It’s that time again.
Time for NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge!
This is my favorite writing competition. One I enter every year and every year I become a better writer. The feedback I get from the comment sections alone are awesome.
For each round we are given a genre, location, and an object that has to appear in the story at least once. Contestants are then given 48 hours to complete a 1000 max word story. So without further ado:
Location: A Carousel
Object: A Cookie
Secrets and Sand
A man wanders the desert after the world has fallen, collecting and sharing the secret knowledge of sages and wizards in the hope that the good of people will outweigh the bad. He is a remnant of the world before, seeking out other remnants in the hopes of preventing old mistakes.
Cuestan settled his weariness beside a dragon on an old wooden bench. Grinning, he leaned over and whispered a secret into the lizards ear. The beast was stone dead, but it had only been a small secret, and an old one at that. Together, the duo watched the desert wind whip sand past the sagging structure of the carousel on which they sat.
“It is unlikely to stop.” Cuestan mused.
“The wind I mean,” he said, eyeing the dragon, “not the sand. The sand always stops eventually.” He looked around at the wreckage of wood and brass. “Everything stops eventually.”
Cuestan barked a laugh and nudged the carved corpse. “That used to be a secret too. A big one. So big that people fought and hate and killed to deny it.”
The dragon watched him with unblinking eyes and Cuestan’s face fell. “I collect secrets, you know. Secrets of power like the one from earlier. Once upon a time, I horded them to use their influence and power for whatever purpose I deemed worthy.”
The wind shifted at his words and a brass bodied centaur rattled toward them, spinning on the pole in it’s middle. Cuestan raised his hands as if in surrender. “Do not be so hasty my horse-bodied friend. Those causes I championed were not all for my benefit.” He caught the dragon’s unblinking eye and coughed. “Well… perhaps not entirely, but I did as I thought best. I helped when I could and whom I could and as the world continued to fall apart around us I grew ever more and more desperate. I sought out those places of power that remained. I learned their secrets! I understood their teachings! I grew so powerful! I-”
The wind died away for a moment and the wanderer paused in his ranting, gathering his thoughts like lost children. “The Universe has rules, you see. Everything in it has to obey those rules. So the more you know about how things work, the more you can manipulate them.” He breathed a heavy sigh and watched a whirlwind of sand dance along the horizon. “I wasn’t the only one, you know. There were others: sages, priests, wizards, sorcerers… They called us all sorts of things. Every culture had a name for what we did, though most of them refused to believe we existed. Even after…”
The whirlwind danced closer, stealing sand from the endless dunes and spinning it skyward. Cuestan pulled a ragged bag from a pocket and withdrew the remains of a sandwich he had pilfered the week before. There wasn’t much left, but it hadn’t started to sour yet. He ate slowly, mulling over every bite. Dinner ended as the whirlwind died, vomiting sand into the sky only for it to fall back to earth with the sound of falling rain. He reached once more into the bag and pulled out the last of the cookies that had originally filled it. He broke the sweet-treat in half and offered a piece first to the dragon beside him and then to the judgmental centaur, but neither beast accepted.
He eyed the cookie regretfully. “That was our mistake,” he said. “We didn’t share. Some of us were selfish, all of us were scared. We feared that the power our secrets granted was too great to contain. We feared ourselves. We feared each other, but mostly we feared what might happen if our secrets became known to everyone.” The wanderer shook his head and bit deep into the cookie, savoring the taste. “It was hubris. It was stupidity. We feared what they would do with our powers and never bothered to consider that it might not all be bad.
There have always been destructive people that would twist the world to hurt everyone who was not themselves. But those people have always been outnumbered by the builders, the crafters, and the ones who are just passing through life. All of the people who made societies. The people who made families and tribes and clans. Those are the people we should have trusted. Had we given our powers to the world, the destroyers would have twisted and destroyed, but the builders and protectors would have stopped them.” He coughed a chuckle. “The heavens alone know what they might have built afterward.”
“Now,” he said. “Maybe it’s too late, but now I share my secrets. I seek them out. I gather them plant them in the minds and souls of everyone I can.” Cuestan shook his head and finished his cookie. “This world is closer to death than ever. Let the magic spread and let the builders build. What harm can it do now?”
He fell silent then. The sun was almost down and it would soon be time to move on again. The wind shifted with the coming night, blowing through the shattered debris of the carousel. The centaur rattled. The brass creaked and the ancient wood moaned. Cuestan listened to it all, waiting.
Finally, the dragon seemed to move. The pale wind roared through the ragged bars, filling the world with noise. Cuestan leaned in close, placing his ear near the dragon’s mouth.
The world of sand and wind faded. The carousel turned again, bright and musical. Lights above and beyond glittered along the carven scales of the dragon’s long neck. The centaur flexed and rolled along. Beasts of all size sang with laughter and merriment and people of all sizes, colors, and ages clapped and laughed, cried and talked, shared and smiled.
And then it was gone.
And only the wind remained.
Cuestan smiled, blinking back tears and basking in the warmth of the fading sun and the memories the dragon had shared. “It is a wonderful time to be alive,” he said, climbing to his feet.
He made is way out of the wreckage and began struggling through the desert sand, carrying the new secret with him until he could share it.