Wild Dark Yonder

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

What if you were to wake up and find you had space-shifted overnight into something exactly wrong for your situation?
That is how Quist, personal assistant to the -Ruler of the Universe- starts his day, this day, when he wakes up as a gerbil . . .

: Sector 0: Star Thra-Zu; Planet Kron: The Golden Lutaah Dream Temple Complex: Cycle 3383/00.08.88:42::

Quist’s first duty every morning before dawn was to roust the lazy fourth degree Acolytes who were responsible for the Temple’s kitchen and ensure they stoked the fires and began preparation of the sacred food that The Lord Vol would Bless so that the Palace staff and The Lord Vol, Himself, could eat it.

As he rose from his prestigious night nest in the Upper Half of the Temple Complex Staff Apartment Wing, he hesitantly opened his eyes, afraid to look his reflection in the mirror. But he did, and saw his worst nightmare in the flesh: he had shape-shifted over night into his least imposing self, a tiny, furry, four-legged, two-eyed cuurbu, known on other planets he had visited as a gerbil. How, on this day of all, could he be authoritative, roust the lower Acolytes, conduct the administrative affairs of the Temple, when he was the least imposing figure imaginable. 

A cuurbu?

Sighing, he climbed onto his grooming table, and rummaged through his jewelery box until he found the tiniest, lightest version of this seal of office. He drew the chain and the seal over his head and sighed again. At least this way, the cleaning staff would not panic and sic the kuuralas after him.

“I have twelve forms available to me,” he said to his reflection. Why did it have to be this, the lowliest? “Now I am stuck with this  for a whole cycle,” he said again to his image. “Who wants to obey and respect a creature smaller than a shoe?” His reflection evidently agreed with the sentiment, and gave him a mocking toothy grin.

Because there was still time for it, he groomed for a few moments, letting his tongues each work their magic on a separate segment of his face.

Finally, because he could delay no longer, he glanced at the back stairway down to the lower Acolyte quarters, knowing that the risers were too high for a graceful descent and, resigning himself to the inevitable stumbles and tumbles, made his way down four floors. No one was awake. He clenched his teeth, then gripped the bell chain with his tail, and tugged it until the intrusive thunder of the huge bell roused the reluctant Acolytes from every part of the floor.

“Rise to face the tasks of the day!” he shouted, in the traditional way. Fortunately, he was able to simulate the significant voice of a large and powerful being.

Having achieved the desired effect, he leapt up onto the stair railing and returned the several flights to the elite quarters. Near the top he met his Assistant, the never-brave and now breathless, Kobutu-el.

“Oh, no!” Kobutu-el cried. “That’s you, Sir? I— I— What will we do?” She leaned over, paws on thighs, trying to catch her breath. Her spectacles were totally fogged by her effort. “I have been looking everywhere for you, Sir. The— the —”

“Calm down, Utu-el. Catch your breath. Nothing can be such a crisis that you have to lose your breath over it.” 

Quist reached toward her and patted her neck. “Everything will be fine,” he said. He waited until her breathing calmed. “Now, tell me what is causing such panic.”

Kobutu-el took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, then looked at Quist.

“I am now calm,” she said, her eyes still wide open as if startled. “I have to tell you that One Praetor Za is here for his audience with Our Lord. He is very early, and so large. So loud. I had to keep him waiting while I bathed. He is furious, but I could not — oh, I can hear him yelling. On and on and — and war, he said war. War.” 

“War? You’re sure?”

Quist could see she was trembling, looking pale. 

“That is fine,” said Quist. I shall take care of this. You may resume your duties.” He smiled at her, as much as a cuurbu could smile. “Go.”

He watched Kobutu-el continue down the stairs, giving him a relieved wave as she passed by. As Quist resumed his upward journey, he rehearsed various approaches to rousing The Lord from His Meditation. No one method stood out as a sure way to avoid recrimination, as in “Kill the insolent fool who dared interrupt My Sacred Meditation!” — followed by a glare that could melt stone.

Let the One Praetor tell him about the war. 

Finally. Quist stood before the servant’s entrance to The Golden Lutaah Dream Temple. Even if he did not break news about the war, he was still caught between messenger’s fate (death) and the wrath of One Praetor Za (death). But the more he thought about it, the more Quest knew that there was a third way: flattery. He stepped silently into the demesnes of The Dread Lord’s Meditation Throne, immediately recognizing the rhythmic rumbling snore of the gigantic slug reclining on the sagging night nest. He closed his eyes, and seeing no magic rescue inside of his eyelids, he drew himself up onto his tiptoes and began.

“Great and Powerful Ruler of the Universe, Master of the Golden Lutaah Temple, Wise and Noble Carver of the realms of Space and Time, I beseech your attention to the mundane realm of the edges of Your Holy Court.” He waited until he could see a slight flicker of one eyelid. “Dread Lord,” he began. “Your humble servant begs you to —” He could see huge chest appear over the even greater Royal Belly, as Lord Vol farted enough night gas to stir the drapes on the other side of the vast room.

“Lord Vol?” Quist continued. Then softer: “Lord Vol?”

The huge figure rolled slowly in Quist’s direction. The tiny gerbil-like creature stepped back out of the crush zone, and waited while The Dread Lord scratched his belly, at length. Finally, he yawned intensely and looked at the tiny courtier.

He seemed startled, as if His fourth level of meditation had been violated by a sizzle shtark cascading into its still pond. The intricately patterned diamond scales all over The High Lord’s Immense body stayed perfectly still as he gathered his senses. He opened one superior eye, then another, then another.

“Yes. Quist.” His Words shook the gleaming floor with deliberate patience, tranquility and power that rumbled though the  Temple stone walls and floors, inspiring terror in any Acolyte below the Third Level of Triumph.

“Lord, One Praetor Za has arrived from the ZUnShiKA. will The Lord see him now?”

“Conduct One Praetor Za, The Victor Of ZUnShiKA Into My Presence.” The pronouncement unnerved the already shaking Quist, who had started to perspire, and was slowly, almost imperceptibly backing away from the Dread Lord.

“yes, Lord Vol,” Quist said in his most humble lower-case speech, his hoarsely uttered words almost imperceptible, as air seemed to have deserted his lung. Aside from the first glance, Lord Vol still had not deigned to look in Quist’s direction, much to the tiny creature’s relief as he bowed deeply and, still bowing, backed toward the almost invisible servants’ portal.

 In the hallway outside The Golden Lutaah Dream Temple, Quist gasped for air, then panted until he regained his composure. He scampered away, asking himself , as he passed through the arches, how he had become so terrified by a mere physical being, even if he was the Lord of the Universe. He continued across the polished marble floors of the Pre-Temple, bounded and stumbled down three flights of stairs to the Hall of the Acolytes, where he found the gigantic One Praetor Za, who was pacing and rattling the furniture and all items in the room. The Praetor kept moving, agitated, but turned and faced him as he paced.

“A cuurbu? Except for your chain of office, I would eat you for a snack right now. 

“Did you get lost? roared the giant as he stopped pacing, his armour plates and weapons rattling with his anger. “You have kept me waiting for half the morning! And why have I been ushered into this putrid room in the hall of the shit-smeared, festering Acolytes? And where is the food? I am starving! Maybe I should eat you anyway.” He took a step toward Quist.

Determined to avoid weakening his last bit of dignity before the Praetor, Quist finally said the one thing that would save face for them both: “Lord Vol will see you, Now. Praetor.” 

He turned and proceeded to the stairway. He heard the silence behind him. He turned toward the Praetor and said, “Are you coming?” He turned away and leapt up to the gold railing without looking back. As he scampered up beside the stairs he could hear the discreet rattle of armor following behind him. He smiled. There were some perks associated with working for the most powerful Being in the galaxy.

He took a peek over his shoulder as he turned to start up the second flight of stairs. Although the Praetor’s armored feet were almost 10 steps below him, Quist still had to look up to see that furious head.

Quist was running by the time he arrived at the main entrance to The Golden Luutah Dream Temple, so anxious was he to arrive before the long striding Praetor. His claws screeching on the marble, he stopped before the massive golden doors to take a few deep breaths and calm himself before he would announce their presence with the tap of his staff on the round bronze gong.

“What,” muttered the Praetor through clenched teeth, “are you waiting for? Sound the gong.”

Reflexively, the little creature swung the head of his staff toward the gong. The hard, dark wood staff’s head contacted the gong and set up its deep vibration. Moments later, the massive doors silently and ponderously swung open into the hall. Quist swallowed all the moisture in his mouth, took a deep breath and strode into The Golden Luutah Dream Temple with all the authority he could muster. He strode to the announcement circle halfway up the long aisle of the AnteTemple. He could hear the soft yet thunderous footsteps of the giant behind him.

He took a deep breath. “Great and Mighty Lord Vol, Ruler of the Galaxy, Defender Of the Just, Slayer of the Unjust, to You has come The Victor Of ZUnShiKA, One Praetor Za.”

His words echoed across the empty golden floor, through the gleaming arches and columns of the golden hall. The massive doors in the giant arch at the far end of the hall slowly opened, revealing the bright shimmering diamond radiance of the temple beyond.

“Come.” The word shook the AnteTemple so that even Za staggered almost perceptibly.

Quist gestured for Praetor Za to proceed on his own. He waited as the giant strode by and thundered along the hall toward the open doors. When finally he reached them, Za’s massive body almost filled the arch. After he had entered, the giant doors finally and solemnly closed. The little creature took a deep breath and curled on the floor for some much needed sleep.

“Bastards,” he mumbled.

Submitted: June 14, 2019

© Copyright 2023 Douglas J Hill. All rights reserved.

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