A Cautionary Tale

I wrote the first 400 words of this six years ago, but never could figure out what to do with it. Until now. Its a short story of a dysfunctional future. Enjoy.

The rains came, sizzling as it passed through the still burning radioactive atmosphere, creating more steam and more fog to cover the planet.

Ort stood in the mouth of the cave listening to the rains. It reminded him of the sound meat makes it’s cooked over an open fire. He made a gesture and his young son appeared next to him. Ort pointed out into the distance.

“Look, Hokins, how the falling rocks carved a new world last night. That cliff on the edge of Blu Mountain is gone, battered into a ragged pile of rock.”

“Why do the falling rocks come, father?”

“They come from Troompah, the Bringer of Fire, son.”

“Is he mad at us?”

“Mad? No. Troompah is mad at the Prahgs. That’s why he throws rocks at them.”

Ort’s son nodded. He knew that Prahgs were evil creatures that lived in the earth, were one with the earth; they protected the trees, rivers, and animals. Prahgs often attacked his people, the Ahltryts, especially preying upon unwary children. At least those are the tales his mother always told him. “Stay out of the crater fields or the Prahgs will get you.” “Don’t stay out past dark or the Prahgs will get you.”

“Think he’d learn better aim.”

“You watch your mouth, boy, or the Prahgs will get you!”

The boy stood slightly behind his father and mouthed the expression along with his father. He was sick of the Prahgs, sick and tired that they prevented him from having any fun.

“What are my two boys doing?” It was Hokins’ mother, calling from the back of the cave.

“We’re just watching the rains, hon,” Ort answered.

“Well, don’t stray from the mouth of the cave. You know the rain brings out the Prahgs. If you aren’t careful they’ll get you.”

The boy mouthed the words then found himself on the ground, his ear stinging.

“Don’t you ever mock your mother, boy!” Ort was furious and stood shaking in anger above the prone child.

Hokins picked himself up, holding back the tears, and ran to the back of the cave. “I hate the Prahgs. And I hate you, too!”

He passed his mother, who turned to give Ort a stern look. “You didn’t have to hit him, you know.”

“I’m sorry, Jyn,” Ort said.

“Don’t apologize to me.”

Ort stared into the darkness that was the back of the cave. He could hear Hokins sobbing. He should apologize; the boy was just being a boy.

“He’ll get over it,” he said, finally.

“Ort, you know he’s reaching that age where he needs ‘The Talk.’”

“I don’t want to give him ‘The Talk.’” Ort sighed. “It makes me uncomfortable.”

“Ort, if you don’t tell him, he’ll learn it from his friends. Is that what you want?”

“That’s fine. That’s where I learned it.”

Jyn made a wry smile and shook her head. “Exactly my point on why he needs ‘The Talk.’”

“Why don’t you give it to him then?”

“Now, Ort. You know it’s always been like this. Fathers give ‘The Talk’ to their sons; mothers give it to their daughters. Now just go and get it over with.”

“Fine.” Ort looked like he had eaten a glow frog from down by the killing waters.

Slowly he strode to the back of the cave.

“Hokins? Can I talk to you?”

“It’s a free country.”

“That’s what I want to talk to you about.”

“What?”

“Our past, as it’s been handed down father to son for generations beyond knowing.”

“Is it about how we got the sacred words?”

“Yes. It’s about how the sacred words came to be.”

Father and son both glanced at the cave wall where a faded blue sign rested in a carved-out depression to hold it. The sign showed signs of age, and an attempt to destroy it at one time; it’s edges were blackened and ragged.

They both came to attention, arms raised in a palm down salute, and recited, “Troompah Maikee Aimrisa Grehaht Agaheen.”

Then Ort began his story.

“There was a time, ages agone, when there was but one people, united in thought and deed. Those people achieved great things, created a glorious, shining kingdom. And the people were happy.

“But gradually there came the grumblings. Some of the people weren’t happy. They wanted more. They felt not everything was fair for all. And they felt many of the old ways were wrong, even hurtful to many people, and this started the divide. The Prahgs wanted change, wanted new ways of doing things, of thinking about things, while the Ahltryts believed the old ways worked best, that the changes proposed by the Prahgs would destroy the very way of life that had made the kingdom great.

“As the Prahgs grew in strength and number, they began to instill their ideas and the Ahltryts watched as the kingdom changed, becoming unrecognizable to them.

“And soon there grew intolerance. And hatred. And the Kingdom grew divided. The Ahltryts believed the Prahgs were weak when it came to outsiders, allowing these others to enter the kingdom at will.

“Soon, hostilities between the two came to a head. The violence between the two grew and soon the uprising began as many gods of the Ahltryts fought for dominance, for the chance to lead their people back to greatness. But one stood above the others. He embodied all the primal energy of the people. Within him raged all the suppressed hatred and anger his followers had been forced to suppress for so long. His name was…”

“Troompah?” his son interrupted excitedly.

Ort nodded. “Yes. When the dust cleared, our great God Troompah was triumphant, ready to lead the way, but first he had to defeat the champion of the Prahgs.

“While the Ahltryts gods fought, so too did the Prahgs champions. Kings and a Queen fought for dominance, but whereas the Ahltryts stood united and powerful, no longer hiding, joined as one behind Troompah, the Prahgs were very much divided and unhappy with their choice. Many chose not to fight, and because of their inaction, Troompah and his followers were triumphant. For how can a mere queen stand before the angry wrath of a god?

“And the Ahltryts celebrated and now it was their turn to send the Prahgs into hiding.

“But Troompah wasn’t satisfied with just sending his enemies into exile. He wanted to also destroy the outsides. He taught us that the outsiders were to be fears and they wanted to destroy our way of life.  And he launched an attack against them. But our outsiders had power as well, and launched a counterattack. The skies and waters were on fire. And the Kingdom burned.

“And that is why we and the Prahgs live as enemies. They could have joined us, but Troompah taught us their ways are evil, they are sinful while we live in his glory.

“And that is why Troompah still punishes them with his blazing rocks that he hurls from the sky.

“One day, we’ll again live in the glory of the kingdom. Maybe you or your children will see the dawning of that bright new day.”

Ort wiped a tear from his eye. “The Talk” always left parents emotionally drained.

“OK, you two, dinner time.”

The pair rushed from the back of the cave. Mother was carving the great bald fire bird.

“Uh, uh, uh,” Jyn said, wagging a finger. “You know what day it is. Put on the dye.”

Father and son exchanged glances and shrugged.

“Oh, for the love of . . . You just gave him ‘The Talk!’ It’s the Day of the Ascendency when Troompah won the kingdom.”

“Oh.”

Gyn shook her head, but wore a smile. She watched the two dip their fingers into the dye and apply it to their faces in preparation of the feast.

When they finished, all three turned their now orange faces toward the cubbyhole. All three saluted and spoke the sacred words.

“Troompah Maikee Aimrisa Grehaht Agaheen.”

Before sitting down to the feast, they took a moment to silently reflect upon the sign in the cubbyhole.

The fading blue sign with white words, written in a language they could no longer read or understand, stared mutely back:

Trump: Make America Great Again.

-30-

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