Prompt – A young hero, determined to live a plain simple life, has avoided his destiny so far. Fate is getting annoyed and resorting to ever more subtle ways to trick him into heroism.
It was a part of the world that hadn’t seen rain in over four years; there was no spot better suited to clearing his mind. He lived under a shelf of rock that kept the desert heat at bay. This was his first entire week of life without interruption, which allowed him to plant a seed of hope in that massive shadow. Perhaps he could stay there forever.
Ogyo sat at the deepest edge of the shadow before it melted into the colors of dusk. His legs were crossed and he held his bare toes in his fingers. Deep breaths. The only sound for miles. He opened one eye, he wasn’t that deep in meditation yet, and observed his little sculpted home.
His only belonging was a wooden sand rake, which leaned up against the back of the stone. He sat in the middle of a raked circle that spun off into beautiful waving lines in all directions. The only other interruptions in the shadowy sand were the smooth boulders he’d used to complete his rock garden. Some masters could meditate without them, but he’d never been given the chance to get that far in his clarity training.
Deep breath. Push back the sounds his mind fabricated. He needed peace, so people couldn’t sense his hero’s spirit. If they could they would see him in the distance no matter how far apart they were. They would crawl to him, begging for his help or his mere authority. Only the meditation dampened the natural fire inside him and made him invisible to the needy.
In order to pass true clarity he had to pass through the memories of his young life, all of them, like shoving through a milling crowd of grazing cows. It had all started with a campfire twenty-eight years ago. His original people, nomads, had built pits outside a forest. They were preparing to cook up the trophies from their hunt: boars as tall as longhouses.
When they struck flint they didn’t realize there was a vein of something else under their fire pit. Mankind had long mined his resources from the Earth: minerals, aquifers, fuels… but this was the rarest of them all. The flame they struck burned high and yellow, even without taking up the wood as food. It was a vein of heroism: pure valor refined by the immense pressures of the planet.
It had to be stored before all of it burned up, and the only basket that could hold it without being destroyed was a human breast. They took the flame, it could only be carried by their finest and most leathery warriors, to the newest born among them: a babe named Ogyo. He breathed it in and became a destined hero.
“Ogyo the great!” someone wailed. “Ogyo the blessed! Hear me!” Ogyo hopped to his feet, his limbs stiff from the lengthy meditation. He stumbled backward and ruined a few of his perfectly raked lines. It mattered little, because the sand in front of him was already a wreck. There was a sweaty man standing before him, breath ragged. His hands were held out with his palms toward the sky.
“Oh fantastic,” Ogyo muttered. “And what exactly do you want?”
“My village is being torn asunder! My people consumed by a malicious roaming pit! I saw your fire in the distance and came for aid. Please, great hero, strike the pit with light and save us.” Ogyo rolled his eyes. He walked to the back of the stone and picked up his rake. After slinging it over his shoulder he went about the business of picking up his boulders and stacking them in his arms. His hero’s strength kept his muscles in a lively clean burn.
“I won’t help you,” Ogyo said as he left the shadow and noticed the man following him. “This hero’s spirit was poured down my throat. I had no choice in the matter, but I won’t be using it. I’d rather not die doing errands for people who need to learn to protect themselves.”
He used all his strength to carry the boulders, so he had none left to outrun the refugees that started amassing. Three more desperate souls found him in the desert and made their pleas. They all trailed behind him, like the drooping tail of an exhausted peacock.
“Everything has been taken from me! Everything I’ve earned! Eaten up by a vicious dictator! Help me!”
“All of you could help each other,” Ogyo suggested over his shoulder. He’d never have another opportunity to set up his rock garden if he wasn’t alone. “Had you considered that?”
“We can’t do anything without heroic fire!” one of them protested. It was honest protest, her weeping most convincing. Ogyo had been forced to harden his shell to such displays years ago, but eventually he had to flee. There was always someone in need of help. It was always a good cause.
“I’m not helping any of you, so you should just leave!” He tried to force the fire into his voice, burn it like anger, but it wouldn’t take. He could only ever sound noble in his intentions. Damn that fate, always pushing him towards these situations. If he could just meditate for long enough… use the gentle wind of enlightenment to snuff out the fire…
“Why is he carrying those rocks?” one of them asked, apparently forgetting their plight. Ogyo couldn’t take it anymore. He dropped the boulders in a collapsing pile and whirled around. He kicked one, something easily as heavy as eight men, and it sailed away into the sky.
“I need a rock garden to meditate!” he shouted. “I need cool sweeps of sand and nice rocks! And quiet! I can’t have any of that with all your desperation around!”
“How can you be so cruel?” More weeping. The most rain the desert had seen in decades. They dropped to their knees and begged. A river of their tears traveled along his footsteps in the sand, collapsing them, erasing his impacts on an already shifting ground.
“I’m not cruel,” he said, his voice dropping. “If I help when I can, there wil be no me. I would just be a service, a ghost of reputation, a thing you know you can rely on because I won’t give myself a life… This fire is mine. I’m sorry you don’t have any, but I was born with it, so I am just as unfortunate.” He winced. He knew how selfish he sounded. If he could just have peace, if he could just look at the terrors of life and see nothing but falling leaves…
He snatched up two of the boulders, telling himself he could have a garden with just two, and made a heroic run for it. With less weight his strides became greater. He skipped whole dunes between steps. The pleading faded away and he lost sight of them. It was the edge of the desert still, and he needed sand for his garden, so he stopped. Ogyo set one stone down, but the other rolled away from him. He chased it around a rock formation and stopped cold.
The boulder rolled into a slot in the ground and stopped. It started to glow bright purple, surrounded by ancient runes that glowed as well. A fountain of light shot out of it towards the sky. The crowd of people surrounding the slot all turned to him, mouths agape. They cheered and rushed him, hoisting him up on their shoulders, giving the rest of the world a better angle to see his fire from.
“You’ve done it!” they declared. “You’ve brought back the stone of fate! Placed it right back in its throne! You’re a hero!”
Ogyo screamed his frustration, but the revelers below couldn’t hear. Eventually he sat up and crossed his legs, even as the crowd carried him. Damn fate, always pulling strings. Damn humans, with their strings always so limp and eager to be tugged.
He tried to meditate as they celebrated him. It didn’t work. Ogyo resigned himself to his nasty fate: permanent reverence and respect.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by deckers8889 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!