Category Archives: Sulfurings

In The Shallows

by John Vicary

"in the shallows" by John VicaryThere is a sea in faraway Israel where nothing grows. It is called the Dead Sea, although it was not always known as such. In ancient times, it was invoked in many tongues, but most often it was named Yām ha-Mizrahî: the Eastern Sea.

A man may lie in the less famous shallows of the sister of the Sea of Galilee and rise to the top without effort, buoyed to the surface by science or faith. He need only to gaze upon its barren shores to delineate the foothills of history, when other men may have tried to float in the same sea and failed the test. How much does man trust in his knowledge and how much does he heed the pull of those stories from his youth? The joy drains from that swim like water from a cracked vessel, and he wonders if he had lived at that time in this land of Canaan if he would have escaped the brimstone fate that awaited so many others. His gaze traces the horizon and a twinge gnaws his gut. The sheltering arms of the waves remind him of a different embrace in years already spent.

Two angels had descended from heaven to give warning to the righteous, his mother had told him long ago. He could still hear her voice as she told him her favorite biblical tale.

“Disguised as two men, the angels tried to pass Lot’s house on their way to Sodom, but he insisted they break bread with him,” Mama said. “In those times, it was a solemn duty to give hospitality to those in need.”

“I’d recognize them, Mama,” he said. He imagined the men with a certain golden glow or perhaps an errant feather peeking from under their cloaks. “I’m special.”

“Of course you are, sweetie,” she answered, pulling the blanket up to his chest as she readied him for bed. “But there’s no way to know by looking. That’s why it’s always important to be kind, especially to strangers. Maybe you’ll be talking to an angel all along.”

Finish reading the rest of this poem in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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Sodom

by Meg Eden

warmth by Kris VargaWhen the sky grew dark
and yellow, someone laughed:
It’s the end of the world!

Well, fuck! I said
and let in
my next customer.

Men and women
knock down my doors
to have sex with me,

I charge them now
to avoid
an affront to my body.

Finish reading the rest of this poem in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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The Scent of Sin and Punishment

by J.P. Cianci

warmth by Kris VargaI drink deeply from my half-filled chalice, admiring the way the indelibly perfect, golden idol of Molech reflects the sunlight. I raise my goblet to Molech, my jewel-encrusted cup catching the brilliant rays of the sun, then I take another insatiable drink. I turn around to refill my cup when gentle fingertips run up and down my back.

“Adaron, how would you like to receive Molech’s blessing?” Sahar whispers seductively.

I smile, reveling in her touch, and close my eyes. I imagine all the delicious ways in which her body could satisfy the pressing fleshly urges her contact has aroused. “I would love to receive Molech’s blessing, but I cannot afford such a sanction,” I say, opening my eyes. I cup the temple prostitute’s breast and forcefully bring her in for a kiss.

She smacks me, but I laugh and grab her wrist.

“Come now, Sahar. I worship in here every day. I’m entirely devoted. Are you sure Molech wouldn’t want to bless a follower such as myself?”

“If you need money to afford his blessing, I know someone who would pay handsomely for the company of your daughter,” Sahar suggests.

I smack her quick and hard across the face, holding a finger to her—warning her—but I say nothing.

She slinks off to find another, no doubt richer, follower to seduce.

Incense wafts from silver plates beneath the idol and I try to forget Sahar and her remarks. I don’t need to pay to satisfy my desires. Many women, and even men, are happily drawn in by my sexual prowess.

I walk drunkenly back to the idol that is gloriously exposed to the sun by the open rooftop of the temple and fall to my knees in prayer. I slur my pleas and wishes for a few moments before my head bobs heavily from the wine. After an hour, I close my eyes to rest at the foot of Molech, basking in the afternoon sun.

“It’s too early to be this dark,” someone remarks a few minutes later.

“Quiet!” I bark. My eyes are still closed, but I do notice the almost imperceptible shift in light behind my eyelids. “It’s merely clouds passing in the sky.”

“What is that? A sandstorm?” someone else asks. The presence of a crowd gathering around me causes me to finally open my eyes.

“Gawk outside! Do not waste Molech’s temple for slack-jawed gaping!” I yell, but no one listens. I raise my head to the sky, which is shrouded in darkness. Plumes of smoke billow downward in waves, obscuring the sun.

“Sandstorms don’t move like that,” I say, shifting uneasily. People murmur excitedly all around me.

“It’s all right! I see light!”

“Yes! I see it too! It looks like the sun is coming toward us!”

“That’s not light, that’s fire! Run!”

“No! This is a sacred temple. We are safe here,” I assure them, but people take off to the streets. I kneel a few feet back from Molech and begin fervently praying. As the smoke surges closer, I cover my mouth and nose in disgust, but only for a moment. A ball of fire collides directly with my sacred idol. A stream of melted gold sprays in my direction, blinding me in one eye and cooling rapidly to my skin so that it’s encased in a painful, golden mask.

I moan in agony, turning to flee. “Oh Molech, Oh Molech. Why? Why?” I’m almost to the entrance of the temple when it collapses on top of me.

Finish reading the rest of this story in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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Zachariah

by Melchior Zimmermann

warmth by Kris VargaZachariah ran up the hill, his feet flying over the yellow brimstone. Here and there, billows of smoke escaped from between the smoldering rocks. From time to time, he could glimpse a piece of charred limestone, remnants of a house or palace.

Zachariah’s father had told him that before the great destruction there had been a mighty city in this place. His ancestors had lived here, prospering through their prowess in trade and craftsmanship. But five years ago, when Zachariah had only been two years old, the hill tribes had declared war on them. They had beseeched their powerful god to help them in their battle, and he had rained fire and brimstone upon the mighty city of Gomorrah. Unable to ward off the wrath of the heathen god, his ancestors had fled the city. Few of them had made it alive.

As they were roaming through the plains in search of a new home, the hill tribes had descended upon them, killing man, woman, and child and slicing the throats of their livestock. Only a few dozen managed to escape this second onslaught. Alone, left with nowhere to go, his family decided to head back to Gomorrah to rebuild their home.

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Thick Air

by Terry Alexander

warmth by Kris VargaThe thick sulfur dust hung in the air like a hot mist. The slave master moaned at my feet. A flaming yellow ball struck his leg and reduced it to ash. I slipped the rope from my neck as he screamed in agony.

“James, help me. Save me and win your freedom.” Pain etched deep lines across his face. “Save me.”

My shaking hands closed on his robes and tore a long strip of cloth free. I tied it across my face to filter the thick air. His weak hands pawed at my legs. Blinking away the tears, I stared down at the man who had tormented me for nearly a year.

“Please, James, save me.” His face blistered from the hot powder falling from the sky. “Save me.” His hands fastened on the hem of my slave tunic. He was trying to pull me down.

I kicked him in the face. The blisters popped, draining a thick clear liquid. The sole on my sandal tore through his cheek. Blood gushed from the split flesh as panic gripped my heart. I gazed around, looking for the authorities. Rebellious slaves are dealt with quickly, savagely, by dismemberment and death.

Finish reading the rest of this story in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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Warmth

by Kris Varga

warmth by Kris VargaCold. The word shutters over the mind. Cold is the cobbled streets in the brink of winter, resonating with the season appropriately. Cold is the city under a dainty snowfall while fleeting teal sparks reach for the heavens. Cold is the sound of vacancy among Gomorrah, whose electricity has been discontinued via an electromagnetic pulse. Cold is the soul at the brink of survival.

Patrick was cold.

“The Day of Shock,” Patrick creatively coined it, left him immobile and incapable of returning to an energy pod to restore his battery. He computed a light chuckle in his thoughts, one that was innocent enough to maintain the positive attitude he was designed to omit. His bio-constructed flesh tingled as his eyes transfixed on snowy open vastness. Patrick had traveled this path many times, but this time he gained a new perspective, catching a glimpse of himself as if a stranger. He computed a silent sigh.

“Soon enough,” he speculated, “Evelyn will return.”

Evelyn always returned.

#

Four days, two hours, thirty-six minutes and fifty-seven seconds ago, Patrick and Evelyn had passed through the quieter outlets of the city’s boundaries: the grasslands, as they were referred to by the people of Gomorrah. Their weekly destination, however routine, pleased Patrick.

Beyond the bubble-shaped buildings and transcendent automobiles, emitting violent screeches to convey each individual’s animosity towards another, lay the incandescent fields, preserved for the rare produce proprietors who lived a “simpler life.” Twenty-four degrees above the Earth’s meeting with the sky rested the sun, whose lackadaisical clock reminded Patrick of the bells that would ring ever so briefly from Divine Intelligence’s control tower. The grocery bags in Patrick’s hands would only slow down their travels.

“Patrick, slow down! I wanna enjoy the sunset.”

“My dear, we must hurry—for time, you see, is dwindling. It is almost of the eve.”

“Sing me the Clair de Lune.” Her eyes smiled their childish embellishment. “Pretty please?”

Patrick halted and glanced cheerfully at the heart of the city, then at the enticing sun, then at Evelyn’s purity. Against all odds, Evelyn’s smile won out, and she placed her knapsack on the ground and rested cross-legged in the open field as Patrick hummed the tune to his best ability. Even though this was not a part of his programming, Evelyn seemed to enjoy the flawed sound he produced. “Human-like”, she would call it.

Finish reading the rest of this story in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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Payment

by Gary Hewitt

payment by gary hewittTwo guards approached.

“Why are you here?”

“I have come to see if the stories are true.”

Two lowered rifles met the visitor’s chest.

“What have you heard?”

“The rich prosper and the poor are fucked.”

The elder of the sentries snorted and kept his gun level.

“Are you rich or target practice?”

“Check your records and look for Mr Kitchener.”

He made a call and put his weapon away.

“Go straight to Big Eddie. It’s up the end of the street.”

Finish reading the rest of this story in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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The Salt Pit

by JD DeHart

the salt pit by JD DeHartWhen Nephesh moved into the town, he was blown away by the vastness of the metropolis. Compared to the twin cities, his hometown was just a dot in the desert. There was a noticeable scent of brine in the air that never seemed to leave, burning the nostrils.

Perhaps it had addled the brains of the residents. Perhaps that was why they danced late into the night, their tattoos singing and their chains rattling, binding and wrapping each other. Perhaps that was why they had worshiped the beast, resting on its haunches in the middle of the cities, a smile on its face that said, “Welcome, have some fun, do not go away.”

The first night in the twin cities, Nephesh made the company of a bright young girl. Everyone else seemed to be giants bathed in ebony, but she was a light, wisp, paper-thin angel.

“Welcome,” she said to him in her lovely voice.

“What is all the ruckus about?” Nephesh had asked. Now, he knew.

Finish reading the rest of this story in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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Starlight

by Erin Vataris

starlight by erin vatarisGeula was afraid of the dark. She was afraid of the shadows that oozed out of the brick walls in the middle of the night and piled on the floor near her bed, thick and deep, waiting for her to step into them. She was afraid of the sound of the wind as it whistled past the windows in the darkness. She was afraid of the sound of the baked bricks cooling, the tick and crackle of the mortar between them, but most of all, she was afraid of the black empty dark.

Sometimes, when she hung her feet over the edges of the bed, the darkness climbed up them and made them disappear until she pulled them up and found them again. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, especially on the black dark nights when the clouds covered the stars and there was no moon, she thought she could feel it climbing up the side of the sleeping ledge, seeping into her sleeping mat and trying to make all of her disappear.

Geula didn’t want to disappear. She didn’t want the dark to eat her, so she stayed still on her mat and closed her eyes so she couldn’t see how dark it was. She squeezed them closed so tightly that the darkness couldn’t leak in, and then she pushed her fingers against her eyelids until she could see bright flashing spots even after she opened them again.

She did it again and again until she couldn’t see the darkness anymore, then sometimes she could sleep, but the darkness was still there. It was waiting for her to fall asleep so it could climb up the ledge and into her mat and eat her all gone.

Her legs hurt from where Immi had whipped her for falling asleep at the loom yesterday, so she wiggled them a little bit. Not much, or the mat would crackle and the darkness would know she was there. Her lungs hurt from trying not to breathe too loudly. Her eyes hurt from pushing on them. But she was still there. It hadn’t gotten her yet. Geula tried to think about staying awake, but she was so tired. She just wanted to go to sleep. She wished they would let her leave a lamp on, but oil was more precious than one silly little girl’s silly little fears.

Abbi had put an altar in the alcove of the sleeping room for her and traded Immi’s fine-woven linens for a statue of Asherah with a bronze crown that glittered. He sighed the whole while, but he put Asherah in the altar where the moonlight could shine in the window and catch her crown.

Asherah was a fine goddess to protect her. Geula knew that. She knew that Abbi gave her an altar and not another whipping because he loved her, just like Immi had whipped Geula’s legs out of love and didn’t want her to ruin a whole length of cloth by falling asleep and tangling the shuttle so it had to be all unwoven. Geula knew that.

When the moon shone in and the bronze crown sent stars dancing over the walls of the alcove, Geula could almost see Asherah moving. She could feel the goddess’s gaze on her while she shifted and pushed on her eyes and tried to sleep, and Geula was almost as afraid of that as she was of the shadows that filled up the alcove on cloudy nights. On cloudy nights—nights like tonight—she couldn’t see Asherah at all. She could just hear her moving in the darkness, and she knew, just as surely as she knew the darkness wanted to swallow her up, that Asherah was moving.

Asherah lived in the statue in the altar in the alcove, and Geula wasn’t quite sure whether Asherah wanted to help her or beat her for her childishness.

Asherah never helped her. She just stood there being stone and bronze during the daytime, and at night she roamed around her alcove where the altar was, eating the olives and honey milk they left for her and trying to get out. Sometimes on the darkest nights, the nights with no moon, Geula could hear her feet like raindrops, and she wondered what would happen if Asherah got out.

Those were the worst nights, where she laid on her mat and shivered, afraid of the darkness, afraid of Asherah. Those were the nights when she was so afraid that she couldn’t even make herself get up to pee, and she would lay in bed afraid until it all came spilling out of her in a hot wet stream that dried on her legs and made her mat stink. She got whipped when that happened, a big girl like her peeing in her bed, and Immi made her carry her own mat down to the river, heavy and reeking, to wash it. That was bad, but on the worst nights the darkness was worse than whippings. It was worse than washing her mat. It was worse than everything.

Finish reading the rest of this story in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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[Untranslatable]

by E.S. Wynn

[untranslatable] by E.S. Wynn from Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & GomorrahTranscript SM-15746:

The only warning I received came in the form of the flash when [The Weapon] hit the center of Sodom. A handful of seconds. Five, maybe.

I am grateful for it.

I’m grateful, because it was more time than most were given.

[The Library] has been my home for almost fifty years, and now I fear it will become my tomb. If you’re familiar with Sodom as it was before the sudden strike that erased it from existence, surely you’ve seen [The Library]. It was beautiful once—a spiraling tower of gold-marbled hunchunite capped with a shining dome of polished platinum and perched amongst the trees at the southern edge of the city, just beyond the university district. I–I remember cursing how far I had to walk to get there sometimes, but now . . .

Now, I’m starting to think that maybe [The Library]’s distance from the city center was the only reason I survived.

Most of [The Library] is gone. Fifteen floors. [The Weapon]? [Untranslatable–]

How foolish war is. All of that knowledge. All of those texts—gone, lost, fused and melted, and shattered. Thousands of years of knowledge erased in an instant. All that’s left is this basement, these archives, these back-up copies of critical texts.

I never thought that [The Enemy] would use [The Weapon]. They always threatened our nation with it. War is like that. Threats, espionage, some fighting, little skirmishes, but never . . . never something like this. Never something capable of killing so many so quickly.

So many, so many dead. Even if Sodom is the only city that was attacked—even if Gomorrah or Admah or Zeboim still stand, even if our nation is still strong. . .

Millions. Millions called Sodom home. Millions.

[Untranslatable]

Finish reading the rest of this story in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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