A big thanks to the entrants in this month’s short story comp.

Gladstone writer Brian Farber’s story about a the dangers of worshipping idols was the standout winner. If you enjoy his short story, check out his book Hitler’s Zeitmaschine and blog.

The Wrath of the Gods

By Brian Farber

Watching from the cool darkness of their secretive shelter amongst the shrubbery, the toads looked on as the Manthing wheeled his barrow out of the garage door, and they continued to gaze fascinated with unblinking eyes as he steered it to the centre of the lawn.

The large package on board was observably top-heavy, causing it to sway drunkenly from side to side whilst the Manthing shuffled awkwardly with sideways missteps struggling to keep his precious cargo from tipping over onto the ground.

On reaching his intended destination, the Manthing carefully lowered the barrow’s handles, moved to its side, embraced the package with his outstretched arms and lifting it with a gasping grunt, he swung the parcel around and lowered it to the ground with a dull thud.

The Manthing straightened and from the sheath hanging from his belt, he drew a large blade that glinted and gleamed in the setting sunlight. With a few well-placed strokes, he cut through the package’s bindings, and as the wrappings fell to the ground, the most incredibly beautiful figure came into view.

Rising out of a large, deep circular bowl, its rim decorated with twisting vines that sprouted bright green leaves and colourful flowers, the figure of an immensely handsome toad emerged from the confusion of discarded packaging and padding.

It struck a proud but dignified pose, standing tall on shapely hind legs and its well-proportioned dark brown body was bedecked in a splendid purple robe that hung from a collar of solid gold encircling its ample neck.

Through the frontal split in its adornment, the toad’s corpulent belly protruded grandly, suggesting it had been privy to a bountiful supply of beetles and worms, and finally, as if to confirm its rank beyond question, the toad’s head boasted a resplendent gold crown encrusted with rare jewels, topped by a ringlet of peaks rising from the base, each peak capped by a jewel in alternating hues of red and blue.

The Manthing applied some sticky liquid to the top of a small squat pedestal he had cast in the ground the previous day and he grunted and puffed whilst lifting this magnificent statue onto its final resting place aboard the pedestal. On completion of this task, he stood back, mopping his perspiring brow with a handkerchief and admiring his handiwork for a few seconds.

Then, reaching into the wheelbarrow he withdrew a bundle of black cylindrical objects, each furnished with a spike on one end and a small window on the other.

Whilst his audience looked on captivated, he planted each of these objects in an evenly spaced ring around the statue, pushing the spike end firmly into the ground.

With the installation complete, the Manthing sought out the garden hose and half-filled the bowl with water before returning to the garage. He reappeared moments later carrying a bulging transparent water-filled bag in which tiny brightly-coloured fish swam to and fro.

His curious audience in the shrubbery watched on in awed silence as he emptied the bag’s contents into the bowl. The Manthing bent over the bowl and swished a finger in the pool of water.

Then, after giving a grunt of satisfaction, he smacked the palms of his hands together in glancing blows, wiped them on his trouser thighs, and taking possession of the wheelbarrow’s handles, trundled it back across the lawn, into the garage, where the rattling of the roller door as it closed behind him suggested the Manthing’s activity in the garden had come to an end.

That evening a miracle occurred.

As the sun set over the treetops, the toads watched in amazement as one by one the black cylinders the Manthing had planted around the statue burst into brilliance.

Overcoming his fear, the bravest of them all, hopped toward the shrine in the centre of the lawn. He stopped at the outskirts of the installation to croak his obeisance to the Toadking, pausing in his homage only momentarily to indulge in devouring one of the fluttering moths that had been drawn to the scene by the bright lights.

On seeing their brother venture further into the ring of lights to dispatch one of the tiny fish in the bowl, all the other toads—apart from their elderly leader and a recently matured tadpole—cast caution to the winds, and advanced out of their hiding place in the dense foliage to genuflect before the Toadking.

Some, transfixed by the splendour of the statue, set up a loud croaking chorus of praise to honour the coming of this deity whilst the more pragmatic of their cohort joined their comrade in splashing through the bowl to feast on the fish.

Back inside the house, the Manthing, was roused from his dinner table by the cacophony of croaking toads in the back yard and peered out of the kitchen window to determine what the fuss was all about.

Seething with anger on seeing the desecration of his creation by this congregation of trespassing pests, the Manthing stormed into the garage, grabbed a large spade and striding purposely across the lawn, dispatched them one and all.

As one by one the stars filled the heavens, the Toadking, still basking in the glowing ring of lights, maintained his proud, silent stance, his gaze falling benignly on the bodies of his slaughtered worshippers.

“Ahhh”, sighed the elderly toad as he and his young companion edged back into the safety of the shrubbery. “What a terrible, terrible calamity to befall our brothers. But then,who are we to question the machinations of the gods, for surely it is but a part of a grand plan that we toads simply can’t comprehend?”

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