The Stew Maker Dream

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In times of war, we look to our leaders for guidance and courage. But who do the leaders look to?

In this particular war I was looked upon as a leader. In real life, I might have been called General, or President, maybe even Queen. But in this, I was known as a Stew Maker. 

Stew was a sacred food in this war, and few of us knew how to make it. But there were ancient and sacred rules the Gods decreed upon my duty:

1: Thou shalt not give thy stew to any other mortal unless in dire need.
2: Thou shalt not divulge the sacred recipe to any living mortal.
3: Thou shalt never be without thy bowl of stew.
4: Thou shalt not fight for fear of spilling thy heavenly supplement.

Follow in these commandments and thou shalt have our holiest protection.

These rules saw me standing on the sidelines of battlefields, watching my men die around me whilst raising the tender, slow cooked beef to my mouth. It was torture. I watched men die of starvation in the trenches, the last thing they remember being the succulent scent of home-cooked stew. Every day I walked through the poverty and famine of my people, forever eating and never gaining weight.

Sometimes, when nobody else was looking, I would throw pieces of meat to the hungry, or use it to keep my family alive. Of course the Gods would know this, but I couldn’t help myself. I felt powerless without their protection, but if I kept it a secret, people would still believe I was untouchable, and that would prevent me getting instantly lynched.

I wasn’t the only Stew Maker in our district; there were a few of us, including my little brother. We were seen as guardians, as good omens. As long as the Stew Makers followed their duties, the majority would be safe from harm.

The only people more revered than us were the priests. Every time they sang, thousands and thousands of people would make the ascent up to the ruinous castle, myself included.  No matter which side of the war you were on, everyone followed the rituals. The hill was situated in the very centre of the country, easily accessible from each of the four districts.

Each night we would all gather at the top of the hill in quiet contemplation, listening to the humming melody of the priests.

My African-American warrior friend sat with me on a rock as I gazed into the night’s sky. She wasn’t a Stew Maker, but she was well-known and cherished among our people for her feats in battle. Today, however, several idiots from our enemies’ ranks decided to mess with her.

They picked and pressed and bullied her until she stood up on a high rock and hissed, “dammit, don’t you know who I am?” I saw her fists clench and I prepared for the wrath of the priests when a fight ensued and the holy song was disrupted. But the men just shrugged and laughed at her. She sat down, ego instantly deflated.

When the dawn began to break and the first stain of colour spread across the horizon, the song dissipated and we all went home. My parents sat on the sofa in our humble house. Our allies surrounded us; they felt safer being near us at all times. My parent’s stew making days were long over, but they were still sworn to keep the recipe secret. However, the Gods were not kind, and did not permit previous Stew Makers to continue eating once their time had run out.

My mother’s face was gaunt and thin. After a life of constant delicious meals, the latter years of her life had not been kind. I stood on the balcony and occasionally chucked them a piece of beef when no-one was looking.

A couple of hours later I set off for work, stew bowl still in hand. All this war and tension around me and I still had to work. Typical life.

It was a foggy morning and I could barely see anything. Still, I knew I was early. Through the bleak whiteness I saw the men from last night on the other side of the street, jeering at me but not daring to come near. I was wary of them. But soon I began to daydream as I walked, completely unfocused and yet walking automatically towards my goal. My mind became as fogged as the air.

When I finally came to my senses, the first thing I realised was that my hand felt considerably lighter. I looked down with dread to see that my stew had disappeared. How was that possible?

The air was clear now, and I figured someone had placed a sleeping draught or hallucinatory into it in order to steal my stew. I began searching for the men, but had no such luck. Turning into the nearest alley, I fell to my knees in grief.

My little brother, only six years old, was chained to the wall and slumped in death towards the floor. His angelic blonde floppy hair shrouded his face, his knees bent at awkward angles. Beside him in the dirt was my stew bowl, recently washed up and still warm. The stew was no more.

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The Wonders of the Universe Dream

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My life is just one big game. No, literally. Or at least it was in this dream. I was on a team with the cast of Community, exploring a submerged and ruinous world in our little jet-ski-motorboat hybrid. The game glitched an awful lot (we were in Beta) so whenever there were waves or little pockets of land, we drove over them in a straight line.

We were supposed to be discovering the mysteries of the universe. Somehow they were the key to beating the game. In the final level we found four statues facing a wall with an intricate circular pattern. Abed studied the markings and decided it looked very much like a closed gateway. The exit!

Having played many games between us, we decided the key must lie with the creepy statues. Each had an intricate carving on their blank stone faces and unlike everything else in that city weren’t so much as chipped or scratched. They were each placed on unusual square tiles; the kind that blatantly need something heavy on to make the switch work. But they were already on them, and we couldn’t so much as budge the crumbling stone figures. Jeff  tried with all his might, but the only thing he managed was a broken nail and a blow to his ego.

In the end we decided the key must still be out there. We left Britta to watch the statues in case anything happened and the rest of us split up. I went with Abed on the jet ski. Sometimes the glitches would go from its straight line facepalmery to dipping us underwater and, of course, we got wet despite not properly going in.

After one of these soakings we stopped amidst a glorious turquoise sea to dry off. We could see many broken islands on the horizon. It was a wonder the purple sky didn’t affect the vibrant blue pigment of the sea. Was that one of the mysteries? Probably just science I didn’t understand.

“I think we should explore the nearest island and then work in a clockwise rotation from there so we don’t miss anything,” Abed said logically.

“Yeah? I just want to explore a bit. I might go for a swim, catch you up in a bit?”

Abed gave me a look. “You know what always happens when teams split up in movies.”

“I know. But this is a game. Dude, I’ll be fine. If I don’t find you in the next hour just go on without me.”

He sighed, then waited for me dive overboard before starting up the engine.

“Good luck!”

“You too,” I smiled reassuringly.

The water was beautifully warm and clear, and surprisingly shallow. I almost forgot we had a mission to complete, I was so relaxed just floating along. Something on the sea bed pricked my hand and brought me back to the moment. I looked underwater and saw nothing. There was no blood, no sign of anything. There wasn’t even so much as an urchin, just smooth sand. Something pricked my leg.

“First wonder of the universe,” I whispered excitedly. There was a grinding sound from somewhere in the distance. I swam to a nearby rock and prepared for a cutscene.

Sure enough, I watched in my head as one of the statues turned all by itself to face East.

One down, three to go, I thought. Abed would be mad he’d missed this. And about the fact I’d been right to go off on my own. Hah.

Someone coughed. Looking over the edge of the rock I saw an old man, knee deep in water and wearing nothing but a white loin cloth. He had a long stick in one hand and was covering his mouth with the other. During his coughing fits he was prodding at something out of his reach on another rock. As I approached I realised, impossibly, that he was prodding at an iPhone.

We conversed briefly, but I couldn’t get much sense out of him.Whatever language he spoke it wasn’t English. Not anymore, anyway. After a while he seemed to decide I wasn’t a threat, and shared with me the second wonder of the universe; the iPhone. I reached up and took it uncertainly. But when I turned it over, my breath caught. Somehow, in the camera lens, was a full-sized thimble. I grinned and thanked the old man. I had to show this to Abed!

I swam quickly to the nearest island, which Abed was thankfully still on.

“Abed look! One of the wonders! I think we have to find four of them to turn the statues!”

“I know,” Abed said. “I saw the cutscenes. I found something too.”

He led me to a crumbling old wall with centuries old Egyptian engravings. There were sketchings of robe-clad men on a long boat and lots of cats. Like, loads of cats. But in the centre of everything were four monumental figures commanding all. Abed gestured to take a closer look. Just above the four Gods someone had scratched something. The player before us had scrawled:

A/
ED

Abed looked at it thoughtfully. I could almost see the possibilities running through his head. “Do you know what it means?” I asked after several minutes of complete silence.

“Not entirely,” he replied. “But I have a vague idea. What was it you wanted to show me?”

I took the iPhone out of my pocket and handed it to him. He took it, looking horrified.

“We have to get to Britta.”

 

The models had already begun moving by the time we made it back. They marched slowly towards the gateway, which was already open and casting a striped shadow across the figures. The wind gushing forth from the other side made it all the more difficult to get there in time. We yelled at Britta to stop the statues from entering the portal. The wind carried away our words, but not our intention. Britta grabbed the arm of the nearest one just before he made it through. She pulled with all her might. Then suddenly everything stopped moving and Britta fell to the floor with the statue.

Silence.

We sat for a moment and caught our breath.That was a close one. Now we just had to figure out how to get the Gods through properly…