Photo credit: Orin Zebest
Pantae shook the rug over the balcony. The dusty plaza bustled. Neighbors pausing errands to gossip. The crack of stickball, children whooping amid barking dogs. Elders clicking their Astral tiles. Garlic aromas wafting nearby.
But in the center, the terrifying Kaaraka statue. Pantae shivered, waved the sign against evil, and retreated inside.
Her parents said the Kaaraka protected them, that she was too afraid of everything. They were right. You are what you feel. Whatever you soak your soul in – envy, joy, anger, guilt – that’s your afterlife, for eternity.
The squeals outside turned to screams, crashes. She counted heartbeats, breaths, steps toward the balcony. Then: silence. Pantae halted.
She would die in fear. But then, didn’t everyone? She’d just started earlier than most.
She stepped forward and peered down. People lay everywhere, not moving. Not bleeding, not visibly injured, but… not moving. Someone faced up. Pantae couldn’t admit to herself who it was. Only: someone. Dead open eyes, frozen mouth terror-twisted.
They’d moved the Kaaraka. Why– Its head rotated toward her, tilted up. It leered.
As Pantae fell, she realized she would not die in fear, but shame. Because her last thought was: I told them so. I was right.
Word count: 200. Written for this week’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. Big thanks to Priceless Joy for hosting– and an even bigger apology for going over the word limit. I got confused about which word count level I need, and struggled to get it down from over 300 words to the 200 words, and when I realized the limit was actually 175, I just couldn’t find another 25 words to cut.
Thanks also to Mark for the original photo prompt, below. Click the link above to read the other stories inspired by this prompt, and to submit your own!
Photo © Mark Reynolds