Image from Bernd Helfert
By Damien Grace/ 'Ernst Stavro Blofelt'
First Published in Voices Future Tense (2008)
In the cerulean skies of Abydos a soaring falcon surveys the world beneath with a patient eye. Below the sun-kissed citadels of ivory and coral hue have awoken to yet another glorious day. The Lord of Rays had once again smiled upon them, bestowing them with light and warmth. Once again the tops of the pyramids erupt, drenching the hearts of the faithful with the joyful patina of The Solar Aria. Every evening, following their prayer, the singers and musicians would compose yet another original piece with which to praise their God. Every morning they would seem to reach their zenith, only to stand atop the capped-pyramid the very next day with a piece yet again more stirring and sonorous than ever before.
Children play in and out behind the marble pillars of the mystic temples, while fountains pumping perfumed crystal waters ensnare tiny rainbows in their misty shrouds. Here too, by the edges children would play and giggle, splashing each other gleefully. Until they stopped, like everyone, to hear the music.
The falcon feasts upon this euphonious offering, circling the scene, soaring, surfing upon the vibrant currents of crescendos, until its triumphant finale. Then spreads its wings, ascending, almost to the astral altitudes of the gods themselves.
Here the falcon's inky feathers do not tingle for there is no breeze. Indeed there is no air to slow it down, and so it builds up speed rapidly, until it becomes as a flaming comet hurtling around the world. And still its patient eye looks downward.
Eventually it finds what it is looking for, and begins its slow, drifting descent.
He perches inside a tower where the bells have not chimed for many, many moons. The cold silence of death forever hangs above this place. And the air is thick, charged with negative energy. From it, like a black mountain the imposing ramparts of the Great Ziggurat gouge the heavens with glaring contempt. The falcon sits atop it's highest step, and gazes down at the charcoal courtyard far, far below. All that surrounds is deserted, not a creature could be seen. But for one.
A creature most pleasant to the eye. Tall and slender, with long shapely legs. She wore a golden tiara and a white, flowing gown, the breeze would billow it, revealing more of the woman's figure. The falcon watches intently, with both eyes.
Lesis padded along the olive-coloured flagstones respectfully and gracefully. If she was afraid she certainly did not show it. Where she was headed was certainly to her death. She was to be Judged.
l totems, beset with fearsome beasts glowered at her. She fixed her eyes on one, where a horrid serpentine bird had gnarled its talons into a human skull. The skull had two eyes, one of gold, one of obsidian. As she looked upward she developed the distinct feeling the creature on top was watching her. But this she soon forgot about as she approached the imposing portals of the Great Ziggurat. Locked, seemingly forever, they scaled above her, a curious symbol stamped upon them. It was that of a giant golden disk bearing the insignia of the Solar Dominion; the pyramid inside the flaming sun, gilded with strange vortices of swirling patterns.
From the central pyramid the portal began to open like an aperture. The sound it made was of a sword being drawn. Lesis stepped through without pause. And continued forward.
Immediately the aperture snapped shut behind her.
The first chamber was of cavernous chalky grey, with the same drab-green flagstones stemming before her. They extended towards a far wall until they branched off into seven separate paths, which terminated at numerous points along a thick and obstructive masonry wall.
Lesis walked along the flags of the fifth path and passed through the wall as if by magic.
She could have easily passed through any of the other points, but each of these would have only led her to a torturous demise.
Now she was in a dusky narrow corridor. She treaded softly along it, palming along the stones. Felt blindly for a lever she knew she would find. When she did she pulled it upward and then a golden light became visible far, far ahead.
On reaching the end of the corridor, many minutes later the light of the next chamber had made her almost blind.
It was indeed the largest one yet. Its walls were higher than any building she had ever seen. The ceiling was transparent, and the sun shone down onto the marble floors drenching the chamber with an aurora of supernatural splendour. In this, beneath the great arches where the supporting pillars met, stood colossal statues of the lesser gods who were the Judges minions.
Many considered Lesis to be quite tall. Even so her head did not reach above the toes of these titans. Once again she felt as though they were surveying her, probing at the seams of her conscious mind, listening to her thoughts, judging her.
These thoughts began to swarm inside her she felt as though she heard a devilish mantra coming from the opposite end of the corridor. This was the direction she hastily approached. Her sandaled feet upon the marble floor made no sound and she began to wonder if she were hearing correctly or not.
A curious wind began to blow, with no sound, and though she felt it pushing her away she could not discern any sensation of force. Whoever or whatever was the source of this obscene chanting, she thought, was also the conjurer of these strange sensory illusions. Indeed as the mantra, almost bestial in tone, began to reach a vile crescendo the wind became a mighty gale, she could feel an almost impossible resistance gluing her feet to the floor, all the while her hair nor skin had moved, and there was no sound but that of this unheard mantra. From deep, deep within her very being, a cold quake of revulsion. She realised, slowly, that what she was witnessing was a perfect and lucid manifestation of a reoccurring nightmare that had invaded her sleep since childhood. And this began to trigger an unnatural sense of dread within her that threatened to engulf her mind forever. But Lesis, daughter of Ferellis, was as strong in nature as in name, and soon wrestled control of her senses, marching boldly towards the final door.
This began to trigger an unnatural sense of dread within her that threatened to engulf her mind forever. But she promptly wrestled control of her senses, and marched towards the final door.
She gazed upon it, whereon she saw, in mournful black, the symbol of The Judge:
Iris winked at her maliciously, and the final door opened.
Inside, by the opposing wall, the Annuboids bunched together gazing upon Lesis with sadistic alacrity. They wore nothing but leather loincloths, their bodies that of men, were copper-toned and muscular. Their heads were the heads of jackals, twitching with malevolent intent. Their eyes were of dark anthracite. Polarised, Lesis thought, the Annuboids could not bear bright light.
For there was no light within this chamber, it was dark and dreary.
From the ceiling, a projection of the symbol of the scales fell upon the centre of the floor. It was on this spot that Lesis was flung to her knees. The Annuboids then fled the room with haste.
From the other side of the room, upon the opposite wall, a giant piercing eye began to open.
It was of brilliant white, like the moon, with a yellowish corona around and a pupil, with the suffocating darkness of an eclipse. In its gaze Lesis felt her soul being devoured. She found it difficult to look into the eye without succumbing to the pure primal dread that once stalked her ancient ancestors. But still she held firm, even as a deep and resonant voice then filled the room.
"I AM THE EYE OF GOD, THE ORACLE, THE INQUISITOR AND EXECUTIONER.
IN THE NAME OF THE GREAT LORD OF RAYS YOU HAVE BEEN SUMMONED BEFORE ME SO THAT YOU MAY BEAR WITNESS AS I DELIVER MY VERDICT UPON ONE WHO HAS COMMITTED UNSPEAKABLE CRIMES AGAINST THE ONE TRUE GOD,
- THE LORD OF LIGHT, LORD OF THE SELF, THE HALO, FONS LUMINIS, CHRISTOS, HYPERION, OMETECUHTLI, LORD AMMON-RE OF THE TEMPLE OF ABYDOS. HE WHO'S TRUE NAME NONE BUT HE SHALL SPEAK."
In one elegant gesture Lesis raises her hands to the sky then cups them to her heart with as she bows her head in supplication.
"ARISE LESIS, DAUGHTER OF FERELLIS, IN THE PRESENSE OF YOUR GOD, AS YOU GAZE INTO THE EYE OF TRUTH, HOW DO YOU PLEED TO THE CHARGES MADE?"
Standing rigid, her eyes directly in line with the Judge she proclaims, with coldness in her voice that he is,
"Not Guilty, my Lord."
IN THIS, THIS HALLOWED PLACE YOU DARE TO MOCK ME?
YOU DARE TO LIE DIRECTLY TO YOUR OWN GOD!"
"I believe he is not guilty, in my heart I know this. This same heart that pumps with the Light of God. I would not dare lie to you, for I know you have the power to glance at my mind, wherein you shall see that my thought is pure."
"INDEED, AND IS IT THAT YOU FEAR ME LESIS, DAUGHTER OF FERELLIS?"
"No, my Lord, for I know you are the Eye of God. He who fills us with the Divine Light. And I know He shall let no harm befall those who have accepted the Divine Light into our hearts. I live to serve Him, my Lord."
"THEREFORE YOU KNOW THE ONLY PUNISHMENT FOR THOSE WHO TURN AGAINST THE LIGHT AND WISH TO BECOME SLAVES TO THE DARKNESS."
"I do my Lord."
"THEN WITNESS AS I PASS MY JUDGEMENT. AND EXECUTE THE SENTENCE FOR ONE WHO HAS REKNOUNCED HIS GOD AND IS THUS BECOME A TRAITOR TO THE SOLAR DOMINION."
Lesis finds herself unable to stop looking into the pupil of the giant Eye.
In its darkness she sees a tiny window of white. The pupil expands greatly and this window becomes clearer. She can now see a chamber, and, focussing into the chamber, she now see the figures inside. She recognises one immediately as Cotellis. It should have triggered a gasp of horror on her behalf. But not so. For her mind was disciplined, her emotions steered by the advanced and universally practised science of memetics.
Her love and loyalty were sorely centred upon her God; this love was so central to her existence that she could never learn to hate Him. This love was in all who lived within the Solar Dominion. It existed in the very gene code of every living biont, in the very kernel of every AI, droid, or 'borg. So she watches the gruesome spectacle with a vacant expression, and her eyes stays neutral. As she watches The Judge speaks,
"HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY OF THE CHARGE OF HIGH TREASON FOR SELLING DOMINION SECRETS AND ATTEMPTING TO DEFECT TO THE BLASPHEMPOUS RANKS OF THE COZON HEATHENS"
Four Annuboids were fastening Cotellis atop a crude, rusty-stained pyramid comprised of blocky stone steps. On completion of this task they darted down the gaudy steps and cowered behind a nearby boulder. The Devourer begins to open slowly with a stony scraping noise.
The Devourer was indeed a fearful sight; with two grotesque heads, bearing long reptilian snouts lined with twinned furrows of sharp, glinting teeth. Its eyes were filled with a fiery, crimson intensity, it lumbered forward sniffing the air ponderously. And as it approached the pyramid its long, serpentine tongues flick in and out with relish.
Cotellis began to scream in sheer, stark terror as the heads of the Devourer loomed overhead. The searing red eyes fixed upon him, and the two mouths widened. The tongues came out once more, and cradle his head offering Cotellis a terminal horizon of teeth. By this time Cotellis was too scared to scream.
It took but seconds, the creature firstly tore the heart from Cotellis and squashed it in a clawed fist, holding it above, the creature drank from the descending blood while the other mouth swallowed Cotellis' head whole.
The blood slowly trickled down the cursed steps as the creature departed. It gathered in a gully at the base of the pyramid.
And, from the shadows, the Annuboids drank the viscous swill that has been left over like beasts at a feeding trough.
The image fades, and the blazing eye returns;
"DO YOU FIND MY JUDGEMENT JUST LESIS?"
"I can but bask in your wisdom my Lord."
The Annuboids return and encircle her, grimacing and snarling.
Fearlessly she stands her ground.
"DO YOU FEEL THE PENALTY HE PAID WAS FAIR?"
"I accept your judgement, my Lord, I trust you have done that which is best for us all."
"YOU DO NOT SHOW REMORSE, YOU ARE NOT SADDENED?"
"My only loyalty is to my God, and to the inviolability of His law."
The Annuboids close around and seize her. Their hands were rough and their breath fresh with the smell of blood.
"YOU MAY EXCUSE ME IF I AM NOT CONVINCED, DEAR LESIS. BUT WHILE I CANNOT HOLD YOU ANY LONGER BE AWARE THAT THE EYE OF GOD SHALL BE FOREVER VIGILANT. AND IF THERE BE EVIDENCE OF SIMULAR BEHAVIOR IN YOU, LESIS, YOU SHALL RECEIVE THE SAME PENALTY."
The Annuboids then steer her towards a secret portal that led out into the deserted streets.
There a hover-chariot waited to drive her towards her home.
Later, as darkness finally falls upon Abydos and the moon casts its spectral glow over the now-silvery citadels, the circuits of the numerous priests within their hallowed pyramids begin to work on a fresh new Solar Aria. Everywhere else, the people are sleeping. For nighttime is no time for a Dominion citizen to be awake. However tonight a strange event was taking place.
There was one woman who did not wish to sleep.
But this was not so strange as her actions. Staring at the starry backdrop that lurked above the domes of the citadels Lesis began to cry, bitterly, uncontrollably. She had never cried before, and now she found she could not stop as she grieved the loss of Cotellis, her brother.
Far above, concealed inside the shadowy cloak of night, a black and brooding falcon watched her with a darkened eye.
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