There had been times when Addisu had walked through the graveyard and felt something akin to peace and satisfaction. Standing sentinel at each grave was a silver figurine, sometimes more than one, glowing in the light of the moon. Many of these were his own work, and he had taken care to come by on occasion to burnish them when the families of the deceased were unable to do so.
Addisu walked in contemplative silence, and eventually reached the top of the graveyard hill, where an elderly olive tree stood. There he buried his staff into the soil and then sat down between the roots of the tree. The night breeze rustled the leaves overhead and caused the lantern fixed to the end of the staff to sway gently. It might have been a peaceful scene, but Addisu felt no peace as he looked down at the many graves and the idols he had made adorning them. Those idols would not watch over the dead any more than they would watch over the living- the Being he had met told him so, and he knew it to be true now.
As a silversmith, crafter of the gods’ chosen metal, Addisu was a priest in his own right and charged with the care of the city’s spiritual health, supplying the people with their connection to the gods. He had taken his role with dedication. When he had discovered that two of his friends, noble Nebreke and Berhanu the cheese crafter, were spreading word of a new deity, one not imbued in silver and who demanded sole worship, Addisu was determined to divert his friends back to the old gods. If he was unsuccessful, he knew it was his duty to expose and eliminate this new faith. That night, confident in his authority as a minor priest, he had issued a challenge and demanded audience with the divine- but found far more than what he had asked for.
He had woken from his subsequent vision to find himself laid out on a couch, with Nebreke and Berhanu on either side, looking down at him with anticipation. The experience had left Addisu unmanned, and it was some time before his friends could get a coherent word out of him. Even now he couldn’t dwell on the vision for too long, else he would be reduced to tears again.
“I am undone.” Were the first clear words he had managed to say, and even then they were choked and quavering. “I cannot go back to who I was before.”
“Of course not!” Nebreke had replied, as he clasped Addisu’s trembling shoulder with one hand and clenched the other into an eager fist. “You have seen Him, Addisu! You can never be the same man!”
“No, no… my craft…I cannot return to being a silversmith. How can I make empty images now that I have seen Him? Except…I haven’t seen Him- not fully. I will never be able to capture his likeness and connection in silver!”
At this Berhanu seemed to stiffen.
“It would be wrong of you to try. A silver image would be a restriction of him rather than a revelation, and it would create a barrier rather than a connection.”
“Then what can I do?” Addisu groaned, and pushed himself up from the couch. He staggered, and his two friends reached out to support him. He rested between them to gather his wits and co-ordination before speaking again.
“What can I do? The holiness of my craft is lost if I can’t use it to connect the people to Him– and even if I somehow managed to convey His presence in silver, I would be killed for the treachery of abandoning the old gods.”
“It would be a worthy death.” Nebreke said. “You have much talent, Addisu, and can stir both heart and mind with your work. You may not be able to capture His image, but you can still create a monument that may yet show the people…”
“What are you saying?” Berhanu cut in, with a rare display of anger. “Have not enough of us been killed already? Addisu, you know what is at stake. Please, be wise with your choice.”
Addisu would have liked nothing better, and yet he had felt as if he had neither much choice nor wisdom. Nebreke and Berhanu had offered their guidance, but they opposed one another’s ideas. Addisu finally announced his leave, saying that he wanted to think in privacy. Now, as he sat under the tree and looked down at the hill of graves, the weight of his decision felt as heavy as ever. But it was quiet. He could think in peace. He tried praying, without the aid of silver.
Somewhere deep in the branches of the old olive tree, a bird trilled. With a jolt Addisu realised he had been dozing. After a full night of being disconnected and emptied of himself, he was rightfully exhausted. But as the sun rose, Addisu rose with it and clasped his staff in both hands. In the quiet of the night, he had heard an answer.
In the past I have enjoyed reading the entries of Rachelle’s Flash Fiction Challenges. This time, I decided to join in. My prompt was the song ‘Difference Maker’ by NEEDTOBREATHE, given to me by Athelas. It’s quite the amazing song, although its depth makes it a challenging prompt, and I went through a few versions before finding one I was satisfied with at the last moment.
Thanks again to Rachelle for organizing the challenge and to Athelas for the prompt!