The Two

This is my first submission for the Mid-week Flash Challenge at Miranda Kate’s blog. Thanks for reading!

Dark began to fall upon the old forest, the ancient gnarled trees casting longer shadows like the tips of demons’ fingers reaching toward their prey. Hessin stumbled in the boulders and bramble along the banks of the Hateful River, panting as he moved as quickly as possible. He knew it was important to stay near the River and keep heading south, but damn if it wasn’t tempting to find a better path.

The animal sounds were still loud in the dusk, the last call to the waking world before night blanketed all. He was hurt, however, a wound in his side bleeding quickly and leaving a trail. This provided nothing other than an overwhelming dread.

Finally, the sun slipped below the horizon leaving a moonless sky and a river of black. Hessin missed a step, slipped on a stone, and plunged one of his boots into the freezing waters. He cursed under his breath and stood still a moment to try to recover his breath. It couldn’t be much further to Weirdly. Maybe five or so miles. He could attempt to Phase himself one more time.

Standing straight up, he removed the coin from his pocket. It was golden, tarnished along the edges, and graven with the image of the Baphomet surrounded by a set of fourteen holes. He held his hand over the coin and began mumbling words in Aramaic. The coin began to heat up and his wound began to throb. He screamed and dropped to his knees. As the pain subsided, he looked at the coin. Another hole had appeared, fifteen now, but he had traveled no further forward.

That was when the sky lit up. Fire filled the distance with a purple light that bent and swirled among the rills and rapids of the river. Then cracks began to form. Long, deep spiderweb crevices that etched their way across the now lit and scalloped sky. It was if the sky had been turned to stone or ice. It stretched on and on, away into the darkness, but in the middle of the distance stood a single torch.

“Luther!” boomed a voice in the distance. “I could feel your dirty tricks. You try to evade me with a weak Phasing spell, but you will find the wound I have given you has sapped you of your magics.”

“I’ve told you,” Hessin yelled back. “My name is not Luther. My name is Hessin. I am a student at Weirdly. I have no quarrel with you.”

“Luther, you cannot fool me. Your destiny is impossible to escape. Even in death, as I told you before.” Hessin stood up again and started to run. “It’s of no use now Luther. You’re quite trapped. The sky has been hardened about us. You’ll find it to be impenetrable twenty meters ahead.”

The man continued to walk forward. He almost seemed to float across the stones. Hessin felt his heart beating faster and faster. The man’s face was coming into view. It looked plain enough: dark hair, amiable countenance, dark eyes. But every now and then the light failed and Hessin saw the grimace of a demon.

The man came directly in front of Hessin, and bid him rise to his full height. He did and found that his body was shaking uncontrollably. The man looked him in the eyes. His stare was piercing and found its way to the center of Hessin’s mind. The man touched his forehead, and Hessin traveled away into his inner conscience.

He stood on a parapet, looking at his hands. They were gray, cracked. They were the hands of someone much older. Looking out, he could see a great skyline. It looked like Paris, though he had never really seen Paris. He turned around and behind him was the man.

“Luther, it is time. Ragnarok approaches and you and I are the key as we have been for millennia.”

“It can’t be this way. This world is far too important in the scheme of time to destroy. We can’t let it end.”

“Luther, it is our purpose. We must fulfill our purpose.”

And the Hessin cast himself over the edge of the building and struck the ground. He died quickly but knew that it must be.

“Luther, it is time,” said the man. and without hesitation, Hessin threw himself into the rapids. The man turned then, and as the sky slowly returned he shrugged. “I guess we shall try in another life.”

Thanksgiving, by Chance

It was Arthur Tea and his two children, Gabriel and Kuai, the neighbor man Zenith Thomas, the old Chinese man Liu that the twins had come to know as their grandfather, and a traveler named Scoffield huddled close about the little table. Arthur had always tried his best to make Thanksgiving a memorable day for his children since they had never met their mother and he felt it important to create lasting memories for them. Outside, in the city of Erie, PA, it was snowing. Nothing settled, just melted into little puddles in the streets. It was still cold, and the coal-burning stove worked overtime. First they would eat, then they would adjourn to the living room for a song or two on the piano and a sort of raucous ecstasy would overtake them all. At least that was the intention. Things rarely live up to intention.

Arthur had initially intended for a 12 o’clock deadline for the feast, but already the clock had won. The meal would be late. He smiled and tried to keep up conversation. The boys’ attention was waning. They had begun their own brand of infighting. And Arthur felt trapped in the sort of societal bondage that one accepts when designing a social event. Scoffield wanted to talk about his travels, mostly, asking from time to time what Arthur had done in his earlier years. Zenith, who knew little about Arthur’s past wanted to hear about these stories but found himself getting frustrated with the interruption of the traveler. Grandpa Liu stayed mostly quiet but was silently judging the host.

That was when the roof caved in. It creaked a bit, as it always had. Such an old house cannot be expected to stand forever. Suddenly it all crashed down, around the guests and their table. No one was hurt at all. In fact, not one person left their seat. One second there was a roof, and the next they were waiting for their Thanksgiving dinner in the great outdoors. The boys, of course, were wonderfully pleased and ran about chasing each other in the rubble. Arthur thought to check on the food but could not find the stove anymore. After considering this a moment, he thought it best to evacuate as the ex-house would be a fire hazard.

This was, of course, when the famous Brothers Tea found the treasure of Marcus Dorwellier. In fact, it was Kuai who tripped over it, the little iron box filled to the brim with Aztec gold. He pulled it out of the nook in which it was crammed, once the kitchen wall, and showed it to his father. Arthur opened it and gleefully declared that they would all go to the Great Stag for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Intention is one thing. Joyful calamity is another.