Monday, November 1, 2021

Microstory 1746*: Heart of a Lion (Excerpt)

The crowd gathered and whispered as Cordelia prepared herself. Chris tried to step up and stop her a few times, but Clay always held him back. Neither of them wanted her to get hurt, but Chris could not bear to see her in pain; not even for only three seconds. She lifted her hand, and everything stopped. The whispers, the mindless fidgeting—even the howl of the wind was waiting for her. She placed her palm on the handle, and wrapped her fingers around it. She cringed, but did not scream. One second passed. Chris lunged forward, and again Clay pushed him back. Two seconds. Chris was starting to feel a pain in his heart; empathy for a loved one. Three seconds. She had beat his record. Four seconds. Five seconds. She had beat the world record. Six and seven, still holding on, but the baton stayed in place. Chris made his most valiant effort to reach her and pull her back, but Clay still would not let him. It didn’t matter how strong she was. She wasn’t going to be able to do it. Even without the pain, it was in there too deep. Only the owner could remove it from the stone. That was their true mission, to find the owner and kill him. Had it been anyone else, they might have asked for help. But Chris realized who the owner had to be. Only one both had lived long enough, and possessed a soul twisted enough, to construct such a sinister trap. He didn’t know where to find the evil telepath, but at least he knew what he looked like. How many seconds had it been? Too many to count. The crowd stared in both fear and awe. She was doing the unthinkable, but could not quite make it all the way. That was the sickest part. It would be one thing to torture a hopeful wielder with pain, but another to cause that pain and still not reward them with what they deserved. Chris thought his empathy was growing stronger as the heat reached his face and stung his eyes, but he was wrong. It was real.

The heat from the burning baton was expanding. With it came powerful gusts of wind, which drove the onlookers back. A few persisted to show support for the elf who took the brunt of the flames, but most gave in. Chris and Clay were one of the steadfast. Even the rain felt like it was at a boil. They squinted, put their hands up in pointless protection, and struggled to walk forward. “Let go!” They took turns yelling to her. If she could hear, she was not listening. “Let go of the baton! It’s not worth it!” They reached her, and what they saw was more horrific than they could have imagined. Smoke dribbled out of her pores, and faded up into the air. Her hands, which were both now pulling on the handle, were literally on fire. It was the hottest Chris had ever felt. With Clay’s help, he tried to pull her away by the shoulders, but she was as stiff as the statue—petrified, at least for the moment. Chris quickly realized what he had to do. He took a few seconds to prepare himself before cupping his own hands around hers. He could feel her blisters as his own skin began to bubble. Clay tried to help as well, but he was unable to get closer than a few inches. The baton slid a few millimeters out. But only a few. Then it slid out a few more, each one easier than the last. More and more it gave as Chris felt a scream at the top of his lungs. He would later be told that he had not uttered a sound. Centimeters more, and it was just about free. Time froze. The pain went away. No blisters were on his hands. The whole world turned a purplish-blue. He could recall seeing this before, but could not place where. The fire was gone, but everyone else was still there. Next to him stood Cordelia, just as confused as he was. Their former bodies lain at their feet.

No comments :

Post a Comment