A God from Below
I'm on reddit now and trying to have fun with it. There's a Subreddit in which writing prompts are given for short stories and I like that concept a lot. So, I have decided to do one of those every now and then.
The first prompt that inspired me to write a short story was this: "The humans gathered around the strange figure. Worshiping it’s features, and leaving offerings. You have memory’s of you past life, 400 years ago. So being the only one who recognizes the figure as Batman, it’s really awkward."
Here's my story. I hope, you'll like it. Sorry for any errors - English is a second language to me, but I do my best.
A God from Below
I woke up to the songs of birds chirping and the light softly growing stronger in our humble home.
Every day at the same time the same thing would happen.
The ancients had programmed it and mother didn’t know how to change it. It bothered her, sometimes, but I never took issue with it. All was well.
Mother didn’t think so, of course. I didn’t understand. We had everything we needed. We had each other. We had the eternal food supply, the library, the cinema - What else could there be?
On my way to the showers, I passed the large communal hall - One of my favorite places in the whole complex. As a child, I used to run around between its empty tables and make Mother chase me. But Mother was mostly sad in those days.
Mother was sad most days since those times, too.
I can, of course, remember the times, before Mother was sad. The times, when the communal hall wasn’t empty but full of people. In those times, Mother used to be mostly angry.
Who would have thought the absence of all those who made her angry would make her sad all the time? I certainly hadn’t anticipated it.
I made breakfast. I was an expert cook with the mysterious contents of the endless food supply. Many things stored there might appear to the un-educated as joyless gruel, but if you combine the right ones (and you really have to know your stuff to make the right decisions here), you get glorious landscapes of tastes in slight, daily variations.
We weren’t barbarians, you know.
I made breakfast. It was one of the best ones I had ever made. A delightful meal. I was incredibly happy with myself and absolutely sure, Mother would love it.
She would smile.
At least for a second.
At least faintly.
She wasn’t smiling when I entered her room. She actually looked quite sad. I put down the two plates of breakfast I had prepared and cut her lose from the rope she had slung around her neck, hanging from the tubes under the ceiling.
Her skin had the wrong color.
I knew of course that she was dead. I am not stupid. I still tried to wake her.
You have to try, right? When you love someone, you have to try.
She had left me a note. No words. I hadn’t expected words. Mother hadn’t spoken many words ever since the incident.
The note was a kind of map.
I left Mother in her room, in bed, tucked in, so she wouldn’t get cold. I went to the library, where I had pondered over the books from the Ancients for as long as I can remember.
The books that had taught me about the world before the flood, the wars and the plagues. The world before it exploded. What fantasies for a young boy to read about!
The world outside. The unsafe, forbidden place.
I looked at my map and understood after a while.
I understood what mother had left me.
It was a way out of the oppressive safety of the complex. Why she had hidden it from me all those years, I don’t know.
It was, of course, and had always been strictly forbidden to go up, into the wilderness. There were diseases to catch and mutants who would try to kill you. You could bring death into the complex with you.
We were the last remnants, the last hope of the human race, so our survival was important. More important than dreams of freedom. For hundreds of years, our ancestors had huddled, waiting.
Once a generation, an explorer would be sacrificed - Sent into the outside, from where they would send messages, telling the elders about the state of the world, if it was possible to leave the complex.
It never was.
The explorers weren’t let back in, obviously. They could have brought death.
Mother used to say my father was an explorer and had left the complex when I was a baby, but I never believed her. Mother was a liar.
Now I had the map to the gate. But I didn’t want to leave. Why would I do that?
Nobody was left here, anyway.
Death had come from inside. Stupid elders.
They never saw me coming.
I decided, not to go.
I sat in the cinema and watched movies. It had taken me weeks to figure out how to make it work, but eventually, I had succeeded, so the cinema was, where I went to feel really good.
The movie was about a woman who was sad because she had lost her mother. Just like me. Watching her plight, I finally cried. Not for me, but for her. Her pain was so real. Not fake and shallow, like mine.
The woman went outside and walked through nature. She got sadder. Then she got happy again. Being outside had cured her rotten heart.
Maybe that’s what Mother had wanted for me all the time, anyway. For my rotten heart to be cured. And I was refusing her parting gift. What a monster I truly was.
I went to see mother one last time. From afar, she looked peaceful, normal, sleeping in her bed. Still dead, I thought and sighed.
When I came closer, I perceived movement in her left eye.
For a moment, I was happier than I had been my entire life! She had tricked me! It had been a joke! Mother, the trickster!
She would laugh and be happy with me!
But it wasn’t her eye that had moved. It was something inside her eye.
It was a maggot.
I left the complex crying that night. It wasn’t night out there in the wilderness. It was a sunny day, but very cold.
I didn’t want to go back into the complex. Around me were huge blocks of grey stone, on which grew green fur. I knew, of course, that these were the houses of the Ancients. I’m not stupid.
So, I went inside and looked for a place to keep me warm. I wanted to sleep.
I was cold inside the houses, too. Everything was rotten and wasted away.
I saw a tiger prowling the streets and hid.
On my third day I was half mad with hunger, but I didn’t want to go back into the complex, to the eternal food supply.
I couldn’t go back. There were Mother-eating maggots in there.
So I wandered the streets of what was once was a glorious city. I didn’t know its name. The elders surely had known, but what did it matter.
It was huge, from stone, mostly broken and haunted by all kinds of animals.
I saw more tigers, came across hostile snakes and one night, I saw something huge passing in the distance - Something I had never seen or heard of.
I could only barely make out its shapes, get a glimpse of its scaly surface and hear its alien growl and I knew, the city was too unsafe for one like me.
I’m a scientist. A story-teller. An enjoyer of life. Not a fighter.
Not a hunter, either.
So I looked for plants to eat. I knew there wouldn’t be many of those in the city, so I began looking for its edges.
It took me a long time get to a place, where the houses got fewer, but I got there.
The sun was burning relentlessly. I was incredibly tired and my head hurt. It felt like it would burst. I couldn’t concentrate. I was hungry, but what was I doing? Why wasn’t I home? Why couldn’t I just go to the endless food supply?
Thus stupidly my thoughts ended, when my vision failed.
I woke up to voices. I opened my eyes and looked around.
Two ugly, old people were busy cooking something in what looked like a cauldron over a fireplace. It smelled atrocious but my stomach ached for it.
The two people had skin like the leather old books are bound in. They were full of burns and boils, but they didn’t seem to mind.
They seemed happy, making noises at each other (terrible, guttural, primitive noises), laughing crudely every now and then.
I felt pity for the poor creatures. Were they descendants of people the Ancients forgot to bring? Had their forefathers been considered unworthy of saving? Or were they maybe mutated offspring of explorers from below, sent up here aeons ago?
They looked at me curiously and directed their revolting language at me. I tried not to listen too closely and smiled.
The stink in their primitive hut was unbearable.
They brought me its source - Their vile concoction. I tried it. It tasted horrible. I ate and ate and ate until I couldn’t take any more of it. Then, I breathed the foul air and was happy.
The two old people, I couldn’t tell then but know now that one of them was male and the other one was female, smiled their hideous smiles and led me outside.
It was a veritable village, made up of crude material they must have found, hunting in the nearby city.
They had all these artless huts standing around, forming a kind of gigantic circle. The two old people lead me through rows and rows of makeshift-houses. I hadn’t expected there to be something like this. You could almost call it a city. A society. The most rudimentary form of civilization.
More ugly, leathery faces looked at me. Pock-marked, full of blistering burns, but inexplicably happy.
I was the attraction of the day. I must have looked freakish to their freak-eyes.
A mass of „people“ followed us around in a growing gathering, talking amongst themselves, talking to me, looking at me, some of them even trying to touch me with their dirty hands.
But I remained civil. I remained calm. I didn’t want to make enemies right away.
In the middle of the circle made up of rows and rows of homes, there was an empty space.
Not large, compared to the rest of the circular city. Its innermost rows were housing mainly what seemed to be shops and even restaurants.
In the middle of the circle, there was a pillar of stone, on top of which stood a little puppet. The old people led me to it.
When I reached it, I didn’t see right away that everybody bowed down before the statue. I didn’t sense that I was the only person standing erect, among hundreds of ugly wild „people“ bowing down, on their knees, touching the ground with their heads.
I didn’t realize right away, because I was transfixed by their little idol. Standing in the middle of the circular city, on a pillar, being prayed to by hundreds of degenerates … was Batman.
How I have loved Batman as a child! There were hundreds of Batman comics in the library of the Ancients.
He was my childhood’s hero. He was the voice in my head when I decided none of the people inside the complex, apart from Mother and me, deserved to be alive.
He has shaped my worldview like no one else.
But he was a character from stories for children. He lived in colorful books full of silly pictures, made to entertain school kids.
Seeing grown humans, which these creatures were, despite their diseased faces, their weird conception of language and their nauseating smell, bow down to it and pray to it was so bizarre, I couldn’t help but laugh.
Then I got on my knees and bowed my head, so to not inspire any ill-feelings against me among my new peers.
It took me a couple of days to gather my strength and finally see clearly what needed to be done.
I lived with the old couple.
I was expected to work. I was expected to help build houses and once, even to accompany a group of what was apparently supposed to look like young men on a hunt.
I wasn’t brave and I wasn’t skilled. Our party didn’t catch anything that day, and it was very much my fault.
We almost got caught by one of the giant things roaming through the ancient city, and that, too, was my fault.
I don’t understand their speech, but I know they whisper. I know I’m not pulling my weight. They don’t respect me.
They want to get rid of me.
So I came back. I came here, to the complex, to where Mother lies still, while things wiggle and writhe inside her tormented body, eating away at her, to get what I need.
I can bear it now. I can be here.
My own, secret lair. Source of my magical powers to come.
Batman comics. Canned food from the endless supply.
My bags are filled to the brim with things, the savages couldn’t ever dream of.
I will kiss Mother goodbye on her rotting mouth.
I will leave the complex once more, into a world that I know a little better now.
I will make my luck. I will make that world my own.
I will return to the circular city a marvelous hero. And then, the savages will have a god worthy of their prayers and devotion.