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I am once again participating in Rachelle O’Neil‘s Flash Fiction Challenge, in which participants write a flash fiction story based on a prompt given to them by another participant. I received my prompt from FaithSong, who happens to be my sister, and I gave a prompt to Athelas Hale… Who is also, actually, my sister.
FaithSong gave me this prompt:
Your prompt for the Flash Fiction Challenge is this: You must start with, “Darkness.” It can be dialogue, internal dialogue, or narration, but it must be the only word in the first sentence.
After beginning three… No, four different stories, I managed to finish this one (twice, because I never, ever, ever keep my first ending).
I do hope you enjoy it.
Name for Name
It was the only word on her tongue— The name of her poison, twisting white lips around ugly syllables. She whispered it, over and over, though she barely had breath enough to stay alive.
How could a mortal fight darkness like that? More than an absence of light, the darkness I had glimpsed and she had stared at, long and hard, was a Being itself. If I closed my eyes I could see it again— Solid, alive, a Thing my puny lights could not pierce. Only a fool stared so long into darkness like that. Only a fool.
We won the battle, but the cost was dear. So dear.
I clutched her to my chest so hard I could feel my own heartbeat mingling with hers, two erratic rhythms reverberating through both our bodies, with the steady beat of the dragon’s wings beneath us both. Of the three, hers was the weakest; so faint it seemed to fade from time to time, and my own heart would seize in my chest until I felt her pulse, quiet and unsteady, beneath my fingers.
Then I could breathe again, for a moment.
Beyond the glow of Chanan’s scales, emptiness clung to the world; mist collected on my skin, dampened Azra’s hair, and pooled in the gaps between Chanan’s scales. I gripped Chanan’s ribs between my knees, trying to suppress the shivers crawling along the ridge of my spine. Azra did enough shivering for both of us.
A quiet low from Chanan warned me he was about to descend. My stomach lurched and the wind rushed past us, tearing at the blankets encasing Azra’s frail body. I wanted to tuck them back around her, but I dared not loosen my grip for even a moment. I wanted to place trembling fingers over her ever-moving lips, but I didn’t for the same reason.
I could only hold her, tight against my body, as though I could keep her soul from fleeing if I just held her tight enough.
Chanan spread his wings to slow our descent, stretching them like leathery kites, so far the tips disappeared into the cloud. The wind filled his wings and caught us with a jolt.
As we slowed, the wind settled, and I loosened my hold long enough to tuck the blankets around Azra again. Her whispers faltered, and she curled her trembling body closer to mine. My heart thrilled— Such a small movement, but it was the nearest thing to acknowledging my presence she had done since she looked into the darkness.
“Azra,” I whispered, searching her face for a sign of life. “Azra.”
She didn’t move, except to spell darkness into the air. Despair hardened like a rock in my throat.
Chanan hit the ground at a gallop and eased to a walk. Rocking with the movement of his steps, I let my gaze drift to the featureless landscape around us. East, West, North, South—In this waste, under a grey sky, they were meaningless words. Yet guided by an instinct I hoped would not lead him astray, Chanan trotted onward with an arrow-straight pace.
My heart prayed. It burned with a plea words could not express. And beneath my fingers, her pulse faltered and slowed.
“Yahweh,” I whispered, a world of prayer in that word. A light sparked in my soul. Yahweh— The I AM God, the One Who Was, and Is and Shall Be. “Yahweh,” I whispered again, her heart beating against my ribs. Could speaking the Names of the Father of Lights call her back from the darkness in which she dwelt?
“Yeshua. Yahweh Raah. Adonai.”
Her body shuddered hard, her fingers clutching at the blankets. I shifted so I could cradle her with one arm, and clasped her hand.
“Lamb of God,” I whispered, watching her lips spell darkness once again. “Good Shepherd. Lion of Judah. Yahweh Shalom.”
She shivered, hard, fingers tightening around mine. Through the spasms, she could hardly take a breath, but still her lips spelled the name of her poison— “Darkness,” they said, “nothing but darkness.”
“El Elyon. Prince of Peace. Yahweh Yireh.”
As I gave name for name, her nails bit into my skin. She whispered darkness; I whispered light.
“Yahweh Shammah. El Shaddai.”
Her lips parted and stilled.
“Emmanuel. Yahweh Tsidkenu.”
Convulsing, she choked on her breath, lips turning white around the edges. My heart lurched. Shaking my fingers free of her hand, I pressed them against her neck.
“Father,” I whispered. “Father.”
She went still. Stopped breathing.
My hands went as cold as her body had been all this time. Touching her cheek, staring at her closed eyes, I forgot how to breathe.
“Please,” I mouthed. That was all. My heart screamed with a prayer words could not hold, groaning inexpressible.
Gathering her in my arms, I pressed her to my body, close and tight so all the worlds could not tear us apart. For a moment, Chanan’s steps were the only rhythm I could feel.
Then I felt a thump against my chest.
It banged against my ribs, once, then again, the double beat of a heart. Her ribs expanded and air rushed in through her mouth— Her heart slammed against mine, and it hurt.
But she breathed.
Shivers racked her body. A sob broke from her throat and she curled against me, shaking with the cold.
“K- “ Her fingers gripped my shirt. “K- Kurios.”
My own breaths came in halting, painful bursts. I took her hand in mine, and the wind bit at tears on my cheeks.
“Kurios,” she said again, and she buried her face in my shoulder as if to hide from the sight that must have been seared on her eyes still.
I rubbed her back, raised my eyes to the featureless heavens. She shivered in my arms, her heartbeat weak and irregular, her skin frigid. But when her lips moved, they spelled a new Name— Kurios, Lord, Master, King.
It was the only word on her tongue.