The Fountain

This week’s flash fiction challenge: Somethingpunk

***

“Welcome back, Mr. Oliver.” Maxwell Oliver entered through a gap in the hedges and approached the multi-tiered fountain. Its water seemed bluer than last time.

“It’s been a long, long time.” said Max.

“For you, at least.  The years go by like seconds for me, although these past 70 have been some of the most amusing, I will admit. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

The fountain’s voice filled the clearing as Max stared at its center.

“I’ve come to finish things.”

“Tired of living, are you? Well, I won’t stop you from ending your miserable existence.”

“I will not be the only one to die today.”

The fountain scoffed, as much as a fountain could.

“Is that right? You, a decrepit old man, plan to destroy me, the most powerful being on the planet?”

“Yes. I will set right what I originally set wrong. I will destroy you and return the fire of knowledge to humanity.”

“Knowledge? Humanity no longer needs it. I’ve ushered in a golden age of civilization, all thanks to you.”

“A regret I live with every single day.”

Max was 23 when he had first stumbled upon the fountain hiking through Greece. Having run low on water, he took a drink from the gorgeous marble fountain that seemed out of place in the middle of the secluded woods.. As soon as the water hit his lips, he felt a rush of sensation course through his entire body, knocking him unconscious. When Max awoke, he found that the fountain water had a peculiar side effect – any thought that popped into his head would instantly become so.  It was, in a word, magic. Max then did what any immature 23-year old would have done in that situation – he tweeted a picture of himself demonstrating his newfound power. Unfortunately for Max, he had forgotten to turn off the location settings on his phone, so in a matter of hours, the world began to converge on the fountain. The world governments united quickly to secure the fountain for themselves, but the fountain had other plans. Borrowing a page from Mr. Vonnegut, the fountain water soon contaminated all water on earth, unleashing billions of magic wielders.

With everything possible, the desire to create the impossible slowly vanished until humanity entered a new dark age of stagnation. Max enjoyed the fame as the discoverer of magic, but fame was fleeting, especially in this new world. Despair soon set in and, after he tried unsuccessfully to end his own life, he discovered that the water had made him immortal.

“I had a good laugh that day,” said the fountain. “I was anxiously awaited your next move, but it never came. I figured you had resigned yourself to a mundane life like everyone else. What were you doing all these years?”

“Learning what had once been known. Without magic.”

Max had started at the beginning of recorded history, hoping the ancient knowledge would provide a clue to destroying the fountain. The going had been slow at first. Painfully, mind numbingly slow. To fully absorb the full import of the writings, Max first learned ancient Hebrew. And ancient Greek. And ancient Persian, Chinese and scores of other lost languages. His studies soon stumbled upon a familiar thread.

All this had happened before. The Greek gods were not myths dreamed up by the ancients, but very real people who had first discovered the wonders of the fountain. They soon raised Olympus up from underneath the fountain and began a reign of dominance as gods among mortals. Their rule was meant to last much longer, but something happened and the gods’ power waned until they only remained in the pages of the epic poems. The mountain crumbled, and the fountain was forgotten. The fountain had not been pleased, but there was little to do except wait until the next opportunity presented itself.

“Very clever of you. Tell me, did you find the thing you were looking for in all those books?”

“Not something, someone.”

“Hmmm?”

But the noble son of Iapetus outwitted him and stole the far-seen gleam of unwearying fire in a hollow fennel stalk.” said an ancient voice the fountain had not heard in a long time.

“IT CANNOT BE! We chained you to that rock, to have the eagles feast on your liver for eternity!”

“Yes, I’m quite aware,” said Prometheus. “But eventually the eagles grew tired of their task. I too grew tired, and sank deep into the rock, resigned to remain there forever. Until Mr. Oliver returned me to the world.”

The fountain was speechless, for once.

“No one may ever know what transpired here today, but I will go to my death a happy man knowing I have destroyed you once and for all.”

Max held out the palm of his hand. The Titan did the same. A warm gleam soon appeared, casting shadows across the clearing.

And Zeus who thunders on high was stung in spirit, and his dear heart was angered when he saw amongst men the far-seen ray of

“Fire,” said the fountain, as it faded away.

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Queen Sacrifice

This week’s flash fiction challenge: Four Random Items

***

“Queen to D2. I believe the game is mine, Lucy-chan.”

“Nuh uh! Your queen is a sitting duck for my king!” said the precocious nine-year old, as she excitedly knocked over the piece.

“Yes, but you forgot about my rook, just biding his time, until I could do this….” Sakura slid the tower down the board and gently knocked over Lucy’s king. “Checkmate.”

“No fair! You cheated! You knew I couldn’t resist taking your queen!”

“It’s not cheating, it’s strategy. It’s called a queen’s sacrifice. Sometimes you have to give up your best piece to win the match.”

“That’s no fun, Saku-san. Who would want to give up the queen? She’s the best!”

“Very true, very true. But enough chess talk for tonight, it’s way past your bedtime. Your mom would freak if she knew you were still up.”

“Ok, but next time, I get an extra game?”

“It’s a deal.”

Sakura Perry tucked her young charge in, and then headed out to the living room, nearly tripping over her bag.

“Ugh, every time!”

Sakura leaned the bag back against the couch. It was full of things she needed to do – a backlog of school work that had somehow materialized already – and also full of things she wanted to do – a certain brown paper package resting on the bottom.  She turned on the TV and starting flipping mindlessly through the channels. The ambassador and his wife would not be home for another hour. That left her plenty of time to rehearse tonight’s task in her mind.

***

The leather mask was not comfortable, but it would have to do. The real thing was on its way from Kyoto – a snarling steel masterpiece an old friend had helped her find. “Next time, I’ll pay for express shipping,” she thought. The goalie mask she donned tonight was well past its prime, but Sakura had made a few minor additions that gave it a certain je nais se quoi. As she looked back at the masked figure in her bathroom mirror, her pulse started to quicken.

“Ok, here goes nothing.”

Sakura climbed down her fire escape and landed with a graceful thud on the sidewalk. Luckily, her armor had almost completely absorbed the force, although calling it “armor” was being polite.  Sakura had spent the last 13 months collecting any piece of military-grade Kevlar she could scrounge up and the result was a black Lululemon tank top and pants with some strategic enhancements. She hoped it would be enough.

As Sakura walked slowly away from her building, she glanced at the bank clock across the street. 2:14 AM.  The drop was scheduled for 2:30.

“I’m going to be late.”

She broke out into a sprint, wishing now more than ever that the Academy had focused more on cardio.  The streets were all but deserted this time of night, but Sakura did not want to attract any attention.  She figured a sprinting, masked figure wearing steel knuckles would still manage to attract the notice of any Red Hook residents that were still awake.

A rusted sign labeled “PIER” greeted her several minutes later. There were many piers in Red Hook, but somehow this one had escaped the recent gentrification. Still, the owner felt the need to post a security guard 24/7. Sakura had found a back way in, but as she approached, she saw the guard was noticeably absent.

“Well, that makes my job a little easier,” she thought as she walked through the unguarded gate.

Her targets would most likely be near the water, but the pier fittingly featured a abandoned warehouse that provided excellent cover. She climbed up a couple of boxes she had stacked in advance earlier in the week and darted across the rooftop.

The full moon bounced off the water and Sakura could make out three figures.

“That’s odd,” she thought. “There should only be two.”

She had no time to dwell on this latest development, as a faint humming sound signaled the approach of a small motor boat. As it docked, she could see one of the figures on the pier motion to the another one, who pushed the third figure forward onto his knees. The moonlight reflected off something metal on the third figure’s jacket. It was the missing guard.

Sakura had not anticipated a hostage. She contemplated aborting, but decided to wait and see how things played out.

A short man stepped out of the boat and walked towards the assembled parties.

Gentleman, I came for the envelope, nothing more. What is this extra baggage you have brought me?” said the short man in Japanese.

A cop, shateigashira. He was posing as the security guard.”

Hmm. As you can see, I have no room on my boat. Let us make good use of the river.

The two other men nodded and reached to their sides.

Sakura readied her kaiken. She was glad that it was not the new moon.

The first blade hit true, landing in the back of the neck of her closer target. The man lurched backward. Before he could hit the ground, Sakura loosed her second kaiken.  This time, she was not so lucky. The second man had turned toward her and the dagger nipped the edge of his cheek as it sailed past.

“Damn, I was hoping for more even odds.”

She took a few steps back, then bolted toward the edge of the warehouse roof.

The short man looked back just in time to see the solitary red petal on her white mask. Sakura hit the ground in a roll, and, wasting no time, retrieved her first kaiken and found a similar spot for it in the other goon. It was then that she got a glimpse of the guard’s face.

“Onii-chan?”

It was her brother.

She didn’t have time to react, as the short man’s bullet lodged itself in her back. She fell forward.

When she awoke later in the hospital, her mask was gone.

***

My four items:

An unopened envelope. A chess piece. A leather mask.  A police officer’s badge.