Welcome to another installment of awesome EOW stories, gentle viewers! I hope you’re as excited as I am about all the incredible fiction we’re seeing for this contest. Great writers all — this is going to be a tough one to judge!
Today’s first story is by the fabulous Lyra Selene, and she’s written the first fantasy entry for the contest!
The second story is my own ineligible entry — because I couldn’t pass up the prompt. Just for funsies.
The old man woke before the dawn, shuddering against the cold. Nightmares had wracked his sleep that night, the bedclothes tangling around his ankles and clutching at his wrists as he fought free of their grasp. They looked like pale serpents, and the old man shivered again.
He twitched the curtains open. The stars shone bright as diamonds despite the morning creeping up behind the mountains. The old man frowned: he did not know what had torn him from his bed so early. Closing his eyes, he felt deep within himself for the eternal vibration he had long ago learned to sense. His breath caught in his throat; the rumbling was restless and strong this morning. Too strong.
The mountain pass filled with grey light as the old man scrambled down the steep path; light enough for the his feet to find their way between the stones. He ducked into the low tunnel that twisted into the heart of the earth. The old man felt his way forward by touch and memory; he had traveled this tunnel more times than he cared to count.
When the old man reached the cavern he was frightened. The terrible grumbling in the earth spoke to him in a way that he did not understand; anxiety clouded his thoughts as foreboding clenched at his chest. Something was wrong.
The cluster of five massive rocks stood in the center of the cavern, equal in height and breadth, radiating with inner light. The old man drew in a breath of awe, as he always did; they had been there at the beginning, and they would be there until the end of the world. Tender love swelled his chest, but today it was tinged with a nagging worry. Waves of heat poured from the stones, terrific tremors shaking his bones until his teeth were chattering in his head. He laid a palm against the foremost stone, examining the ancient cracks, the pocked surface, the shards of mica.
The boy slipped from the shadows with barely a sound. The old man turned.
The old man was not the boy’s grandfather, but he was familiar with the nickname. All the children in the village called him Grandpa, Old Man Mountain, Grandfather Time.
“You should not be here.”
“Lady Weed told me who you are, and what you do. It is time, old man. Time for the mantle to fall to someone new.”
“You have no idea what you are asking for.”
“I do,” argued the boy, and the knife flickered in his fingers before he plunged it into the old man’s chest.
The old man fell to the floor, his vision darkening. He tried to force the words out: the manner of his death was wrong, his life must be freely given for the Guardianship to move on. Disaster was nigh. But his words gurgled in his chest: it was too late.
The boy moved towards the stones, and the earth began to shake with fury.
I hear the chuffing growl of the engine just as the cherry of my cigarette hits the filter. It’s close, but I can’t see it. But I know what it is.
“Shit.” I stomp on the butt and kick it into the grass. “Shit.”
I come around the corner just as the tow truck lifts my battered Buick onto its back axle.
“This yours?” The driver’s mouth is pinched and puckered like a dog’s asshole, and she spits on the ground before I can get the image out of my head.
“I was just having a smoke. I gotta get back on the road. My kid graduates tomorrow.”
“I’ve already done the papers, Mister. Sorry.” Her hand is creased like her mouth, and it feels like leather when her skin brushes mine as she offers a business card.
“Look. Please? I haven’t seen my little girl in five years.” My fingers jab at the healed track marks at the crook of my left arm, and as the driver’s gaze follows, I pretend I’m slapping a mosquito. “I gotta be there.”
“Maybe you should’ve left earlier.”
I snort a laugh. “Yeah, maybe. Ended up losing my job anyway.”
Her jaw slackens as she takes in my appearance. I know what I look like. Boots like barely tanned leather. Jeans I had to scrape the cow shit off of before the laundromat owner let me wash them. White button down I got for two bucks at the Second Run Thrift Store and spilled mustard at dinner. Yeah, I know what I look like. Burned out cowboy who took too many do-si-dos with needles.
“Where’re you headed?”
She nods. Hope tickles my chest.
“Yard’s open all night. You should hit the Texas border by four or so. It’s not the end of the world.”
It’s half past ten. “How much to get my car out?”
Could be worse. Could be five. This way, it’s fifty bucks less than I got to my name.
“Where’s the yard?”
“Five miles down Route 15. Turn right there,” she points. “And just keep walking. You’ll see it.”
“Can’t I hitch a ride with you?”
“It’s not allowed.” She slams the door of the tow truck and tips her hat at me. “Good luck getting to your girl.”
The sun’s long gone to sleep, but the Mississippi air smothers me before I make it a mile. My white shirt soaks through in minutes and clings to my chest.
It’s almost midnight before I make it to the yard. My stomach’s sounding like the tow truck, but I hand over my two fifty-three to the attendant, grab a Slim Jim and a Coke, and snatch my keys from his hand.
“Second row,” he says.
Little Lou’s graduation is at one. I’m gonna make it.
I crank the air as soon as the engine turns over, and it cools my skin and brightens my mood as I speed west.
I’ll be there.
Tomorrow I’ll make things right.
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