Saturday, May 11, 2013

More from "a Misspent god"

I had a wonderful time back at the Colorado Springs Writers Reading Series last night.  There were many middle-school students there braving perhaps their first public reading.  It was great to be back after a long absence.

I read from my story about a god in a pantheon of gods who refuses to use his power.  Here is the selection I read last night.

War with Helgeror

One morning in the library I was lolling around and strolled onto the veranda from the third floor. The clouds had lifted and the sea stretched out magnificently before me. I stared into the long and bright horizon aware of nothing more than its beauty. A voice startled me. I turned to see Helgeror emerging from a shadowy corner. She spoke softly, but with her usual gravity. "What are you thinking about, dear brother?" she asked of me. I will never forget this question, for her words were rich with the pathways of deceit. I told her that I was thinking of nothing but beauty. "Do you not think of war?" she asked quite pointedly. War. I did not understand the need to bring up such a topic. But she pressed on. "War," she said to me, "is an important part of being a god." I chose to listen if only to learn the ways of my enemy. Helgeror turned toward the ocean and moved nearer the edge of the veranda. She soliloquized on the value of war, its place in the realm, its purpose in maintaining godly hierarchy and its necessity for containing the lower realms. I listened with curiosity and loathing. Mother and Gersemi never spoke this way. When Helgeror was finished she turned to me and said, "It is time you learned war. Father has sent me to teach you." Father! This was the first I knew he even thought of me. Helgeror approached me rapidly, turned my arm behind my back and threw me to the ground. "This is war," she hissed as she pressed her knee into the small of my back and leaned over near my ear. Her long braid coiled around my head as a viper. I did not struggle against her. There was more to learn. She rasped her next words into my ear. "You shall know war from me, brother."

What happened next was exhilarating and terrifying. I felt every fiber of my being course with new strength. I had a new and full understanding that Helgeror could never defeat me and that I could annihilate her. I leapt to my feet and faced her only to realize that I had grown a league taller than her in that instant. She backed away swiftly, but not swiftly enough. I bent down and grabbed her by one leg, pulled her up into the air and then slammed her against the marble floor. Her braid smacked against the veranda wall and then I heard a terrible sound. The marble cracked beneath her and the ground began to tremble. I could hear the books in the library falling from their shelves. And then I saw it. It was only for an instant. Helgeror was afraid of me. She did not linger in that moment though and struggled to get up, roaring in defiance. But I pinned her legs against the marble. As the ground continued to shake, a great fissure split open beneath her head. Her braid swiftly began to slither toward it, but she grabbed it and swung it at me wildly. I wrapped it around my hand and held her fast by braid and leg. Then I spoke to her and this is what I said. "I will have no war with you." It was as simple as that. But then I began to tremble. She felt it and began to laugh a terrible, mocking laugh. I pulled her up and set her on the flattest part of the now broken veranda. I towered over her taller than I ever thought possible. Helgeror cackled and then she said to me, "I will war with you, my brother. If not by strength, then by cunning." Another laugh dominated hers. I turned to see my father looking on from another mountaintop. His face was fierce with pride. His teeth flashed in the sunlight. I looked down in the valley and could see lower ones running for shelter, covering their heads as they ran and rocks tumbling down the mountainside. I looked my father in the eye and then turned my back on his laughter, walking to the next mountain, sullen and dazed by my own power.

Mother told me that she sensed my change of mood very soon. She had been to the library not long after my first war and watched from a safe and hidden corner as Helgeror re-braided her hair with her feet swinging over the edge of the new crevasse. Mother told me once that she loved Helgeror, but I did not believe her when she said it. It seemed more like respect and fear but not love, not the kind of love I felt from our mother.

Copyright M.R. Hyde 2013