Featured Stories, Week of July 1, 2018: "Welcomed by the Light" and "After"
Each week we feature a story written by one or two of our group members at our weekly meetings. For this week's featured stories, we all worked from the same prompt based on something one of our members saw at the King Tut Exhibit at the Los Angeles Science Center:
Each of us wrote a character's adventure through the afterlife, and rolled a dice to see which spells (which we took from a list of D&D 5E Cantrips) would aid our characters on their journey.
We had 20 minutes to write.
Welcomed by the Light
By Erik Day
Most were surprised when they crossed over. They didn't expect that the fight was only just beginning.
He picked himself off the ground and looked about, taking in the change of the landscape. The contours were the same, the shape of the boulders, the bodies on the ground, the trees around the ambush point. Yet everything else was different. There were wisps of fog coming from the cracks in the boulder. That was where the life was: the moss and lichen and critters within. The tree was shaped the same, but had a hazy glow.
The first orc picked himself off the ground – and immediately saw Trebart. "The dwarf lives, but not much longer."
Trebart nodded. "Welcome, Orc."
He drew his sword and started to charge.
Trebart held up his hand. "You're already dead, you know. Your sword is on the ground."
The orc stopped and looked around – seeing his own body on the ground. "What?"
"Note, your sword fell a few feet from you. Go ahead, pick it up."
The orc dove for his sword, his hand wrapping around the hilt – and passing right through it. "That is…. NOOOOOOO!"
"Yeah. Sorry." Trebart walked up to the sobbing orc and clapped him on the back. "Are there any gods that you pray to?"
The orc looked over and shook his head.
"Can I put in a word for you?"
"Your god would have an orc?"
"The God of the Dawn sheds light on the world. Were you not a part of the world?"
"Are you not dead, too?"
"Not technically, no. I'm here to ask your band who commanded you to attack that village back there?"
The orc spirit sat on the boulder. "There was a warlock. Never knew his name, we just knew that he paid in gold and we did his work."
"Where was this warlock?"
"Oh. That warlock."
"You know of him?"
The orc was beginning to fade. "What is happening?"
"Your soul is dissolving."
"You're wearing a charm. The gift from the warlock? That will absorb your soul."
There was desperation in the orcs eyes. "I wore only one. The rest of these fools had many!"
"Yeah. You haven't seen them rise, have you? There's a reason."
"You can return to the living? Please, release me!"
Trebart nodded and flicked his hand. Above them, there was a flash in the sky and a column of fire scorched the earth – and the orc's body burst into flames. As his body burned, his spirit seemed grew more solid.
The orc felt his ghostly form strengthen and breathed a deep sigh of relief. "Thank you, dwarf."
Trebart nodded and pointed to the east. "Go towards the dawn, warrior. You will be welcomed by the light."
By Kate Wieze
I didn't wake so much as I became aware. I was in a vast round hall whose walls stretched up into infinite darkness. Goosebumps rose on my bare skin. My hair brushed my back. The only light came from the floor, cool and blue. I looked down. Silvery blue tiles wound over the black floor, carved into an intricate many-branched tree. The light came from the branches, seeping between my toes almost tangibly.
I looked around. The wall encircling me was full of doors, ebony-black and inlaid with white markings. I was alone.
I don't know what I'd been expecting. Someone, I suppose. Father. My uncles. Grandmother. A guide of some kind. The emptiness filled the room like a living creature, overflowing its unseen roof.
I wrapped my arms around myself and walked toward the doors. As I came close, I realized the markings were figures and images. A man cupping flame in his hands. A woman directing a swarm of insects with an outstretched finger. A figure cloaked in shadow. Another bristling with fur.
Choices, I realized. I had to make one.
I ran my hand over the nearest figure's blank face. The material felt smooth and silky, like mother of pearl. The black door felt porous and terribly cold. I paced, fingers slipping over the faces, catching on the door frames, rough and smooth, cold and colder by turns. My bare feet made no sound on the luminous floor, my steps eaten up.. As if I no longer existed.
I stopped, struck with terror at the idea. Alone. I looked up into the infinite nothing.
My legs nearly buckled beneath me and I leaned into the wall. I looked at the figure my hand rested on. Tall and upright, coccooned in a white glow, hands raised, beams of light emanating from its palms. The blank face looked serene. I straightened. As my feet shifted the light beneath seemed to swirl with my movements, flickering on the white figures, making them seem alive, expectant.
This wasn’t the end. That infinity above did not intend to swallow me. It was waiting for something. I could feel it, hanging in the air like a held breath. I looked at the door. No, it was a way in.
I lay my palm flat and pushed. A great exhale of air, and a terrible cold whipped into the room and scoured the floor. The door opened. The floor under my feet melted into sand. Hot dry winds enveloped me. A red sun glared down from above like a baleful eye. I stood at the foot of a turquoise tree, looking out over the hills and hollows of sand that I must travel.
The wind boiled off over the dunes and died away. Nothing moved. Somewhere in the distance, a jackal shrieked, followed by the laughter of hyenas. The infinite darkness had transmuted into infinite light. I was still alone.
My palms felt cool and tingled ever so slightly. A gauzy white cloak now coccooned my shoulders. A branch fell from the tree, long and straight, with a thick knob at the top. Perfect for a walking stick-- or a cudgel if I needed it. The vast loneliness seemed to shrink as I picked it up. The rest was up to me.