Week Six Winner: Of Earth and Stone by David Gentner

Those who lived in the quiet hamlet had long forgotten the original purpose of the colossal gray stones standing in the neighboring pasture. No trees grew near them; no moss or lichen gathered upon their smooth surfaces. But the air was always fresh, and the lush green of the hilltop always appeared dappled with sunlight, even on the most overcast of days. It had become a place of celebration: a place where they could rejoice in their blessings, mourn their losses, or where one could simply lie, alone, and feel complete.

The Vernal festival had concluded and crops were being sewn in the freshly tilled soil when the missionary returned. He had been there before, always claiming their ways evil and idolatrous. He spoke of sin and salvation, promising everlasting life in exchange for obedience. But to the villagers, it was nothing more than the buzzing of cicadas. The simple folk saw no reason to change when they were already so content. This time, however, he did not come alone. This time, he brought strange men with horse drawn carts loaded high with metal tools and instruments that glistened in the sun. Windows were shuttered and doors barred, in hopes that these men were simply passing through, but the villagers were disappointed to see the tents assembled on the outskirts of town.

The following days brought frigid rain and tenacious winds, and as thunder mingled with the din of the men beginning their work, the air grew rank with the fumes of the blacksmith’s forge. Not long after, one bewildering night, many of the locals were woken by great rumblings in the earth. Mothers consoled their weeping children as fathers went to investigate the source of the disturbance. As a group, they approached the clearing where the stones stood. An enormous pyre had been built, illuminate the area. Hideous shadows flickered and danced on the cracked and crumbled remains of the sarsen. Men had climbed atop them and were reducing them to rubble with hammers and picks, their sweat shimmering in the fire’s light.

Gradually the stones were fragmented into smaller bricks, and construction of a diminutive structure began. The missionary was overjoyed, yet his men grew uneasy. Stories circulated of curious grinding, scraping noises late at night. Large piles of unused bricks were found piled high where the stones had once stood, and many of the workers left after one of them became hysterical, claiming he had woken, choking, his mouth filled with the dust created by the boulders’ destruction.

Despite the many setbacks, the structure was completed in time for the Autumnal festival, and the villagers gathered in the clearing to celebrate their harvest, meager though it was. In place of their familiar stone circle stood a cold, dark chapel. And, as the missionary stood in the archway, arms outstretched to welcome them, the building shivered once, as if it were chilled, and the keystone slid out of the arch and crushed his fragile skull.

David Genter lives in a suburb of Chicago, IL, where, just two months ago, he and his husband Eric purchased their first home. David is a jack of all trades, running anywhere from wine making/drinking to soap making/lathering, but he’s always enjoyed writing the most. Unfortunately, David has a hard time finding focus with so many ideas running through his head, so most of them die early on. David isn’t working on any big projects, or websites, but he would like to prove to anyone that submitting stories to these types of challenges is worthwhile, even if your vocabulary runs dry after 150 words. When David started his story for last week’s image of the woman with the fruit, he didn’t think he would submit it. It was something he wrote just to prove to himself that he could. When it was finished, he really liked it, so he submitted it. That was enough to convince him to try again. Seven days later, David found himself writing the beginning, middle, and end of a world… And who knows what he’ll be writing next Thursday. The point is to try. Where’s the harm in it? Just see it through to see where it takes you.

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