The Blorkon ship parks into orbit around the Green planet.
"The planet, in compliance with the assumptions of the Blorkon Scientific Committee, really supports a population of intelligent beings", says a technician pointing to the intellectometer. "Superb", says the commander. "Now they will be our slaves! Unpack and activate the infamous LBT generators!".
It's evident that the lieutenant, handsome Zorba, has some doubts. "Maybe there is a way to communicate with them, to profit by studying their culture, art..."
"Bah!", says the evil commander. "Culture! The moment we get back from this mission I'll check your papers, lieutenant Zorba! An until then, please refrain from heretic thinking, or at least keep it to yourself. Domination! Exploitation! Humiliation! That is the motto of the unstoppable Blorkon nation spreading through the Galaxy! The generators!"
The LBT generators are activated. The monitors display the innocent, natural inhabitants of the Green planet loosing their free will, reasoning powers, the capacity for thought etc. The ship lands and hordes of Blorkon soldiers emerge, burning, looting and pillaging. Zorba watches this with a passive protest in his eye until he gets his orders:
"Lieutenant Zorba, your first assignment in this preliminary phase of our work here on the Green planet, which will end in the so-called total exploitation of its physical and psychical resources, is to lead the squadron which will desecrate the the temple of Hildra, the highest deity of their religion, and prepare it for our use!"
"But commander, wouldn't it be better to study Hildraism, it's moral and ethical pinnacles, adopt the millenial achivements of a race that can hardly be considered inferior?", asks Zorba.
"You've been given an assignment", says the commander, white around the mouth. Zorba salutes and leaves the command bridge.
"And don't forget, all animals are inferior in some way, lieutenant Zorba", adds the commander.
Zorba and four soldiers reach the temple. No man is allowed to tread on the ground consecrated to the goddess Hildra. If they weren't under the influence of the global field produced by the geostatic satellites with LBT generators, the Amazon-virgins guarding the temple would have speared them on the spot. Instead, their clouded eyes just take in the conqueror's entrance.
Two of the soldiers approach the Amazons, take their weapons and start feeling their muscular bodies. "In line!", shouts Zorba. The soldiers resentfully return to the group.
Passing through eight spirally placed chambers they arrive at the central domed hall, the most sacred part of the temple. Experience has established that most races find the by-products of metabolic processes repugnant. The soldiers urinate over the sacred sculptures depicting Hildra in her nine primary aspects.
It's up to Zorba to perform the protocolary rape. Looking at the High Priestess, he realizes that it will be easier than on some other oppressed worlds. She is completely humanoid, probably a far descendant of a colony that's been cut off from the Home Worlds way back during the Fist Imperial Wars. Her body is completely hairless, but Zorba, remembering the bristly Amazons, attributes this to shaving rather than genetic deviation. Besides, it's been six Z-months since Zorba has last had something approximating a woman, on Xenakis II.
Her body hasn't been touched by a man before. Although numbed by the LBT field, it twitches under Zorbas defiling surges. But her eyes are perfectly still, looking right at his own, and in their boundless empathy they forgive him. Zorba stands up, heads for the far side of the hall. The Blorkon soldiers go for the Priestess, wrestling each other. Zorba takes out his blaster and kills them quickly, one by one. Then he takes a small transmitter out of his pocket and activates the self-destruct charges in the LBT-carrying satellites through a relay in the Blorkon base. A brief multicolored flash through the circular stained-glass window in the domed temple roof indicates that the diversion was a success.
Freed from the numbing influence of the LBT field, the inhabitants of the Green planet come to their senses. Their multitude overpowers the technologically more advanced Blorkons and kills them in exotic ways.
Zorba approaches the Priestess, pushes a half-undressed dead soldier off her and helps her stand up.
"Bless you, warrior", she says, "because Hildra the Protector has chosen you as the instrument of salvation of her people."
"If Hildra the Protector is a metaphor for man's conscience, then what you say is true, woman. And I'm sorry for... that, but it was the only way I could get all my soldiers in one place. Otherwise I couldn't have killed them all at once", says Zorba.
"Don't waste your words, o noble one; the body is flesh, the flesh is soil, only the one in whose garden blooms the flower of the Spirit is a Man."
"I'm glad to hear that", breathes Zorba. "I was afraid your religious codices might misinterpret my... actions."
"Hildra has touched your mind, sharing the rigid kernel of your will with her you have become worthy of the highest rewards. You will be a feather in the wing of Hildra the All-reaching, your voice will join the choir of the happy ones in the crystal nook of Hildra the Content. And we, your friends, will help you in old ritual ways to free yourself of this body which has under present circumstances become an unworhty abode for your soul."
"What?", says Zorba, but the four Amazons which have soundlessly sneaked in take his blaster and immobilize him. The ceremonial cauldron with glowing coals is brought in.
"We'll start, of course, with the parts that have performed the most unacceptable deeds", explains the Priestess and takes the First poker.
Well, at this point the author of the story himself is taken aback. The plot is becoming more and more morbid, and yet fails to round off the story and add a witty punch-line. The fuzzy plan to deride idealism, to convince the reader that the circumstances are always stronger than morals is going wrong, producing instead a sterile semipornographic space-opera missing the basic attributes of the genre - anthropocentric fascism and bulk. No, there are not enough artistic reasons for the unwitting but daring liutenant to come to the proposed end. The author, almost too late in identifying with his character, decides to save him.
It's vital to act fast, because the red-hot poker is already getting close to Zorba's horrified genitals. There's no time for negotiations - the author directly challenges Hildra the Warrior. She is, as you may expect, the most terrible aspect of the deity. Her face has a thousand jaws, her emerald sword a thousand blades, each one cutting reality like butter. But the author isn't unarmed either.
He leaves the choice of the duel site to Hildra - of course, it's a stereotype, some yellow valley surrounded by high red cliffs. The sky is green, it's a sunny day but large stars can be seen, comets, various symbols etc. The ominous silence is broken by the even more ominous roar of the mythical Hormuzi, pulling Hildra's battle-carriage. Everything is monumental, archetypal and overwhelming.
The chugging destructive jumble is getting dangerously close to the unpretentious figure of the author. In a moment, the mythical Hormuzi will step on his toes with their hypertrophied claws, the thousand blades of Hildra's emerald sword will slice him up like Extrawurst.
The author gets a small dog-whistle out of his pocket and blows. It's well known that this makes the mythical Hormuzi go totally berserk. The mythical Hormuzi go totally berserk, run to the horizon, the battle-carriage overturns, Hildra the Warrior falls out and lies stunned on the sand.
"How dare you, you dust of the dust, worm of a worm, squander my expensive godly appointments? Is there no wordly death violent enough for your taste, since you insist so much on getting your soul dissolved in the sea of Hildra's wrath? Who are you, anyway, and where did you get the balls?"
The author then answers her with counter-questions, and speaks thus:
Where wast thou when I laid up the foundations of this story?
Tell me if thou hast understanding.
Who hath laid the style thereof, if thou knowest?
Or who hath checked the spelling?
Upon what are its bases grounded?
Or who laid the demented plot thereof,
When the morning stars praised me together,
And the rest of Author's family snored a joyful melody?
In answer to those elegant, if not completely original words, Hildra raises her sword again, and out of her thousand gaping jaws spits a thousand balls of greasy phlegm. The author realizes that words are worthless and fucks up her face with a capital X. Hildra promptly ceases to exist.
"Down", on the Green planet, winds are blowing and black clouds are swirling, the suns are eclipsing, the moons are shining with an unnatural glow, the walls of temples are cracking, the ceremonial coals are turning to ash, the ritual pokers are cooling.
The Amazons release Zorba and run from the temple in panic.
"My goddess is dead, and you, you made it come about!", screams the High Priestess and attacks him with the cold poker. Zorba slaps her face resoundingly. It affects her stronger than the most infamous LBT generator, and she sinks to the granite floor. The ceremonial robe spreads again, uncovering her long slim legs, her pale but firm breasts with purple nipples, shaved parts...
The author quickly deletes the previous sentence, trying to prevent the story from reverting to we know what. He puts on a drab doorman's uniform and enters the hall.
"Now, who are you?", asks Zorba looking for the blaster.
"I'm a common temple doorman, simply an observer of these pivotal events."
"Nothing special - I would just like to continue with my observation."
"Of what? Isn't the cataclysm over?", asks Zorba.
"Usually at the end the hero, passing over the glowing karmic coals, experiences a certain distillation of his spirit and says a few words as a resume", suggests the doorman.
"Hm. I feel sort of... Uncompleted. Broiled alive - but still too rare; salted alive - but still not salty enough. The rigid spacesuits of position and duty have forced this woman and me to do a lot of harm to each other. But our loyalties have run their term. I have betrayed the principles of the Blorkon nation, so I can't return there. And the Priestess has lost her deity; the essence of her vocation flushed like a toilet."
"Let's assume there's a possibility of intervention from above", says the doorman. "Letting you try out a completely different set of possibilities - to be born again, so to say... Allowing you to wake up, in a way of saying, from this violent, godless context into a much more peaceful, thoughtful reality; reducing the terrible, traumatic impressions of what you have lived through to the level of dreams, or of stories read long ago...", says the doorman.
The walls of the temple flicker for a moment, displaying the golden gardens of the Golden age.
Zorba thinks for a while. "Some believe that a bad ending is contained in a bad beginning, so they always start anew; tasting a girl's first kiss they already see a shrew with a moustache dropping the last lump of earth on the grave of their hopes. Horrified, they always start from the beginning, although the time for beginnings has long passed."
Stunned less by the force of the slap then by the shift in her world-view, Hildra's subject gathers her dishevelled robe and gets up.
Zorba continues: "I will continue with what I've begun: I'll stay right here where I am.
Still silent, the former priestess watches him with an amethyst gaze of many meanings.
"I say", says the former lieutenant, "A good beginning is contained in a good ending."
Davor Slamnig, 1982.
Translated by the author