Friday, June 6, 2014

The Land of Bronze and Iron

The Land of Bronze and Ironby Jon Stark
June, 2014; 1137 words

Misphat walked behind the plow behind the ox.  It was slow, but it was finally happening.  His brother had not wanted to loan the plow – “You’ve got too many rocks.  It’s why your own plow is broken.”  But Misphat had a way of convincing people.  He always had.

That was why he had a bushel of seed in his house.  And why he had Eli’s ox today.

A loud thud drew his attention downward.  The plow stopped, wedged under an enormous rock.  The ox strained for a moment and then stopped.  Misphat tried to back the plow off but failed.  He coaxed the ox forward but it couldn’t budge the plow.  Always something.

Misphat left the rig anchored in his field and fetched some tools.  He worked through the rest of the afternoon and into evening.  He was supposed to have the ox back before sunset but he didn’t think it would be free by then.  It wouldn’t matter.  Eli wouldn’t come after him (or need the ox, for that matter) until after the Sabbath.

A full moon rose on his labors.  The ox slept where it stood.  Misphat dug and pried and pounded and cursed the rock until it broke loose.  The beast stumbled forward, free from the trap and startled by the excited cries of Misphat who suddenly grew silent.

The rock had been a capstone and when it was moved bronze flowed from the hole.  It covered the ground and crept outward, flowing toward him.  He stared as it flowed around the plow and then the ox and then even his own unmoving feet.  Panicked, he tried to lift his feet and found that he was not stuck.  But the ox was.

The rock shot into the air on a jet of iron, released into the sky with such force that the ground shook and Misphat fell to the now bronze earth.  Now he exulted the rock and rejoiced in his wealth.  Bronze.  Iron.  No more borrowing or begging.  No more toiling on the earth.

He walked to the edge of the bronze flow and broke a piece off.  He made several small pieces.  It was the Sabbath, but he was certain there would be someone in town who would trade with him.  And there was.  Always there were.  The village people clamored over him and for not the first time Misphat thought that Eli might be the only man who still worshipped in the old ways.

He returned home with his goods, his step lighter than ever.  Along the path he was waylaid and fought brutally.  The bandits underestimated his wily and cruel ways.  Misphat was a survivor.

The bronze flowed all day, through the night, and into the next day.  It consumed his field.  It covered his house.  Iron filled the sky.  He collected some of the iron from where it still erupted and went to the forge.

The forgemaster had heard of Misphat’s bronze.  Now he accepted some in payment to fashion a blade from the iron.  It was good and he was pleased with the result.  “I could become rich making blades such as this.”

Misphat smiled at the man.  “Then you shall.”  He returned the next day with more iron.  The two men labored over the forge to craft weapons and armor.

When Misphat returned home he found Eli standing in his field and watching the flow.  “They are afraid now.  Of this.  And where it came from.”

Misphat laughed.  “They are blind.  Clearly this is from God.”

Eli shook his head.  “Clearly.  But it is not what you think.  Flee this place.”

Misphat waved his hands.  “Shoo, little gnat.”

The bronze flowed into the village, covering the fields and consuming the livestock while the sky turned to iron.  It was cold and harsh. When Misphat returned he found men fighting at the storehouse.  It was all the food that was left.

Misphat stopped them.  “There is more than enough food around us.”  They stared at him.  “We will take it.  None shall stand before us.”  He ordered the forgemaster to fetch the weapons.

They marched.  And conquered.  Always on the move.  Always adding to their number.  Before them people fled, those who didn’t were consumed by their bloodlust, and in their wake came the bronze, coating the earth while overhead the sky turned to iron.

Misphat gained fame.  They created machinations from the bronze and iron, behemoths that crushed and pulverized whatever was before them.

Eli stood beside Misphat and warned him.  “You must not do this.”

“Who will stop me?”  Misphat gloried in the conquest and no land could stand before his army or the advancing bronze.  But Eli persisted.

They reached the capitol.  Misphat’s army laid siege and within the walls men starved.  Disease consumed the people, boils and tumors grew unchecked, and those who died were themselves consumed.  Fathers ate their children and turned their backs to the wives they loved, children they still had, hoarding the food.  Women, even the most delicate, secretly consumed their young in the night and shared not with their families.

Josiah stood on the city wall and called the people to prayer but they did not listen.  Eli called to Josiah from the field of battle.  “Misphat is upon you.  Open your gates and end the horror.”

The sky was cold iron.  Bronze had reached the city’s outer walls.  Now it rose toward the parapet.  The metal echoed each iron soled step of man and beast and machine.

Misphat came to the field of battle.  He stood alone, encased in iron with fire in one hand and his banner in another.  He roared at the men on the wall and it was the sound of an avalanche.  They fell to their knees and at Josiah’s commend, to their bellies.

Everywhere in the city men took note and heeded the cries of those at the wall.  It was here.  The end.  Make peace.  Turn back to God before it’s too late.

Misphat watched Eli shambled toward him.  “You see?” he called out.  “They bow before me.”

Eli shook his head.  “No, they bow before God.”

Misphat laughed.  “I am the only god here.”  He launched the attack.  The men of the capitol did not fight.  They lay prone, repenting that they might find mercy at their deaths.  Misphat’s army crashed against the bulwarks and shattered.

The sky cracked.  Sunlight broke into the iron night.  The metal crumbled.  The invaders turned on each other, machines smashing everything until they too melted in the sun.

Eli picked his way through the rubble.  He found the dying Misphat and knelt with him.  “Are you prepared to return to God?”

Misphat laughed weakly.  “What does business does God still have with me?”

Eli spoke quietly.  “God sent you, Misphat.   He will take you back.”

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