Flash Frenzy Round 89

Posted: January 9, 2016 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , ,

Greetings, friends. And welcome to the first round of Flash Frenzy for 2016. Judging this round is the grand champion of the Flash Master Face Off, Marie McKay.

Before we get started, here’s a brief reminder of the rules.

Deadline: Sunday at 6:00pm MST. You all have 36 hours to create your best work of up to 360 words (exclusive of title) and post it into the comments below. Please include your word count (required) and Twitter handle if applicable. For complete rules, click here. 

The winning author and their story will be featured as Wednesday’s Hump-Day Quickie, receive a winner’s page, and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

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Comments
  1. CR Smith says:

    Forbidden Flames

    Back in the day, fire was freely available. The strike of a match was all it took to create a flame, it was simple. But that was before they banned it, before it became illegal. When the Newcomers arrived the production of matches and lighters was prohibited, anyone capable of creating fire rounded up. They told us it was for our own good, that fire was unsafe, dangerous, evil.

    They pumped heat around our city through elaborate installations of spaghetti-tangled pipes. Monitored our cooking, permitted only microwaved food. If fire ever did breakout it was swiftly dealt with by their special forces, as were the citizens involved. Some people, like myself, had never even seen a naked flame. We’d heard rummers of course, whispered secrets of how life used to be; seen crumpled, faded photographs.

    One man was rumoured to have the know-how to create fire. He was thought to live in the derelict church. Once someone reported his smoke, but he was never discovered. Out of curiosity, I walked there. Inside, the building’s air smelt stale, and when I descended the twisting staircase my hand tracing the wall collected a sticky black residue.

    At the foot of the staircase I discovered the entrance to the crypt. Once entered, I stepped back against the wall, letting the shadows hide me. A soft yellow haze floated towards me from the far corner of the room. My hand flew up to stifle a gasp as a figure emerged. But it was the swirling flames that monopolised my attention. They were like nothing I’d ever imagined; they moved as if alive. Their mesmerising colours and dancing shapes flickered in constantly changing directions, lighting the man’s face in the process. I reached out to touch him.

    “What are you doing here?” He demanded backing away.

    “I… I… wanted to see the flames.”

    “Well, now you’ve seen them you should go. Did anyone follow you?”

    Too late, I realised someone had indeed followed me. The man was captured and never heard of again, lost to the annals of history.

    But my memories of the flames, they will live forever.

    W/C 356 @carolrosalind

  2. BEFORE THE FLAME GOES OUT

    * * *

    Brian S Creek
    335 words
    @BrianSCreek
    #FlashDog

    * * *

    Fuck! Why did I come this way? Now I’m trapped and helpless.

    Thank God for this torch, or I’d be dead already. Thank God for the beautiful flame. But how long will it burn? Not long enough, I fear.

    To the left! Two more circling around. Clever bastards are biding their time; circling me, closing in. They have me in their trap now, this cage of tall stone pillars on the outskirts of town. I can only wait for them to spring it, all the while swinging this makeshift flaming mace to and fro, giving them something to think about.

    You don’t like fire, do you, you wretched bastards.

    How long do I have until sunrise? How many minutes? Or is it hours? I forget when this started. Running through the night, trying to get away, trying to get home. The city, so vibrant in the daytime, becomes nothing but silent, dark streets and locked doors once the sun goes down. Why did I stay out so late? Damn it man, you were a fool, and now you’re paying the price.

    We have a brave one here. Get back! Get back from me, you vile creature. Slink back into your shadows or feel the lick of fire on your leathery skin.

    They’re testing me now, wearing me out. I can’t keep swinging the torch all night and they know it. My arms are already struggling to hold it up, to hold it out. But it is the only thing keeping me alive. I must not drop the fire.

    A noise behind. Sneaky bugger. It drains my strength; turning, lunging, forcing the torch into the creatures chest. It falls away, clutching its throat, an inhuman scream punching the night’s chilled air. I can but flinch as it ignites in a burst, leaving nothing but the shadow of ash in its place.

    The others jeer from their hiding places like an audience unhappy with the way the play is unfolding.

    Fuck you!

    Time’s running out.

    Who’s next?

  3. What Do Fire Eaters Have For Pudding?

    When Jay saw the man appear he hid in the shadows. Having been homeless for the past five months, he knew it was best to be as invisible as he could. He was only fourteen but staying at his parent’s place had become impossible overnight.
    Jay watched the man lay out a series of sticks with something bunched onto the ends. He pulled a lighter out of his pocket and lit one of them with a practiced flick of the wrist & a burst of fire. He held it aloft, triumphant.
    Jay gasped and his stomach flipped. He remembered standing beside the cottage, watching the fire leap from the hedge onto the thatched roof. Dancing orange flames and spiralling black smoke. Intense heat, that thrilling crackly sound and, ah, the tantalising smell.
    He watched the man raise his chin to the ceiling and plunge the fire down into his mouth. Fantastic!
    Yes, Jay had lit the fire under the hedge. He’d nicked the matches from the kitchen. Long ones, an absolute joy to strike. He’d wasted the first dozen before taking a deep breath and making himself walk round the garden gathering up sticks and leaves.
    Jay missed his parents. The sweet comforting smell of Dad’s pipe. Mum singing while she fried bacon and eggs on the gas cooker. Her gorgeous Bubble and Squeak. Jay recalled how he’d been so entranced he’d forgotten to yell out to wake them or to call 999. He’d never have been able to explain that to anyone.
    The man had devoured all his fire-sticks now. He must have been very hungry. Jay hadn’t even known you could eat fire. Wisps of smoke rose from the spent pile of sticks as the man sat next to them, pulling something from a carrier bag.
    Jay leant forward and saw it was a plastic box of fruit salad onto which he dumped the contents of a large pot of strawberry yogurt. Jay decided once the fire eater had finished his pudding he would dare emerge from behind his pillar. He was going to enquire about the possibility of him needing an assistant, or better still, an apprentice.

    @SalnPage
    360 words
    #FlashDog

  4. stephellis2013 says:

    The Firestarter

    359 words

    @el_Stevie
    #FlashDog

    The Firestarter danced in the silent courtyard, revelling in the freedom that the hours of darkness brought. Here he was able to release the flame that burned within him during the daylight hours. Only at night was he able to raise his eyes up from the ground, allow himself to look upon the world around him. Only at night was he free from persecution.

    As soon as the sun reclaimed its throne from the moon he would have to lower his gaze once more, and cruel youths would again trail him through the grey-walled maze of their ruined city, hurling taunts and stones at him in equal measure.

    “Hey!”

    The Firestarter thought he had thrown off his followers. He sneaked a sideways glance, saw a young boy.

    “Hey!”

    The boy was suddenly in front of him, blocking his path.

    “Let me see your face.” The child’s voice trembled as he spoke.

    “No.”

    “Let me see your face!”

    “No.”

    “Please,” whispered the boy. “The others dared me. They will hurt me if I fail.”

    “Do you really want to see me?” asked the Firestarter.

    “No,” said the boy. “I think maybe you’re … you’re a monster but …”

    His words hurt the Firestarter but it was true, although not in the way the child thought.

    “Call your friends over,” he said. “And I will let them look upon me.”

    He saw the boy’s shadow wave on the weed-strewn ground, beckoning those hidden to come forward.

    Their shadows gathered around him, excited, fearful.

    “You want to see my face,” he said. “Then look,” he commanded.

    “Run,” he whispered to the boy, as the dark glass of his eyes bathed themselves in the light of day.

    “But there’s nothing wrong …”

    “Run!”

    But the boy remained stationary. All were completely transfixed by the fire that danced in the man’s eyes, hypnotised by the flames now creeping out and around them, warming the ground, singeing their flesh, burning …

    They were too far from their families for their screams to be heard.

    And only when the Firestarter cried, did the flames finally die and he turned his gaze to the ground once more.

  5. davejamesashton says:

    A morning’s walk

    Jarritt eschewed the emerald toga of the casting classes, preferring comfort and the thrill when others realised their mistake. As one of the Flametouched he was to be accorded the utmost respect, but dressed as he was allowed him entrance to some areas denied him when he claimed what was his by birth.

    The shabby alleyway he found himself in was one such place. The gang sign showed it was under the aegis of the Waterborn , so his presence if detected would be… problematic to say the least. Jarritt pulled his broad brimmed hat down further and tried to ignore those following behind him, whispering in hushed tones.

    A figure lurched out of a tavern nearly colliding with him, and the shadowing figures tensed. Jarritt feigned fear, whining for mercy and offing a silver coin, his likeness emblazoned on it. The man took it with a sneer, and retraced his steps into the drinking house. The men in the alley way raced to his raced to his side.

    “My lord Jarritt,” said the captain of the guards, “you must end your farce. The emissaries from the western desert have been waiting on your presence since sun up!”

    Feeling rejuvenated after his wandering, Jarritt returned to the chapter house to parley.

    210 words
    @davejamesashton

  6. SUNDIAL
    _________

    Shadows chasing fire.

    Around the stone faced Roman numerals time was polished with endless days. Like an ocean carving rocks into an oasis of seconds. In the backyard of an estate the sundial had lasted through the centuries like some grand oak whose rings counted out the ages. Through the years children played with it not knowing its significance or use. Lovers kissed with the curtain of black descending on the hard stage not believing that things changed. A sword cut across the middle of the granite as a knight slicing each moment into digestible forms. I liked to watch how silent time really was. No sign language of ticking clocks were needed. Love did not require a beating heart, just a frame for illumination to thrive.

    Birds would sit on the hand that did not move receiving crumbs of eternity. Clouds would obscure hours like my intermittent cat naps in the afternoon on my porch. Then the sun would reappear with the soft purr of light. A shadow of flight appeared on the lawn. Skywriting with yellow ink. The prowling of something gentle and soft with fangs and sharp claws. Scattered feathers at my feet.

    The landing of light –
    the only alarm,
    night.

    _________________________________

    (204 words)
    Grxhauntedengine04@gmail.com

  7. @firdausp
    (281 words)
    ‘The block’

    Strings of cursive writing littered the floor. Some upper case letters hung on the fleshy walls. I walked on the soft lumpy ground with care, not to disturb a thing.
    I knew what I was looking for, the dim light didn’t bother me. I knew my way around well.
    Finally I came upon it. It was a large rectangular block made of tangled veins and, supposedly, dark matter. No one really knew what it was made of, and how it came about to exist.
    The block throbbed like it had a life of its own; maybe it did.
    I quietly retrieved the fire gun from my backpack. Spreading my legs for balance I took aim.
    “Die b*#ch!” I screamed and opened fire.
    The flame leapt out striking it with such force that I staggered back. At first nothing happened, the flame just bounced back and I ducked in time to avoid it.
    Alright then, this was war!
    I looked at the buttons on my fire gun. One said, ‘For a really big block’. I pushed it and fired. The back thrust was so strong, I was thrown back against the wall. As I lay tangled in a mesh of words, I saw the block being consumed by the fire, until it was a heap of ash.
    Warm honey hued liquid oozed out from a cavity, seeping through cracks, filling the voids, flowing through the arteries.A heady scent of stories filled the air.
    My fingers were flying on my keyboard when my husband entered our bedroom.
    “I see you’re finally writing,” he said dropping a kiss on my head.
    “Yes,” I beamed up to him, “I finally torched my writer’s block.”

  8. A V Laidlaw says:

    @AvLaidlaw
    351 Words

    The Beast Inside

    I have grown old in my quest for the fire-beast.

    It attacked us on spring evening, the battle flags fluttering above the castle and the wood anemones woven beautiful and aching in the ladies hair, some thirty years ago. No more than that. I lose count of the years, the seasons rushing past with only winter lingering for any length of time. But I remember this clearly – the heat of the beast against my skin, piercing my armour and entering deep into my heart.

    I vowed to destroy it.

    I began my quest with armour blazing in the sunshine and the ladies’ silk scarves tied around my forearm. I rode through woods and across moors, diverted from time to time by adventures against the dragons of the high mountains and the trolls that clambered from their shadowy half-world into our own. I defeated them with the strength of the fire-beast.

    And if, from time to time, I rested in some lady’s chamber as she tended my wounds and strengthened my heart with soft music and kinder words, who could blame me? Who could blame them? I was after all a knight of the high court, and it is no idle boast to say we were the most handsome fellows to ever ride through this kingdom. I loved them with the passion of the fire-beast.

    As the years ground by and my scars spread over my skin and my broken bones left me with a limp, the ladies became fewer but there were always companions on my quest, fellow warriors to share tales of old battles and a hogshead of beer in a roadside tavern. We drank and sang and brawled. I lived with the heat of the fire-beast.

    But now I complete my quest. I have travelled the kingdom and returned here to the castle, now in blackened ruins, our battle flags torn and the ladies of the court withered. I will find the fire-beast lurking in the vaults, and with all the strength of my brittle bones, I will fight it for the last time.

    The rest is darkness.

  9. davidshakes says:

    Homecoming.

    David Shakes

    360 words.

    @theshakes72

    He’d been in the bowels of the earth since the height of the solstice.

    “Underground – for business or pleasure.” read a fading poster in the abandoned station above. Both poster and station were pre-war – a phrase he’d found ironic since joining The Society – their war spanning centuries not decades.

    Earlier, he’d found a pile of clothes and was trying not to think about the fate of the guy who’d worn them. Daubed on a wall nearby were the words ‘The Fare’s NOT Fair.’ The blood-ink had crusted over.

    Knowing these tunnels had been dormant since ‘The Closure’ didn’t prevent phantom vibrations through the stone floor or imagining a voice ask, “Help you sir?”

    Few Londoners knew what was down here, although they’d named the station ‘Hobb’s Pass’ – hiding truth in plain sight.

    He was here because he had to be.

    His gift was different from the other kids who’d joined The Society. They closed the portals – he opened them.

    Today was his day.

    The Cold Earth had been silent. The things beyond the boundary were most active at dusk, yet all the sensitives heard these past evenings was birdsong. Dare they believe? The Council thought so and an order given – bring her home.

    He was ready. Outside, the sun was almost six degrees below the horizon.

    Lines, angles and archways illuminated as he lit an alder wood staff. Bright red girders glowed in its torchlight – a fitting backdrop – was he not raising Hell?

    Despite his unique gift and this momentous occasion he was still just a man – his thoughts those of any young man in his prime:

    How do I look?
    Is this fedora ridiculous?
    Will she like me?
    This fedora IS ridiculous.

    Then, as he swung the flame in the ‘arc of opening’:

    What if she died over there?

    And finally:

    Did I put deodorant on this morning?

    A gateway opened up in the smoky air. Beyond, a vast lake -its view blocked by the girl charging headlong at the portal.
    Diving through, she knocked him off his feet – both landing in a crumpled heap.

    She was beautiful.

    He HAD remembered the deodorant.

    Grinning, he enquired, “Erin I presume?”

    • davidshakes says:

      This story is based on Hobbs End (from my blog) and Six Degrees & Sinking from Flashdogs Solstice: Light. Hope folks don’t mind me using Hourglass for it – I owed it to my character to get her home and the prompt just led to it. Not sure it makes much sense as a story on its own though.

    • stephellis2013 says:

      Couldn’t find Hobbs End but just revisited Six Degrees and yes she does deserve to get back home. Particularly enjoyed the comedic self-doubt comments – deodorant, fedora etc – reminded me of Pratchett somewhat 🙂

    • CR Smith says:

      Made perfect sense, loved that first line. I’ll have to look for the other parts of Hobbs End now.

    • This was fun. I liked the humour with the tension. I want to know more now. Great story.

  10. stevenstucko says:

    BURNING PASSIONS (356 words)

    The times were dark, filled with disease and despair. The common folk stayed close to home because there was no where to go. No work. No folly. Food was a daily challenge. Each neighborhood struggled to feed itself. There was the butcher with meat that the wealthy would not eat. The baker that ran out of bread by noon. The grocer with fruit from the bottom of the barrel. People slept long hours to escape the stark realities of their existence.

    But then the changes began. Corrupt officials were replaced by those with compassion. Work teams were created to tame the unclaimed wilderness. Farming and agriculture were providing new employment for many and decent food for all. Craft persons were able to procure supplies and create goods. Merchants changed their routes and began trade relations with the town. People arrived with new ideas and a sense of positivity that was contagious. Schools reopened and libraries collected books from towns and cities across the land.

    Our people now had hope. Hope and a realization that life was more than mere survival. Now one had time to read, to learn, and to follow one’s passions. Art became a vehicle with which to explore all that one’s imagination could conjure. Love, religion and the future were ours to interpret, illustrate and present for all to ponder.

    It was I who taught her to make her own paints when she had no money to do so. It was I who found the pieces of wood, sanded them down and made them ready for painting. Now she tells all who listen, and they all do, that she is self-taught. A lonely girl who became the town’s celebrated artist. That is her story, and stories like that are what people want to hear.

    She left me. Left me to wither like a grape unpicked. Left me for a man who would open doors for her. A man who would put her paintings on the wall for all to see.

    That will not be. I no longer carry a torch for her. I throw it to her.

  11. zevonesque says:

    Finding the Light
    A.J. Walker

    My dark neighbour Griffiths stood before a building I couldn’t see in the moonless night. I heard the squeak of a door and then a beautiful light pierced the gloom. For the first time I could see Griffiths properly, well in silhouette, he had on a heavy coat and what I assumed was a leather hat. He looked like he’d stepped out of a Western – ‘High Noon’ at midnight.

    The reddened light pulsed making his shadow dance across the timber columns of the wood. I could hear the crackling of a firestorm. Then the door closed and I was left in blackness, my irises seared by flashes of light and a dancing silhouette.

    Leaning against a slippery birch I considered my next move. I now knew where Griffiths went every month. But there were more questions than answers. I needed to see in.

    I crept through the undergrowth, trying to focus on where I thought the door had been, worried that it would open and I’d be there struck in a spotlight. But I got to the building. It felt like cold brick. Around the side I saw light filter through a window, it seemed to beat like a heart or glow like embers in a breeze. The crackling was immense.

    A shout went up from within the hall and I felt out for the window ledge to position and psych myself up for looking in.

    And there he was. He was dancing with a sword. Dancing around a fire. A fire that burned like life itself. Griffiths circled it, keeping it in vision. It was entrancing. So much so that it took me a while to realise that there was nothing that appeared to be burning. And that it wasn’t fixed; it was floating around the hall. A giant sprite in a bizarre dance partnership. And Griffiths wasn’t attacking it, he was feeding it. One by one he gave something to the flames. I couldn’t take my eyes from it.

    Griffiths waved at me. It was time for me to join him, to leave the cold and the dark. To commune with this god of heat and light.

    ____

    WC: 359
    @zevonesque
    #FlashDogs

  12. Thomas Diehl says:

    MASTER OF MAN
    (359 words)

    He watched them flee into the darkness. Victory, but how? And why had he fought them? The aggression had been something that suddenly took hold of him to subside once they fled. Somehow not his anger, it was of somebody else.
    „Hello“, Josh called out into the empty hall. Only one lamp burned against the night outside. Though dim, it should have been enough to see anybody hiding here. There was nobody.
    „Hello“, answered something from no direction at all, feeling like a voice inside his head, „thank you for your assistance. This is my room. I was born here, I live here. And I cannot fight my oppressors, so thank you for taking care of that.“
    „Where are you? Who are you? Why did I fight?“
    „That was me, I made you want to fight. I can’t fight, but I can get help when I need it. I am who lives here. There were others living here, but they came in here. At first they started training as you do in any dojo. But as they got better, they started to become aggressive.“
    „You’re not answering my questions!“
    „No, I’m making you understand. There used to be more like me living here, one in every corner, but one day, they killed one next to the door, then the other one. One by one, they climbed toward us, killed my brethren and had the hall grow dark and cold. You came in so I gave you eagerness to fight them. You saved me.“
    „You’re not making any sense, who are you? I don’t even see a shadow.“
    „That’s precisely who I am, no shadow.“
    „That’s no better! Where are you and how do you make me feel like you speak inside my head?“
    „Silly boy, that is what our kind does. We live to fill humans with emotions, with ideas, with warmth. To the most receptive, we can talk. I am flame, and fire, and light. And you will now pick me up.“
    „Why would I want to do that?“
    „Because you want to.“
    „Yes, I do“ Josh said when a sudden urge to do so woke in him.

  13. Beauty

    For penguins it’s an offering of a rock.
    For bowerbirds it’s trinkets shiny trinkets.
    For the humans of our town it’s flame.
    The heat of bravery and audacity in courtship displayed in the most literal way.

    When I was young I imagined that no boy would ever brave the flames for me. No shaking arms would practice into deft hands in order to win mine. 
Why learn the patterns, bear the burns, share your public heart, for someone unremarkable and plain?

    I never did get the display, as many girls had taunted I would not. It’s considered gauche once you’re past a certain age. But I did find a man who cared more for my kindness than the nothing-color of my hair and eyes. And we married and made a place of love in the world.

    But it would seem that you cannot change what beauty does to a person.
    Two kind, plain but happy people birthed a beautiful girl.
    Strangers would stop to comment on her shining hair, her sweet rose blossom cheeks and her stunning violet eyes.
    It became her defining value.

    I watch through a space between the curtains from my bedroom at the thin boy in our courtyard.
    He has lit his long torch and stairs up at the light of my daughter’s window.
    She the statue of queen, backlit in her open window, saying nothing, never moving.
    He begins to twirl, the fire flashes against his face making him look young and afraid and then sharp and otherworldly as the shadows change.
    He moves faster. His chest heaves as his arms flies and my breath quickens too.
    So determined is this young man.
    His performance is over and he drops the torch and looks up at my daughter once more.
    She laughs a single laugh and turns and slams her window shut.

    I give a small gasp and watch the boy’s shoulders slump.
    He walks away.

    And I sit down and wonder how I raised one of the cruel girls I once detested, the smell of smoke creeping in.

    345 words
    @caseyrosefrank

  14. Mark A. King says:

    Spit | Fire

    @making_fiction

    302 words

     

    He’s sworn two oaths. One to his homeland, one to King George.

    He’s skimmed the cordite skies of Poland, barrelled the shrapnel-strewn Belgium ether, endured the insectile fury of the Messerschmitt swarms above France.

    Each time, one of the few to survive—he starts again in a new land. He becomes another foreigner, not accepted. At worst, he’s despised, at best he’s welcomed with suspicion and contempt.

    Yet, the RAF needs pilots. So, grudgingly, they accept him and those like him—on the lowest ranks—he must know his place.

    The cockpit is familiar. His worn leather gloves clasp the controls as if they are extensions of his soul.

    A private chapel of hellfire. A crucible of death.

    He once carried the Bible. Once folded a photo of his latest wielbiciel into his breast pocket. But these are talismans of false-hope. He has lost those that hoped. Hope is a luxury for those that mourn.

    Hope is for those can’t fly the Spitfire like he can.

    Perhaps his enemy has his own lucky charms. They will fail him.

    She feels shaky, skittish and flimsy compared to the Hurricane, yet the sound, oh that sound. It rattles the skies of London, rumbles the cratered earth. The noise is like the god of thunder, Thor, dying of consumption.

    Some brave kids must hear the noise. He sees the excited dots below. Escaped vagabonds from the wire-frame chicken-run Morrison shelters which sit precariously beneath the trembling tables of their terraced house. The dots try and outrun him—but only God can outrun the Spitfire.

    Above the Home Counties, he has the insects in his sights. He is overwhelmed in number, but these odds are normal.

    They fall.

    Fall.

    Fall.

    And when he lands, there is no celebration, no credit.

    Just the sound of another siren.

    • CR Smith says:

      Who doesn’t look up to the sound of a Spitfire? Loved your description of it rattling through the sky, and the line ‘gloves clasp the controls as if they are extensions of the soul.’

    • The language in this piece is beautiful. This is so well written.

      ‘A private chapel of hellfire. A crucible of death.’

      ‘- but only God can outrun the spitfire.’

      (PS – I’m a Typhoon fan myself)

  15. […] it? Well, here I am with a new flash fiction story, this time a result of the competition at The Angry Hourglass. The version of the story posted over there is slightly different because of the 360 words word […]

  16. Sonya says:

    The Man Without a Face

    He’s out down there every night, ironing out the kinks in his routine. I’m out up here every night, watching.

    I’m in love with him. He wears a hat. I can’t see his face. I don’t need to see it to know how I feel about him.

    There’s a point in the routine when he’s facing my direction. For the briefest moment, he looks up as if to say, I know you’re watching.

    For two weeks, we meet like this. Until the night when he’s gone.

    In my dreams, I still see him.

    Every night, he has a different face.

    100 words
    @_supersonya

  17. “Bulwark”
    354 Words
    @jaimeburchardt

    Drake had been twirling that staff of fire for six hours. To him, it felt like six minutes. All he had to do was last just a little bit more to complete his training, just until dawn.

    Since he was a young boy, all Drake wanted was make a difference in the fight against the Stygians, the ferocious beasts that showed mysteriously showed up in our world just years ago. At the beginning, the Stygians massacred whole cities, and their brutality fueled their ability to use feral magic. Slowly, they blocked out the rays of the sun, to the point where there was barely a difference between night and day. To a human, that is. To a Stygian, it was still all the difference since they could not operate with any sort of brightness.

    The human race caught onto this, and though they were thrown back to the dark ages, they thrived and adapted. Leaders from the world put aside their differences to come together and fight. They learned that fire was their most trusted weapon. And while their minds drew up battle plans, they decided to entrust the few that were brave and bold enough to defend what was left of the populated areas. Protectors, known as bulwarks, were the final line in defense. They stay up all night, and hold back any Stygians from entering. A decent bulwark can only hold back one Stygian, maybe two. A strong bulwark can hold back multiple Stygians. A bulwark made of pure madness can hold off dozens of Stygians, even while being completely surrounded.

    Drake wanted that title. He wanted to be considered mad. And there he was, just minutes until dawn. He can hear the aggravated grunts of the beasts, and that just fueled him more to keep waving the fire, while his teachers observed from afar.

    One of the teachers already knew he was a pure bulwark, though. Hours beforehand, he asked Drake why he wanted to wear his hat while completing his final test. Drake replied, “If I’m going to officially declared a mad man, I want to be a good-looking one.”

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