The stone god awakens, p.1

The Stone God Awakens, page 1

 

The Stone God Awakens
 


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The Stone God Awakens


  MILLIONS OF YEARS HENCE . . .

  The Earth was desolated. Fiery winds wrapped it. The polar caps had melted, and earthquakes, exploding volcanoes, and crumbling coastal masses had changed the face of what land was left.

  There was no explanation for what had happened or for what had caused the global holocaust. Possibly, the huge luminous teardrops that tore through the smoke covering the seared earth were the cause. But there was no one to explain. . . .

  The teardrops appeared again and hovered . . . for a while. None took any action, except one: it loosed energy bolts that burned out the little tree containing the forty survivors of homo sapiens.

  PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER

  has also written :

  BEHIND THE WALLS OF TERRA

  LORD OF THE TREES

  THE MAD GOBLIN

  THE WIND WHALES OF ISHMAEL

  THE

  STONE GOD

  AWAKENS

  Philip José Farmer

  v1.0

  Scanned and Proofed

  by Neugaia (#Bookz)

  [30/04/2002]

  ace books

  A Division of Charter Communications Inc.

  A GROSSET & DUNLAP COMPANY

  360 Park Avenue South

  New York, New York 10010

  THE STONE GOD AWAKENS

  Copyright © 1970 by Philip José Farmer

  All Rights Reserved.

  First Ace printing: November 1970

  Second Ace printing: July 1973

  Third Ace printing: February 1979

  Printed in U.S.A.

  He awoke and did not know where he was.

  Flames were crackling fifty feet away. Wood-smoke stung his nose and brought tears. Somewhere men were shouting and screaming.

  Just as his eyes had opened, he had seen a piece of plastic falling from under his arms, which had been extended before him. Something struck his knees lightly, slid down his legs, and fell onto a stone disk beneath him.

  He was sitting on a chair—his desk chair. The chair was on the seat of a huge throne carved out of granite, and the throne was on a round stone platform. There were dark brown-red stains on the stone. The thing that had fallen was a section of the desk on which he had been leaning when he had passed out.

  He was in one end of a large building of gigantic logs, wooden pillars, and huge overhead beams. Flames leaped along the wall toward him. The roof at the other end had just caved in, and the smoke was carried away by a vagary of the wind. He could see the sky outside. It was black, and then, far off, lightning flashed. About fifty yards away, lit by the flames, was a hill. On top of the hill were the silhouettes of trees. Fully leafed trees.

  A moment ago, it had been winter. The deep snows had been piled around the buildings of the research centre outside Syracuse, New York.

  The smoke curled back and blocked off his view. The flames leaped higher and outward toward the many long tables and benches and the thick pillars supporting the roof. These looked like totem poles with their weird carved heads, one on top of the other. The tables held dishes, beakers and some simple utensils. A pitcher, turned over, had spilled a dark liquid onto the nearest table.

  He stood up and coughed as smoke tentacled around his head. He got down off the seat of the huge throne, which, now that it was lit by the approaching flames, was revealed as a red and black quartz-shot granite. Bewildered, he looked around. He could see the edge of a partly open door—a two-sectioned door or gate—and outside were more flames and bodies struggling, swaying, falling, and more shouts and screams.

  He would have to get out of here before the smoke or the flames overcame him, but he also did not like running out into the battle. He crouched on the stone platform and then stepped down onto the hard earthen floor of the hall.

  A weapon. He needed a weapon. He felt in his jacket pocket and came out with the switchblade. He pressed the button, and the six-inch blade shot out. It was illegal to carry a knife of this length in New York of 1985, but if a man wanted to defend himself in 1985, he had to do some illegal things.

  He walked swiftly through the smoke, still coughing, and reached the two swinging batwing doors. He got down on his knees and looked underneath, since the top of the gate was over his head.

  The flames from the burning hall and from other buildings combined to illuminate the scene. Furry legs and tails, white and black and brown, danced around. The legs were human and yet not human. They bent queerly; they looked like the hind legs of four-footed animals that had decided to stand upright, like men, and so had evolved half-human, half-beast legs.

  The owner of a pair of legs fell flat on his back, a spear stuck in his belly. The man became even more confused and shocked. The creature looked like a cross between a human being and a seal point Siamese cat. The body fur was white; the face below the forehead was black; the lower parts of the arms, legs and the tail were black. The face was as flat as any human's, but the nose was round and black, like a cat's, and the ears were black and pointed. The mouth, open in death, revealed sharp feline teeth.

  The spear was jerked out by a creature which also had crooked legs and a long tail but fur of a uniform brown. And then there was a scream, and the legs staggered forward and fell over the seal point-Siamese-human creature, and the man could see most of the details of the spearman's body. Spearman was not quite the correct word, since he was not a man. He, too, looked as if he had evolved from quadruped into biped, gaining a number of human features along the way, such as a flat face, forward-placed eyes, a chin, humanoid hands and a broad chest. But if the other creature had resembled a Siamese cat, this resembled a racoon. He was brown everywhere except across the eyes and cheeks, which were covered by a black bar of fur.

  The man could not see what had killed him.

  There was no inducement to go outside until the flames would force him. He crouched by the gate and looked through it. He felt dislocated from reality. Or was he in reality, and that hellish scene a fantasy that had somehow come to life in his mind?

  Flame licked at his back. A part of the roof crashed down at the other end of the building. He scrambled out beneath the gate on his hands and knees, hoping to crawl away unnoticed.

  He stayed along the side of the building as smoke poured out around him. It helped conceal him, but it also made him cough and filled his eyes with tears. That explained why he did not see the racoon-faced thing that reeled out of the smoke toward him, his tomahawk lifted. Nor did the man realise until it was too late that the thing was not attacking him. He had just been blundering around, blind because of the loss of one eye, which hung by a thread of nerves, and from the smoke. The creature had probably not been aware of the man until just before he almost fell over him.

  The man stabbed upward, and the blade went into the furry belly. Blood welled out as the creature staggered backward and thus freed himself of the blade. His tomahawk dropped by the man's head. The man watched the thing reel back, clutching at his belly, then half-turn and fall over on his side. Only then did the man realise that the racoon-face had not been intent on attacking him. He picked up the tomahawk in his right hand after shifting the knife to his left hand. He crawled on, coughing as more smoke encoiled him.

  He felt frozen, yet he was capable of acting. The mind was only beginning to warm up; the body cracked its own ice and broke through the shell in a flash of heat. Another racoon-face approached him; this one evidently saw him but not clearly. He squinted through the smoke as he trotted toward the man. He held a short heavy spear with a stone tip in both hands across his belly, and he crouched as if he was not sure of what he was seeing.

  The man stood up then, the tomahawk and knife ready. He felt that he did not have much chance. Alt
hough the furry biped was only about five feet two inches high and weighed maybe a hundred and thirty-five pounds, and he was six feet three and weighed two hundred and forty-five pounds, he did not know how to throw a tomahawk efficiently. And that was ironic, since he was part-Iroquois.

  The racoon-face slowed down as he came closer. About thirty feet away, he stopped. Then his eyes got even bigger, and he yelled. His yelling would have been unnoticed in the general bedlam, but six others—three cat-men, as he thought of them, and three racoon-faces—also saw him. They stopped their fighting to stare, and several called to nearby warriors. These also quit stabbing or chopping at each other, and from this silence a cone of motionlessness and noiselessness spread.

  The man edged toward the ladder. The only one who was close enough to be in the way was the racoon-face who had first noticed him. The others could throw their assegais or tomahawks at him, but he would take his chances on that. So far, he had seen no evidence of bows and arrows.

  The racoon-face moved away as the man came closer, but he was going sideways and so still could get between him and the ladder if he wished. Then the racoon-face moved closer and raised the spear, and the man had to defend himself. He hated to let loose of the tomahawk, but if he kept it, it would not be much of a weapon against the spear. His sole chance was in getting the creature before he came close enough to stab him with the assegai. He threw the tomahawk with all the force he could summon up in his frozen body. And, as luck, not skill, had it, the edge of the tomahawk hit the racoon-face in his neck. He fell backward and lay on his back.

  There was a yell from the spectators, which by now included almost all the warriors. Even the man could tell that the cat-people were yelling with triumph and the racoon-people with despair. The racoon-faces raced for the ladders in a body, throwing their spears and tomahawks to one side. A few made it over the palisades, but most were stabbed or hatcheted in the back before they got to the ladders or while on the ladders. A few prisoners were taken.

  It was only then that the man realised that this racoon-face had not intended to use the spear against him either. He had raised the spear merely to cast it to one side, as if in submission. But the tomahawk had been on its way then. Reality was no tape recorder to be played over again, spliced, or demagnetised.

  The Siamese cat-people crowded around him, though they did not come close enough to touch him. They got down on their knees and waddled toward the man, their hands held out. Their weapons lay on the ground behind them. Their faces held strange expressions; the fur and the round, black, wet noses and the widely separated, long, sharp teeth and the eyes, exactly like those of a cat's, made their expressions unreadable. But their attitudes expressed awe, fear and adoration. Whatever their expressions, they evidently did not mean harm to him.

  The flames behind him grew brighter, and he saw the eyes of some of them glow. The irises were shaped like narrow leaves against the glare behind him.

  One came closer and reached out a hand to touch him. The hand was, apart from being furry, human-like. It had four fingers and nails, not claws. The thumb was opposable.

  He felt the tips of the fingers on his thigh, and that touch seemed to poke a hole through his defences. The night sky, the burning buildings, the log palisades, the bodies of brown and white-and-black-tailed creatures, and, now, the glowing eyes and small faces of children and females looking out of huts. Everything whirled. Around and around. The creature on his knees before the man shouted with terror and tried to scramble backward on his knees. The man fell, striking his shoulder, and lay on the ground while everything galloped by. The one fixed object was the black tip of the thing's tail, which lay before his eyes. It twitched and twitched, and then it grew big and black, and everything was black and silent.

  Light and sound returned. He was on his back on soft furs and some soft substance beneath the furs. Above him was a low ceiling with smoke-blackened beams and dark figurines in wood, tasselled with fur, hanging from strips of leather attached to the ceiling. The room, about twenty feet by thirty, was crowded with the Siamese cat creatures. Those nearest his bed were males, but a moment later a female came through an aisle opened for her by the males. She was about five feet tall and had fully rounded breasts beneath the fur and small hairless areas around the nipples. She wore triple-looped beads of large blue stones around the neck and furry wristbands from which dangled little stone figurines. Her enormous eyes were a deep blue that reminded him of the eyes of a beautiful seal point Siamese his sister had once owned.

  The males wore beads and breastplates made out of bone, and wristlets and anklets with little figurines or geometric figures, and several had feathered bonnets which could have been worn by chiefs in a Western movie. Only a few were armed, and these seemed to be more ceremonial than utilitarian, judging from their decorations and their lightness.

  The female bent over him and said something. He had not expected to understand her, nor did he. The language was not even identifiable as belonging to any of the great language families. There was nothing Germanic or Slavic or Semitic or Chinese or Bantu about it. If it reminded him of anything, it was of the soft-voweled Polynesian language but without glottal stops. Later, when his ear became finer tuned, he heard glottal stops, but these did not mean anything, as they would have in Polynesian. They were as functionless as stops in English.

  Her teeth were those of a carnivore, but her breath was sweet. The tongue looked as if it would be as rough as a cat's. Despite her genuinely alien appearance, he found himself thinking of her as beautiful. But then he had always thought that the Siamese cat was a weird and beautiful creature.

  He got up on his elbow and started to sit up. His knife, caked with blood, was by his side. The female backed away and the males behind her pressed into each other to draw away also. They murmured in awed tones.

  He sat for a moment, his hands gripping the edges of the bed. Actually, he was not on a bed but on a pile of furs inside a niche in the wall. There were no windows, but light came from two open doors at the far wall and from several torches burning in stands fixed to the walls. Outside the door was a mob of males and some females and children. The babies—cubs? kittens?—were very "cute" with their big black pointed ears, round heads, and great eyes. Their tails were not as dark as the adults.

  He got to his feet and for a second was dizzy and then became clear-headed. At that moment, a new aisle opened, and another female came through it. She carried a big clay bowl with painted geometric symbols on its side and a soup of meat and vegetables inside. The odour was very appetising, although not identifiable. He accepted the bowl and the wooden utensil, which was a spoon on one end and a two-tined fork on the other. The soup was rich and delicious, and the chunks of meat tasted like deer or antelope. For a second, he had a vision of a racoon-man having provided the meat, but he decided that he was too hungry to think about that. Despite the somewhat unnerving silence and the intent gazes of the assembly, he ate all the soup. The female then took the bowl away, and everybody stood around as if they were waiting for him to make the next move.

  He walked to the nearest door, an aisle opening for him. The sun had just cleared the hills to the east. He had been out for a long time, especially when he considered that it must have been just from the shock of finding himself in such frightening and unfamiliar surroundings.

  Now that he was thinking more clearly . . . where was he? Where in hell was he?

  The hills and the trees that he could see in the distance looked as if they belonged to the region around Syracuse. But that was all that was familiar.

  The great hall was only half-burned, and the other buildings that he had expected to be nothing but ashes were only half-burned, too. The ground around them was still wet from the rain which had put the flames out.

  Aside from the tremendous log hall, the interior of the palisaded village looked like a seventeenth century Onondaga settlement with its long houses. The ladders and the corpses were gone. A few wooden cages
near the hall held about a dozen racoon-people.

  The gates to the palisade were open, showing fields of corn and other plants outside. Females were working in them while younger children ran about and the older worked with their mothers. Armed males stood guard by the fields; others were on high watchtowers placed well outside the fields and also within the palisade.

  The sun and the blue sky were those that he had known all his life.

  The catmen evidently expected him to do something. He hoped that he was not going to do something that would change their awe into hostility. He was completely bewildered, and he might have gone mad if he had not had a thick bedrock of pragmatism in his nature.

  The only way would be to learn the language.

  He indicated the female whom he had first seen, the one who reminded him of his sister's Siamese cat. He pointed to himself and said, "Ulysses Singing Bear."

  She looked at him. The others murmured and shifted uneasily.

  "Ulysses Singing Bear," he said.

  She smiled or at least opened her mouth widely. A scary smile. Those teeth could take a big chunk out of him with one bite. Not that they were as relatively large as those of a house cat. They were small, really, and the canines were only slightly longer than the other teeth. But they were so sharp.

 
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