LACKINGTON'S

speculative prose

A Galactic History of the Asmodean Fire Hoof, by Alexandra Seidel

The Asmodean Fire Hoof was first created on Earth by a group of disenchanted former cultists. We know this for a certainty by their surviving writings and by how they categorized their various messages to the social networks of the day. Many of these contain words and phrases such as “summon gods/demons,” “contact the beyond,” and “magic from the gods.”

The group, back in their cultist days, had attempted, through varied praying and sacrifice, through regular orgies and meditation, to connect with the divine. However, none of their attempts had yielded even a minor spirit for their altars, and so the group had summarily chosen to disavow all faith and instead pursue more individual and instant means of gratification and fulfillment.

This disavowment was to be celebrated with a night of carnality since “orgy” sounded too religious to their no-longer-devout ears. Intoxication as well was supposed to be part of the festivities. One imagines the preparations for such a celebration: fine Earth fabrics draped everywhere, sweet-smelling flowers brought indoors, and the fruits of Earth gathered in heaps and put on laden tables inside. Yet, all these details have been lost to time and are fanciful speculation, the stuff one sees in VR dramas that have often attempted to recreate the event. Since the names of the group’s leaders are sadly lost, we will call them Eve and Adam—just like many of the VR pieces have done—even if we are aware that both of them were women.

The night started off innocently enough with a few body shots among the core group, pictures of which survive and can be seen in this Academy’s very own Museum of the Asmodean Fire Hoof. Eventually, more people came to what had once been their place of worship to welcome Eve and Adam and their former flock back into the arms of the rational, secular world. The later arrivals had followed Adam’s over-enthusiastic invitation on a social network of the day to “come party, hard.”

This invitation has come down to us, and researchers have found various interpretations for the pictograms that accompany it. Flames, for instance, might indicate there were in fact still old-fashioned light sources used, a combination of an open flame and a wax, known as candles. Hand gestures and fruit pictograms seem more baffling and have given rise to probable explanations such as the inclusion of sign language in the message as well as more ridiculous ones of fruit being a token or currency to be exchanged for participation. At best, in those days on Earth, fruit and vegetables would have been given as gifts, and no host would have required them of a guest.

Few detailed and coherent accounts have come down to us after more people joined the party, but we do know that at one point during the night, something happened that had so long eluded the altars of these former cultists: they were given a sign, or rather, a recipe. Eve and Adam told everyone that the person who gave them the recipe called herself Mercury, and that no one had ever seen her before nor since. It has to be assumed that this is Mercury the divine being, but without any reliable witness accounts, nothing is certain.

Guided by the divine recipe, Eve and Adam committed alchemy in liquor and spirit. Allegedly, there was fire and a sulfur smell, a sparkling in the air, and the sound of maidens singing. Whatever hallucinations accompanied the Asmodean Fire Hoof’s arrival on this plane, arrive it did.

As the stories would have it, Eve took the first sip and told her former cultist sister that it was good. Adam took the second sip and much agreed before she finished the concoction. Thus, the Asmodean Fire Hoof was born, and the secret of its making was shared by only Eve and Adam. Very briefly during that enchanted night, they considered forming a sisterhood of holy intoxication, but that did not stick.

All former cultists went on to rise to the highest ranks of established thought and science of the day. Eve and Adam guarded the recipe faithfully and passed it on to only the worthy, to those who had the will and want to recreate it just as Mercury had delivered it upon them.

So it happened that the Asmodean Fire Hoof left Earth on the wave of the first diaspora. The recipe bearer Eve and Adam had selected—let’s call her Mercury like in our cherished VR dramas—had nothing to bring to Mars but her hopes and dreams and the old-fashioned yet brilliant cocktail recipe. For decades on Mars, she made do with ingredients that were not what the original called for, but she remained true in spirit to the Asmodean Fire Hoof with each iteration of the cocktail. All her fellow settlers could and did attest: the Asmodean Fire Hoof was the first beverage prepared after they landed, and so we know its power to lift spirits and induce a celebratory mood was strong as ever. There are personal diaries and logs, even one video file guarded at the Museum of the Asmodean Fire Hoof, of what the settlers called the “Touch Down Party.” This video might not be suitable for younger audiences, but it does explain the sudden population rise about ten months later. Nor, taking this knowledge into account, does it then come as a surprise that the first baby born on Mars was called Mercury. (The VR dramas like to allude that the divine being bearing the same name was present for the child’s birth and suggested the name herself, but that is obviously the fanciful imagination of our best artistic minds at work.)

Mercury, the Mars settler, also deserves credit for demanding of those she deemed worthy to bear the recipe that they learn, by heart, the precise ingredients and measurements of Earth, even if some of these ingredients were still lacking on the fifth planet.

The recipe lingered on Mars for a few generations after Mercury had first brought it, but at some point, it was lost to that world and instead popped up on a fast-traveling generation ship headed for the home worlds of the second diaspora. There, two sisters kept the Hoof. They shall be called Eve and Adam for simplicity’s sake, and because that is what we know best from the VR dramas.

Both Eve and Adam knew the recipe handed down through the Mercurian line of Mars, which can be traced directly to the former cultists. This is clear because Eve and Adam are remembered for often complaining about how such and such an ingredient was missing, something that was easily found on Earth, but hard to come by on a ship with little agriculture.

Despite those limitations, Eve and Adam often made the Asmodean Fire Hoof for their fellow crew and captains. Adam in particular is remembered for downing one full serving of the Hoof and still being able to mix further cocktails after that. Eve, just like Mars’s Mercury before her, deserves high credit for her keen skill in maintaining the exact taste and flavor while having to use ingredients that would not have been an Earthian bartender’s first choice. It is not known how many of their fellow crew were inducted into the secrets of the Asmodean Fire Hoof, but we are aware of at least one. (We are also aware that a spontaneous party, incited by Eve and Adam, most certainly prevented a mutiny that might have doomed the entire second diaspora. This is the subject of the highly acclaimed VR drama And They Shall Fall Before the Hoof.)

This Mercury, whom the Eve and Adam of the second diaspora chose, was a farmer and geneticist on the Helios Alpha world. She was not born Mercury. We do know her birth name, but she deliberately changed it, and her choice shall be respected. Mercury wanted nothing more than to be able to make and consume the Asmodean Fire Hoof in its original Earth configuration. With this goal in mind, the second diaspora’s Mercury got to work on Helios Alpha with the aim to make grow there what was needed for the Fire Hoof in its purest Earthian form. The huge variety of that world’s insect and plant species is in part owed to that desire, and so all of those born to the second diaspora must indirectly thank Mercury’s devotion to the Asmodean Fire Hoof for a wide spectrum of vegetables and fruits and for rarely going hungry once colonies were firmly established.

As such, it is no wonder that the Mercury of Helios Alpha inspired more adaptations and VR dramas than any Mercury before her, and all of us still remember her on Harvest Eve. Mercury’s lab on Helios Alpha remains functional, and today, each year on Harvest Day, specialists travel there to prepare the Hoof in her honor and consume it. (It is, quite rightly, a legendary festivity.)

Mercury’s achievements were made possible by headstrong genetic engineering. But while the second diaspora profited hugely, Mercury herself was never able to taste the Asmodean Fire Hoof as it was meant to be tasted: she died in a farming accident the season before the final crop, vanilla, was ready.

At around the time of Mercury’s death, the Ra’alar had enjoyed three generations of peace in the Home System and were ready to begin their first diaspora. The captain of the Ra’alar diasporic fleet recorded a prophetic dream on the eve of its departure from the Ra’alar Home System. In it, she was given a recipe for a beverage by a person who claimed to be a divine creature, a message bearer. The beverage, the creature said, was something called an Asmodean Fire Hoof. According to the captain’s record, the name seemed to be very important to the message bearer, and they made her promise to never change it on pain of losing all sense of taste.

While the Ra’alar traveled and while the Ra’alar captain, whom we will call Eve, experimented with the Asmodean Fire Hoof, Helios Alpha had grown all the things needed to make the Earth original. Even so, after Mercury’s death, there was only one person, let’s call her Adam, on all the worlds of the second Earth diaspora, who knew the recipe. Adam was therefore in high demand. She traveled much and often, and was said to be ascetic in her ways when she was not behind a bar making Fire Hoofs.

The poets of Taurus Epsilon adored Adam and sang ballads to praise her, not few of those intended as proposals to form a family union. But Adam had become too much of a nomad to stay in any place for long, and besides she is often remembered as saying that all the worlds deserve the Asmodean Fire Hoof equally, that none should be able to claim it for themselves. That spirit of equality is what got Adam’s face on Aries Omega’s unicoins, and while most VR dramas suggest this happened during Adam’s lifetime, this is not the case. One is left to wonder if she would have liked the idea of her face being on a coin to begin with.

The Ra’alar diasporic fleet arrived at the home worlds of Earth’s second diaspora when sparkling grays had begun to highlight Adam’s hair. Ra’alar and Humans were quite confused at happening upon one another. Both had assumed the galaxy to be a highly undertraveled place.

The Ra’alar, who had worked very hard to become a perfectly peaceful people, attempted talking to the Humans first. The Humans talked back. There were misunderstandings, and the somewhat different body configurations and facial features did not help.

Just before violence could break out between these two peoples, Adam stole a ship and traveled to the Ra’alar fleet by herself, armed with only her bar kit and the recipe for the Asmodean Fire Hoof in her heart. The moment is immortalized in Fire’s Ascent, which was to become the highest-grossing VR drama for over half a century.

The Ra’alar, remembering that peace is good, had her brought onto the command ship rather than blast her to space dust. Bowing deeply and with her hair bound tightly, Adam prepared the Asmodean Fire Hoof under the watchful eyes of Eve, the Ra’alar diasporic captain.

Eve was struck by the beauty of Adam’s graying hair, something that does not happen in a Ra’alar, but she was struck more by the exact and precise preparation of a cocktail the recipe for which had come to her in a dream. The ingredients were different of course, as Adam had all the planet-grown things that Eve could only wish for at that point. Adam handed Eve the cocktail, adorned with a tiny blinking solar panel for decoration.

To Eve’s sensitive suckers, it tasted like what the divine creature had prepared for her in her dream. In wide-eyed celebration, Eve announced that there would be no war between the Ra’alar and the Humans, and that from this moment forward, they would be as one people. This was easier said in front of cameras than lived-on planets already Human-settled.

However, both species quickly understood that they were stronger together than they would be apart or even at war. That both Eve and Adam declared they would no longer prepare the Asmodean Fire Hoof for anyone if lasers were fired in attempted hostility certainly helped. The poets of Taurus Epsilon declared Adam a hero and sang many a love song about her and Eve.

Eve and Adam did become the first Ra’alar and Human family union, and for the longest time, they did not share the recipe with anyone. Their children begged them, but both Eve and Adam agreed that there should never be a dynasty of any kind to hold or guard the Asmodean Fire Hoof in jealousy. There was, instead, a long selection process for the next generation of recipe bearers, and Eve’s and Adam’s original scheme eventually culminated in the founding of the Fire Hoof Academy, venerated and dedicated to upholding the cocktail’s high standards of preparation and even higher aspirational intentions.

Fire Hoof Academy has provided the Ra’alar Human (or Human Ra’alar) System with a constant body of bartenders. They are awarded their titles of either Eve or Adam, depending on their choosing, upon completing their studies and a final preparation of the Fire Hoof in front of the Exam Committee.

The Academy is now preparing recipe bearers for the first joint diaspora to make sure that, no matter where our two species settle, the Asmodean Fire Hoof, that symbol of peace over war, of keeping in our hearts what is good, of sharing what we know, goes where we go. These brave bartenders will be called Mercury, and we all wish them strength and ingenuity in keeping the taste of the Fire Hoof on the generation ships. We trust in their capabilities of bringing the right crops back to life once they settle. We know they will extend a Fire Hoof in friendship, should they happen on another species once they arrive.

We raise our glass to you, Mercury, and thank you for the recipe!

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Issue 21 (Spring 2020)

Story copyright © 2020 by Alexandra Seidel

Artwork copyright © 2020 by P. Emerson Williams

Alexandra Seidel spent many a night stargazing when she was a child. These days, she writes stories and poems and drinks a lot of coffee (too much, some say). Alexa’s writing has appeared in Future SF, Uncanny Magazine, and Fireside Magazine, among others, and was mentioned on the Tangent Online Recommended Reading List. You can follow her on Twitter @Alexa_Seidel or like her Facebook page (AlexaSeidelWrites).

P. Emerson Williams has an extensive background as a multimedia artist whose work synthesizes alchemical musical expressions with visual art, video, and performance. As a member of UK theatrical company FoolishPeople, his work included the creation of soundscapes and scores, set and graphic design, and live and voice acting. Williams brings his visual work to performing live with Jarboe around the world, expanding these performances with aspects of multimedia, including painted banners, video using footage shot around the world, and animation created from his own visual art.

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This entry was posted on November 9, 2020 by in Stories.
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