Artist: Kirill Leonov
“Wait for me,” a young man shouts to his friends. “Come on guys, wait up!”
“If you fall behind again, Asher, we’re leaving you in the Black Dunes!” The boys continue moving forward, laughing as they glance back at Asher’s slow progression across the wastes of the Black Dunes. “Come on! Hurry up! We’ll be late to see the storyteller!”
The color drained from Asher’s face when the other’s mentioned the storyteller. He hobbled over mounds of old rubber as quickly as his prosthetic legs could. No one wanted to be late for the storyteller. The gatherings were not a mandatory event, but everyone around the Derelict would make the journey when the storyteller showed up.
“I’m coming! I’m coming!” Asher’s wheezing could be heard from a distance. The boys slowed their pace as the youth’s feet caught inside a burnt tire. They pulled him out and helped one another the rest of the way across the Black Dunes. “Thanks, guys. I’m sorry if we’re late because of me.”
As they crossed the highest peak of the dunes, the Derelict came into view. The countless times they had made the journey, the view was always captivating. A colossal arm and hand rose above the land. Emerging from mountains of ruin and waste, the objects bore a stark contrast to the land around; they looked pristine and bright for the ravaged and desolate mounds they lay in.
“I hope the storyteller finally gets to this one,” chirped one of the boys. “I want to know about what this is and why it looks like Asher’s arm.”
Asher’s dirty face blushed. His sky blue eyes darted to his left as he lifted his arm. The other boys made the comparisons as well, but Asher had always wondered why his looked like the Derelict’s and none of the others who needed new limbs had anything similar. “I’d like to know too,” Asher confirmed.
“Looks like they’ve uncovered more of it since the last time we were here! Come on, let’s get going,” shouted another of the boys. They hurried across the wasteland leading to the Derelict.
A city had grown up underneath the hand of the Derelict and spread as far as it could. When the boys finally arrived to Regulus they were greeted by the familiar faces of those who were also making their pilgrimage. The Storydome, as the wanderers had renamed it, loomed into view. A grand coliseum originally built to shelter wayfarers and direct excavation crews had now become a massive amphitheater for entertainment and education. The storyteller would always choose the Storydome for his return visits.
Once the crowds settled into their seats, the storyteller would take to the stage. An old man, older than the elders who served Regulus as leaders and advisors, the storyteller travels the lands recounting history lost to the great calamity of time.
The boys found a seat as close to the stage as they could manage. People around them began murmuring rumors of what the storyteller had discovered on his travels, who he was, or what he was going to be sharing this time.
“I do really hope he tells us about the Derelict,” Asher said. He rubbed his left arm thinking about what his friend had said. Asher grew up with the prosthetics and has always had them since he can remember. “I don’t really understand why everyone else has had to get new ones, but mine have always been with me. It’s like they’ve been growing with me since..”
Asher’s voice trails off as the crowd gets louder. The storyteller takes the stage and the lights begin to dim. The Storydome resides in the shadow of the Derelict’s hand, and the long day is coming to it’s close with cool breezes bringing the scent of dust and rust.
“My friends,” the storyteller begins, “it’s so good to see you all gathered together here today! It has been some time since I was here last, and I have journeyed far and wide.” Applause rises from the crowd, others begging the old man to continue. “Regulus has been working hard to uncover as much of the Derelict as possible since it was discovered here thirty years ago. We knew so little of it then, and still so little now.”
Asher’s body tenses as chills run down his spine in waves. With widened eyes, his ears perk up and he sits at full attention anxiously awaiting the storyteller’s next words.
“Would you believe me if I told you Regulus is not the only city founded underneath such a relic?” Hushed gasps escape from the crowd, the entire coliseum falls into silence. “I have visited over twenty-six cities in the past fifteen years trying to find any information I could about why these exist. I may have stumbled upon that answer from a very unlikely place.” The storyteller turns and nods to someone off stage. “You see, my friends, in every city there have been children who were born different, who could not understand why they were different. I have found them in each and every city a Derelict exists in, all but you, my dear Regulus.”
Asher feels his friends’ eyes upon him. He can feel the blood rushing to his face as his chills grow more intense. He can feel a surge of energy in all of his limbs, but he cannot remove his eyes from the storyteller.
“I’m hoping to change that today, Regulus. I need to find the child here who is different. They hold in their hands the capacity to grasp the knowledge I’ve been gathering about the Derelicts.” He closes his eyes and stands on stage in silence for some time. Asher notices the old man’s lips moving as if he’s reciting something or mumbling to himself. Suddenly the old man’s eyes shoot open and lock with Asher’s. “I believe I’ve found what I’ve been looking for, Regulus. You have been very kind to me today!”
The storyteller nods slowly without dropping his gaze. Asher feels hands upon him but cannot move. The hands lift him up and carry him behind the stage where he sees a group of thirty-eight youths, all appearing to be his age, with prosthetics of all kinds. Each of them smile at Asher, welcoming him to their circle. The storyteller on stage bows to his audience. “Thank you for waiting patiently while I conducted my search! Now, let me tell you the story of the Derelict. A very long time ago our world was a magnificent paradise, which I’m sure you’re all familiar hearing from me. However, it was not always a peaceful place. Wars would break out between our ancestors. Sometimes it was a war between family, friends, loved ones and more. Sometimes they would be over territory, or even over the Gods themselves. Our world had many beliefs in these times. We created monsters to fight monsters. We waged wars on ideas and beliefs.” He hangs his head low and shakes it for a moment. A deep sigh escapes his breath before he lifts his gaze just enough to see his audience. “It wasn’t long before those things decided to wage war on us!”
The storyteller holds up his hand, “Give me one moment, my friends,” he asks as he walks back to the circle where Asher is sitting. He extends his hand for Asher to take. Confusion dances across the youth’s face as the storyteller urges him to stand and join him. The rest of the circle smile, nod, and encourage Asher to go with the storyteller. After a moment, the young man reaches out to the storyteller with his prosthetic arm. The sight of the limb catches the old man’s eye and his smile grows wider. “You are indeed a special child, my boy. Come with me to the stage and I’ll explain.”
“I.. ye..yeah,” Asher stutters, still unsure of what to think. He stumbles forward with the storyteller. Everything happening is overwhelming the poor boy to the point he can barely function. The old man laughs softly, perfectly aware of what the boy is experiencing.
“Please excuse the poor lad here. I understand it is quite a lot to take in for the first time.” The old man continues to hold Asher’s prosthetic hand. “But I wanted him to stand beside me and become a part of the story he didn’t know he was. The Derelicts that litter our lands, they are what have made these children so special.” The crowd falls silent, intently listening to every word the storyteller has to say. “Many of these children, even their parents, have never actually interacted with the Derelicts in any manner. However it is the Derelicts who have graced upon these children, from birth, a special gift.”
Asher feels the old man lift up his arm, and his gaze follows it as if his limb held some clue. “The Derelicts were the Gods of old. Gods of our old world who came to end the petty wars of the people of our world. Some had come to prove their dominance over the people of the lands. It was a great and terrible battle between humanity and these machine gods. Our world was ruined by both them and us, but in the end, we prevailed. I do not know how we beat them as that was a few thousand years ago, but the great beings fell. The wars and their existence forgotten over time as the land began to claim their bodies.”
“But what’s that got to do with me, storyteller?” Asher asked his question without thinking. “I’m so sorry, sir,” he apologized just as quickly.
“Oh my boy, it has more to do with you than you realize. Tell me, is your arm the only artificial body part you bare?” Asher shakes his head no and begins to uncover his legs. They both look as shiny and new as the Derelict’s hand above them. “Then it is as I suspected! You, my lad, are the bearer of the GodSpark of the Regulus Derelict.”
Gasps and guffaws fill the crowd chatter as the masses attempt to figure out what the GodSpark is and what that means for them. Asher’s friends begin chanting his name. Shortly the chant catches with others of the audience and a small section of the crowd is chanting Asher’s name.
“Friends, friends, please calm down so I may continue! The GodSpark is the remnant essence of what the Derelicts use to be. It is a special gift given to very few. With this gift, these children were born with these limbs, and they have grown with them since. It gives them an intimate connection with machinery and their tools. But most importantly, it gives them the ability to do this,” he exclaims, and whispers quietly to Asher. “Concentrate on that hand up there, lad. Imagine that hand is this hand here,” he says, patting Asher’s prosthetic. “Imagine this hand here is that giant one up there. Now, slowly open up your palm.”
Asher gazes at the Derelict’s hand for a moment before closing his eyes. He concentrates on what the storyteller wanted him to. The world begins to fade away and he can feel, for the first time, a tingling in his false limbs. He opens his eyes and begins to slowly open up his hand. As his hand begins to open, Asher realizes the shadow of the colossal hand is moving across the crowd. His concentration snaps and the hand quickly returns to it’s original position.
“First try?! This lad here is special indeed!” The storyteller’s praise doesn’t reach Asher as he stands there in complete shock that he just made the hand of the Derelict move. “These children are able to connect to their Derelicts and move them, to a degree. This young man is host to three limbs! He is the first I’ve seen who has three limbs. He will be the one who must lead the rest in the coming conflicts.”
The crowd bursts into an uproar. The majority of the population are simple folks who salvage and scavenge for their living. Very few have ever been in any sort of fight. With the idea of conflict upon them, the audience has started panicking.
“Friends! I’m not finished just yet! Please, do not worry. Conflict is still far away. There is ample time for us to prepare. For now, we must understand! The gods did not die with their bodies. They were weakened and retreated, as the legends I’ve come across proclaim. The remnant energy and power from these bodies has slowly invaded the bodies of select few people. People like me, as I have lived far longer than that of anyone I’ve known. And that of these young ones here. These gods have vowed to return and exact their vengeance upon humanity! But we will be prepared. We will continue searching for those gifted with the GodSpark, and those who have been granted unnatural talents. We will uncover how humanity defeated the gods before, and we will be prepared to conquer them when they come. We will not be defeated. We will show these gods how frail they are, and how we humans don’t need them. We will witness the second and final fall of the gods.”
The circle joins Asher and the storyteller on stage in cheers and vicious battle cries in defiance of the machine gods. Asher feels his GodSpark course through him for the first time. Surges of the awakened power arc out of his prosthetics in a small light show, dancing across the plates of his arm and legs.
He wanted an explanation for the Derelict, for his limbs. Now Asher has them in a way he could never have predicted. He looks up at the Derelict’s hand, holding his own up toward it, and clenches his fist. The Derelict’s hand balls up in response. Humanity will be ready to fight.
© T.A. Rindler “Fall of the Gods” 2015
© T.A. Rindler “Fall of the Gods” Short Stack Story Time 2015