Open 2021 Open Stories - Mehreen Ahmed


By Mehreen Ahmed


Before the telltale stick figures of shinned solid bones, a priest sermoned. Etched on a Mountain cave of russet walls, in the pale shadows of moonlight tall, a tale came to pass. That a famine had struck hard, a terrible pestilence followed. The rain gods must be appeased. They had to be cleansed. Innocent bodies sacrificed. For there were no rains, certainly no grains. Undeterred in the crucifixion, this was the temple's ruse to boost harvest. The King of the land sat reading from a scroll. It was in the scroll of the dead, where this light was shed. A high price at stake, the Sacred Cenote, where the heads laid. Within its magical orbit.


Children queued up in short loincloths. When they heard the divine decree, they were in awe. That the priest picked up a child and he took him to the gallows. Parents witnessed petrified, sunken souls in hollows. Little bodies lay amok at gods’ altar. The severed heads in chaos, but still no crops, nor any flying swallows. The famine persisted for yet another year. A gaping horror of cries; hollering justice to rise. But Nature remained mute. A silence played out. Like this cold marble of unheard, untuned lute.


Preservation of life; that was all the King cared about. His Queen gave birth to a boy, the future King. He was a father; he felt a sense of pride. His conscience gave him a choice, all babies includ-ing yours, or none at all to die at the altar of grains. It was his choice, the King’s call. He thought. Then he thought again. Preservation of life; that was all he thought he cared about the most. Who’s preservation? His baby’s or the babies of his subjects.

Mehreen Ahmed from Australia is an internationally published and critically acclaimed by Midwest Book Review, The Wild Atlantic Book Club, DD Magazine to name a few. A winner in The Waterloo Short Story Competition, her short stories are shortlisted for publication in Cogito Literary Magazine Contest, a finalist in the Fourth Adelaide Literary Award Contest, and winner in Cabinet of Heed stream-of-consciousness challenge. Her works are Three-time nominated for The Best of the Net Awards, nominated for the Pushcart Prize Award,Two-time nominated for Aurealis Awards. Her book is an announced Drunken Druid's Editor's Choice.


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