22 comments

Oct 06, 2020

Fantasy Drama Fiction

You will rise to the top.

Victor had lost count of how many times his mother had told him that. It was just a dumb fortune cookie. But to her, it was stone-written prophecy. The very name Victor was chosen with that in mind.

Victor of what? He doesn't get it. He's never been victorious at anything. Vindictive, but never victorious. Does anyone else really know what it's like to be a complete failure? Everyone's good at something, so they say. And everyone is, except for Victor.

Like swimming upstream, with everything you've always wanted racing past your eyes going the opposite direction.

The afternoon heat beats down on dark skin as he sits perched high above the lake's crystal blue water. The sandstone boulder's gritty surface is burning to the touch, but he's learned to welcome that feeling. It's a sensation that helps redirect his thoughts every time he comes here. The contrast between blinding infernal torment above and icy, midnight hell below is therapy to him. The shock factor works. It's all that matters.

He stands, young heart beating with anticipation. The heights always make him wobble, struggling to keep balance. The rush begins. A southeastern summer breeze teases, nudging at his tie-dye swimsuit-clad body like a seasoned skydiver trying to help a rookie make their first jump.

Not yet.

Right when the pain from the burning rock becomes unbearable. That's his cue to make the leap. For now, he gazes. Amazing how insignificant the precariousness becomes when he looks straight ahead. The jet ski off in the distance almost seems within arm's reach. Its insect whine tickles his eardrums. A faint smell of freshwater seeps into his nostrils, either from out beyond or down below.

Random, unwelcome thoughts intrude in micro flashes. They always do during this moment. Mother has always been one of those types who would believe the sky is falling if someone said so. Terrified of ladders and black cats, the number thirteen. Firm believer in magnets, salt lamps, astrological signs, and especially fortune cookies.

It wasn't even my cookie!

He'd tried to reason with her when he was old enough to understand the story surrounding his birth, all-the-while

feeling ridiculous for having to use such technicalities as arguing points. The whole idea of a damn cookie that isn't even a cookie being able to predict the future was even more ridiculous. Everything about "fortune" "cookies" was ridiculous. She had eaten the crunchy, crumbly, tasteless, odd-shaped staple of Cantonese cuisine for him, since he'd had no teeth to eat it with yet. Could have waited until he was older and gotten him another one, but that would have "defeated the whole purpose". After all, fortunes are only "valid" for forecasting destiny if read within twenty-four hours of a person's birth. What book had washed that idea into her brain, he had no clue and didn't want to know.

Yeah I'm an Aquarius alright.

He frowns more over the fact the searing pain in his skin isn't working this time than the pain itself. He smiles at the rippling, rock-lined water beneath him, backs a few steps, then runs and hurls himself like a human arrow at his sparkling, sky-colored target.

Wind wraps around his skinny body, chilling it in mockery of the shimmering mid-day air. At least he can fly, albeit straight down. His clasped hands and forward-stretched arms are the wings. His eyes sting as he battles to keep them open. He tingles, hoping to clear the boulders again this time. At least that's what his body hopes. But his heart isn't so sure.

A thudding splash bounces off the rocks, but in the head-first landing, he doesn't hear it. Only muffled bubbles. The gravity-propelled descent into the depths of this blue Hades feels like a one-way baptism, with no prospect of emergence. A familiar panic feeds the rush as his eyes pop open to a world of murky silence interrupted only by dim outlines of submerged sandstone. His chest tightens as he waits for the momentum of the plunge to slow and reverse. This time, it doesn't.

His still-clasped hands are wedged. Caught beneath a large rock that must have lost its delicate balance somehow and rolled on top of another. One hand may be broken, either from the crushing weight or his fitful struggle to break free. The throbbing pain is there, but at this point he doesn't care if he leaves this watery dungeon with both hands missing. A tug-of-war between conserving vital energy for the swim back up and expending it to wriggle free chastises his adrenalized mind - which he can already sense is about to turn foggy. 

He would sell his soul for air. The pressure from holding in breath tears at the walls of his lungs. He can't do it anymore. His drum-tight lips begin to jitter, and the cruel, fishy-tasting liquid in which he's encased starts to pour through them. On top of being starved for oxygen, on top of being injured and trapped, and most of all, in addition to the impending prospect of leaving the world having never accomplished anything, he's choking.

He's a dishwasher at a local restaurant. This isn't what he wants in his obituary. He wants to at least go to college first. Make his mother proud, even if it also enables her absurd convictions about the nature of fate.

Let me.

Two short, simple words. Only two syllables. Hidden deep within this liquid night time, twenty feet down. Deep within this diminishing mind which speaks them in silence.

Let...me!

He thinks he's hallucinating. So close to death, it should come as no surprise. Before a swirling, mud-colored cloud blinds him completely, one of the rocks moves again. He senses his clasped hands lighten. His clammy, limp figure feels as though it's ascending. 

A familiar warmth tickles him inside-out. He opens his eyes to behold the healing rays that are cascading into - and melding with - this malleable mirror to the sky from which he's about to emerge.

In-between vomits of water, he inhales. He realizes how food-like air itself is. The scent of nearby cedar reminds him of grade school field trips to this lake. That, in turn, reminds him of the picnics.

As Victor clamors to the top of the first boulder and sprawls out upon it to breathe and regain strength, a subtle boom and a sharp jolt sends waves through both the stone and he, shocking him back to full alertness. At first, he thinks he really is hallucinating this time. Then, sitting upright with a bleeding, swollen hand over his heart, begins to laugh.

"Frack quakes," he mutters with alleviation.

Had the nearby oil-drilling saved him, or was it...

Though shaking his head with a "nah" and another laugh, he can't stop thinking about that fortune cookie.

You will rise to the top.

Being so skilled at pin-pointing the technicalities from years of arguing over that cookie, he's quick to ascertain that the fortune had never said how he would rise. Another laugh, then a straight face.

Victor never thought about fortune cookies much after that. "Fortunes are only valid if read within twenty-four hours of a person's birth," after all. But he did develop a habit of keeping a four-leaf clover in his wallet at all times for the remainder of his years.

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22 comments

Ari Reynes
22:55 Nov 20, 2020

This story is amazing! You did a great job with discriptions.

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Gip Roberts
23:12 Nov 20, 2020

Thank you for your time in reading it, Caleb. This seems to be the one I wrote that everyone likes the most, so I'll try to learn from what I did and apply it to my future stories.

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Ari Reynes
23:17 Nov 20, 2020

It's awesome. By the way, I really like your bio.

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Gip Roberts
01:44 Nov 21, 2020

Thanks for noticing my bio :) After 22 years in retail, words can't describe the difference between that and a library. This job is so peaceful, and the best part: I'm around books every day, so it helps me as a writer to get a feel for what people are into reading these days.

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Ari Reynes
01:59 Nov 21, 2020

I love going to the library, but I haven't been in a while because of covid.

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E. Jude
20:41 Nov 01, 2020

This story is very good. I loved how you built it up, and the tension. Like what Kristy Reynolds already said. Your phrasing/wording was exquisite! The descriptions were so imprinted in my head by the end of it! I like how you used your senses as tools of description thoroughly! Well done! I would love it if you could check out my stories too!!! Elsa

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Gip Roberts
22:31 Nov 02, 2020

Thanks, Elsa! I'll be reading "Midnight Sun" and I'll be happy to give it a comment. Is that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page in the profile picture?

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E. Jude
13:13 Nov 03, 2020

Yes it is! First person to notice since i put it up in april! Do you like Led Zeppelin?

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Gip Roberts
20:35 Nov 03, 2020

Love them, especially their more obscure songs like "Carouselambra" and "Bron-y-Aur Stomp". I'm on my way to look at a story of yours right now.

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E. Jude
16:57 Nov 04, 2020

Oh yeah, me too! I like the early stuff, like albums 1-4, but my best friend likes houses of the holy and the later stuff, so he makes me listen to that. They were literal gods, Jimmy Page is my idol, (I play electric guitar).

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Gip Roberts
20:55 Nov 04, 2020

You're a better person than me; I tried but learning to read music always confused me, and trying to keep up with six strings made it even worse.

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Kristy Reynolds
19:44 Oct 15, 2020

The tension in this story is built well. It kept me holding on until the end and I caught myself holding my breath along with him as I read.

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Gip Roberts
20:01 Oct 15, 2020

Thank you, Kristy. I've never experienced drowning before, so I had no idea if my descriptions of it would be any good. To get compliments like this makes my day :)

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Kathy Roberts
17:41 Oct 14, 2020

WOW! I felt as though I were right there living it. You are getting better with each story.

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Gip Roberts
19:39 Oct 14, 2020

Thank you. I owe my improvements to all the people on here who have helped me over the months.

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Em P.w.
16:22 Oct 13, 2020

Really, really like your descriptive language here!

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Gip Roberts
19:45 Oct 13, 2020

Thank you for reading and liking, Em. There are tons of great stories here on Reedsy, and they've taught me a lot over the past months. Speaking of which: I look forward to reading yours :)

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Em P.w.
05:31 Oct 15, 2020

Yes, that's true. I think I spend more time reading here than actually writing hehehe. There's so much we can learn from others. I've actually bookmarked this story so I could come back to it when I need some drive to be more descriptive. I hope you don't mind.

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Gip Roberts
19:53 Oct 15, 2020

I don't mind at all. I'm honored that you consider this one descriptive enough to be worth referring to. I should probably spend more time reading than I do, but I've gotten into the habit of alternating between reading and writing. I do deliberately skip entering something in every other contest to try to catch up on everything I missed. I'm pretty sure my brain would melt if I tried to come up with a story (or several) every single week like a lot of people manage to.

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Em P.w.
16:51 Oct 16, 2020

I know exactly how you feel! I actually skipped last week's contest. XD I find that it helps to have weekly goals for reading. I've been quite busy lately, so instead, I gave myself a monthly goal: I have three books on my list that I plan to finish reading by the end of October.

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C. jay Loren
02:38 Oct 12, 2020

I got a feeling this would be the ending. It was a good twist and goes to show how much we can misinterpret things based on our own wants and needs. I really enjoyed reading this story. :)

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Gip Roberts
20:11 Oct 12, 2020

Thank you for the feedback, C. jay. I had no idea where this story would end up going. I like to write as though I'm a reader and let things unfold to me as I progress with it. Thanks for liking it.

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