Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Lightning flashed just as he reached the house*

Lightning flashed just as he reached the house. Had he been discovered? Darwin looked at his watch – twelve minutes to midnight.  He still had time.  He raced up the creaky steps of his grandfather’s house two at a time and ran down the hall, skidding to a stop at the last door on the left.  He paused just long enough to take in one long breath and then release it.  His hand moved nervously to remove the heavy iron key hanging from a chord of leather around his neck.

Darwin had trouble remembering the life he lived before he wore that key, before he swore an oath to his dying grandfather that he would make whatever sacrifice was necessary when the time came. There hadn’t been time to explain why or how, only that he needed to be prepared if he saw the signs – and all three had come to pass. First people started getting sick, then people began to disappear, and then (he shuddered at the memory of his encounter earlier that night) the sick turned into flesh-eating monsters.

Whatever secret this key unlocked was the only way to save his village.  Darwin put the key in the lock and turned it.  The door opened and the dark room drew him inside as if it were drawing in breath for the first time.  There were no windows and no electricity.  He spoke his grandfather’s last words “aliata darkosa aloud, and the candelabra in the center of the room came to life with twelve small flames.

The only furniture in the room was an antique desk supporting the weight of an old leather bound book.  As Darwin moved toward the tome, the pages flew open and seemed to pulse with an eerie glow.  He began reading the open pages and gasped in horror.

He learned that his family had once been cannibals who believed that they would consume the power of a person’s soul along with their flesh.  They became powerful but very corrupt and the whole village turned against them.  A traveler passing through the village, known only as “The Holy Man”, offered to help them.  He performed a short ritual and, like magic, balance in the village was restored.

After everyone celebrated, The Holy Man took the youngest son aside and handed him a book and a key.  He told the boy, “You need to know that your family was cursed by what they did.  But curses like yours cannot be broken without great personal sacrifice; they can, however, be delayed or transferred to another host.  I merely delayed the inevitable.  This book will show you what you need to know when you need to know it.  Protect the book with this key.  Protect this key with your life.  The souls of your great-grandchildren may depend on it”.

Darwin felt sick with fear as he realized the truth of the situation.  The village, his village, was cursed and it was his family’s fault.  He wiped a tear from his eye and looked around the room.  A large fireplace he hadn’t noticed earlier sprang to life, dancing with orange and red smokeless flames.  The book slammed shut and disappeared with a sizzling pop.  There was nothing left for it to say.

Darwin walked to the door and locked it with the key from the inside.  The key turned brittle and was ash only seconds later.  He heard the grandfather clock downstairs strike midnight – once, twice.  He walked toward the flames – three strikes, four.  He bowed his head and said a silent prayer for his family and the villagers – five, six.  Then he took a step toward the flames and reached for the key at his chest that was no longer there – seven, eight.  His last thought was of all the people he loved – nine, ten.  Then he stepped into the fireplace and was gone. 

*This was an assignment where the first few words were provided and I had to finish the story.

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