Prometheus on the Ridge

The water will revive you.

I felt their rocks hitting me—breaking ribs, cracking skull, tearing skin. I cried out but The Counsel only laughed. I raised my arms over my head and buckled to my knees. Rocks rained down, battering my spine.

The water will revive you.

Terror or relief? I am not sure what I felt just then at the thought. My thoughts focused on the pain shooting through my crumpled frame as The Counsel stretched me out with tattered rough ropes, lifted me up, and strapped me to a rock.

The water will revive you.

A cruel refrain playing through my head. I looked down the precipice from where they held me on display. In the sky above, the tiny ochre ball of our dying sun heated my bare shoulders. Below me, people gathered around The Fountain to look up at me. From my vantage, I could see the desert beyond and everywhere around. Dust devils danced on the horizon of our lifeless world beneath the giant cloud of a distant dust storm.

The water will revive you.

The Counsel chanted and danced around me—The Shadow Woman, The Light Man, The Old Crone, The Wizened Shaman. Their ritual—one of torture and decay, a tradition, a reflection of our world—became a cycle of words without meaning and movement without form. They held the attention of those below. They wanted their supplicants to see what happens to those who blaspheme, who spout heresies, who question. I should have known better than to investigate our origin. I should have known not to question the machinations of The Fountain. I knew these questions were forbidden.

The water will revive you.

The thought terrified me as The Crone came forward with her sharpened stone. Once white, it was stained purple by countless sacrifices. She held it to my face, touched it to the side of my eye, and then sliced down my cheek, ripping skin. I felt a strange, discomforting breeze on the side of my tongue.

The water will revive you.

The Light Man came forth with large black feathered shadows tied to his wrists. The crows cawed, their frames hungry and lean. Beady black eyes devoid of humanity stared at me. One of the crows cocked its head and fluttered up a moment. “Eat, my pets,” The Light Man said. He released the worn leather ties holding the birds to his wrists. They flew toward me. Ancient feathers fell free and littered the ground beneath their flight path. I felt beaks tearing into my belly.

The water will revive you.

I looked down and saw the birds feasting. Everything soft inside of me was pulled free, leaving me an empty shell. Although it was only noon, the light seemed to be fading, but I could still see them. The Counsel watched silently. Their forms wavered in a veil of my tears. They laughed at me, and I felt my anger stir to keep me alive.

The water will revive you.

The Wizened Shaman, his wrinkle-lined face downcast, poked my side with a spear. The Shadow Woman slithered towards me, touched her supple lips to the side of my face, and whispered insults in my ear. Despite my anger, despite my will to live, despite my hunger for revenge, the light faded. I embraced the merciful darkness.

The water will revive you.

I awoke back on the rock. The four members of The Counsel stood over me. I was whole again standing in the middle of their circle. The Shadow Woman, The Light Man, The Old Crone, and The Wizened Shaman bent down to pick up rocks. I covered myself with my arms knowing…

The water would revive me.

Ω

T.J. McIntyre  T.J. McIntyre's website has seen his short fiction and poetry published in numerous publications including recent appearances in Everyday Weirdness, Ruthless Peoples Magazine, and Scifaikuest. He is a member of various writing organizations, including the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA), and serves as a moderator for the Lobo Luna and Western Writers writing communities on LiveJournal. Until earlier this year, he published Southern Fried Weirdness, an anthology and web zine celebrating speculative fiction and poetry with a Southern perspective. He lives in a busy household in the muggy heart of rural Alabama with his wife, two young sons, an aging Doberman mix, five tiger barbs, and three salt-and-pepper catfish.

Other works by T.J. McIntyre

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