Apr 13 2012 4:30pm
Walter Mosley is delivering two speculative tales, in one volume, of everyday people exposed to life-altering truths. They are The Gift of Fire and On The Head of a Pin, and the book is due out on May 8! While you’re waiting, we thought we’d give you an excerpt of both stories...:
The Gift of Fire
In ancient mythology, the Titan Prometheus was punished by the gods for bringing man the gift of fire—an event that set humankind on its course of knowledge. As punishment for making man as powerful as gods, Prometheus was bound to a rock; every day his immortal body was devoured by a giant eagle. But in The Gift of Fire, those chains cease to be, and the great champion of man walks from that immortal prison into present-day South Central Los Angeles.
On the Head of a Pin
Joshua Winterland and Ana Fried are working at Jennings-Tremont Enterprises when they make the most important discovery in the history of this world—or possibly the next. JTE is developing advanced animatronics editing techniques to create high-end movies indistinguishable from live-action. Long dead stars can now share the screen with today’s A-list. But one night Joshua and Ana discover something lingering in the rendered footage…an entity that will lead them into a new age beyond the reality they have come to know.
The Gift of Fire
The eagle had already gouged out his belly when lightning struck metal at early dawn and Prometheus—goldenskinned, curly-haired, brown-eyed son of the Mediterranean Spirit—slipped his chains, gathered his intestines up in his left hand, and made his way clambering down the mountain path; that long forgotten trail that once connected Gods and Men . . . and Titans. Behind him he could hear the ravenous eagle crying out for blood. Every day for three thousand years the hungry bird ate his liver, leaving him at night so that the organs and flesh and broken bones grew and knit back together befitting his immortal nature. In spring the hideous fowl brought his chicks to peck and pull at the cords of skin and meat. Every bite and tug sent agony through the beautiful Titan’s frame, racking him in agony, leaving him spent and yet unable to die.
Crying, he ran down in the shadow of overhanging rocks and trees. He ran, muttering to himself, “I have not yet finished. The gift of the gods is incomplete.”
His father, Iapetus, or his mother, Clymene, of the ocean, if they had seen their son, would have told him to forget his quest, to go to some peaceful place, maybe the Elysian Fields, and hide from the vengeance of the gods. Hiding was the only escape. Even his brother Atlas did not have the strength to defy Zeus and his heavenly host.
Prometheus sorely missed his mother and brother, his father and other siblings, but he had gone mad chained to that rock, tortured by the evil bird and the God King’s curse.
He wanted to hide, to be soothed from the suffering that had been brought down upon him. But he could not forget the job left undone: his misery and Man’s.
“Run away,” he said to himself. “Hide down under the earth where Pluto might protect you. Dive down under the ocean of the gods and beg Neptune to hide you.
“No,” he said then. “I will not cower and beg as I have done for all these centuries. I will not bend my knee, lower my head, or forget my mission. May the gods choke on the caprice of their actions, may they die upon their hallowed mount forgotten in the minds of their minions.”
And while the eagle wheeled in the sky the diminished Titan made his way under shadow of leaf and cover of night until he was away from the land of the gods, arriving where everything is mortal and anyone, even a god, can die.
He found himself upon a hilltop. To his right rolled the waves of a great ocean and to his left sprawled a mortal city with its temporary structures and its people who lived and died without suspicion of the knowledge that they partially comprehended but never knew. The smell of their smoke and feces filled his nostrils and burned his eyes. It was ever this way when gods and Titans mingled among humans. Mortals were like animals to those of the higher planes, snuffling and snorting and spraying urine to mark their domain.
Los Angeles was to Prometheus like a dung hill is to a swan—dirty and diseased, stinking of mortality—and yet these were the fallow grounds for the possibility of life.