I studied his face. Humans fascinated me when they slept. Here, even through the dark bruises, his face seemed calm, tranquil, almost happy. I wondered at this.
I was conscious of the gently drizzling rain, which washed away muck and made lights glimmer. His short, brown hair was matted to his forehead. Impulsively I touched his cheek. His knuckles were scraped red, and his arms sprawled, as if he were making angel wings in the snow.
He jerked before slowly opening his eyes. "Tyra?" he moaned.
I removed my hand. Rain pelted his face. Get up.
He groaned, slowly drawing upon his limbs. Rain was fine when someone had someplace to call home. But he had no home anymore, and neither did I. Through the night crackled thunder. The lights of the cityscape flickered and died, and the surroundings became pitch black.
He huddled in the cold, arms embracing his knees. I watched the rain paint wet patterns on his cheek. Seeing him was similar to staring at sunsets, leaves in the sun, shadows, blood, and fire: he was the most mesmerizing painting and the blankest wall.
Slowly, he stood, and painfully walked through the wet street, hands deep in his pockets. I rose, flying into the sky and into the rain, and cast, feeling, searching, becoming. I became the squelch of his sneakers, the hard concrete, the deserted buildings.
Not far were the wolves. I guided him away. To the south was terror, and the west held nothing. He was cold and hungry. Searching further into the night, I merged with the future. I only saw doom.
I withdrew to myself. I felt miserable, like a parent. I felt guilt for having to guide this human, almost my child, to death.
Now, now, this isn't really so bad I whispered to him. It could be worse. Just a few more days of suffering. . .then you go home. Nothing can touch you at home.
These words had once been true. Yet every sanctuary, even that of dreams, were vanishing. I ought to know, for I am their mistress. I was his Spirit.
Reality is not something separate from the human mind; it is controlled by Spirits, like me. I am one of many, one of few. I am art, passion, love and vice, all the inevitable results of the unconscious, the warped and struggling human mind. I inhabit the chasm behind the chasm, I exist between the glow of a star and a futile wish.
He stumbled. I berated myself for not paying attention. Now he gripped a bloody wrist, his hand impaled by a large, glassy sliver. Remove it!
Trembling, he grasped and yanked. His howl; as his head lolled on the asphalt I cooed softly, sadly.
Tyra he thought to me, not knowing that he did.
My name; he had learned it when he was a baby. I am Tyra, and I will care for you, I had whispered to his gurgled thumb.
A powerful explosion rocked the air. Fire, an orange thunder cloud, spread from a black tower in the cityscape, alighting other dismal skyscrapers with splashes of apocalyptic flame. As I watched distant debris rain to the ground, I felt that the end was near.
Wrought by dreamy desires to pull humans from their miserable state, and a desperate need to relieve a burdened planet, we Spirits had planted in human minds the conviction to travel to the stars. We had inspired new technology, and had given inspirational new ideas to charismatic new men. The blunt noses of rockets were pointed to the sky, and propelled by a pulsating media, Hope was away!
From somewhere I heard howls. He heard them too, his eyes widening with fear as he clutched the splayed fingers of his hand. For the first time, I felt something akin to panic. Ordering him to his feet, we started to run from whatever inhabited the Earth now. Sometimes, for all my spiritual power, I wished only for arms and skirts in which to gather him.
Everything had gone so well. We had contacted an alien race far sooner than expected, though we had discovered no colonizable planets, except theirs. Upon the discovery that they were not alone in the universe, the humans were jubilant, amazed.
In the total darkness, even I could not find my way. I urged him to a stop; he stood, every muscle tense and trembling, in darkness so thick we might have been clutched in the palm of evil. He was learning, so young, so vulnerable, that little was more frightening than the inevitable.
I looked into the darkness. Yet war is barbaric, and our technology, not yet ready for combat on such a scale. But we needed that planet. So our invasion was not of soldiers, nor of swords. It was more insidious.
Our invasion was of Gods.
He was whimpering. I used all my power to restrain him from running screaming in the darkness, into the chasm with no stars. Unbidden, we had attempted to plant human ideas into alien minds.
We sent proselytizing human priests and missionaries to their planet, like old Europe did to the New World. We injected their culture with a plethora of Greek Gods and fairy tales. Satellites pumped their sedate media with flashy commercials, talk shows, soap operas and action movies. How would they ever resist the allure, of our advertisements, our technology, and everything else of the twenty-first century? For if we captured their minds, we would capture their souls, then their bodies, then their world.
But we really knew nothing.
His knees buckled. As I watched anxiously, he broke into a long, loud laugh, a wailing howl, imitating mirth. Of all the mistakes I had made, this laugh hurt most. Like the rain, I wanted to cry.
Because over there, the spirits and the inhabitants actually knew of each another.
Over there art abounded: everywhere one looked one saw the art, reflecting back the people, filling them with warmth and fire. There was no money, no starvation, and no hunger. For all their lack of technology and economic sophistication, they knew how to talk to their gods.
So they had rejected the Gods of Earth.
Now tears dripped from my human's eyes. Through the mountainous darkness, another skyscraper exploded, casting a frisson of shuddering light across the landscape. I saw him, bleeding, sprawled upon the black city street. I watched his tears. I saw them with a forlorn fascination, the distant flames reflecting on the moisture, making a scarlet rainbow. I reached and touched that light, shaking as I felt its dying rays. The color of grief reflected off me, and if only I could have retained the ability to be an artist, perhaps he and I could have expressed this consummate mourning, this mutual penance for the triumphs of millenniums now in ruin. I whispered his name. I whispered his name many times. I'm right here. Look at me.
He looked in my direction, eyes staring through the abyss of light that was my being. Physically he was incapable of sensing me: mentally, his mind had been closed by years of conditioning. Theory was that if humans saw Spirits, they would become arrogant, and uncontrollable.
Yet as he looked at me, searched for me, I think he saw a glimmering of my existence. Perhaps this separation of human and spirit had been a farce, all these long years. There was such disgust between the two sides. Impure humans and pure spirits; how could the two touch without ruining either side?
Slowly, the human rose on his own accord. He was going to speak, and even he knew not what he would say. Finally:
"There ain't no god." The glass shard shattered on the street. "He never would have let this happen."
Limping, he stumbled away from me, from my skirts and whispers, toward the howls.
With a heavy thump he collapsed.
Nearing, I inspected his face. No trace of happiness was left upon it.
And now at the head of my boy's body appeared an alien god. I retreated involuntarily. The jackal like face, the three gleaming, silvery eyes which never moved: its asymmetric masculinity, a force painted in an image of alien perfection pleasing to alien worshipers. Its black glistening flesh, its glowing miasmic halo; in defiance I floated upward, and glowed in a blaze of human spirituality, my feminine light streaking the leaves, the trees, the twisted light poles and the dying rain, with my essence and beauty for all that is human.
Unmoved, the alien spirit said: "Your world is ours now."
In a desperate attempt to refute the statement, I flamed, to cast my gold across the horizon. But my light was dull. The trees and the lights reflected my essence no longer. Our invasion had failed. Their counterattack, had not.
The alien gods had come, and they had taken the spiritual essence of my World's every atom, and turned, flavored, and converted, my world into a facsimile of their own, as we had planned to do with theirs. "This is no longer your temple," the alien spirit said. "This is no longer your world."
Slowly, my light faded, and I sank to the ground. "Perhaps," I almost sobbed, "Perhaps if we had only done some things a little differently--not in the ancient times, but maybe just in the last, hundred years--a bit more beauty, a bit more, kindness, less, less. . ." I turned slowly, to the ruined skyscrapers, to the shattered sports cars, to the galvanized billboard, hanging off the air.
"Don't think this is only your fault," the alien said. "The humans were at least as equally at fault as you." It nodded to my dormant boy. "He's mine, now."
"No," said I. "No, I love him. You can't take him. . .he's my boy. . ."
Said the alien "Either he's mine, or he dies."
What could I do? I turned away. From somewhere rose chilling, unearthly howls. What would be more honorable? With an alien spirit, the human would be literally an alien. Yet how human could he be, without even death as a refuge, without a spirit to play with?
How human had he been?
I could not let him die. Maybe the alien could offer something better than whatever I had once kept. "Take him," I said coldly.
I wafted away, and as I became more distant, I heard the sound of my human, voice lifted in a supreme moment of spiritual realization, a moment of soulful ecstasy which I never had been able to grant him. Bitterness raged through me like a grindstone; in the dry darkness, I burned like a pyre.
But what remained of Earth died. When the sun rose again it was to an alien planet. The temples were gone, replaced by an alien culture, and alien dreams. There was no place for a human spirit, there was no mirror to reflect my essence, and slowly, though human bodies walked, my love, my laughter, and my beauty forever faded. . .
Biography:"D.K. Smith is a green, heretofore unpublished young writer raised in L.A. by loving parents and cartoons. (S)." Aphelion is proud to have been the venue of his first published story. We hope to bring you more of his work in future issues.