LIARSENIC

TIM TUCKER

The oil refinery towered over the land like a monstrous, skeletal fortress. It took them three years to build, the men of the village offering the sweat off of their backs and even their lives in exchange for bringing jobs and prosperity to their homeland. Once finished, its steel steeples pumped great plumes of smoke into the air. The engineers and men of science told the villagers that the smoke was a message to the Gods, a plea to bring rainfall back to their land and put an end to the plague of drought.

"Soon," the mothers told their children. "The Gods will hear our prayers and the sky will open up bringing us water for our crops, our baths and our tables!"

The children gazed upon the refinery in wonder. They could almost feel the crude oil pumping through the serpentine piping like the flowing of a mighty river.

At the beginning of the new harvest the rain still had not come. The people of the hot village waited and waited but still their prayers went unanswered.

"When will the water come?" they asked. "How long must our crops perish and children suffer?"

One day a blustery wind conspired from the north of the village. Dust and sand contorted in its wake and with it a slight shift in the temperature.

It was a sign.

The village buzzed with excitement. Crock pots, urns, jugs and vases were collected in anticipation of the coming rain. In the sky, darkened storm clouds gathered above the land. The billowing smoke from the oil refinery seemed to feed into the thunderhead, its bulk bruised with pent up intensity. Thunder rumbled across the horizon like the beating of war drums and the villagers answered the call with their own, their voices low, almost dirge like, slowly rising in a mantra of prayer to the Gods. The sky roared and the villagers roared back, their feet slapping the parched earth and arms raised towards the heavens. Finally there was a flash and terrible cracking like the world being split in half, and then the sky opened up, spilling rain across the land.

"It's here! It's here!" cried the people. A chorus of voices sang towards the merciful sky as the rain cascaded down. Liquid poured from the heavens down the land into jugs, into fields and into gaping mouths.

The singing turned to screams.

"Mother! It burns! The rain burns!" the children screamed.

To the south the men of science and engineers proposed a toast to each other from the safety of their bunker.

"Oil production has gone up exponentially since we opened the refinery! At this rate the plant will stay open for decades!"

THE END