Nothing is ever brand new with me. Most ideas that I’ve had are recycled from ideas that sparked during my formative/teenage years. This short is from one of those little sparks. It’s called Kotan, and is from an idea I had to modernize the Ainu myth of the Kotan Utunnai. Since this was written, I’ve had kind of a renaissance, and redeveloped the idea like 50 times…anyway, the journey begins…
Markel tossed and turned on his bedroll, awaking with a start every time a shattering blast of thunder ripped through the countryside surrounding his small cottage. Iridescent flashes of light sparked outside of his window, throwing splashes of color across the interior of his home. No one could sleep through a storm such as this, he thought. How could anyone? He imagined the entire willage out peering through cracks in their curtains, eagerly awaiting the inevitable torrents of rain and the ripping wind.
Another concussive blast shook him. Unable to remain on his bedroll, he got up from the floor and clambered to his window, hoping that the destruction caused by the weather would not be too great. He pulled back his curtain, and tried to force his eyes to see in the dark night. Flexing his toes against the hard wood of the floor, he braced himself for another blast, and the flash of light that would follow it. Nothing could be seen out of the window. The darkness of the moonless night washed over everything like a bucket of fresh tar. He stood and waited expectantly.
After a while waiting at the window, there was no concussion, no flash. Sighing, Markel left the window and returned to his bedroll, trying to stifle a yawn. As he lowered himself to the floor, an unusual realization struck him.
When he was younger, his elder sister showed him a trick to figure out how far away a thunderstorm was from your location, the better to round up your animals and shelter them to prevent accidents caused by their fear of the storm.
“Wait for the lightning,” she wold say. “after, when it strikes, count slowly on your fingers until you hear the thunder.”
Markel would watch his sister, amazed as she counted on her fingers. The time would pass excruciatingly slowly, and he would begin to tremble as he awaited the ear-splitting crash of the thunder. No matter how he prepared, the thunder would always catch him off guard. He likened the sound to a bully, or annoying prankster. His sister would hold up her delicate fingers, to show him how much time had passed.
“Once you hear the thunder, take the number you have counted on your fingers and divide by five. That’s how many miles away the storm is.”
Markel smiled at the memory of his sister, but as soon as it spread across his face, it vanished. He clearly recalled hearing the thunder before the lightning this time.
He vaulted up from his bedroll, and stumbled to the door. Another violent crash rent the air as he pulled the door open. He could feel it in his gut–something was horribly wrong here. Thick blackness spilled into his home. It seemed to wrap around his ankles as he stepped out into the night. The air had a viscous quality to it, like a bad pudding. It was almost unbearably hot outside, much too hot for a mere summer storm.
Suddenly, light cascaded through the sky, lighting up the countryside for miles around. Markel’s eyes were permanently stained with the image that it revealed.
In the distance, he could see the village. It looked well, and there was no evident trouble there. It was what was to the east of the village that caused the man to fall backwards with a sudden and terrible loss of nerve.
Two enormous men, both far larger than Markel, were locked in combat. Both wore splendid armor, and held swords that could not have been crafted by the hand of and man that he knew. Their wispy white locks streamed behind them as the manuevered through the air for position. Markel blinked. Men didn’t fly. Each clash of their magnificently wrought swords caused a peal of concussive force that slammed the combatants away from each other. Each strike of sword on armor resulted in a series of colored flashes of light that pierced the blackness of the night. Even though the men were many arrow-lengths away, and in the air no less, Markel could see them as if they fought directly in front of him.
There was a slight change in the air. Markel knew a mistake had been made. He didn’t know how he knew, but he did.
Almost imperceptibly, one of the combatants stumbled back, his armor torn in several places. Markel could see the strain on his face. The other closed in like a hunter, sensing the opening.
“No!!” Markel screamed, terror gripping his insides. His admonishment came too late. With a terrible roar that sent ice shooting through Markel, the victor plunged his sword into his faltering opponent. Markel doubled over as searing pain rushed into him. It was as if he himself had been run through. The stabbed man floundered for an instant, but it ceased as the victor finally gave his sword a sickening twist. He contemptuously beheld the body on his weapon, then, with a grunt, flung it toward the ground. The
corpse rocketed toward the grassland below, and threw up a cloud of dust as it struck the far off earth.
Soaked in sweat and trembling, Markel released his pained stomach and struggled to his feet. He jumped back in shock as he saw the winning combatant, streaked in gore and dirt, floating above him. His armor was creased and ripped, and he had gashes that oozed profusely. The air crackled around him, and he floated nearer and nearer to Markel, who couldn’t force strength into his legs to retreat from the monster that approached him.