A L Kaplan is the Readers’ Choice in this week’s Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. The winning entry is decided by the popular vote and rewarded with a special feature here today. (In the case of a tie, the writer who submitted an entry first is the winner per our rules.) Without further ado, here’s the winning story:
by A L Kaplan
Lightning flashed across the sky, strangely overlaid across the blue, cloudless view. Half-formed figures and houses appeared along the riverbank. Children laughed as they splashed in the water. There was a village here once, full of life.
“Please. Not again.” The words barely made it past his tightening throat.
Thunder rumbled in the distance. He fell to his knees, trembling. The heavy sack he wore dug into his shoulder. But that wasn’t what caused the churning inside him. It was happening again, just as it had every day since the storm. Unable to stop it, he watched as thick, roiling clouds and an orange wave poured across the valley, obliterating the town.
Children screamed over the roar of the fire. Their anguished cries penetrated past the hands clamped over his ears. Even with his eyes squeezed shut, the image burned into his vision. Nor could he block the smell of burned flesh.
Tears streamed down his face, untouched by the surrounding inferno. Firestorm was his creation. His fault. And it was his order that deployed it. He was the one who turned the world into a blackened, ash filled landscape.
“I’m sorry. So sorry.”
No one offered forgiveness. There was no one left to hear the words. Still sobbing, he pulled a seed out of the sack and pressed it into the barren soil. One seed for every life lost. Doomed to relive the destruction he caused until life returned. A millennia of toil. That was his punishment.