantel of corporeal deities on your rebellious little planet.”

    God’s glowing form beamed brightly. “Good, good. So—what do you know about earth, and its human inhabitants?”

    “Well, I know that it’s had quite a long history of failed deities, Olympians, Titans, lesser immortals and—how shall I put it, somehow, they’ve all been corrupted by these perverse creatures. As I understand it, previous gods intermingled with the humans in grotesque lopsided relationships, picking favorites, using them against one another. It was all rather sordid.” He waved a silver appendage at his associates, “I don’t think there’s much chance of that happening with us.”

    “But you don’t really know that much about humans, do you.” God pointed out.

    “Well,” Zon replied, “I’ve studied a little of their history and it’s clear that they’re eager to worship superior beings, or, if I may say so, even inferior beings.”

    God’s orb dimmed perceptibly. “They’ve been known to worship planets, animals, inanimate objects—they have a fascination with idols. Frankly, they seem to worship everything but me. I am, as you can see, greatly diminished by their lack of appreciation.”

    “Exactly,” Zon interjected. “With their history, I think we could step in easily and have this planet straightened out in no time. How long has it been since they’ve had any real contact with a god?”

    The Surpreme Being, God, glowed thoughtfully, “a couple of millennia at least.” Then said, “Let me get you up to speed.” Without further comment they linked minds, and God transferred the entire history of humanity in the twinkling of an eye. They disengaged their link and Zon blinked and flushed, it took a moment for him to regain his god-like mental footing.

    “They killed your son? I had no idea. That’s incredible! I’m surprised you haven’t destroyed them.”

    “Actually,” God replied, “I have. Twice. The last time I inundated the planet with water, leaving only two survivors. Once they’d repopulated the planet…”

    Zon cut in. “You sent your son as an ambassador to re-establish your authority. I know.”

    “That’s correct.” God said.

    “And they killed him? Unbelievable!” Zon said.

    “And they blamed me,” God added.

    “WHAT?”

    “Well, he wasn’t really my son, that’s their version, but—they spread rumors that I’d sent my son down in order to be crucified—to save their souls. As if it was my idea, as if I’d ordained their bad behavior. In fact, they’ve murdered or crucified nearly every representative I’ve sent.” He paused. “They seem to have this notion that killing the enlightened will somehow cleanse their souls.”

    “Incredible!” Zon said, while shaking his giant plumed head. “What arrogance! How did this happen? I mean, you created them, right?”

    God nodded.

    “Well, what would make them so arrogant and devious? It might be useful to know.”

    The glowing orb burned with a pinkish hue. “Well—I just, you know, concocted them out of dust, clay and star crap, much like any other species.”

    Zon was suspicious, yet trying to be polite. “Yes but surely, they’re your creations, you must have put something in them to make them that way, some peculiar ingredient that you wouldn’t normally use. No?”

    Zon cleared his throat as an uncomfortable silence settled on the small gathering of immortal beings.

    “Well.” God’s orb pulsated with what could have been the clashing of embarrassment and infinite wisdom. “I uh, I may have possibly added a little, just a tiny little bit of myself into the mix.”

    “Ahh,” said Zon. “This may call for some drastic measures.”

    God sighed, “I was afraid you’d say that. I’m a merciful deity, perhaps I’ve been a little too merciful.”

    “Don’t worry,” Zon said. “We’ll take care of it.”

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    The new Gods arrived in the middle of the night, accompanied by howling winds and a constant, pervasive groaning. Great bolts of lightning crisscrossed the sky amidst great billowing clouds, as incessant thunder rolled like giant drums beating a call to war.

    People were jolted awake in a startled panic, the rattling of roofs sent them stumbling outside in the darkness to see what was happening. The sound came from everywhere, it was even inside their heads. They crouched on their porches or huddled in doorways, cowed by the unbridled fury that lashed at their puny planet. The worlds leaders sat in stunned silence in their situation rooms as, one by one, humanities greatest engineering achievements were smashed, crumpled or torn to bits.

    Armies were useless, what few jets that were able to scramble were slapped from the sky like little metal mosquitoes. Skyscrapers were torn from their foundations, held aloft by giant hands, their shattered structures were hurled with unmistakable disdain into the frothing, roiling sea.

    The immortal Zon and his associates were thorough and merciless. Humanity learned very quickly to obey, to worship, and most of all, to believe.

  • July 29, 2016 at 11:19 am
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    Athellona

    The old woman pushed aside the flap and shuffled into the dim light and hazy incense smoke of the tent. Her stooped frame cast a shadow on the king who was down on one knee, head bowed, deep in prayer. Instinctively, he stood and spun, his sword stopping inches from the hag’s nose.

    “How did you get past my guards?”

    “Your prayers summoned me, Malikus,” the woman said, indifferent to the sharp sword tip quivering in her face.

    “It’s King Malikus.”

    “King Malikus,” she repeated with a toothless grin. “I would curtsey, but even being the shadow of the goddess I once was, a goddess I remain.”

    Despite the pressure of leading his people during their first war in over two hundred years, King Malikus laughed for the first time in a month.

    “You?” he asked once his rumbling laughter had subsided. “A god? I would have you whipped if you weren’t so pitiful.”

    And she was pitiful. The ragged white gown she wore barely covered her frail, wrinkled body. Her stringy gray hair hung limp about her shoulders. The murkiness of her eyes, though still seeing, were slowly turning the world completely dark to her. But at King Malikus’ threat, she straightened out her body the best she could and glared at him.

    “And I would strike you down on the spot, if I still had the power.”

    King Malikus lowered his sword. “Leave me before I change my mind.”

    He returned to praying.

    “Athellona. Grant me the wisdom, courage, and strength to lead my men into battle,” the old woman muttered as the king lifted his head and listened to her words. “Spare as many of their lives as possible. For those lost, grant them eternal rest in your bosom. Give their wives and children an unconditional peace knowing they died bravely and with honor. Make me the king they need and deserve or remove me from my throne and sit there a man more worthy.”

    King Malikus, haunted by hearing his private words uttered from the old woman’s lips, stood and looked at her.

    The old woman smiled. “Why do you pray to me when you and your people no longer worship Athellona, Goddess of War and Strife?”

    “Athellona,” King Malikus said kneeling before her. “Forgive me.”

    “Answer me.”

    “I’m afraid of defeat,” King Malikus said, his eyes averted from gazing upon the goddess that he knew now to be real. “I pray to you this day as my forefathers during war. You helped them then, will you help us now?”

    “Your forefathers were worthy,” Athellona said shuffling over to King Malikus makeshift throne. She sat down in it slowly. “They revered and worshiped me. You have grown fat and lazy with peace. You worship new gods made of gold and silver and flattering words. I am powerless because of your faithlessness and unbelief.”

    “You will not fight for us?” King Malikus asked.

    “Stand and face me.”

    King Malikus did as he was told.

    Athellona studied him with her failing eyes. “There are no cowards in this tent,” she said pushing herself up from the throne. “I will fight for you. And tomorrow, I will die at the hands of their god who is powerful because his people believe.”

    She shuffled to the tent’s opening. She looked back at King Malikus. “As your belief goes, so do I.”
    She exited the tent as feebly as she had entered.

    The sunrise found King Malikus on a knee, head bowed, in front of his men. They mimicked their king’s posture.

    “Athellona,” he bellowed across the field. “Goddess of War and Strife. Hear our prayer and grant us mercy. You are our god and we are your people. May our victory today bring you glory and power.” He stood up and kissed his sword. “Let it be known,” he said finishing the prayer.

    “Let it be known,” his men echoed.

    #

    Ready for battle, Athellona stumbled in her ill-fitting golden armor. Her mighty sword plowed the ground behind her—its once sharp edges dull from antiquity. Men fought and died below her, but no one noticed the old woman walking up the hill.

    She looked to where King Malikus fought surrounded by his guards. He was doing his people proud. If they won they day, he would be lauded as a great warrior. If they lost, his name would be forgotten in history.

    King Malikus caught a glimpse of Athellona and hailed her name. His men around him began to chant Athellona.

    Athellona’s sword became lighter. A power she hadn’t felt in centuries coursed through her. She watched the fighting all day as she grew stronger. The battle surged and ebbed in King Malikus favor, but his men were holding their ground. That is, until a giant of a man joined the battle. This was no ordinary man. He was a young god Athellona knew well. He began killing King Malikus’ men mercilessly, making his way towards the king.

    Athellona jogged down the hill, her clear eyes full of fury.

    A sword came at her head but she ducked and stabbed the offender through his armpit then removed his head from his shoulders. She hacked her way to King Malikus who barely managed to dodge a blow of the god who had already mowed down his guards.

    “Phalexus,” Athellona yelled with such ferocity that the fighting stopped and the men turned to find a statuesque woman in gleaming, golden armor with blazing white hair flowing from her helm walking towards them.

    Athellona thrust her sword into the ground and made fists. “Your fight is with me.”

    Phalexus dropped his sword and roared. He rushed toward Athellona. She sidestepped his charge, hooked his arm, and flung herself onto his back. She wrapped her powerful arms around his neck. Phalexus flailed his arms. After a few seconds, his strength began to wane. Moments later he fell over dead.

    Athellona stood over his body, victorious, and formidable once more.

    “Athellona has returned,” King Malikus’ men shouted.

  • July 31, 2016 at 2:52 pm
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    Faith, Trust or Business

    The setting sun shed a golden-red hue on the snow peaks behind the granite temple, a hundred yards away. A dreamland created at high altitude, a green valley surrounded by snow peaks.

    “This area is as impeccable as heaven since the Lord exists here!” Sarvesh exclaimed.

    In his early twenties, he was slim, had a bearded tan-face, his blue sweatshirt, and track pants were damp from the perspiration of the trek, the gray jacket fastened to his red rucksack and his boots muddy. His sparkled eyes got engaged with his camera capturing the serenity.

    The other hiker Lokpal, clean shaven, fair, stocky in his mid-fifties. His red shirt and blue jeans had wet patches of sweat, relaxed on a rock, “Has anyone seen God wandering here?”
    A bewildered Sarvesh looked at Lokpal whose gold necklace shone in the fading sunlight, as he drank his gluconate water.

    Sarvesh and Lokpal met in a tea shop where they had halted. Two single souls heading for the same location walked together.
    “You don’t believe he exists?”
    “Confused! Maybe, Only trust what I see,” Lokpal smiled.
    “Yet this hardship for a remote place?”
    “To understand if faith is business, and an old promise,”
    “This holy area resembles a business center to you?” Sarvesh shrieked.
    “You know, people become extra divine when they’re in trouble. They spend tons in the holy house to get rid of sufferings. Nobody questions the results.”
    “What about the epic stories?”
    “Religious books are the best fantasies, a laureate’s work is forgotten but myths are believed for centuries.”
    A mystified Sarvesh asked, “Are you not afraid of sin?”
    “All have to live the excellent and unfortunate slices of life.”
    “Can you justify what you said?”
    “I’ll tell you Pundit’s tale,”
    “I am dying to hear,”
    Lokpal grinned, “With some tea?”

    ********

    They sat in a tea stall, Lokpal started his story, while they sipped tea.
    Pundit was the eldest son of god-fearing Dinu and Kamala. Dinu’s and his brother Ramu were equal recipients of their family assets. Ramu was not happy with the fair division and one day came to Dinu’s house.

    “Dad hasn’t distributed the property rationally, I have three daughters and you have only two sons. If you give me the orchard, I can sell it to meet my daughter’s wedding expenses.” Ramu said.

    “That orchard is three acres of land dad granted me. Forgive me, that land will be handy for my son’s education,” Dinu replied.
    Ramu was enraged at being disregarded and left in haste, “Okay I’ll see.”

    What happened in the next few months changed Pundit’s life forever. One day, Dinu was found dangling from a tree.

    “Did he commit suicide?” Sarvesh enquired.

    A riddle nobody understood. The police detained fifteen-year-old Pundit as a suspect but released later for no evidence. Villagers led by Ramu shouted “murderer” and did not allow Pundit within the settlement neither they allowed his mom, Kamala to accompany him. A helpless Kamala could only cry in vain.

    Pundit never moved outside alone, it was daring to take the bus and train to a relative’s house. A disgraced and bewildered Pundit fell asleep on the train. He woke up a pauper in an unfamiliar station, with his money and belongings stolen and no money or the freedom to return home. He remembered his mom and his little brother and sobbed accusing god of all the stress.

    A passerby monk, Omkarababa draped in saffron and full grown beard noticed him, “Why are you crying?”
    On hearing Pundit’s story he said, “Seems you cannot return home nor you have a shelter, come with me.”

    Omkarababa brought Pundit to his cloister composed of a few huts and a temple. Within months, Pundit discovered when the disturbed and depressed folks lose self-confidence they take refuge in misleading people like Omkarababa.

    Pundit was taught to act as god’s angel through whom Omkarababa did his fraudulent communications and directed his disciples to perform rituals that earned him lots of money.

    Every night Omkarababa boozed and slept with women. Seldom had he convinced women disciples to sleep with him as god’s command.

    Pundit didn’t admire what he observed and believed religion was a concept few intelligent use to dupe millions of idiots.

    In twenty years Omkarbaba’s abbey grew bigger and his villainous character worsened. Pundit wasn’t allowed to go home, he seldom recalled his home and family and wept silently.

    Only one night a woman died mysteriously and Omkarbaba was covertly trying to bury the dead when police arrived. Pundit was made a witness in the trial. The malicious Omkarbaba was finally jailed and his monastery shut permanently. Pundit found work in a Social Foundation.

    “Pundit ever go back home?” Sarvesh asked.

    Pundit went back after many years with the hope to unite with his family. The settlement had improved with more concrete houses, better roads, numerous shops, and the village school renovated. A new house stood in place of their old house.

    A tradesman who lived in that house informed Kamala sold all her assets and moved elsewhere with her youngest son many years ago, no one knew where they lived. Pundit’s hope of finding his family was shattered. He learned Ramu was paralyzed from a stroke and lived a miserable life till he died.

    Pundit’s mom said, “All your sins have to be paid back before death.”
    Perhaps the Lord punished Ramu and Omkarbaba.

    “How you know Pundit’s story?” Sarvesh asked.

    “Mom hoped someday I would bring her here, but I don’t understand where and how she is now? I’m the unfortunate Pundit.”

    “Oh, uncle! Grandma talks about you frequently, I am your nephew!”

    Sarvesh and Lokpal embraced each other, nothing could stop their tears.
    Dusk cast a mysterious darkness around the holy house. Only the makeshift shops enlightened. Notes of the ringing bell and pilgrims singing a chorus filled the air.
    “He exists and examines our endurance!” Lokpal said, “Let’s join the prayer.”
    They walked together towards the holy house.

    *********

  • July 31, 2016 at 4:13 pm
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    Cheeto Jesus
    By Alice Nelson ©2016

    Horace Biddle was preparing for the end of the world, as were most people in the town where he lived. But unlike the residents who were spending their last days, drinking, and screwing anything that moved, old Horace was busily making other plans —he planned on becoming a god. Well not a real god per se, even a man of Horace’s arrogance didn’t think that was feasible, but a god to those who needed one in times like these. “So why not me?” Horace thought.

    Wispy yellow hair covered the top of Horace’s head, in a horribly obvious comb over. His skin was permanently tinted orange, thanks to the constant use of a sunless spray tan in his previous life. Horace thought it made him look masculine, but most people thought he looked like a human cheese puff.

    Still, Horace Biddle managed to accumulate a core group of followers who believed he was the reincarnation of the god Slenderman —don’t laugh. I know it doesn’t sound like a name a god would have, but neither does Horace. Thousands of years ago, in this very region, legend has it that Slenderman ruled with an iron fist. And Horace, being Horace did his research and thought, “This will be the perfect ruse.” He really didn’t believe in any god, heavenly or otherwise, but he always knew he was destined for greatness, and he thought there were people stupid enough to believe him —if he sold it right.

    And he sold it he did, to at least 20 pathetic devotees who attended The Church of Slenderman in the private banquet hall in Johnny’s Diner. Horace enlisted the aid of his former mechanic, Larry Bardwell, to act as his second in command. Larry’s large frame, and unquestioned devotion, made him the perfect sucker for the job.

    The diner was full that morning, and Horace Biddle pasted on his famous closed lipped smile, then stepped into Johnny’s Diner looking every bit like a used car salesman.

    The usual crowd was there, including Maxwell, Horace’s biggest critic, and the closest thing the town had to a leader. Horace hated him, “The man has no respect for me at all.” He told Larry.

    There was already tension in the air when Horace and his followers arrived. Just the day before, news filtered into town that massive earth quakes and hurricanes demolished large areas in Asia and Africa, and most everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the destruction headed their way. People were hopeless, and in no mood for Horace and his cult; especially Maxwell, who never had much patience for the man, even during good times.

    “Hey Horace,” Maxwell said. Why don’t you pray to that so-called god of yours, and ask him to spare our little neck of the woods, will ya?”

    The other diners laughed, and Horace’s face went from orange to bright red.

    Then things got way out of hand. Larry noticed Horace’s reaction, and punched Maxwell, who in turn beat him to a pulp as the other followers, and the rest of the diners joined in the melee. Horace watched his people defend his honor, and a smile spread across his carroty face, “If I can inspire this kind of devotion, maybe I really am a god.”

    That’s when the stranger walked in. He was a tall man, in a neatly tailored suit —which was a very rare site in these dire times. As soon as he arrived, the fighting subsided, and the rage that was in the air, got sucked out as if some wind blew through and carried it away. Horace wasn’t smart enough to realize that he should’ve been scared, instead he was angry that this interloper interrupted a fight that was meant to defend his honor.

    “Can I help you?” Horace asked.

    “Horace Biddle.” The stranger said, almost spitting the words out.

    “Do I know you?”

    “You claim that you do.” The stranger said coyly.

    “I’ve never seen you before in my life.” Now Horace was getting frustrated.

    “Oh, but I know you very well Horace Biddle, and I don’t like what I’ve been seeing, not — one — bit.”

    Again, Horace’s orange skin turned beet red, “How dare you talk to me that way!” The stranger laughed and Larry, fresh off his scrape with Maxwell came to his leader’s defense. He lunged for the man, but the stranger simply raised his hand and Larry vanished into thin air.”

    Oh it was real now, and the other diners, seeing Horace was in deep doo-doo, slowly backed away.

    “You sir are no god.” The stranger said, as he walked toward Horace, seeming several feet taller than when he arrived.

    “The one good thing about your deception Horace Biddle, is it woke me from a slumber I’d been in for far too long.”

    Horace’s voice rose a few octaves, “I am a god to these people, the reincarnation of the inimitable Slenderman!” Horace stuck out his chin, in that annoying way he had when he was trying to look intimidating.

    The stranger cocked his head to one side, “How can you be Slenderman, when I am.”

    The diners looked at Horace, waiting for a response. His yellow comb-over fluttered on top of his head, and he looked even more orangey than usual.

    “Impossible, I am Slenderman!” Horace looked at his followers —minus Larry of course, hoping they’d stand by his side. But they didn’t, instead they looked away, embarrassed that they ever followed a fool like Horace Biddle.

    Horace tried to run, but the Real Slenderman stopped him in his tracks, and lifted the pompous fool into the air.

    “I am Slenderman!” The stranger screamed. And those were the last words Horace Biddle ever heard, as the life slowly drained out of his miserable, orange stained face.

  • August 1, 2016 at 7:32 pm
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    Resurrection
    by Ralph Jensen © 2016

    I was not afraid – not because the priests had told us that we would not suffer if we were a willing sacrifice. I was at peace because the Breath of the Void had told me. I knew in my heart that I was safe, a knowledge that surpassed all understanding.

    That’s why I had returned to volunteer. My offer was accepted gladly – a virgin, in the eyes of the gods, had the value of seven boys.

    The altars resembled iron grills – much like those on which the ox would be roasted for the Feast of Acceptance once the gods had given their approval… if they did.

    The crowd watched from beyond the Circle of the Holies as the priests tied us to the iron. Most of us showed no resistance though some shed tears.

    They tied us firmly – no movement could be seen should there be pain. Unnoticeable to the crowd they gagged us – no screams could arise should we suffer. Not all might be willing to the end, fear might arise in some hearts.

    I knew this from the priests’ faces, from their minds, which I sensed but I resented them not because I loved my people dearly.

    ###

    Since I can remember I have seen things that others didn’t – firebirds dancing in the sky at the dawn of winter, to comfort us through the cold. Back then flowers of light arose from the nightly plains. Their songs often lasted through the days and even those who did not see were happy then.

    But those days were harsh. The harvest was scarce. The heat of summer and the winds of winter slowly drowned our smiles. The firebirds yielded to serpents of ember. The flowers grew scarce, their songs turned sad and even the serpents, sadly, disappeared. Our world grew dark.

    ###

    The altars stood in a semi-circle so our eyes would witness the arrival of the gods among the holy trees in the center. No god had been seen in many generations, so I was told by my parents and theirs. Our lack of faith had angered them as we had embraced this world more than theirs. That’s why the sacrifices started – of things, of livestock and grain, a tenth of the harvest, then two, then a third. Finally of ourselves.

    This was the fifteenth ceremony. None had succeeded so far.

    ###

    The crowd stood in silence as the priests poured sacred oil on the wood under the altars. They alighted the torches and the people began the Call to the Gods. The priests moved with the rhythm and prayed.

    I watched the trees. My grandfather had talked about their leaves shining golden when the gods were close, blossoms of magic light, fruits of heavenly scent. Now they stood in darkness.

    But I sensed movement among them. When I embraced it in my heart my eyes opened: I had not seen her before but I knew of her from the tales of my people: Meredith, interlocutor of the gods, medium of the realm, servant of her people.

    Tall among women and men, of some age but strong and agile, she moved between the trees and approached the altars. I sensed it was not our hearts she rejected but the entire ceremony. Angrily she addressed the priests who would not see her nor perceive her voice. But Meredith’s anger also masked sadness. I knew this when she stepped to my altar and I saw the tears in her eyes.

    The crowd now chanted with fervor, the priests became ecstatic. Within moments they would step forward and send us to the other world.

    Meredith stared at me with wonder: “Did you volunteer for this?”

    Hers were not words of ridicule. Partly of scorn they hid also concern in the face of our bodies’ imminent death. And strangely enough they were of hope.

    Unable to speak I answered in my mind. I spoke of the firebirds, the flowers of light, the serpents of ember, the voice of the Void. She understood but there was no avail.

    “I cannot help you. They don’t understand.” Her mind admired my peace. “I tried, but their hearts are closed. And with every sacrifice they die another death.”

    She fell silent, of worry another word would end my peace, increase the pain to come. Or maybe of hope, the hope I saw in her eyes.

    “Are you the prophecy, the one who comes at the end…? I have no idea…”

    “Do not worry.”

    Her mind questioned my sanity as her eyes wandered to the crowd. A change in the chant told me something was happening there.

    The head priest raised his torch, stepped toward my altar. Meredith gestured him to stop, a gesture incapable of crossing the realms, but still the priest falls out of trance.

    Something enters my field of vision, accompanied by shouts but also by laughter, the laughter of children. A ball rolls into the trees, a colorful ball, followed by children absorbed in happy play. The priests, now out of trance, gesture to the crowd: to take the children, to save the ceremony.

    Oblivious to the world, the children follow the ball into the trees. Hesitantly, the crowd crosses into the Circle, toward the trees, which now resound with laughter.

    Impatiently the priests also advance but then a wind blows, swaying the leaves. They turn bright. Blossoms open at the branches, a few, more, all over. As the sun rises from the mountains children’s laughter travels across the field and the people stand in wonder.

    Without doubt the gods had accepted the sacrifice, a sacrifice that has not been.

    ###

    My name is Jindirin, the first living interlocutor of the gods in ten generations, living medium of the realm, servant of my people. Our lives are hard but today the gods are with us and our valleys are filled with laughter. Only when it stops will I worry.

  • August 3, 2016 at 7:43 am
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    A wise man sat by a deep lake. It was summer. Early in the morning, dawn was breaking on the horizon. The rising globe spun colours of gold, orange, red and pink across the mountain ranges in the distance. Somewhere a mopoke farewelled the moon and darkness as it winged its way across the valley to its nest. Magpies and the kookaburras stirred and began to herald the sun’s path to the high heavens with laughter and song. The man sat cross-legged lost in thoughts or not, aware, yet unaware. He thought of the earth, the heavens and nothingness.

    Many years ago, the wise man had begun a journey towards ultimate freedom of thought. He had explored many options and ideas, but still craved something he could not quite describe. He visited and discussed the elements of life and its philosophies with scholars, learned men and even the fools, for they have the kind of wisdom that can impart truths lost to the scholars and intellectuals. He laboured among the men and women of the fields and factories and discussed their lives and dreams.

    So he looked at the complexities and the simplicities of it all. He learnt the language of the animals, the chatter of fishes and dolphins, the calls of the birds. He gleaned knowledge that led to powerful spiritual medicine from the elders of ancient tribes that walked the earth long before planes swept through the atmosphere, vehicles and tractors lumbered across the landscapes and tore into the earth, felling giant trees and laying waste the homes of many of the earth’s inhabitants.
    Late one day, he came upon the lake where he now sat. On all his journeys he had asked a question of every person or animal or insect that he had encountered. None answered him with what he thought was the appropriate answer.
    That is until late at night when he meditated on the question by the lake, he heard or thought he heard a voice.
    “Wait until morning and then you will see.” Thus he waited.

    “Where is G-d?” he asked quietly as the light flooded in to the world.
    He looked deeply into the clear mirror surface of the lake and saw the world reflected on the mirror like surface of the water. He saw himself. As he did so he then understood. He stood up, got undressed and contemplated his reflection for several long minutes.

    Calling out “Here and only here is G-D”, he thumped his chest and then jumped in to the lake. The water parted to receive him and he was never seen again.

    Some of his followers said he was the long awaited Messiah. They built a shrine to the man they claimed had found G-D. Others decried him as a suicidal charlatan.

    Many people started to come to the lake and soon a cairn was built up. People left flowers, stones and plants. The flowers died. The rocks formed the cairn.
    It was dedicated to “Here lies a man who found his G-d.”

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