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.

The Gifting God Dream

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I was walking around in an inflatable penis costume at our work party leaving do. For some reason the suit had boobs and chest hair, but I’d done my makeup all pretty so I pulled it off. People had commented on my costume saying how unique and funny it was. Oh yeah. I was popular.

A colleague called me to the bar and shouted over the music, “Look who’s back!” I turned to see a group of guys in green T-shirts that looked vaguely familiar. In the middle of them was a guy with long, black, Loki-esque hair.

It was Tom Hiddleston. His green T-Shirt was tightly fitted across his muscular torso, and he was smiling with those piercing green demigod eyes.

I walked over to the group and said hello to each one in turn. When I got to Tom I made a kind of, “ahh!” noise and hugged him. “Long time no see!” He’d visited us a while back, and he seemed genuinely happy to see me again. He pulled me out of the embrace and stood me at a distance to admire my outfit.

Oh God. I was still in the penis suit.

He burst out laughing whilst my face grew red against the garish pink.

“I’ve never seen a costume with boobs and so much chest hair! Where did you even find that?”

“Internet,” I mumbled.

Before we could talk more the green shirts had to go for a meeting. I watched them through the blinds for a while before taking the penis suit off… with some issues. Rubber can really chafe! But it didn’t matter. I had the promise that I would see Mr. H again.

The next day our new halls of residence was finally built and ready to move into. Our flat was lovely, save for a couple of major downsides; we were on the ground floor (which everyone knows is a prime target for murderers and thieves) and the only way to get to the kitchen was through our room. I wasn’t happy. What if I was sleeping and someone fancied a late night snack? What if I was getting dressed and a flatmate needed his morning Weetabix? This wouldn’t do.

To take my mind off things I went for a walk in the field next to our flat, but I was so upset I forgot my shoes. In the middle of the field I found an old man, simply stood there, staring into the sky at nothing in particular. Maybe he was an alien waiting for his ride home. I was about to go over and ask if he was okay, but that was when I noticed the tent.

The closer I got to it, the more I began to realise this was something religious. There were artefacts hanging over the doorway and a hazy incense enveloped me. I had a bad feeling, but nonetheless entered. Central to the room was a large shrine with numerous candles and a portrait of a many armed God behind it. A large stuffed tiger lay proudly on top of the altar, surveying his linen walled palace.

I felt like I was trespassing and should pay homage to this God in recompense. I was glad I had no shoes on. That was disrespectful wasn’t it? I didn’t really have anything on me to give as an offering, so I took my contacts out and put them on the tiger. I was struggling to get them to stick to his beady eyes when I sensed a creature enter the tent behind me.

I turned slowly to see a monkey-like monster hunched over me with a many-eyed face and furry mandibles. It was dribbling. I felt an almost supernatural power emanating from him, but he made no move to harm me.

Tentatively I stroked his head, avoiding his spidery black eyes. He was extremely soft, like a faux fur cushion. As I studied him he began sniffing and dribbling all over my hand. In a strange sort of way he was quite cute.

I’d been so engrossed in this anomaly that I hadn’t noticed the woman stood behind him. She was deadstaring a spot above my head, and she looked angry. She was like no earthly woman I had seen before; her hair was like tubing, tied up tightly on her scalp. Her eyes were fully black and distant in gaunt, pale skin. The flesh on her left hand was hideously disfigured, with small globs between her thumb and forefinger, not dissimilar to the creature’s eyes.

She saw me looking and flexed her hand, and I sensed the monster tense under my fingertips. The flesh on her thumb moved as if by itself. I realised now it was shaped like a mouth. She clenched her fist and I felt the furry mandibles of the creature swallow my hand. It started sucking. With much force I pulled away from it, but it pulled it back, sucking my whole hand in. I felt my bones crushing together, yet I was helpless and utterly stuck. I guess the Gods hadn’t been appeased with my offering.

“Please,” I begged the woman. She continued staring at the wall. “Please!” there was desperation in my voice. She said nothing, but I saw her palm release the tension, and instantly I was free.

I ran from the tent.