Flash Fiction: Bedlam

The TerribleMinds challenge this week was to write a 1000 word story in two parts. Half from the perspective of the protagonist and half from the perspective of the antagonist. It took me a little while to come up with this one, but I can honestly say that it proves that I don’t write happy stories. (Be ye warned!)

Bedlam

With the blankets tucked snugly around him at last, Bedlam Blue peered up at his mother. “Where do Wishes come from?”

“Wishes?” she asked.

Bedlam sat up in bed and nodded. “Where do Wishes come from?” he asked again.

“Well,” said his mother, sitting back down on the bed. She ran a hand through his hair and then down his gossamer wing. “Wishes come from the Human World. Sometimes, when a Human hopes and dreams of something with enough passion, a Wish is born.”

“And the Wish comes to the Wish Collectors?” Bedlam asked, his golden eyes bright.

“That’s right.”

“And the Wish Collectors trap the Wish in a crystal and give the crystal to a Wish-Bringer?”

“Yes.”

“And the Wish-Bringer goes to the Human World and finds the heart that created the Wish and makes it come true?”

“Yes,” said his mother. She lay him down and pulled the blankets up to his chin. “Now get some sleep.”

Bedlam smiled and closed his eyes. “When I grow up, I’m going to be a Wish-Bringer. Just like Daddy,” he murmured.

 # # # # #

 “You shouldn’t encourage him.”

“It’s harmless.”

“It’s not harmless. There’s barely enough Wishes as it is. By the time he’s old enough, there might not be Wish-Bringers at all. Saber and Cloud took redundancies last month, and I’m pretty sure I’m next.”

“Oh, you worry too much,” said Bedlam’s mother to his father. “Besides, it’s just a phase. He’ll grow out of it.” 

# # # # #

 Bedlam’s wings propelled him faster and faster around the course. Left, right, dodge a tree branch, duck under an acorn, spin to the right again and… pirouette on to the perch at the finish line.

He looked back. Leaves swayed in the breeze his passing had created, but nothing was out of place. It was a perfect run. He looked to the judging platform, a grin on his face and a whoop ready on his lips.

Wish-Master Strife Morningstar stood alone on the platform. His lips compressed to a thin line. Then he shook his head and walked away.

“Wait! Wish-Master!”

The old man kept walking, a flick of his wings the only sign that he’d heard. Bedlam’s grin faded. What had he done wrong? He flung himself off the perch and felt the moment of free-fall before his wings took his weight. “Wish-Master!”

When there was still no reaction, Bedlam beat his wings harder, banked, then landed in front of the Wish-Master. “Sir?”

“I’m busy,” the Wish-Master snapped. “What do you want?”

Bedlam balked, then pressed on. “Wish-Master, please. Did I miss something?”

The Wish-Master stared at him. Seconds passed in silence. Then the old man spoke. “You don’t have what it takes to be a Wish-Bringer. I’m sorry. It’s over.”

Bedlam’s mouth opened. He wanted to protest, but his voice was gone. He watched in impotent silence as the old man’s wings beat a discordant rhythm, lifted him into the air and propelled him toward the Collector.

“No,” Bedlam said at last. “It can’t be over.”

He’d worked so hard, and yearned so much his heart ached. It wasn’t over. 

# # # # #

 Strife Morningstar peered through the gap between the stone wall and the curtain. There was a big crowd. The biggest he’d seen in the Collector. He wished again that he could hand the responsibility over to someone else, but there was no one. The title would die with him.

“It’s time, Wish-Master.”

Strife nodded to his assistant. His wings fluttered against his back, betraying his nervousness. He took a deep breath to still them, then pushed the curtain aside and stepped on to the dais.

A hush fell over the crowd.

Strife raised his hand. “Bring out the accused.”

The boy, Bedlam Blue, was dragged on to the dais. Noise erupted from the crowd. Strife had known the identity of the accused, but nothing could have prepared him for the pain and resentment in the boy’s golden eyes, or the gut-wrenching, soul-destroying sight of the boy’s tattered wings.

He swallowed back bile as he waited for the noise to fade. “Bedlam Blue,” he intoned. “Did you or did you not steal a Wish-Carrier for the sole purpose of travelling to the Human World?”

The boy met his eyes without shame. “I did,” he said.

“And did you or did you not travel to the Human World without permission?”

“I did.”

“And, whilst in the Human World, did you knowingly grant an unsanctioned Wish?”

“I did.”

The noise was deafening. It went on and on. Strife didn’t try to stop it. The same shock and pain were echoing through his heart.

Eventually peace returned. “Bedlam Blue,” he said. “In light of your confession, I have no choice but to find you guilty of unauthorised Wish granting. Do you have anything to say?”

Bedlam pushed himself to his feet and looked at the crowd, then back at the Wish-Master. The guards stepped forward, but Strife waved them back. He watched the boy, watched him struggle to find the words he wanted.

“I granted a Wish,” he said at last, his golden eyes burning with equal parts pain and pride. “You didn’t believe me but I do have what it takes, Wish-Master. I’m a Wish-Bringer. Just like my father.”

Strife’s wings were quivering uncontrollably. The boy was right. He would have been a great Wish-Bringer. One of the best. If only…

If only the Human World wasn’t so full of entertainments and distractions that the Humans didn’t need Wishes anymore.

If only there were Wishes to grant.

Once, the boy could have been the best Wish-Bringer Strife had ever trained. But those days were over.

Strife couldn’t look the boy in the eye so he spoke to the crowd. “The penalty for unauthorised Wish granting is death. Let it be done.”

Then Strife turned his back and walked through the curtain, his heart howling in harmony with Bedlam’s cry of pain and rage.

 

 

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11 Comments

Filed under Flash Fiction

11 responses to “Flash Fiction: Bedlam

  1. Fantastic. Seriously. You need to be published.

  2. Jo you are truly amazing. I LOVE your stories. I love all of the layers you bring to them. Bedlam was like any other chilld, only he wasn’t. Fantastic. I want a signed copy of your book.

  3. That was sick and twisted and depressing. I loved it.

  4. Hmm. I think this has a lot of promise in the setting, story, and characters. I think this could be the basis for a more substantial story. But there were some things about it that didn’t quite work right for me.

    1) The reason there aren’t enough wishes didn’t quite work for me… I felt like this needed more explanation.

    2) If there aren’t enough wishes… how did Bedlam manage to steal one? It looks like there are enough to fill the Collector.

    3) Since there are such strong rules and taboos on the granting of wishes, since it’s so tightly controlled, this suggests wishes and granting wishes plays some important role in these people’s society/culture/economics, etc. But it isn’t clear what that is, or why such a harsh sanction as death might be warranted or why Bedlam would feel so strongly about granting wishes that he’d risk that sanction to prove he could do it, or why the crowd reacts so strongly to him having stolen the wish.

    In sum…. there’s something interesting here that I’ll bet could be more fully explored and make an even better story.

    • Thanks so much for your feedback, Stephen. I really appreciate it.

      I could answer your questions, of course, but that’s not really the point. 🙂 I think the main problem here was that I was trying to do too much in too little time. When you’ve only got 1000 words (and you have to swap POV halfway through), creating an entirely new world is a big ask.

      My first draft of the story came in at almost 2000 words, and included answers and elaboration on all three of your points. In cutting it back to 1000 words, I had to choose whether to cut out character-building aspects of world-building aspects. In the end, I decided to keep almost all of the character-building I’d done. (That’s one of the reasons this was posted so late in the week!)

      I may revisit this world at another time, though. If only because I’ve got a HEAP of world-building details running around my brain and I’d like to explore them in more depth.

      Thanks again for your feedback!

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