WIP Snippet: “Great is the History of the Many-Skilled Artistes”

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Folks following me on Twitter will know that I have been working on a short story entitled “Great is the History of the Many-Skilled Artistes” (a working title).  The story was inspired by one of my graduate school classes this semester.  I’m still working on it, and expect it to be completed next month (once finals are done and over with).

The following is the first of four sections in the story.  Do let me know what you think in the comments!

Here goes:

I.  Tears in the Womb
of Unture
“Never trust the snake who wears another man’s clothes.
They are prone to theft and death follows them at the tail.”
–Avaganze Proverb, from The
Thirty-third Book of Unturekamo
, Date Unknown
 The man in the bowl hat wanted to
eat their mythology, he said.  Nothing
could have shocked the Avaganze more, since their mythology was everything to
them.  They had cultivated it for
generations, built their culture around it with stunning clarity.  They believed they were gifted by Unture,
Queen of the Divine Realm, to live among the stars singular and alone. 

But then the bowl hat man had come,
stepping huge footprints onto their tiny world, demanding a sacrifice like Unture
herself.  But he was not Unture.  He could not be.  No. 
Unture’s breasts hung low on her chest, because they were full of milk
for the children of the universe, and her hips always swayed to an unknown
rhythm in the sky.  And yet the bowler
hat man had arrived and eaten away those few myths the Avaganze had let drift
in the wind, including the divine nature of their existence.  Already, they were hurting. 

The bowl hat man smiled, licking
his pearly teeth with a pink tongue glistening in the blazing afternoon
sun.  His blue eyes struck dissonant
notes in the air as he stared at the collective before him.  He dusted off his black waistcoat and the
pleats of his black pants; he did not clean the tan-brown mess from his shoes,
as if aware that to do so would be pointless. 
His blonde hair fluttered in the wind, shining like gold beneath a brow
drenched in sparkling sweat, jettisoning off a sagging frog chin.  His face bore the mark of a thousand ages,
but the scars had long since healed, living his skin the color of lilies. 

He spoke again with his
authoritarian voice, pulling from the gut and pushing tooth-filled words into
the air, which swam down among the little people before him and nibbled at
their heels:  “You will feed me your
myths, or your children will have no history.” 

They were so much tinier than the
bowl hat man, but only because he had consumed so much already.  His gut protruded from his fine clothes, exposing
the hairy, jiggling blob beneath.  Yet
his slovenly appearance gave way to gentility in the shiny bracelets and
trinkets that adorned his neck, wrists, and belt.  

The little people gathered their
strength, and finally Rohirre—which in the tongue of Avaganze meant “speaker of
convincing words”—stepped forward. 

“How are you called?” he said,
peering several feet up into the hungry eyes of the bowler hat man, who licked
his lips and giggled from his belly.  A
little butterfly fluttered from his belly button, nibbling at the air with its
curled protrusion before dispersing in the wind as ashes. 

“Ah, so the Avaganze speak, with
such fine, simple words.”  He sucked his
teeth effect.  “You may call me Mogron.”  An audible hiss filled the air as the
Avaganze reeled away.  “Yes, I like that
name.  It rests well on the tongue, does
it not?  Oh, and how strongly it
translates.  ‘He Who Plagues Unture’s
Feet.’  How wonderful you have
become.  How creative!  Oh, I will feast well here.  I will feast well indeed.” 

“What compels Mogron to our

Mogron bowed low, bringing his eyes
level with Rohirre’s, some three feet from the ground; Rohirre was the tallest
of his kind with a projecting voice—he had earned his name.  “I have come to eat.  Your mythology compels me.  It demands eating, for the many in the sky
who I serve.” 

The Avaganze hissed again, some
even cursing. 

Rohirre stiffened, his jaw set
against emotion, but revealing the fear lingering in his heart.  “The Ongrorre sent you to us?” 

Mogron laughed.  His voice vibrated in the sand beneath his
feet.  “Is that what you call the sky
beings?  Dwellers in the City?  Oh, how fascinating!”  He licked his lips, tasting the air with a
long, pink tongue covered in warts the size of Rohirre’s fingertips.  “I will eat well here.” 

“You will go now, Mogron.  You will go back to the Ongrorre and tell
them that you may not eat here.” 

“And why would I do that, little

“Because the lands of the Avaganze
are for the Avaganze, to be tilled by the Avaganze, to be the haven for the
bodies of the Avaganze.  You are not
Avaganze.  You are one of the Ongrorre.  Unture’s bane.  Unture’s torturer.  And you belong in Ongrorre.  Now go.”  

Rohirre lifted his chin, proud of his accomplishment, proud of waves of
emotion emanating from the dozens of Avaganze standing behind him.  He did not glance back, but he could see them
in the back of his mind holding hands tight, faces determined and strong.  Once more, he had fulfilled his namesake. 

Mogron brought himself to his full
height, sucking in a deep breath.  And
then he laughed, not unkindly.  His belly
jiggled, the hairs standing on end with excitement.  The pearly whites in his mouth glistened with
spittle as the roar of joy spilled from his gut, emitting serpentine wisps of
air that slithered through the air and around the feet of the Avaganze. 

Then Mogron lifted his right arm,
pointing a finger in such a way that only an elder would to a child, and in one
great cry of pain, Rohirre disintegrated into dust.  Mogron sniffed Rohirre into his lungs,
licking his tongue against his lips.  A
chuckle built up in his gut.  The Avaganze
cried in silence, too shocked to speak out against the great beast before
them.  Tears fell from their dark faces,
rolling down to their feet until the earth beneath them became mud. 

“Now you will bring me your
stories.  For I am hungry.” 

Somewhere in the crowd the lone
voice of a baby cried out.

And there you have it.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

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