A short story of a young warrior off to defend his clan from a mysterious blue creature, a creature capable of roping in its captors and burning them alive!
The air was thick with humidity. The tiny drops of water hanging in the air clung to my body like a thin sheen of sweat. The night sky was blanketed in a layer of haze, half covering the stars making it hard to navigate, but we still managed.
I looked over to my comrades. Austro's smooth armor glistened white with black jagged stripes in the dim moonlight. His opaque eyes sent chills through my body every time they met mine. There was something about them...so distant, yet I felt they were penetrating my soul.
Atlas, our leader, was the largest of the warriors. Her large muscles were hidden beneath her maroon armor. Tattooed on each wing was the number of clans she had defeated; three black stripes mirrored one another on her fore-wings, while two white and orange triangles, one on each side of her hind-wings, represented the leaders of rival clans that had tried to defeat her but failed.
“How much farther?” I asked Atlas from behind.
“Not until we reach the end of the river will we find this monstrosity. Be patient, Luna.”
It had been the passing of four moons since word reached our clan of this devilish beast. It was something we had never encountered before. It wasn't another clan we fought for territory nor was it even close to our kind. It didn't seem to live or breathe until it was swallowing up our brothers and sisters- our husbands and wives. We had to do something.
The wind whipped passed me as we picked up speed. Our neighboring Fire Dancers twirled around us above the thickening weeds, leaving trails of light behind them as they called for their loved ones, and deep green blades of grass were covered in small bubbles of water, making them look sharp and menacing.
The fifteen or so young warriors followed close behind. Atlas swooped swiftly to the right. Austro took his place at her side, his white eyes lusting over the sheer power that emanated from her body. He looked up to her as a God.
“Great Atlas, what are we going to do once we find this beast? The stories...” his unfocused eyes became even more distant. They reminded me of the eyes of the
There had been only one survivor of our new enemy. Nickoli had come falling into our home, his colorful armor severely burned. His eyes full of fear and sorrow. It was a full passing of the sun before he uttered a word about his journey. It was a simple task of gathering food from the flowers that brought his companions to their death. His blackened armor shivered in pain and agony, both emotional and physical, as he recalled the events of the previous sun.
“We had just finished gathering food at the end of the river when the sun fell behind the trees. It seemed odd that the moon was already shining so brightly-
so quickly. There was something...different...about the way it's waves of light changed from white to blue. It seemed to be sending off a pulsating rhythm that I couldn't keep from penetrating my soul. The others felt it as well,” he relayed.
His skinny arms and legs began to quake even more and his head dropped. He was silent, along with the rest of the clan. It wasn't until the shrill sound of his sobbing breath sliced through the silence that we all understood the magnitude of this enemy. After a few long beats, he began again.
“We began to move towards the light, pushing away our thoughts of unease. It remained in place, just as the moon would, and we followed it in the direction we thought was home.” He stopped once more to clear his throat and wipe his eyes.
Moments later, his eyes went blank. His face grew even more somber than it already was and he seemed to be in a different place, a different time. It was as if his soul had left his body momentarily to escape the torture his memory was inflicting on it.
“She was my true love,” Nickoli whispered. “I can remember exactly the way her beautiful, purple wings glinted in the sunlight as she gathered food for our clan...for our expectant children...I can remember the way she looked at me from across the field of flowers and grass. Her voice was like a soft melody flowing with the wind that carried us closer together.”
“Nickoli,” Atlas spoke softly, “I'm so sorry for your loss, but...we need to know what happened out there.”
He blinked quickly and his soul returned. His eyes were no longer distant, fear no longer played at the edges of his mouth. I noticed something new rising up his throat as he prepared to speak once more.
“It was the Blue Devil!” He bellowed angrily, followed by a few short sobs. His long feelers twitched furiously, and our hollow tree home shook at the sudden change in vibrations. “The Blue Devil took away my Autumn; my love! He roped us in with his boney, slimy invisible fingers, making empty promises as his fire burned through our armor and right to our souls...”
“What do you mean, empty promises?” a voice came from the crowd.
“The closer we moved towards his flame, the more at ease we felt. It was like I was floating, like something had taken over my body and was guiding me to bliss. Images flashed across my eyes of a wonderful place; a place of peace and joy and love. I saw the same in the eyes of the others as well...”
He paused as another round of sobs caught in his throat. He choked and coughed and spit as the tears returned to his eyes. Then he collapsed, unable to take anymore.
Atlas moved to his side. She wound her soft fingers around his head and cradled him like she would her young.
“Please, Nickoli, if you can, please finish your story,” she said.
“You can't make him go on,” I whispered. My heart felt split in two for him. He had lost his pregnant wife and fellow clan members and here we were, forcing him to relive the terrible moments before he had time to recover in the least.
“We must know what we are fighting against,” she hissed through clenched teeth. “The sooner we figure it out, the sooner we can destroy it.”
The crowd muttered in agreement. Only a select few had the same look of distaste in their eyes as they watched Atlas practically forcing Nickoli to rip his soul apart.
His breathing slowed and his sobs subsided. He tried to push himself off the ground but he was too weak. He collapsed into Atlas's awaiting arms.
“I cannot...” he whispered, all anger gone from his voice. Only those who were close enough could make out his words. “I cannot go on after tonight.”
“Atlas, let him rest,” I pleaded. “Can't you see the state he is in? His soul is wounded deeper than anything I have seen before. Let time repair it.”
She shot me a menacing look and spat in my direction.
“Do not tell me what to do!” Her voice rose. “I am your leader, and you, Nickoli, and everyone else will do as I say.”
I sighed. Nickoli looked up at me. Tears welled in my eyes as I understood in his deepened expression what this night would do to him. I had known him since he had hatched from his shield. I had known his wife since she joined our clan just a season ago. She was a kind and caring spirit.
I had to turn away as he began to speak again.
“We floated closer to the Blue Devil...it wasn't until the burning started that I knew something was wrong. The others...they began to scream,” I could tell by his quivering voice that his lips were trembling. Mine did the same as I listened intently. “I told the others to turn away, but it was too late for them. I screamed for Autumn to come to me, but her screams were too loud. She could not hear me...I-I- pushed and pulled with all my might until I was no longer facing the Devil. I was free from his tight grip and just as I turned to go and save the others...they erupted into giant balls of blue fire. I watched Autumn's blackened body fall to the rocks...please, I cannot go on any longer.”
I turned and took one final glance into his pained eyes before they closed forever. His heart and soul could take it no longer, so he let go...
I could smell the change in scenery as the river finally ended. The plan was to surround the Blue Devil as if to ambush him. I looked up at the haze-covered stars once more, wishing and hoping I wouldn't have to witness the same thing Nickoli had seen. The clouds had gathered around the moon, and the only light left was in the distance. A flickering blue light.
I also noticed a giant square of gray ground directly below it. Nickoli had described it as rocks, but this was something different. It was completely flat and looked like a bundle of stones had been melted together. It was then that I immediately noticed two giant monsters standing against another square of yellow light. I had never been this far down the river before and these giants intrigued me. Their pale pink skin seemed to reflect the light; their armor looked thin and flowed in the wind. One of the two monsters had long yellow fur that hung below its neck while the other had a shorter mane right atop its head. It looked like black blades of grass, only more disheveled. They were breathing out of thin, white pipes with burning coals at the end. The two seemed oblivious of our approach.
“What are they?” I yelled.
“The Blue Devil must have known we were coming and called for backup,” Austro said.
“Yes, I expected something like this,” Atlas replied. “We must take out their leader first. Once the leader is defeated, the rest will surely fall.”
We continued to fly closer to the Blue Devil. I began to feel something pulling me faster through the air as we grew nearer. It was then I felt the warm fingers of the Devil wrap around my body, pushing my soft wings up and down on their own.
“He's trying to pull us in!” Atlas yelled. “Quick, break formation! Austro, Luna, and I will continue forward. The rest of you maneuver to the back and distract him!”
Atlas gavethe orders but no one moved. They all seemed mesmerized by the blue light in front of us. Some even flew passed us with great speed.
Finally, the first blue fireball erupted and I knew we were doomed. I was unable to move, as were the others. The constant sound of explosions and screams rang in my ears as the young warriors met their death.
“We need to retreat!” I screamed. I could already feel the heat burning my armored wings. The tiny protective hairs seemed to shrivel away to nothing and my flight began to falter.
No one answered me.
“Atlas! Tell them to retreat!”
Just before I closed my eyes, I saw Austro and Atlas glide into the burning blue light and disappear. I was the only one left...
I screamed in pain as the heat intensified as did the hands of the Devil. The blue fire burned through my eye lids as I waited for it to end.
Suddenly, I felt a rush of wind, and darkness surrounded me. I waited for the final blow and for my soul to escape my body, but it never came. Instead I felt a cooler, yet still warm, shield around me. I opened my eyes to almost complete darkness aside from a small crack above me. The air around me reeked of my charred armor.
I heard voices; I couldn't understand the language. I grew more scared as I realized I was in the hands of the Devil's advocate. I was surely going to be crushed any second.
The crease of light above me grew brighter as I looked up.
Staring down at me was a pair of enormous white and brown eyes. It was the one with the shorter mane of fur atop its rounded head. Its voice was loud and foreign. Was it trying to speak to me?
My entire body shook from my feelers to my wings to my legs.
The monster seemed to take notice and quickly, yet gently, placed me on a thick blade of grass. I was shocked! This was no monster at all. If it were, I would surely be dead by now.
I quickly jumped into the air and beat my singed wings away from the battlefield. Despite my fear, I took one final look back just as the yellow furred monster pulled on a thick, black vine that was connected to the Blue Devil. Three copper colored fingers emerged from the gray wall and the blue flame disappeared.
The Blue Devil had been defeated.
“That's it; I'm taking this bug zapper down,” Carl said as he unplugged the thick chord from the outside outlet. “All it seems to attract are swarms of moths. I'm still getting bit by mosquitoes...” And to add emphasis, he slapped his forearm.
Carl and Emily put out their cigarettes and walked back into their apartment.