Ferod stood in shock in front of the shrine. He’d distinctly heard the words.
“Are you sure you don’t want more?”
He didn’t really believe in the old gods. Nobody even seemed to remember the names of whatever god or gods this shrine might be dedicated to. But he had run out of money to pay for seed grain, and if he had no seed grain there would be no planting, then, of course, no harvest, and therefore no seed grain for next year either. So he came to the shrine and asked the gods, whoever they might be, for money to buy seed grain.
“No,” he said, inwardly cursing himself for responding to the imaginary voice. “I just want money for seed grain.”
He said this because he didn’t believe in the gods and didn’t suppose they were going to give him even that much. So why ask for more?
On his way home he tripped over a rock and fell into the ditch beside the path. As he was scrambling back out of the ditch he felt something smooth and hard. When he got back to the path he brushed the object off and found that it was a large silver coin, worth precisely the amount he needed to buy seed grain.
Stupid gods, he thought, making me fall in the ditch in order to find this pitiful coin. But at least it will buy me that seed grain.
Ferod’s farm went reasonably well for the next few years. He didn’t get rich, but he always had enough to feed his family, with seed grain left over for the next year.
Then his wife got sick. The village shaman performed rituals over her, but she didn’t get better. He applied all the folk remedies he could remember from his mother, but she only continued to get worse.
Then he remembered the shrine. He hadn’t been there since his prayer for the seed grain. He really didn’t believe the gods had provided the silver coin. Clearly it was just a coincidence. But it could hardly be less effective than rubbing his wife’s body with that noxious smelling green mixture he had simmering in a pot on the stove.
So he went back to the shrine. “I would like my wife to live longer,” he said.
“How much longer would you like her to live?” he thought he heard. What an imagination I have! he thought. Here I am holding a conversation with a pile of rocks.
But he answered just the same. “I’d like her to live five more years,” he said. By then the children would be old enough to work in the fields, and she would be older than many women he could name. Yes, five years would do.
“Are you sure you don’t want more?”
He didn’t bother to answer. He felt too foolish. And besides, he didn’t believe the gods would do anything in any case.
But when he returned home, his wife had taken a turn for the better, and had thrown out the noxious smelling green stuff he had been cooking on the stove. So things got much better.
Better, that is, until five years later his wife fell from a ladder, broke her neck, and died. Ferod was too grieved and angry to notice that it was five years to the day from his visit to the shrine.
Still, the children were older, and were able to work in the fields, so life went on. It was lonelier. Much of the life went out of the farm. But they kept on living.
Then came the great drought. Not only was Ferod’s farm dry and unproductive, but so were all the farms around. The river was nearly dry. There came a day when Ferod knew that if they didn’t get rain immediately, they were all going to starve.
So once again Ferod went to the shrine. He didn’t really believe it would help, but he went anyhow, as had been his habit when he was desperate. The shrine was covered with vines now so that the rocks could hardly be seen.
“I need enough rain to water the crops,” he said.
“Are you sure you don’t want more?” he thought he heard again.
“Why do you always ask that?” he shouted. “OK! I want more! I want lots of rain! I want it to rain and rain.”
He said this because he didn’t believe the gods would do anything. Besides, the question made him angry because he felt foolish.
But before he was halfway home clouds were gathering and the rains began. It rained all the rest of that day. It rained all night. Then it rained the next day. In fact, it kept raining for two weeks. The river rose ominously, but it hadn’t overflowed its banks.
Nobody considered that it was raining in the mountains as well. But then there came a day when a rocky barrier was swept aside in the mountains and a wall of water swept through the village. It took away houses. It washed away the crops and most of the soil in which they grew. When it was done there was nothing left of Ferod’s village.
Ferod managed to survive, clinging to a large tree on top of a hill that wasn’t quite completely submerged. When the water receded he went to find the shrine.
There were only a few stones left scattered where the shrine had been. He raised his fists and yelled at the gods. “Why did you do this to me?” he asked.
“We only did what you asked,” said the voice. It might have been in his head. It might have been carried on the wind. He wasn’t sure.
The voice seemed to mock him. “Are you sure you don’t want more?”
(This post was written for the one word at a time blog carnival, on the word “more.”)