The Believer

The following short story was submitted by E-Cat World Reader Kelley Trezise

You, Ogg, squat at the entrance of your cave. It is the early dawn of humankind and you sit upon your haunches, feeling neither contented nor discontented as you stare blankly into a late afternoon sky. There is a man approaching, slowly, carrying a bundle slung over his back. You believe him to be a cousin and so watch un-alarmed as he makes his way, toward you along the trail. For a brief while, he disappears at the base of your hill then reappears, suddenly very close. Too late you realize he is a stranger. But he is smiling. Had it not been for his disarming smile you would have not allowed him to close the distance, but would have risen to threaten and drive him off. Now, here he is before you, with a bundle of wood in a sling on his back. Being a civilized cave-man you feign you are disarmed by proffering your hand, all the while you think of the spear hidden under the skin that brushes your right ankle.

He speaks. “I am Zog, and I bring you happy tidings and the hope of a bright future. I bring you fire!”

“Fire?” you echo quizzically, you’ve never heard that word. “What is fire?”

Zog smiles knowingly. He nods and understands your station as one of the new, the uninitiated. “Fire is good,” he explains. “It makes light, it makes heat, it makes smoke, it makes meat tasty. And, I will demonstrate it to you.”

Well, you think, that it new. Light, heat, smoke, tasty meat. It all sounds to promise an entertaining end to the day. “Please, yes, do show, here,” you prompt Zog, sweeping your hands before you like a good host inviting a stranger into your home.

Zog dumps the bundle of kindling and fagots on the ground, quickly arranges them into a pyramid, draws rocks from a pouch and proceeds to sing, chant and clack the rocks together as he dances about the wood. He dances a long, long time and works the rocks furiously. At the first wisp of smoke, Zog falls prostrate upon the ground, blows kisses and breathes breathy chants into the base of the heap of wood. Then it happens!

There is a glimmer of light and with a small pop and crack, a living, glowing genie springs from the center, tentatively at first. It grows quickly, so quickly you are startled by this new, never before seen life. It reminds you of a snake as it hisses and writhes. It glows and throws heat. It snaps and cracks and grows louder and louder. The stink of smoke alarms you as it pinches at your nose. But the flames mesmerize and fascinate. Finally the pile is alight, and bright with FIRE!

Zog, quickly lifts the large joint of raw meat you were gnawing and lays it atop the growing flames and the scent of cooking flesh seduces. “This is FIRE! Enjoy.” He packs up his rocks and departs.

The fire makes light, and it is good. The fire makes soothing heat, and it is good. The fire makes smoke and drives away the buzzing, biting insects, and it is good. The fire makes meat tasty and it is very, very good. You, Ogg, watch the fire late into the night as it dies down into a twinkling small echo of the winking sky above. As fire dies, you settle into a tired but excited sleep, looking forward to a new, and more hopeful day.

But when you rise, you find fire is gone. In its place lies a mockery of what was once the flaming pyramid of sticks and fagots, that crumbled before your eyes into a heap of black and glowing red worms. Fire lies now, only a gray powder. You poke your fingers into the center of the fluffy mass and spread it about in a vain search for the evidence of light…of heat. But fire is gone. You hold your fingers to your nose and sniff. A light puff of wind sends the friable remains away. Fire is no more. Though the man who brought it is gone and fire is gone, you know that you have seen it.

You too, want to make fire. And so you gather together wood. You collect rocks. You dance about the bundle and clash the stones and chant in pantomime of Zog’s performance as best you can recall. Much time passes and you give up but you try again the next day, and the next, and next. You witnessed fire’s brief, fantastic event and hold dear the memory. You anxiously await fire’s return.

Others inquire as to your behavior and you tell them of the arrival of Zog, the building of the pyramid, the chanting, the clacking, the ritual and the fantastic event of fire. Fire is good, fire is great, fire is a wondrous thing. It took only one spectacular event to convince you of the reality of fire. The people listen but do not understand and your attempts to bring forth fire only amuse them. They leave, tittering and laughing.

You insist upon repeating the story with greater and greater insistence and the others begin to look upon you with less interest and less amusement. Finally, those who first listened patiently to you become soured on your story. Eventually you are cast out of the tribe. You lose your position, your friends and your cave and are compelled to live on the perimeter.

But through the obscuring fog of scoffery, laughter and invective of the non-believers you hear rumors of others who, like yourself, also had a visitation from Zog and they too have witnessed the fire and they, like you, have after one brief spectacular event, become believers in and strivers after fire.

Kelley Trezise, a.k.a. Steve Robb, a.k.a. Zedshort

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