This Week’s Prompt: The shores of Attica respond in song to the waves of the Aegean.
The Resulting Story:Greece, But Not As You Know It!
To His Sacred and Imperial Majesty, Commander of the Faithful,
I have returned from your sacred majesty’s mission, and wish to make account of what I have seen in those lands that are farthest west in your domain. The Attic peasentry remain resentful of your righteous rule, but your loyal servants keep the peace. The taxes are collected in a timely manner, the people are protected, and the grain is bountiful. There is, however, a peculiarity to this goodly report. I write this to inform your imperial majesty, and for no other purpose.
The mothers ina village along the Attic coast, some distance from Athens, have had only young girls. Not a single healthy male for your service has been born. When I inquired to the your local servants about this oddity, they insisted that it was a strange miracle or simply misfortune that the village had borne only women, and that men have been found outside the village. Not one boy for the Janissary, they said, but not one for the fields either. Unsatisfied, I made to survey the village myself.
The village priest was welcoming, speaking well of your reign and of your just laws. When I inquired to the strange pattern of births, he showed me a detailed account of the baptisms, from the time of Caesar Justinian. Several boys were listed, but disaster had struck, funerals occurring when the boys were just at the cusp of manhood. Broken legs, ribs, and illness were time and time again listed as the cause. I asked where this plague of miseries came from and the priest was at a loss. Simply misfortune he said.
I stayed the night in this quiet town, boarding with a woman who was alone at the time. Her husband, she explained, was in town showing his itqa records to your loyal servants, to ensure that they both did their proper duty. While serving dinner, she inquired at my reason for coming so far from my homeland. I explained that the peculiarities of this village had attracted the attention of your majesty’s loyal servants and ministers. In passing, I asked if she had any knowledge as to why not one son native to this village yet lived. At this she was silent.
I asked her if there was something she could say, but she held her hand aloft and told me to be silent for a moment. There was a song in the distance, its pitch sinking slowly, a choir invisible. She said that her mother told her it was the song of their souls, going onward to heaven. Perhaps, he said, I could find them there. I asked for a lantern and a coat, and the woman warned that the stones are slippery near the shore. I thanked her and left for the caves.
The sea wind was cold, but the brilliance of the moon made the night into day. As I made my way along the grass, a good distance from the shore, the distant tone continued to sink. The once wavering and high pitch settled deeper and deeper. As I at last arrived at the cliffs, the noise was like a man striving to hold a great weight over head, as it slowly pushed him to his knees.
The caves were low set, domes carved by the Creator’s own hand, and now half full with water. Bits of wood and mangled rope floated on the surface. How many ships had been smashed into these great cliffs? How many since the time of the Prophet, peace upon him?
As the din grew deeper, a roaring as strong as the sea, I saw something else floating in the caves. A pair of long fingers gripped the stone, floating in the water. And lowering my lantern to see what poor soul was victim of the waves, I saw arms with veins barely held in their skin. A great bloated form pulled itself out of the water, slowly. Its limbs shook as its long claw like fingers gripped the stone. I was transfixed, as the creature rolled to face me, its eyes catching the moon light. Its maw opened and revealed that, despite it’s human form, its teeth were like a great dogs. And bones, such small bones floated out of its jaw. I felt great hands upon my very mind. I am unashamed to say I fled, hearing the moaning of the caverns.
I send this story simply to inform and advise. Whatever the creature is, it must be destroyed. It is anathema to your just rule and a danger to your subjects. As for what is to be done, about this village that tolerated such a beast, and what horrid rites they may have practiced, I leave that to the wisdom of the Commander of the Faithful.
Your Humble Servant.
Well, that scrap of flesh had a lot to say. What did you find in the waves?
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8 thoughts on “A Letter to His Most Sacred and Imperial Majesty”
What a rich story. It elicits pity for the fallen, but also for those who tolerate the tragedies, and even for the perpetrator, who it suggests may not be able to commit its bad acts without a complicit village.
I also find the dynamic of ancient cult versus powerful empire compelling.
The gender flip from sacrificing virgins–or maybe even the abundance of boys from China’s one-child policy–seems as meaningful as it is clever.