By R. W. Marino

         Art by Ramos Fumes

There’s a variety of viewpoints about what constitutes heresy.




     “I am the Oracle of Delphi!”

     Eyes widened.

     A person, most likely a woman, yelled an angry reply.

     “The Oracle of Delphi has always been a woman!”


     The crowd murmured.

     Someone pushed through.  The oracle frowned deeply.

     “And I SAID that the Oracle of Delphi has always been a WOMAN!”

     The challenger, now revealed, was a woman indeed. Glistening bits of electroplate twinkled as she moved. Something personal flickered in her eyes. The oracle raised his staff overhead to the heavens. Lightning crackled and the sky darkened in a swirl of clouds. It sent shivers and gasps through the crowd of frightened, but way too nosy to leave, onlookers.

     He moved his lips to holler, “I AM THE…”

     She cut him off with a voice like thunder. “SAY IT AGAIN AND I WILL SLAY YOU AS A HERETIC!”

     The oracle’s eyes lit up like Christmas. His frustration boiled into pure mock. He looked over the gathered sheep and let a creeping grin devour his face. The observers went silent as a grave. The oracle reached into the vault of his mind and said, “Then come and face your destiny, Dez Del Arri.”

     The bestial woman remained unfazed. A friend at her side crossed her brows in thought and uttered, “How did he know?” Dez Del Arri growled and shoved the last bit of crowd out of her way. She came with the fury of angry youth like a flowing mane. The oracle read her soul like a child’s picture book.

     No fuzzy bunnies there.

     Nothing but grim pride and a twisted sense that she alone was the second coming of perfection. The oracle pinched an eye together angrily. He did not like this flavor of whacko, especially since she exuded pure power.

     The oracle threw his staff into the air. It disappeared with a thunderous clap of brimstone. Dez Del Arri did not blink. She circled, purring like a lioness. The air around her swelled like a swarming hornet’s nest. The crowd could even hear their violent guardian buzz. Her outstretched hands sucked the mass together and formed two wicked knives dripping with tragedy’s venom.

     The oracle did not see this. His precognition had gone untested for some time. His flock chanted, “Eye-gouge, eye-gouge, broken bones. If she doesn’t back down, kill her with stones.”

     The oracle raised an eyebrow and a finger, scolding. “That is quite enough.”

     His flock embraced silence as if it were a long-lost father. A black cat appeared between the two and meowed the call of the heretic’s challenge.

     It began in a flash.

     Dez Del Arri did not expect the oracle to have a feisty set of fangs. She recoiled after the first exchange with glistening liquid mercury rolling down her neck. He had bitten all the way to the shoulder blade.

     She shuddered and ground her teeth.  The oracle spat out the hunk of soft metal and clicked his tongue like a mantis. Dez cracked her knuckles, squeezing the blades tightly as poison rolled down her hand like a juiced lemon.

     Faster than eyes could follow, they struck again. Both recoiled with mutual wounds. Ghostly matter trailed behind each as they swallowed the gravity of the challenge. No protocols for victory had been set. Death understood his role in the battle. He hovered overhead with cackle and moan. Occasionally he shifted the scythe from side to side.  But Death felt as helpless as the rest of them.

     The oracle laughed at his wounds. There was no pain. THERE WOULD BE NO PAIN. Ever.  Dez tightened her grasp around her own thigh. At this rate of bleeding she had only minutes left. She ate up the pain and threw herself at the heretic. The world rumbled. The titanic warriors collided. It rumbled again, this time up and down. Then as they separated it cracked. Both slammed the ground with Death’s scythe poised inches from their throats, eager to polish its glistening edge.

     The flock wept.  Dez’s friends bawled. It was never meant to be. Then Death started. His hollow eye sockets bulged in alarm. Dez and the oracle flipped into the air with hands clutched at one another’s throats.  The two scratched and clawed, twisting and curling in a maelstrom of uncensored violence, then locked lips passionately.

     Death felt tears coming on.  He ran like hell.  The crowd threw his scythe after him.  It clanged down the road in obedience.

     Dez and the oracle swirled upwards into the deafening twister winds. They merged into one, just as the oracle half had foreseen.