A young boy frolicked by a spring-time lake. In his exuberance, he accidentally trips over Death’s scythe and falls into the water unconscious. Death pulls the boy out from under as it was before his time. He then etches the true hour of fate in the back of the child’s mind.
Decades later, an old man returns to the site. He finds Death waiting in a gazebo overlooking a winter-time lake before announcing that he’s ready. Death inquires whether he’d live a different life if ignorant of his fate. The man replies no. The reaper grins and wakes him up.
Entry to this week’s FFfAW!
The guitar chose Selene. Its voice, she’s heard long before she could see. Its songs taught her another way to speak. A prodigy the world called her since the age of three. They performed everywhere, circuses and concert halls alike; their duets produced music of the divines. But on one fateful day, center stage in front of a packed house, she simply stopped and walked away. Those close to her heard the early signs.
“She’s fighting him.”
“Can she keep pace?”
“Who’s playing whom?”
That night, she threw the guitar into a furnace, and turned voice to char. Years followed as she wandered city to city in silence. Some thought her mad. Others thought the guitar possessed her. The truth only she knew. Her muse had died. A past life awaited her return.
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Thanatos detached the hourglass. “Pity Eros, this soul built a monumental castle early in life… Nearly pierced the heavens and broke the glass!”
Eros paused to recollect. “Aye, but he assembled too hastily. The shaky foundations undid him midlife and the whole tower collapsed. Despair nigh shed his remaining blood.”
“That would liquefy the sand beneath. Did you intervene?”
“I showed him another life…”
“Quite dangerous. Disclosing past lives create feedback loops. Containment may shatter.”
“No, I showed one future if we mixed his sand with the others; he filled in the blanks.”
“Ah. That explains the tinge of red.”
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“It’s time” announced papa as a gentle rumble crept over the train tracks.
“I’m scared! What’ll happen to you?” cried the youngling with a doleful look below.
“The wind has come to take me and scatter my essence across the land. Such is the way of life my child.”
The tracks began to shake; hum turned into roar. The youngling covered her eyes and whispered “Will I ever see you again?”
Papa nodded and faced the sun.
A resounding whoosh followed an eclipse.
When the child opened her eyes, papa was gone.
A single yellow petal fluttered against the wind.
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Nelly, the cat with nine lives, danced circles around Death. He had escaped all sorts of trouble from flying pianos, driver-less cars, lightning strikes, tall trees, quicksand, “friendly” dogs, large soles, curious kids, etc. Confident in his good luck, Nelly went up to the Grim Reaper, purred, and rubbed up against its feet. The Reaper picked him up and sighed. “Another black cat… Could bring bad luck and more paperwork. Lets have you reincarnated soon.”
Two magicians planned to cheat Death out of a game of chess. A timeless being who had never lost a match, Death could easily calculate any board position to its logical end. Knowing this, both magicians summoned the Grim Reaper to simultaneous games, each wagering 20 years of their morality in exchange for an additional 20 if they either won or drew. The first magician took the white pieces and the second magician took black; they intended to play the reaper’s moves against itself! Death accepted the conditions, appearing either unaware or unfazed by the magicians’ little trap, began to play…
The board position remained even for the first twenty moves and the tag-team thought they had the draw in the bag. On the 21st move, a questionable play was made and by the 25th, it was clear that White was losing. Frantic and not wanting to forfeit 20 precious years of his life, the first magician deviates from the plan and tries to salvage his position. He would lose the match in ten moves. The second magician, who thought to convert his lead into victory, continued playing for another thirty moves in dismay while Death made his inevitable comeback.
Grey. The fury of a winter’s storm stifles every movement forward. I hardly see the ground some two paces from where I stand, enduring the mountain’s wrath. Yet, I still sense my companion a few meters in front radiating with a burning passion that casts all doubts aside. He was going to scale the mountain with or without help.
Red. Blood boils in defiance of death. Such was the color and mood of the sky when I reached the summit the next evening. I found his frozen body, stiff like the mountain, yet unyielding to its will. His was not alone for many others just like him also stood, encased in icy opposition against fate. Their spirits continue to fight, torching the clouds and staving off night. Blood burns the brightest when drawn to Death’s peak I thought.
Heaven falls. The spirals of new Babel that pierce the God’s realm began to buckle. My companion and I race down the tower, rappelling off the million-step coil that strangled the tower. Above us, the descending storm eviscerated man’s creation but not his hubris. The way forward was barred but not lost. Let us build Paradise on Earth to match the heavens then.
Hell rises. A wave of sand chokes new Atlantis, the city of the Sea. Now desert nomads, we huddle in sand pits as dust storms rage amidst the ocean’s carcass. Electrolyzing the sea-water was certainly a mistake after the atmospheric breach. A price we must all pay when we toyed with climate controllers. Is it man’s nature to transgress its bounds my companion mused? When man believes itself God, who is left to check him I replied?
Upstream. A young woman saunters down the banks of the river Lethe, distraught over her lover who drank from its waters and lost his memories. Torn between severing her own memories, she leans over to the water’s edge and casts her reflection on the amnesic currents. Despair prevails and she throws herself into oblivion.
Downstream. A young man saunters up the banks of the river Lethe, disoriented from having imbibed its waters. He witnesses a young woman struggling against the river’s currents, desperate to remain afloat. Out of instinct, he dives into the watery rapids and rescues her.
Parts 1, 2, 3
A sunset looms in the distant West as we blaze towards its horizon. Upon a furious pace, we barely manage to halt time as we delay the coming of the night. My companion is exhausted for old age has made it harder to outrun the sun. Press on comrade! Mustn’t let the shadows overtake us he muttered but with a hint of glee between heaving breaths. I wasn’t sure if he understood his fate or simply laughed in the face of it. After several more hours at this breakneck pace, he collapses onto the ground. Darkness creeps around us and he tells me his body can go no more. Shutting his eyes, he falls into the most peaceful of slumbers. I remove the sun so that it would never rise again.
I awaken in a maze of galleries. Lining the walls are an arrays upon arrays of masks, thousands of them upon my estimation. I meet a man frantically trying on different masks. While observing him between swaps, I realized that he had no face of his own. Approaching him, I inquire as to the nature of his predicament. He replies that over a lifetime, he had lived a life of vanity in the image of others, never having discovered who he was or what he wanted. The masks, once the veneers of his successes, were more like decorations over a cast that veiled a forgotten injury. I took all the masks down from the galleries and handed him a mirror. Over time, he grew eyes to see his own reflection and found his way out of the labyrinth.
A cancerous forest envelops us with a suffocating canopy. While the largest hardwoods thrive under a brilliant sun, there is hardly any light left for the life below. It seemed like the trees had grown too massive, too competitive in their struggle for attention. We approach a listless grove where song and mirth used to ring through time immemorial. My companion, a dryad who helped raise these woods, stares despondently at a leafless sapling wedged between a network of overgrown roots. This one has no future; she spoke with a tear welling up in her eyes. Perhaps she gave them too much love and had nothing left for herself. I uproot the sapling and transplant it on a burgeoning planet, where it would grow magnificently through the ages into tree onto itself.
Drenched by the night. A single spotlight shines upon a lone warrior having hewed down waves upon waves of apparitions that lurk beyond sight. The ground beneath him is stained with his own blood, wounds inflicted upon him by his demons. His steely eyes however betray no hint of fear as he begins to press forward. His destination however is unclear as the path is circular. Demons materialize in greater force, drawn again to his blood thirst which he satiates. I dare not approach him as to maintain the illusion. Instead, I invert his vision; once demons in light, now warriors in dark. The cycle of bloodshed was at last annulled.
Parts 1, 2, 3