In the beginning, the world was made of ashes. Decomposed, dead, and unorganized, only the fragments remained. Lacking life, and tinged with darkness, the world retained a grey smoky appearance. But within the lifeless cadaver of the world, there remained an egg whose radiance was that of an opal.

Vivid like lightning, elegant like an army of peacocks, the arrow of light strikes the silver surface. Twirling and dancing, it glimmers on the marble, casting an array of stars, whose shades contain the definition of life. Against the dark, the colors gallop, and leap and bring form to the void. The luminous sperm, containing the spark of fire, ready to birth light in a world of ashes, permeates through the shell and germinates in the center.

The cascading colors, which spring and bound , pause. The calm, celestial exterior has a hairline fissure. Multiplying, increasing, growing, reproducing, the cracks abound. The egg, which was bathed with the steady dew from above, begins to burst.

With gentle, feeble motions the angel pierces the egg. In a moment, the shell gives, and a geyser of light and life bursts. With a beauty that transcends the capacity of words, the angel ascends to the air. Ornamented with feathers made from emerald, ruby, and aquamarine, the serpentine angel flies. With wings endowed and blessed with the breath of life, the angel swallows the void from which it birthed. With a ravenous jaw, the angel gulps the infertile ashes, the stillborn seas, and the earth whose heart stopped.

In sharp convulsions, the angel heaves. And in an instant, its glorious conquest is cut short. The emerald plumages fall to the earth, and from it are born trees, grass and all form of plants. The aquamarine feathers touch the womb of the ocean, and from it are birthed fishes, and great whales. The ruby plumes fall onto the earth, thus creating humans, beasts and all creatures whose blood is crimson. But beyond the vision, a faint, but clear voice can be heard.

This is the way the world will be created.

The vision dissipating, a steady thump-thump-thump is heard. As if providing a drumbeat to order and give form, this rhythm continues. Darkness is only seen. But the resplendent colors emanating from the angel engrave themselves into their mind. The euphoria felt upon gazing at the hatching egg induces a feeling of warmth that surrounds their body. However, in a gradual manner, their mind begins to quicken to another vision.

With each thump-thump-thump the vision gets clearer, as if obeying a life-giving metronome through which a land is constructed. Overlooking an ocean of grey, there are confused messes of stone, arches and caves, all jutting out of seas of ruin. Centered in the midst of the melancholic landscape rests a nest, like a mound of ribs pointing to the sky. In the very center of it lays a pedestal with an empty basin and  a sliver of light peering into it. Looking around at the rib-shaped columns, each dreary pillar seemed to yearn and beg for the egg to satiate their desire to see the egg blossom with life.

In a moment, the vision disappears with a final look at the nest, burrowed in a wasteland filled with ashes, charcoal, swallowed in overcast skies and seas. However, the dream begins to fall apart. Like bread disintegrating in water, the individual pieces of the vision fragments and crumbles as the steady thump-thump-thump dissipates.

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With a sharp electrical shock, the mind is aroused out of the hazy ruminations and revelations. The fluid that surrounded them has lost its warmth. The steady rhythm  that has conducted, and communicated to them, has gone silent. Quietly, their throat begins to itch, and burn. With several tugs they feel a round, smooth object near their breast. At this moment, a dead vibration is felt, and the fluid drains. With the draining comes air, piercing cold which envelopes the fleshy cavity that opened itself up. With another lifeless convulsion, they are pushed out.

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The orphan is pushed out, and is pierced to the core by the cold, still air. The lungs, which desperately cry  out for air, are filled with icy fire. With a feeling of relief, mixed with agony the orphan lets out a cry similar to those of an old woman.

Confused, the orphan crawls, undoing the fleshy tendrils and bonds which have formed over it. As each husk of flesh peels off, the fresh naked body is exposed. Scales, as if made from bone, and colored as rotten meat cover the body.

The water, which timidly laps the beach, aggressively freezes the orphan as the amniotic fluid is gently washed off. The black, jelly-like fluid, which runs from the birth canal, tinges the water, making the waves look like obsidian, which cuts through the orphan. With the pain being overbearing, the orphan collapses from the elbows, and lets the needle-tongued water lick at their face.

As the water washes the remainder of the afterbirth that covered their face, the orphan becomes accustomed to the pain caused by the cold. With energies recovered, the orphan rises, and looks at their surroundings.

The water is calm. The beach is made up of smooth, round pebbles and stones. The sky is hazy, mixed with fog. There is light rain. There is blood. There is mother.

At the base of the orphan lies a mass of pale, blue-colored flesh. Washed out on the beach, spread out is mother. A mass filled with features both definable and indefinable line the behemoth. At one end there are several appendages, which look like feathered serpents, only if the feathers were replaced by tentacles. At one end are three protruding lips, long and stretched out. As a whole, these three members resembled a peeled, rotten banana. The insides are  pink colored, and bristled with whip-like tentacles and whiskers, as if concealing a horrifying face at the base. At the other end there is a mess of tendrils like tangled grass. Along the sides are various protruding fins, lined by long, sharp spines connecting sails of decaying, webbed skin. At the center lay the empty birth canal, draining with black blood, and spilling over with membranes and black flesh.

Subsequently gazing upon the host that sustained them, they began to unravel the ash-colored sinuous tissue holding the orphan’s legs. The umbilical cord is noticed, and with a tug the orphan tries to separate it. Noticing that they are anchored, they tug and pinch at it, with adult strength. After some effort pinching, the cord is cut. Freed, they collapse, facing the monstrous cadaver of their mother.

Upon recovering, the orphan looks at the birth canal, and notices something white within. At putting their hand into the soft flesh, they pull out a radiant egg big enough to fill one’s breast. The egg, covered in ink-colored afterbirth, shines with the radiance of an opal. At this, the orphan remembers the dreams that they had previously. Upon finding the meaning of the egg, and the scope of their destiny, the orphan hears a bestial cry. Looking up, they see a figure in the distance.

Dressed in drab garb, with a covered face and armed with a club, the figure –who looks like a man– sprints towards the orphan. Screaming like a woman acquainted with loss and rage, the man waves the club with a sullen madness.

Alarmed and ready to defend themselves and the egg with which they have been entrusted, the orphan places the egg where they found it, and runs to approach the man.

As the orphan comes closer, the figure strikes down their club to meet the orphan’s head. In an instant, the orphan crosses their arms above their head to absorb the blow. The slimy, bony scales chip as they absorb a majority of the impact.

At having his attack blocked, the man kicks the orphan in the gut, pushing them away. As the orphan regains their balance, the man jabs their chest with the pointed end of their club, smashing a scale, and causing a laceration on the skin underneath.

The force of the jab and the sharp pain of the blow cause the orphan to fall backwards, becoming prey to a potentially fatal blow. However, the lunatic does not deliver the final blow but instead begins to run towards the corpse washed up on the beach.

As the manic wanderer nears the corpse, they land a savage blow on the mother. Unsatisfied, another blow lands in  the same spot, causing the pale-blue skin to burst. At the sight of the blood, the man begins hacking at the corpse in a senseless rage, filling the dank air with the screeching of a damned soul. Wanting to defend their egg, the orphan sprints towards the man as the carcass is violated in a sickened fashion.

They hurl their body onto the man, halting the assault. The man uses both hands to swing the club, hitting them at their side. Several more scales break, and more lacerations are made as they are hurled across the corpse. As they land on the carcass, they break one of the larger spines protruding from the monstrosity, causing an audible snap.

Undeterred, the madman continues to beat upon the body of the mother as his clothes are splattered and stained by inky blood. Moreover, with each swing of the club, the maniac comes closer to hitting the fleshy crevice where the orphan hid their egg.

Determined to protect the egg, the orphan tears out the spine from the carcass, and charges forward, wielding the spine.

With a thrust to the man’s turned back, the spine pierces the black, stained clothes and gives birth to a well of crimson blood.

With a buckle of the knees and the collapse of the club, the stranger crumples and falls into gore that was abused.

Glittering like moon-light, against a sea of coal and rust, the orphan pulls the egg out of the tides filled with ebony and carmine. Walking away some distance, the orphan sits on the drab beach, nestling the egg against the body. Feeling the stab caused from the blow, they press their black, blood drenched palm against the wound. In a miraculous fashion, the blood from mother closed the wound. Alarmed, the orphan feels the soft, wrinkled skin that sits beneath the scales.

After resting for some time, the orphan feels their skin itching. As if by instinct, they begin to tug at the rough, bony scales, and one by one the scales fall off revealing bare skin. Naked, the orphan lets their skin breathe. Though being newborn, it is wrinkled like leather. Now fully exposed, the air feels colder, and needing warmth, the orphan decides to loot the clothing of the slain person.

Upon putting on the clothes, the orphan feels an object underneath. Pulling it out, glistening in the light, the orphan finds a shard of an opal that lost its luminescence. Recognizing it as an egg-piece, the orphan thinks about the intentions of the man and his rampant blows on the corpse.

They replace the shard in the pocket, and, anticipating more threats to them and their egg, they snap off another spine. Fashioning from an article of the man’s clothing, the orphan creates a type of sling to carry the egg over the stomach. Once the egg is in the sling, the orphan appears laden with child, however their movement is not impinged. Ready, the orphan looks inland for their destination.

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Steadily, the orphan leaves behind the great mound of motherly flesh and heads inland, in search of the great nest constructed out of ribs. The landscape is barren and malformed, and looks like a land abandoned mid-creation by a god, or like some skeleton of a realm whose memory is lost in the dust. Steep, grey crags line the earth, while derelict masses of iron and stone act as sentinels over whittled mountains. Waves of fog and smoky mist beat themselves on the chiseled mountains as gnawed towers made of rock and rust watch. All around are black monstrosities made of charcoal, bursting out of the earth, with frozen tentacles as if praying to a dead sun.

Though the light shines through bleak clouds, darkness seeps from within the shadowy eye sockets of caves that line the mountains and towers. The darkness tinges the light with a deathly shade that suffocates the landscape. Silently, the gaping jaws of the grottos wail to the orphan, crying for the flash of ruby, emerald, and aquamarine feathers.

As the orphan ploughs through the dust, they arrive in a clearing, jammed in the middle of steep, skeletal peaks filled with caverns. The winds quiet as the orphan navigates around a herd of deceased iron toads, whose rusty skeletons hint of an age gone by. Cautiously moving in the open ground, weary of rogues bent on destroying the egg, the orphan moves. As the orphan moves slyly between each toad, a girl’s shriek is heard, reverberating through the still silhouettes of the peaks.

Alerted, the orphan moves quickly to find the source of the sound. With the spine at the ready, they pace until someone asks “Are ya lost?”

With frozen blood, the orphan pauses, and changes their offensive stance to a defensive one as they turn to face the voice.

Sitting on the ground, with a back propped against the rusty side of a toad, rests a man looking at them. Dressed in black, and covered with dust, the man stares at the orphan with shiny, beady, blue eyes. Most alarming is the man’s elephant trunk, growing between the eerie eyes, and extending over his shoulder to the back. At his side, is a roughly hewn sword made of stone and rusty iron.

The man, feeling the orphan’s tension, gives a hearty laugh. “I’m only toying with ye,. Besides, I know yer lot, yer with an egg. Yer not lost, yer looking for that nest. Yes, yes, yes, yes that nest, aren’t ye?”

The orphan doesn’t flinch, but they remain defensive, guarding their egg. At the orphan’s silence, the man sighs, and says with a sad, menacing tone, “Tsk tsk tsk…It’s a shame… I mean really, ya’ve come all this way to this god-forsaken valley, all for the sake of a little dream. Tell ye what, have ye ever wondered if that was never nothing more than a dream, that it was nothing more than a fantasy? How do ye know if an angel lives in that there egg?”

The orphan looks at the man with an insulted expression, as if retorting that in a dead world dreams are worth dying for. Irritated, the man responds, “Ah is that ya answer? Well tell ye what, when ye make it to that nest, I’ll bust ya head in along with that egg! Then ye will see that this egg is nothing more than a dream in a dead world…. Just ye wait, I’ll shatter your world right when yer back is turned.”

Hearing the emphasis on the word “shatter,” and remembering the egg fragment in their pocket, the orphan pounces the man with their spine. The man guffaws in a demented fashion, as the spear pierces the torso and snaps. The man does not even budge, and not even a trickle of blood stains the jacket. Instead, the man continues his laughter, without raising his glassy, blue eyes at the orphan.

Confounded, the orphan abandons the spear and quickly grabs the man’s stone sword and takes off, not looking back once.

When night falls, the orphan, takes rest inside one of the many caverns strewn across the wasteland of ash and rubble. Exhausted, they crawl into a part of the cavern shielded from the winds, permitting absolute silence.

Thinking about whether an angel lives within the egg, the orphan undoes the sling holding it to their stomach. The egg, sticky with sweat from the pilgrimage is warm. Holding it they feel its mass and conclude that it’s not hollow. Emboldened, the orphan holds the egg close to their ear. The orphan hears breathing, almost as if it was panting. Listening more closely, the orphan can hear a faint, quick heartbeat, but it quietly slows down to a calmed rhythm. With the orphan’s anxieties calmed down, they hold the egg in their lap, and as they sleep they pray for the egg, and for the angel inside.

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Clutching the egg as an infant, a source of life for themselves and the world, the orphan continues. Going from one morose mountain range to another, they arrive at their destination. Looking over from the top of a peak, the orphan spots the sinister gaping teeth making up the nest. The ribs, arrayed in a circle, point inwardly and from up high they look like the mouth of some hellish predator. As the orphan cradles their egg, the ominous fangs flash their warning.

Steadfast, the orphan treks through a valley filled with caves with thin walls that are filled with ash and dust. Rust colored toads litter the washes and ravines. When the orphan arrives at the gates of the nest, they are taken aback by their appearance. Whereas the entire landscape is littered with ugly stone and iron façades, the rib-like structures are in fact delicately chiseled and detailed. When looking up, the orphan is able to notice the fine stonework as far up the pillar as they could see. Besides the columns, there is strange webbing, as if made from stone, connecting the pillars to the rest of the structure. The structure itself is an immense cave system, with numerous chambers. Oddly enough, this cavern seems more organic, as the stone and steel had a fluid, almost lifelike form. As the orphan proceeds through the cavern, they remains alert for any signs of rogues.

Arriving at the center of the nest there is a large clearing. The brooding rib-like structures tower overhead, blotting out nearly all light. In the center sits an altar with a basin. From this basin, there remains a visible band of light, slim as a golden hair.  Surrounding this altar is a weak grey light that revealed the rubble covering the arena.

Anxious, the orphan moves towards the altar, stepping over rubble, and occasionally cracking something underfoot. As the orphan moves closer to the lit altar they notice various stars twinkling on the ground. The orphan steps into the grey light, noticing that the stars are turning into pieces of moonlight. Looking at the radiant, opal fragments that they have been stepping on, the orphan freezes, and they grasp their sword. Fearing that they strolled into a rogue haven, the orphan quickly moves to the altar while eyeing into the abyss surrounding them.

Upon reaching the altar the orphan quickly and quietly undoes their sling and grabs the egg. With a kiss, wishing glory and life to the egg and the heavenly fruit within, they place the egg inside the basin on the altar. The thin, stream of light hits the iridescent surface.

The lone celestial archer lets go of the arrow of light and sends it forth. Prophetic like a comet and imposing like an army of ravens it flies, hitting the marble surface. Coiling and fading, the light sparkles on the ivory, creating a cascade of light, whose shades dissipate ever eerily. Against the dark, the colors proceed, and fall, conforming to the void.

The cool, luminous exterior has a hairline fissure. Multiplying, increasing, growing, reproducing, the cracks abound. With a sign of collapse, the exterior breaks.

Where the light pierced the shell, thick black oil emerges and leaks down the side. The sacred purity of the white eggshell is further profaned by another black tear that oozes down the side.

The egg caves in on itself, with oily black liquid bathing the once prismatic exterior. In a moment, the once divine sphere collapses in a dark mess. In the middle of pile are several thin twisting wires, along with various metallic bits.

Nestled in the center of the winding wire cage is a lump of black flesh with no identifiable features, except maybe for a wing or an arm here, and a beak or a head there.

Wide-eyed the orphan stares at the hideous, mechanical heap that drips down the altar. In that instant, the orphan hears a loud, wicked laughter from behind.

Sharply turning, the orphan sees the man with the glassy, blue, beady eyes. The man is lying against a pile of rubble, with the snapped spine left in the middle of his torso, without a drop of blood.

“I’ve warned ye damn bastard! Now I’ll bust ye head in along with that egg!”

With primal rage the orphan tosses the soiled remains on the altar to join the other remains on the floor. Grabbing their sword, the orphan sprints towards the man, who remains sitting and laughing maniacally.

With an overhead smash the orphan bashes in the man’s head, ushering in a fountain of blood and gore. Looking at their aggressor, the orphan looks at the crippled body of the man. The head is no longer recognizable, but the demented laughter continues. With another bestial roar the orphan continues the attack until the man’s corpse is reduced to a red stain in the darkness. During the attack, significant portions of the sword break off, rendering it a club. Now a bent piece of metal with a chunk of stone on top, the orphan runs away from horrors that they encountered.

Drunken on rage, the orphan’s eardrums ring with a choir of sirens as they rush through the building to emerge outside. With their body and soul awash in the corrupted ecstasy of the hatching, the orphan looks above to see a whale ornamented with arrowheads in the sky. As the arrowheads fall from the whale onto the iron toads, the orphan sees them shedding their rust and appearing as an army scarab beetles. Walking through the crags and peaks as more arrowheads fall, the orphan sees the gray rift transform into canyons made of still water harboring spirits of the dead.

The sickening black tentacles, protruding out from the earth, once hit by the arrowheads, transform, mellowing the color and hue of the tentacles into a smooth hazel. Each tentacle festers with green feathers that rattle as the wind approaches. Most shockingly, the hydras then expose their own profane genitalia, colored as blood, urine, and asphyxiated corpses, hidden among the alien, twisting green feathers.

Sickened by the inebriate visions, they cover their face with the wrapping used to cradle their hopes. But with darkened vision, they see horrors that only night has courage to show.   Blinded and bewildered, the orphan wanders aimlessly as the dead ocean of ash and decay flowers with life, provided by the spirits of the dead. With each passing step the orphan unknowingly follows the villainous whale to the edge of the world.

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After following the grotesque whale in the sky for can be an eternity, the orphan notices it disappearing in the horizon. With eyes accustomed to seeing darkness and seeing through the mask, they purposelessly move forward until they arrive at a beach filled with dark, round pebbles without a grain of sand. As the orphan looks up to study what is on the beach, their joints and members halt. There it is.

Nestled on the sand is the body of a naked, fair pregnant woman. With skin colored as a shade of sky blue at daybreak, she lies motionless as a glimmer of light flashes for a moment over her swollen stomach. With a confused look, the orphan squints and stares at the glimmers of light coming from the body.

Coming from a pearly white egg, the orphan recognizes the glare. There is the angel. And in an instant the light disappears as the orphan gives a lamentable cry.

Remembering the vision of the angel, and the world that the angel would birth through the egg, the orphan is overcome with despair.

Remembering the jet-black tear that profaned the virginal whiteness of the egg and the violation, and betrayal of the vision, the orphan begins to run towards the body on the beach.

Remembering the hope that guided them, and the deception that the egg held within its immaculate shell the orphan screams, brandishing the club in their hand.

Coming closer to the drained body, the orphan sees a creature running towards them. Having the figure of a man, but being covered in molar teeth, and black sludge, the creature meets the orphan.

With the creature coming closer, the orphan uses their momentum to swing their club overhead. In a second, the creature crosses their arms overhead and absorbs the blow with a sickening crack.

Vexed, the orphan kicks the creature in the stomach, staggering it. As the creature recovers, the orphan coils their arm and shoulder to thrust the club into the chest of the creature. The thrust breaks and pierces the molars covering the body, causing the creature to fall backwards.

Unconcerned with the creature, and obsessed with the egg, the orphan runs forward to the grotesque goddess.

Arriving at the body, and nearing to where they think the womb is located, the orphan swings the club into the flesh of the woman. The first blow leaves a bruise. At this the orphan swings again, chopping into the body.

In an instant, the delicate face, the smooth, silky hair, the soft curves, and the alluring beauty of her naked body is transformed as the bruises blossom into an inkwell of blood.

With the blood bathing the face of the orphan, the orphan opens their eyes and sees the body for what it really is.  Upon seeing the monstrosity as the whale that they followed, they begin to more savagely hack at the body, looking for the egg that has cursed them. As the blood-stenched air fills with the screams of the orphan, they are knocked back by the creature from behind.

At this, the orphan holds onto their club and takes a final swing to the center of the creature, knocking it back, this time for good.

Infuriated with the egg, and the demon inside, the orphan continues their assault, hoping to find solace and retribution in finding the egg. They begin to wade inside the flesh and black blood, feeling for the egg with the dull edge of the club. As the orphan beings to make another swing they notice a spot of ivory timidly peeking out of the black gore.

Finally arriving at this point, and relieved to be able to end the nightmare that they were borne into, the orphan prepares a final strike. With legs and shoulders squared, the orphan raises the bloodied club into the air.

In a second, the orphan feels a quick burning pierce their chest as they see a spear emerge in their breast. Coated in the scarlet liquor, they drop the club and collapse into the body which they so savagely attacked.

As the light drains from the orphan’s eyes, they stare at the moonlight dancing, and taunting them with life in the dark.

ORPHAN

Dustin rector

Dustin Rector is an undergraduate senior at NAU, studying English with a certificates in Rhetoric and Literature. Dustin will be attending law school at ASU and hopes to become a lawyer focusing on Indigenous law. Though he is used to heavy academic writing, he enjoys writing short stories and poetry. His hobbies include going into rabbit holes on any subject, cooking, practicing Portuguese, playing video games, and enjoying the little things in life.
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