Today’s Youth

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Photo credit: me, Joy Pixley



Achael wondered why so many fishing boats filled the bay this early. Then they landed, and transformed.  Hordes of Beqalas crept out, muffling their weapons.

Achael glanced at the bell tower.  Why no alarm?  His eyes darted, seeking any adult to fix this.  He found none.  Something was worse than wrong.  Screwing up his courage, Achael sprinted across the empty plaza to the tower.

From nowhere, a Beqala grabbed him, murmuring in his snarling language.  Then words Achael understood: “Slow down, old man.”

Achael struggled free, wrenching open the tower door and yanking the bolt shut behind him.  Up those endless wooden stairs, he saw nobody, heard nothing.

He blinked.

Sitting up, Achael’s head ached.  He had to reach the top.  But why?  Oh yes, the Beqalas.  His knees resisting, he climbed, creaking and panting with every step.  His wrinkled hand on the rail caught his eye.  Old. When had that happened?

Oh, no.  His grandmother had lost her memory, wandered off, helpless.  How long had he been like this?  How many times had he relived this childhood event?

He cried, remembering when he could race up all those stairs.  So clear, like it was yesterday.

A thud high above, and the tower top went snow-white. Fingers of ice crackled down the walls, reaching toward him.

Achael struggled with the bolt.  The ice snaked closer.  Finally, the door lurched free, spilling him outside as the tower was enveloped.

The cacophony of battle deafened him.  Beqalas, attacking.  Today.

His mind reeled, righted itself.

He had to warn his parents.  Darting over obstacles he dared not identify, Achael ran, as fast as his young legs could go.



Word count: 275.   This was inspired by this week’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge, but as the word limit for that is 175 maximum, I’m not even sure if I should count it.  Maybe Priceless Joy will give me a pass on meeting the word count limit because it is my photo featured this week?  The story started out as 394, so I did somehow cut an awful lot out of it.

Anyway, click here to see the other stories written for this photo prompt, and hopefully they all followed the rules!

If anyone’s interested, the photo above was taken from inside the Torro Apponale in Riva del Garda, Italy, which looks like this from the outside.  Can you imagine running all the way up those stairs?

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Photo credit: Joy Pixley



 

 

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16 thoughts on “Today’s Youth

  1. Wonderful story Joy! I love that he went through age changes in the story as he ascended the tower! Very creative take! And yes, you get a pass because everyone gets one once in awhile. 🙂 And besides, you furnished the prompt. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great read, Joy. It’s funny, but I I think ‘When had that happened?’ every time I look in the mirror. 🙂 The age changing on the staircase is a nice bit of fantasy to add to the story. As for those Beqalas, I imagine they feature in your novel, too? Great prompt, and your extra photo certainly explains the staircase’s shape! I’m not sure my knees would survive the climb.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Millie! I was trying to evoke that same sense that we all get as we age — what? that’s me? — but imagine what it would be like if you really *were* ten years old and suddenly magicked into thinking you were old, and had zero memory of what had happened in between. What a shock!

      I worry that you’ll be very disappointed in my novel, because almost none of what you see in my flash fiction is in it! I won’t rule out adding such things to a later book, of course.. No, the Beqalas are another example of “world building through flash fiction challenges” — as in, I made them up for this story. And all I know about them is that they’re neighboring people who are better, apparently, at illusion magic than these folks.

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    • Thanks Amanda! Yeah, sorry for the confusion; I think when I cut it in half it wasn’t nearly as clear. The idea is that the Beqala cast a spell on Achael, to make him think he’s an old man, and slow down, so that he won’t ring the bell and alert the rest of the town (which was nicer than him killing the boy, which was the other option). So a second later, Achael has a moment of confusion and then “realizes” he’s old — he feels old, and to his eyes, he looks old. He can’t remember *getting* old, but oh no, it occurs to him that he’s lost his memory, how awful! The spell has the effect the Beqala wanted, because Achael doesn’t run up the stairs and ring the bell. Then the bell tower is frozen by an ice spell, so it can’t be rung for a while anyway. When Achael goes outside and sees that it’s just as he left it, with the Beqalas just now attacking, the spell is broken and he realizes he’s not really old.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Dom, glad you enjoyed it! I was there for a conference in 2010, and yes, it was absolutely magical. I do like this photo, and given my truly awful skills at fixing photographs, I’m especially proud that I was able to edit out the light bulbs to make it more appropriate for Eneana’s tech level. I think you can barely see where they were…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was really pleased to know more about the photo and your story. I know how hard it is to take lots of words out of a story. I think however your story sounds great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Michael, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Sometimes I manage to come up with a very short idea for a story and just write it down –bip bop — there, not too long. But this time I made the mistake of thinking about it too much — and next thing you know I have an entire epic saga in mind. Ah well!

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  4. Pingback: Those Awful Stone Steps | Millie Thom

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