Time and Time Again – A Flash Fiction Piece
This week, Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge revolved around the mythological Phoenix. My entry for this week’s challenge links my story from 2 weeks ago, The Man Behind The Mask, to my last week’s story, Scarlett’s Worlds. I hadn’t originally intended for these stories to be linked, but the Phoenix prompt gives me a natural line of progression (and helps me avoid what otherwise would have been a story about Marvel’s guardian of the M’Kraan Crystal).
(As a side note, an alternative ending to The Man Behind the Mask can be found at Mark Gardner’s site, Article 94, and he really does justice to the characters).
Anyhoo, I hope you enjoy this. 980 words.
Time and Time Again
“I killed my father.”
“It wasn’t the first time I killed him. We’ve been locked in this deadly dance for thousands of years. But the last time I killed him… it was eight weeks ago.”
I watched and waited. I could tell by the stillness of his hard, muscled body that my masked confidant was carefully considering what I had told him. When no accusation of lies came, I continued my story.
“Many thousands of years ago, my people lived in a distant corner of the galaxy. When humans think of aliens, they think of little grey men in spaceships. But we are far more than that, and far less. We exist as cosmic entities, born from the spontaneous act of creation which caused this universe to come into being. In our natural form, we have no corporeal bodies. We are like boulders in the great river of time. The river flows around us, gradually wearing us down, but it cannot move us, and we do not feel its flow time as your kind does.
“But in other ways, we are not so different. We live, and we love, and we create new life from our unions of thought and substance. And it is here, amongst my family, that my story technically begins.
“My father was counted a great leader amongst my people. He was an explorer. An inventor. He dreamt up new ways of doing old things. He had many children, and encouraged us to follow his ideals.
“One day, he… well, I don’t know how to explain this so that you will understand. Sometimes, even I barely understand it. He found a way to divert the course of time. He bent it, very slightly, to give himself a glimpse of the future.”
I paused, remembering the ripple of fear that had passed through my people when they realised what my father had done, the debate that had raged across thousands of lightyears of space. El Ardillo seemed to consider my pause nothing more than dramatic tension. From his seat on the edge of the bed, he leant forwards.
“What did he glimpse?” my new friend asked.
“Something he did not like. My father caught an echo of his own future self. He felt himself killed. By one of his own children. And so he set out to prevent that from happening.”
When I paused to sip the white wine Ardillo had thoughtfully poured for me, I could sense the emotions whirling through his heart and mind. Confusion and fear, disbelief and concern. Half of him did not believe my tale; the other half silently begged me to continue.
“It isn’t easy to kill one of my people, but my father found a way. One by one, my brothers and sisters died, and he slew my mother when she tried to protect us. His actions shocked and horrified the rest of my people, for never before had one of us killed another. They feared that after he had killed all of his offspring, he might use his killing-method to exert power over the rest, to dominate the galaxy through fear.
“The brightest minds came together, and they found a way to stop him. They sent him here, to Earth, and forced him into the body of a human, trapping him in mortal form. Then they sent me, to find a way to kill my father once and for all.”
I felt a sad smile tug at the corner of my lips.
“Every generation he is born, and I am born, and I kill him without remembering who he is or what he’s done. I kill him to protect myself, my mother, my brothers or sisters… the minutiae are different each life, but it always ends the same.”
Ardillo took a deep breath, his impressive chest rising to the motion. “Has there been no life in which your father has never… well… fathered you?”
“You do not have to take my words so literally,” I replied. “He’s not always my biological father. Sometimes he is my mentor. My uncle. My pimp. But always a father-figure to me.”
“If you don’t mind me asking… what was he this time?”
“My elder brother.”
The words fell, bringing with them a weight which saturated the air. I knew Ardillo wanted more, so I obliged.
“Our father was a US marine who died in the Gulf. My ‘brother’ became like a father to me. Until, high on a cocktail of drink and drugs, he came home one night, put a gun to my mother’s head, and pulled the trigger. I heard the shot. Saw the blood. I leapt at my brother, and we wrestled for the weapon.”
“Were you afraid?”
“No. I’m never afraid, though until now, I have never known why. I’m never scared because he has never killed me. In every life I have bested him, and that is how it will be until I find a way to kill him permanently.”
“You speak as if something has changed.”
I nodded, and sipped the wine. “Always, before, I turned the weapon on myself after killing him. A cycle of reincarnation that has continued uninterrupted for generations, because my human host has never been… advanced enough to hear me. But now, this host… I was able to stop her from killing herself. For the first time in millennia, the cycle has been halted. And now, I know, this is the beginning of the end.”
“This…” I could see Ardillo struggling to find the right words. His glass of wine was untouched in his hand. “It sounds completely loco, Isabella. Like some science-fiction movie. But… I believe you.”
I smiled, knowing my prophetic dream had been accurate.
“I’m glad to hear that, Ardillo,” I said, stepping forward to rest my hand on the taut muscles of his shoulder. “Because now I need your help.”
Reads equally well as a stand-alone story or an episode in an ongoing tale — except for the evil cliffhanger. Evil, evil cliffhanger.
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Great story leaves me eagerly waiting for more, I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Many thanks! Hopefully you won’t have to wait too long; I’m working on the next part now.
Okay, I was bad and read this out of order (keep that lasso away from me)–but I enjoyed it! Otherworldly stories are always fun and this is an intriguing take on ideas that have been around since the Greeks–I will certainly read the other two!
Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
Interesting. It beats my idea that everyone at the hotel is in hell forced to confess their transgression (murder) over and over. Who would’ve thought Isabella was immortal.
I wouldn’t say it ‘beats’ your idea. Just a different take, really. Beating suggests this is some sort of contest in which I must go one-up on you (and steal all your beers whilst you’re being distracted by thoughts of immortal bikini-clad women). In truth, I really wanted to carry on your idea and work someone else into the lovely macabre hotel confession shindig, but I felt so bad about Scarlett last week that I wanted to find a way to give her a real chance at life.
Technically, Isabella isn’t immortal — she’s the ‘host’ body for the immortal cosmic entity living within, which is as yet unnamed. I have a (hopefully) cool 4th story planned, a sort of “what happens next” for Isabella/Cosmic Entity and The Flying Squirrel, which I may write even if Chuck doesn’t deliver a prompt I can wrangle into the correct shape.
We definitely need another author to write the bellhop’s confession.
Death-tag. This is a game we must invent.
There’s no email link. Do me a favor and shoot me an email to markgardnerauthor – its at that google mail place.
Aha! The plot thickens!
Thickens like lentils in scotch broth. Mmm lentils…