We love to challenge our writers at Rhetoric Askew on Facebook.
Here are this week’s challenge winners:
Flash Fiction Winners: Josh James and Christina Santana
When One World Ends…
by Josh James
From over the mountains, a blinding, white light devoured the sky. Amelia had never seen anything so dazzling or terrifying before in her life… She knew this was the end. It not only ate the sky but the mountains before her and came rushing towards her, with the awful grace of a tsunami wave. She smiled, she laughed and she cried profusely, as the wave came for her. There were so many things left undone. Then there was nothing…
When she awoke, she was confused. Until she saw an empty world and knew she was dead. Not much to do about that, but this was unsettling. Amelia was raised by Christian parents and despite having a very loose belief, she was expecting St. Peter, or Satan, but not this. Was this Purgatory? It was an off-white void, with no definition, or trace of anything. She was alone… But she had to be sure.
“Hello?!” screamed Amelia. She listened to a faint echo of her own voice but heard no response. Amelia sat down and buried her face in her knees. An eternity of torment suddenly felt better than nothing. When she felt the last of her hope drain away, a chuckle echoed throughout the void, followed by a shrill, annoying voice.
“My dear girl, you give up easily. I didn’t bring you here because you’re a quitter. Now stand up and get a hold of yourself! We have many things to do.” Amelia didn’t know what they were talking about and couldn’t even tell who she was talking to, but she stood up and started to yell back at the void.
“This was you?! I’m not your puppet! I don’t have to do a damn thing. Why did you bring me here? Better yet why don’t you just show yourself and…” The mysterious voice chuckled again, with its shrill edge, grating against her eardrums.
“You talk pretty big for someone who was just crying with her head in between her knees. Just calm down and stop worrying about all that. I’ll explain everything in due time, but you’re missing the point. For the first time in your short and fragile life, you’re destined for something bigger than yourself. This place exists outside of space and time and here you are, crying about a life you don’t miss that much anyway. I’m going to teach you how to stop and smell the roses.”
A little light appeared next to Amelia and shaped itself into something resembling a human, but never materialized. It offered a hand to her and stood there waiting. Confident she would take it. Amelia couldn’t recall anything to be really sad about what she would kiss on Earth when pressed about it, so could this be better? Amelia took his hand and they walked to nowhere in particular, as the being of light began to explain how you could pull at the threads of existence and all that it encompassed in doing so. That voice was going to be hard to listen to for eternity though…
by Christina Santana
Siphoning life from your loved ones was difficult, but not for the reasons you might have expected. You expected terror to flood you when you killed your family one by one, or perhaps regret when they were finally gone. But all you felt was the pain. The crack of energy pierced through the ceiling as you sucked the life from your latest victim– your grandmother, in particular. Lightning ripped itself from your fingers, attaching her to you, her heartbeat, her electrons, her energy. But this was not a senseless killing! This was for the greater good, to save the world from the black hole in its core. So you ignored the tears that leaked down your face as your grandmother crumpled to the floor before turning to ash. You were breathing heavily, glaring at her ashes, as if this was her fault.
But it was no one’s fault. You knew that enough, but it still hurt. You dwelled in that hurt for a brief moment, shutting your black eyes to the world as the power from that old woman coursed through your veins, and you smiled. It hurt to smile, too– it was more a grimace, really—but that didn’t stop you. Just like her cries for help didn’t stop you.
Swallowing the energy like a bitter pill, you moved forward, searching for the last person of your family left alive. Your sister was good at hiding, and good at just about everything else she did, but you would find her. And you would kill her. It was an inevitability, now, not up to chance or circumstance. After all, you’ve already killed your father (who cursed you) and your mother (who begged, like your grandmother did).
And when you found your sister (when you killed her) you would see the light leave her eyes, and you would be Complete. Able to do whatever you wanted, including saving the world.
The house was large, larger than you’d ever liked. There were too many rooms, too many corners to hide in, and too many crevices in which a small human like your sister could fit. You lived here for several years before you turned into this Thing, this Thing that would save the world, so you knew quite a few of those hiding places, and you checked those first. But she wasn’t to be found so easily.
Something told you to go outside. This sixth sense of yours was what had gotten you through nearly being stabbed by your cousins. They’d ganged up on you in their small home, determined to strike you dead before you siphoned their energy. They tried to hold you down, but you would not be contained. Instead, with a rush of power, you siphoned them by holding their arms, and they died. Their ashes coated you for days, so much so that no amount of rain or water could rid you of them.
The world outside was stormy and gray, a testament to the world’s end. You looked around, searching for your sister, who would undoubtedly be hiding. The nearby forest was the first option, but you’d never find her amongst the trees. You decided, then, to burn it down, and in that, she would have to come out. Lightning crackled around you, and you burst the forest into flames.
“Fuck!” You heard her scream behind you. So, she wasn’t in the forest. You turned to see her holding a knife in her left hand. You attacked her before she could attack you, and you tried to siphon her.
“It’s too late!” She cried, and you stopped. It was then that you saw the blood. One of your favorite things about this power, this ability to kill anyone and everyone on earth if you so chose, was the lack of blood that would usually accompany death. Instead, you burned them from the inside out, releasing and consuming their energy.
But she was bleeding. Her arms were bloody, her hands were bloody. And in a second, she plunged the knife into her stomach.
“No!” You shouted, and you called upon the stormy skies, the lightning crashing down on her dying body. She screamed something like ‘its over’, She was looking at you, her blue eyes piercing as she turned to ash, but the blood had already ruined the ritual. Your sister was never stupid. She knew the situation. She knew she’d die eventually. She knew you’d get her and save everyone, and she didn’t want you to.
She never wanted you to have the spotlight.
“Damn it!” You roared as the blood mixed with her ashes. You had to kill all living family members to gain the power to save the world. Now, it was all for naught. And the black hole that was opening in the earth’s core began to eat, and you knew it was over. You would be alone until you died, in an existence not unlike purgatory. The world you would have saved would be gone, and you would die. All because your sister couldn’t let you kill her!
The only thing you could do now was save your own skin. Rage consumed you as energy crackled, the pain searing as you zapped out of existence, into a white emptiness that would inevitably grant you death. And the groaning earth collapsed into the Void.
Poetry Winner: David van den Berg
Who am I to judge?
I’ve been through enough pain, but does that mean I understand the pain of others?
Who am I to judge?
I’ve seen loss, but does that mean I understand how it feels when you’re lonely?
Who am I to help?
Is it so that because I worked my way out to the top of the mountain- I know which path would help you best?
Who am I to compare?
We all are the same, but in different situations- situations that make us who we are.
I know who I am, but
who are you?
I can’t understand, but I’ll always be there to keep you warm.
Weekend Writing Challenge Debut: Mil Ana
The Child of the Maze Maker
by Mil Ana
Once upon an old time, long before rock and roll was invented, or even thought of, in a land where Gods, nature and mortals freely mingled creating myths, the first rock and roll star was born.
“Not so high, Icarus,” his father advised him, holding him tight, during their first attempts at flying, yet Icarus considered himself invincible, as most young people do.
He was too young to see the implications, when he decided to defy his father’s advice and head for the sun. He left his father’s hand and flew higher and higher, leaving it all behind: his father’s screams, earth, his innocence.
As he felt the heat on his back, he realized that he wasn’t the invincible creature he had thought he was.
He felt like blaming his father, only to realize that Daedalus had not lied. Daedalus had built the maze long ago. He had never imagined that he would fall into the trap he had created himself. Daedalus did his best. He had never promised him immortality. He had only offered him wings and the will to fly away.
People imagine Icarus fighting for his life during those last few moments of his life, regretting his recklessness, his ambition to go as high as possible, as early as possible.
During this brief moment, before his wings started melting, Icarus had to make a choice; a hopeless case as he was, he would either go down as a coward, or in glory.
“Growing up is a disease that inevitably leads to death”, he thought. “There’s only palliative treatment. Yet the end will come for all. Demanding more time is only worthwhile when the cost does not include defeat.”
He chose to hold on to his dream. He chose to free the hero in him. That’s how most heroes are made after all. They choose to become heroes, only when there is no other option available. He chose to move on into the open sky, yet was it really a choice? Some say that he was the only mortal to come so close to the sun as to catch fire. If he had been raised in another era, he’d probably have heard the verse:
It’s better to burn out than to fade away
In this era, he invented it, but nobody could hear his voice, as he fell down in flames and into the sea.
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