Volume 5 Number 3
The lobe-finned thing dragged itself onto the sand. Like the rest of its species, it was unaccustomed to supporting its weight outside the water. Its fin-legs were infinitesimally stronger, though, and after a long struggle, it lay on the beach, exhausted and panting under the three blue-white suns. When it had recovered some part of its strength, it raised itself from the ground and shuffled off to find food.
A brief time later, it was eaten by a small predator whose ancestors had crawled onto land a thousand generations before.
One-Who-Limps heard the cries from the ravine and peered over the edge. A girl-child of the River People lay at the bottom, her leg twisted at an implausible angle.
A River Person's stone axe had given him his name when he was a young warrior. He climbed down the ravine wall, unsure what he would do when he reached the child.
He left her, alive, near the River People's camp. She grew into a fine, strong woman, and led the River People when they wiped out One-Who-Limps' tribe.
The slaves labored under the blue-white suns (PRAISE THE THREE EYES OF HEAVEN!). When one could work no longer, he was quickly slain, and another took his place. Stone by stone, the Great Temple rose to the sky.
Half a lifetime and uncounted dead later, the Great Temple was finished. The king himself placed the great gemstone at the point of the spire (PRAISE THE KING, THE SON OF HEAVEN!).
After the earthquake leveled the Temple, the king was burned alive and his dynasty abolished (PRAISE THE GOD OF THE DEAD!).
Tharliin ran, propelled by fear and shame. He had left his weapons behind. He kept his dagger to defend himself against bandits and beasts.
Far behind him, he heard the clash of swords as the defenders of the city battled the invaders.
Tharliin would never see the city again. Not the temples nor the council chambers nor his home. He was forever outcast. But he was alive. He took a deep breath and laughed. He was alive.
Later, they found him, still clasping the dagger with which he had cut his throat.
Avuurash bid his wives farewell. His club over his shoulder,he went to join the army at Yttrion.
There was one god with three eyes. Of so much Avuurash was certain.
Chaalinar bid his wife farewell. His spear at his side, he went to join the army at Yttrion.
There were three gods, each with one eye. Of so much Chaalinar was certain.
The battle was already over when they met near a heap of corpses. Avuurash's club dashed out Chaalinar's brains as Chaalinar's spear shredded Avuurash's insides. Dead, they lay embracing.
Shelhaarn did not believe in god or gods. No one did anymore.The suns were balls of flaming gas. Religion was part of the old way, the cause only of hatred and suffering. There was no room for it in the new order.
Shelhaarn drove her tank through the side of the farmhouse,laughing as the old couple scrambled to escape.
The land was fertile, its people barbarous, and Shelhaarn's people needed room to grow. She ripped the old couple to pieces with her machine gun. There was no room for them in the new order.
"No question," said Haarjul, staring at the screen."Laboratory-created."
"Which side?" asked Pilaan.
"Us. Them. Does it matter?"
"Can it be stopped?"
"Maybe. If we have time."
The scientists sat down at their consoles and began writing the programs which might bring salvation, if anything could.
In the streets outside, maddened by sickness and fear, the crowds advanced on the germ-warfare research laboratory, armed with clubs and guns and fire, to put an end to its deadly studies.
The small creature's heart raced. It had eluded the predator,barely. The suns were blazing. The creature was hungry, thirsty, exhausted.
In a tangle of vines stood a sort of squared-off hill. The vines had torn holes in the smooth wooden walls, and the creature slipped inside. It was cool and still. Water dripped from a metal tube. It drank and bathed. A few crumbs lay about, and it nibbled at them. The floor was covered with something soft. The creature tore it up and made a nest.
It slept, content.
BIO: Scott Munro lives in the Pacific Northwest with a pair of affectionate and disobedient cats. He is or has been a writer, a political campaign volunteer, a dog-sitter, a telemarketer, a cyclist, a bad chess player, and an online merchant.