The Making of Sacrifice

It’s taken me a while to get back into this, into my Alternative Facts universe and the State of Amarak.

A lot of stuff gets lost in transition, and translation when I write these stories, I’m afraid. I think I go into it a lot more in my article Alternative Facts, where I discuss how this entire thing began, but to summarize the issue with my stories is that the language I attempt to create — the poetics — is by its own evolution very inaccessible, or limited. This is the language and syntax of a people — or populii — that has changed over at least a thousand years, if not more. I just attempt to extrapolate based on what I know, and what little I have read on the matter, and go with it.

But there is another issue as well. After talking about translation, there is transition to consider. I realize that most of my stories in this series are not really standalones as I might have originally planned them to be. I realized after “Freedom” and “The Spectrum” that I was essentially world-building from the roots of “Lost Words.” So here you have my poor readers trying to read my attempts at Newspeak and remember the context of groups and ideas from previous stories in that same vein.

Sacrifice is supposed to be different.

The first draft was very short and it was direct. At the same time, it lacked focus. It referred to other ideas, and it didn’t put emphasis on the Gilder Booms nearly as much as this one does. The Gilder Booms have existed ever since “Freedom” and they get talked about a little more in “Our Secret.” I don’t like to explain my stories, even if I did basically create a whole new language — or a basic attempt at such — for the world of Amarak. But I would like to discuss, briefly, the idea that led to this particular short story or, perhaps, chapter of this dark political speculative landscape.

I was, of course, paying attention to the recent school shootings in the United States. A lot of my friends and peers had been reposting and commenting on various articles. There were two ideas that came to me, one possibly in the back of my mind for a while, and the other more blatant. Let me start with the second one.

I thought about the Gilder Booms, as they are a group in the sub-cult of the Repo Party in Amarak: near or in the Borderlands away from the Repolitik proper. They are the cannon fodder, the militias, that go in and unleash the most bombastic and physical damage on those around them. I began to look at the religion or spirituality I extrapolated and formed around the Repo Party leadership and I wondered what the Gilder Booms thought of their “hallowed armaments.”

At one point, I came across this New York Review Daily article on my social media feed entitled Our Moloch by Garry Wills. It posited the idea that guns and firearms have a god: that this particular one is modeled after, or is, Moloch: an ancient god demonized by Judeo-Christian theology, and ultimately represents human — and especially child — sacrifice. The article, if you read it — and I hope you do — makes its point clear about guns and shootings in the United States along with its victims.

But then, I just couldn’t see the Gilder Booms blatantly worshiping Moloch: even with their time distorted idea of the Bible and folklore. So I thought of a deity that could represent the creation and power of firearms instead, on a warfare level. Unfortunately, Neil Gaiman beat me to it with his American version of the Roman blacksmith god Vulcan in his television series adaptation of American Gods. If you haven’t been watching the series, it is interesting, though I think the novel is better. Even so, Vulcan in that world represents gun deaths, and the military industrial complex of the United States. He is a perfect symbol and I realized I just couldn’t match that.

Even so, it still didn’t sit well with me. Two Mediterranean deities becoming the god of guns just didn’t feel … I don’t know, like they would be a part of Amarak. I tried thinking of Amaraki versions of them, but it didn’t work. And then, I remembered something about how the ancient Greeks, at least, thought of deceased children as heroes: and they were specifically buried in a ritualistic manner to almost deify them. I’d already touched on this in “Freedom” and “The Spectrum,” of course but I wanted to see what the Gilder Booms would do with it: how they would express it, and distort it to suit their spiritual and religious views.

And I realized that perhaps I was going about it the wrong way. The guns didn’t need a god. They already have spirits. It’s true that, in their theology, the Gilder Booms see the spirits of their hallows — as they call them — as extensions or servants of the Lohim, just as the Lohim has divine Masks or aspects representing specific old Amaraki ideas and figures. But I wanted to give the guns a life of their own, an animistic element, that ties them to the idea of nativity as part of the Land or the earth. The hallows themselves are a vessel of the spirits that they have … and the ones that they take.

I’m not sure when I started thinking about the Winchester Mansion. I know there is a film that had been released not long ago about it, and I’d always thought about the story in the back of my mind. It’s strange, when you think about it. I mentioned American Gods, and it has this idea that its holy places are specific focal points in the earth that attracts worship and belief. In America, according to Neil Gaiman’s novel, they are generally tourist attractions: the House on the Rock, and such.

The Winchester Mansion is definitely one of those focal points. It was created by Sarah Winchester, the widow of the man who owned the company that created Winchester rifles: which took many, many lives by design. The legend is that she started building an estate, after the deaths of her husband and child, to appease the spirits of all those killed by the family’s guns … or to get away from their curse. I wanted to find a quote about the Winchester Mansion and Sarah Winchester, but all I could actually retrieve was an old 1911 column about it: which I included as an epigraph in my story.

I … did the equivalent of meditate on that epigraph. I wrote some notes that, unfortunately, I deleted off of my phone. But what I realized was that according to the unnamed writer of the column, Winchester believed all would be well “so long as so long as the sound of hammers did not cease in the house or on the grounds.”

And then I started to think about it. What if the hammers are those in guns? What if the House is something more political? And what if the grounds are the Land, or a State, or a nation? What if Sarah Winchester and her actions, as fact, fiction, legend, or myth were a metaphor for a nation that profits from the construction, and deliverance of weapons? What if there is this large tract of grounds with different passageways leading futilely nowhere, or doubling back on themselves in circular logic, or hiding other secret places from those who would want to find them, or get out? What if there is a place that is made to hide rich people, or entrap the living, and attempts to forget about the growing dead?

What if America is the Winchester Mystery House? It was this idea, this image, that I ran with when I wrote this story, and then rewrote it and honed it down further. Perhaps I failed in telling this story properly in my Alternative Facts universe if I had to go into a digression about it here.

But it reminds me of something the narrator says in “Lost Words” when they are attempting to reconstruct the time before “The First Disunity” and a card game: about how the “House always wins.” And then there is also the idea, that can’t be discounted, of Sarah Winchester attempting to keep building on the House to actually pay restitution to the spirits, even with the problematic means of using the system her family made and the blood money to do so. Part of the column reads that her friends keep “persisting to visit her.” And either way you look at it, there is also that image of Sarah Winchester claiming that all will be well as long as construction keeps going … as long the House and the grounds keep expanding .. or the Land.

Sometimes, some things just speak for themselves, I find.  I hope that you will sleep well tonight. Take care, everyone.

8: Alternative Facts: Sacrifice

“She had told her few friends who persisted in visiting her despite their brusque reception, that she had received a message from the spirit world warning her that all would be well so long as the sound of hammers did not cease in the house or on the grounds.”
— “Winchester’s Widow Dying. Work on Her House in San Jose, Cal., Has Never Ceased,” New York Times, Vol. LX., No. 19497, 1911.

You’re here now, for the Night Terror.

Maybe the Baggers, our brothers, gathered you from your shacks at the Borders, with their prods. Saw your twitchy nubs, or bird eyes. Got libbed from the Pats for your trouble, and sent our way. We know family when we see you. Or maybe you were a Bagger, got us prey — every damn time — for our Great Pratik, and good. If that’s truth, good on you. You’re already one of us: getting your Mas or Fem. Or our Wag brothers and sisters told you about the fire and glory of the Cycle, how we’ll make the Arns see the piss, shit, and blood of the Terror again. And you’ll get that chance, if you’re good enough. And if you’re Nation, well, blood’s only cleaner when you spill it.

The Elders, the Pats, tell us that we’re the real Cycle of the Land, the whole lot of us. There’s Land, Folk, and Fire. No more, and no lack. And while we’re all Family here, it’s us, that are always — always — at the front: moving to the horizon. We’re not at the back or the side.

We’re the ones that ride the Cycle shotgun.

No Wags, no Baggers, no Nation, or Eyes, or Elders. No bullshit.

Just us.

You got that so far? Good. Cause whatever you were fore, you are us now, if you earn it. If you get better. If you live.

How it is, is how it was. There’s one Law. And that’s the Second Law. The Sacred Law, brought down by the Lohim Almighty, the Fathers, the Holy Writ, and the power of the Folk. And that power is the power of the Land.

At the First Cycle, the First Rebbing, the Red Coat Commies — those damned godless Tyrants — drew and quartered the Land — our Land — and our homes, and our bodies to be slave. Their armaments were the Law. And when we rose up, took the Law, and made the Second: taking their armaments, their thunder, as our own. Making them hallow. Making them our hallows.

We’ve been milit and soldered. That’s how the State, our Land, began, and that’s how it’s going to end: at the end of our hallows. It doesn’t matter that the Demos Usurpers and the Arns think they took this Land from us, taking away our Precedent, driving us off to the Borders, taking our hallows. We were the first in, at the ready after earning our fiefs and propers under the Precedent, and the last ones out when the Traitors took them away. They call us Repos, but they’re the thieves. They stole from us everything, but we fight for it back.

And they’ll see truth from our end. The only end.

Land, Folk, and Fire. Only we’re blessed with the duty, the glory, of wearing Gilder, the sheen around our hallows. We are the Hunters of sustenance, our holy power blazing to fill the bellies of our Folk, and the souls of our feeling against the Usurpers. It is our duty. Our right.

But our right must be earned. We’re the ones chosen to hold the Peacemakers, the Desert Birds, the Horses, and the Wind. The rhythm of our hallows are what we think. Fire and smoke are at our knees. The trigger our appeal. Prey in our prayers. It’s truth.

Our brother Wags are the mouth. The Baggers gather. The Nation purifies. But we, and we alone, are the only ones that dare to bear the sacred flame. Our hallows have changed over a thousand, thousand seasons, but the spirits are still the same. And the vessels, in our hands, where they dwell must be purified, must be proven … must be bloodied time and again in the Cycle that is Amarak!

And we enter the Great Pratik in recall of the Old Battles where we pray with our hallows, hunting all prey that is called Abominate. Rainbow scum hiding deep, the disease of the Nats living away from Domes in their Badlands Plague Pits, the dirty One-Backs bred by the Usurpers — these “new Amaraki” — either or any will do.

It’s truth! The Land rebels because it’s hungry. We hold its arms, its branches, its trees. We light its suns held by our sons, young or old-time, Mas or Fem, at the end of the sticks of the spirits to honour the turnings, the ever-turnings, that make the Land go on, to restore what’s true to the Folk: the Law to fight and fight back against those that take from them.

The hallows take all in equal in the end, espec us. The Land demands blood: taken, and offered. To take the thunder of the spirits of the Lohim demands sacrifice of foe and friend and brother. Too many of us have made that rite in Battle, cornered, or in the front. Sometimes the hallows take us at peace, fired off to recall of us its power to take. All the Gens of us …

Even the Young know the power of the hallows. Our Young, they have them at six cycles, gleaning the truth of the Land away from the Lye we will overturn. That’s when our Young start to serve. For blessed are those that meet their end by the hallows in peace: made all the more holy by that of a child. For in fire, they are made divine. In ash, they spread the Land. From the smoke, from what we burn, from what will stamp out in their name, they rise from our trumpets, from the tune of Amarak proper: made true heroes.

May we Gilder Booms take back the power that the Usurpers stole from us … in vain, just as the Tyrants once did, to keep the Land alive, and strong, and its Folk forever. May you, standing here now, prove yourselves, take stand with us, and take back what’s always been ours.

For Land, Folk, and Fire … For the Young. The next Gen … The true heroes of Amarak!

(c) Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2018.