Humans are such pitiful creatures.
They eat, sleep, work, play, make children, and die. The span of their lives is like the moon that rises at dusk only to be swallowed by the gluttonous dawn. What does it mean to be human? What worth can man attribute to his existence when he is alive for merely a blink of an eye?
I have always wondered this. Perhaps that is why I am here, why I have chosen exile in this pitiful existence. Now I long for this perversity to end. What was I thinking to visit such misery upon myself? These weak, limber legs, stunted arms and pudgy face appall me. I have cast off my true appearance to become a human child. I am helpless in this form. Well, not entirely helpless. How can one such as me truly be helpless?
I, who witnessed the drowning of Atlantis. I, who have seen the rising of the tower of Babel as each stone of its foundation was set upon the next, ever ascending—reaching toward heaven itself. I, who have seen the birth of the ancient pyramids, the death of Julius Caesar, the rise of the Christ-God, and even the sunset of my own religion.
I am more than this wretched lump of brittle bone and dark flesh. Yes. Much, much more. For I am the eternal mother of night and wielder of the Black-Flame. How my servants must rue the day I left them to cower in shame! And what of my enemy? The Accursed Unfaithful who made me choose this path.
Yes. The decision to become human was mine. But a challenge was made, a challenge that must be answered. Only after I have proved myself worthy—only then shall come the Reckoning. On that day, the sun will cease to shine and the blood-moon will rise. The world shall forever be cloaked in darkness and the hell-spawn be let loose from the bowels of the Earth to baptize the world in fire and blood.
I can hardly wait for that day.
It is as I say these words to myself that I hear my earth-mother’s voice, or rather the voice of the woman who gave birth to me in this world.
I didn’t answer right away. I never do.
“Yes, Mommy?” I answer with such a disturbingly lilt voice so as to make me shudder inside.
“You should zip your jacket,” she said, drawing the zipper of my jacket close to my throat, before pulling the hood over my head. “It’s raining outside. I don’t want you catchin’ cold when we get off the bus.”
I nod, regretting the reasons for making me choose this life, but not for knowing the woman with me. She’s a good human, as good as can be expected of such a pointless race. I looked at the nut-brown complexion of her face and ochre-green eyes with familiarity, as it was the same look I shared. My earth-mother was beautiful by human standards, but her eyes were heavy with sleep and grief.
My earth-mother pulled the yellow cord that signaled the bus driver to drop us off at the next bus stop. She had such a sad look on her face as she looked outside the window of the bus, observing a young couple running along the side of the road, trying to escape the rain. She noticed me watching her, turned her gaze toward me, and gave me her most reassuring smile. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t help but return the smile. The wheels on the bus squealed noisily as it came to a stop. My mother took my hand and squeezed it.
“Let’s go, honey.”
We got off of the bus and walked down the sidewalk before crossing the avenue and heading into the parking lot of the neighborhood grocery store. My earth-mother entered the store with me in tow and took an unused shopping cart that was nearby. She asked me if I wanted to ride in the cart, but I didn’t answer her. So she proceeded to the produce section while I stayed close behind her. She had always reminded me that there were bad people in the world who did bad things to little children and insisted that I never leave her side. Not that I needed her to tell me about the cruel ways of man or her protection. But I obeyed her.
She picked and prodded a couple of fresh tomatoes on display, squeezed them and checked their color. She put one of them in a plastic produce bag and dumped it in the shopping cart. After tossing a couple more bags of fresh vegetables into the shopping cart, we headed toward the cereal aisle. I noticed more than one of the men in the store observing my earth-mother, their eyes lasciviously crawling up and down her curvaceous body. My earth-mother always got looks like that from men and was obviously used to it. A couple of men greeted her politely as we passed them by.
My earth-mother didn’t waste much time selecting a cereal as she didn’t seem to like the prices. I saw her shake her head in frustration and dump a box of Captain Crunch cereal in our cart without even bothering to check the price. She often served it to me whenever she was too busy to cook. Dry cereal was a far cry from the freshly baked loaves of bread with honey, dates and promenegrates that were my delicacy during breakfast in the Hanging Gardens of ancient Babylon. But it sufficed. In fact, I was surprisingly quite fond of that particular brand of cereal. I could tell my earth-mother didn't want to pay its higher than normal price tag. But she rarely spared expense when it came to seeing that I was happy.
We hastily left the cereal aisle and headed over to the frozen food section.
“What do you want for dinner, honey? Frozen pizza or chicken nuggets?”
As usual, I didn’t answer right away which prompted my earth-mother to look at me. She squatted down, causing the split in her black skirt to ride up her thigh and more of the men in the store to look at her when they sauntered by. My earth-mother pretended not to hear the hoots and whistles she got from the men and looked me in the eye with a frown.
“You miss him, don’t you?” I knew right away what my mother was trying to imply, but didn’t respond. “Honey, if your Daddy not being here’s botherin’ you, let me know. We can talk about it.” My earth-mother squinted when she noticed my expressionless gaze. “You do miss him, don’t you?”
I had never given it much thought until now, why I’d been acting differently around my earth-mother. I never did say much and always seemed withdrawn. But if my earth-mother noticed a change in my behavior, as peculiar as it might have already seemed to her, then I could not help but wonder if the death of my earth-father did affect me.
I did not know what made me lean forward to throw my little arms around my earth-mother. She gave me a firm squeeze in answer and held me for quite some time.
“Your Daddy’s in a better place now, Asha.”
I did not break my silence. How could I tell her the truth? That my earth-father was in a place where the shrieks of damned souls reverberated in a perpetual din of fire and torment. Or more importantly—that it was me who sent him there.
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An urban fantasy short story!