Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 226 - The Darkening


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This story is for Miranda Kate's weekly flash challenge. She posts an image as an inspirational prompt for writing a story. This is from Miranda's post:
This week's picture prompt is from Italian photographer Sergio Pessolano. This is a salt flat in Bolivia - Salar de Uyuni. Sergio calls this 'Just Salt'. He also suggests that the viewer scroll up and down fast. You should see light/shadow changing, depending on the gamma value of your monitor. 

Here's a link to the prompt image. Sometimes the story makes more sense if you see the prompt image. Or it might not make any sense whether you see it or not. I'll leave that to you. Please note that anyone can join in with a story up to 750 words. Another short one this week. Mine has 356 words for those who are counting.


The Darkening

Marnik lived on the salt flats. He wandered across them, leading his tribe from oasis to oasis, hunting the lizards and small animals that could make a home there, too. They would dig them from their burrows under the salt, drying their flesh beneath the sun. It was a simple life, and the days seldom varied from one to the next.

He had seen the change in the sky a few sun-cycles ago. He didn't understand the meaning at first. He had heard the stories, of course, but had not been alive during the time of the last darkening. When more than a wisp of a cloud hovered in the air, he should have realized what was coming. But the omen was dismissed. Some thought the darkening was nothing more than an old tale told at evening camp to pass the time. Marnik didn't want to believe it, either. 

Now, the clouds were thickening. If the legend was true, water would soon fall from the sky. It was said to happen with every generation, but no one in the tribe remembered it. Perhaps something had changed. It didn't matter now. If the sky-water came before they could reach the great hill, the flats would be covered in brine. It might only be ankle deep, but it would soften, then dissolve, their sandals. The skin on their feet would be next. There would be no place to lay a mat to sleep, no way to dig for food. The water in the oases would go bad.

They marched as fast as they could, guessing the direction as they went. The stars that once guided them had faded. As the morning haze subsided, there was a cheer when the great hill was spotted in the distance. Marnik's people were confused when he did not cheer, too.

Marnik had spent his life guiding the tribe and knew how to judge the deceptive distances through the dancing heat. He understood how long it would take for his tribe to reach the great hill. And the drop of water he felt on his face told him they were already too late.



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