This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge is based on a photo. A random photo. A random photo from the Flickr “Interestingness” page.
I picked this one showing a desolate ruin in a valley full of dead trees, fog, and a small river. The photo is from Xavier G., entitled “Guerlédan 04,” apparently one of a set of six photos taken at the site of a lake or reservoir which is being drained.
As always, comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated.
The destruction in the valley was complete, the landscaped scoured to bedrock and then rebuilt with debris and mud. Where yesterday there had been fruit trees and shelter from the sun, today there was nothing but the bare trunks and broken branches. Trees that had been young in the youth of my grandfather’s grandfather were snapped like twigs and tossed about like matchsticks.
Small patches of the cobblestone road that led by our house could be seen poking up out of the muck, but there was no sign of the stone bridge that had crossed the river. Sections of the road had been swept away and the stones scattered like seeds downstream.
Given the level of destruction, I was surprised to see anything left of our house. The two primary walls and the fireplace were still somewhat intact, while the two lower walls had been easily breached, allowing the deluge to sweep away everything that we had ever owned.
The only hopeful sign was the sun trying to peak through the low lying fog and clouds. I could barely see the cliffs above the flood’s high water mark as the hills climbed up into the clouds, but in the east there was at least a bright spot in the sky.
I could see no one other than myself. There were a few livestock carcasses on the river banks with crows starting to gather to pick at them. Above, lost in the grey, I could hear the occasional cries of a hawk.
After I had tried to get to the road or the house, only to have my efforts thwarted by the knee-deep, soft, sucking mud, I retreated back to higher ground and collapsed exhausted onto a stump. Catching my breath and trying to find any shred of a plan to move forward, I first heard the sound of the sky ship.
At the time, of course, I had no idea what the sound might be. Our village was small with no formal school. I had learned some letters and numbers from the priest, but I was poorly educated. While there were stories told at night about far off lands and amazing wonders, stories often told by men who had been soldiers but were now simply drunkards, the worlds described were as alien as the lands of the moons.
Turning toward the sound, too spent and hungry to flee, I heard the high-pitched keening grow louder and louder. Around the upstream bend in the canyon I could see a light sweeping across the canyon walls and the ruined flood plain.
As the sound rose and the lights brightened I knew that I should be frightened. The fear that I knew should be there was absent, lost in the long night of thundering, roaring, freezing water. When my family, my friends, and my village vanished screaming into the canyons to the south, leaving me to die alone trapped on the cliffs above, my capacity for fear had been swept away as well.
When one wishes to die, the fear of death does not hold any power over you.
The flying machine appeared around the bend, hovering in the air above the river, higher up than the tallest tree. The beams of light from underneath swept across the ground, searching, finally sweeping over me.
Two of the beams swung back to pin me in their glare. With no place to hide and nothing to keep me here, I chose only to stand and meet my fate on my feet, facing it like the woman that my mother would have wanted me to be if I had been twice as old as I was.
Thus it was that I was found and taken to the city to begin an entirely new life.