DEVIL'S WEEK

The FREEZINE is publishing five stories during this final week countdown to Halloween.
Don't dare to stray too far away as each story pops up any day this leaf-blown week!
On Friday, October 31, all five stories will be bundled together into the 2014 HALLOWEEN ISSUE.

Composition above by S.L.

Illustration for THE PERFECT PUMPKIN by Shasta Lawton


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

THE FOLD:10

by G. Alden Davis




Garuda, familiar from visits before, beat her wings and scraped the sky above the caravan of gods. She beamed twin spotlights from her wide, scanning eyes, as if seeking a landmark back in the cracks of canyon and drop. She flew on ahead, making broad passes with her luminous, revealing gaze. While I watched this miracle in flight, her form would waver and change, looking at times to be made of fire and at others of metal and bolts. Her wings made lofty strokes, yet between the winds I thought I could hear a faint, humming grind.

She canted her wings and screeched around the tip of a hoodoo cliff. Her gleam reflected off the sandstone labyrinth for several turns, then it too was gone.

The column of godlings had begun to pass my hiding hole, and I was afforded the closest of looks at their many abnormal feet. With shock that dulled to a humming amazement, I watched as they revealed a diverse bloodline from feather to scale to skin. Some went bare while other were clad in the grandest examples of footwear from historical to artistic to fantastic.

Some wore sandals of gold wire, wound around extruded trigon shapes that curled from beneath fat jewels like a minimal starfish clutching a soft shard of driftglass. Buckles of similar silvered glass were studded with cut stones that winked like distant stars.

Other feet were shod in boots, from light skin-tight styles to heavily armoured, thundering warboots. One wore calf-high supple second-skins, riveted with tiny copper studs and folded over at the tops with leather fringe. They laced with ancient rawhide straps that crisscrossed the shin in an irregular but balanced fashion. Rather than a series of zigzags down the front, the laces instead formed alien ideograms in their strapping. There at the top hung a wooden loop woven with a web of gut, decorated with beads and bone.

Another was strangely western with an upturned silver toe and a star of metal at the heel like a strange and otherworldly spur.

Some feet were bare, and it was the horror of these limbs that pushed my breath out from my lungs in a heaving gasp. If the cry had been any louder I am sure they would have turned then and rooted me out.

Some of the feet striding in front of me were clawed, with long slender digits ending in nails like talons. The skin was scaled like the claw of a hawk, and indeed a hind digit thrust from the heel. Above the ankles thick scales formed lateral bands around the leg, which was thin and wire-strong at the bottom and thickened with muscles nearer the knee. A group of these passed, and the shimmering glisten of their feathered scales sent a shiver through me.

I recalled a dancer from this birdlike tribe, spinning and dancing to a drum cadence that even in memory hammered my skull in a mezmer which bordered on trance. Those firelight rhythms remained with me like a shadow cast by a sound.

Another group passed close together, in a formation. They all wore metallic boots, wrought with slender pipe-like workings that bore gears and cogs along their interconnected lengths. These odd switches clicked back and forth as the boot stepped, and then all synchronized to one resistant, springing force as the tread passed through it’s various stress points. All along the arch these tiny appendages forced and released in crablike succession, testing and resisting the push of the ground beneath the weighty mass of whatever was wearing these incredible boots.

While they passed directly in front of me I could only see their feet, but farther along the procession I could steal the occasional wider glance.

To the right I saw them approach in a narrow crescent, breastplates and helmets glittering in the odd light. The left provided a glimpse of their curving backs, winged shoulders, tapering or feathered tails. The line curled from the opening crack way back into the canyon, headed back into the twist I had narrowly escaped. Most animals and many creatures I could not name were represented in the shimmering, metallic forms.

Amongst the receding backs I saw shoulders heavy with mantles of metal scale, then harnesses of leather and glass, and armour that was welded into place as a seamless, impenetrable shell. There were cloaks of all arrangements, from folded wings to enormous, over wrapping swaths. One cloak I saw must have been made of bendable liquid crystal; it displayed abstract animations that played across the wrinkled curtain of the wearer’s back. This was tucked beneath a mantle of some material that seemed like leather, but was studded regularly with rubbery, raised knobs.

From the approach I made out faces, and of course every one seemed hidden by a primitive, artistic mask. Some were formed from bark, rough holes cut for sight. Others were leather stretched on golden wire frames. Some, admittedly the rarest of them, seemed formed of crystal by a smooth and mark-free tool.

I saw masks beyond count or countenance. One was crafted from human skull, jawbone tied in a fashion to speak, hair spiked with blood, teeth filed to points in a shark-like skeletal grin.

One was a radiant golden plate, curved just enough to maintain the secret, whose surface was treated with a liquid and shining sheen. Looking at it hurt, like staring at the sun.

There were winged helms, eye slits in several colors of chrome, mouthpieces like rebreathers in deepsea scuba gear. There were helms with hearts engraved in gold on cobalt gunmetal with runes at the edge of every glowing seam.

As their burdens were taken past, I could see in some detail what rested so heavily on the carts and rickshaws. At first I doubted my eyes, but after several carts revealed similar content, I relaxed and watched as the treasure of a thousand worlds went by.

A group of kachinas approached and passed, their arms wrapped tight around a burden of baskets. Each was woven in the distinct patterns which identified their tribe to others in neighboring lands. I could not read it, but was left to appreciate the information merely for the geometry it used. I saw baskets brimming with corn, and fruit of all kinds.

I saw gold blocks, perfect cubes a foot to each side, stacked in pyramids on pallets made of glass. Each golden cube was engraved with tiny figures whose raised edges glinted with an odd, interior light. It was a remarkable combination of circuit and fiber optics. Although I guessed it to be impossibly heavy, each ziggurat pile rested on a thin glass pallet, only three inches thick, which hovered about two feet off the desert floor.

Tiny lights embedded in the edge of the glass plate strobed on and off in staggered succession, as if rotating through a repeating, alien message. A narrow tether like serpentine chain was held by one of the walkers, who pulled it gently behind. A low, almost subsonic rumble came from beneath each plate.

Next came a larger burden, a great metal wheel clamped edgewise on the glass carrier by two mechanisms made of copper and crystal. Only able to view the lower few feet of the disk itself, I was nonetheless able to see the many figures and shapes inscribed on it’s surface. Fierce animals of unknown species occupied square tiles that ran along the wheel’s outer edge. Beneath were studs of silver and stars of precious stone, a pictogram of the heavens describing unfamiliar constellation.

Toward the center were more beasts, and the limit of my vision. A massive artifact, it sat on a thicker pane of glass than the rest, and it was drawn by two rows of bronze-skinned primitives that must have been slaves. These beings had a slightly nonhuman appearance, like a primitive link between mankind and something else.

More treasures passed, the rows and ranks uncoiling from what must have been a vast craft indeed, if a vehicle really described what the Sun-Chariot was. Did it move as we know it, and if it did who could say if its outside moved at the same rate as the interior chambers?

Gold, silver, and bars of a greenish metal I didn’t recognize all went past. The sight of it was overwhelming, not only because of the value but due to the craftsmanship inherent in the objects themselves. The artwork and scientific instruments of these weird beings asked more questions than they answered at a glance. The curious nature and unknown functions of such objects burned at me, running second behind my punctured foot. Infection was creeping in.

When finally the last of the column passed, and had vanished around the far bend in the canyon, I was able to wrap a strip torn shirt around the red and puffy hole. Swollen as it was, my foot refused to fit back into my shoe. I forced it in, and the resulting nausea and lancing pain rolled into me, lodging deep in my throat like a bone. Gagging, I lost consciousness for a moment or two. Pulling myself together I crawled from beneath the rock.

Time had elapsed, unseen but steady as the procession of gods passed carrying their Akashic treasures.

The Sun Chariot was gone, and the true sun had failed to make its date with dawn. There was little flow left in the stream, having emptied its load of mud and gravel into the flatlands and flood plains.

I saw no lights out across that flat, and no lights on the distant hills at its perimeter. No signs of people, no towns or even a ranch. Everything had returned to stillness.

It was quiet save for a gentle wind.

My stomach rolled again as I stepped down, and it became obvious that wherever I was planning to go it would not be a fast journey.

I was right. It took forever.

Time had stopped for the god’s great down-loading, to allow the movement of treasures mythic and informative. All the knowledge of the universe and beyond, had passed before me in the form of icons, symbols and relics as the procession wound up-canyon.

Curiosity was compelling and it battled with my desire for safety. I was completely drained, and everything hurt. Some parts hurt without mercy, those wounded areas that had been stung, torn, and crucified by the desert. Other parts hurt from use- my hips seemed to be grinding into the tops of my legs and my neck screamed out when I turned my head.

I was done. Completely expended.

There was no way I could summon the reserves to track the god’s trail back into the canyons. My back protested the thought with a stabbing shock to my spine.

My eyes still saw a slight, aura-like glow down the path the beings had taken. I could note the openings into several slots and the option they took. They had been carrying miracles.

Miracles.

My hips screamed as I stood, and one by one each tortured part of my ragged body had cast it’s vote on the matter. My mind was hooked by the notion of wonders, and those crying parts of me would just have to come along.


THE FOLD continues tomorrow with Part 11

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