Photo © ihohj pho via Google Street View
I watched the new Divine’s expression. They stared at the massive Hall with its countless swirls and spires. Impassivity dissolved into disgust.
“As gaudy as I’d heard. You should never have allowed this.”
Twenty years ago, as third-rank councilperson, I’d voted against it. But as mayor, all mistakes were mine. “Yes, Your Orderly.”
The Divine indicated the stately Entovanite temple, opposite. “The faithful must be horrified.”
Many, yes. Others called it “modern.” I nodded.
Sensing hesitation, the Divine lectured. “One flower in your hat adds beauty. Would one thousand flowers improve that?”
No, Your Orderly.”
They flung their hand dismissively. “Entovan rejects ostentation. Remedy this.”
“But…” I steadied my voice. “All that work, wasted?”
They considered. “Entovan rejects waste. The structure is sound. Remove only the decorations. Give one to each household, matching quality to rank.”
Imagining the endless disputes, I began planning my retirement. Let this mistake be the next mayor’s.
Word count: 150. Written for this week’s What Pegman Saw challenge. This week, Pegman takes us to Santa Ana in El Salvador. Big thanks to Karen and Josh for hosting this challenge, which is always so much fun! I encourage you all to click on the link to read the other stories inspired by the sights in this city, and to contribute your own!
I fear that my title pun is even harder to get than usual, so I’ll just spell it out: the main definition of edifice is a large, imposing building but it can also mean a complex system of beliefs.
World/Story notes: As is so often the case, the “small” story I imagined would have required at least twice as many words. For those who want more clarification: The building they’re examining is the new city hall / government building, which sits across the central square from the (larger) temple to Entovan. Entovan is a deity of order and progress and the religion is associated with great advancements in agriculture, city design, roads, and government, although during the time of this story (toward the end of the Pyanni empire), adherents have decided that past progress was good but new ideas are risky, and have adopted oddly reactionary attitudes. Entovan is a gender-neutral deity* and the adherents and clerics (especially the head Divines) use several types of gender-neutral pronouns, for which I substitute “they/them” given that I’m writing in English.
In an earlier version of the story the mayor was regretting that she’d ever complained about the previous high Divine being scatterbrained and noncommittal, because at least that one was friendly and also didn’t get angry if you occasionally slipped and called them “him”. That version of the story also had the Divine explain that having one (small) monument for each household would be sufficient for them to proper meditate upon without being excessive; the Divine estimated that in a city of this size, there should be enough decorations to cover the top seven or perhaps eight levels of social hierarchy. The mayor correctly imagines how impossible it will be to get most people to agree that the size and quality of the monument assigned to them accurately reflects their exact social rank, once they see the size and quality of the monuments their neighbors have. I also just liked that image, of someone arriving in this city for the first time later on, and seeing every home in the better districts decorated with somewhat-matching pieces of carved stonework, and wondering how that happened.
* To be more precise, all deities in Eneana are gender-neutral given that they have no bodies (and thus no DNA or genitals). But mortals and their religions often impose gender onto their images of the gods and other gods don’t seem to notice or care much.