Saturday, January 26, 2013

Astarte

Not sure what to call this fantasy piece. It was written as flash fiction but I've been told it is a vignette, not short or flash fiction. I like it anyway, so thought to share it. Maybe it might make the start to another story.
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A smell of earth, part decay, part life, permeated the air and left a taste on the tongue. Rubble and broken statuary littered the floor. She walked, part substance, part wraith, in a forgotten chamber far below Byblos, most ancient of cities. How had she returned? She could not recall. Someone, somewhere must have made an offering in her name.

Once, this ruin had been a dower gift from her brother, her husband, El.

With perfect recall, she heard his youthful voice echo to her through the centuries, ‘Astarte, my star, my heaven.’

He, too, had moved on. He left me to seek more -- sole adulation, the one God.

She threw her head back, refusing to feel tears track her cheeks at her lover’s desertion. She turned away from the thought, her motion following her mind. Fool! That was thousands of years ago.

She held out a hand and an oil lamp formed, its handle between her fingers, its wick emitting flame. As she solidified, her robe dragged through the filth; flickering light caught each slow rising spec of dust. The motes swirled in mesmerizing patterns, each speck forcibly reminding her of a long-ago worshipers dancing before her sacred fire. As of old, they danced both separate and together, as in the act of love. She slowly rotated full circle, visualizing the temple in its former glory. The memory faded. Slow rivulets of reflection dissipating into the dark and shadowy chasm.

The shadows kindled her anger like ash-rimmed black embers. Those living in the sun drenched city above, building their foundations on their predecessors' dust -- those defilers of her name, honor, and ancient divinity -- they had no idea this sanctuary remained. That SHE existed.

‘They thought to destroy me, daughter of Gaea, mother to all womanhood. She named me goddess of love and hate, peace and war, barrenness and fertility.’ No one answered her.

A dagger at that betrayal gouged her gut. The pus of uncountable generations of neglect corrupted the wound and her soul. Her fingers touched her agony, drew it out and shaped the defiled flesh. Raising her poison-filled palm to eye level, she gently blew on the putrid pulp until it swelled and bubbled.

She stared at the mass in her palm. ‘They call me daemon now. So be it. They will learn, and I shall teach. As they crushed my temple, so shall they be served.’

With her other hand she touched the last temple pillar standing complete even in its subterranean neglect and closed her eyes. The shaft’s base quaked deep within Gaia, shaking her earthly folds and sending them slipping over her deep, bleeding heart. Above, Byblos shuddered. Cracks fissured the cave’s root-bound roof, creating conduits to El’s dominion. Grinning, Astarte blew the venom she held into the world of man.

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