Torrential by Edward Vitasek
SUMMARY: Torrential - the flash fiction contest (~ 540 words)
"Marked thou art as kin, for spoken have my droplets to thine and yet thou livst."
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Big guy (gal?) spends too much time around them I-summon-thee-to-do-my-bidding mages. Anyway. All makes sense now.
Big guy pops, sprays, seeps away, and I dare exhale. Cough'n'retch up some o' my, ah, sacred water. Seeps into the ground just the same.
Marked? Hah! Lucky. Lungs ache. Could have been worse. A lot worse.
Your choice: Brave a horde of angry farmers or face the twin dangers of desiccation and drowning?
Glad *I* didn't have to choose! Ignorance, they say, is bliss, and for once they are right. Ignorance may have saved my life. I'd surely have braved the farmers.
This is what I recall:
I run for the trees. Behind me all the farmers who don't like thieves but love pitchforks. They growl and shout and yell, and then... they don't. Confusion slows me, and I think it's a mistake to slow down, but I do nonetheless. Behind me a murmur picks up.
"Tension?" "Potential?" "Special?"
I can't understand. My lungs burn with exhaustion, and so does my head. My veins roar through my ears. Can't let my confusion interfere with the running. I pick up pace and...
...stumble into slush? I don't recall a marsh from my scouting out the escape route. You'd think I would notice a marsh.
Against better judgment I turn. Peasant eyes are glaring, but already some of my pursuers retreat. None approach.
I frown, but then turn and head for the trees. I'm walking now, testing the ground. And my sanity.
A bloody marsh?
Soon I reach the safety - safety! yeah, right! - of the trees. I turn and peer out, only seeing backs and the occasional abandoned flail, pitchfork, hoe.
What? Farmers don't abandon their tools! I have half a mind of picking them up, but something's not right.
I only notice I've been leaning into a tree as the bark gives way, and then the wood. The tree crumbles under my weight.
What? That's not a tree, that's dust standing up. Only... no longer.
I fall into tree-shaped dust, wondering where the water's all gone, but the answer's obvious, as I hit the ground. Mud. Lots of mud, sucking at me. And about a ton of dust coming down.
Only it wasn't. What happened then? Beats me. It wasn't a sense of being kicked around, exactly, and neither was it a sense of floating. I wasn't really expanding, was I? Or being crushed? I was in pain... that is... I must have been?
When my senses returned, big guy stood before me, delivering his speech.
So what now? I'm half elemental? Doesn't matter. I daren't brave the soggy woods, but can I go back? To a horde of angry farmers?
Yes. Yes, I think I can. Foolhardy bastard that I am, I turn and, suitably wet, squelch my way towards the town. They'll be surprised to see me alive, won't they? A bit of posturing, perhaps? Make sure they remember the word they muttered.
Don't we all have our coming-of-age rituals? Droplets join, merge... My water's grown up now. Time to act it.
Never thought I'd undergo a torrential.