Firewall [Flash Fiction]
Theme: Fantasy, Legend
“Tell us a story, Grandpa!” Talia begged. Her cry was picked up by the other children in the flock, a chorus of voices demanding entertainment.
Joram looked down at their eager faces. In a few years, Talia and her friends would be leaving school, entering the murky world of young-adulthood.The little ones would be little no longer, and they’d have no desire for an old man’s stories.
“What story would you like?” he asked his granddaughter.
He knew the answer before she gave it. She flung out her arm, finger pointing to the distant wall looming over the city. “The story of the firewall!” Of course. It was her favourite, and she never tired of hearing it.
“Haven’t you learnt all about it in school, yet?” he chided.
“Yes, but you tell it better, Grandpa.” Her bottom lip came out. Wobbled. Joram quickly reached down to scoop her up, then deposited her on his knee. The other children gathered around, settling themselves cross-legged on the floor.
“Alright. The story of the firewall it is.” He fought back a smile as Talia settled herself more comfortably on his knee. She could probably tell the story herself, by now. “Remind me how it starts,” he prompted.
Very patiently, and with an air of gravitas, Talia said, “In the beginning…”
“Right.” He chuckled. No chance of skipping right to the action, then. “In the beginning there was T’Loas, the fabled land. When the whole world grew white, only T’Loas remained green. Seafarers told stories of its emerald shores, but the people mostly laughed them off, believing T’Loas to be nothing but a creation of overactive imaginations.
“The white grew colder, stronger, deeper. Many children died before their first year, and the great ocean beasts retreated far beneath the surface to avoid the ice. With little to hunt, the people starved.
“One man, a head of his clan, grew so desperate to save his family that he built a great raft, and he bundled his loved-ones onto it, determined to see them safely to T’Loas’ shores. The journey was perilous. Ice-floes crashed into them over and over again. Terrible beasts stalked them across the flat white plains. There was no food, save for that which they had taken with them. And the wind screamed mercilessly day and night.”
One boy in the audience shivered, hugging his arms to his chest. “I’m glad it’s not like that now.”
“Indeed. Now, eventually, the people came to the shores of T’Loas, and made a home here. They learnt about their new land, about the trees which bore the best fruit, and the beasts which could be hunted for food. They learned to love and respect their island paradise.
“Little did they know they weren’t alone in their new home. Fyrkos, a powerful fire demon, lived deep underground. He slumbered for a long time and kept the island warm whilst everything around it froze. When he heard the people, laughing and living on the shores above, he grew jealous that they had each other for company.”
The children shuffled closer together. They knew what was coming next, and Joram threw himself into the role. After depositing Talia into the group, he stood up and made himself look bigger by hunching his shoulders and holding his arms out to his sides. He fixed a scowl onto his face, and glared at the children as if he wanted to eat them.
“Fyrkos went to the people and he told them to worship him as a god. The people refused—they knew a bully when they saw one. Their refusal made Fyrkos angry.” Joram threw his arms up into the air. “He grew hotter and hotter and started spitting fire up from the ground. He got so angry and so hot that all the ice began to melt, and the people rejoiced. When Fyrkos heard their revelry, he grew even angrier, because he knew that in his folly, he’d given the people what they wanted.
“Fyrkos was so angry that he came riding down the mountain on a wave of fire, determined to scour the village from the island. But Akleer, a demon of the ocean, had been watching the people ever since they began their journey. He was impressed by their resourcefulness and determination, and he didn’t want to see them harmed. As Fyrkos came raging down the mountain, Akleer sent forth cool ocean waves to form a protective wall over the village.
“Fire met water, and there was a ferocious battle. The earth in front of the village steamed for days, but finally Fyrkos’ rage subsided. Where his flood of molten rock had met the sea water, there stood a slowly cooling wall as high as the treetops.
“Each year, Fyrkos comes, and he tries to sweep us into the ocean on waves of fire. And each year, Akleer sends water from the ocean to cool Fyrkos’ anger.”
“But we can’t stay here forever,” Talia finished. Her brown-eyed gaze slid to the shadow of the wall. “Each year, Fyrkos gets closer, and the wall gets taller, and thicker. Soon, there will be no more land to retreat to.”
“Is that why we’re building a new raft?” asked a younger boy. He pointed to the harbour, where a magnificent construction project was well underway. The platform of solid rock was kept afloat by its massive surface area, and by the goodwill of Akleer. Atop the platform, countless houses were almost finished. Glass domes were scattered between them, in which edible plants could be grown.
“That’s right,” said Joram. “Your parents are working on it right now. It will be a few years before it’s ready, but your own children will be born there.”
The boy pulled his face at the thought of having children of his own, and Joram merely smiled. He’d been born on the island and would die here, but the children would live, and for him, that was enough.
First April submission for #BlogBattle – Genre of Fantasy/Legend, Theme word: Surfer.