By Sean Henry
A hero is what he thought, watching the Asoles from a safe distance.
“Awesome, they are blessed,” said Clay.
He took a deep breath and made such a serious face that Iris giggled in amusement. He had become a master of mimicry.
”Things aren’t always what they seem Clay,” Said Iris.
Clay was still somewhere between constipation and concentration.
“Clay knock it off, you look like you’re gonna shit yourself,” said Iris.
“Shhh Iris,” said Clay ducking back behind the corner. He would be mortified if anyone from his waste station heard her.
“I have to work here,” said Clay.
“I want you home soon. I have something for you,” said Iris.
“They’re having the initiation ceremony at the courts and I wanted to go see,” said Clay
Clay was obsessed with the Asoles. They had power, status and nobody fucked with the Asoles.
Asoles were guards, a warrior caste hand selected by the pyres. The seven Pyres were a mystery. At the age of twenty it was mandatory that people entered into a lottery where if one was chosen they would be initiated into the sect. After initiation they give their soul to the pyres in which it is said that they grant the initiate with immortality. The Asoles wore elaborate helmets that covered them from the shoulders up able to morph into the shape of facial characteristics of whatever beast they chose and never showed their face.
“Stay away from the courts,” said Iris. She loathed the Asoles, cursed them under her breath anytime she could. Clay just chalked it up to her being a little crazy.
“Maybe we could have story night tonight,” said Clay. She immediately perked up. Clay knew how to make her happy.
“Dear boy you are going to become a great one,” said Iris
As a boy Iris would tell him stories of the world before the pyres. Clay loved the stories but Iris would sometimes tell stories in parables or riddles which annoyed the hell out of Clay.
“The resistance is close and I need you at my side tonight,” said Iris. Her eyes were pulsating and wild, constantly twitching and spookier than usual.
“I will be home soon Iris,” said Clay.
“I know,” said Iris, “ashes to ashes.” She smiled and walked away.
“Fuck that, I’m trying to live forever,” said Clay
He wanted no part in the resistance. On his way to the courts he arrived at the courtyard where Iris had told him a secret design had been etched into a mosaic wall. He had been intrigued by this story for quite some time. All the walls were marked with geometrical lines and shapes, no logos or living creatures were pictured on any of the markings. The pyres outlawed logos or idols or anything pertaining to living creatures of the outside world. Clay sat staring at that mosaic wall for what seemed to be an eternity, but it was only a few hours.
Before Clay could make out any form from the multitude of lines in the wall, his breath was knocked out of him by a large explosion a hundred or so yards away. Shards of alloy and stone rained all around him as a shower of sparks fell from the dome above, followed by the sounds of lasers and a plethora of deafening crackling from the Asoles’ weapons.
“Terrorist,” Said one of the Asoles. “Heresy,” said another
Body’s scattered all around Clay, scurrying away from the violence. Ten yards away an Asoles pounced on and completely devoured one resistance fighter alive, tearing him apart and leaving only a pile of bile where he stood.
Clay had never seen or heard of anything like this. He balled up cowering in the corner waiting for a time to escape, once he finally had the opportunity he darted for the shaft that lead for the tunnel which lead back to the pits. When Clay got back to Iris he could barely breathe. Iris looked pale with fright.
“Goodness Clay, where did you go? Did anyone follow you back here?” said Iris.
“No I took the tunnels.” said Clay.
“Here I have to give you something,” said Iris. Iris handed him a black glass cube. “This is an obsidian cube, Take this back to the mosaic and find that lotus carved in the lines,” said Iris.
“I didn’t see no lotus in the design, I looked for hours,” said Clay. “I can’t go back you wouldn’t believe what I saw. I will die for sure.”
“Look harder and take this cube and insert it into the middle, you will see the red ruby glow and when you do push the button,” said Iris.
“What’s going on? I don’t understand,” said Clay.
“There’s no time to explain. I wrote a letter and I put it in your coat, take the obsidian and go,” said Iris.
Just as he reached the tunnels he could hear Iris’s screams echoing down the halls… a terrifying shriek that rattled his bones and gave him shivers. Clay’s heart was in his stomach, but he ran as fast as he could. When he made it to the mosaic he did just as Iris instructed. The red stone illuminated upon touching it and the wall unraveled at the lines like the untying of a knot. He ducked into the dark crevice and slid down underground tubes which lead him to a spiraling staircase. After reaching the top of the staircase he could see it, the eye gloriously ablaze massive in size like a doorway with a fixed stare on Clay. Clay was drawn to the spherical phenomenon. The center looked as if it were liquid gold. Clay was so frozen with fear that he forgot to breathe. The seven pyres came out of the shadows and towered over him. They must have been 9 feet tall and didn’t make a sound. Something about the pyres told Clay that they were just as scared of him as Clay was of it. There was nowhere else to go accept through the eye. Instantly Clay bolted past the tall demonic creatures towards the mercurial eye, chucked the cube into the center, closed his eyes and leapt.
Clay was blinded, flashes of white and red light exploded around his face. He could feel his hair getting singed a burning sensation throughout his entire body followed by an aching cold.
Iris he screamed, over and over he screamed for her but to no prevail. He knew that she was dead and now so was he. In a millisecond a life time of woes he cried. He thought of his failure and shame. He will never know the truth and he had let Iris down and how pathetic his whole existence had been such a waste. His body kicked and flailed in agony and pain as torturous images flickered in his mind.
Clay was embarrassed when he realized he was still alive. His body was not used to the atmosphere and the sun. What began as his violent death became an orgasmic overload of the senses. His eyes began to adjust enabling him to see the multitude of hues he never knew existed, colors so vibrant it electrified his mind. All at once, new and exotic textures surrounded him with warmth as aromatics tickled him to his loins.
There where trees everywhere and the sky was stunning. Clay was on his knees in awe. He looked around and right in front of him was the black cube. He crouched forward and placed his forehead on the cube then whispered something softly to himself before he got up and began to walk, wandering aimlessly into a small opening in the forest where it dipped into a valley. On the other side he could see a crevice in the side of a mountain, so he ran there in fear of the Asoles. Clay followed that canyon until it came to an opening so he decided to rest, and remembered the letter in his jacket.
The seven pyres are seven evil spirits that haunt men from times of old. There is a great war to resist them for they are only inspired by fear. The Asoles are the lifeless, those without a soul. They have cast a spell on men so that they may cultivate a weapon made of the souls of men, to rule the world and live forever, but they have already lost, though they don’t know it. The Vile creatures imprisoned our kingdom long ago. Most will try to appease them but their thirst is unquenchable. I have painfully held this from you while I watched you grow, watch you secretly lust for the evil that lies waiting like a viper to snatch you from the way to truth. This realm like the next is an illusion. You have the key to all the doors don’t be afraid. Find our kin you will know them by their armor. They will help you on your way. You are not alone. I love you.
PS. If that doesn’t piss you off, they have been feeding us recycled human waste.
Clay didn’t even have time to take it all in before he was startled by dark figures closing in on him. Clay leapt to combat action mode with a murderous spark of rage in his eye.
“Asoles been feeding me shit my whole life,” said Clay.
Clay raised the obsidian cube above his head in a striking stance ready to wage war on the Asoles. The figures wore black obsidian scaled armor with gold trim. The armor was so magnificent that it would have put the Asoles to shame they looked glorious shimmering in the setting sun all the colors of the sky trapped like a rainbow in an obsidian prism.
The men were gracious recognizing the black box Clay held in his hands.
A faint buzz slowly escalated into a roar as a swarm of Asoles came out of the earth the sound vibrated all the bodies of the men in obsidian. They were fearless. They all lined up ready for the inevitable slaughter. Some even had grins.
“Welcome home brother,” said one man in jest. He offered up some armor to Clay but Clay fashioned himself a cloak made of some linens and wool he found. Clay then stepped to the front of the men.
“Ashes to ashes,” said Clay. Then he laughed an uncontrollable howl and led the charge.
The thunderous clash of opposing forces shook the planet to its very core and with a flash of light the Asoles were vanished like vapors in a light breeze.
Clay turned toward his brethren.
“A figment of my imagination,” said Clay
The Obsidians were astonished, in hysterics having never witnessed such a miraculous feat; they accredited Clay with being of royal bloodline. The tribe shouted and began to celebrate and dance around. They praised Clay for his escape and bravery called him a hero.
Clay just sat on his legs with his hands clenching the earth, eyes on the horizon, hypnotized in thought.