As far as anyone in the tribe knew no other arrangement had ever existed. The river had birthed them, molding sand and clay into flesh, and infusing the husks with its life-giving waters.
Life under the desert’s smooth turquoise sky seemed safely stagnant. There was no inkling, no deciphered omens, absolutely no hunch of the approaching cataclysm lurking just out of sight obscured by the landscape’s jagged ridges.
Not far from the isolated patchwork of green and brown earth settled by this tribe, the scion of ancient god well into his twilight years was on the cusp of fulfilling his divine purpose.
Harmakar was sitting in the dust staring into the hollow eyes of a human skull.
“Gingen... Gingen..I’m here. Just tell me what to do. Gingen..I’m here..” Harmakar whispered over and over.
The elderly Harmakar had followed the voice of Gingen, perceptible only to him deep into a desolate landscape. It was the same voice that had spoken to him since as long as he could remember. Now a lifetime later Gingen the god of his people promised Harmakar a meeting and a release from Harmakar’s duties as his temporal representative.
IT was long overdue. Harmakar didn’t look like a man with much time left. His hair was as white as the distant snowcapped mountains. His sun-blasted flesh withered around his bones like shriveled leather. His eyes were as grey as stone. He saw the world through a slowly shrinking tunnel, the black edges kept moving in together and tighter. Everything that had made Harmakar so strong in his youth now only compounded the pain of old age. His joints disintegrated, and his muscles dissolved, and he had to carry what remained on a rickety skeletal frame. All his life, he had to be strong to serve Gingen and lead his people. Now all his years had been used up, and all Harmakar wanted was to be released.
“Please talk to me!” He screamed at the grinning skull before tossing it down into the dirt. The teeth clattered as it rolled in the dust and Harmakar broke down sobbing. The still air gently stirred.
“Build the alter,” it whispered.
“Build the alter,” Harmakar repeated.
The world stirred again, causing something to rustle.
Harmakar noticed barren branches as brittle and white as sun-bleached bones twisting out of the soil and the plan for the alter flashed in his mind like a memory. Harmakar picked up the skull and set it on top of where the different offshoots intertwined. He adjusted the bone fixture until it was perfectly balanced then took a small blade he was carrying and ran the metal edge along his palm. Harmakar watched the blood flow from the schism in his flesh. He squeezed his hand, and large drops fell into the sand. He took smeared the skull with his blood until the crimson fluid was dripping onto its teeth.
Harmakar fell to his knees and quietly begged Gingen to appear.
After a moment with skull began to chatter and an emerald light glowed in the empty sockets. A long streak of ebony hair suddenly poured from the smooth blood-painted bone. The branches, as if feeding on Harmakar’s dripping blood, began to tremble. They suddenly burst from the dirt. The twisting mass grew out over 8 feet high. They started to twist and intwine like wicker until something resembling the skeleton of a man was standing before Harmakar.
Harmakar looked upon his form and burst into tears. “Gingen god of my people how can I serve thee?”
The skull’s jaw did not move. Gingen’s voice still echoed only between Harmakar’s ears.
“You have served me well Harmakar. I have asked for nothing less than your life, and you have given nothing less. Now what I have promised will be yours.”
“Thank you! Gingen thank you!” Harmakar cried.
“I have created a bastion along the river for you, my children,” said Gingen. “The soil is fertile, and the water is drinkable. Promise me the name of no other god shall ever be on the lips of your tribe, and you can settle this place I made. Your people will never have to suffer as nomads again. This is my promise.
“You have my word!” Cried Harmakar. “You will be our only god now and forever.”
Gingen offered a hand to Harmakar. “Come then.”
Gingen led Harmakar to the edge of a cliff overlooking a gorge.
“There,” said Gigen.
Sprawling beneath his feet, the earth was a patched quilt of green and golden fields dotted with small clusters of mud huts. To a man forced out off his land as a child, it was a sight that brought him overwhelming joy. That is until he noticed the people.
Harmakar swallowed hard. “Gigen, there are already people there.”
“Yes, but they are not my people. Remove them, you can enslave the women, but the young ones must be slaughtered on the soil there blood will keep it fertile.” Gingen explained.
Harmakar didn’t live to see this promised land. He returned to his people to deliver a map given to him by Gingen. He died watching the rapid fall of the desert sun from the sky wondering if the people in the gorge knew that they were also watching their last sunset.