Twenty Flickering Flames
Day 22: write a short fanfiction set on a character's birthday.
The boy sat by the window, watching the other townspeople celebrate in the streets. He wasn't certain if it was ironic or not that he was born during a celebration. Everyone loved this day, even though it marked both his birth and the coming of the end of the world with it.
His mother sat in a rocking chair in the main room. He could hear her fingers tapping nervously on the arms of the chair. He could sense his father's presence behind the door.
"I know you're there," he called, aware that it would likely frighten the man, but past caring about it. He wasn't going to pretend that he didn't know things when he did.
"J-just wanted to say happy birthday son."
He nodded. "Thank you."
"You can go out if you like."
"Mother said I was to stay here."
"I'm telling you that you can go have fun."
He thought about it, considered going out. Leaving the stuffy house behind for a night. Just as suddenly he thought about the whispering voices of the people who thought he couldn't hear them, like he didn't know what was in their hearts. He thought of his mother looming over him with a dagger, having somehow incurred her wrath without understanding why.
"I don't want to go."
The room was uncomfortable, with or without his father there, so he went back to looking out the window, breathing in the scent of burning wood and food from the feast and tasting the cool, crisp air of the evening.
He waited until his father had left, aware that he felt less alone when the well-meaning man was gone, and went back to losing himself in the stars.
When one fell he made a wish, somewhat excited at the sight. 'I want a friend,' he thought, aware of how foolish he sounded even to himself. 'Freedom," he amended, 'would suffice.'
The festival was better than he had thought it would be. At first he had choked on the smoke, but a drink from one of the vender's stalls had eased it up, and the fire became beautiful, the smoke billowing up into the sky, escaping like he wanted.
"Freedom," he thought as he leaned forward and scooped the fire into his hands. He didn't miss the gasps or the anger on the faces of his neighbours as he wandered into the woods. The light in his palms was warm and beautiful, guiding him between the trees until he came to rest at the base of a gnarled oak, clutching himself and crying silently.
He had done it, attained freedom. The fire still flickered beneath his skin. Happy birthday, it whispered, like the star that he had wished on two years before.
Now what? The stars seemed to ask.
Gaia handed him the extra sword that she had brought with her, presenting it to him with a big smile on her face that faded as he looked at it without responding. Was he supposed to pay for it? He hadn't been payed for his work yet!
She gestured again for him to take it. "It's for you," she stated simply, as though he should know that already.
His eyes went wide.
"Go on, take it!"
He reached out for it, trying not to tremble when she let him take on the weight of it and slapped him on the back. Her grin had returned with full force, showing off a row of even teeth. "Well, what do you think?"
He felt himself smiling. The expression felt odd on his face, out of place and uncomfortable. He fought to reign it in. "It's the best thing anyone has ever given me," he answered honestly around the lump in his throat.
She didn't seem to realize he meant it until that night, when he sat staring at it by the fire, watching the light reflect in the silver of the blade.
He hadn't even told her it was his birthday.
The people gathered in the pub didn't realize how nervous he had to be to be drinking again. He usually had enough self-control to keep away from alcohol, but the country had been filled with hushed whispers about the Awakening and the Sky Demon and the impending doom of the world. The men in the centre of the bar discussed the monster while he nursed his drink in quiet contemplation.
The Awakening would be appearing soon. Izark had only a few months left to be human, and then this thing would fall from the sky and change him.
The liquor in his cup began to boil.
He left it on the table and stormed out quietly, ignoring the pained exclamations of the man who tries to take the cup back to the kitchen only to be burned by the glass.
The stares at the back of his head meant nothing. Their whispers meant nothing. He meant nothing.
Nineteen years and he had never felt so insignificant as he did in that moment.
This town celebrated the day as well, just as his hometown had before he burned it by mistake and anger. He entered a small tent erected by a woman who claimed to be a seer.
"Can you tell my fortune?"
She took his palm in her hand, closed her eyes, and rubbed the pad of her thumb over his heart line. "You will meet the love of your life soon," she promised. "You may not accept her at first. But she's coming and she will change everything."
"I am the one who is not accepted."
She looked neither hurt nor startled when he pulled away from her, his hand tingling from the first skin to skin contact he had had with anyone in a long time, and she did not act outraged when he left the tent without paying. "Nothing is as it seems!" she called after him, the sight bleeding from her eyes as she focused on different, more beautiful things.
Less than a year and the awakening would come. If he killed it, would he become a person? He wondered. Nineteen years now, and he still had not meant anything. He was still nothing more than a monster to anyone.
His life meant nothing.
He began to search for a seer who could tell him about the Awakening, all the while imagining what he was going to do with it when it arrived. With purpose, the world seemed much less lonely, but he still welcomed the stars when they appeared each night and looked down at him. Without even realizing he had done it, he wished.
She curls herself against him, closer than he would like, but the way that her teeth chatter as she sleeps worries him, so he lets her share his body heat.
"I love you," she murmurs quietly in her sleep, and his breath catches in his throat as he remembers her lips on his. It felt different, with his body undergoing the transformation, and he wonders how it would feel now, mostly human and lying together in the dark, neither trying to escape the other
She awakens with a gasp and starts up before he captures her and holds her down so that she doesn't injure herself further.
"You stayed," she says quietly, relief colouring her tone. She smiles up at him, a breathtaking, beautiful, genuine smile. One that he knows is full of love. As much as it frightens him, he can't help but lean closer to her to inhale her scent and whisper softly in her hair.
He doesn't tell her that it's everything he's ever wished for.