Welcome to the seventh week of Short Fiction Wednesday, in which I feature the first 1.5-2k of a story from my ebook collection Night Bird Soaring and Other Stories, which features 17 different reprint selections ranging from fantasy to horror to alternate history. If you enjoy what you read here, you can purchase the full collection at Amazon or B&N for $2.99.
This week’s selection returns us to the Aztec alternate history series known as The One World. This story–“Dedication”–first appeared in Dragons, Knights and Angels, and examines how some of the Mesoamerican religious practices have evolved into the future. Human sacrifice still survives strong, and has gained wider acceptance through the use of the Omitzmahuizyoti: people cloned from the general populace to be sacrificed on the temples in place of ordinary citizens. Not everyone agrees with this practice though, and when Quicaltia meets his own Omitzmahuizyoti named Tlacuilo, he’s determined to liberate his twin from his bloody destiny….
The stone serpent’s ruby eyes shimmered in the crisp morning sun, its two-hundred-foot body stretching up the staircase, the head resting at the bottom and the tail disappearing onto the top-most platform. Workers painted its fang-bared face with glittering opalescence. Halfway up the pyramid stretched a band of frescos featuring frogs, fish, and egrets. Only the occasional shuttle flying silently overhead interrupted the clean blue expanse of the sky.
Quicaltia—the monument’s chief architect—counted a hundred and eighty steps as he and the construction foreman climbed the pyramid. “The second one-eighty is on the other side,” the foreman said. “The extra five are over there.” He pointed to the one-story blue temple to be dedicated to the rain god Tlaloc in two weeks. “The goldsmiths assure me the idol will be ready by early next week.”
Inside the temple, stone façade covered only one wall but several white-mantled workers were cementing a second together over the steel frame work. Another man worked on a mural of mountains and rain clouds on the one completed wall.
“Exquisite work,” Quicaltia said, stepping up for a closer look. He’d painted in his youth, before family obligations forced him to take up more tedious but lucrative work.
“A thousand thanks,” the man replied.
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