Prompt: What will we see under the clouds of Jupiter’s red spot? It’s been dwindling over the last thousand years…
The man’s skin was red like clay, yet his beard was free of grime. He came with an incredible storm, always walking at its edge, never outpacing it. The storm was just as red, but not so stoic. It flung boulders everywhere, uprooted the oldest of trees, and turned whole villages into shreds and straw. When anyone got close enough to address him, before the storm inevitably killed them, they asked his name. He had none to offer, only a title: the Red Soul.
At that point in the world’s history, in the lands where the storm struck, there was only one king who could mount an offensive of any sort. Among his soldiers, only twelve of his knights were brave enough to confront the Red Soul. The party marched from the castle, king and all, subjects already weeping, three days before the storm was due to arrive on their doorstep.
Though all were brave enough, at least while the clouds were beyond the horizon, it was only Sir Dorcey who would matter. Magic likes to make examples of those who see themselves as powerful enough to challenge the ancient buried rules of the world. Sir Dorcey was a man like that, his chest full of ego and wine.
He’d also filled his saddlebags with it for their journey, and he gladly shared the first night they made camp. The more the others drank, the more impressive his stories sounded. Sir Dorcey had once, near the dark lands to the south, faced off against a unicorn: a flabby gray thing of curved horn and nostrils like deflating toadstools. He had run from it… Oh wait, three bottles had been drained already. He had in fact run, but towards it. Four bottles? His axe had been raised. Five? The cheeks of the other knights were red. They’d never heard such a tale of bravery.
Could you believe he’d collided with the beast without a drop of fear in his heart? The king could not. He had abstained; he couldn’t let so much as a spill affect his regal image. He worried it was all he had to battle the Red Soul and his storm with. He listened silently. If Sir Dorcey wanted his time with the magical spirit, he would have it. They would let him carry the finest axe in the bunch.
On their second day, the red dust crept in. It was in their horses’ hooves. It was in their beards. It was in the clasps of all their bags and it was under their fingernails. It was as if they’d already been claimed by the Red Soul, had a thousand tiny flags planted across their bodies.
Once the air was red they could no longer speak, because too much of the dust would dive down their throats and force them into coughing fits. Two of the knights had to turn back for air, and two used it as an excuse to cover their cowardice. The king was surprised to see Sir Dorcey remain. Perhaps the fool believed his own stories, or perhaps he planned to make a friendly offer of wine and get the Red Soul drunk.
The horses were abandoned. They made their stand in a line, across the main road, watching as the swell of red and brown dust grew. A figure walked beneath it. They sensed its momentum. Nothing could stop it if it wasn’t willing to entertain their words. The Red Soul stopped across from them, the winds of his storm nearly blowing them off their feet. With a wave of his hand he calmed them so the king and his knights could make any pitiful offers they’d planned.
His form stood eight feet high, and he bore no weapons, though his thick hands looked deadlier than the kingdom’s finest steel. He crossed his arms expectantly. The king tapped Sir Dorcey on the shoulder and held out a hand, telling him to go forth and act as emissary. Dorcey’s eyes widened, but he couldn’t deny the king his respect or fealty.
They gave him an axe and let him make his approach. The Red Soul quelled the dust enough for him to speak. Sir Dorcey stuttered, but the message was clear. The Red Soul, if it could not be appeased, would have to destroy them all to pass.
“That is fine,” the Red Soul said with a voice like dead birds dropping out of the sky. “I enjoy destruction. It is my purpose. I have brought my storm here to bring you low, to bury you in dust and watch what grows out of it after.”
“Is there nothing that can turn you away?” Dorcey asked, begged.
“Though destruction is my purpose, I enjoy contests more. I offer this wager. You cannot kill me, even with three blows of your axe. If you win, I will be dead and the storm will let your anxious sun return. If I win, I will leave, but you must find me in one thousand years and one thousand days and face destruction then.”
The king, Dorcey, and the others couldn’t believe their ears. They could not lose such a wager. At worst, their kingdom would be safe long past their own lives. Dorcey agreed on the spot. The Red Soul put his hands on his hips, offering himself as a target. Dorcey shouted something, something silly for king and country, and charged the towering man.
The first blow, to the knee, brought him down. The second, to the chest, stopped his heart. Dust bled out. The third, a swing with a soul’s entire weight behind it, not to mention the force of his chivalry, severed head from neck. The knights cheered, but it was premature. The Red Soul rose once more, picked up his head, and smiled at them.
“I will see you, Sir Dorcey, in one thousand years and one thousand days,” the Red Soul said. With that he turned and disappeared. The storm dissipated above him. It was done. The land was safe. No memory could last a thousand years.
With their best equipment being simple spyglasses, none of them saw where the Red Soul took his storm: a distant ball of swirling gasses in the sky, a rowdy place to wait, full of beautiful distractions. After that, the storm was only seen as beautiful. Man admired it from the safe skin of his planet.
An age passed. Man was tired of not seeing it up close. He sent a probe, a ball of metal and lights with a mind of its own, and told it to ask the great red spot of Jupiter a few questions. The probe was really a marvel, the finest piece of technology ever commissioned from the Dorcey space company.
When it broke through the clouds it found a man, something wholly unexpected. This man was eight feet tall; he bore scars on his knee and chest. His head was tucked under one arm.
“It’s good to see you again Sir Dorcey!” he bellowed, waving at the probe as its lenses focused in and out, trying to make sense of the Red Soul. “I can’t imagine why you chose this option, but I’m grateful. My storm has been shrinking, but that’s because I figured out how to concentrate it. Soon it will be just a spear, perfect for flying between my home and yours. The destruction will be so much more beautiful now. Before you know it, your world will be as lovely as mine!”
The Red Soul grabbed the probe out of the air and slapped its panels jovially. He would let it watch. This was quite a long game, but he always played them that way. He wondered what sorts of creatures would grow out of the dust and challenge him next.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by secksigeeki 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!