Friday, February 8, 2013
Flash Fiction Friday: The Mad Professor
Professor Alexander watched as the entrance to the tomb was opened to the chanting of the villagers behind him. The wisewoman stood before the entrance, clutching a wooden box, and muttered the incantation to keep the souls inside at rest. Once the stone was finished being moved, everybody became silent. He had been told the chanting and rock moving would coincide but he didn't expect the chanting to stop the moment the rock stopped moving. He would have to make a note of this part of the ritual.
The wisewoman moved forward with her precious cargo and the people behind her began the low chants to keep her safe from the spirits within the cave. The professor followed her as closely as he dared, making sure to keep well outside of the ritual area. He could see a ledge inside the cave and he knew there would be more near the back. The people of this village had been using this tomb for centuries and the objects on the ledge proved it.
Professor Alexander had been observing the Inda for years. They considered him harmless if a little mad, and very curious about everyday things. He examined everything, even going so far as to weigh the spirit dolls before and after somebody died. He was very excited to find a difference and the elders looked on his excitement with indulgence. Any child could have told him the dolls would change weigh once the spirit of the dead man entered it.
Several years into his study of the tribe, Professor Alexander returned to his home and came back to the jungle with a wife. She was pretty and young and wholly unsuited to the heat and damp of the jungle. Her children, though, seemed to thrive in the jungle.
She was pregnant with their third child, a much hoped for girl, when the river flooded higher than usual. Fever and death followed, devastating all the tribes in the valley. There were trips to the spirit cave every week, bringing the souls of the dead to start their journey. When the professor's wife was taken by fever, he spent long hours looking for a way to save her and their unborn child. She went into labor but died of the fever before the baby had uttered its first cry.
Professor Alexander pleaded with the wisewoman to make his wife a spirit doll, so he knew her soul was at rest. Saddened by his grief, the wisewoman explained that the dolls had to be made when they were children so the spirits would know where to go when the bodies had died. They had to have time to learn about two bodies. As an adult, they had become too entrenched in their own bodies to learn how to transition to the spirit dolls.
The professor was distraught, frantic to save his wife. The wisewoman agreed to perform rituals to guide her soul to the spirit cave that was the portal to the after life. Without being trapped in the dolls, the best the rituals could do is give the soul a path to the after life. Only the gods could take a lost or confused soul to the afterworld. His children, however, could be given spirit dolls.
The fever passed through the valley. Professor Alexander decided to seek out the gods the wisewoman had told him about. They were supposed to be deeper into the jungle and he was determined to seek them out. There were many people in the tribe who would watch his children while he went out to ensure the peace of his wife's soul. Most of the men in the tribe were sure he would not return.
The professor did return and he brought with him a creature nobody had seen in person for centuries. The art on the abandoned temples that had been retaken by the jungle portrayed the creature that was in chains as a servant of one of the gods. It was often considered one of the lesser gods.
The tribe didn't know what to do with the captured god. Frightened and cowed, the creature cringed when the people came to look at him. Professor Alexander had gone even more mad in the jungle looking for the gods and kept the one he had captured in chains near him. Construction began on the professors laboratory, the tribes people following his orders with awe. Wars were fought throughout the valley for supplies and laborers, the Inda attacking with their peaceful neighbors with a fanaticism that had not been seen for centuries.
Professor Alexander moved into his laboratory and took the god with him. His children were given spirit dolls by the wisewoman while he was in the jungle. When he remembered to be, or could be reminded about his duties, the professor was a doting father. When he was working on his experiments, the professors wild eyes would sometimes be drawn to the spirit dolls his sons carried.