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Flashfiction #29: Religion

Discussion in 'Reader's Corner' started by Lucaniel, Mar 5, 2018.

  1. Lucaniel non serviam

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    Theme #29: Religion



    Rules:

    1. Your work must be within constraints of the theme.
    2. Of course, all themes can be interpreted in any number of ways.
    3. 500 words maximum per entry, or else the entry will be disqualified.
    4. Only post one entry per theme. The highest rated entry will choose the next theme.
    5. You may not rate/review your own work.
    6. Add a rating out of ten at the end of your "review".
    7. Be constructive/honest when criticizing a piece. No mindless flaming.
    8. You do not have to enter a flashfic to rate.
    9. If you enter and do not rate & review the other entries, your flashfic is disqualified from points.


    Dates:
    Starts 05/03, Monday, ends 16/03 Friday, reviews on the weekend 17/03 and 18/03.
     
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  2. Lucaniel non serviam

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    Spoiler: 500
    The last man could tell it was one of the bad days when he woke up. His guts were squeezing and convulsing and he had to retch into the slop-bucket the moment he climbed out of bed. The hollow, cored-out feeling was inside his bones, his arms were trembling, and he felt weak and brittle as glass. He put on the suit with difficulty, wondering if there was any point when it was worn out and torn all over, and trudged slowly up the stepladder to open the bunker door.

    Once outside, he squinted into the glare of the sickly red sun. Without the smog and dust in the sky, his watering eyes couldn't have borne its rays. Around him there was debris, with some crumbling buildings which had been shaken by the blastwave but survived. The first memorial he had built was a mile ahead, where a building had collapsed on a mother and her child. His body was aching terribly by the time he reached the skeletons, arranged so the mother cradled the child, surrounded by the mementos he had placed there as a shrine. A golden menorah had pride of place, surrounded on either side by plastic roses and pieces of coloured glass. They were all things he had found in his supply excursions which struck him with their unlooked-for beauty.

    He did not know how to worship. He had grown up with carers who were already slowly dying, with little time left. They had taught him only how to fend for himself, seeing it as futile to give him anything to believe in. Since they succumbed to the radiation sickness, he had not seen another living soul.

    Even now, on what he counted as perhaps the hundredth of his monthly pilgrimages to these haphazard shrines, the mother and child could bring tears out of him. The deep, aching loneliness gripped him worse than any pain, and he could not think whether he wanted to be the mother or the child. Perhaps both. Cared for, and caring for - knowing there was a purpose.

    He shook himself, got up, and kept moving. Now there was more debris to climb over, overturned cars and shattered chunks of masonry. Most people had been hiding in basements, forewarned, but he would be coming to the shadow wall soon.

    The stadium's walls loomed high before him as he went in through the gate. Those unmindful of death had congregated there, seeing what would come as the rapture. He knew this because the man he thought of as his father had revealed, in a moment of delirium, that he was like them, but he had been too scared, and bitterly regretted it.

    The last man thought it was the right choice, looking at the walls around him now. Human silhouettes were burned into them. Some were stolid, arms at their sides. But most had their arms flung up or in front of the head. They had died afraid.

    He sat, and mourned them.
     
  3. afgpride Retired Staff

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    Baldy’s skin tone camouflaged his bare feet with the default floor. It was inconsequential but off-putting.

    “Greetings, traveller”, he bowed. A little cliché.

    “Morning”, the other guy responded. Gentle-sounding but fake. As if he was expecting confession or guidance and had been through the procedure a thousand times.

    They examined each other’s clothes for a moment, trying to remember where they were and how they got there. Baldy picked his nose and wiped his booger on his sleeve. Odd. Did they really do that so blatantly? He untied his belt, letting his robes hang loose as his chest lay exposed to the stranger next to him, who looked away politely. When he tied it back, enjoying a snugger fit, he seemed comfortable enough to ask the awkward question.

    “Who’s your Emperor?”

    “I beg your pardon?” The priest raised his brow a little too high.

    “I have a duty to report foreigners to Emperor Gao Wei’s court.” He was wielding his stick now. Shaolins mustn’t have been this combative. Then again, the whole totalitarian thing.

    “I see you are troubled, young man. You’ve come to the right place. God heals minds just as well as hearts.”

    “God?” A kung fu stance and a suspicious glare.

    Dad paused the scene. Didn’t realize he was behind me.

    “What are you doing, kid?”

    “Just fiddling around.”

    “This thing isn’t a toy. Do you know how much it cost me?”

    “Two billion, six-hundred eighty-eight yuan”, I groaned.

    The usual lecture. I’m not allowed to use the thing. Holograms in a room that size need large processing power. The wrong glitch at the wrong time could cause maintenance issues. I should bird watch people in person if I cared so much about their conversations. What’s wrong with videos. Philosophy is pondered, not simulated.

    It all came out like drawl. Noticing such reminded me I was high.

    When he finished it felt like hours. I watched him recalibrate the system and then shut off the lights.

    “What’s your essay about again?”

    “Normative ethics”. I slurred that one a little.

    “I read a good book on that. Had the theology angle you’re probably looking for. It’s by Feng Shi. He’s a Chinese native but his English is as good as ours in the States. You’ll like what he says about reciprocal altruism”.

    What he said was probably interesting. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about how most of the world was extremely religious at one point. That and a ham sandwich I was craving.

    The deadline was the next day, but I still had some time. I dozed off on the couch.
     
  4. Nighty the Mighty swm n outer space Retired Staff

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    Religion

    The fire popped and crackled; sheltered deep in the heart of the tree, as the man-thing led his followers into the burnt clearing. Beneath their feet, desiccated grass and other detritus snapped at them – the spirit must have been furious to leave such an impression on the dirt as it passed. Even now there was an unearthly smell in the air, carried on the breeze gently fanned towards them by the flame.

    The man-thing gestured with a gnarled stick at the fire and then ambled its way over, stopping periodically to bark commands at its followers when they stepped out of whatever it perceived to be a proper order. Then it began its sermon.

    ‘This footprint,’ it proclaimed – pointing proudly at the fire of the tree with its staff.

    ‘Footprint of god-thing as it step on earth, leavings behind of a great spirit.’

    As it spoke, it stabbed its tool into the ground to emphasise each beat and drive home the importance of what it was saying. Each slam brought forth a spray of dry dirt that sprinkled over the front row of kneeling disciples. But the man-thing did not care for it did not notice – too caught up in its fervour.

    ‘When night is dark, and sky become raging ocean, spirit touch earth. Great light and sound like mountain crumble. Where touch, find the fire.’

    ‘Spirit say to us; Take of myself and tribe will prosper. By will of great spirit meat cook and water boil to stop sickness. Flame guide in night and heat in cold. By fire life. No fire death.’

    It paused here to cross fingers over its eyes then waited impatiently for the rest to repeat the gesture, prodding them along with the stick when they were slow to react. The others grumbled and hissed when the man-thing jabbed them but obeyed. They had been through this many times before – no fire could be kept lit eternally, and every so often the tribe would need to venture forth for more.

    The most recent loss had befallen them during that very same downpour that the shaman now referred to in its speech its flock.

    The man-thing began anew.

    ‘Give thanks to God-spirit. If not then spirit think no longer needed and stop give fire to us. Punish us. Torture us. Drive us from plains into desert.’

    Then with grand ceremony, it reached into the tree with its branch – to the embers of something higher than itself cocooned within – and accepted the gift of a god.

     
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