Prompt: The world was on fire and where he walked the blazing flames died.
The seas were dry. All the creatures of the water had been reclaimed by the rain, sent into the aether, and then into the forever so they could make a desperate swim for a new world. The creatures of the land, without feather or fin, were not so lucky. They could not travel in the rain at all.
Their only option was to die, with only some choice of where, when, and how. The fire started, the tinder struck, in only one holy place, but it would come to encompass the entire world. It struck in the heart of god’s land, upon the straw of the manger where the savior might have been born. The savior, the god-child, was due, but the creator’s patience ran out.
He had tried a flood before, but the people had built rafts and the creatures of the sea were unfazed. He promised them a child after that, someone so innocent that the entirety of life would have to set aside their sin to care for them. There had been one wicked act too many, before the seed had even been planted in a faithful.
That act was the work of a vicious man: a peddler of flesh and untreated hides. He saw women and children as burdens, and men as walking bags of gold. Even in his wealth he stole, digging his hands into bags of butter as he passed the market just to steal seasoning for his afternoon bread. A world that spawned such a creature could not be allowed to survive. A thing like him could not set aside his sin to raise the god-child.
So the creator chose his two weapons for the end of life on the world. First was fire, because the wicked man had a great fear of it. A bolt of red came from the heavens, scorched flocks of birds out of the sky, and struck a single straw in the manger. Many were gathered in preparation for a child. They were burned away in a screaming moment, their gifts of oil and mineral instantly turned to cinder.
The fire ate their city, ate their grain, and continued across the land. A camel was too slow to outrun it: only dogs, men, and birds had the necessary pace, but they knew the end was coming. The wall of fire would not stop until everything with a soul had burned.
The creator had a second weapon this time, something to insure there were no stragglers, to smash the rafts and check the dry beds of the sea for burrows. He used the wicked man as his raw material, striking him with another red bolt. He was tortured and destroyed, but his sin remained intact. It still had a purpose. The creator granted it a will of its own, allowed it to inhabit the body of the butter thief, and granted immunity from the flames that scoured the land.
He was now Death, a pale figure with sunken white eyes and a robe of ash. He carried a staff of solid pain, a length of wood that felt like splinters in the heart upon its touch. It was his walking stick, allowing Death to keep pace with the spreading fires in front of him.
Neither the creator nor Death could conceive of anything surviving, but they did not suffer from the fear. The fear grew in all life that outpaced the encroaching fire. It spurred thought, rapid panting philosophy, and plans both foolhardy and brilliant.
The best of those plans was harbored by two young girls, barely the age to use a saddle. They were the best of friends, not only with each other, but also with the plants of the world that the fire crawled along. They had learned secrets that even the creator had forgotten, because he never listened to the dreams of the plants.
The girls were Thistle and Date. They were only waist high to Death, but they approached him anyway. Thistle walked backward, just out of reach of the fire, and spoke to the ashen figure. He answered, because he had little else to do. His false spirit, his living sin, yearned for the days where his selfishness and destruction were not approved by the supreme authority.
“Why do you do this?” Thistle asked. She had with her a wreath of countless flowers, all their scents wafting towards Death, but unable to reach him through the hot air that blew them back. She plucked them one by one and set them down. Death watched as the edge of the crawling flame took each one up and blackened them. What was the girl getting at? He had no heartstrings to pull. He had watched the death of infinite men, plants, and creatures. A few more flowers were nothing.
“I do this because man and beast alike are wicked,” Death said, but it was the animating force, the red bolt, that gave him the words. The sin within was not so sure. “The only future is in their ending. Do not challenge me.”
“I am not here to challenge, just to talk with you,” Thistle said. Her hands were behind her back and she continued her backward walk. There wasn’t much world left. Soon they would reach the blazing sands of the dried sea. She glanced behind strolling Death and saw someone else in the fires behind him. The creator always rewarded himself with a rest after throwing a bolt or two; he could not see this figure either.
It was Date, and she was the other half of their foolhardy and brilliant plan. She wore a cloak spun for her out of the fibers of the hardiest seeds. These seeds had always known the power of fire, always embraced it as an inevitability. Their lives were slow. They only took root after fires had ravaged their forests. They used the destruction to build their lives, and as such, their fibers could protect Date from the flames for a time.
She had with her a bag of seeds, one for each kind of flower in Thistle’s wreath. Every one that Death took, that he saw, would live on past his fire and his watch. All behind him was burning ruin, except for the exact places where he set foot. He was immune to the fire, and each step extinguished a tiny plot big enough to harbor a seed.
Date was ten steps behind, silently planting one seed in each step. Thistle kept the rhythm, kept him distracted with questions and blackening petals, while her partner reseeded the world. The creator’s fury would be beyond imagination, but he could only try again and again. There would always be a crafty Thistle, a disobedient Date, to sprinkle life back in.
“You will die soon,” Death told Thistle as he marched forward. They could see the shore in the distance.
“I know,” Thistle said, accepting of her fate. She looked back and saw Date again. She was burning inside her cloak now, the last of her life given to the last of the seeds. The fire took her, but she did not scream. Such a sound might alert Death. Thistle shed tears for her, but Death saw only the selfish fear of another animal.
“I will take everything from you,” he said with a tiny sneer at the cliff that used to hold the sea. Thistle stopped. There was nowhere left. She could ride the wispy seeds on the wind for a while yet, but their job was done.
“Yes you will,” she said as the fire reached her feet. “And you do it because you never had anything.” Her face cracked. She dropped to her knees. Date waited for her in oblivion.
“Of course I did,” Death said, confused by her certainty. “I had butter…” He stopped at the edge of the cliff, scattering her ashes with the tips of his toes. He stared out at the dead expanse. Behind him, seeds rested in his footprints. With nothing left to take, Death vanished. The sin within him realized too late it had no legacy to leave.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by dwaiquiche and WickedScript during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!