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Archive for January, 2015

Search and rescue

Search and rescue

The child stared unflinching at him from behind a tumbled mass of broken buildings. Kaplan understood her caution. He would have been a frightening sight for any wee thing, covered from head to toe in blast resistant armor as he was. The helmet was surely the most fearsome aspect he presented, the face plate a mirror through which light only passed one way.

“Hey,” Lieutenant First Class Aubrey Kaplan said softly. The speakers mounted on his chest broadcast his voice outside his helmet, stripping all the warmth out of it and giving it a metallic tone. He checked the display projected on the inside of his faceplate but the sensors picked up no other warm bodies. Kaplan scowled. The energy anomaly had covered half the planet but it was strongest here. It had to be her.

She blinked at him, her eyes impossibly amber, matching the riot of copper curls on her head.

“What are you doing in there? It can’t be safe. Come on out and talk to me.” He motioned with his hand in case she did not understand Pangalactic, which was a very real possibility, this far out in the hinterlands of the galaxy.

She retreated but one tawny eye returned to peak out beyond the edge of the ragged piece of concrete again.

He dug into his belt pouch and pulled out a candy bar. Holding it out, he motioned with the other hand. “Come out. I know you are hungry. I got a kid brother at home about your age. He eats all the time.”

She stared at the thing in his hand. Shoulders followed head as she eased carefully around the unstable ruins.

He suppressed a smile. She had obviously made her own clothes, if clothes were what you could call it. Her skirt was made of string and rags and ribbons tied together and adorned with any bit of shiny trash she could find. Bits of metal and plastic and twigs hung from the twine she used as a headband. A necklace of the same stuff hung down her naked chest. He could see every rib, poor kid.

“I don’t want to even guess at what you’ve been eating. Drinking rainwater when you can get it, fer sure,” he said, hoping the sound of his voice would soothe her.

She eased up and stared at the thing in his hand. Her own hand reached out hesitantly.

He watched it as if it were the most important thing in the universe. Somehow it was. Something sucked his vision down into a dark tunnel in which that small grubby hand became the focus. He could feel everything. The buzz of the flies around his breathing mask, seeking the moisture it bled out the vent holes. The color of the light on stone. The texture of the rotting concrete. The feel of the cool breeze on the skin of his wrist between glove and armored sleeve.

Her fingers ignored the candy and found the skin of his inner wrist instead. Her touch sent a jolt of sensation down his arm.

“Wha… ?” But he knew what. She was there, inside his head, rummaging though his thoughts, examining and tossing aside one thing after another. She knew he had meant to capture her and take her back to the ship. He could taste her amusement at that. It hung at the back of his throat, sour, like the taste of last night’s dinner. She was wise to that trick. Many had tried. She had been too quick and clever for them all. Ten thousands years, she had played this game. They had laid waste to this planet, those who wanted to pry her loose from this place. She had outwitted them all.

“Wait.” Kaplan whispered, shaking himself free of her thrall. “Ten thousand years? That is not possible.”

She snorted, impatient at his seeming stupidity.

“This planet is a wasteland and a ruin. War did not do this?”

“War?” she said softly, tasting the word. “I like that word. War. Yes. Against one small thing. Me.”

“Where is everyone else? Surely you are not alone?”

“The beings within could not sustain the beings without and they passed, one by one, through the Veil. I am left with only ghosts.”

“But you survived.”

“They will not let me cross the Veil and follow.” she said absently. She was down inside the meat of him, delving into his deepest secrets. He retreated, allowing it.

“They? Who?”

“The Old Ones. The ones who put me here.”

She found his memory of her. It took her a moment, a moment between wonder and terror, before she recognized her danger and leapt away. He had been waiting for just such a move.

He had her body, his armored fist locked tight around her wrist. She cried out, trying to twist free but he was too strong.

She went limp. This too, he had been expecting. She leapt away, leaving her body behind, and ran, dodging out of this reality into the place between dimensions. She was a shadow here, swift and lithe, but this was her place. No one had ever been able to catch her here. He would be a fool to stay in the Nothingness where she wrote the rules. But follow her he did.

She looked behind her to see him close on her tail. She snarled in frustration and twisted sharply away, into the nearest plain of existence. He sensed more than saw her path and followed.

The plains had rules. Each place changed your shape. In a place ferns and giant trees she was a unicorn, fleet of foot and clever. He became a golden boar and raced after. In a place of sand dunes and hard-pan, she was a gazelle. He became a cheetah and nearly caught her. In a place searing hot and filled with fields of lava, she was a creature of stone who dived into a caldera to escape him. He became ice and dived after, the explosion that followed throwing them both into the next reality.

In a place devoid of light except the white light that streamed from every pore of her skin, she turned at last, fury and frustration shaking her to her core.

“Leave me be. I cannot be held accountable for what happens to you if you do not,” she shouted. Something monstrous shifted in the darkness behind her. He could hear what she hid under that surface bravado and it scared him. She was desperately afraid.

“Come away with me. I will show you the universe,” he begged. He had pushed her too far. There would be no accounting for what she did next.

“Sweet words,” she sneered. “You almost believe them yourself.”

She twisted out of sync with all reality and leapt away.

Kaplan followed, afraid.

He was himself, back in the body housed in armor. He stood upon a wide dirt road, the barrow ditches on either side deep and full of weeds, the fields beyond stretching to the horizon where the world curled upwards as if rising foothills promised of mountains just beyond the haze. White castles, their spires tall and clean, beckoned just beyond the edge of seeing. There was no sun or moon or stars in the sky, just an odd, indistinct light. He peered down the road and thought he saw a small silhouette running towards the closest city, its white towers wavering in the purple haze.

“She will not be caught, not for you or anyone. She can never trust that you will not betray her.”

Kaplan looked to the side of the road. A woman stood there, a scythe in her hand. She had been clearing the verge of the road, the curls of her silver hair protected under a scarf, her skirt tied up on one hip to free her knees.

“What would you know of this, old woman?”

“I was her mother, too many times to count now. She brings me back to test me but I fail, every time. I hope she will weary of the game. It is not something that can ever be won, not with her. The universe refuses to give her what she wants, no matter how many ghosts she throws at it.”

“What does she want?” Kaplan asked.

The old lady eyed him, noting his armor. “Perhaps not a knight but certainly shining armor,” she murmured. She turned and watched as the running child approach the great white castle. “That castle is guarded by a fire breathing dragon more ancient than the universe. If you want her you must defeat it.”

Kaplan pulled his blast cannon off his back. “Dragon. Check.”

The old woman laughed as she faded, her amber eyes being the last thing to leave. “Fool. She is the castle and the dragon and the road upon which you stand. You will have to be more clever than that.”

Kaplan flexed his metal knees and took a step that sent him twenty feet down the road. You could not run in the armor but the great bounding jumps covered the ground twice as fast.

He was not sure why he had not noticed but the verge was filled with more people cutting weeds. Beyond, in the tall grasses, things moved that were not humanoid. He clutched his cannon tighter and kept leaping.

The people did not look up as he passed. He felt invisible. Kaplan stopped and accosted a man who stood, taking a break, his chin resting on the butt of his rake.

“Are we all dead, then? Is there no passage beyond this place?” Kaplan asked.

“We await her pleasure. She will take us home when it is time.”

Another man came to stand by the first. “You ain’t dead. Not yet. You should not have come here. Now you are stuck.”

Kaplan wondered at that. He turned to see if he could retrace his steps. The road stretched on, straight and true, to the edge of the world lost in the purple haze. There would be no going back. Would his body fall into a coma and waste away, if he got stuck here? He turned and ran on.

He came to a great white wall. White towers rose high beyond it. He took his armored fist and beat a rhythm on the stone gates.

A small port opened in the gate and a maiden of stunning beauty poked her head out. Was it coincidence that her copper curls were bound with cords from which a chaos of bangles dangled or that her almond shaped eyes were an amazing shade of amber?

“Go away,” she hissed. “I cannot guarantee your safety.”

“Come out, my love,” Kaplan begged. “Leave this place of dreams. The dead are no fit playthings for one such as you.”

“Defeat the dragon,” she whispered. “It is the only way.” And the port snapped shut.

Something hot blew against his neck. Kaplan tensed and turned slowly hoping it was not a small dragon. A giant black destrier stood there, in full horse armor, its giant plate sized hooves oiled until they shone in the light, its black coat brushed until it gleamed. A squire stood at its head, one hand on the bridle, the other holding a lance.

“My lord,” the squire said, bowing.

“What is this for?”

“Are you not here to kill the dragon?” the man asked.

“No. I am here to rescue the maiden.”

“Ah,” the man nodded. “Your confusion is understandable. It is the same thing, is it not? If there was anyone ever in more need of being rescued, it is she.”

Kaplan scowled at him. “Am I the first to get this far?”

“Oh, no, my lord. But you may be the last. There is a place called the Dragon Plain, not far from here. The ground is littered with the bones of knights errant, their armor cracked and broken underfoot. We are ghosts, those of us who linger here, because we died being trampled in the stampede to feast upon her bounty.”

“Are you restless spirits, then? Do you seek retribution for your deaths?”

The squire looked at him oddly. “Oh, no, sir. We are her soldiers. We stand, without flinching, in the path of those who would do her harm. Even here, even in death, we refuse to quit our posts, though she has opened the gates often enough for others. We will go home once the final battle is done. Kill the dragon and grant us mercy.”

Kaplan holstered his cannon and put his fist around the saddle horn. Flexing the knee joints in his armor, he launched himself into the air. Twisting about to get his other foot over the saddle and into the stirrup, he settled into the contours of the saddle. It was not how one was suppose to get on a horse but the horse did not seem to mind. He leaned down and held out his hand. The squire placed the lance in it, settling its butt in the hollow of the cantle made for that purpose.

“Any advice?” Kaplan asked, trying to get the feel of the weapon in his hand.

“In is out and out is in and truth is just a lie viewed from a different point of view.”

“Eh?” Kaplan grunted. His motion sensor beeped and the head’s up display on the inside of his helmet gave him a direction. He looked up. Something monstrously huge circled the castle high overhead.

Kaplan nudged the horse into motion, at loss to how to steer it. The horse turned and pranced down a path that circled the castle as if if knew what he wanted. How many times had the horse carried a combatant out onto the Dragon Plain? Enough to know how to play this game, apparently. Kaplan looped the reins around the horn and let the animal have its way while he mused over the squire’s advice.

“Up is down and lies are truth?” he said. Kaplan shook his head. Did he have that right? What kind of riddle was that? Or was it a clue to the nature of this place? Was this an illusion, this land? He patted the horse’s withers. Surely not. It felt too real. Had she created a dimensional bubble, separate from the known plains of existence, for her own use? The dragon would be as real as this place and since he felt real, it could probably hurt him. He wondered if he died here would he wake up as a squire giving instructions to the next knight, as punishment for his sins.

No. The squire said he was the last. There would be no others. Kaplan did not like the sound of that.

A raven swooped around his head and settled on the tip of his lance.

“Shoo,” Kaplan said, shaking the wooden weapon.

The raven laughed. “You shoo. You do not belong here.”

Kaplan scowled at it. “Why are you here? Surely not to tell me of some doomed portent?”

“You must leave, Sir Knight. She will not suffer defeat lightly.”

“Oh, so you concede the possibility that I might win this fight?”

“She wearies of battle. She will let you win if you are worthy.” croaked the raven.

“Let me win?“ Kaplan choked. “You think I cannot contain one imaginary dragon?”

“Contain?” The crow laughed. “This you cannot do. You must be equal to all that she is.”

Kaplan snorted. “If I defeat her, is that not being equal?”

“She would never cage the chaos. Nor must you.”

“Did she send you?” Kaplan asked, eyeing the bird sourly. “Your advice makes my head hurt.”

The raven laughed. “More than that will hurt if you do not come to terms with the nature of the chaos that lies in the heart of this place.” The raven launched himself into the air and flew up towards the dragon overhead, surely bearing tales.

The war horse paused at the lip of a small valley and then began to pick its way down slope, careful of the battered helmets, some still containing skulls, that threatened its footing.

The proximity sensor beeped a warning. Kaplan looked up. The dragon was spiraling down, getting closer with every dip of its wing. Kaplan tried to remember all the advice he had been given but it seemed to seep out of his head at the sight of the winged serpent. He was trying to decide what color it was, being no color and every color at once, when he realized he was daydreaming instead of formulating a strategy. Kaplan swore softly.

What kind of fool listened to ravens and old women for battle advice? He tilted the lance and kicked the destrier into a gallop.

The dragon dropped out of the sky, screaming. In a next heartbeat it was on him, its great talons raking through him, shattering his armor and turning the lance into splinters. Kaplan was sent flying, landing hard, his fall broken by a drift of human bones. Winded, he lay there as the dragon passed over his head. He looked up to see the tip of his lance embedded deep into the chest muscles of the beast. As he watched, its head snaked around and plucked the splinter out. Blood gushed from the wound and fell like rain upon the earth along its flight path. The ground boiled where it fell.

Kaplan staggered to his feet and wiped the sweat from his eyes. His hand came away scarlet. Was it dragon blood or his own? The dragon dipped on wing and turned, coming back to finish the job.

Kaplan looked around, desperate for a weapon. His blast cannon lay not far away. With a desperate glance back at the sky, he dove towards it.

He could hear the rush of the wind over wings as he grabbed the weapon and twisted around, firing as he rolled. He was looking into that impossibly amber eye when the head exploded, destroyed by one of the bolts of power from his gun. Its wings went limp, loosing their grip upon the air and the body fell to the ground, skidding through the bone field to come to rest against the valley rim. Blood spurted from the neck wound and ran in rivers along the ground.

He cried out in dismay. This was not what he had intended. He had killed her, he who had been sent to rescue her.

Kaplan got his feet under him but the weight of his pain and grief could take him no further. Crouching amid the bones, he wept.

Something touched him, brushing through his hair. He gasped and looked up. The girl from the gate knelt beside him. The white silk of her gown puddled around her bare feet. Reaching out with a tentative finger, she touched the tears on his cheek.

“Why do you weep, good knight?” she asked.

“Are you a ghost, now?” Kaplan whispered, desperately sad. The tears did not want to stop.

She brought her finger to her lips and tasted his tears. “No one has ever wept for me before. I find this wondrously strange.”

“It is a bitter victory, killing one such as you.”

She smiled. “Look around. See what your bravery has wrought.”

Kaplan blinked away the tears and looked back at the place where the dragon had landed. A small forest had sprouted and was rapidly growing, the tree tops racing towards the sky. Drifts of flowers marked the path of its flight. As he watched, a flower burst open and butterflies of every description fluttered into the dusky air.

“What care I for butterflies?” he whispered. “When you are dead?”

She took his hand and tugged. “Come. This is no place for the living.”

Kaplan rose to his feet and took a step. When his heel came down on the ground, he stood once more in the ruins of a city on a planet devoid of life. The girl still had his hand and it felt warm and real. Without his armor the wind felt harsh against his skin. He would not last long outside the ship in this state of undress.

A bird trilled somewhere off in the ruins. Kaplan blinked in surprise. “That is impossible. There were no readings for any life but your own.”

“The blood offering has been made,” she said, with a shrug. “Death becomes life.”

Kaplan stared at her. “Up is down and truth is a lie. Death is life. Paradox.”

“Blood magic is an old secret. Few remember it anymore,” she nodded, pulling him into motion. Kaplan shook his head, trying to clear the disorientation. “You know the gods love you when they shit upon your head and we are fool enough to be grateful for their bounty,” she said with a laugh.

“I killed you.”

“I am a coward. I could not open my veins myself. I needed someone, a hero, to help me. You did that.”

“Are you done here? Will you come home with me, then? I miss you.”

She stopped and turned, looking him in the eye. She seemed puzzled for a moment then a light dawned in the back of her eyes as if she suddenly remembered something long forgotten. “It has been a very long time, hasn’t it?”

“Ten thousand eternities,” Kaplan said, pulling her into his arms, spreading his great feathery wings.

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It was time to go play

 

Every culture has a creation myth just like every comic book hero has an origin story.

The Mayan, with their twisted sense of humor, tell a wonderful story. They call it AdamandEve.

Here is my version:

The gods made the Earth and filled it with all the animals and plants they could think to invent and then they made a being to populate this Eden world. Immortal, it wandered the Earth for an eon or two, sleeping when it felt the need, eating when it felt hungry, and playing with all the creatures invented by the gods to fill this world.

Despite having everything a being could possibly want, the being grew unhappy. I mean, really. How long can one wander around in perfection admiring the works of gods, complimenting them when they showed up to accept his thanks and praise, and not start to go a little mad.

Discontented, it traveled back to the city of the gods to complain. Gods, being gods, do what gods do. They listened and then they did what they do best. They fucked this being up, proving, not for the first time, that you have to be careful what you asked for.

To make a long story short, the gods split the being into three parts and shoved them out of the city, locking the gates behind them.

They were still immortal but they were different. One was male, one was female, and one was, at first appearances, a baby.

I do not suppose the gods issued an owners manual for the baby. Perhaps the only instructions Adam and Eve got was “Keep each other happy.”

It was Eden. How hard could that be?

The baby cried and Eve’s tits produced milk. The baby was happy.

Adam and Eve discovered the joys of sex. They would have fornicated non-stop, but for that dang baby. Adam wandered off, still thinking he was that old being, the AdamandEve, free to roam in the land of milk and honey. Eve was stuck with a kid latched to her teat. Her milk grew sour with her discontent. The baby cried and nothing she did could make it stop. Adam came back. Eve shoved the baby in his arms and took off for a well deserved vacation. Adam, having no breasts, was driven mad by the baby’s cries. He tried everything. It had no teeth to chew fruits and vegetables. Honey gave it a stomachache, making it cry all the harder.

Then a brilliant idea occurred to him. He took a sharp rock and cut his arm open, letting the blood drip into the baby’s mouth. The baby stopped crying, and gurgled happily. Adam took a well deserved nap.

Eve came back, fucked Adam silly and then went to give the baby her teat. The baby, having tasted the blood of an immortal, refused her milk. It cried. Eve got a little testy. Perhaps she tried to force the baby to drink. Was it then that she discovered it had grown teeth, little pointed teeth? The baby latched on and drank but it was not milk it took from her.

After the shouting match, Adam and Eve decided to take turns feeding the baby. They got better at cutting open a vein. Adam invented knives. Every time they fed it, the baby’s teeth grew longer. It’s eyes changed. Its shape became serpentine. It grew a tail. And crimson scales. And wings covered in rainbow feathers. Its limbs shrank back into its body.

This was not a baby, Adam and Eve decided. It was a monster. Undaunted, they continued to feed it, thinking it was a test of the gods. Being immortal, their wounds healed almost at once. That was not the problem. The problem was the baby’s appetites grew with every feeding. It seemed, towards the end, that they had to bleed themselves white just to get it to shut up and stop crying.

Did they sit up at night, as it slept next to them, and hatch the plan or did the sight of the cave put the idea in their heads? Were they intentionally cruel or just desperate? The next day, as they hiked along a mountain trail, they spotted a cave. Putting the baby inside, they walled it in and walked away and lived happily ever after.

Well, almost. You can’t fuck up the Garden of Eden and expect the gods not to notice.

Ram found them under a bush, sweaty and spent.

“Hey, Adam. Eve. I noticed you don’t have the baby under there with you. Where is it?” Ram asked.

“Oh,” said Adam, looking guilty.

“I made it a bed down by the stream, under the ferns,” Eve said brightly. “It is sleeping. Please don’t disturb it.”

Ram nodded and popped away.

Jaguar found them sleeping under a fig tree one day.

“Sorry to disturb you. Where is your baby?” the jaguar god asked.

Eve looked around. “Hmm. It must have crawled away. It does that sometimes. If you wait, it will crawl back in time for dinner.”

“No, no. I am sure it is fine,” said Jaguar, popping out.

Rabbit popped in not long after.

He found them by a hollow tree, eating honey comb and lick the sweet sticky stuff off each other.

“Hey there, guys. You know that baby thing we issued you? Where do you think you might have left it?”

“I don’t remember,” Adam said.

“Not a clue,” said Eve, evasively.

“Really?“asked Rabbit.”You should probably go find it if you know what is good for you.”

Rabbit popped away. Adam looked at Eve. Eve looked at Adam. “No,” they said together. The last thing they needed was that monster baby back in their lives.

Things started to turn rotten for them in Eden. Adam decided that except for those times when he needed a sandwich, he really could not stand Eve. He lost interest in sex. He lost interest in just about everything. In desperation, he sneaked away and returned to the city of the gods to complain.

The gatekeeper, Bluebird, refused to let him in even after Adam listed his long litany of complaints.

“Where is your baby? You were told to keep it happy,” Bluebird said as the god slammed the door in his face.

Eve had become equally unhappy. Grumpy over the lack of sex, she decided Adam was pretty much useless except when a pickle jar needed opening. She made Adam a sandwich, and while he was distracted, she went to see the gods. Bluebird refused her entry, even after she listed her many complaints.

“Well of course, you detest each other. What did you think the baby was for?” Bluebird asked.

“What? I don’t understand,” Eve protested.

“Well that is obvious,” sniffed Bluebird. “Go tell your woes to the baby.” And Bluebird slammed the gate shut.

Eve returned to Adam.

“Adam, I’ve been thinking,” she said.

“Me too,” said Adam.

“We need to go find that cave,” Eve said.

“I know. Do you remember where it is?” Adam asked hopefully. “I tried to find it but the world remakes itself too often. Mountains have risen and mountains have fallen and the path to the cave is gone.”

Eve looked at him in despair.

Things started to go wrong for Adam and Eve. Adam grew paunchy. Eve grew fat. White hairs began to pepper their beautiful tresses. Adam’s dick grew soft. Wrinkles appeared where wrinkles should not have been. They forgot things like where they left their car keys. But what worried them the most was that, here, in Eden, where every moment was a feast of pleasure, they had become filled with joyless ennui.

Adam and Eve returned to the city of the gods.

Alligator waited for them in front of the gates.

“What is it?” Alligator asked.

Adam and Eve described their maladies.

“You remember when we made you?” Alligator asked.

Adam and Eve shook their heads.

“Well, it was not a decision lightly made. We put you in cold storage while we planned our next move. The discussion and arguments went on for half an eon about how to split you apart. The Creation Matrix was still churning away at this rock, making it habitable. That divine spark lived inside you, just as it was at work on everything else. It was the one thing we refused to split apart. The Matrix requires balance and neither of you are whole without the other. Imagine the chaos if a half-being had the divine spark? The universe would go all wibbly-wobbly until it fixed what was wrong, destroying all of us in the process.” Alligator shuddered. “No. It would not do. So it was decided to create a third being in which to house the divine spark. We took all that was innocent and powerful and infinite from you and made the baby. As long as you functioned as a trio, the balance would not be upset. It was a brilliant solution and the gods earned their salary that day, let me tell you.” Alligator paused and pinned them with a cold, hard stare. “I will ask you this only once. Where is the baby?”

Adam and Eve looked at each other in despair. In the end, they told the alligator god everything.

Alligator listened calmly. When they had talked themselves into silence Alligator spoke.

“Go home. We will consider this and get back to you.”

*****

Alligator strode into the great council chambers in the center of the city of the gods.

“Did you hear? They lost it! Bloody stupid halflings!” Alligator said, slamming his clawed paw onto the sensor plate in the wall.

A great console rose out of the floor.

“Wait, what are you doing?” cried Jaguar.

“I am not willing to wait around for that thing in the cave to get loose, are you?” Alligator said, hitting a large red button. Klaxons began to blare their strident warning. The sound echoed throughout the city. The city grew a silver skin, becoming self contained and space worthy. The floor shook as the star engines ignited and roared into full power.

“Maybe it won’t be as bad as you think,” Rabbit said tentatively.

“Really? The little idiots fed it blood and triggered a shift change. It was becoming its own, self contained Creation Matrix, or it will be once it has finished the transformation. They fucking walled it up in a cave. How benevolent do you think it will be when it finally wakes up? Do you think it will come find us and thank us for our part in all this?” Alligator yelled, busy pushing buttons. Banks of lights flared into life.

“Launch in T minus 350 and counting,” intoned the ship.

“We cant just leave the AdamandEve creature,” Hummingbird cried. “Who knows what mischief it will get up to.”

Eagle pushed a button.

“Destruct matrix launched,” intoned the ship.

“Ohfergawdsake!” Hummingbird cried. “That is not what I meant. How cruel you are!”

“What?” Eagle said with a shrug. “They will catch a nasty virus or two.”

“Or a half dozen,” Alligator said, pushing another button. “And then die.” A hologram of the space around the planet flared into life above the console. He began punching in their flight path coordinates.

“What of the baby?” Hummingbird demanded. “Kill the AdamandEve and it will be alone when it wakes up.”

Jaguar looked at Alligator. “What if it follows us, seeking revenge?” he asked.

Alligator scowled.

“T minus 349,” intoned the ship.

“Alright!” Alligator yelled. “You have 348 ticks. Then we are leaving without you,” he said.

Hummingbird popped out of the room and went looking for Adam and Eve.

He found Eve bathing in a forest pool.

“Listen Eve. You must never stop looking for the baby in the cave. Ever. Do you hear me?” Hummingbird said, touching her head. Something shifted deep inside her belly.

“Wha…. What have you done to me?” Eve asked faintly as a strange feeling swept through her body. Then she sneezed. Hummingbird dodged the flying mucous.

“Time will come to claim you. Soon you will wither and die and pass forever beyond the Veil.”

“But why, god?” Eve cried.

“The baby in the cave will wake someday. You must fill the world so that it will have someone to play with.”

“Why do I feel so strange?” Eve asked.

“It’s called hormones. You will be pregnant until you die, but you will not mind. At least I can give you that.”

Hummingbird popped away and went looking for Adam. Adam sat on the shores of a lake, building a fish trap. He scratched absently at the red rash that covered his skin.

“Are you a meat eater now?” Hummingbird asked sadly.

“They are just fish. They have no faces,” Adam said reasonably.

Hummingbird touched his head. Adam sat down hard, a puzzled look on his face.

“What did you do to me?”

“Listen, Adam,” Hummingbird said. “Build a church on this site. Inscribe a reminder on the altar. You lost the baby. Now you must find it. Do not fail in this. Pass the task on to your children so that they might continue the search after you are gone.”

“I am going to die?” Adam asked, trying not to sound hopeful in the presence of the god who made him. He looked down to discover he had an enormous hard on.

“Yes, but you won’t mind. You will have ten thousand children, each a reflection of you. May your seed forever find a place to grow.” Hummingbird whispered in his ear. “And someday, when the seeds of the thing that you planted in that cave grow and bear fruit, you will remember that you screwed the pooch and deserve everything that befalls you.”

Adam was not paying attention. All the blood had rushed to his penis.

Hummingbird sighed and popped away.

****

“Well?” Alligator asked as Hummingbird popped into the control room after visiting the decontamination room.

“T minus 20,” intoned the ship.

“Get us the fuck out of here,” Hummingbird said. “Find us somewhere to hide that is far, far away from this star.”

*****

The hiker had been surprised when the stone wall against which he had been resting gave way. When he was certain that the whole mountain was not going to fall on his head, he returned to the rock fall. A cave now lay where a blank wall had been. The hiker took out his iphone and snapped a few pictures. He peered into the darkness. Not willing to risk going in, he shoved his phone in as far as he could to adjust the focus before hitting the record button.

After a minute, he took his phone into the shade to watch his little video and his heart grew still. What was that? Not stone. A long dead animal, perhaps? A mummy? It was huge and ugly. Rainbow colored feathers lay in drifts on the stone floor of the cave. The slight breeze from the entrance lifted them in its eddies for a moment before turning them to dust. Something moved in the video just as it ran out to the end. The hiker watched it again. What might be construed as a face or a snout seemed to shift in the shadows. Then an eye opened, looking directly into the camera.

A soft susurration reached the hiker’s ears. Something huge moved across stone behind him. The hiker screamed and ran.

****

The giant snake lay in the sun, resting. It did not remember crawling out of the cave. It did not remember anything. It just liked the feel of sun on its skin. Things itched and needed scratching. It stretched and yawned. Its skin, old and parchment thin, split and fell away in great sheets. The being stretched again, pulling its arms out of the cocoon and lifting them to the sky to touch the wind from the stars. It looked down at its new body.

She had breasts, small ones, but breasts all the same. Had the hiker been female, would she have grown a penis, she wondered. No matter. She kicked her long, perfect legs out of the snakeskin sheath and rose to her feet.

She liked this place. The sun felt warm. The snow melted at her touch, turning to water. The breeze held a promise of playthings. She stooped and picked up the odd little rectangle of plastic and glass.

“iphone,” she said, the words coming to her out of the Creation Matrix. She scrolled through the photos. Words tumbled about in her head. It did not make much sense but she would have fun figuring it all out.

She looked around at the melting snow field that had kept her safe and buried for so long.

“Global warming,” the Matrix told her. “Petrochemicals. Carbon dioxide.”

The serpent god smiled. Clever humans. They had done the impossible and found her at last. She touched her tongue to the long canine teeth in her mouth, feeling hungry. Perhaps they were too long for beauty but the teeth would serve her well, never the less.

It was time to go play.

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