Prompt: realization vs. reality
There once was a god who figured things out as they went along. They made planets before space, plants before light, and animals before food. This god’s world was a slow moving disaster, but it was too late to stop now; it already rolled across the gravity they’d put out like a carpet. All they could do was their best as they watched trees grow tall before their leaves showed up, families give seasonal gifts before the children were born, and wolves lick their lips before the hunt was even on.
This god watched a village as its people tried to go about their lives with pieces missing. It was the dead of winter, the god had forgotten to even give it a life in the first place, and the people were starving. With no early winter life they had lost the last of their crop prematurely to the frost. They thought further ahead than their god, so they had stores, but they were less than a week from running out.
The god couldn’t figure out what they needed to solve their problem. The obvious answer was food, but the seasons couldn’t be altered without ruining a hundred other things. At the very least it would send all the hibernating animals into fits of nightmares, and nothing made spring worse than tired, frightened, ornery squirrels.
If they couldn’t figure it out, somebody else would have to do it. The people of the village had bigger brains than the other animals. The god made them that way just so they could see the humans better, it was quite rough having to squint to see a brain or a heart, but it had the side effect of helping the people build their homes, weave their goods, and talk to each other.
With that bigger brain came plenty of room, and the god noticed there was still space that winter. The people hadn’t filled their heads up with stories yet. The god had to hurry, as stories slithered into ears like swift snakes of smoke. The god reached down and grabbed some things from the side of the village, while none of the people were looking. In one hand they squeezed a pile of snow, and in the other some lengths of wood from a broken fence.
When the squeezing and forming was done, the god dropped the two back into the snow. The pieces of wood had become a rickety man with splinters for teeth and knotholes for eyes. The snow, squeezed in the middle, became a woman instead, her face only implied by the shadows in her uneven surface. The man had creaking legs like a grasshopper’s splayed out to the sides, but the woman’s snow went all the way down like a dress that became part of the ground. She glided along silently, towards the glowing window of the biggest building in the village.
“Do you have a name?” the snow woman asked the splinter man.
“Yes,” he creaked back, knots still fixed on their destination, “I am Real. I am what is. I am solid as wood and true to my name.” He didn’t ask hers, but she offered it anyway.
“My name is similar. I am Realize. I am what means. I am loose as snow and true to any name.” Real scoffed and moved faster. He seemed annoyed that he had to walk through the snow, as if Realize had melted into a puddle and was ruining a fine pair of boots. She could babble all she wanted; Real had the solution to the hunger problem. He would be forward with the people and clear. It would be easy to see how small the problem was once he put a fence around it.
He figured he didn’t need to knock on the door, as the house was made of wood as well. He had more of a right to it than they did. He let himself in, not bothering to shake the snow off his jagged feet. The people turned to look at him. There were thirty left, all gathered around the fireplace. Before the arrival of the god’s latest creations they’d been contemplating a big empty pot. All brains had been hard at work trying to think of something to put in it.
Realize glided in behind Real. She knelt next to the people silently. She would not speak first, for without reality there were no conclusions to be drawn. That was what their poor god still didn’t understand; they thought completeness could be sprinkled in later like salt over bread already missing a bite.
“Greetings people of the village,” Real squeaked. A few of the children stuck their hands out of the bundled blankets and waved. Real could not see, as he’d already bent over their last chest of stores and pulled out the bag with the last twenty turnips. The human eyes became wild, hunger flared by the sight of the food, but they stayed by the fire. Sometimes their god stumbled into a solution. Real could’ve had one for all they knew.
“Don’t damage that food,” the bearded village elder warned. “It is to be our last meal on the day before we die. It will make our last breath warm.” Many around nodded, thinking this was the best they could expect.
“Damage it? That makes no sense,” Real insisted with a wave of his hand that sent splinters flying and popping in the fire. “I’m going to stretch it. Observe.” One of his own fingers split to the color of younger wood and a much sharper edge. The wooden man used it to peel around the turnip, removing a thin spiraling layer. He dropped that in the empty pot and then looked around.
He stalked this way and that, occasionally poking the bundled people or shoving them out of the way. He grabbed up all sorts of things: boots, pelts, snow that he’d tracked in, and a dried herb from the ceiling used to keep the bugs away in summer. He threw them all into the pot and put it over the fire, stirring with one arm dipped all the way to the bottom.
“Your problem is solved,” Real told them, smile cracking wide. “With the leather from those boots and this weed that is only mildly toxic, and just a shred of turnip, this soup is nourishing enough to keep you going until the thaw. It will be thin, chewy, and cause horrible stomach pain, but you’ll live. You’re welcome.” He threw out his arms, splashing them with the apocalyptic stew, awaiting their adulation.
“I’d rather die than eat that!” an old woman declared. The bundled group erupted into protests. The foolish broomstick had wasted half a turnip peel and told them to eat their shoes. This was a broken incomplete world, but they weren’t shoe eaters. Their god did remember to give them half their dignity after all, the half that turned leather into clothes.
“That makes no sense!” Real insisted. He backed up close to the fire and nearly stumbled into it. The humans, wrapped in their furs, encroached like fluffy tigers. Real wasn’t food, but he could be kindling. “I gave you a real solution to your problem. Courtesy of Real himself! How could you need anything more? It’s solved I tell you! Back away!”
The axes came out, but there would be no chopping today. Realize quietly, gently, slipped between the creases of the people and extended an arm from her featureless body. She held it over the pot and let her snow melt into it.
“This is broth,” she told them, eyes connecting with the children’s. “Broth doesn’t have to come from vegetables or animals. It’s warm, it’s wet, and it’s in the pot. Doesn’t it look like broth? I see it.” The humans leaned in. Now that she mentioned it, it did look a little thicker after her addition. The bearded elder stuck a finger in and tasted it. He contemplated it for a moment.
“Yes, your broth makes the difference. Come everybody. Eat. Thank you… what was your name?”
“Realize,” the snow woman said as she climbed into the pot like a washtub and let herself start melting. The people gathered round, put their axes away, and brought out their wooden spoons.
“I don’t understand,” Real whispered in Realize’s ear as she sighed and sank further into the pot. “You’re just snow. Just water. You didn’t add anything!”
“I let them see the difference,” Realize cooed. “They saw something that wasn’t there, like that empty spot in their minds. It was absent, unreal. It could be anything. Broth. Hope. One and the same really.”
“Confound it. I hate humans. At least the god made all the other animals complete. I’m going back to being a fence.” With that, Real creaked his way out of the building. That left Realize to be consumed by the people. To fill that spot in their minds that the god left empty. To fill them with realizations, for when boots in your soup just weren’t good enough.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by mondeulchen during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!