After 4026 B.C. Moscow in Ancient Days
Kairos 19: Wlvn, God of the Horses
It came time for the selection. The harvest was in and every speck of grain the family had struggled to grow got loaded in the rough, two-wheeled wagon—a heavy load for the old ox, but none of them had a choice. The very survival of the village was at stake, because if they failed to respond to the call, the village would be burned out by the fires from heaven. The helpers would come from the sky and no one and nothing would be left alive. Wlvn heard how it happened to one village in Wlvn’s lifetime.
“But Father,” Wlvn protested as he brushed back his red hair to wipe the sweat from his brow. “How shall we live if we bring all of our harvest to the center of the universe?” The practical question had to come as it always did; but secretly Wlvn felt excited because he was finally old enough to see the Lord of All and the great dome with his own eyes.
“We shall glean.” Father gave the practical answer he always gave. “And other villages, those not called this year, will share as we have shared with them in years past.”
“Oh, my son.” Mama came up, crying. She would stay home with Wlvn’s brothers, Strn and Gndr, and Wlvn’s baby sister, Brmr. Mama reached out to hug Wlvn and gave him great, tear soaked, slobbering kisses. Wlvn, who turned fifteen in the short summer, did not appreciate the attention; but he stayed gracious enough to allow his mother to do as she would. He did not fight her, and deep down, he did appreciate the sentiment, if not the slobbering.
“Now, dear.” Father stepped between mother and son and embraced his wife. Wlvn felt grateful. “He is of age so there is nothing we can do. The Lord of All has called us to the pilgrimage and there is nothing we can do.”
“There is never anything we can do!” Mama spat the words when she stepped back. True enough. Wlvn had heard it all his life. Whatever the Lord of All decided, the helpers enforced, and there was never anything that anyone could do about it.
“Mama!” Brmr came toddling up and Mama groaned as she bent down to pick up the four-year-old girl. Wlvn reached past his mother to give the little one a kiss and a big squeeze, and little Brmr gave it right back to him.
“Mama!” A different emphasis on the word came from beside the house. “Mama!” Nine-year-old Strn came around the corner, his face tear streaked. Eleven-year-old Gndr held back because Strn got knocked down again.
“Gndr!” Father called. “Come and say good-bye before we are last in line and eating dust the whole way.”
“Gndr!” Mama sounded like she had something else to say as she reached out for poor, picked-on Strn.
Gndr came from the side of the house, looked down and kicked the dirt. “Good-bye,” he said softly. Wlvn gave Strn a quick pat of reassurance and then chased Gndr once around the house for old time’s sake. Gndr shrieked the whole way and ended up hiding behind Father who grinned broadly at the exchange.
“Come back,” Gndr whispered. Everyone heard. People feared the selection, because some people always got chosen with the grain, and those people never came back. Then, sometimes, the helpers toured the villages after the selection, and more people got taken. No one knew what happened to those people. Some said they were forced to slave for the helpers until they died from lack of food and rest. Some said they became sacrifices to the gods, and to the Lord of All. In any case, families were devastated and left without hope when it came time for the selection.
“Got to go,” Father said, and turned his back on the family. He put one hand gently to his eyes as if he had a tear, and that was the end of it. He nudged the ox on the backside with his little whip stick, and they started. Wlvn walked backwards for a long way.
By the end of the day, the people from Wlvn’s village joined people from two other villages. They slept, strung out as they were, made little fires, and visited with neighbors enough to whisper encouragement, or in some cases, to express fears. Poor old man Wlkn, Wlvn’s neighbor, felt certain he was going to be selected. Wlkn quaked under his blanket and slept very little that night.
“They go for the fat ones, you know,” Wlkn insisted. Wlvn knew the man was only fat from age, certainly not from overeating. Their hard and cruel life kept everyone near starvation, even in the years when they were not called to the center of the universe.
“Never you mind, son,” Father countered when they were alone. “Wlkn’s just a worrier. Everyone has their theories about the selection, but I never heard any good reason for why some and not others. It is the helpers that do the choosing. They take people off to a long house and those are never seen again, but those people are fat and skinny, tall and short, men and women and no one knows why them and not others.” Father shrugged as he settled down to rest. Wlvn did not get much sleep that night, either.
The next day, Wlvn lost count of the people that joined the train on that two-rutted path. All he knew was he got filthy, felt exhausted, and wanted to get the whole thing over. He and father talked little on that day. There just was not much to be said, until they came to a complete halt. Wlvn found he had to ask about that.
“No, son, this is not an early stop for the night. I doubt we will sleep at all tonight.” Father whispered so softly at that point, Wlvn could barely hear him. “This is the line. The one in front is being examined before being directed where to put his grain. Then the next will go, and then the next. Eventually it will be our turn. When it is, all that you have to do is keep your eyes down on the ground. Say nothing, do what you are told, and don’t call attention to yourself. If you do these things, we should be all right and on the road home to your mother by tomorrow afternoon.” Father said no more, but he looked now and then at the sky while the sun was still up.
An hour before sunset, Wlvn and his father finally inched to the top of the last small ridge. At first, Wlvn felt discouraged by the length of the line in front of them, but then he saw something that absolutely took his breath away. As he had been told, a dome of golden splendor, five or six stories high, stood at the end of the road—the center of the universe. The outside, plated in gold, sent out a tremendous glare in the low light of the sun. Wlvn stood still, awe struck.
Wlvn squinted as hard as he could before he had something like an out-of-body experience. His mind began to flit around somewhere in the future.
He first wondered how on earth they came up with the technology to construct something like that. He knew that it was more than a wonder of the world. It was an impossibility for his day and age. Wlvn’s people could build crude square huts that passed for houses, but a dome needed more than simple skill with wood. The stresses had to be enormous. As he looked closely, he decided that the spire on top had to be pure silver, or near enough. Wlvn knew that no one in his age was that good with the smelting process, even with soft metals.
Wlvn shook his head and wondered briefly where those thoughts came from, before his eyes got drawn back to the other buildings in the compound. The long houses that had to be barracks for the helpers and the grain storehouses and towers filled the back and both sides of an open square. Wlvn knew that any one of those buildings would have been beyond his own people. But the dome! Something moved and Wlvn let out a peep. He shot a quick glance at his father who frowned in his direction before his eyes darted back to the dome. A man stood outside the edifice, but he had to be twenty feet tall or taller. It had to be the Lord of All, standing beside a three-story door in the dome. The Lord of All went inside. Wlvn let out a shriek. Father whispered this time.
“Quiet son. Don’t call attention to yourself. Lower your eyes.”
He needn’t have said anything. Wlvn felt frightened out of his wits on the sight of that monster. His eyes became pasted to the ground until he heard a strange, whining in the sky—a sound he recognized. A hovercraft came in for a landing out behind one of the long houses—a sky ship of the helpers from which the rain of fire came. Suddenly, the future invaded his mind and a great number of things made sense.