The Children of Gods by MM Schreier

The soldier bellowed as he scrambled from the foxhole. He couldn’t hear the commander’s orders in the chaos. It didn’t matter—the frenzied momentum of the platoon swept him along. Heart pounding, he charged through red-tinged mud. Around him battle cries turned to screams of pain. He raised his weapon and aimed at the enemy with savage glee. Roaring, the earth exploded beneath him. Dirt and flesh rained down. All went silent.

They’d been arguing about it for an eternity.

“You see what they’ll do to each other.” His face twisted, his lips puckered as if tasting something bitter. Five light-years away, a star erupted in solar flares, mirroring his annoyance.

She didn’t answer. Instead, she reached out with her pail and scooped up asteroids, meteorites, stardust. Settling cross-legged, she poured it out before her. She let the debris slip through her fingers before gathering it up into a loose ball.

He held up a hand in warning. “Don’t!”

She ignored him and squeezed. Her eyes burned, fiery red. She opened her palm to reveal a molten sphere. It hovered as she drew her hands away—swirling magma and leaping flames. She smiled.

He sighed and tapped his foot. “Why do you insist on pursuing this folly?” Solar wind around the azure sun streamed plasma into space. She shot him a warning glance. His foot stilled, and the wind died.

“How can this be what you want?” He waved his hand.

He pinned the woman against the building. His hand clamped around her wrists, stretching her arms above her head. The alley reeked of piss and garbage. She tried to scream, but his mouth crashed down on hers, stealing her breath. He tasted like stale whiskey and cigarettes. Her struggles aroused him. He tore at her clothing, his rough hands prying her thighs apart. When he finished, he pulled out a knife, looking to sate a different hunger.

She blinked hard, and waves crashed in her eyes. A tear dripped off her chin, splashing down on the burning sphere. With a hiss and a puff of steam, it cooled. The fire quenched, and the ball swirled with blue seas.

He folded his arms across his chest, glowering. A thunderhead blotted out the sun. She made an exasperated cluck with her tongue and bowed her head over her work. Taking a pinch of dirt, she sprinkled it on the watery globe. Her eyes flickered in a rainbow of earthy tones—rich soil browns of the soil, shifting amber sands, the sparkling grey of granite. Across the orb, the waters receded. Islands grew to continents.

Cotton candy clouds marched across blue eyes as she breathed on the floating sphere. It spun in a gentle orbit. The oceans surged, tides rising and falling. She giggled in delight as the Trade Winds blew.

Despite himself, his lips curved into an indulgent grin.

She looked up, and he hardened his expression to stern disapproval.

“There’s still time to put a stop to it. Don’t put this on your conscience.”

The child’s belly was bloated, round and tight below prominent ribs. His stick-like legs splayed out in front of him, too weak to prop him up. A filthy rag covered his hips, buzzing flies drawn to the stench. His chest rose in a shallow, syncopated rhythm. Unblinking, his dark eyes fixed on a plump woman strolling down the street. Bright skirts swirled through the dust, and a basket overflowing with flat rounds of bread hung from her arm. She stiffened and squared her shoulders, turning away from the small emaciated form. Deliberately not noticing when the ragged breathing ceased.

She closed her eyes as the needle flashed. He reached for her, but she yanked her hand back. A silver drop of blood glistened on her fingertip—a shimmering bead of mercury. He glared at her.

“Why? With all you’ve seen, why?”

For the first time all afternoon, she spoke.

“Because I’ve also seen this.”

The lamp burned bright, banishing the shadows as the nurse wove between the beds. She paused to smooth a brow here, grasp a hand there. With an encouraging smile, she checked bandages and offered sips of water. In the hush, gruff voices whispered blessings and gratitude.

A painter lay on his back on the scaffolding, clutching a brush to his chest. His fingers were stained cobalt, gold, and jade. He stared at the chapel ceiling, surveying his work. It was finished.

The dress had been her mother’s. The bride spun, a twirling waterfall of white satin. She collapsed in the arms of her bridesmaids, laughing and bright-eyed.

A stranger pulled the child from the river and held her to his chest. “Shhhh, sweetheart. You’re safe now.”

The lights dimmed. In the darkness, the first notes from the orchestra took flight.

A mother snuggled her newborn to her breast, her heart swelling.

“Enough! You’ve made your point.” He rubbed his temples and stared down at the shiny blood dotting her fingertip. She reached her hand towards the globe, but he plucked at her sleeve. “All that beauty doesn’t negate the evil.”

She pulled free to shake her hand above the spinning orb. Drip. The droplet of blood fell free. As it splashed down on the globe, it crackled with energy. Her eyes flashed silver; tremors ran through her body. The quivers became wrenching shudders. He held his breath but didn’t dare interrupt.

Abruptly, it was done. Irreversible.

“You’re an idiot.” He forced himself to frown at her. It wouldn’t do to let her see his pride.

She stared at the globe, still hovering, slowly rotating. “They’re perfect.”

He snorted. “They’re not even amoeba yet.”

“But their potential…it takes my breath away.”

“Come on. Put it away. Mother will kill you if she finds out.”

She snatched up the blue-green marble and tucked it into her pocket. He grabbed his little sister’s hand, and together they went home to supper.

MM Schreier is a classically trained vocalist who took up writing as therapy for a mid-life crisis. Whether contemporary or speculative fiction, Schreier’s favorite stories are rich in sensory details and weird twists. A firm believer that people are not always exclusively right- or left-brained, Schreier manages a robotics company and tutors maths and science to at-risk youth in addition to creative pursuits. Recent publications can be found in The Corona Book of Science Fiction, OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters, Page & Spine, and Tales from the Moonlit Path. Additional listings can be found at Schreier’s website.