Mitchell Allen, fellow writer and faithful contributor to the Creative Copy Challenge, and I have noticed occasional similarities in our writing – or at least in our interpretations of the prompts. Our contributions to the CCC this week were oddly similar – part creation myth, part humor, the use of specific words not listed in the prompt, a playful hint of the erotic. You can read his, and others, at Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #453. That got us to talking about a shared interest in this sort of story. He had remembered this contribution of mine, from September 20, 2012, as a creation myth. I had thought of it as a small beacon of hope in the post-apocalyptic darkness. But life and death are a cycle, not a number line with beginning and end. In Planetary Alignment, I imagined a “dead planet” come to life, resurrected by surrender and hope. Creation and recreation are not fixed points, but an ever-evolving, never-ending process.
The Lady Lifts Her Lamp
Clothed in verdigris, the lady stepped out onto the sea wall. To the north and to the south, as far as she could see, they camped there, huddled together on the sand for warmth, fearful of the bone-chilling cold that would creep in on the heels of a setting sun. The few nearest her feet looked up at her expectantly, her body adumbrated by the setting sun, though they hardly dared to hope that the Mother of Exiles could save them now.
There were so many of them – hundreds, maybe a thousand or more, driven from their homes by the murine plague, that inescapable pandemic. They were exhausted. They had fled the cities, the villages, and now – now there was nowhere else to go. They were lured here by the fresh, clean promise of rhythmic tides that washed the world clean each night by the light of a cold moon. An eloquent panegyric to the healing power of ocean salts and mineral waters gave them hope, though it had been delivered by the Medic General, mere hours before he, himself, succumbed. Some of them, desperate and miserable, just kept walking east until the dark and merciful sea swallowed them up.
The masses crept in, each day, on anything that would float. The lady pulled the beacon from her cloak and flicked the switch: on, off, on, off, on, off. Each time the light went on, it chased the tenebrous shadows away, revealing the raw, plague-ravaged faces, the etymology of The Blue Death written on their lips – lips encrusted with bluish scabs, like old barnacles. Even the newborns were not spared. The raspy, labored breathing of the sick made the lady’s own chest tighten in sympathy. When she had their attention, she flicked her torch on and pointed it heavenward.
Their tenuous hold on life depended on the panacea none knew existed. It would be disingenuous to pretend that there was enough to go around; it would be cruel to let them all drown in the tempestuous sea. In the end, she cast her lot with them, throwing wide her golden gates, inviting a shivering, fevered river of humanity to flood up her walkway and encamp on her estate. There was warm soup to feed them; there were loaves laced with the precious cure – and loaves without. Even the lady did not know which held life and which filled their bellies with empty comfort and unfounded hope. By morning’s light, it would be clear. For now, a bit of kindness shown with open arms would be enough.
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