Another Attempt at a Short Story – Part 2

So this is where the last post left off. This is part 2 (the conclusion) of the story I started in the last one.

Just to recap, this is a writing exercise and these words are the first (and only) draft.

Enjoy.

***

Standing right in front of Farrin, on his own front porch, not two feet from his face, was himself. He stared into the eyes of a man who was his double in every way. He had Farrin’s tired face, his slumped posture, his greyed hair, and he wore the same simple shirt, trousers, and belt. Farrin would have felt he was looking into a mirror, an identical image, had the strange man been holding a cane. That was the only difference he could see; no cane.

For a few moments, the two stood silently facing one another. Although both men wore the same face, one was draped with a look of confusion, the other a look of arrogant satisfaction. The stranger, it seemed, was pleased with the effect his arrival had had on the old man.

Farrin stammered “Wh…wha?”

“What am I?” the man interrupted, his satisfied grin lowering to an expression of mock-displeasure. “Why, I’m insulted, Farrin. I was sure you’d be expecting me. Did your grandfather not tell you about me? How about your father? Shim, was it?”

“How do you know my father’s name?”, Farrin barked, feeling the confusion inside him being replaced by a combination of fear and anger.

“I know everything about you, Farrin.” the stranger replied, as he casually made his way past Farrin and into the house. “Do you mind if I come in? There’s a dreadful chill in the air tonight, don’t you think?”

Before Farrin could articulate a response, the man was already lowering himself into the chair in front of the fire.

“Ah, that’s much better, I must say. Now come join me, old man. We’ve got a lot to talk about.”

Farrin closed the door and pulled up a chair alongside his double. “What is your name, and why are you here?” he said, in a demanding tone that surprised even himself.

“Straight to business, then? That’s understandable. I’m sure you have many more questions than that, so let’s get started.” The man paused and looked down at the floor. When he looked up he had a new face; a youthful visage, with blue eyes, and almost adolescent features.

Farrin audibly gasped, but he tried to hide his obvious astonishment.

“My name is Pel,” the man said, “And I’ve been watching your family for a very long time. You see, I met your grandfather when he was a young man, and I had a proposition for him. Well, it was more a demand, come to think of it. Considering he had very little choice in the matter.”

“Why him? Why my grandfather?”

“No real reason, to tell you the truth,” Pel replied, “I needed someone – anyone – and he was simply in the right place at the right time. Or the wrong place, depending on your point of view.”

“And what was this demand?” Farrin asked.

“You see that nice stick you’ve got there?” Pel waved his hand, gesturing towards the cane Farrin’s father had given him, “That was my demand.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Let me explain, then. That cane belongs to me. I made it with a very specific purpose in mind; a purpose that, before you ask, is none of your concern.” Farrin tried to interrupt, but Pel continued. “It is a very powerful item, however, its true power cannot be – how can I put this? – it cannot be realised until it has absorbed a certain amount of energy.”

Farrin was surprised to find himself now hanging onto Pel’s every word, like a small child hearing a story by his bedside for the first time. “What kind of energy?”

“Raw human energy,” Pel answered. “The kind of energy that dwells inside every man, woman, and child, and is most prominent in moments of pure emotion. Rage, jealousy, joy, love, hate. It feeds on them; building a well of power inside.”

“What does that have to do with my family?”

“For the tasks I have ahead, I needed a larger well than I’ve ever needed before. Three generations, to be exact. I gave the cane to your grandfather, and instructed him to give the cane to his first son – your father, Shim, and for Shim to do the same.”

“And if my grandfather had refused? What then?”

Pel leaned forward and stared into Farrin’s eyes. “Then I would have killed him, killed his wife, and burned this entire village to ground.” He sat back in his chair and smiled. “After I told him as much, he was rather happy to cooperate.”

Farrin was stunned by the revelation, but mostly he was surprised at his own surprise. This man had appeared at his door in the middle of the night, possessing a stolen face and a menacing grin, but somehow Farrin did not expect such violent words to come from the well-spoken stranger.

“Anyway, he did as I asked,” Pel continued, “and since then, that stick of yours has been collecting every pain, every smile you and your family have been through. Right up to now; the end of the third generation.”

Still shocked by the confession, Farrin almost missed the last part. “The end?”

“Yes. The end.” He paused, and the air in the room thickened with tension. “Tonight, Farrin, you are going to die.”

A chill ran down Farrin’s spine, and he felt his heart begin to pound in his chest. His mouth went dry, and he painfully swallowed a gulp of stale air. “You’re going to kill me?”

“Not at all.” Pel let out a humourless laugh, no doubt intending to offer a degree of peace of mind. “Relax, old man. I am not here to do you any harm.”

But the old man could not relax. He turned towards the fireplace, and watched the dancing flames. “But I’m going to die tonight?”

“Yes. You are old. It happens. I’m sure your daughters, and their husbands will be upset, and your village may cry for you, but it’s certainly no great tragedy. When you pass, I will take back what is mine.” Pel showed no sympathy for the obvious distress he had caused. “I suppose I owe you a debt of gratitude, Farrin. You have done me a greater favour than you could ever know.”

“Why didn’t you just kill me and take it back before? Farrin asked, not removing his gaze from the flames. “Why come here tonight and put on this little show?”

“Because I needed the emotions you’re facing right now. Do you feel that? Do you feel the fear of your own mortality? Do you feel the regret of missed opportunities? Do you feel the satisfaction of affairs completed and put to rest? They are much too powerful for me to pass up. And besides, even without that incentive, I could not have killed you. The cane would not allow it.”

“The cane wouldn’t allow it?’ Farrin was growing increasingly confused by what the man was telling him. “Do you mean it was protecting me?”

“In a sense, yes” Pel explained. “I needed to ensure that the cane’s power was not stolen, even by me. So I imbued it with one rule; it can only be given willingly. If the cane was taken without your consent, it would crumble to dust and be useless. And if I had killed you, it would have been much the same as robbing you.”

Farrin’s mind tensed, and focused on the new information. He needed to give the cane willingly. That could be useful. He did not know Pel’s intent, but he was sure it was not virtuous.

Pel noticed the change in the old man, “Let me guess. Now you’re wondering what will happen if you don’t give the cane to me? That’s understandable. You are a noble man, I can tell, and you don’t want such power falling into the wrong hands.”

“That doesn’t answer the question” Farrin replied, a growing sense of confidence building up inside him. He was going to die – he trusted the man’s words that much – but now he felt the small possibility, the hope, that there may be a way to fight back.

“If you don’t offer the cane to me, you will not die.”

Farrin was sure he must have heard incorrectly. “I will not die? Then what possible reason would I have for giving this power to you?”

“You misunderstand, Farrin.” Pel leaned forward once again, and addressed the old man inches from his face. He spoke slowly, with deliberate emphasis adding weight to each word. “If you keep the cane for yourself, you will never die. Not tonight. Not any night. You will live forever. You will live through the death of everyone you know. You will live through the eventual death of your precious village. And all the while, you and those you love will become targets for men much more malicious than I.”

“Never die?”

“Yes. Trust me, that is not something you want.”

Farrin looked at Pel, studying his face, searching for a hint of dishonesty, a chance the man might be lying. He found none. “If I give the cane to you willingly, what are you going to do with it?”

“As I said; that is none of your concern.” The sorcerer tried to retain his air of confidence and command, but his face began to show signs of doubt.

Farrin could tell what Pel was thinking; the dying old man was considering keeping the power, even if it meant he had to endure a never-ending life of loneliness and pain.

Not a man spoke, and the silence was kept at bay only by the crackle of the fireplace, and the wind lightly brushing the eastern side of the house. The air grew stale once more, its weight matched only by the weight resting on Farrin’s tired shoulders.

He contemplated the options before him. He could die tonight, giving up an unknown power to a man with unknown intent. Or he could keep the power for himself, living forever, surely a fate worse than death.

After a time, he spoke. “Promise me no harm will come to this village, to my family, and I will do as you ask.”

“Promise you?” Pel replied, a sign of outrage creeping into his voice. “You, old man, are in no position to demand promises!”

“If you want your power, you will offer me this. I will hand it over to you, right now, if you promise to protect – and never harm – the people of this village.”

Pel nodded. “So be it. It is done.” He stood and snatched the cane from Farrin’s hands. “Your precious village is safe.”

“Thank you.” The old man replied, his voice barely above a whisper, breath suddenly coming to him in short, sharp gasps.

Pel marched to the door, his prize clutched firmly in his hand. Before leaving, he turned to the old man, who was still seated, staring into the fire. As the sorcerer watched, Farrin’s body went limp, his eyes lowering to the floor, his head drooping to his chest, his final breaths spent. “No,” the man spoke. “Thank you, old man.” He left the room and closed the door behind him, with no intent to ever return.

***

That’s it. Let me know what you think. If it sucks, tell me (but please be nice about it). If it’s great, also tell me.

I had no idea it would end up being so long.

Advertisements

3 comments

  1. bradleyzimmer · September 4, 2013
  2. strangenikolai · September 4, 2013

    I like your writing and characters – but I get the feeling you have trouble with coming up with motives, there are too many unanswered questions and it begins to feel like a bit of a cop-out (unless you are doing it as a “Chapter 1” to build mystery and leave them wanting more – then bravo…). I think it would be better in a short story (or even as a “Chapter 1”) if the mystery man gave obscure, impossible to understand answers rather than non-answers.

    I always struggle to come up with names of people and places. I might have talked to you about this before…

    btw – a short story to me is anything up to 50 pages… I don’t think you need to worry about length (that’s what she said)

    As always, great to read – and inspires me to get off my arse and copy you… I mean, re-start again on my writing…

    N

  3. bradleyzimmer · September 5, 2013

    Hey awesome thanks for the feedback bro! 🙂 That’s really good stuff.
    Can you give some examples (or all the examples) of unanswered questions or unclear motives? I really wanna clean up my mistakes before I get to work on the bigger pieces.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s