Featured Story: The Final Burial

Featured Stories
The Final Burial

By Daniel Lind

The smell of iron lingered in the air. A wounded man lay by the wayside, blood-soaked clothes torn into shreds. I watched him run from his assailants for days: killing one or two. But the hunt had come to an end.

Excited voices and grunts rumbled through the brambles. They would see their prey any minute if he didn’t start moving.

“You need to go, Sean,” I whispered in his ear. “The Taulians are almost here.”

As if hearing my voice, he turned his head and made an attempt at crawling. The arrow in his leg burrowed deeper into his flesh and he cried. He knew, as I did, this could be his final resting place: the last human on Earth would rot in the English countryside.

Then they came: two tall, slender, creatures. Their leathery skin reflected the afternoon sunlight, casting long shadows upon nearby grassy hills. One carried a bow, the other a sharp spear. Both wore an expression of elation on their faces.

The hunter carrying the spear growled and pointed at Sean. His comrade lifted his bow and aimed.

“Don’t do it,” I shouted. “He’s the last one.” I tried to stop him from releasing the arrow, but my hands went through him.

The Taulian released the arrow a moment later, cutting through the silence and hitting Sean’s neck. He moaned and dropped his head.

A crow cawed beyond the trees. A swarm of flies gathered.

The Taulians approached the corpse and the alien with the spear poked it. He then released a guttural laugh, and the other chimed in with sounds that pierced the air. The sun hid behind dark clouds.

***

“Do you reckon they’ll bury me?” said Sean, standing next to me with his arms crossed.

“They’re savages,” I said. “But they honour traditions just like the humans used to do.”

The pain and the fear had left his eyes. His scarred face had turned silky smooth.

“You should all have stayed hidden underground. They would have never found you,” I said. “The Taulians picked you off one by one.”

A third hunter appeared. This one had a slack jaw with jagged teeth sticking out from the corners of his mouth. He carried three shovels.

“We didn’t have much choice,” said Sean. “They would have found us sooner or later.” His voice played with the rustle of the leaves, scattering in the damp air when the first drops of rain fell on the ground. “Supplies were running short.”

The three hunters shoveled the mud, digging a deep hole in the ground. They moved stones and branches out of the way. Slackjaw grunted and threw a punch at the two others.

“What are they arguing about?” asked Sean.

“They can’t decide if your body should go face down or not.”

“Why is that a problem? They got what they wanted.”

I sighed. “Honouring traditions isn’t always straightforward. You’re the last one of your kind they’ll ever worry about.”

Sean grimaced. “Not quite.”

I straightened my coat and checked my notebook. The rain fell heavier, washing the pools of blood aside, and turning the grave into a drenched pit. The three Taulians grunted louder as they heaved the corpse into the hole. The hunter with a bow spit, and received another blow from Slackjaw.

“I don’t have more names on my list,” I said. “Yours was the last.”

“My son didn’t receive a name before I escaped,” said Sean. “He’s still underground with the other nameless children.”

Clever humans, always finding means to avoid their inevitable fate. I had failed to protect Sean, but this could be my second chance.

As the last shovel of mud covered the hole, and the stones and branches were placed upon it, the rain stopped and jagged shades dissipated through the bushes.

“Where are you taking me now, Angel?” asked Sean.

“The Other Side. This isn’t your world anymore.”

Sean’s spirit nodded. His body rested beneath the muddy ground. Maybe one day his son would find the grave, but Sean wouldn’t be there to see it. It was time for him to go, and I needed something to drink before I started looking for the children.


Written by Daniel Lind.

Daniel is a prolific writer of flash fiction and has stories published in Flash Fiction Magazine, Pidgeonholes, and Elbow Pads Literary Magazine.

  • Paulo R. Mendes

    …………………………………………………… : /

    • Haha! Do I see another “Wizards!?” comment coming?

      • Paulo R. Mendes

        No. I only don’t like when a story – any story – has what I reckon as a pessimistic end – and yes, I know that the son of Sean is alive together with several other nameless children, but I still reckon this ending as pessimistic.

        • Hmm. I guess that’s a matter of perspective. Personally I saw the body of the story as pessimistic, but the end as offering a welcome glimmer of hope.

          You don’t have an issue with the “spiritual” aspects then? That surprises me.

          • Paulo R. Mendes

            No. I think that f we can have sci-fi movies and games (Doom and Warhammer 40K) about space marines fighting against demons, so why we cannot have angels? besides, who can say if this angel is not in truth some extremely advanced extradimensional alien species which has direct access to the backstage of the universe? 😉 and do you remember of the misterious agents from the film “The Adjustment Bureau”? they could very well be angels and their unseen “Chairman” could be God Himself.

            • michael pulleine

              I haven’t heard of the misterious agents from the adjustment bureau but I’ve heard of the mysterious agents! 😛

            • Paulo R. Mendes

              Sorry. I am brazilian and sometimes I forget how to write certain words in english – in brazilian portuguese, we don’t use the “y” in the word “misterioso”(mysterious).

            • michael pulleine

              ooh I love the Portuguese language! the book speaker for the dead explained the pronunciation and made me fall in love with the language!

            • Paulo R. Mendes

              Yes, it is beautiful language but also a difficult one to learn – there is much things about written portuguese that I don’t understand well. 🙁

        • Daniel Lind

          The angel got a Gin & Tonic when he returned with Sean. I don’t think it gets more optimistic than that. 🙂

  • michael pulleine

    this is a pretty short story! 🙂

  • Well if Paulo thinks its okay….

    • What do you think, Vanessa? Is it OK for angels to exist in science fiction?

      • Angels in Sci Fi?

        Interesting question and here is my take on it:
        it depends on the definition of Angela.
        As you know the bible is not a book but a collection of books.
        Various churches and faiths have a different opinion what books are included and which are not.(This is where the word “Canon” comes from. A church declares a doctrine and thus decides what is Canon and what is not)

        The King James varies from the Catholic version and both are different from the Bible used in the East Orthodox church.
        Some books are excluded by certain faiths and even considered “evil” and not bible material at all.

        The oldest portion of the
        Bible, known as the Pentateuch, uses the (Hebrew) terms מלאך
        אלהים (mal’āk̠ ‘ĕlōhîm; messenger of God). Some scholars consider these early mentions as aspects of God. Not
        “individuals” as per say)
        Daniel is the first biblical figure to refer to individual angels by name, mentioning Gabriel (God’s primary messenger) in Daniel 9:21 and Michael (the holy fighter) in Daniel 10:13. These angels are part of Daniel’s apocalyptic visions and are an important part of all apocalyptic
        literature.

        Now these angels have no place in science fiction. But if you consider the Ancient astronaut theories of Erich von Däniken and others and Angels are actually visitors from other planets (Famous is the experience and description of Hesekiel that could very well describe a space ship landing. Described by someone of pre industrial times). Then the old testament
        is full of “Sci Fi Story starters) [1].
        The Old testament describes
        a race of beings mingling with humans and thus cause God to sent the flood.

        Satan being an angel (former) and jealous of the humans who are created in the Image of God and placed in hierarchy above the “Angels” and thus causing his rebellion.

        Again a treasure trove of
        stories for Sci Fi and SF.

        But if Angels or similar
        beings actually act in a spiritual way, for example interacting with
        the dead and guide them to the beyond, the other side, act as agents of God or gods; they have no place in a SF story and pushing the boundaries for a Sci Fi story. Sure the story can be told but then you open the door to characters such as “Personified Death”, “Messiahs”, “Life forces”, “Creation” etc.
        Such characters and their ilk have no room in SF, sorry.(IF they are indeed taken inn context) Example a Story about Jesus being a visitor from Venus with Superpowers is SCI FI. A story about Jesus where he is indeed the Son of God and performs deeds and miracles by “Divine power” then it is certainly not a SF story.

        So the presented story might be the chapter to a great fantasy story or a horror story with spiritual elements such as Constantine, Hell boy, Resident Evil etc.It is not SCI FI

        While a fantasy story environment can have space marines fighting demons. It is still a fantasy and not a sci fi environment.

        I am dancing at the edge of this in my own Universe.

        I have the Antoo, who tried to “ascent” to the next stage of evolution and shed their physical shells. After experimenting and researching for thousands of years. They tried and it went terribly wrong, trapping the Antoo between the Planck Universe and different plane of existence ( Brane theory Hyper space, Universe → Mega Verse and Omniverse)
        The Antoo appear as insubstantial vapors and are in horrible agony (unable to sleep, rest etc)

        So if the ghost, zombie, wizard, witch, ghoul, vampire in your story is somehow explained by science and technology even just vaguely based on a wacko theory and with a ton
        of Handwavium. Such an entity could work in a SCI FI environment.(Prime example Zombie aka Undead reanimated by a crazy doctor (Frankenstein) is a Sci Fi Story. The story about Mummies coming to life due to a curse is not)

        VR

        [1] I wrote a short story
        where a British submarine goes back in time and creates the legend of
        Jonas swallowed by the Whale (How would a stone age person describe a
        submarine that is named “Sword Fish” by it crew?)

        • michael pulleine

          i didnt know that i was a holy fighter! i thought i was a fifteen year old nerd who writes sci-fi stories when he should be doing his homework!

        • Paulo R. Mendes

          Personally, I think that mixing elements of other genres or even legends in a sci-fi setting is a good strategy – see for example, the Doom series of games: it matches sci-fi (space marines and sci-fi weapons and gadgets) with demons. And it is not alone: Warthammer 40K have both sorcery/psionic powers, post-human warriors (the Adaptus Astartes), direct-energy weapons, “magic” (high tech) swords and demons – all in one setting. So why not use angels, ghosts in a sci-fi setting?

          To be honest with you – all of you – I was furious with mages because I was trying to create a sci-fi setting based in real world science and not in “sci-fantasy” or technobabbles. But thanks to all you I know can see that I CAN create a sci-fi setting with real world science and physics and – at the same time – use things like magic (hacking the reality code), ghosts (have you seen Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers?), angels (remember of the Light Beings of the original Battlestar Galactica?) and demons (yes Doom, I’m looking for you).

          • Maybe it is beyond the level of comprehension or the level of understanding and I am guilty phrasing my responses this way.
            A fantasy story can have sci fi elements or any other elements of any genre,
            A sci fi story can not have elements of fantasy. War hammer is not sci fi but fantasy and so are the other examples.
            There is nothing wrong with it, its just the definition of a genre.
            As I explained, if the Angel is a being of another culture, society, time, or species; the feats and powers of said being are possible within a physical universe; it can be a sci fi element.
            If the angel is an entity, a messenger of god, a guide from heaven or the after life, it is a metaphysical, spiritual element that has no place in SF.
            Example:
            You can eat chocolate bars with or without nuts. A person with a nut allergy can not.
            A vegetarian will reject a salad with bacon pieces, while a person with no such restrictions calls it a salad.
            A Muslim will not eat Pork, but other meats.
            A chef can call his creation a Green Garden salad, but with the bits of bacon in it, the fore mentioned vegetarian will not call it a vegetarian meal.
            If literature and stories are defined by genres they must adhere to the definitions of said genre.
            It does not devalue the story if adding elements that do not meet the requirements of a certain genre, but prohibits its association to said genre.

            Have I managed to explain why I don’t mind stories with angles and sci fi elements; but will not accept supernatural elements within a SF story? Because by definition “supernatural” has no place in SCIENCE fiction.
            It is the DEFINITION of the GENRE that excludes it.

            If this was not sufficient as an explanation… I will leave it at that and accept the fact that the concept of DEFINITION is too difficult to understand.

            • You’re right. I completely agree. But I don’t think it’s healthy or useful to get too bogged down in definitions. ‘Crossover’ stories can be really good (and as Paulo points out they can also be very popular), and I think it’s sometimes healthy and interesting for sci-fi to explore concepts and ideas beyond its usual scope.
              (By healthy I mean good for the genre on the whole)

            • Paulo R. Mendes

              Vanessa, the biologist J.B.S. Haldane once said: “My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we CAN suppose.” And understand and respect your opinion, but I am really thinking in using this quote as basis to my universe. Yes, there is supernatural forces in my setting, but nobody living on it now if this “supernatural” forces are really supernatural in origin or if they are result of the intervention of unknow (and probably inter-dimensional) alien civilizations of a higher order.

            • Alright, here we go once more.

              The question was : “Is it OK for angels to exist in science fiction?”

              It was not a question to validate your stories or your universe. It was not a critique on the story posted.
              It was a general fundamental question.
              Maybe the term “definition” has a different meaning in Portuguese.

              Here is what Webster’s
              dictionary has to say (Webster’s dictionary is accepted by scholars of the English language)

              : an act of determining;
              specifically : the formal proclamation of a Roman Catholic dogma

              : a statement expressing the essential nature of something

              : a statement of the meaning of a word or word group or a sign or symbol

              : a product of defining

              In this case a story appearing under the genre “science fiction” is defined by the elements determined by society and literature.

              Science Fiction
              fiction dealing
              principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.

              The defining elements are
              : the impact of science on society or stories having a scientific factor.
              (please note the word “essential”)

              Now science :

              knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation.

              Ghosts, Angels, demons,
              ghouls, poltergeists, souls, afterlife are NOT subjects of natural world based facts, but are considered Mythology, fantasy, fairy tales, spiritual and dare I say it “Supernatural”.
              Meaning : unable to be explained by science or the laws of nature : of, relating to, or seeming to come from magic, a god, etc.

              You will find the same
              definitions in the Oxford dictionary.

              So if there are supernatural elements in a story, the story is by this definition,not SCIENCE fiction
              Any English student with an above F grade will be able to make the determination. Angels (the supernatural kind) have no place in a SF story.

              Look at Shakespeare’s Hamlet, one of the most profound “Ghost” stories of human literature. We can transplant Hamlet in any environment; a spaceship
              another planet. Have Hamlet be a non human alien. The philosophy and meaning of the story remains intact, but it is not a Science Fiction.

              Milton’s Dante is a great work of world literature and introduced the world to a very different Satan, you can change the settings and it remains a great work but it will never be a science fiction.

              Star Wars has microorganisms called midi-chlorians
              Midi-chlorians were intelligent microscopic life forms that lived symbiotically inside the cells of all living things. When present in sufficient numbers,
              they could allow their host to detect the pervasive energy field known as the Force.
              So there was a handwavium attempt to explain the things the Jedi could do and thus make it tolerable in a Sci Fi setting. Replace the force with “magic” it
              becomes supernatural and Star Wars becomes a fantasy.

              Star Trek’s Q does things by snipping his fingers and it appears like magic, while the Q continuum’s power is never really explained (which makes it perfectly
              alright to have such powers in your universe) No explanation is needed, as no one claims these powers to be supernatural.

              Robert A. Heinlein (in my opinion the greatest of all SF writers wrote several novels at the end of his career that are tremendous, but no one considers them
              Science Fiction but as Mark Ball said “Experimental or speculative fiction” (the cat that walked through walls for example)

              So once again I am concluding by saying. The story of this thread is NOT science fiction as it deals with the supernatural, it does not take anything away from the story or the writer, but it can not be defined as SF.

              Vanessa

            • Paulo R. Mendes

              So, you are saying that just because a sci-fi story deals with supernatural, it is no more a sci-fi story?! my dear friend, have you watched Babylon 5: The Lost Tales? if no, try to watch the first story of the DVD and come back here later to tell me what you think about it.

              Oh, and while you watch the film ,please be aware that just because something appears to be supernatural, it does not necessarily needs to be supernatural…

            • It appears all attempts to explain the concept of what a definition is; and in turn the scholastic accepted definition of this subject have been made in vain. I have stated in my very first post that an event observed is evaluated by the level of understanding of the observer. A stone-age person observing a thunderstorm imagines gods throwing hammers and lighting bolts. If you on the other hand observe a thunderstorm, you using the knowledge conveyed to you are able to at least basically understand the event as a natural and explainable event that neither involves magic nor the supernatural.

              However as long as you invest emotions and ego oriented feelings, any further discussion is mute and pointless.

              Your ending statement in your last response,has already been made in my first response.

              At no point in the Babylon 5 story, you use as an example, was the claim “supernatural” made. The events were unexplained. There is a very big difference.

              But comprehension of concepts requires empiric analytic thinking; which has not been employed by the arguments you made.

              So instead of continuing this argument, I concede to the fact that there are levels of conception that prohibit rational discussion and conclude this thread with:
              adversus solem ne loquitor

              VR

            • Paulo R. Mendes

              The events in that story in The Lost Tales are indeed left unexplained? maybe, but I don’ t see that way – it is up to the viewer to decide: it Simon Burke really possessed bt demons? or the “demons” were in truth incorporeal aliens belonging to a previously unknow faction of the First Ones, imprisoned on Earth aeons ago for a undescribed crime? think about…

              But I agree with you in a point: this discussion is already becoming boring. Let’s end it here.

            • So, how about wizards and magic in a Sci Fi Story?
              It almost appears as if you change your opinion to sing with the chorus?

          • And that comment from a guy who would not accept wizards in a Sci Fi story…

            • Paulo R. Mendes

              That was before. I do’nt understood that the “magic” used in that Starting Point was some kind of tech – and a tech who can be used to “hack” the Code of the Creation makes far more sense than using real magic.

        • bob dash

          In my observations and humble opinion, there is really no supernatural. the things we define as supernatural are just things in the natural world that extend out of our current comprehension. Phenomena enormous in there complexity. So much so, possibly, that even the collective of all human intelligence can’t comprehend it. The concept of angels, demigods, hyper advanced/evolved aliens, inter-dimensional beings, and extra-dimensional beings are all one and the same in my mind. Does the idea that a group of beings, angels, reports to and was created by another inconceivably higher order of being, a god, make it not science fiction? It’s all simantics and labels that we think make thing simpler, really only complicate the matter.

          Humans have a tendancy to over compartmentalize the universe to convenience our minds, but the universe isn’t written in human language, only vaguely interpreted that way by us. I am a firm believer in the natural, in a God/Creator, and I don’t see why an infinite scale of possible life between microbe and godlike, especially the scale between human and godlike, is seen as impossible in science. Seeing no reason why something beyond human understanding is considered not natural, I would conclude that everything is understandable given the knowledge and cognitive ability to understand it is possessed by the observer. It’s human egotism and ignorance honestly. we are so ignorant of our place in the grand scope of the universe, and are far closer to microbes on the scale than we allow ourselves to believe.

          “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

          Rant over..

          if it bothers ‘sci fi purists’ that much take a story with angels, and gods and use scientific jargon; change the labels around to aliens and write in modern language. Bam! That’s how you make a sci fi story.

        • Brent

          Anything can be in Sci-fi.
          Ex.
          Scientist , from the past, develops device that opens a doorway to the realm angels reside. Hunts them down and kills them.

          A time travel, scientific device that does not exist and dead angels that do not exist. Sci-fi.

          Sci-fi is not exclusive to only aliens and spaceships.

      • John Hawkins

        Only if they’re aliens!

    • Paulo R. Mendes

      ……………………………………………..!! XD

  • One of my all time favorite fictional characters is John Sinclair (Ghost Hunter) he has a silver cross and when he “activates it” by saying “Terra Pestum Teneto Salus Hic maneto” the four arch angels appear and fight evil forces for him. I read the stories knowing what will happen almost every time, and yet I can’t turn the pages fast enough to get to the part when John summons the Angels. Mighty angels with swords which are the gospel. Devils screaming in agony , demons in panic….epic battles. Great stuff but not sci fi

    • michael pulleine

      is that his cross above you? I went to a Christian private school for eight years and I’m pretty sure that Egyptian symbols like the ankh, etc. would be carved on a Christian artefact (blah blah pagan holiday Christmas, blah blah Easter cant be a date of someone’s death because it doesn’t have a set date)

      • The cross was not the symbol of early Christians but a fish. It was Constantine the Great (First Roman Emperor adopting the Christian faith) Legend has it that he saw a cross in the sky with a glowing inscription : In hoc signo vinces meaning “In this sign you will conquer.” on the following night, he had a dream in which Christ explained to him that he should use the sign of the cross against his enemies. But the use of the cross as religious symbol gos back much further back in time.

        The Cross of John Sinclair is the invention of a writer and in the story it goes as far back as King Solomon and bears the seal of Solomon in the center. It is not an actual historic or spiritual artifact..

        As for Christianity and the subject of faith and spirituality. I believe in God and that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.

        This is the core of my argument: A story with angels that guide souls or spirits can not be a Science Fiction story. (A story where Angels are just beings with powers and abilities not understood by contemporary observers can be considered SF)

        The existence of an afterlife is against all scientific reason. Once the brain ceases function, where would a spirit store memories or even basic information such as name or gender? How could a ghost see? (No retina to detect photons) No ears to hear. Sound ad light are physical components of our Universe after all.

        So the existence of a soul or spirit that retains memories, can see, articulate itself can only be accepted by belief or faith and not Science.

        Christian faith does not teach that you turn into an angel once you die. The Bible teaches that everyone remains dead until Judgement day and only then everyone will be judged. The righteous will then receive their new perfect bodies and are Born again in the New Jerusalem.

        Of course this is all spiritual dogma and subject to each own’s believes.

        In my personal believes I stand with Luther “Sola fide (“by faith alone”)

        That you guys will now attack and ridicule my statement is a given of course (predictable by the tone of previous posts) But that does not bother me. I can separate science and reason from faith and spirituality. So go right ahead

        • michael pulleine

          hey, I cant speak for everyone else but I speak for myself when I say that I wont ridicule you, I’m an atheist but I’m also a leftist, a liberal, believe what you want to believe, no-one has the right to ridicule you for the beliefs that you hold, if you believe in god, that’s fine, although I kinda stopped at the homophobic parts of the bible along with the bit that says do not shave or get round haircuts (do not round the corners of your hair) also, I know about Constantine the great, as for the bit about Solomon’s seal, I was talking about the ankh, which is an ancient Egyptian religious symbol and by the way, when I said Christian artefact, I meant the cross from the story not the ancient torture device, why would a cross that summons the archangel Michael and the ones that don’t have awesome names 🙂 have an Egyptian mythological symbol on it?

          • The series of stories started in 1973 (42 years!!!) and is ongoing, with a new story every week, with feature length novels 1-2 times a year. John’s cross developed in the stories. When John first got the cross it was blank and had no symbols. Over time he discovered many of its secrets. And each time he does so a new symbol and power is revealed. While he fights ancient demons and mummies in Egypt. A powerful Egyptian god reveals the Eye of Ra and the Ankh on his cross.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Sinclair_%28German_fiction%29

            • michael pulleine

              42 years quick call the ghost of douglas adams!

  • ..

  • As for Ghosts, Demons etc in a SF story… Ghostbusters is technically a perfect candidate for a Ghost theme story that is SCI FI because the main protagonists are Scientists and use (pseudo) Science to detect, trap and catch ghosts. (Note : No attempts are made in the story to explain the nature or origin of the ghosts)

    • michael pulleine

      thats because the movie is just meant to be stupid and fun! anyone else find the guy on the far right to be creepy? i think hes related to ivan milat or some other savage killer