Mortal Gods

Image by Alemko Coksa from Pixabay

The hunters dragged their prey out of the shin deep waters and onto the deck of their rafted village which floated aimlessly, drifting under the bright constellations and across the endless shallow sea.

“Alright Yapt,” Milah made a show of wiping her hands and the sweat from her brow. Like all of them her scales were tanned and her body lean. “The honour is all yours.”

“I think we should ration it,” Yapt said.

The grunt of angst spread throughout the group like a wave, not that they knew what a wave was.

“Not this again,” Milah growled, “We have to eat and this is all there is.”

“That’s my point.”

“Just do it Yapt! You can argue with The Elder afterwards if you want.”

Yapt gritted his mushy gums but relented. He held out his webbed hands to the slimy beast and spread his fingers, calling on the innate ability of the tribe. Tendrils of amethyst spiralled from his hand, punctuated by sporadic polyps of violet light which crackled against the air with the smell of burned flesh. The tendrils lashed into the serpentine beast and it decayed into viscous goo from the points of contact and across its whole body in chain reaction.

Their lips dripped with salivation and they descended on the goo ravenously.

Yapt wiped his mouth once he had his fill and stalked away from the feeding frenzy, pushing past the other villagers who lined the pontoons between rafts and huts to feed themselves. He pushed through the withering throng until he reached the central shrine, crafted from taught leather and surviving bone from past hunts – they soon too, will be transfigured and devoured as the hunger set in. He stalked into the shrine and knelt before their seated god, calcified within his suit of sleek armour.

The tendrils and polyps escaped his body like ghostly wisps, feeding into the people who worshipped him.

“You have betrayed us,” Yapt said.

“He has not, young Yapt,” The Elder hobbled in, bits of goo still clung to his mouth, “He gave us the means to eat, to live.”

“And we have used it to scour this world dry, that beast may have been the last feast our people will ever enjoy.”

“The gods will return for us.”

“How can you be sure?”

“They story has been passed down from elder to youth since our world teemed with life, the gods will come for us.”

“But how…” they were cut off by a rumbling of thunder, the two snapped to look out along the blue expanse to see a pillar of fire descend upon the waters.

“Get the hunters!” The Elder ordered.

Leading the hunters – with Yapt in tow – The Elder waded through the shallow sea to the object that landed beyond their drifting village. They jumped back in fright as it opened, a hissing ramp slid down and a creature trod down into the shallows.

A gasp from the tribe, they threw themselves onto their knees. It was a god, a living god.

The Elder rose and spoke tentatively, gesturing to the village, “We always knew from our legends that the gods would come to save us!”

It cocked its head, The Elder’s words repeated from the god’s armour, again, and again, distorting each time until they made no sense. Then it sagged, rolling its head in agitation.

It spoke, and the voice repeated, again, and again, sounding more like their own language each time. The words slowly took form.

Yapt’s eyes widened in horror, he turned and fled to the village before the god atomised The Elder with a pillar of fire from his arm.

#

The read out pinged the same signal as before… life, dreadful, bone chilling life on the forbidden planet. Everla refreshed it again, still processing Rorl’s request as the read out repeated across the screen.

“That’s a one way trip, Rorl,” Everla observed more than objected. “You know what we left down there.”

“It needs to be done, Ma’am,” Rorl was already in his surface gear, “We need to finish what we started.”

The shuttle down to the ankle deep marsh of a world was nauseating. Zero-g to actual always had that effect on Rorl. It was something Ardam always gave him crap for, until… He pushed the thought from his mind, what he did had to be done. He told himself the sin was committed millennia ago, even if it only was a few weeks from his perspective due to the realities of light speed travel.

But even the theory of relativity could not account for the foreboding life signal that his shuttle tracked towards. The ship settled down on the treacherous terrain and the whining engines dwindled into silence. The door hissed like a snake as the pressure equalised and Rorl stepped down the ramp into the ankle deep waters, facing off against a collection of natives who grovelled in his presence.

“I’ve made contact,” Rorl said through his internal speaker, “They are humanoid, at least.”

The leader of the group of lean, scaled creatures sloshed forward and grunted something, gesturing to the raft village behind them, towards the shrine that dominated the centre.

Rorl’s HUD zoomed in on the centre piece of the shrine and sighed.

“Are they native?” Everla asked.

Rorl answered while he was waiting for his suit to translate the leader’s grunting language. “Yes.”

“That’s not possible,” Everla replied, “There was no complex life when we left here last, even with the millennia it had to develop since we hit light speed… the particulate should have killed everything.”

“I think I know what happened,” Rorl said, resigned, “Our failure is complete.”

The translation finished processing and an approximation was vocalised by the suit while a text read out appeared on Rorl’s HUD. “Our {MYTHS?} said that one day the {GODS?} would return. Are you here to {SALVATION?} our people?”

Rorl sighed again and rolled his head in agitation. He spoke through the translation software, the suit broadcasted the grunting phonemes via external speakers and the aliens shifted back in fright. As Rorl pulled his weapon from his holster and took aim at The Elder, he regarded the centrepiece of the shrine, enhanced on his HUD, just one last time.

It was Ardam’s petrified corpse, mummified within his surface suit, the tendrils of his doom wafted out from his body and into these poor people.

They found something on this planet last time, a single particulate of matter that could undo the fabric of the cosmos if it intertwined and mingled and spread. Ardam was careless, he was exposed, infected. Rorl marooned him on the desolate world to die alone in order to safeguard the rest of the living worlds.

His decaying corpse must have fed into this world, infected with the same particulate… these people had somehow evolved to coexist with it at the expense of everything around them. They all had to die, their species could not be allowed to spread.

“Everla,” Rorl said as he shot down the tribe’s people and turned his attention on the village. “Once I’ve atomised their shrine and Ardam’s body, set my suit to self destruct along with the shuttle, then glass the planet.”

“… Okay,” Everla replied, “What did you tell those people?”

His translation played on a loop as he slaughtered the poor innocents, born incompatible with the status quo of reality.

He reached the shrine and one of their number held his arm out in response, tendrils of amethyst with violet polyps lashed towards Rorl but he shot first, atomising the poor creature’s arm.

“I’m sorry,” Rorl said as he finished off the writhing creature and burned Ardam’s calcified space suit to a crisp.

“I am not your God,” the translation blared as the village burned and sunk into the shallow sea, as his suit’s self destruct sequence started, “I am the one who killed him, and I have come to kill you all.”

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