Bjort touched the stylus to the page, it was hot in the tiny room, the dry bitting air parched both his tongues and his feathers were oily with perspiration. His back hunched, his face held close to the page as he greedily inhaled the smell of the stylus's 'burn black' while it reacted with moist oils in the paper. He loved to carefully watch his calligrapher's stroke as the friction between the stylus and the rough page broke off the bright blue particles of his burn black: they adhered to the damp paper burning from blue to black in a flameless fire. The last rays of direct sunlight had ceased to pass through the evening window behind him and only the ambient glow of dusk filtered in the six sun windows and the large open doors of the temple. Through the doors, the light was accompanied by the impatient rattle and squeaks of the reporters.
Bjort was envisioning how the wind had rattled the hargum fruit trees during the afternoon storm. He wrote about the force and direction of the wind, how the trees had bent but not broken in most cases, except at the edge of the orchard. He deeply inhaled the smell of the 'burn black,' he loved recording the truth. His stylus hit a dry spot of the page and he reached over to his jar of sulfpaper wash. With his free wing he pick up the sulfpaper wash brush and dipped it into the jar of acidic liquid and was suddenly struck by how dark the room had gotten. He did not want to stop writing, but the reporters would never tolerate him adding truth passed the setting of the sun. 'But...' Bjort said to himself, 'I am the keeper of the Truth, and I have already started to describe the storm. I am not adding a happening to the day after the sunset...only editing it.' He wiped the brush across the dry page and touched his stylus to it again.
Dr. Emanuell Postlincoln stood outside the small stone temple of truth. The one meter high bipedial avian forms of the Nurendranites flapped and squawked around her. She could speak their language with some effort and understand it with more effort, but right now she didn't have the effort. It was hot. Her skin and hair were soaked with sweat. The mask she wore to filter out all the impurities of the Nurendian atmosphere and protect her eyes from the sulfites in the air made it especially hot. Her breasts ached with milk and even though it had been month since she had given birth, she still had the fatigue and temperature sensitivity that had marked her third trimester. She thought of her son, David, back in the air conditioned and environmentally shielded shelter she and her husband shared with three other xenoanthropologists and biologists stationed on Nurendra. 'That boy has ruined me for field work.' For a moment Dr. Postlincoln wanted to head home, feed her son and fall asleep more than anything, but then she thought of Ktulka standing next her. The short black feathered female was a mother also and Postlincoln was here because of what happened to Ktulka's child. She promised Ktulka she would be a reporter and make sure the Truth of the day included the attack against her daughter.
Postlincoln looked at the horizon. The sky line was pink and purple, the harsh ball of Nurendra's sun was slipping out of view. The the little stone temple cast a long shadow know which was thankfully cool. Postlincoln tapped Ktulka on her prominent collar bone. With the squawk and hiss syllables of the Nurendran language Postlincoln asked.
'The sun is setting isn't the Truth.....' she wanted to say 'recorded' or 'written' but she couldn't remember the Nurendrian word. Postlincoln was the most skilled linguistic on the team and perhaps in the sector but ever since pregnancy she been having what her sister called 'baby brain.' She forgot things, put things away wrong, skipped around in protocols...dangerous habit in environment with a toxic atmosphere.
Bjort stepped out of the temple the three meter page dangling from the end of his flightless wing. He noted the human towering above the other reporters. He remembered her, she had come into the temple as reporter when the sun was between the afternoon window and the evening window. She and the mother, Ktulka had told him something, but it had been after the storm. He hadn't found time to record their report. 'All the better,' he thought 'A girl can only be murdered once, but storms are events that can happen more than once and we need to prepare. '
Bjort spat a wad of adhesive salvia on the wall of the temple were his aides had just removed yesterdays Truth in order to take it to the archive. He stuck the long page of truth to that spot and headed home.
Ktulka and Postlincoln rushed forward to the page. They scanned it quickly, Postlincoln was actually a better reader than Ktulka, who worked as a farm laborer. There was no mention of Ktulka, Postlincoln or the attack. In his tenure as Truth keeps, Bjort had been obsessed with weather and agriculture. Postlincoln read the long list of events that happened on the farms today and turned to Ktulka. 'What of your daughter and...' Postlincoln struggled to find gentle word in this language, 'What about her murders?'
Ktulka responded solemnly 'There was no murder, my daughter just died.'
Later that night after David was asleep and Emanuel had washed the smell of sulfur off her skin and hair, she laid in bed with her husband and puzzled over the Nurendran truth cult. For some reason, she had not been able to tell him what happened today. It was just too painful to speak. He sat there next to her, reading a digital scan of the 'Truth Archives' on his tablet. It was true that although the Nuredran lived hundreds of human years, their memories would only last for 10 or 11 years at a time. The first cultures the anthropologist had studied on Nurendra had been the nomads of the polar wastes. They had traditions of songs and chants that would be recited weekly to keep their culture and heritage going. But here in the cities of the equatorial continent, this Cult of Truth ruled. If something was not recorded between sun rise and sunset, then it never happened.
Dr. Ragnar Solung , her husband, turned to her. His face outlined by the tan lines of the air filters they wore. 'I think I uncovered a pattern here in the record. Sixty standard years ago the Nurendran seemed obsessed with parentage and hereditity. There were feuds and murders. Then something happened sixty years ago that changed everything, I don't know what it was, but these urban Nurendran's suddenly appeared to have become civilized.'
Emanuel opened her mouth to speak but couldn't find the words. She knew she should say something, but sleep came on too fast..faster than the truth could come out.
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? Responses (8)
Great job, axelrowes. The backstory is really good. And creepy.
My only suggestion would be to throw a brief description of everything at the end. Like maybe a little something about the bird-things, and a little something more about the Cult. Something that sets in stone your idea of the Cult. Maybe add the consequences of writing Truth without the sun. A little something you couldn't add during the actual writing of the story.
Nice job, axelrowes! Caesar193 seal of approval.
Another highly atmospheric, thought-provoking piece, axle. I definitely agree with caesar here -- adding a small blurb to the end, even as a quote box, to give us more of the nitty-gritty would be very welcome. At the end, I was left wondering if the Truth Cult had actually managed to scramble Emanuel's brain, or if that was just a side effect of being tired.
Either way, I love these bird-people, and love the premise. I don't use SciFi settings nearly often enough, but I might take the idea for the cult whole-cloth and try to apply it to a fantasy race or even to a human population. They dynamics would change somewhat, but I think it would be cool to see.
Thanks for the comments guys, you brought up a lot possiblities I hadn't thought of. I wrote this in 30 minutes as dictated by scars's writing challenge, (full disclosure...somebody proof read it, though not very well and I added the title and summary after 30 minutes). Looking over it know the thought process is pretty evident, the first character is writing but has run out of time. I added a bunch details to stall while I came up with a 'plot' The next character is getting impatient and the story ends without a resolution. So I really don't have answers to your questions, the bird men were born in the first paragraph. I could make some up, but should I? If the literal message of the story is about perspective, and personal versus societal truth..should I add a nitty-gritty?
Anyway I can add stuff to the idea section. Thanks again for the notes!
I don't think it needs the nitty-gritty, just a little more to make it cohesive and self-sustaining. Right now it leaves more questions than it answers. I would prefer a single, well-defined unanswered question about the heredity cycle or how they became civilized vs. trying to figure out all the rest as well.
I do like it, it is just complex in its current state.
Update: fixed the pronouns and the tenses...thanks again scras!
This has the feel of a shortstory, I think it works well.
I think it might have scrambled my brain and I feel like my memory was sacrificed by the end. :)
I agree with caesar, I would very much prefer a wrap-up to pull these threads together so I understand what you think I should understand. Maybe put a separator to show what is written post challenge if you don't want to tweak the main submission to keep it pure.
One part that did confuse me. He writes the storm because it will return whereas the murder will not. Which infers that they use the historical 'truths' to help with the future? But then the 'I have no child' would go counter to previously written 'truths' of her having a daughter so I am not sure how that balances. Seems to me that the cultists, once their 'truths' are filed would mean nothing to them since they are in the moment so the use of the storm wouldn't be useful at all, they are just recorders. And wouldn't other recorders want to document the loss of a child as their interest? How many are there? Just caught me as confusing. Crayons, I like some things written in small words and crayons.
Also, as val mentioned, it is more of a fiction piece as it doesn't really give us anything to use as a society, while it definitely entertains.
I am sorry never really read this comment before, I fixed the thing about I have no daughter...that did not make sense you're right.
As for the guy with the book of truths and the truths, I was inspired to write this because when I was in college it came out the college was under reporting campus crime or down grading campus crime to make the campus seem safer and more pleasant. So when I sat down with a timer set to 30 minutes and the 'quest' as my inspiration I tried to think of cults I had known in life.
The big ten wanted to seem wholesome. That is what the chief bird guy is doing here, I tried to paint the writing as something as he enjoyed for the writing's sake. His justifications for covering the storm and not writing about the murder are flawed, and intended them to be perceived this way. I was trying to communicate that he was not writing about crime or violence because he did not like it, and he enjoyed writing about stuff like storms.
I tried to confirm this later when the anthropologist's husband is going through the old records and notes that society changes. But that change is likely due to record keeping, not a change in behavior, or at least all the records are dubious after the events of the story. Then when Postlincoln tries to tell her husband about the murder and the report or lack there of, she finds it difficult to speak about it. She is tried and uncomfortable and in that moment she herself decides that she would rather ignore the murder, even if just for a little while, so she can go to sleep.
If any of this failed to come through it is my fault as a writer, and I really need this type feedback to improve. So thank you, sincerely.