The Bickering of Stone


Simon Owens



The temples held court beneath TT, the Temple's Temple.

She groaned in perpetual shifting. She moved mountains, they said. She rode the tides, to which the others would declare that she was the tide.

Court with stone, all originating from the pinhole point in the ceiling from where they emerged. Inside it, you could see blue skies and stars. Sometimes the temples were clothed in darkness, only illuminated by their own candles. No worshippers littered their weathered steps.

Prishi, of which named after the deity inscribed on his chamber walls, remained practical and read notes from tablets. "The letters are faded and the language is dead," he said, in defense of hurried statements.

Montari had three statues of elephants upon her balconies, and so remembered everything. "I know what it will say. We must attempt to determine the existence of our gods."

Silence followed among the majority, giving way to the bold acclamations of the young. Misa, who consisted of nothing but an altar, spoke of candles burning eternally. "The humans never change them," she said. They danced as blue flames.

"Look at the initials," said Montari. "They read in letters, and a thousand years ago they were nothing but shapes. They have changed."

The flames flickered red and Misa muttered words pertaining to vandals trying to take claim to what wasn't theirs. "They are eternal," she whispered, and grew silent.

The home of the sacrificial god suggested that Misa be destroyed for lying. His voice wavered to the damp steps and bloodstains in his murderous crevices. The blood pooled along his perimeter, and he smelled of rank death. "TT has proven that even stone can be crushed."

"Do not associate my name with Death," the voice of the Temple's Temple seeped down and covered them. "I am but a tool for Chance. Leave the rest to the Weather and the Moon."

"We do not know how to speak to them," chimed the temples for the Weather and Moon gods. There were several, many still clinging to jungle leaves from where they escaped.

The sacrificial temple glared but did not speak. TT could destroy stone, after all.

"I heard whispers," claimed the temple of the Nile. "They reached their stems through my pillars and I heard the names of all the Pharaohs. Dead kings and their loved ones, and across the way I saw the Sphinx move. His nose had returned and he could smell again."

"This is true," the Sphinx confirmed. "But I know of no whispers, as I have stared down at the Pharaohs over the years and they have struck me as nothing but men. I've seen them slain in battle and crushed beneath the sea. To another God, I heard."

Upheaval arose to the mention of conflicting religions. Bricks fell and candles became still. "Individual claims of religion are useless," Montari reminded them. "Unless you can prove that your god exists."

"But circumstance!" yelled a spire.

"Can be attributed to coincidence," Montari said. "And mere coincidence will not be considered."

The practicality that flows among creatures of geometry returned them to the business at hand. Elephant statues reminded them of membership requests.

"Humans." Cracks furrowed when the word was mentioned. "There are some who want to join."

"But TT is for temples."

"It is what they claim to be," Montari told them. "They call themselves the temples of their god."

"Let them in," voted a monument. Shriveled heads lined the spikes on his wall and they spoke in chorus. A thousand Aztecs in permanent expressions of agony.

"You have no hands to slit their throats," a small altar remarked, to which the temple bared his traps.

"How old?" TT asked. A glacier fell against her crust and the floor vibrated.

"Two thousand years," Montari replied. She had become something of a moderator. "The elephants say that it must be three thousand before becoming officially recognized."

"Then no," they agreed.

Then no, the dark chamber echoed, it bled into the sound of the shifting plates. Above them, the sky lay dark and tiny through TT's hole.

They starved for her, they danced to her earthquakes and sat tied to her roots and crust. There were times, in the darkness, when the Temple's Temple ceased to breathe and they were nothing but stone collecting dust. Pessimism grew in flurries and fell before logic and religious paradoxes. Always there, picking at the realism and honesty in their minds, but always the desire to believe would reach its tendrils into their senses and turn them into something hopeful.

Gods. Deities, somewhere within their ageless hallways and steps. Something snatched in quick glimpses, something to invite in the mortals to worship, for stone cannot wake the gods. You watch Death in hope. You watch it entwine with Time and TT's shifting plates in desperation, until you feel hatred. Humans. Mortals. Continually passing beneath their ceilings to say their prayers. Lyrical words to no avail, each surrounding their own petty rituals to please their gods.

And murder, always murder. The sacrificial temple opened his mouth to it, but it hid in even the most peaceful of shrines. Blades coming up in sharp indifference and parting skin. Human emotion in naivety and violence flooding the mind until even the innocents would die. They screamed, the humans loved to scream, even as infants. The temples could feel the noise, and with each rising of the voice grew distrust, until all they wanted were the gods. They were selfish monuments, bent on the theology that the humans were unworthy, living and dying in their own filth.

Purity, the temples whispered. Purity. They all knew what the droplets of blood felt like on their floors, they all knew how it was to be free from guilt and remorse. And regret. You live long enough and even the memories fade as the bones turn to dust and their gods become forgotten, half-glimpsed. These temples sat in quiet life among the other temples, unaware of the passage of time above them. Of the wars mounting, the clash of metal and weapons. The death, for without the temples there was no religion. No morals, no divine hope.

A question was formed and they asked TT for the answer.


Nothing, not even the groaning of her shifting plates. The temples grew cold, no longer warmed by her molten core.

"She's dead," said the temples.

The Temple's Temple stood still. She did not answer them. She did not succumb to their false hopes. Stone can only lie to itself for so long. Tentatively, they floated up as one to fall through the hole in the ceiling, to fall through into the real world.

Waste awaited them. Barren deserts and the absence of life. The absence had become a thing, something concrete in all its quantity.

"By gods," Misa said.

"No gods," Montari said. "Without life, there is nothing to call them forth."

"We have no meaning."

"Nothing left to dwell within us and worship."

"No humans to call the gods."

"Only TT."

"Yes, only the Temple's Temple. The earth, the world, the mountains. Like the gods, she has fled from us, and so like the gods, she must be worshipped."

"Yes, worship Her so that the most worthy shall call Her back. For Life. For the Gods."

So slowly, they crumbled down and began to worship TT, the Temple's Temple.



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Author Bio

Simon Owens is an English Major at Shippensburg University. You can learn more about Simon at his web site.





"The Bickering of Stone" Copyright © 2004 Simon Owens. All rights reserved.
Published by permission of the author.


This page last updated 05-11-04.

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