A.J. Walker


Recycling: New Gods and Old Ways

Recycled gods
Photo Prompt for Mid Week Flash 185

Recycling: New Gods and Old Ways

Windows down in my banged up car; the dry desert air felt refreshing. Not literally, but to be all but back home it felt like it. The coast had its beauty; I enjoyed watching the ocean on some days, but with my pockets now half full of money after working the season I could only ever return home.
Six miles from town I came across a bunch of cars parked off the desert road in a makeshift lay-by. This was new. There was nothing there to park for.
I drove past at first, keen to get home, but my interest was piqued and I turned back a mile later. I pulled off into the dust on the opposite side next to a decrepit cactus. Dry, so dry, after the coast.
In the sand I could see the recent path that people had taken up a small rise to the south. I followed the trail. From all my years exploring as a kid I knew there was nothing there. It was over a mile to the cave at the base of a low bluff, that I used to use as a shady stop sometimes. I’d pretended it had been important back then. Maybe used in history for religious practices, or a gold mine.
As I approached the top of the rise I began to hear singing. Not a tune a knew and there were no instruments; just a group of people singing together. It sounded like a church song.
It didn’t feel right. The voices sounded unreal and edgy. Despite the heat I felt goosebumps rise up my forearms. I slowed. The singing stopped, then a drum started thumping a slow juddering beat.
I made for the rock outcrop ten metres to the left. There was a nervousness to me I hadn’t felt for decades; I almost considered turning back. I sat at the base of the outcrop and sipped from a water bottle. As I drank a single plaintive voice rolled over the rocks to me. It sounded like a young woman: it was beautiful, endearing and it pulled me up the outcrop to see who the singer was.
At first I couldn’t see anyone. My eyes were drawn to a horse built of metal, glinting with the sinking sun. A whole horse built with what looked like rescued pieces of machinery. I could see cogs, wheels, spokes and pipes. Whoever had built it was an artist of unparalleled ability; in these parts anyway. Rusted vehicles and parts of barns and old railroad made metal ubiquitous in places man had been here. I was always torn as whether it was an ugly stain on humanity or a beautiful marker screaming ‘man was here, look where we can go.’ But this person had turned these metal reminders of man into a sculpture of glorious nature. I was impressed. It took me a while to notice the horse had wings. They flowed perfectly, as if I’d always seen horse with wings.
Movement caught my eye: from behind the tail a group of people came into view. Suddenly the group burst into a song complimenting the woman’s voice. Everyone was singing and they were circling the horse. It was reverential. I thought it was a work of art but these people seemed to be praying to it. A woman pushed forward a young boy of maybe seven or eight and stopped him as they got to the head and the singing rose to a crescendo before abruptly stopping. A woman stepped forward, who I think had been the one with the plaintive voice. I noticed her right arm reach out and pull at a feather from the horse’s being. It was a rusty knife: all the feathers of the horse were knives. From my viewpoint some of them looked cleaner, newer than others; some looked stained.
The first woman had her foot on the back of the child, who was on his belly, his head raised - I think on a boulder. How I didn’t scream I’ll never know, but I wouldn’t be here if I had, I’m sure. The plaintive woman rose the recycled sword into the air and brought it down. The decapitated body rolled down the slope to the feet of the singers as they started a new song. The last thing I saw before I ran back to the car was the plaintive woman placing the head on the back of the horse perhaps in readiness for his final journey.

WC: 750
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