Fiction Friday: The Sixth Age

This Friday’s entry is a brief, barely edited snippet from a NaNoWriMo novel. It was going to be a pastiche of super-hero origin stories but somewhere along the way got turned into a dark-fantasy sort of thing. 

Fair warning for light profanity.

 

The Sixth Age
by Desmond Manny

Prologue

Once the god had been bright and burning. Among the sun its manifold selves had shone and glittered and its light had bathed over the land. Land which the god and another had separated from the breath and body of the Great Beast in spite of cries and pleadings for mercy. They had no use for mercy, only blood and sacrifice. The god’s light had washed over the mountains, the rivers, and over the beasts of field and river and forest, until finally the light had bathed over humanity. Humans whom the god had guided and shown how to make themselves in its own image. To them had been given the knowledge of fire, and tools, and of the making of children. Also given was the language of their tongues and the naming of things. So much the god had given.

In return the god had been given adoration, and the skin of their bodies and the blood in their veins. Their hearts had gone to the fire still beating to nurture the god. Oh, how the god had been bright and burning.

There had been such wonders and such adventure. All gone now. Much of it lost to his memory, much of himself lost to his knowing. No longer was the god adored and this the god knew had something to do with what had been lost, what had been tricked away. Now the god guttered and waned like a candle that had burned away it’s fuel and now waited only to go out, sputtering and giving no light or warmth, a small pitiful thing. But oh! How the god had burned!

Without the adoration of the people who walked the earth he and his brothers and sisters had grown tired and dimmed in their glory while the people of their creation were conquered by a new deity from across the sea. And so the Fifth Age lingered and the old god forgot and slept upon the face of the dark and in the spaces between.

“But what has been forgotten,” came a voice that was not its own, but which was as familiar. “What has been forgotten,” it said, “May be remembered.”

Chapter 1: Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger

After almost two months Tony was still amazed by the changes. He woke without the alarm every day now, had not even turned it on for weeks. As the sun rose so did he, alert and refreshed, a vigor running through him that he was only able to describe as electrifying. The hairs on his arms stood out as though a current was running through. Before the change Tony had adopted the habit of lingering in his bed after waking. The ritual of putting off the day until he felt ready had been replaced by an eagerness to greet the world. Now every morning he swung his legs out the bed almost in the same instance as opening his eyes. His feet would hit the ground and the urge to run would grip him and his heart would flutter, his breath coming fast. An instinctive call to physical action; to run and jump, fight or fuck. An inescapable desire to be engaged in physical activity. There was a joy in the play of his muscles and the things he could do now. What scared him and thrilled him at the same time was that it was increasingly hard to remember the time before. Before he had become what he was now, before Javier and the others had initiated him to the change and he had seen the greatness and the light. In his room he stood and flexed every muscle in turn, dug his toes into the short fibers of the carpet. Then Tony balled his hands into fists, felt the muscles in his forearms and then his biceps contract and tighten with the promise of sudden, powerful motion. It wasn’t that he’d ever been out of shape, but by no means had he been an athlete, and now he was far beyond that. He could have entered the Olympics and taken every medal, become a boxer and won every title, taken to the field and won every championship game nearly single-handed. He was a force of nature.

Walking over to the window Tony straightened his shoulders, turned his face toward the sky, and brought in a lungful of air. Tony held it for a moment, then exhaled in a smooth, controlled action. He closed his eyes and listened intently. With concentration he could hear the most minute of sounds and catch the slimmest of scents upon the breeze. This was the world of pure senses, driven by instinct and the knowledge which the body provided and not the intellect. Tony knew just from listening that he was not the first one up this morning.

Tony’s aunt and uncle were already up as usual. His aunt would be well into making the massive breakfast that was her trademark. His uncle would be just about ready to leave for the precinct where he was a chief detective. Tony’s parents had died when he was four and what he could remember of them had been elevated to the level of hero-worship. It wasn’t that he had a bad life, but there was a feeling that was inescapable of having been left with people who would rather he wasn’t their responsibility. Something he felt sure his uncle agreed with.

Tony expanded as far as he could with some effort and could smell the unmistakable aroma of bacon, hear the sizzling of fat popping out of the skillet, and took in the smell of pancake batter and the sound of the spatula as it scraped against the griddle as his aunt flipped each cake. It was as if he were in the same room with her, each sound as clear as a bell and each smell causing his nostrils to quiver. Momentarily his mouth watered in anticipation. Another aspect of the change had been the increase in his appetite. He hungered.

Pulling on a t-shirt to cover the definition of his new physique Tony left his bedroom and walked down the short flight of stairs. He took the turn to the left and found himself in the kitchen where his aunt labored over the stove, her back to him. Every sense was still dialed up and he scrutinized his mother’s older sister in a way no human could. His awareness of the sweat on her skin, the weakness of her muscles unused to regular exercise, and what he would swear was the sluggish beating of her heart which had never known the struggle of survival. There was disgust in his heart now that he didn’t know the source of. Disgust at her weakness and the way in which she cultivated it. What troubled him more was that beneath the disgust was a rage that was not like him at all.

“Going to just stand there all day, Anthony?” His uncle said from behind him.

Tony turned and found himself almost chest to chest with the man he called uncle but usually thought of as the man his aunt had married.

Burke Parnell was a big man at nearly 6’2” and even at the age of 47 it was still mostly muscle. His hair was worn so short he was nearly bald and with the way it had gone to silver gave him the impression of wearing a thin metal skullcap. Tony didn’t know it but his uncle was a passable stand in for the old pulp character Doc Savage. Burke had a perpetual five o’clock shadow, salt and pepper, that looked rough enough to grate cheese with. Standing so close to Tony now his breath was hot on the teenagers face he was intimidation itself. This was a man for whom might was most definitely right and anyone who said differently could expect to be proven wrong in the most uncertain of terms. It could have been because he was a cop, but Tony felt certain that it was something in the man that being an officer of the law just allowed him to let out of it’s cage more often than if he’d been an accountant or a PE teacher.

“You are still in my way, Tony.” And that was probably the summation of their shared history. Tony had been placed in their care on his parents death and Burke, though never outright saying it, had made his feelings known that if it had been up to him entirely the boy would have had to make his way elsewhere. Likewise he did little to hide his pleasure at the fact that Tony would enter his majority this year. Turning eighteen was going to be like a release from prison for both of them.

“Sorry, Uncle Burke.” Tony said, but he did not move. He wanted to get under the man’s skin.

Copyright Desmond Manny 2015

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