As promised, a tidbit of one-shot flash fiction, done mostly as an exercise to un-stiffen the ol’ writing muscles. There are a couple more posts to come this week, along with a hopefully steady schedule to be announced on Friday. For now, enjoy.
The cloud-veiled midday sky looked down on the crowd of people who had gathered at the old stone pillar to witness the execution of the traitor, Mattando. This was a joyous occasion, for, rest assured, everyone present was eagerly anxious to see the traitor’s head roll upon the dry desert sand and his blood spilled on the age-old stone out of which the pillar had been built. Everyone, that is, except the traitor himself, and one other living being, of which there were not many for miles around– a dull-looking white weed, which had been growing around the pillar for far longer than anyone cared.
But nobody lent a thought to the weed, as all eyes were set on the traitor. Mattando was a traitor in the truest sense, for he had betrayed the trust of the Panphylus family and their allies when he had refused to pledge his allegiance completely to them. Indeed, if one who was even slightly competent at magic could not be trusted to comply with their wishes entirely, it was only sensible that they should be executed. This was Mattando’s treason, and why he had been brought before the executioner that day. Some might have shouted that it was an act of injustice, that evil was afoot in the will of the men who had ordered the execution, but none of those people were among the crowd that day, as their cheering and chanting made evident. The white weed might have had a different opinion, but nobody would have cared enough to listen.
“Is your mind at peace?” The man who had spoken was, evidenced by his attire and his proximity to the condemned man, the one meant to bring the blade down on Mattando’s neck. He was a large man, for one of smaller stature would not have been fit to handle the enormous ax which he carried upon his shoulder.
“You ask strange questions,” said Mattando. The condemned man himself was garbed in a rather austere way, which might have seemed completely sensible if not for the fact that they were the same robes he had been wearing ever since he appeared before the Panphyluses a couple days prior. He had been given an advanced warning to appeal to them, and he had heeded it, which meant that he had plenty of time to choose the robes he would wear when appearing before the people who held his fate in their hands. Regardless of how redundant his choice of clothing seemed when he was about to be executed, it certainly made an impression on the ones who had him sent to his death. The Panphyluses had found not only the cloth, but the fact that he had worn it willingly, quite repulsive. The white weed found it kind of endearing, but it had no way of letting its opinion be known.
“You make me curious,” said the executioner. “You willingly give yourself up to have your life forfeit, and you think my questions strange? I must say, I find you more than a little intriguing.”
“And I you,” said Mattando, “for even now, you seem to forget what the most important detail about this entire affair is.”
“You’ve got me at a loss,” the executioner admitted. “Is that something you’ll take with you to the grave, or would you care to share it with me? For this is your last chance make that choice.”
“It’s very simple,” said Mattando. “I appeared before the Panphylus family at my humblest, wearing my humblest rags, and sporting my humblest smile, and even though they knew I am no stranger to the magical sciences, they took unrequited pity on me and allowed me to choose the location of my execution.”
“So it was you who decided that you’d breathe your last breath at this rock in the middle of nowhere?” asked the executioner. “I’d be suspicious that you had some trick up your sleeve, some subversive friends waiting to trounce us hiding somewhere around here, but all I have to do is turn my head to see that we are all alone in the middle of the desert. Why would you choose this place if all it means is that you’ve no hope of escape?”
“There’s something special about this spot,” said Mattando. The white weed knew what he was talking about, but lacked the means to share it with anyone. “You haven’t heard of this place before?”
“I can’t say that I have.”
“It’s a place for people to disappear. In the past, many people like myself, magic practitioners especially, gathered here to exercise the art of disappearing.”
“There’s nowhere to disappear to,” said the executioner. “The sand is dense and hardened, the air is thin, and there is nothing around except for this old pillar. Surely you’ll not be saying that it’s hollow and stuffed with dead bodies?”
“Hardly anything so base,” said Mattando. “No, the people who disappeared here are hidden, and in the place where they were hidden they’ll remain for a lot longer than I can even begin to guess. No one of this earth will even think to look for them there, either.”
The executioner grew tired of Mattando’s prattle, and began to raise his ax. “Tell me where this place where they’re hidden is, then, and make your last words something that’ll sate my curiosity?”
“Tell you? I could show you.”
None of the people who had gathered there– not the crowd, not the executioner, and certanily not the white weed– had ever seen Mattando use magic before. As such, they could not have been prepared for what followed Mattando’s words. If any other creature had been present that day, however, they would not have been able to ignore the sight. Once the brightness from the flash of light that had seemed to burst forth from Mattando’s being finally died down, there were none left, except for Mattando and the white weed.
Nothing more of interest happened then, save for Mattando getting up, dusting himself off, climbing down from the pillar, and going off to where he was sure the Panphyluses would never find him. As he had expected, the crowd and the executioner had been hidden away, in the same place as the many others who had come before them. He’d sent them to a place where nobody would ever find them, speak to them, look upon them with any sort of emotion, or care about them in the slightest.
Although perhaps, somewhere in the vastness of the world, there would someday come one who could find them, talk to them, ask questions of them, discourse life with them, and think of them as they truly were– beings that, although appearing just the contrary, were alive, sentient and capable of feeling fear and happiness.
But what do I know? After all, I am but a white weed, and anyone has yet to talk to me.