Flash fiction challenge: Ancient Sumer

I keep saying I’m not going to participate in these things anymore, but I’m really having fun doing different things.  Another flash ficiton challenge from terribleminds.com.

Gata looked across the field at his day’s work.  The Euphrates had flooded and receded, leaving his field a muddy mess.  This was the order of things.   He had spent the day tending the field with his ox, trampling out weeds and preparing the soil for the planting of another year’s crop of wheat.

The sun continued to swell as it descended into the earth.  Shadows lengthened to warn him of the coming night.  It would soon be time to shutter the windows and take his evening meal.

The ox was tied to the tree and the tools had been put away when Gata heard something he didn’t recognize.  “No, you do recognize that sound,” he said to himself.  His chest froze with the realization.  “You just want to pretend you don’t recognize it.”  He was as still as the stones that marked the edge of his field.  With dread, he listened for the sound to repeat.

Too soon, it did.

Gata and his family lived near the edge of the territory claimed by Uruk to the north.  He had fought for Uruk before.  Every few years, a leader in Ur would claim this area and send troops.  Gata wondered if maybe he was hearing the troops of his own country’s infantry.  If so, he would soon be pressed into service.  His crops would be consumed by weeds if he were called away now.

Of course, if these were units from Ur… he didn’t want to think about it.  Usually the armies didn’t move during planting season for obvious reasons.  Even a military victory would result in a starving population if there was nobody left behind to grow the crops.

There was the sound again!  This time closer.   His stomach dropped and his heartbeat quickened as he realized the direction of the sound.  South.  Coming from the plains of Ur.  It was the sound of hundreds of shields clattering against the shafts of spears as they walked.  He had heard it during past campaigns when a unit was moving nearby.

He went quickly into his small home.  His wife was breast feeding the baby while his oldest stared into the fire quietly.  “Get up, grab anything of value.  Ur approaches from the south.”

Wide eyes and frightened looks quickly gave way to a flutter of activity.  Pots and bags were packed with whatever could be found worth saving.  They were going out the door within minutes.  Everyone at the edge of civilization knew this drill.

They were met at the door by strangers, wearing feathered headdresses and carrying spears.  The fire from within the tiny hut shone onto their faces with dancing wings of light and shadow.        “You are not from Ur.  These fertile valleys are the lands of Ellosha, King of Ur.  We have come to plant the fields for the coming year.  You must leave at once.”

“This is my land, it is all I have to feed my family.”  Gata tried, but failed, to sound strong when he spoke.  A woman screamed from a nearby hut.

“Perhaps, if you don’t have a family, you will be more willing to cooperate…”  The stranger waved to the three men behind him and they began to move forward.  Gata had only grabbed one thing as the family was packing their items:  the axe was sharp, but small, larger than a hatchet but shorter than a true axe.  It had split many things, but never a skull.   The copper head glowed golden in the firelight.

Gata backed up so that the strangers would have to come in to harm him or the family.  Their spears would be a hinderance in the tight quarters of his home.  The ceiling was low, the walls were close, and a long stick with a sharp tip would be of little use.  The first stranger came in, leading with the spear.  Gata came down with his axe on the shaft, breaking it in half.  In a continuation of the same motion, he stepped forward and brought the back of the axe up like a hammer into the man’s jaw, shattering bone and teeth from one side of his mouth to the other.   The stranger fell backward out the doorway into the others who had been too eager to enter.  They fell in a heap, blocking the exit for the scared family.

“Elshab, put out the fire!  Quickly!”  His son turned a large bowl of water onto the fire, smothering the small flame and sending the hut into deep blackness.  The only light was a  remnant of the sun reflecting off the clouds.  Gata watched the outline of the strangers outside his door.  The sunset was ominous.  It would be his last.  Of that there could be little doubt.

“Set it ablaze!”

“I want the woman!”

The screaming from the nearby hut stopped with a thud and a new light began to shine outside.  The same, dancing light that had illuminated the inside of his home was now illuminating the outside.  He couldn’t see the fire directly but could tell from the brightness that the flames were growing.

“Gata?”  His wife rarely spoke, and he turned to see what she wanted.  The deep shadows surrounded them, but for a fleeting moment his wife, son, and baby were lit by the light coming through the open doorway.  They were illuminated by the flames meant to consume them.  That look in her eyes…  They both knew.

“Elshab,” he said to his son, “You are my life.  What I do I do in the name of Inanna.”  Without another word he struck his only son in the neck with the axe, nearly separating his head from the body.  Elshab fell lifeless.  His wife handed their baby girl to him.  With tears in his eyes he crushed her little skull.

“Gata?”  He looked at his wife.  She was not looking down at the carnage of their children.  She was looking him in the eyes.  “Thank you.  You were a good provider.”  She turned her head away as the flames began to eat through the beams on the ceiling.  She stood with her back to him, and gently pulled her long hair around to expose the soft, pale skin of her neck.  He struck with all his might so that she would not suffer.

He stood in the midst of his dead family for only a moment.  There was nothing left in the hut to give him reason to stay.  He launched out the door swinging the axe at everyone.  There would be no stopping until his death.

I did a second flash fiction just for fun.  I picked this setting rather than drawing it randomly, but it suited my needs and tastes for the moment…

There she is:  she’s not my grandma, but she’s a grandmotherly type.  I see her from time to time.  Usually when I’ve been lazy and It’s Time.  She pours me some tea, just like always.  I sit in her slightly-too-comfy chair and nod my thanks as she hands me the sweet drink, steamy in its tiny little cup.  “March” is scrawled in some kind of wavy calligraphy across the bottom of the saucer.

“Would you like a donut, sweetie?”

“Of course, thank you.”    I raise the cup, trying in vain to NOT burn myself this time.  I realize with irritation that my pinky is sticking out.  I curl it back under my hand before she notices.

“You know, you’re really a nice boy.  What ever happened to that pretty little red-head you were seeing?  Didn’t you have a big crush on her?”

“Yes ma’am, but she’s no longer here.”

“Oh, well, that’s too bad, isn’t it?  You two were so cute together.”

“She was the cute one. “

“Nonsense, you were cute together.”

“Thank you for the tea and donuts, they are delicious.”

“Yes, you always did like your sweets.”

“Pardon me, but how do I know you again?  I gotta tell ya, I must be completely flipping out, because I know I know you, and I have for a long time.  But I don’t know why, and I don’t know how.”

“It’s alright, shoog, I’ve always been around.  I know a lot about you.”

“But how did we meet?”

“Sweetie, we met on June 4th, 1999.  You were a boy, just becoming a young man.  You fucked up that day. “

My spine turns into a block of ice.  I remember that day alright.  Fuck.  What did she see?  “How did we meet on that day?”

“Well, as I recall you were slamming a homeless man’s head in a car door.”

I stand up, spilling tea and donut on her spotless area rug.  The fringe seems to cringe at the act of spillage.  “WHY THE FUCK AM I HERE?  WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO ME?  HOW DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THAT?”

“Sit down, you incorrigible little brat!  You think you can do all those things and just walk away?  Look, honey, I can’t turn you in or do anything to you.  But the urges are coming back, and I’m here to remind you that you have a choice.  Every time we meet you get all antsy, you go out and do it again.  I want to put a stop to that.  Listen to me, and things can be normal again.  You can get your erections back.  You can date women and not be afraid they’ll find out.  You don’t have to go through all this anymore.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Your erections.  I can give them back.  You don’t have to do it every time to get one.   “She reaches toward my cock.  “I can make that thing jump out of them pants and dance, baby dance!”

I jump backward, away from the claw that is reaching toward me.  It’s still a hand.  Kinda.   It looks like a tree branch, tiny and withered with twigs veering in all directions from the knot that is her palm.

“Put it in my hand, I’ll make it DANCE!!”  Her cackle recedes as I run out the door, only somehow I’m naked.  I look down and see that my penis has turned into a tree branch and WHAT THE FUCK HAS SHE DONE TO ME…

I sit upright in the bed, as usual.  Sweat free-flowing down my face, soaking my sheets.  The small of my back soaked and caked with the fear-sweat.

It’s Time.  She woke me early tonight; it’s only 11:00 p.m.  I get my clothes back on and head out into the night, looking for someone to kill and make the dreams go away.

The setting for this second one was a serial killer’s nightmare

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1 Comment

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One response to “Flash fiction challenge: Ancient Sumer

  1. That ended super sad. I enjoyed the lyrical style of the writing.

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