Rocky Understanding


Photo © Joy Pixley

Marrala led his disciple up the secret path to Skull Rock. The boy cowered before the mountain giants’ god.

“Hold your fear. Nobody has been eaten in decades, since we started making monthly obeisance.”

Marrala performed the prayers and rituals.  Bowing, they retreated.

*       *      *

As the sun set, nearby boulders shifted, dislodging years of dirt, coalescing into two creatures.

“You were right, Geb. I’ve never seen so many humans!”

“There’s a swarm in the valley.”

“But this stone is their god?”

“Apparently.  See the resemblance?”

Oggea nibbled on a pine tree.  “Are they edible?”

“Barely. Nutritious bones, but otherwise terribly squishy.  I tried one some cycles ago.  Disgusting.”

“So, only forest skeletons?”

Geb ate another sappy branch. “No, they sacrifice their dead to Mabbedeg, underground.”

“Ah, sacred ground, then.”

Geb stopped Oggea from eating the roots. “Leave the last for Mabbadeg.”


They buried the stump and settled back to silence.

Word count: 150.  Written for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge.  Big thanks to Susan for hosting, and how fun that she chose to feature one of my donated photos this week!  Click on the link to see the other stories written for this prompt, and to write one of your own.

The photo was taken at, yes, Skull Rock in the Joshua Tree National Forest, in Twentynine Palms, California.

As often happens, the story in my head was much longer than I could fit in 150 words. So here’s my postscript:  In addition to covering up what was left of the tree with dirt, Geb and Oggea would have said a prayer to Mabbadeg, along the lines of, “All that is organic dissolves into dirt, all that is dirt hardens to rock. Preserve us and guide us through the sacred cycle.”  Then they discussed when the Meet was — several moon cycles off still – and sat back for another rest.  For space reasons, I also had to cut an amusing exchange in which Oggea asks Geb if the humans can talk and Geb says no, they only twitter at each other like birds.

Update: Oh crap, I just realized I had the wrong maximum word count for this challenge — I could have added 50 more words!  Ah well, I’ve already cut it down and didn’t save the longer version; too late.

31 thoughts on “Rocky Understanding

    • Yeah, that’s the real reason they’re not eating us — yuck! It turns out these aren’t actually “mountain giants” anyway, that’s just what these primitive humans thought. They’re not much bigger than humans, for one thing. Much later, after they’ve eaten up almost all the food on their island, they learn that humans are much better than them at one thing: farming. And thus an alliance is born… Sort of. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, the Deggans aren’t interested in killing off the humans. Why would they care? As long as the humans stay off the Deggans’ sacred island. However, these particular humans are on their island. I happen to know that down the road, there’s going to be an incident. A misunderstanding, really. And then there won’t be any more humans on the island. Problem solved!


  1. Wonderful story! I think my two favorite details were from the deleted content (“All that is organic dissolves into dirt, all that is dirt hardens to rock.” and the bit about humans not talking) so I’m glad you shared that with us,

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was so hard to pull those details out because I really liked them too — glad you appreciated them! Kicking myself for getting the word count wrong, as I could have included at least one of them in the actual story. Thanks for the comment, Joshua!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Well, to be fair, most species are pretty useless to most other species — directly, at least. Besides, humans should be happy that the Deggans don’t want to eat them. I sure would be! Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love the reassuring line about no one being eaten for decades – well, that’s alright then, I guess 🙂 Also like how the humans are depicted as stumbling about, largely oblivious to the detail of what is happening around them – sounds about right! Another great story Joy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lynn! I wouldn’t call it oblivious so much as both sides really misunderstanding the other, which you know always fascinates me. I think it was a little clearer in the earlier (longer) version that this whole ritual started when this guy’s grandfather was eaten, so they wanted to please what they thought was the rockgiants’ god. But it turns out the reason nobody else has been eaten is that they don’t taste good, lol!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well, misunderstanding seems to be at the heart of so many troubles in the world – sometimes willful misunderstanding, too. It’s a fitting subject to be fascinated by and always relevant to our current experience

        Liked by 1 person

      • But that’s one of the great things about genre fiction, isn’t it? Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, can all address serious issues, reflect the past, the present and the possible future through the glass of fiction. It just gives your writing depth and makes it the characters and situations more plausible – well, apart from the magic 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, exactly! That’s one of the things I love most about reading speculative fiction, so I try to write the stories I’d want to read. (Well, I *try* to write like Ursula K. Le Guin crossed with Michael Swanwick, Jeff Vandermeer and Neil Gaiman, but I’ll settle for “stories that people will not mind reading.”)


  3. I story that I really liked. I get confused with the word count to sometimes. Then I twitter like a bird, yes I loved that line, so I just had to use it.🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just wrote a story for What Pegman Saw and had to double-check that yes, that’s the one that’s 150 words. Boy, you’d think I’d have them straight by now! I really like the bird twittering bit, glad you did too! I like trying to imagine how we would look to non-humans, and that would probably be part of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Even without the 50 extra words allowed, this is a fun read. I’m sure it would be even more so if you could include all the parts you describe in your note at the end. Geb and Oggea are great characters – whatever they are!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Millie, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Geb and Oggea are Deggans — creatures the deity Mabbedeg secretly made from the rock of a certain mountain range in Eneana while Kakika was distracted. Mabbedeg was trying to copy the humans and magruks that Eneana “made” but, like Kakika and Zahenalan (other deities who tried the same thing), Mabbedeg missed several details and discounted others as being inconsequential. So the Deggans have no gender, for instance, and procreate by merging with the mountain. Also no noses or ears or necks, and overall quite bigger than they should be, and frankly, the rest doesn’t look very human either. They live a long time, but their thought processes are slower than other mortals, who they perceive as flighty and zippy and largely annoying, They’re fun to write.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aw, thanks Millie! I love fantasy, and hopefully it shows. But I also love science fiction and would love to write that too. So many ideas! Sometimes I’m glad I’ve committed to publishing in the Eneana universe (for now) because it helps keep my new story ideas corralled — well, a bit, at least!


  5. Pingback: The Shape of Stone | Tales from Eneana

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