Flash Fiction: Land-Bound (561 words)

On the ocean, a storm rolled the world under its palm like so much clay, shaping it into something flashing bright and alive. It pulled the waves up by their backs and threw them where it pleased. It tore the stars out of the sky at night, and grayed out the sun during the day, replacing them both with ice-white cracks of lightning. It turned the air to something fiercer that touched skin with electrified fingers. It poured rain over everything, until there was no air to be felt. The storm twisted and shook and bit and blew and ruled everything in its sight.

Cerena had been raised on an ocean. When she was very small, her father locked her in the cabin below and she listen to the laughing storm from a dry corner, with her back to the wall and her foot braced against her bunk. As soon as she was big enough to haul line, she’d stayed on deck, clinging to the rail or the stays or deck itself as the ship pitched in the rioting air.

Just like all the other keimon, she felt the storms coming from hours away, a prickle on the skin and an itch her palms, a headache that wouldn’t quite gather into pain. In the middle of the storm, the prickle dug deeper, running down her spine. The itch turned into an urge and her headache sank into her chest, blooming into the unquestionable truth that she could shake the world, too.

On land, the wind still roared. The rain came down in sheets, shining in the dark, putting a shine on the air like a smith had taken a hammer to it. The lightning cracked thick lines across the sky, whipping through the darkness and disappearing before it could be caught.

But the ground was still, staring blank-faced into the storm, unimpressed.

Cerena had never shaken the feeling of her first storm with feet planted on hard earth. Her skin tingled, like before. Her hands itched. That same feeling filled out the empty corners of her chest, and she believed that she could roll this island if she tried. But she watched the confident storm try, and fail, and waste itself against the rock, and fade to nothing.

It was the meaning of impotence, she knew, to throw everything they had in the face of an enemy, and watch it slide away as nothing.

She hated it, and so she watched land-bound storms caged behind a window. At least that way, there was some explanation for their weakness.

Vardan stopped beside her in the hall, watching her as she watched the rain dashing against the glass. She smiled at him, quick, just tell him that she knew he was there, a was glad of it. He was so close, she might have just leaned into him, her shoulder tucked against his chest, and he would have held her, if she wanted to. But she didn’t. She stood still, and watched the rain, and he let her. The silence extended gently between, as she tried to remember what he had said to her, that first time she explained the weakness of these storms.

“Every wild thing meets something wilder, someday,” he’d said.

And she’d known immediately, that these raw foundation stones they built the earth upon were too wild then, even for her.


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