The ancient ones might ignore this attempt.

 

 

 

 

          The warhead’s container was a rich walnut color.  He ran his fingers along the smooth edges and caressed the case.   His mind raced back to when he was brought to the Asvin Temple to become a man. He remembered how he ran his hands down the sensuously curved back of the temple prostitute as she lay with him in their chamber.

 

     She was surely dead now, her body beneath the ruins of Asvin. He imagined her face, calm in repose, a deathly pale tan, as silt and sand slowly drifted down and obscured her features.

     “A fantasy,” he thought bitterly to himself.  The truth was probably much more graphic.

     “I shall have no corpse, I shall have no grave,” he said softly to himself.  “The destruction of Mohenjo will be the ashes of my funeral pyre.”

 

#

 

     Once the war erupted, the fiery bolts of King Poseideinus struck and destroyed the sky lances hurled by the Ramans a dozen times.  The 13th time the fire lance had not been destroyed but instead fallen into the ocean--and detonated when it struck the seabed.

     The tidal wave washed over all but the highest peaks of Asvin.  The leaders at the defense command hidden deep underground in Huajatolla watched helplessly as Asvin sank into the roiling sea.

     One last spasm of their vengeance sent dozens of fiery lances slamming into the Raman command at Uluru, turning the mountain under which the command center rested into a red hot remnant of a rock. Then the generals of King Poseideinus committed ritual suicide, but before, one last message went out--furtive, encrypted, meaningless, except to the one who knew.

    “Now.”

     Because of his small stature he had not been allowed to join the soldiers of the king but a kindly wizard who knew the uses of pride and death recruited him for a special assignment.

     The Asvin agent kicked aside the ornate carpet which lay on the floor of his private shrine, and used a metal tool to pry open the door in the floor where, seven years earlier, the warhead had been secreted.

     Like the blind mole that lies under the very feet of those it undermines, he had worked these seven long years as a faceless manager in a plant of the Raman religious-industrial complex, keeping his face like a blank slate whenever he heard the idolaters mocking the noble Asvins.     He had nearly broken his cover when the cursed fire lance fell into the sea and sent its twin heralds of death, tidal wave and earthquake, racing towards the gleaming orichalchum towers of the main island.

     The sight of the Raman gurkhas jumping and screeching for joy on the farsight like the blue-assed baboons they once were sent his blood storming into his head. But as the old wizard back home had known, he could control himself, gather his thoughts, and clear his mind to consider the completion of the task which now lay before him.

     He left his factory and rode his vimana through the outskirts of Mohenjo as people sang and danced and mated in public to express their great joy.  He forced a thin smile as he skimmed along. A bystander might have thought he was rushing home to impregnate his mate and commit a new child to the glory of the Raman priesthood.  But he lived quite alone, in unremarkable small quarters--except for the silent plaything of death he would now soon awake.

     The one word message lay in the tray beside his transmitter when he arrived.  He could see on the farsight images of Raman gurkhas moving into the fringes of the remains of the Asvin empire to occupy the outlying provinces and cities.

     He reached into the cabinet where the ashes of the bones of his ancestors reposed in porcelain urns, and pulled out the lever-like tool which he used to open the trap door in the floor of his shrine where the warhead reposed. Now as he ran his hands along the sides of the warhead, feeling for the sockets and plugs he would have to connect to activate it, his smile was thin and dark, like the first cut across the torso as one sacrificed himself to the God-King. 

     He lifted the box by a strap and settled it gently on the floor. It had taken the greatest artifice of all the members of Asvin’s most secret lodge of esoteric craftsmen to construct a device which contained the power of the sun but could be carried by one man.

     He brought it outside and rested it on the seat of the vimana beside him. He drove away and glided the vimana into a thick cluster of dark green trees in a park on the outskirts of the city.  Daylight was fading and the few people in this corner of the park on the outskirts of Mohenjo ignored the lone vehicle.

     He disconnected the failsafe cable from the power box which had charged up the warhead’s controls, and quickly unscrewed the other end of the cable from the device.

     He exited the vehicle, went to the far side and looked around over the roof of his vehicle.  There was a couple copulating a distance away who were oblivious to all else. He pulled the double crown of Poseideinus from a small sack and quickly placed it on his head. He could now, after all these years, reveal himself among the Ramans as a priest of the Asvin temple of Poseideinus. The crown’s moon rose from his head, the upward pointing tips of the crescent appearing as horns. King Poseideinus--Lord of All Under the Sun and the Moon--assured all who die in his service they would walk the rainbow bridge and into the halls of Asgardhartha unmolested.

      He took off his robe to show that one who would sacrifice himself in the service of Poseideinus was pure and unblemished. He took the container from inside the vimana, pulled the straps over his shoulders as he put the bomb on his back and began to run into the city without a backward glance.  

     As he started he drew the cord over his shoulder and fully extended his arm until it was at a 45 degree angle.  He heard the loud click which indicated the warhead was armed.

     As he passed the mating couple, the man fainted, and the woman, still astride her mate, turned and began to scream.  He ran into the middle of the road and started his run to the center of Mohenjo.

     He felt a snapping around his legs, and realized he had failed to completely disconnect the failsafe cable from the warhead.  It was dragging behind him.

     “A small mistake,” he thought.  He realized if he kept up a steady pace, it simply flew behind him, like the tail of a beast, and so it was of no concern.

     Once armed, the warhead’s radiation shield was retracted. After a few leagues, as a result of the combination of the exertion and radiation, he began to turn bright red.

     Even in the twilight, all who saw him as he ran could clearly see the crown of Poseideinus--and could also see his arm extended forward as he held the cable taut.  A few of the hairy Raman Gurkhas drew their spears, but none had the courage to hurl them. The Asvin felt contempt towards the people of the city he was about to destroy.  None had the courage to sacrifice themselves to stop him.

     It was only 12 leagues from the park where he emerged to the central plaza of Mohenjo. Although none who saw him as he ran could know the true power of the sun bomb he carried on his back, had he been struck down in the park when he first donned the bomb, the force of the blast would still have toppled the lingam in the plaza in the center of Mohenjo.

     As he saw the intact enemy capital he thought of the family he had left behind in Asvin. He was sure his father died shaking his fist at the wall of water that had washed across the main island.  His mother had probably rested her head in her hands in resignation. His youngest brother, Narma, who still lived at home, probably cursed and stamped his feet in frustration.

     The temple priestess who had initiated him into manhood, Shakuntla-- she had thought him good.  She had smiled at him in a special way.

      “I will be with you soon,” he thought.

     He glanced upwards and saw the lights of vimanas fleeing the city over the roof tops. When he was almost halfway to the central plaza, a chafing on his torso made him remember a trident--the sacred symbol of the cult of Poseideinus--was strapped to his left side.  He reached around with his free hand and carried it chest high the rest of the journey.

    The dangling failsafe cable frayed as it bounced along the roadway and seemed to be a barbed tail as it flailed behind him.  He could begin to feel the deep burning he knew was the death from the blue glowing discs within the container as he saw the Mohenjo temple towers rising over the heart of the city.

     He thought no man could ever have been as ready for rest as he when he ran into the central plaza and past the enemies’ lingam obelisk. He approached the lowest steps of the ceremonial pyramid.  With one last full measure of resolve, he ran up the steps to the truncated top where the sacrificial court lay.

     A low-ranking priest of Hanuman--a man who cleansed the court of blood and waste after sacrifices, and as a result earned the disparaging nickname Lord of the Flies--alone had not fled.

     He pointed a guided spear at him. Despite also being a little man, he summoned up a great deal of courage.

     “You should turn around, my friend,” said the Raman priest, whose name was Beez-Al-bub. “The war is over, and you have lost. What more can be accomplished by such a harvest of death?”

     He saw how sick the Asvin was from the radiation poisoning.  

     “If you cannot disarm the device, I will try to help.”

     The Asvin smiled his last thin smile, and almost laughed except he couldn’t draw his breath.  He dropped to his knees, still holding the cable taut. He smiled, showing all his teeth, and not moving his hand, let slip the cable.

 

#

 

     Little Timmy Pendergast was mad.

     His Devil suit was bright red, with shiny black horns and a little plastic pitchfork.  The tines of the pitchfork were reddish-gold, and the horns were sharp enough to hurt.  It cost him two weeks’ allowance at the general store, and he still got shoved out of the way by most of the bigger kids from the neighborhood no matter what route he tried to take.

     Nobody took him seriously.  God damn it, he’d show them.

     Old Mrs. Phinney had clucked and chuckled at him when he showed up on her doorstep.  "Timmy, you little devil," she said as she winked at him.  "That's the cutest outfit."

     Then Brad McNulty picked him up like a rag doll and placed him to the side. Brad had a pretty good tornado-bait costume on, one that he wore year-round.

     A few other kids shoved in behind Brad.  Timmy was seeing red.  He kept seeing red until he was off her porch. In his right hand, he clutched the point of his tail like a thumb ready to suck.  He’d been last in line.  On top of his small pile of hard-won swag was one… lousy… goddamn… popcorn ball.

     He snuck back home quickly, then right back out again. His big brother would never miss the M-80.  Timmy went back and stashed it in Mrs. Phinney’s mailbox.  As he did he tasted blood in his mouth, and realized he’d bitten his tongue.

     There was no one in sight.  The lid whomped shut. Timmy ran like Hell, only turning at the boom to behold the pieces flying through night air as porch lights went back on up and down the block.

     From a safe stand of trees on the corner, he raised his face to the stars, giving voice to a wild and terrible rebel yell.

 

 

CONTENTS