Author: Alzo David-West

Wind blew over the plateau. The sky was a desolate faded blue. A woman with tangled black hair rode a slow-moving horse, a travois with a bundled load drawn after it. She wore a hide shawl and carried a broken spear. Her feet were bare and dusty.

There was a smell in the air from the rocky hillocks behind her, the smell of the men, who had pursued her for many days, and their horses. The woman kicked the flanks of her horse, but it was too tired. She looked over her shoulder.

The men, five of them, appeared. They charged their bows, and the woman quickly threw herself to the ground. The bows twanged, and stone-tipped arrows struck deeply into the head, ribs, and thighs of the horse. The herbivore staggered, lost its balance, and collapsed on its side.

The woman got up, rushed to the travois and dragged the bundle and herself down behind the fallen animal. She was panting and crouching, holding up the broken spear for whatever protection it and the body of the horse could afford. Her heart was beating rapidly.

The men had charged their bows again when a thunder sound boomed. They looked up. Their horses were uneasy. One of the men pointed in the distance. Above the red land, the vast firmament darkened, and then there was the incandescent glow of a bearded star, followed by great streams of fire that fell from the upper sky.

The woman and the men stared, entranced. The fire swept rapidly across the plateau, moving in their direction, where they were completely exposed. The flames came instantly and surged around them, crashing and exploding loudly and destructively. The men shouted and screamed, falling, running, crawling, dying.

Rocks melted, and smoke rose. The woman tumbled, pulling the load. She heard a long piercing sound, and she saw pass immediately over her a giant flaring stone that flew into a hillside. She threw out her arms, and when she looked again, the hill and the stone had shattered into boulders.

She rushed between them, with the load, and huddled there, closing her eyes, covering her ears, clenching her teeth, from the deafening sounds and the burning air. Waiting, waiting, waiting. And the fires passed.

The woman was coughing. She struggled to stand. Her face, hands, and feet were badly burned. She gazed upon the smoldering land and, in pain, kneeled down to unfasten the reed chords and hide cloth covering the load she had striven to preserve.

“Spirit creature,” she said to the strange animal before her, “you needn’t have grown so angry with us. The men, they did not know. They did not know you were the god of the sun and the sky.”

And after the woman spoke, her heart stopped, and her head fell. And the spirit creature, with obsidian skin, six feet, and a single eye, raised its thin arm and placed a metal hand on the dead woman’s shoulder.