Part 1 of my latest science fiction short story.
“This crime most heinous shall be punished by death.” He knew they were coming, but the words still pierced his heart like no others. The simple act of defiance had seemed so innocent just 48 hours ago. A single tear rolled down his cheek, and he turned his head to one side, so Sarah and Lucy wouldn’t see. They would rather see him die astride his white horse than fall off. He wouldn’t take that from them, not after everything else he had put them through.
The recently formed death squad were clumsy and slow to finish tying him to the stake, and slower still to light the dry kindling below. Smoke and ash quickly filled the air, blowing directly towards the Gorgesk president and her staff in the cool breeze. The humans in the smokes’ path were starting to squint as their eyes watered, but the Gorgesk were protected by the genetically modified keratin mesh over their eyes. Bastards. The Earth Defence had capitulated just over 3 years ago, but Kursk still had trouble accepting his new rulers. They declared Earth a republic of the Gorgesk Federation of Independence (a loose translation at best), expecting humanity to be happy with the gifts of technology and longevity, but they underestimated how highly humans value freedom and autonomy.
The fire began to lick his boots, which insulated his soft feet from the better part of the searing heat. For now. Little Lucy was looking up at him with a brave face. She was just too young to remember an Earth under human rule. She would not weep for her father for she had already been taught the truth at school; Earth had always been the rightful property of the Gorgesk. To defy them didn’t result in death, it was death itself. A spark rose from the shifting kindling, sailing up ever so slowly on a gust of wind, finally landing on his cotton trousers, which burst into flames. Don’t fall off.
He had trouble believing he was the first human to stand in the path of a Gorgesk minister. How could he have known she was uplinked? When she collided obliviously with his solid, meaty mass she rebounded and landed awkwardly, twisting her spine. Gorgesk and their brittle spines, he cursed inwardly. They had sentenced him to a life of labour on Mars, an existence of exclusion but relative comfort, but after Minister Les’qua passed from coma to death the verdict was quickly revised. The Gorgesk high judge was jittery after hearing the description of Kursks’ actions. It was almost as though challenging the Gorgesk challenged belief.
The firestorm was sizzling his skin now, and crept up his clothes, almost reaching the collar. His face was flushed, and it was only partly from the shame. Don’t fall off. He resisted the urge to squirm as he felt his chest baking from the intense temperature. His blood boiled out and congealed over his stomach like a rich red sauce. The basted body roasted away in a most tantalising manner.
The presidents’ attendant shifted uncomfortably as the smell of the crackling, seared meat reached him. It wasn’t long before the whole attendance was getting restless and looking around. Only the president herself stood impassively. Sarah looked away, embarrassed, unable to meet his eyes. The stake itself had caught alight, infusing the heady concoction with a hint of cedar. One of the Gorgesk guards had lost his stance of attention and stared, salivating, at the grilled human. Kursk was now but a shell of his self, mentally and physically. As he passed, he was thankful the inferno was hot enough to evaporate the waterfall before it could be seen.
Having consumed most of its fuel, the fire began to burn out. The stake broke off at the bottom and rolled across the coals, resting near the feet of President Nah’dok. There was a minute of silence as the crowd looked at Nah’dok expectantly. Sarah shuddered with realisation at what would take place next. She felt no fear, and that terrified her.
Nah’dok took a laser knife from her guards’ belt and bent down. The still scorching flesh was overpowering in every way, fat oozing from holes in the crisped skin. A charred bone protruded from a large hand, which Nah’dok effortlessly liberated. Holding it up to her nose, she breathed deeply. Her skin flushed dark green. She had never been so… ravenous. She sucked on the morsel, gently at first, and was rewarded with a cut of ambrosia. She chewed, and it just melted in her mouth. Unable to control herself, she popped the rest of the plump sausage in her mouth, crunching on the blackened bone. She gave a small squeal of delight as her taste buds were received by the chewy marrow, the best part of all. Closing her eyes, she swallowed and sighed. It was a long time before she opened them.
Remembering she was not alone, she forced herself to stand. “All humans are to return to their dwellings and assemble at the city centre at noon tomorrow. There is to be a grand announcement.” As they filed obediently out of the room, she handed the knife back to her guard. “I want this in my room in an hour. Tell the rest of the inner cabinet to join me. We have a new export.”
Stay tuned for part 2 next week!