Out past the woods, in the heath, Abundance had a sacred place. He went there before he grew supper, and we could never follow him. When he got back he would be all bloody from the blighters. Mothers would thank him while they pulled away the young ones what wanted to lick the wounds.
My father says it wasn't always like this. He told me the land used to give up its body for us to eat, up until it was blasted to hell when the sky tore up and the, what do you call, the old men what were like Abundance came down. He says that it changed everything, but he keeps remembering less of it. I remember less of it, too.
My father says that the land became greedy or tainted, one. Animals wouldn't live here, but sometimes blighters would get in. Blighters looked like birds and dogs and such, but Father said they got into some bad food, and it made them real sick and swollen and hungry. We couldn't eat them, because their meat was bad, too, so we built up walls, kept them from coming in and running their tongues like they do. Sometimes they ate us up. Sometimes they just watched us while we were asleep in bed. Sometimes they riled up on each other until one was ate up.
Someone called for the dead to give up their flesh, the way the land used to do. Back then, the village gave up their bodies to the land, in a trade, like. The man said that, since the land doesn't give back, we should keep the bodies for ourselves. And this opened our eyes. We knew it was natural as sleeping at night. And we ate.
But the better we ate, the fewer men died, and the fewer men died, the worse we ate. Kept us in a bind, as we waited over the sick beds, not saying a word. Some men didn't eat. They were sore afraid to. They starved and asked to leave, but we didn't let them, because we needed the bodies. Some men didn't eat out of kindness. They fed their kids instead, and then… well, they did the same thing again.
One day a boy name of Mehew ran out. Said he was hungry. Came back all cut up, but with an awful big message. Said he had become like the old men we used to know, the big ones. Said he could keep us fed like the land used to.
The next time a man passed, my father says, Mehew pressed his hands down on the body's chest, and bent down to give it a kiss, like. The body bloomed up with meat. Tastier than it ever was before, too—my father says it was like a pumpkin, but one that you could eat entire. Village was fuller than it ever was.
Mehew was called Abundance after that, and he started getting in the role of the old men real well. He said that giving him love would make the food grow stronger, and everyone loved on him. He said that praise would keep the food tasting sweet, and everyone praised on him. Said he wanted the best house anyone had seen, and everyone worked together to put it up. We were so happy to have a Lord again. And Abundance wasn't kidding. As he dwelled there, in the heat of his temple, we dwelled in increase. And every so often, he would go out, to be alone in his power.
Some time after, our Lord called everyone down to dinner, said that, since people were keeping their flesh longer, he had a new plan. Asked for a faithful, healthy man to step up. Many did. Took one and laid down his hands, and surely, they began to bloom. The congregated men were amazed as Abundance took the blooms away, and the chosen one said it was as painless as cutting hair. These live fruits were bony. A few looked like arms. But the warm blood made them the sweetest fruit of all.
Time came (and this, I can remember) that everyone could take their part. Men built our village bigger. Travelers would see it, and come by to sleep safely. Some stayed, drawn in by the abundant food. Most left before they had a chance to eat. Other men here grew strong, and made it their task to stave off the blighters, who were now baying at the wall anights. our Lord said the critters were drawn to his power. Men who couldn't work on other jobs became fields for our Lord's crops to take to. They grew awful fat and healthy, which was a blessing, for they grew to reflect our Lord, who became fulsome with flesh himself. But they could never partake of our Lord's body, for the blasphemy of it would sicken them so awful that none could eat of the eaters' flesh. And our flesh was savory—we ate to surfeiting, and my father said that we thought of food yet more than we did while hungry.
But then, in a few years' time, I acted awful wrong. Saw our Lord go out into the heath and the night, and I followed. Went unnoticed among the trees. Blighters were too keen on Abundance to notice me. And I saw new critters out in the heath what couldn't be called blighters because they couldn't be called animals. Walking, drooling mouths with claws. Stomachs what inched along like slugs. And they were gathered around, around…
It was a huge mound of flesh, long as day and half as tall. Gave off steam and blood like I'd never seen. I knew it was flesh, because the blighters were gorging on it, and because of the smell what made the air oily. When Abundance came before it, he hunkered down and threw off his coat. I could see him, then, as he joined the blighters. Realized the Lord was one of them, but man-shaped. I didn't make a sound the whole time he stayed there, watching from the woods. Or maybe I did and he couldn't hear. Then he took himself up, and clothed, and walked away. When he was gone, I started to feel an awful yen in my belly, and… there was meat in front of me. I approached, drunk on the scent drifting off it. Saw its freshness. Tore a red handful away. Partook.
The moment is a smudge drawn across my memory. I can't put the things my body did to words. But after, I knew everything Abundance must have known. This mound was the body of a god. A generation ago, he fell dead to the earth, though the cause was unclear to me. His name was lost, but he was a god of herders, and butchers, and the savor of the meat, and had power over these things. In death, all that strength turned sour, and oozed out from his body into the world. Our Lord felt it there. He saw the blighters, scavengers of godflesh. He saw the host, the life which arose from the godflesh. Joined them there. He ain't a god, but he's closer than anyone now.
And I had done the same.
In my shock, I flew on bloody feet back home. Those that saw me were rightful afraid. Demanded answers, and I provided. Were furious, and gave into fighting: Would they tell the Lord? Abundance could never know. What can they do with this one? What can they do at all?
Some drove me away. Some followed me. I took whoever would come, and we ate. In all these years before I found it, the flesh had not diminished, and it never did afterward, for however long we stayed beside it. And in those years, the love for Abundance grew weak, and in time, he succumbed to the fear that made him withhold his flesh before: he was just another of us. Everyone was, except those who became sore afraid, and slipped away like thieves.
Now, time blurs together. Memories blur together, as we build, and take in travelers. In my age, I remember less of the way life was before this. But one memory is stuck permanent as the mound in the heath.
I remember being hungry.