Merry Christmas – and a big welcome to all of my new followers! In addition to book review blogger interviews and fantasy author guest posts, my blog features once a week (ish) short stories based on characters from my books. This week’s short story includes Shawn, the antagonist of The Akasha Series, as a younger boy. I try to keep the short stories at flash fiction length (1,000 words or less). Please feel free to comment or e-mail me directly – I could always use the feedback
At first, they had been plentiful. Tiny specks of concentrated energy – each one of them so dense they could be seen with the naked eye, like specks of dust visible in the sun’s rays. Shawn collected them, willing them to group together, building a wall around the old man standing across from him. But now they were fewer, and so transparent they could only be felt, not seen.
They were also no longer cooperating. Many floated away from the mass, compromising the strength of the wall. The purpose was to block Cato, the old man, from being able to wield magic.
“Pay attention, son. Your creation comes from synching yourself with nature. Shields are not built by sheer willpower.” Cato lectured the 10 year-old boy, who had been at the exercise for the better part of an hour. Sweat poured down the boy’s forehead as he furrowed his eyebrows in concentration. If walls were built with willpower, Cato wouldn’t have a chance.
Cato smiled, forcing air into the flimsy block Shawn had constructed. Once the air tunnels had penetrated even the smallest pores, he pushed bits of earth through the tunnels with a burst of speed, effectively blowing apart everything Shawn had constructed.
Shawn’s frustrated growl made Cato laugh out loud. “How did you do that?” Shawn asked.
“Think of it like overpopulation. Just as the Earth cannot handle a limitless amount of humans, neither can your wall handle a limitless amount of force. Now – try again. This time, concentrate on the purity of your energy.”
Shawn took a sip from his water bottle and threw it aside. He wiped the sweat off his forehead with his shirt, took a deep breath, and closed his eyes – centering himself just as Cato had taught him. He drew energy again, attempting to build a wall around Cato’s magical abilities, molecule by molecule. This time he packed them in tighter, giving his structure a sturdy base.
“Good, good,” Cato commented. “Soon you will be able to practice with the Gaia herself. Your manipulation of her magical abilities will include strengthening it, altering it or even blocking it when necessary.”
Shawn fell into a rhythm. Slowly but surely, the wall was beginning to rise. It soon became boring, monotonous work. His thoughts fell to the overpopulation comment Cato made. “If humans are destroying the planet, because of how many of us there are – why don’t we just make it so there are less of us?” Shawn asked.
Cato turned a wary eye to the 10 year-old boy, “What do you mean, son?”
“I mean, maybe there should just be less people.” Shawn continued constructing his wall, brick by brick.
Cato wasn’t sure he should pursue the subject, but he had felt guilty – having spent all his time with the two new children he adopted three weeks ago. He at least owed it to the boy to treat his ideas with respect; owed him a serious conversation. “How would you propose we go about doing that?”
Shawn took his time answering. In the past when he had brought up the subject, he had been either brushed off or rebuked. “Well, population control, for one. Like China does. One kid per family.”
Cato nodded his head, “A valid point.” Shawn’s wall had completely enclosed Cato from the ground up to his knees. He could still knock it down, but the boy needed to practice. “Religion poses a problem. Many religions preach that faith equals fertility. Going against such a fundamental belief is not a good idea – even if your original intentions are to save the planet. Not many will be on your side. You would alienate our organization from the majority of the population.”
“Religion isn’t all bad – I mean, look at all the wars started because of religious differences. That got rid of some of the population,” said Shawn.
“You’ve been paying attention in your history lessons! Good boy!” Cato ruffled Shawn’s hair, choosing to ignore the darker implications of Shawn’s thought. Shawn had suddenly picked up speed with his wall – it was now closing over Cato’s chest.
Encouraged, Shawn continued. “Governments spend so much money on disaster efforts, sick people, old people. Why don’t they just, you know, stop doing that? Might help with population numbers.”
“Most certainly. But then you are telling people to ignore one of the very traits that define humanity – compassion.” Cato uttered the last word with uncertainty. He pushed a small amount of energy into the wall. Impenetrable. The boy was learning. Slowly, the wall began closing in; squeezing Cato like a sinister hug.
“But it is compassion, because you are saving the Earth – making it a better place for humans and in the end even saving people,” Shawn said.
Cato tried taking a deep breath, but the squeezing was too intense. Even though Shawn’s wall was invisible to the naked eye, it was as solid, and as real – as steal. They boy’s magic, as well as the conversation, were treading dangerous ground.
“Shawn – I think you are missing the point.” Cato was having more and more difficulty talking as the wall snaked around him. “The Seven exists to protect and help the Earth. Those of us that have been blessed with the ability to manipulate elements and energy must do our best to counter the harmful effects of the human population. We are not here to counter the human population itself.”
“Well, maybe we should.” Shawn completed the wall; it surrounded Cato like a claustrophobic igloo. The two stood there, still as ice – one by choice, the other not so much.
Cato was taking in short, constricted breaths, “To what end? Why then, would we be saving the Earth? Who would be here to enjoy it?”
Suddenly, the wall disintegrated. Shawn released his adoptive father and said, “You know – the rest of us. Whoever is left.”
Cato resisted the urge to brush off of the non-existent wall debris. “No. The answer is no. We will all abide by the mission of the organization – and the mission is not depopulation.”
Completely unnerved by the entire experience, Cato picked up his gym bag and walked away, mumbling excuses of the work awaiting him.
Shawn watched him go. “Then maybe we need a new organization.”
What did you think? Contact me or comment and let me know!
Want to read more? Check out my contemporary eco-fantasy, Water: Book One of the Akasha Series.