by J. D. McLean
(Flash Fiction) On the way to deliver a tribute, the traveler encounters a macni.
|Blue dust swirled about the traveler, the rolling seas of Deiman sand flanking the obsidian road he walked. With the red sun setting at his back, he readjusted his belt and took another step forward. Only miles to go, he reminded himself. A few dozen or so.
The black road was slick and dark as oil, but solid as any stone. He was close enough to see the towers rising in the horizon, their material identical to the road, absorbing every speck of crimson light from the giant orb in the sky. In the desolation he saw the last thing he expected: Another traveler, heading the other way.
"Greetings!" he called out. There was no response, but he should not have expected one. The stilted gait of the other betrayed his kind: a macni, mechanical servant to the Deiman Lords.
They passed in silence, the macni storming by with an oddly consistent sequence of steps, the man getting an eyeful of his passerby. The traveler turned to face his destination and resumed a more expedient stride, hoping for distance between himself and the machine. He had no logical reason to fear the macni. But then, he had no reason to trust it, either.
The incident had almost left the traveler's mind when a nearby grating sound chilled his heart. He stopped, fearing to look back. The grating sound continued, slow and close. Was the macni following him?
A synthesized voice broke the eternal silence. "What do you carry?"
"Wheat," the man said, nervous. "Grains for the Harvest Lord. A tribute."
"Continue," the macni said. The following series of thuds sounded like the mechanoid turning about, and the decreasing volume of his steps verified as much.
The traveler wiped a bead of sweat from his brow and continued onward.