A ceiling collapses in an old, dark, chamber. The new opening spills in light that has been vacant from this room for countless millennia. It also let something else inside that has long been missing from this place. Life.
“Have you found him?” A voice echoes off the walls, crumbled rocks, and looming pillars. “Is Hasur alright?”
From the remains of the collapse a body emerges, dust and debris rolling off the poor man. The man, Hasur, shakes the rest of the dust away and signals for the rest of his group. As he collects himself, he takes a look at his new surroundings. The dune he and his group had just been on had packed on too much pressure. Adding in the weight of the small group the wall of the chamber gave in, crumbling away from the bottom up, giving Hasur a good twelve foot drop before catching the rest of the tumbling ground.
Now, he stood under an intricate archway. Many more arches formed a path around the chamber walls. Each arch connected the walls to twenty-four massive pillars standing roughly twenty feet away from the walls. Each pillar itself standing twenty feet apart while rising to meet the ceiling thirty feet above, embracing it in ten foot sections with the arches symmetrically dividing the outer pathway. Within the space sectioned off by the pillars stands a large, raised, rotunda. The platform sits snuggly between eight additional pillars of the same size, holding up a large dome bearing intricate structural designs.
The platform hosts steps all around except for where the pillars stand. They lead to the center of the large rotunda where something unexpected rests on a short, wide pedestal. Encircling the pedestal are a number of rectangular spaces covered in mounds of ashen dust. Before Hasur can move any further the rest of his group catches up.
“Well, we’re delighted to see you up and moving about, Hasur! We were afraid the worst may have befallen you, my boy!” The man, dressed in rugged clothing, tinted goggles, and a wide-brimmed hat, patted Hasur on his shoulder kicking up small clouds of dust. The man coughed a few times, waving his hand to dissipate the dust. “My, my, lad. You’ve stumbled into something pretty magnificent here!”
The rest of the group wandered about the great cavernous room. Hasur was escorted away to be checked for injuries. Another fellow of the team had walked up to the pedestal, looking upon the object resting upon it with astonishment.
“Quite magnificent isn’t it, Anatoly?” The man walked forward spreading his arms wide, as if embracing the whole of the space before them. Anatoly Volkov faced the man, the most knowledgable of their group and the leader of their “Discovery Crew” for the last few months. “This is one of the pinnacles of our far ancient ancestors,” he spoke joyously. “It’s in such pristine condition too! This should fetch us a great reward with the Ur-Archivist! Oh, this is so exciting, lad! Look at how they constructed the head, the multiple sets of arms. This has to be..” The man trailed off momentarily as he accessed his travel archivist. “An old Hindu God-Host Machine it looks like.”
“Hindu?” Anatoly questioned the terminology as he had never heard of such a thing. “I thought we were in Old India, Bayard?”
“We are, lad,” reassured Bayard Telmin. “The Hindu, according to Maxz here,” he said while tapping on his travel archivist, “were a people of the native religion of Old India. Keep in mind, this is ages and ages ago, Anatoly! Even the Ur-Archivist had yet to be created for another hundred-thousand years or so. Much of what we know of that age comes from discovery crews like our own here!”
“So what is this then?” Anatoly returned his gaze to the God-Host Machine. It had been draped in an extravagant silken cloth of the most vibrant red Anatoly had ever laid eyes on. “If it’s as old as you say, then why does it look brand new?”
Bayard smiled and chuckled lightly. Anatoly looked mildly confused. “My boy, how long do you think this temple has been buried, undisturbed for eons, until one Hasur comes crashing in on it?” Anatoly looked around at the space they were in. Nothing looked like it had moved for countless centuries or more. “The people of that age were trying. They were trying to overcome superstition and promote education. It seems they had a slight inclination as to the disasters yet to hit this world.”
Anatoly had always harbored a thirst for knowledge. He listened intently to Bayard describing the old world, popping in with questions to keep Bayard talking. “Which disasters hit Old India?”
“A nuclear war,” Bayard confessed with sadness lingering on his voice. “It’s still unclear what started it. There are about twenty-six accounts of what started the conflict. All of them lead to the same conclusion, atomic annihilation. “He shook his head slowly as he spoke the last two words. “The radiation levels had been so bad, we’ve only been able to return within the last few thousand years.”
“So what is this God-Host Machine then?” Anatoly knew of nuclear war. His home nation of Siberia had experienced a minor nuclear skirmish in it’s infancy some six-thousand years prior. Luckily for the inhabitants, the radiation had been kept to a minimal level. If the radiation levels had been higher, the Siberian Jungle would be as barren of a wasteland as India now was.
“Ah, the good question! As the earth began preparing to explore additional planets and solar systems, conflicts had begun to pop up. Something about people not wanting to leave the old ways.” Images flashed upon the screen of the travel archivist. “The devout of the religious had been trying to incorporate technology into their practices for a number of years. These androids were suppose to be the embodiment of the practitioners’ patron deity.”
The young Volkov’s eyes grew wide as he watched the images flash before him. Many deities appeared that he had heard of, many more that he had not. Bayard brought up the Hindu pantheon. “Who is that?”
“That is the Hindu God, Shiva. According to my records, he’s like one of three main deities of the belief system. I think that’s who this machine was suppose to embody. There have never been any reports of these host machines working. What they were suppose to do was act as the physical vessel for gods or goddesses to enter and control. They were to give the people hope in conflict-heavy times.” Bayard noticed Anatoly’s quizzical expression and continued before he could ask his question. “The way they worked, it seems, is that the devout were to meditate and pray, heavily focusing on the deity they were invoking and the android. Again, there have been no successful attempts ever. Sadly, this one is most likely to have never even been turned on or activated.”
Anatoly noticed a small indentation around the machine’s navel area. There was a faint blue glow to it, like that of a very slight shimmer, slowly pulsating like a heartbeat. “So, Bayard, how would an android like this be powered?”
“Maxz says that these androids don’t have an internal power source. They were activated and programmed independently. A specific coding process that was to make inhabiting the machine an easier process. It can use an external power source connected directly to it’s neural-processors. They were to fully turn on when the deity came to reside within.” Bayard suddenly caught sight of what Anatoly had seen moments ago. “Anatoly, what are you doing?”
It was already too late. Anatoly had placed his thumb over the indentation, activating the android. Suddenly blue light flickered about all over the android. It’s arms began stretching and moving all over. Everyone stopped what they were doing to look at the commotion. Anatoly had quickly jumped back before he was struck by one of the arms.
The machine began to stand up and open it’s eyes for the first time. It’s lips parted slightly as it audibly exhaled. “Greetings, I am Kali,” spoke a female voice. The travel archivist immediately recognized the name and displayed it for both the men to see. “Oh, so your era does remember me?”
“But, how? None have ever worked before!” Bayard stood baffled at what he was seeing. “How can you be real?!”
“Little man, the cosmos are full of things you know little about! How is my existence any different,” Kali teased.
“I mean, how is it that you are within that body? What made you special,” Bayard asked, begging the Goddess Kali to give him the answers he wanted.
“Sacrifice. Lots of sacrifice. Do you know how much energy is wasted upon the death of one human life? Imagine then the amount of energy released within a massive disaster like the one that turned this once beautiful land into what it is today,” she spoke with hints of sadness and anger to her voice. “I heard the calling to save my children from such monstrous acts that you humans cause one another. I heard them as the lives of countless children ceased. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, families, friends, and every other way humanity is connected to one another meant nothing. So I awoke in this body, just in time to save my children from the horrible death that was spreading its way here.”
Bitterness crossed the air between Kali and the men. A cool hatred exuded from the cold metal goddess. Fear is what she received from the discovery crew. “You ‘saved’ them? What do you mean,” asked Anatoly, the only one brave enough to speak.
“I removed them from this world,” she spoke with pride. “When the death is proper, no energy is wasted. What do you think all the dust is around you?” She laughed in delight at the reactions of the men, all except Anatoly. “Young one, you understand, don’t you? You know that the only way to save them from the true suffering they were about to be put through,” she confided with painful remorse. Her glowing, mechanical eyes searched Anatoly’s deeply, looking for sympathy. “I… I had to take them. I couldn’t bear to see my children put through such pain again.”
“I do understand this,” Anatoly replied cautiously.
“After I took them, I tried to return to my brothers and sisters. Something stopped me. Perhaps a mechanism in this body stopped me from leaving. Maybe the weapons of man had reached this place preventing me from escape.” She moved her arms and looked at each of her hands, then around the great room. “I used what power I could to keep this temple free from harm, but in doing so I placed this body in it’s ‘Standby mode,’ to prevent me from using all of my power. I did not realize that entering into this mode would prevent me from reactivating without assistance,” she said, gesturing to the navel indentation. “It has been millennia upon millennia since I was last awake. Young one, please come here. I would like to thank you for releasing me, I have a little token of my gratitude for you.”
She held out her arms for an embrace, while two of her hands held glowing orbs of light.Before he could move, Kali had wrapped her arms around Anatoly, plunging the orbs straight into his back. The ashen dust swirled up around them as a great gust blew in. When the air settled, neither Kali or Anatoly remained.
© T.A. Rindler “The God-Host Machine” 2015
© T.A. Rindler “The God-Host Machine” Short Stack Story Time 2015