A couple of kids go after some odd-looking creature draped in religious trappings. Is it an ideological battle or is this just a post-apocalyptic monster hunt? Let's hear your stories.
This by Sergi Brosa is titled "Wasteland Churches," and Brosa insists that he's not trying to make any sort of anti-religious commentary with it. What sort of story does it conjure up for you?
Here's my story:
If you had any doubt that the monks weren't human, you just had to look at their footprints. Josh had been following them for three days, and when he wasn't searching for water bushes or bracing himself agains the dust storms, he was studying their footprints. It wasn't that the prints were large—Josh had seen men and women on the fringes who dwarfed even the tallest farmer in Goba Loth—it was that they were so deep. On the first day of his journey, Josh stepped into one of the prints and found that the rest of the ground now sat above his ankle.
It made him all the more grateful he had evaded their notice.
As the caravan ahead of him crested the top of the hill, it slowed. Josh sank to the ground, flattening himself against the dry dust until the last monk slipped out of view. He crept the rest of the way to the top and peeked over the hill.
A city rose from the pit, its black towers stretching toward the sky. It was like nothing Josh had ever seen. Back in Goba Loth, houses were made from clay and bamboo. These buildings were made from stone. In the center, one tower rose even taller than the rest, its windows forming the same cross the monks wore on their backs.
This was his chance. Josh popped to his feet and leapt from the top of the hill, eager to reach the doors of the mythical church. But he'd barely taken two steps before something seized his wrist, pulling him back. "Ow!" he cried out as his butt slammed into the dust.
"What in Jesus Marion Joseph are you doing?" a voice hissed down at him. Josh looked up and saw a slim girl wearing a horned helmet. A gold cape flapped from her shoulders and a silver cross dangled from her neck. Two other girls stood behind her, one twirling a trio of energy bombs in her hand.
"Who are you?" he asked.
The horn helmet girl jabbed a thumb at her chest. "We're the Church of Sanctification, and we're here to end this desecration." She nodded down to the stone city.
Josh's eyes widened as he looked to the energy bombs. "No!" He scrambled to his feet. "I need to get in there. I need to ask my boon."
The girl with the energy bombs threw her head back in an exaggerated laugh. "Dust farmer fairy tales," she said and spat on the ground. "You think if you follow the monks into their temple, they'll grant little old you a favor."
Josh grabbed the collar of the horn helmet girl's cape. The material was soft and slick to the touch. "Please," he said. "My sister is sick…"
The girl's palms smacking into his chest felt like a goat kick. "She's not going to be any less sick when you're dead."
The energy bomb girl plucked a slingshot from her belt, slipped a bomb into the rubber bands, and took aim. Josh wanted to run at her, to shoulder her to the ground, but all he could do was watch as the bomb sailed through the air until it was no longer visible and the great pink explosion that came next.