From the Bones of Mother Earth
Deucalion took from him one round, speckled stone and threw it over his shoulder. It seemed to pain him, jolting his old joints, and the stone landed amid heather, out of sight. Nothing.
Thoősa laughed nervously loud, and the old people smiled wanly, too. But Hylas just handed stone after stone to the old floodmaster. “You watched everybody drown. Everybody. The whole human race. Like Zeus, do you? Like the Olympians up there, do you?” he taunted them.
Thoősa slapped at his shoulders, telling him to keep his voice down, to stop speaking blasphemies. “People round here just don’t feel like you do, Hylas.” She apologised to them for his bad manners, for his odd behaviour. “I don’t know what’s come over… he didn’t used to be like…” But Hylas had looked into Deucalion’s eyes and, like Narcissus gazing at his own reflection, saw too much to look away. Amid the sorrow and the weariness, there was a rage and agony in the old man’s eyes to match any in Monstro.
“Zeus took our father and nailed him to a cliff.”
“For the sin of kindness,” said his elderly sister.
“Of course we hate him.”
The heather stirred and rattled its curling fronds. Out from its green under-shadow crept a figure on hands and knees. Naked and startled by life, picking deer tics out of armpit and groin, a full grown man, unshaven and wild haired, crawled into the daylight on all fours. The age-old magic had not left Deucalion’s age-old left hand. He could still turn the bones of Mother Earth into living souls.
Suddenly Pyrrha knocked the stones from Hylas’s hands. “Father would not want this. Father knows how it must be. He would have said if this was the way.”
For the first time in a thousand years, brother and sister were at odds. It was as though the squabble between Thoősa and Hylas had infected them. Deucalion went on tossing stones over his shoulder. “How many years have we waited?” he said, face twisted up by distress.
“He says we must be patient. He says it must be borne!” Tearful, piping, Pyrrha paddled at his sleeve.
“For centuries we have been patient. Perhaps this boy is the answer. Perhaps he is the salvation we’ve been looking for in the Cave all these years!”
Hylas promised as much – swore to it – gave his word, as if it was his to give. Rouse up the stones of the earth into a numberless army, and Zeus could be destroyed, their father set free.
Pyrrha was about to give way. Thoősa could tell it: she, too, had been browbeaten by boys like Hylas.
“Ask!” she said. “Hylas here is a child: he has no idea who your father is. But I do. Why don’t we ask him? Ask your father, I mean. Yes or no.”
Deucalion and Pyrrha broke off their arguing. They looked at each other, slow of thinking, slow to take in new ideas. They stroked the zebra to calm it. The old man examined his own hands, wondering at the magic they still contained. And all the while, behind them, crawling out of the heather, came shape after shape, man after man. Each resembled in some way the stone from which he had been made – a sharpness of feature, jagged beard, roundness of belly, a freckled skin; here and there even a birthmark in the shape of a fossil. But in every pair of eyes was a look inherited from their creator: a kind of raging desperation, a need to change the future for the better, come what might, come what may.
One figure did not emerge from the undergrowth: Xyno the dogged Fixer-and-Fetcher watched the little party of travellers move on, Deucalion leading the way. Mentally he listed all the saleable things that could be made from zebra hide, then he set off in the opposite direction, to inform Typhon. He might not be able to tell the Prince of Darkness his Fate, but he could tell about men created from stones, about some antique stranger who could create an army of stone-hearted warriors, to help topple Zeus. Sometimes information is as valuable as gold and gemstones.