This story is by Heather Takenaga and was part of our 2023 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
There you are. I have been expecting you, Ruby Vivana.
Ah, the immediate questions in your mind. “Who are you?” “Where am I?” “Why can’t I move?” So curious, you sprout of man are. No wonder my queen thinks so highly of you beings. You have so many possibilities available to you, you do not consider that which must take root within this universe.
Well, leave it in my care to restore order.
The sprout of man held a name for me once. Long ago. You may call me the approximate in your modern tongue. Fate. I am the attendant deity of my queen who watches over you.
Now, Ruby Vivana. Answer for me if you will through that inquisitive mind. Do you feel cold? Warm? Numb. Yes, that is ideal. Do you see anything? No?
Please believe me when I say my queen harbors a deep love for you, sprout of man. She is most respectful yet fitful. She loathes calling for my services, especially prematurely. Like a flower plucked before bloom.
You have attempted to visit her before. When you were but a seed, you would have been stillborn. My queen pushed you above the earth. Fire sought to devour you and your father soon after. My queen covered the flame with her hand so that you both prospered. That moment when you ran that red light and nearly got run over, as you sprout of man say? My queen blew a gust between your vessels so that neither one of you would collide.
My queen is yours too. Of all sprout of man. She is the mother of earth. She gives birth to each life that grows. She rules deep under your feet. What you know as the underworld.
Dead? Oh no, not quite. It is because you are not dead that I am here.
Ruby Vivana, you are within the fourth blink of my queen’s eye. Thus, it falls within my realm of duty to be the arbiter.
Within your womb spins another sprout of man. Your heart ceased to beat while giving birth to this soul.
Yes. A soul can only be created between you sprouts of man. Fascinating, isn’t it?
What you call doctors and nurses will attempt to revive your body to conclude the natural birthing. It will matter not. In mere seconds of your time, you are expected to arrive within my queen’s realm. This soul within you shall meet the same end.
On behalf of my queen, I may spare one of you.
Should you choose to enter my queen’s realm at this time, you would become one with her garden. Do you feel the soil sinking between your toes? The cold, dark clay around you. Damp scent of foliage and forest evergreens. I am permitting you to sense them.
This is where you flourish after your time, sprout of man. My queen tends to you. Prunes you if you grow too unwieldy for her preferences. Lifts the excess to the above world.
If you choose to remain above, my queen shall deconstruct this soul into a sprout of man again. She will fashion it to be robust. Impenetrable to disrepair within the womb of whoever may receive this sprout of man next. Repetition of a life that can be lived. The root of the universe.
The original soul? My queen does not care for souls.
Make your choice, Ruby Vivana. Yourself or this soul?
You choose neither?
Certainly you can understand the blessings of being under my queen’s rapt attention. She may prune but not excessively. No pain, yes? Like clipping a fingernail for you above. No hunger. No desire. She feeds you without end. None of you shall wilt. Ever. You will never want for anything again. You will become rooted with the universe.
What of your mate above? He is not a party of concern.
A soul cannot replace my queen, surely. Your definition of freedom has led to the defilement of the pure earth she has created. Polluted the meadows she laid for you to rest upon. What you consider joy is a disillusionment of the miracles she has performed for you. And love? You dare to speak of love after hearing all that my queen has done for you, Ruby Vivana?
You are a sprout of man, after all.
Very well, Ruby Vivana. I shall make my judgment.
You are ungrateful to my queen and her duty to you sprouts of man. Under my decree, your punishment is to suffer my brand.
Do you feel my twisted hands burning your neck? Can you choke my fetid breath? Good, good. I am the death my queen protects you from. Now any curse and pox possible to you beings can infect you and your sprout of man. Boils, cancer, any imperfection of the mind or body. You shall live above without my queen’s protection henceforth.
When it is next your time to enter my queen’s realm, the brand of Fate around your neck will cast you to the outside depths. You and your sprout of man. Both of you will not be welcome in my queen’s garden. Where you wander shall no longer be of our concern.
Perhaps then you can satisfy your full curiosity about souls without further disrespecting my queen.
Enjoy your life above, Ruby Vivana.