Contest Entry – Lions

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Character Name: Kolian



I remember the savannah. The tall grass stretched two feet over my head, for miles and miles. And the days would move lazily by, lost to us beneath the treetops that were our sky. I was so young then. I remember the magical nights, and the jungle sounds, and the dim glow of the campfires that sparkled like stars from a distance. I remember, too, when the slender rays of the day’s last light would dance under the canopies that enveloped the horizon, defiantly thinning to dust.

It was hot. Where once there had stood an empire, an identity, a pantheon of those who knew greatness, now all that was left was sand. Everywhere, sand. That’s where we lived; in the sandy deserts of the Lost Lands. We were Savages, though we hadn’t always been savage, and we were lost. It used to be that we lived in the jungles, before. I still remember the lions, stalking through the tall grass. But they were gone now, lost amongst the desert creepers, in the shadows.

The hot summer nights were hazy mirage, luridly stretching by, as through a warped hourglass; silting softly onward. I remember the sky, blue velvet, as it made the sand paling dust. I remember the village women creeping by; water jugs balanced atop their heads, and dressed colorfully like spring. But they were dead inside. Sleep was restless. I remember the hills, like white elephants, stretching endlessly before me. But always beyond me.

Hunger boiled within. The Britannians had brought famine, father used to say. No one liked him. I remember mother telling me once, how father had been a great hero before. Then the sand came, and his eyes sunk deep in his sockets, and he would dawn war paint in the night, ululating wildly, like some terrible animal. I remember father. Father had fought in the wars following the Britannians’ arrival. Nobody really knew what he did after that, when we’d wake up and find him missing. Father fought lions. He didn’t do that anymore.

In one last surge of drunken desperation, father had summoned the Pirate King’s men, who traveled fearfully into the final wastes of the Lost Lands for us. I remember that lifeless night, when father brought the slavers to us, beneath his war paint, hidden. We were beaten, branded and chained. Too tired. Mother was killed. Father watched as the sands overtook her, solemnly. He didn’t say anything. He never did.

Hands bloodied and barren, I piled up a shrine to mother, in the dust. It only sighed flat, as the desert took her away. Plague killed many. It was born of the corpses left upwind, as if in spite of our passage. They may as well have lived. Many starved to death. Many suffocated, in sand, phlegm. They were dragged for miles before the slavers came to unchain them. Father rode with the slavers, now.

We reached the ocean. The waters were boggy, at first. One could row for hours without going anywhere. In the night, a young man would speak to me. (The other pirates wouldn’t talk to him.) His bright eyes were a rarity, in that place. He spoke of the Pirate King, as we poled through the swampland. And dressed all in red, with fiery trim, he ruled the seas. King of pirates, said he. I didn’t like him. We did eventually find the ocean. Food had become scarce. The bright-eyed man had starved. They threw him over.

Progress was slow. We rowed below deck. We were caged. But I thought to stare at the ocean wastes all day, where there were no hills, would be worse. Progress was slow, and we whittled away that autumn in nowhere, with the pirates dressed in red. And they, too, were dead inside.

It was winter when we arrived. Buccaneer’s Den. Gross fusions of wood and rock loomed around us, forming valleys wherein filth congealed hideously, like plague. There, where there were no lions, we were afraid. Men surveyed us distantly as we sleuthed past, grinning toothless grins, with wicked eyes and no souls within. And soon, we would be sold to them.

We lined up on the beach. Hundreds of us had gathered from different places, tired and hungry and sick, and afraid. We were all chained together, then. We stood, a circus. Caged like animals; heads hung low, like we had already died.

The Pirate King arrived by ship that day, to collect his pets. He was not mighty. His face was wrinkled and contorted, like he was an old man; but he was no older than father. And he wore deep red and fiery trim. He shambled across the wharf, toward us. “You promised me Britannians.” He said we couldn’t work, and we couldn’t speak Britannian. Though we did, he didn’t care. And the Pirate King, with sunken eyes, shambled away: And King of the Seas was he. We were to be killed.

They lit a powder keg. It rolled. It bounced. It bobbled. Time stood still. And then there was silence.

My ears were ringing. I remember the bodies, bound in chains, spiraling outward, meshed, like a whirlpool; everything was slow. Inconsequential mass of blood and bone. My ears were ringing.

Fade to Black.

Bodies in the water. Bodies on the land. But we were still there. Buccaneer’s Den had never seen lions. And we hated them. We had been so long away, but we remembered. And I remembered father, whose eyes had sunk into his head, like gravel. And the Pirate King. They knew nothing of lions. We marched, a wave of flesh, riding on a wave of mutilation.

Most were still bound in chains, some by weights. I had a lead ball on my torso. Made good use of it. We moved as one, rolling over the wharf. Killed as many as we could. Strangled them in our chains. Bit them with what teeth we had left. We trampled them to death. The bewildered, drunken pirates at the beach fell easily; most before they could draw rapiers from scabbards.

The inner city was bad. Potions and powder kegs rolled from the rooftops. If the blunt force didn’t kill one, the explosion did. The sky was crimson velvet, crawling across the planet, like once we had. Berserk, some rushed at buildings; threw the rest of us off balance. Pirates leapt onto the fallen waves, gutting who they could before they were pulled under. Women creeping by, and the water jugs. Cannons rolled into the streets. Blood in my eyes. Rounds and rounds of grapeshot. It was the grapeshot that really slowed us down. I was so hungry.

Eventually they couldn’t fire anymore; didn’t pierce the mounds of dead. We swarmed them under. Some turned their cannons against them. Scores of tiny pellets. It was sickening. But it worked. In the aftermath, father came looking for me. I strangled him. I watched the life drain from him, like so many rays of light going out. Didn’t say anything.

And we too were dead inside.

It didn’t matter. The night was like mirage. There were no hills, and we were no lions, feasting on the carrion of this place. It meant nothing. The lions were gone. And in their wake, there was sand, on the ends of every ocean. And upon it, there was a town full of bones. Here was the Hall of the Pirate King. The bone sea. Here, where we would dwell forever.

Last modified: March 28, 2011

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