Here’s an intriguing story from the end of the universe, a mash-up of Native American, ancient Babylonian and Australian Aboriginal mythology. Eagle watches the fires at the edge of the universe as they burn back time and space, returning the world to its pre-eternal state.
Echoes | Eagle
Fires spread across the plains of existence. Eagle looked out and allowed the entrails of burning Time to roll through his beak. The reek of humankind had long gone but now it was replaced by a deeper, dirtier smell that sat in the pit of Eagle’s empty stomach.
These fires had raged since Tiamat unleashed her demons into the world to hunt the younger gods, vowing vengeance for her subjugation by the reckless children of her union with Apsu. In Tiamat’s last moments, as her skin was stretched across the cosmos to create a cocoon for the young gods’ new ambitions, forming the skies and the land, she sent word to the ever-faithful Mummu who still dwelt in the depths of the pre-eternal lakes, churning in the agony of betrayal. With the victory cries of the young Bull of Heaven and his Babylonian hordes lacerating the face of the new universe, Mummu cast his flames beyond to the edges of Taimat’s deathly shroud. He would watch for the fires to consume this new realm, incinerate the crinkled paper of time and space, and restore all to the pre-eternity existence.
“How did they defeat us, my old friend?” Eagle could hear Mummus’ voice in his head, still muttering through the billions of years. He would continue to ask the same question, as this new thing, Time, created with the new universe, inched before them, forging new lands and filling in the colours of the sky. He watched contemptuously as the breathing creatures began to populate the universe.
“It’s disgusting,” Mummu had said. “These solid forms, they have no real substance; they retain a single shape and then fail, their energies dispersed. What a waste!”
Eagle knew that Mummu was jealous of the creatures and their bright, transient delights. When Tiamat, the great giver of life, the encompasser of all, and her lover Apsu had ruled the regions of the pre-world, only Mummu had existed to enjoy it with them. But then the noise and the conflict, and the fall of these elder gods, had led to the creation of the universe and, eventually, the various species that spread like vermin across the galaxies, populating even the darkest reaches of matter.
Eagle was more circumspect than his ancient forebear. And he feared Mummu’s horizon of fire. He did not welcome the hot ashes in the air, or the waves of fetid convection that buffeted his wings when he lifted from this high mountain home.
In many ways Eagle had learned to love the galactic vistas, the ever changing particle storms, the coalescing of dust and energy to form stars, and he wondered at the creation of the new beings, so many, so different. Ultimately, each one had passed on and returned their energies into the stars and gravity wells, to be regurgitated at some later, undefined moment: eternal food for new life.
Eagle watched the fires come a little closer. He knew he would have to move soon, back to Mummu’s cave, and fold himself into its ever-darkness. But, for now he could feel the wind in his feathers, feast on the meagre energies of past souls in his mountainous regions, and stretch through the layers of time.
“Soon you will return.”
Eagle tried to ignore Mummu’s entreaties. He had never answered: it was unnecessary, and understood. Indeed, Eagle’s inner eye was inert, his origins quietly yearning for Mummu’s cave and shuddering at the oncoming threat of the fires.
He wondered at the lack of new species over the last few millennia. He had spent so many nights riding the cosmic winds, swirling around dense regions of singularity, using their pull to swing him out far, his wings filling with primeval vitality, he began to wonder at the purpose of life if it was to be ended so swiftly.
And where now, were the younger gods, in this universe created for, and by them? Although their original cities on earth had fallen, Ur, Ninevah, Nippur, Eagle had seen the gods adopted by other tribes, across old earth, then the star systems, and he watched them feed on the heady cocktail of fear and adulation. Perhaps without such succour they could not be sustained. Perhaps they had been devoured by Mummu’s flames.
And Eagle remembered the last time he had seen the Noumen, the slivers of light that had broken across the universe like shards of glass, at the moment of creation, shattering into every particle, embedded, trapped even. The demons too, they had gone. Now only eagle was left and he felt the fires push him back, inexorably.
For a moment he saw a reflection in the nearest flames, ghosts of long dead companions, moments of joy fluttering in the ever changing twists and licks of fire. His eyes narrowed at the evanescent glory, trying to peer through the infernal flames to the darkness behind. But he could not, and he reconciled himself to the simple memories and ephemeral visions in the fire.
Increasingly, he seemed less troubled by the oncoming inferno, its bleak maw widening across the edge of the universe. He found himself counting the tips and licks of flame, like the billions of years that had passed since the universe had been born from Tiamat’s flesh. In a former life there was no thing to count, just an existence, a sense of being that neither shifted nor changed.
Time passed. The fires drew closer still.
“Soon you will return. And all will be whole again.”
Eagle was no longer sure that this is what he wanted, the return. He watched the fires violate the universe, invading the edges of time and space, they burst through like the titans of old earth, only more gigantic, like suns, razing all before them. He remembered the various forms of being he’d observed over the billions of years, the ever changing patterns of life. Over time in this universe of beginnings and endings he had grown to regret the passing of a particular species, then all, and a loneliness swelled within him, that seemed to stretch into and beyond the horizon of fire.
Time passed. The fires drew closer.
“Soon you will return.”
Eagle regarded the fires and realized that Mummu had begun to unsettle him. Had he not he survived for these billions of years? Had he not folded his great wings and set the course of night to follow day? Did he not bring the storms that crashed across the plains, with a subtle flick of his wing tips? Indeed, now, for the first time in eons he remembered his name, Thunder as it burst across into his memory, dispelling his melancholy.
Time passed. The fires drew ever closer but, finally, Eagle stopped listening to the grim malevolence of Mummu. He lifted away from his mountain top and began to circle the galaxy, his great wings passing through planets and meteor storms, the nearest stars growing dark as he roamed alongside them, the winds of Eagle’s flight casting great shadows across the universe.
He turned and spread his wings wide, shook the feathers and loosened vast clouds of cosmic dust. He raised his head with a harrowing, ancient song, its raucous call summoning ancient, powerful storms to his command: he would not return to shiver in the darkness with Muumu and the other inert creatures of pre-eternity, he would defend the last inklings of this universe, beat back the colossal fires, or die within their diminishing glories.[ends]
Text, image, audio © 2014 Jake Jackson, thesefantasticworlds.com. Thanks to Frances Bodiam, Logic Pro, the Twisted Wave Recorder App, Apogee Condenser microphone, Rotring pens and inks, and Alfons Schmidt’s fantastic Notebook for Mac app.
Part of a new series of micro-fiction stories, published on Wattpad, released as These Fantastic Worlds SF & Fantasy Fiction Podcast on iTunes and elsewhere, and on this blog.
More next week…
There are a few more stories in this series:
Here’s a related post, 5 Steps to the SF and Fantasy Podcasts