The Arms of the Gods

by Ovidiu Bufnilă
Introductory note and translation by Cătălin Badea-Gheracostea

Ovidiu Bufnilă (b. 1957, mechanical engineer by education, journalist and writer by trade), though having published only three books in print over the three decades of his speculative fiction career, has nonetheless managed to capture the attention of Romanian fandom and specialized reviewers of SF as one of the most divisive, problematic and original authors writing in Romanian. Tending to a discourse reminiscent of the absurd, but also of a peculiar magical realism, Bufnilă’s texts, no matter their length, start with a heavy atmosphere and finish with a bang of ideas – precisely as his iconoclastic columns, blog entries and the literary as well as political comments he has produced over the years. Bufnilă established himself as a master of a renewed species of science fiction concetti and forged his reputation thanks to short stories published in Moartea purpurie (The Purple Death, 1995). Through his work, Bufnilă distils the world we know, including its literature and culture, down to a point where it can be explained by his so-called “waved philosophy”. There is an uncanny coherence in this author’s delirium, proven by the extraordinary impact some of his writings has had over the years. His story entitled “Armele zeilor” (2005), here translated as “The Arms of the Gods,” is the only narrative having received maximum marks (10 out of 10) at the first online SF workshop in Romania (atelierkult.com), rated by dozens of readers. It was published in fanzines and magazines as well. A list of Bufnilă’s publications can be accessed here (in Romanian): https://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovidiu_Bufnil%C4%83#Edi%C8%9Bii_speciale.

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Over a millenium ago, in Katai Islands, thousands of women had for a long time been lusting for the Prince, and he was still begrudged by the Glass Barons who were casually conspiring against all empires, and he was still religiously taken heed of by Mount Assahor’s scholars there, where the Saviour’s face had been revealed for the first time.

Yet now, resting on a boulder, having fallen from the sky not far from the sea shore, the Prince is dying.

Alone.

The air is heavy. The heavens loom like cast iron. Ever so slowly, a random light is passing, looking for a fit body, craving to be, at least for a moment, an antelope, or the smile of a woman, or the toll of the Balkoon’s Franciscan Bells.

Here comes a monk walking towards Katai Islands. He cares for nothing, he does not even give a glimpse to the Prince. The monk has the cheeks fully blushed, as he just stepped out of the depraved lovers’ boudoir; those should have been waiting untouched for the knights lost in the sunset. The monk has a belly full of Madella wine, a fine, dizzying, perfumed red.

“Be good to me, a sip of water!”, the Prince begs, crawling after the monk. The path’s dust is stirred by the ordained sandals and whitens the Prince’s beard, choking him.

The monk fades away in the glitter of a sick, mad sunbeam.

Here comes and goes a hurried armourer, taking an order to a valiant lancer; then some merry girls; then some astrologists; then some very, very noisy whores with awful makeup.  

The Prince is firmly holding his cane, getting a whiff, lusting for their impudent thighs, envisioning himself to be asleep on their lap, barely touched by the big, juicy areolas. 

Here comes a chronicler and hatefully kicks the Prince. Then comes a star digger from Copa, the City of Liars, and he also strikes him, full of spite. A trumpeter passes next and punches the Prince, laughing disdainfully.

The Prince is finding out ever so slowly that, beyond the programmes which he had input in the Network which was built by his subjects, some other instructions were coming forward, and these instructions, hey!, he never ever had them in his navigation registry. The Prince has been thinking all along that the worlds were built for ambitious navigators only, those able anytime to stand against the fury of the virtual whirls.

A tear rolls down his chin.

Where from were coming all those creatures, all so careless, all so evil, where from were coming these hideous constructions?

Walking around the rocks, here come five drunkards; they gloat while throwing organic structures at the seabirds. Those clip the shiny wings and drill deep into the birds’ bodies. The air fills with blood and time itself wavers, melting together past, present and future.

The Prince gets to reset his programmes.

The drunkards come closer. They are ready to trample him.  

Vruuuum!

Their bodies burst in multicoloured garlands, the sand is dampened with salty, mauve fluids. Somewhere, in the vortex of events hit by the Prince’s viruses, the monk falls on his knees. His tongue turns swollen. His skin is bristled.

The crowds of Katai scramble to the beach to acclaim their Prince. He embraces them all in his majestic glance.

The halberdiers clean the remnants of the programmes, they pour the gathered blood in some silver cups humming with electricity.

The Prince makes an august sign. Everybody, absolutely everybody is kneeling. The women are crying, wounding their breasts with their own nails. The scholars chafe themselves in corners, under the platinum and glass arcades of Caraba, the City of Desolation. The Prince rearranges the events in the Network and, full of wisdom, he kills all those led astray who wantonly worshipped the reign of the mob and the lack of principles, while hoping to find the Arms of the Gods in their own wandering.

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