Infected with Objective

Dominican Republic 3 Eyes National

Photo © Hector Navarro via Google Photosphere



Bara had been easy enough to follow. Stupid, undisciplined,  disobedient–no matter how much sense Mato tried beating into him. But the sins of the son were the failures of the father.

With how Bara had been talking, Mato suspected a gang of ne’er-do-wells. Instead he confronted a Grallian cult.

Aha, the reason behind the crop failures, the diseased animals, the stillbirths.

What hubris, thinking he’d grab Bara and escape. They’d overwhelmed him, strapped him to a slimy altar. With disgusting rituals, they sacrificed him to their pestilent god. The whole time, Bara just watched, first wary, then… exultant.

Three days it took Mato to slither from that cave,  barely human. Sunlight blinded his cloudy frog eyes. He flexed a tentacle, grotesque power flowing through him. They’d degenerated his body, but his mind was too strong to dissolve. Mato was still a soldier.

He knew what he had to do.



Word count: 150. Written for this week’s What Pegman Saw writing prompt. Big thanks to Josh and Karen for hosting this interesting challenge!  This week, Pegman takes us to the Dominican Republic. The photo above was taken at Los Tres Ojos (Three Eyes) National Park in Santo Domingo. Click on the link above to see the images other participants found, and the stories they were inspired to write. And as always, feel free to join in!

I didn’t intend the connection between the plague god Gral and our current virus pandemic, but maybe I was unconsciously inspired by our real-life pestilence.  We’ve seen Gral’s followers before on this blog, in the stories Corrupted Call and Vengeance is a Poisonous Prayer. Thank goodness I looked those up, because they feature a character named Marrak, and I had coincidentally named the father character in this story Marek!  I must really like that name. Well, maybe it’s like John / Jean / Johannes in Europe, and a lot of people are named some variant of Marek in this part of Eneana.



 

24 thoughts on “Infected with Objective

  1. More than before, I get the impression of a truly alien culture… and to pull that off is no mean feat. (I do hope that was your intention and I haven’t misunderstood and insulted you in the process 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! And yes, you have the right idea. Gral is a plague deity, and is one of the few gods in the various Eneana cultures who’s never portrayed as a humanoid. I think of it/them like a Lovecraftian god, so bizarre and disgusting and horrible that if you were to actually see it in person, you would go insane. Gral’s followers (and their victims) often end up pretty gross and degenerate themselves, to the point where they might as well be aliens!

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  2. The moment I saw the word “Infected” in the title I thought, COVID-19 relationship? I liked this short story. Boy, there’s going to be some payback by Mato.

    Have you seen the movie “Gran Torino” with Clint Eastwood? I got the same reaction from Mato’s plight. Mato is trying to guide his son (in the movie it’s a son-like neighbor of Clint’s character.) Both adult characters were tough and had been soldiers. They are set upon by misguided juveniles who feel their youth equates to real strength, but it’s only physical that comes from being young and part of a group. Real individual strength comes from years of experience and discipline based on better values. This is one of those wonderful timeless father/son relationships stories.

    But the line that really hit me at an emotional level was this one, “Bara just watched, first wary, then… exultant.” So he’s watching his father hurt, he doesn’t know what to feel but in the end is happy about the events? Is it because his dad the soldier was too hard on him? He feels that finally he’s free of dad’s control and in a way, he’s showing his dad he’s strong within his new family group? A way to show independence by following a different path?

    That simple line made me sad. (You did a great job packing a wallop in 7 words.) I wondered, would he be saved ever? A happy ending would lead to a turnaround, but real life doesn’t work that well. His dad may have tried hard to raise him right and maybe he partially pushed his son away, but maybe the kids just stays with the “gang of ne’er-do-wells?” I actually like that at this point I don’t know. A longer story could have a “don’t give up on him” ending, or a resolution that stings with that of a tragic downfall. The father failing to save his son.

    Well, either way, I hope Mato teaches those ruffians a lesson they won’t forget. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the wonderful and insightful comment, Louis! It’s so gratifying that you manage to gather so much from these few words that I’ve written, especially when you pick up on hints that I always worry won’t come across. I hesitate to explain what I was thinking about the rest of the story – the “author is dead” and all that – but if you’ll bear with me, I’ll give a bit more about the longer idea.

      Yes, I was definitely picturing the father-son relationship being strained in the ways that you mean. The father is a hard man, trying to make his son into the only type of manly-man he understands. The son feels lonely, unloved, and misunderstood, that nothing he does or is will ever be good enough. So the son falls in with bad company because they seem to welcome and even praise him; they give him an outlet for his urge to complain and rebel against the strict rules that he associates with his father. But it’s much worse than I think I got across in the story. Bara is in much deeper than he realizes. The Gral cultists are seriously evil. In the longer story this would be part of, they’ve been secretly poisoning the wells and spreading disease through the crops and wildlife. When Mato sees what’s happening, his fatherly instinct kicks in and he wants to rescue his son, but he can’t. That moment you point out, when Bara just watches, would be an even more powerful turning point in a longer story, I’d think: when Bara has the choice to defend his father and decides instead to align with his new friends, even while they torture and seem to be killing his father. At first Bara is worried that Mato will somehow still lash out at him, but when he sees that his allies are stronger than his father, he feels vindicated, finally proven right. Mato finally sees how much hatred Bara has for him, how lost his son is to him, and realizes that he’s failed as a father. He knows he can never return to normal life in his current condition. And yet, still a soldier at heart, he must do whatever he can to stop the cultists and protect his people, even if it means Bara must go down with them.

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      • Thank you for this. Glad that I picked up some of what you were burying there in the limited word count as prescribed by this weekly challenge. I have to say, what a great exercise to force the writer at one level to really take it down to the bone and to force focus. Not one wasted syllable…

        In reading your detailed background, I’m even more excited for the world you have created in your mind. Love these characters and the relationships you have built. The description of the Gral cultist really gave me a shudder. Love the idea as you replied to another, that Gral is a “plague deity.” So many possibilities there and oh so gross and creepy.

        Now let’s just hope that Gral returns to the pages of your world and leaves ours. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • The short format of these writing challenges really do force careful editing, and this is a great learning tool. But yes, I usually have some longer story and background in mind, and just hope that enough comes across to be meaningful.

        Most of the gods I know of associated with plague or disease are part of a pantheon, and the followers petition the god to keep the disease away from them, and maybe pray to have it rained down on their enemies (which is probably why the plague god may also be the war god). But Gral is different. I’m trying to remember which Lovecraft story I’m thinking about, but the general idea is that Gral’s followers know he’s going to come destroy the world, and they want to be on his good side, so that they get the least bad of the horrific outcomes. Gral grants his high clerics some pretty terrible spells, and they wreak havoc whenever they pop up. Luckily for the rest of the world, Gral and his followers are essentially chaotic and diseased of mind as well as body. So with a few exceptions, what little organized religion they manage to pull off tends to quickly dissolve — sometimes literally, as when all the high clerics turn into mindless goo monsters. Meaning they can usually be defeated by the other more organized magical or military groups, once they’re identified and found.

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  3. What a horrifying god Gral is – no wonder the cult worship him, you wouldn’t want to be on the opposing team, as it were! A very visual and visceral story, Joy. I dread to think what this wounded soldier will do next

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    • Thanks for the great comment, Lynn — glad you liked it! And yes, it’s a pretty scary group of folks who follow Gral, but then, opposing Gral is no picnic either. I think Mato is up for it though: at this point, he feels he has no choice.

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  4. Mwa ha ha ha ha! Ah, the foolishness of the child. Love your little insert in that first paragraph–the fact he’s been beating his kid, it’s no surprise the kid went to find whatever allies would make him “stronger” than his dad. But children can indeed be foolish, as this son will soon learn…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great way to start a comment, Jean! And yes, glad you picked up on that. Dad sees himself as a strict disciplinarian, a real “soldier” at home as well as on the job. But that can quickly morph into what many folks would consider child abuse. Odd to think how prevalent this idea of “spare the rod and spoil the child” was for so long, and now we see how toxic that behavior can be. And yes, lead to children acting out with their own violent tendencies, especially when they’re still young and foolish. Anyway, I’ll step off my soapbox now, but before I do: nobody wins in this story, I’d say.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A wonderfully descriptive piece in which so much is said in so few lines. Emotions and relationships feature highly, especially Bara’s desperate need to be free of the father who beat him and Mato’s eventual realisation that he’d failed his son. I’d love to read the next episode to find out whether Bara sides with the once bullying and controlling father or the repulsive and evil Gral. I’m rooting for the former. Your final line is perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ThHanks Millie, I’m glad this one caught you like that! It was fun to go back and reread it. The conflicted parent-child relationship is a never-ending source of rich story ideas. And I agree, this snippet does seem like one of those that hints at more story to come. Although I’ll confess I’m not sure which way it would go — so many possibilities!

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