The Iron Writer Challenge #123
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Chilean Fear Volcano
A fiery path to Ark of the Covenant
The path to salvation
One of the seven deadly sins.
E. Chris Garrison
The ground shook under Carlos’ boots as he pounded down the rocky obsidian path.
His teenage daughter raced him past the first house-sized monster, her eyes wild with fear as she fled its shiny pink bulk.
He peered over his shoulder, back at the terrible golden light dawning from the ancient chest they’d found. The treasure of a lifetime. No, the treasure of legend, hidden in a secret cave, under a mountain at the bottom of the world.
Then the mountain had exploded, a shockwave of terror spreading outward at the speed of sound.
“Ashley, what did you do?” he gasped, the heat and ash in the air robbing his throat of all moisture. “What was in your mind when you gazed into the light?”
She turned to answer. Her eyes grew wide. “Look out!” Ashley pushed her father to the ground as an enormous orange mouth slammed to earth nearby. Mad, unseeing eyes glared above the minivan-sized muzzle.
“I should have known, the Ark’s power is in our vices,” he said, hauling himself to his feet, dragging Ashley after him.
“What are you talking about, Dad? Oh no! Yellow incoming! Run!”
The scent of brimstone filled the air, along with the chemical tang of fried plastic. As quick as it chomped the path ahead, the yellow maw rose again and shot toward them.
Carlos tackled his daughter this time, and rolled with her under the open mouth. Teeth surrounded them, falling, but the momentum of their roll carried them out from underneath the monster with no room to spare.
Ashley screamed, her souvenir chamanto poncho caught in its teeth.
Carlos dragged at her feet until she pulled free of the garment. Together, they hurtled down the path, surrounded on both sides by streams of oozing lava.
“That was close!” cried Ashley.
“When you opened the box, what were you thinking of?”
She shook her head. “What? I dunno! Can’t we talk after we get out of here?”
Despite the mortal danger, Carlos persisted. “It had to be the Ark’s doing, but it needed a catalyst.”
“Well,” she said, dodging a small alabaster boulder, “we skipped lunch today, and–“
“That’s it! It all makes sense now. Gluttony!”
Ashley screamed as a new horror burst from the ground in the path ahead, its shiny green bulk blocked their way to salvation. The staring headlight eyes fixed upon the two of them. The creature’s mouth rose into the air, its neck extending, overtaking them even as they backpedaled.
Yellow reared up behind them, trapping them. The air filled with the unearthly roar of the behemoths, now in all four directions.
Carlos could no longer shield his daughter, so he picked up the pearly rock and held it over his head with both hands and hurled it to one side. A ghastly crash followed as massive plastic mouths warred over the stone morsel.
“You did it, Dad! The hippos went for it! But why?”
“They’re hungry. Too hungry. It was their doom.”
I walk following the American up the path toward the summit.
He stops, and reaching into his pocket pulls out another candy bar, ripping open the end of the packet with his teeth and spitting it onto the warm lava rock at the side of the path.
“This is the way she came?” He asks between huge mouthfuls. Fine flecks of spittle fly from between his teeth as he talks. “The night she…you know.”
I nod. For a moment I stand there remembering Sarah. The way the light of the fire danced across her pale skin in the night. Her intoxicating laugh. The flirtatious way she looked across the camp fire at me after she’d had one too many drinks. I couldn’t think what she saw in him.
“I have done this six times before,” I reply, “It is the way she came.”
The American finishes his candy bar, the sixth one he’s had so far. The journey had been quicker with her. He drops the wrapper at the side of the path, desecrating the Earth beneath his feet. Gluttonous fool.
“Why do they come here?” He asks.
“Mostly they are thrill seekers,” I reply. “Some believe they are walking a fiery path to the Ark of the Covenant. They walk to the crater’s very edge and stare into the abyss.”
“Is it safe?”
I yaw my hand side to side at the American. “There have been six tourists go missing in recent months, including your girlfriend Senor. Some say its bandits, stealing their foreign money. Some in my village say we shouldn’t be encouraging the tourists, it disrespects our gods and makes the mountain angry. They fear the volcano, but for me, it is what I must do. This is my path to salvation.”
“Is that what Sarah was seeking?”
My memory returns to Sarah. Placing the necklace of wild flowers over her shoulders. The lust that shone in her eyes underneath the stars, her soft naked breasts smelling of the wild Inca Lilies.
“No”, I reply. “She sought something else.”
After several hours we each the crater’s edge. The American removes his pack and sits down. I reminisce over Sarah. The way her eyes burned as she stared into the wrath of the fire below. The memory is as intense as the smell of wildflowers against her soft skin. Those same eyes widening into dark craters themselves, burning with fear and betrayal back at me. I look down at the fading scratches on my forearm where she had tried to cling on, but hadn’t realized what was happening until too late.
The American mops his fat sweaty brow with a handkerchief. For a long time he is silent. I wonder if he is going to cry, but even now he soils her memory by reaching into his pack and pulling out another candy bar.
In a way mine too.
Finally he stands again, in front of me, and takes step forward to peer over the edge.
Creeds and Oaths
Mathew W. Weaver
We were five, now.
The flames danced, molten lava on either side of the narrow chasm. Ahead was the stairway, salvation. Behind us the floor crumbed, walls collapsed, ceilings crashing over the bodies of our fallen.
Brothers, we had been. Thirty knights in arms, ready to offer our lives for duty. Honor. Sacrifice.
Those words once had meaning.
Markus and Ahab still stood, bleeding but not broken. Alastar kept them from joining me, holding them at bay with his halberd as the precious minutes waned.
Rhyon’s broad-axe whined, chipping my shield with each shuddering impact, knocking me backwards with every swing. His eyes were no longer his; his teeth bared in a feral snarl.
“They were our BROTHERS!” I roared.
“They WERE my brothers!” he bellowed. My shield shattered, throwing me to the ground. My sword was drawn, but I would not stain it with the blood of my Order. Not even now.
“You would see God’s wrath rain down on us?” I cried, “You would have the earth erupt in fire, mankind punished for YOUR sins?”
Sparks flew as the axe blade met stone inches from my head.
“The Ark is MINE! Its riches are MY right!”
“You KILLED for it!”
“And I WILL KILL AGAIN!”
I ducked as the axe passed over my head. Markus cried out, and I saw crimson run down his side. He staggered, losing his grip on the mace as Alastar swung again.
Ahab screamed, and his voice joined with the one in my head as I watched his sister’s son fall into the abyss. A gout of flame rose to greet him, and Alastar had already begun to finish what he started.
“Hubris, Rhyon!” I cried, “You’ve fallen prey to your Greed!”
His axe met my sword, nearly wrenching it out of my grasp. I saw his mailed fist come, and I dodged, spun, and drove the hilt of my sword into the side of his head. The blow hit true, and he stumbled away.
“You will not kill me,” he snarled, “Even now, when all Creeds and Oaths have no meaning. At the cusp of immortality, at the dawn of the Final Age, you, Elethor Farstrider, dare not do what has to be done. That is why I will win.”
Ahab missed his parry, and Alastar drove the halberd into him. I watched the light leave his eyes, and Alastar released the handle, letting him fall.
Beneath the mountains of Gel Duror, thirty Knights had become three. And as I let my sword fall, as the axe took me across the chest and threw me down, I watched the sky lighten through the crater far, far above us.
“You shall not have the Ark, brother,” I whispered as he stood over me, axe dripping my blood, “You forgot how little time there was till sunrise.”
Understanding dawned, and he left me, running to the bridge even as it began to crumble, the sunlight beaming down into the cavern.
It was too late. The ground collapsed, and we fell, their screams in my ears.
I smiled, my eyes closed, my pain fading.