Trapped in the ancient standing stones the eternal deity awaits the end of his punishment, for the first time in 26,000 years…
Echoes | Henge
The exile was close to its end. For almost 26,000 years the eternal creature had been held in the circle of stone, confined within the narrow borders, suffering the gravity of this planet, and the attack of its spores on the ancient god’s alabaster eyes.
Youchao had been thrown from the sun, at the point where the earth and its life-giving star had been at its closest for 26000 years. It was a popular punishment amongst the Eternals, just long enough to have a curative effect on the transgressing deity, but not so long that it would cause them damage, or affect their role in the balance of the heavens.
Youchao was a builder. He created the temples and walkways across the universe, along which the Eternals would travel in their stately processions. Mostly, they merely observed, but occasionally they would deign to populate a beautiful galaxy, sprinkling it whimsically with kernels of life. Youchao’s younger brother, Fu Xi would breath across the face of such places, to nurture the embryonic blooms, and encourage them to become beautiful creatures of water, the slithering, slippery shiny forms that could evolve into the land loving beings. Such creatures might tempt the fire of their older brother, Suirin. whose fiercer purpose was to create the fire that would push life on to civilization, if it survived that far.
But Youchao was easily bored. He was a craftsman, and restless; unlike the other deities he hated the languid eternity through which his fellows drifted. He was restless and creative, but the Celestial Court had often warned Youchao against the fashioning of too many empty palaces across the horizon, too many bridges that would lead too deep into the galaxies that might never be populated.
And Youchao rued the day he built one bridge too many, to this small star, in this minor galaxy.
“Youchao!” He had been summoned to the Great Roaming Court, in the shimmering halls he had built himself, his first and greatest construction, just moments after the birth of the universe, at the splitting of the sky from the land, the separation of the ancient snakes from the cosmic egg. The Great Court roamed across the universe, from star to star.
“I must just finish this wall, otherwise the bridge will fall into the long abyss.” He spread his large hands across the zenith of the central arch on his latest grand fabrication, pressing the dark bricks into place, securing the pathway across to the edges of the ever-growing cosmos.
“Youchao!!” The Court bellowed. Just Wind, the enforcer of the celestial body, lashed out and swept Youchao from his lofty perch and rolled him across his fine new bridge.
“Aii! What’s the hurry!” Just Wind gripped him, then flung him far, and fast.
He arrived in the middle of the court as a comet, burning through the blue sky ceilings and burnished domes. As he burst through he smiled at the memory of his handiwork, making mental notes about some changes that should have been made to the gilded roof.
“So you come at last!” The court roared, its body made up of the entire deity of the heavens. No single voice could be heard above the others, but a chatter, a chorus of affronted disdain.
“Well, I didn’t ask to come,” he stood up, brushing the flames from his golden hair, the stardust from his ornate and intricate waistcoat, “I’ve been very busy!”
“Busy!” The court roared again, the sounds of a thousand ancient voices whittled around the vast chamber, skittering up the walls, flowing across its infinite beams, then flooding down like a golden waterfall onto the head of Youchao.
“Please,” he closed his ears, “please stop shouting.”
“You deserve to be shouted at. Look at all the bridges you’ve built, all the temples.”
“I know, they’re so beautiful, so grand.” Youchao pictured every one of his creations in his head, the arches, and the columns, the domes, the gardens, the statues, all arranged perfectly within the plains of his considerable mind.
“No, no! there is no more room for your buildings, there are not enough beings to use them, and they clutter the skies with their solid structures, and those of us who do not have your abilities keep crashing into them. Look!” Many of the court held out their heads, and indeed Youchao saw the bumps and bruises on the faces of the gods.
“This is an old argument.” Youchao placed his hands on his hips. “You know how I feel!” He spread his hands wearily.
“That we should stop dreaming and keep our eyes open.”
“But why should we? As we walk the pathways of the universe we dream of new light, and waterfalls, of colours and all appear before us.”
“Yes, but you walk along my pathways.” For a moment he was exasperated with his fellow gods, “and without them, you would be imprisoned in this admittedly wonderful palace, but after a few million years you would all be bumping into each other rather, than my bridges.”
“But why do you need to build so many?!”
“That’s like asking why stars are born, or why darkness is dark.”
“It is not so, we make the stars, we made the darkness dark.”
“Yes, but the impulse to do so came from before, from the point of our own creation.”
“Of course, but the point is, we know when to stop.”
“I know when to stop, but I just haven’t reached it yet.”
“Oh, this is impossible,” the voices swelled around the chamber, “across the universe there’re now too many bridges and temples, crossing each other, falling over each other.”
“That is not true, if you fall over them its because you choose to close your eyes. If you looked around and enjoyed what you could saw, then you would not be so unhappy.”
“Ah, you are impossible. We’ve had enough!” The voices blurred around Youchao and lifted him up.
“This star in which we currently reside, is a small sun, it burns so brightly that we have scattered life across the planets nearby. We cast you into to a land where you can only build small structures on the face of the earth, and all from the confines of a temple of standing stones.”
“But it will be tiny! I’ll go mad!”
“Then you will learn restraint.”
“No, no, I will not go.”
“We are many, Youchao, even your brothers agree you must be sent. Though, they have persuaded the rest of us that you can return when the sun is closest to the planet once more.”
So, 26,000 years, 10,000 palaces, thousands of bridges, gardens, mansions and temples later, Youchao had seen the rise of the simple creatures of earth, seen them irrigate the waters, develop their agriculture, industry and the technology, and from within his exiled prison of standing stones, he gazed out, his arms reaching for the means of construction, he created small buildings for the people who could one day use them, and copy their form for themselves.
He was tired. And he had grown used to the rhythm of the solstices, the ebb and flow of the shortening nights, turning and growing into the long days. He had begun to enjoy the cycles of life on this small planet, and watched the people come to worship at the henge. He was amused by their simple pleasure in the warmth of the sun, the growth and renewal of the light and the day.
He sneezed, and swore at the spores that tickled his nose. A worshipping horde at the other end of the henge were assailed by the wind, and looked back in his direction. Seeing nothing they returned to their endless calls and moans.
“Oh,” he sighed. “It’s nearly time. 26,000 years. I can see the sun come that little bit closer every year. Soon my exile will be over. His cheek rested on his vast hand. And he sneezed again, and rubbed the irritation in his eyes.
The worshippers drifted away as the day ended. The sun dipped below the horizon. Silence descended across the landscape of gentle, rolling hills. The skies were clear, no clouds marked their progress across the firmament. It was a perfect day for reconciliation. And Youchao heard a soft call, a rustle of voices, from the standing stones at the other side of the henge.
He sighed and stood up, pulled at the back of his neck and ambled towards the disturbance in the air, which appeared like a black crow, two hands reached out, gesturing toward him.
Youchao knew that he must reach the hands within a heartbeat, but he sneezed, and blinked. He stumbled. His nose fell into the ground.
And in that moment the sun moved on. The hands disappeared.
“Ah!” Youchao’s shoulder’s sagged. He pushed himself up and returned to the rock.
He slumped back down and waited for the next moment of release, in 26,000 years.[end]
The story is based on the intriguing fact that the North Pole does not lie at simple North point, but leans towards and away from the sun over a long cycle of years:
- The Perihelion: nearest point to the Sun occurs approx. January 5th each year.
- The Aphelion: the furthest point from the sun, occurs on approx. July 4th each year
- The Earth’s axis completes one full cycle of precession approximately every 26,000 years
In cosmic terms, the axial precession of an astronomical body is the slow gravity-influenced change in the orientation of the body’s rotational axis. Earth’s axis rotates in a 26,000 year cycle as it orbits around the face of the sun.
Text, image, audio © 2015 Jake Jackson, thesefantasticworlds.com. Thanks to Frances Bodiam, Elise Wells (for the end credits to podcast links for iTunes and Stitcher), Logic Pro, the Twisted Wave Recorder App, Apogee Condenser microphone, Rotring pens and inks, Daler Rowney acrylic ink, and Alfons Schmidt’s fantastic Notebook app.
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
And a post on Myths and Legends.