The drums echoed through the night, their steady rhythm muffled, but not silenced, by the ancient woods. The moon shone brilliantly, illuminating the small clearing. The knife rose. The knife fell, plunging through the cock’s ribs, into it heart, quickly muting the sacrifice’s dying scream. The priest breathed deeply and placed the sacrifice into the flames, his own flesh unbothered by the heat that hungrily devoured the beast’s remains, rendering them into ashes.
“O Areop-Enap, I beg of you, please grant me an audience,” intoned the priest.
As the smoke rose into the air, gossamer and serpentine, it slowly took form, coalescing around a bulbous abdomen. Long, spindly legs emerged and solidified. Eyes, eight in number, ignited, filled with an amaranth light. Two pedipalps grew and hung pendulously, dripping eburnean ichor.
The priest fell to his knees, his eyes downwards from both piety and fear. “I have come,” spoke Areop-Enap. “What is it you desire, my servant?”
The priest’s arms trembled. “My Lord, please…please excuse your faithful servant’s impudence, but… But I must ask of you what happens after this world. What lies beyond our mortal lives?”
Areop-Enap’s pedipalps rubbed together. “Ah, what has brought about this curiosity? Do you not already know what awaits you? You imbibed the Truth in your mother’s milk. You sang the Truth as a child in your songs. What else must you know?”
“Yes, my Lord, but… Lately, a stranger has come to us, with his own stories of the next world. He tells lies, of course, but he persuades many with them. As your most devout and faithful servant, I took it upon myself to hear what is true directly from you, so that I might save my brethren.”
“What does this stranger say?” asked the god.
“He says, well, lies, that after death, we pass to a golden castle among the clouds, where each day, men drink wine and eat the finest of meats. From there, we can watch our children and our children’s children grow old, and we will be reunited with our ancestors and the deceased. Our days will be filled with games and play, and nothing shall be impossible to do that we desire. He laughs at the thought of Areop-Enap, and boasts that no bug created the world. He even disturbed the sacred cobwebs, my Lord…”
The god chuckled. “What a foolish mortal, to be ignorant of myself, Areop-Enap. Am I not the Spider Who Laid the Stars? Did I not spin the webs that guide the planets in their orbits? Did I not break open the shell that contained the world, and bring forth the first of mankind?”
“Of course, my Lord. There is none that can compare to you. But the stranger is close, and you are far, and so it can appear that a nearby candle is brighter than the sun itself. Please, bestow the Truth upon me, that I might carry it to my village, that its light might extinguish the stranger’s lies.”
“Very well, I will grant you this boon. Your afterlife will be splendid, indeed. You will once again be reunited with me. Insects abound. There is no light to blind us. Even the stars are dimmed. You shall be bound by my all-embracing, sacred web, wrapped as tightly as your swaddling cloths. Each day you shall await the honor of my consumption, as I liquefy your bodies that I might absorb you into me, and each night you shall be restored for the next day. This is your eternal reward. For the unfaithful, none of this shall be granted to them.”
“Ah. And…that’s it, then?”
“Of course! What else could possibly be desired than to be one with the Weaver of the Universe?”
A sigh escaped into the night air. “Thank you, o Areop-Enap. I have heard what I desired.”
One of the god’s legs reached out and touched the priest’s head. “Accept my revelation, and go forth, my servant. Spread it to the stars themselves.”
The smoke dissolved, sublimating into the darkness. The priest stood up and walked slowly back to his village. He wondered whether the stranger had need of an apprentice.
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