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free - march wwb challenge - short story

Written for the March Watershed Writer's Block monthly challenge; apocalypse and metamorphosis. Presented here with some changes (as in it has now been edited and many of the numerous 'and's removed). Thanks to the guys and gals for the feedback, and for those of you elsewhere who read it and fed back too. To form part of a collection titled 'Moments of the Fall'. Eventually.

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He stands at the entrance, staring inwards. He has stood here, many times, alone, thoughtful, potent. He has stood here, in his mind, for years, imagining, yearning and awaiting.

He is the epitome now, of power, of potential. He has become the conduit and reservoir of and for power. He has stood aside and not acted for so long the very memory of acting has become a dream.

He stands and he brims with power, boils and burns and flares with it, filled from the deepest reaches of himself to the limits of his physicality. He has stood aside and watched, borne witness, and in that has suffered, and yet he has clung to this philosophy of non-action, of abstinence, when he would rather otherwise. He has husbanded, harvested and kept close. He has kept to the path and strayed not at all. In this is the secret of his potency.

He looks up at the sky, sees the blueness, tinged by yellow, dust thrown up from the dying of a world. He looks up and sees nothing but an endless sky, reaching upwards to the unseen and infinite stars, beyond his sight and understanding, yet not beyond his awe.

He has waited, and now the time to act has come.

He will lose everything, he will lose his way, his beliefs, his principles. He will act. And lose himself.

He turns, glances around at a world long since past, and finds himself weeping, although he knows not what for.

He faces the entrance and walks forward into it’s welcoming darkness.

***

She is broken.

She is crushed, and damaged, and hurt. She lies there, in a hall of artful rubble, and raises her head. Light streams down in beams, casting the vast room into a forest of light and shadow, and she lies in the light of one such beam.

The war has been long, longer than even she can remember. It has been, perhaps, endless, and now she lies here, savaged and incapable, for all that she has won. She looks up into the light, and sees the shape of the sky, and for a moment feels its winds, its cold, its endless freedom. She closes her eyes and bows her head, and feels the light on her, warming her, gentle and promising.

She opens her eyes, and stares at her hand, caught in the perfection of it, yet the stain of her memory taints it with blood and pain and death. In this there is a sadness, a sense of loss, of something long forgotten, and she wonders what it is.

***

He walks through a tunnel, a passageway once wrought otherwise, now bent and twisted. Surety has gone, certainty fled. It is dark and quiet and all that accompanies him is the softness of his footsteps and then harshness of his heartbeat.

A trail of death follows him, has followed him, stretching back years. He is not innocent. He has long believed he has never been, and now, as he walks the path he has chosen, he knows this is not so, and he feels sick.

He is stained, by action, and inaction. He is stained by simply being. Of this there is no escape. He has been damned and has chosen a path of redemption that will damn him all the more.

He cannot, for a moment, remember why he does this, why he is walking this path. And then he does, and the years of fear and loss and rage rise up and choke him.

He weeps openly now, sobbing, and yet the surety and certainty return. He continues to walk down the tunnel.

***

She was not always this way, she is sure of it. She was something else, before. She remembers something of purity, of innocence; she hunts the memories and the feelings with intent. She catches a taste of them, a hint, faded, inconsequential and yet that fragment rises within her. She shudders, shakes and then she is silent. She is still.

She is beyond the reach of that past, and it of her, and slowly it sinks back, until it is nothing but the memory of a memory.

She raises her hand to the light and looks at it, and knows she has her answer.

***

Calmness has come to him. His crimes, everything that has burdened him, all the doubts, the unrelenting adherence, all of it has been done. And now there is only this, there is only the next step, the step after, leading him onwards. His tears stop, his breathing softens.

In the distance, light.

***

She turns her head. The air is still, motes of dust drift in the light, and the silence is absolute.

Someone comes, and she is not ready.

She rises to her feet, gently, carefully and pain and fear flare within her.

She is not ready.

***

He enters the room. It is vast beyond his comprehension. Light falls, broken and singular, casting the room into gloom. Light and dark. Day and night.

He sees her, then, and he almost staggers.

She is magnificent. The light makes her glow, she moves not at all.

***

She sees him. A small man; dark, quiet, purposeful. And there is no doubt in her mind, there is only knowledge and a strange keening that rises from within until her heart sings with it, and it is composed of sadness.

She waits, because she can do little else, because, perhaps, it is right.

***

He steps towards her, then again, and soon he is crossing the room, careful amidst the rock and rubble. He can feel her gaze, can feel her presence like a pressure, and yet he moves onwards, closing in on her. He cannot turn back, cannot undo what he intends.

***

She watches him, gathers herself, and waits. She has nothing left, she has everything and then she realises that it matters not, and she can but stand.

***

She is beautiful, unique, and his heart breaks, for all that she has done, for the oceans of blood and the countless dead. There is nothing he can do but this.

***

He approaches, until he stands before her, small and calm and resolute. She closes her eyes. The waiting is at an end.

***

He almost cannot breath, her beauty almost brings him to his knees. He looks at her, and then, hesitantly, reaches up with a hand.

***

She feels his hand touch her cheek, soft and gentle, and she leans her herself into it. Something within her gives and breaks free.

***

He kneels beside her, not touching her, bearing witness as he has always done. She lies, smaller somehow, childlike and more innocent. Her wings cradle her, the softness of the feathers glowing. The world has changed, in a way he does not quite understand. In the end, despite everything, despite it all, he did nothing. He stares down at her and then looks up, at the sky; wonders what it is like to fly, to soar amongst the clouds, away from the dreams of mortal souls, alone and free.

extracts from 'muse' - 1999

glittering - flash fiction