Short Stories: The God Link by Neeraj Chawla

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

The sulphur gas hissed and smoke was issuing every few metres from the porous rocks. The clouds churned in the sky with lightning in ugly shades of grey black. The landscape lay broken and crying from the third cataclysm.

But what scared Rangar the most wasn’t the dangers on the land but what lay ahead.

The road, once upon a time it may have been a road, was broken. It was littered with potholes, rocks lining hot mud pools that steamed and an occasional geyser of magma. His blistered feet hurt, even wrapped in multiple layers of clothes. He looked up at the path he was following up to the mountain which was still spewing smoke and gases into the air.

How did the witch Manap survive here, he thought?

The place was uninhabitable. Perhaps that’s why she lived up there in the mountain. Away from the smudges of humanity smattered around the temples in the few land masses that survived. He looked up at the sky to check if the leif link from the witch was present.

The leif, the link of life, an invisible chain that was part of every human now.

He checked his and peered at it again. The leif, from the centre of his body around his navel rose up to the sky, up into the heavens. Ethereal, barely visible, untouchable, golden, it was as strong as ever. It was about two inches thick, in foot long links that resembled waves, this chain that connected everyone to their gods. The chain went up into the sky past the dark clouds, linking him with his God.

His God, the omnipresent, all-powerful, cruel, sometimes called benevolent—with many names but the most common one was Atat.

He ran his hand as if to touch and grasp the leif but it was unearthly and his hand went through it without ever touching it. It shimmered when his hand passed through it and reformed to reach up the sky connecting him to God Atat. His every emotion, love, hate, lust and joy, feeding the God he had never seen, deep in the heavens above the broken landscape and acid rain spewing angry skies.

He knew the witch was on the mountain yet there was no leif link suggesting that and this gave him pause. Maybe the stories he had heard were true. The witch knew of a way to break the leif link to her God.

Rangar loathed his God Atat.

His fall from the faith in God Atat had started a year ago with the death of his wife.

Illena was dying and there was nothing Rangar could do about it.

He looked around the temple dedicated to his God, the images imploding around him, burning in his mind. The images of the divine God Atat, in the shape of a man with golden hair, wearing a robe with a staff in one hand and the other palm outward, blessing everyone. It was a large dome with many pillars, built in a semi-circle around the statue of the God.

He had been coming here every day, for weeks now, to meet with the priests of God Atat.

“Rangar?” said the Bellbot.

“Father,” responded Rangar his face reflecting the misery of being unable to do anything for Illena.


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