Fantasy Fiction Story:
THE BOOK OF THE LAW
Once, there was a planet, and on the planet, there was a single city.
In this single city there lived very honest and hardworking people, and these people had most special and specific codes and rules of regulations as to how things should be accomplished; what to think and how to act in any given circumstance.
These people had religion and they had their gods; of course, they had so many rules and regulations that would guide their path and way there too so that not one amongst them ever could get lost, or even have one single moment of confusion.
Amongst the many things these people did in their most careful and most patient way was that they kept extensive records of the times gone by; and all and everything they did or any of them did was always well recorded, catalogued and archived in the most exquisite manner, so that not ever even one thought, or a single thing would be misplaced or lost.
All these and many other things they did according to the rule of the book of law.
Outside the city walls, there was the graveyard.
The first who ever lived within the city as it was and had been now for many, many thousand years lay buried with their headstones closest to the city walls; and those who had once been their children lay a little further out, and so it went, along and further through the generations upon generations, each and every one accounted for, and each and every one laid out exactly as the book of law decreed it should be done.
And so the times went by and on and on did stars and comets whirl within the skies, as season followed season followed season, on and on, and on they lived and on they died, until the graveyard had encompassed all they land they had and it took many weeks now for the journey out beyond the city and then back again to bury all their dead, as it was done according to the book of law.
Of course, they could not stop their living or their dying; so they build ships and as the centuries, millennia passed and passed again, and further and still further came the road and greater and still greater spanned their graveyard across mountains, deserts, forests, steppes, savannahs, even swamps and over hill and vale, and still they kept on going and recording, just as they kept living and then dying, as they always had.
And then the day it came, when all the planet was now an enormous graveyard, and there was not one single plot left anywhere at all to place a body, not a one; not on a mountain slope nor even in the darkest underground, for they had filled it all.
This was a dire moment and the elders of the city held a council in their crisis; and as they no longer had the option of the burial of the dead as it was stated in the book of law, they felt that there was only one way out of this - that they would have to be immortal.
If they did not die, then there was now no need for further room or further graves; and as their science and their magic was now old and strong, it was decreed.
Upon a day, all people in the city gathered and a mighty spell was made; and each and every one of them became immortal, stuck in time as they now were from then until forever, and that was how it came to pass.
They never added to their number, and it was not until a hundred thousand years had passed again that others came in ships of fire and of steel to visit this most awful place, where all and everything was nothing but a graveyard, and where insane and twisted creatures roamed between the never ending rows of crumbling headstones, and the dusty remnants of the archives in the city of the book of law.
News of the existence of the nightmare place that was the home of the immortal city dwellers spread amongst those races who traversed the stars.
There was much fascination with the place and many more amongst the beings who lived far and wide on many levels, many planes came forward and they said that they had visited this dreadful, dusty place of death in dreams and visions and had always wondered where it might be found, and whether it was them who was insane to be experiencing such things, and feeling what they felt when they had touched the dire suffering that radiated far and wide across the times and spaces of the worlds.
And so it was that now more visitors arrived, in many different kinds of craft, in many different ways that different peoples had for travelling amidst the spaces and the planes; and many visitors had many different reasons that would make them undertake the journey.
One race of beings made a point of adding such a visit to the educational curriculum of all their youngsters so that they might learn the difference between unfoldment, and stupidity; the elders of that race where most delighted to have found such an impressive and persuasive case in point.
Large groups of youngsters would arrive most every day, and shielded in all ways would then observe and be succinctly terrified as well as greatly educated by their visits.
But there were others, not quite so good and friendly in their motivations; there were tribes amongst the planes who came from most impoverished environments, came from places where there was just not a lot to eat, or mine or trade; and these would hear of graves that spanned entire continents and all they saw or thought was treasure, jewellry and precious objects and adornments they could dig up from the ground, blow off the dust and sell to others who collected prizes of this kind.
One such tribe made straight for the forsaken place upon receipt of news of its existence; their craft was very old and very much constructed from many rusty and ill-fitting pieces, held together just by clever hands and clever minds that could take anything at all and make it work for them.
They were a ragged bunch of many different species; they had sought and found each other and for many years had worked together and established trust to a degree, and some were young, and others old, but in a way, they were a family that stuck together for survival.
Their ship arrived and entered in the atmosphere; they cautiously flew low to find a place to land and could not really then believe their eyes and their receptors when it was all quite true and real - there wasn't anywhere at all that was not covered in these graves, row upon row, line upon line, each headstone just the same as every other now, all covered in the dust of ages, all exactly the same distance from the next, and not one inscription was still legible for they had long since worn away to nothing.
They landed their craft amidst the fields of the dead and exited with caution and some overwhelm.
Where should they start?
It didn't seem to matter much so they began to dig, and it was so that where they dug, and absolutely everywhere they dug, they found what they'd been looking for - a clasp of precious metal, or a ring; a staff, bejewelled; an ancient and exquisite knife; there were tiny sculptures made from luminescent crystals and from beautifully coloured stones, and hardly any bones remaining still or strands of hair or any of those things that normally made robbing of the graves into a less than pleasurable experience.
To be fair, the ragged family could not believe their turn in fortune.
This was too easy, and most wonderfully easily rewarded, and what treasures did they find!
Just one day's worth of digging and they had assembled more than any of them ever hoped to find in an entire lifetime rushing here and there, and facing danger, hardship all the while.
And so, and quite in spite of all the myriads of graves surrounding them, regardless of the dust of death that lay and swirled and was disturbed and then disturbed again by all their digging and their running, they were more than merry, and they laughed and yelled across to one another, held up high the latest treasure they had found, and their bright voices of so many different races, accents, tones did ring across the endless valley and it was, that they were heard.
Far away, on the slopes of a mountain where headstones were slipping now and precariously shifting, teetering, one of the ancient city dwellers raised its strange, disfigured head with eyes that saw not graves or dust, but mostly past and sometimes an abyss of everything, or nothing; and it felt vibrations and it wound and twisted for a while at this unknowable intrusion, and as it wound and twisted it came close to the source of the disturbance, drawn most irresistibly towards events that were, when nothing ever was, or ever could have been ...
The dusty and exhausted but most jubilant group of reclaimers had heard the eerie noises and howls in the distance, and of course, they had noticed how throughout their day of digging and of finding treasure upon treasure, these howlings were growing closer, and more closely still.
From all around these sounds did seem to echo, and to the band of reclaimers it did sound as though there were many beings, many angry spirits gathering to takes their lives, to take their souls, for the transgression they had certainly committed here.
And yet the sounds they heard and thought to be the sounds of many, not of a single one who was approaching whirling, rotating, flailing round and round, in spirals widening now and then decreasing yet again, did neither frighten them too much nor did they stop from digging and reclaiming; they were a fierce group and they had suffered much already, they were hardened, and they also were most deeply now determined to take advantage of this extraordinary offer to take the present, and from what their actions were, to shape a future that was different, and brighter.
They had weapons, and they had courage; they trusted one another for they were more than brothers now, and they kept alert and most aware whilst digging, sorting, carrying swiftly, and adding to their treasures and their riches with each moment, movement that would bring them more, and more.
As night began to creep in, steadily and stealthy, gently and at first, unnoticeably obliterating outlines in the distance, softening, encroaching all around until the widest sweeps of the eternal graveyard could no longer be discerned, and more, until the reach of awareness had receded so that only around the portable sources of light had set they could see the graves, and each and one at all, so too the many howling sounds drew closer, nearer and it seemed that they were always just beyond the border where what you might see did merge into that you might not; and finally, the leader called a halt and said they needed rest, and to get themselves prepared for what was surely now to come, the sounds now being very close indeed, so close that even the most stalwart of reclaimers shuddered, peered into the gloom and dark and lost their concentration on the many treasures that awaited them within the dusty ground.
They gathered closely around their illumination and they argued - should they leave? It certainly would seem the safest option, and it was most certainly the truth that they had gathered treasures of such kind and such variety that each and every one of them would live like kings from this day forward.
Yet some did argue that they wished to stay.
Some argued for their greed; some argued for the fact that even greater treasure might be shared with others on the worlds they left behind and would alleviate a lot of suffering there; some argued for they did not like to run away, and thought themselves more honourable if they would stay and face the unknown spirits, alien entities or enemies of dark which were well near upon them now.
And as they argued and their voices rose in anger and in volume, it was then that from the dark, there burst the citizen into their circle made by light.
It flailed; it twisted; it moaned and screeched; it was a sight of such extraordinary wrongness that the reclaimers stumbled back in terror, and they clung to one another even as they drew their weapons, raised them high and aimed them at the being but they saw that it was simply flailing in an agony that wasn't of their making; that it was writhing with its twisted limbs in no direction, so it seemed, and that it wasn't seeking them to hurt them or to drive them out, for it was totally insane and such purposes were now no longer even a reality.
They saw its cries and moans, they saw its twisted pain, they heard and understood a fate that was of suffering and of endless dissolution, and hardened as they were, the suffering of this tormented creature touched their hearts and one of them then fired at the creature, and not from anger, but from nothing but a pain of wanting it to be an end.
The fire from his weapon struck the creature in the side and it screeched and burned, and screeched and reached and twisted, but it did not die, for it could not; the magic it had made so long ago still held its spell, still held its power, just as it had, for all those unknown times.
The others, horrified beyond what they had thought could put a terror in their hearts, now also shot to bring a peace and resolution; and although their weapons burned and tore, the creature would not, could not die although the damage now was thus that it could cry no more, nor could it move.
The reclaimers were speechless, thoughtless, entirely overwhelmed with this event that they in truth could never understand, and yet they saw, and felt the creature's suffering as though it was their own, and they stopped shooting and approached it, stood in a circle around it, brought their light and stared at it and then each other, and they did not know what to do.
Until a one amongst them, for what we reasons we can never know, began to sing a song in a most unsteady voice, a simple song that he remembered from his world, from times ago, a song that they would sing to children when the nights came so that they would then become most still, and unafraid, and close their eyes, and sleep in comfort.
Some of the others knew this song as well and as they could not think what else to do, they too joined in with their rough voices, unused to singing and a chorus formed and rose above the body of the being that could never die.
But what they didn't know was that this song they thought to be a simple children's song was magic, was an ancient incantation, written long, long ago by beings wiser, older than they ever now remembered, and what they did not know was that this song contained the antidote to the very magic that had created all the suffering in the citizens, and what they did not know was that the ancient ones had made this song on purpose just the way it was, just for this moment, for a time like this exactly, a most fantastic gift of healing passed amongst the generations, carried all across the stars with each and every person who remembered it, held it inside themselves and thus, could pass it on - exactly as had happened here.
And so, and as the group of vagabonds did stand around the creature in the circle of their light and sang the song, the ancient spell was broken; and they saw that from the twisted shape another did arise, a misty white, a shape of a being pleasant, well constructed, beautiful, although they did not recognise as any race they'd ever seen they did admire it and limited as though they were in their experience, intellect and comprehension knew nonetheless that this was what the creature once had been, and now could go on to become again, in a different way and in a new way all at once.
The spirit of the citizen did rise and waver, and when finally it became aware and knowing of just what had happened here, it gave a blessing and a gratitude that fell about the reclaimers was an endless ovation and love the like they'd never known, and then the spirit of the citizen rose up, high up into the night, to find the others of his kind and bring this blessing to them all as well.
The twisted creature was dead.
The reclaimers stood in silence, for there were no words to tell just what had happened here. When finally they broke their silence, they said very, very little, but instead set out at once to make a grave for the being's broken body.
They used their machines to make it deep, and wide; and one by one, they brought all the treasure they had taken back from their ship and placed it in this grave, every single last piece of jewel, ornament and treasure, and there wasn't one of them who held back or kept a single item, not a single one.
They worked through the night and when the day came and brought its light, they were finished; there was no headstone to mark this grave but they gave care and heed to smooth the dusty ground and eliminate their tracks and all the evidence they walked upon this ground.
And they returned to their ship when the sun was high, and they went away.
They never spoke of the treasures they had left behind, but it was strangely so that from that time, this crew of reclaimers found themselves recipients of much good fortune in a multitude of different ways.
Those who had secretly hungered to find love, did find it, and more than they had ever dreamed or hoped of. Those who had longed for fame did find it easy, as did those who wanted wealth; it was as though what they had taken, had been given for their service in that night had made a change that was unlike the change you find in treasure.
And what of the world itself, the world were once there stood a city, the city of the Book of Law?
Strangely, it became quite forgotten by all and everyone who'd ever heard of it.
Strangely, if you were to take a chart of stars and look as where to find this world, there would be no name and no direction; and even if you asked the ones who really once had visited there about this world, they would gain a distance in their look and shake their head, and then they would forget the question too and go along their daily path.
The Book Of The Law (c) Silvia Hartmann 2005
from The Golden Horse & Other Stories