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The Advance of the Glacier

The habitants of Lesser Ransom, long acquainted with
evil, looked up from their preparations for the difficult
winter. The elder explained, The Prince of Darkness comes
riding his chariot
. Of course, the experimental balloonist
heard precious little over the roaring fire that kept him
aloft in the heavens. Instead, he observed the villagers’
kneeling as one in prayer. Perhaps he thought that they
praised almighty God for the miracle of manned flight.

All around them were strewn their antique implements:
their reapers, their knives for slaughter—and on the air,
a tang of guts, pigs’ insides suspended from iron hooks
that turned in the wind. The balloonist took off his cap
and waved to the villagers, who could make nothing of
the letters in gold on the side of his basket. They knew
simply that from the earth, this infernal thing had risen
and that to the earth, it must return via a burning door.

Whatever the balloonist may have said then, as he fell,
no one understood. He became lost within the brilliant
folds of wreckage crowning a nearby hill. The villagers
crossed themselves. And when the machine had finally
grown cool, they heaped stones atop it—like, they said,
the monuments once built by their heathen forefathers
when terrible kings and warlords had been summoned
to the halls of the death god in his mantle of white fur.

Gregory Kimbrell

The Primitive Observatory
Southern Illinois University Press

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