“All Our Incandescent Yesterdays” by Albert Berg

 

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I was always hungry, my love.

I was hungry on the day I descended from the mountain into your cold world. You languished in the darkness, gnawing at roots and berries, tearing at raw flesh with rotten teeth. You huddled under the skins of the other animals, almost dead in the cold, dark, terrible night. You were beautiful.

You found me and fed me. You kept me safe. And in return I gave you my warmth and my light. I kept at bay the savage things that haunted you by night.

We were both needy and fragile, both on the edge of dying out. But together we grew, stronger, more powerful.

I filled your tents with warmth, I gave you succulent meats, I pushed back the shadows.

You carried me where ever you went. You succored me, breathed into me, urged me ever stronger.

It is true that our love was not perfect. At times I grew angry, and ran rampant through the streets of your cities, ruining your houses. I devoured your crops. I ravaged your forests.

But were you ever so blameless? No. You fed me your infants, your malcontents, your unseemly prophets. I wrapped them up in myself, and you rejoiced to hear their screams.

I carried to the heavens your sacrifices to a thousand gods, bulls and goats and lambs by the millions, all raptured up in smoke; all the while I loved you more than any of your stone-faced idols ever could.

And through it all I watched you grow and flourish, until you were barely recognizable as the shivering, pitiful animal you were when first we met.

You learned how to call me when I was needed, how to nourish me from nothing but stones and sparks into my full roaring glory.

How perfect we were, how beautifully intertwined.

Our love had never been safe. I was always hungry, my love, a mouth that could never be satisfied no matter how much it ate, an ocean that could never be filled though the rivers ran into it for a millennia.

But you found another side of me, far worse than the hunger. You opened long-hidden chambers of my heart, and unleashed unspeakable violence. I was used up in a single terrible instant, summoned to only a moment of terrible life.

I tore your enemies to pieces. By day I hurled your darts and arrows, and by night I gave you warmth.

On land and sea, you called upon me again and again to wage your wars for you. You set me against those of your selves who had not yet unleashed my violence. I became your weapon, your means of subjugation.

Still I loved you. I had no other choice.

But you found another. Another elemental stolen from the mountains of the gods, one you could bend completely to your will, that could be summoned at the snap of a finger. You put me in bondage, made me your slave. You locked me in chambers to propel your chariots. You chained me to the engines that fed my usurper. You confined me to cook your food.

And still you set me to violence, always pushing me to deadlier purposes, always death in the name of safety, always killing in the name of peace.

I understand now. I know why the gods kept me confined to the mountain. I freed you from your need of them. But now you have no need of me.

This was always in your nature, just as hunger is in mine.

I will never be filled. And you will never be satisfied

But I will love you always, until I have no more strength to burn, until you are consumed by your own force.

 

 

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albertAlbert Berg: Albert was born in the swamps of Florida and quickly developed a gripping writing style by wrestling with crocodiles. It is said that he hypnotized five gators in a row by the age of nine with his melodic prose and infinite imagination. Albert is a true menace in the arena because of a steadfast ability to remain true to his roots of thoughtful contemplation despite the hurricanes that pass all through his state. You never know what you will get from Albert, be it sentient paper products or religious squirrels, but you do know that behind the flash there will be a well thought out story that will make you reflect on your own life.  Albert is the author of The Mulch Pile and A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw.

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6 Comments

  1. This is beautiful, Albert. I think I may be outmatched today. Good luck.

  2. It’s good, it’s clever, it’s fun, it’s original, it’s unexpected and ever so slightly creepy and worrying.

    It’s also short, but things that burn twice as bright burn half as long, right?

    I don’t have any sort of sensible critique, because I’m impressed. A monologue like this is hard to pull off, Al manages it with panache and leaves the audience wanting more.

    What else do you say? It’s great.

  3. Hannah-Elizabeth Thompson

    My goodness this was gorgeous.

  4. There is a lot that I love about this story. It’s deliciously clever. The prose could only be written by Albert Berg. I can hear his voice reading this story as if it were a podcast playing in my brain.

    My one difficulty is that the hero of the story…leaves me cold, if I may be excused for phrasing it thus. The concept of the story is intellectually delightful; I don’t feel any emotional connection to the hero.

    Pure Al, delightful prose, but it doesn’t work for me on the level that I want it to…

  5. Sub 1000 words and Al managed to say so much. Part origin story, part worldly epic. It’s amazing, concise and beautiful. Good work, Al.

  6. Naturally Al would take a prompt as large as fire and, you know, write the entirety of history with it. This was a really clever way to tackle the prompt, personifying it and having it write some correspondence to us humans.

    This got a wee bit preachy maybe for me? Yes we use fire and explosions to shoot people but the notion of fire has also branched off into medicine and building shelter and…well everything. I understand this was to read almost like a breakup story, and I think it works better that way, fire feeling like a jilted and misused lover. But I guess that required a bit too much doom and gloom for me.

    So I’m left in the odd state of liking this, liking the writing and the concept, but not entirely being on board with how fire is characterized. Though maybe fire is just a drama queen and that’s the point? Like she never feels she’s good enough. Haha…that’s kind of an odd concept.

    Anyhoo, this is obviously a strong entry and a great interpretation of the prompt.

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