73 comments

Fantasy Drama African American

Fire.

Smoke.

Ashes.

They neared the Great Divide, each step heavier than the last. The notion that maybe they had left too late, and that they would never step foot through the gateway swam around in his mind, but Andrei pushed it away, struggling to keep hope alive through the damp washcloth draped over his nose and mouth. The sounds of an active war zone surrounding him and his heavily pregnant wife, Oleksandra, jolted the rocks underneath their feet as the bombs rained from the sky. He and Olek had come to the West about five semigens ago to escape the Fall of the East. Neither had dreamt that they would ever return.

But there they were.

Olek's breath came harsh through her cracked lips; her arms, red from the sizzling ash that fluttered from the smoke clouded sky like rain, clutched her protruding belly. Hanging her head and following in her loyal husband's footsteps, the square heel of her rugged, golden bronze boots caught against a rock jutting out from the cluttered ground. Throwing her to her knees, an immense pain consumed her, wrenching her insides and bringing stinging tears to her eyes.

Andrei turned at the sound of his wife's body colliding with the leaf-covered forest floor, and for a split second, snippets of his life before the Fall flashed before his eyes. In the back of his mind, he knew Olek wouldn't make it. Although the pathway to their new life seemed dark, they could not turn back. All they could do now is run. Pulling her to her feet, Andrei and Olek stumbled on.

And then the light met his eyes.

The last standing gateway.

The only way out.

The glowing, scarlet embers of the swirling portal gave Andrei the spark, pushing him to summon everything inside the bloody mess that he called himself could find. His entire body was coordinated to one sole cause, to undo the wrong he had done to himself and his wife.

As Andrei was running with all his strength and might, Oleksandra slowed, leaving long, snake-like trails in the dirt behind them. Going back for her was wasting crucial time, time that they didn’t have, time that was the difference between life – and death.

        ‘Run, Olek!’ Andrei cried. ‘Run!’

        Moaning in pain, Olek stretched her arm and leaned on a tree, beads of sweat breaking out on her forehead, running down her face, pooling on the pit of her collarbone.

        The baby was coming.

        The expressions of inconceivable pain from Oleksandra graduated from moans to cries and to screams of what felt like endless torture. Andrei's mind raced, searching for how to help her, but something inside told him what he already knew. He could do nothing but watch his agonized wife. Nothing but watch the gateway to the east burn down, the vibrancy draining out like an unclogged drain in a sad and somber style.

        Olek slumped to the floor like a withered tree. She could hardly be heard as the tumult of the surrounding noise drowned out her voice. Andrei held tight to the clenched fist of his wife and with a whisper that could hardly be heard, she spoke her last words. “ Mikhail, ” she gasped. If he survives, call him Mikhail. In great agony, she gave one last, deep push.

The sound of a crying baby brought a joyous glow to Andrei’s eyes. He cradled the baby and chipped off a sharp piece of tree bark to sever the umbilical cord. “He's a boy, Olek," Andrei whispered into the silence. He paused and turned, watching her chest, waiting for it to rise and fall, just the way it always did when he watched her sleep. He rushed to her, the baby still in his hands. "No." Tears came to his eyes. Her chest stayed put, blank, glassy eyes staring into the sky. "He's a boy, Olek, " He whispered to her motionless dead body. "He's a boy."

- - - - -

19 Years Later... 

Mikhail woke up and groggily checked the time. Three in the morning. Three hours before daybreak. Maybe I should work on the boat, he thought, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and fitting them into his tight clogs. Slowly, he eases open the heavy steel door, slipping through the small crack and hopping off the ledge into the garage turned workshop.

He stopped by the workbench cluttered with tools and dinner plates from too many nights spent eating outside and grabbed a few nuts, bolts, and screws, then quietly walked to their project, the one he and his father Andrei had started on his birthday, 3 years ago. He climbed over the rim, sat on the moss-covered wooden planks that they used for seats, and placed his hands on the grips of the paddles. 

My 19th birthday,” he muttered to himself, holding in his hands the acceptance letter to the U of W, the University of the West that he had left in the bottom of the boat the other day. “I’m going to college in a few weeks.” It had never been a celebration day. Besides the tale of his birthday, there was much more of a story to be told. It was 19 years since the mother he never met gave birth to him in the scattering of ashes that littered the forest floor. A single tear ran down his cheek as he remembered the grand stories his father told of the woman he never knew. His father longed for her, longed for his wife. 

Quietly, he stepped out of the boat and started back towards his room, pausing outside the rotted wooden door to his father’s room. It hung from a hinge, but in recent times, his father didn’t have the energy to fix it.  

Mikhail didn't have to enter the room to know that his father was lying on the bed, sobs racking his aged body. Mikhail continued on and entered his room, shutting the door quietly. This is how it was every year. Because today, 19 years ago, his father gained him. But he also lost so much more… 


August 07, 2020 04:06

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73 comments

Yolanda Wu
23:17 Aug 10, 2020

The descriptions in this story, especially at the start were so real, and I could really feel the pain of the characters. And the select short sentences were really effective. I just love this story overall, you wrote it so well. :)

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Phebe Emmanuel
23:39 Aug 10, 2020

Thank you, Yolanda!

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Charles Stucker
19:34 Aug 10, 2020

The opening is great...but you end up spending most of your time on Andrei and Olek. That first half is a great scene, magnificently written. as an opening to a larger novel, the 19 later years works well. However, in a short of barely over 1000 words? You need more about Mikhail. at least for part f the prompt. If Andrei were the central character, you could have the focus be on his pain and attempt to raise the son his wife named, but right now, it loses focus because it tries to be too many things at the same time- fulfill the prompt,...

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Phebe Emmanuel
20:17 Aug 10, 2020

Thank you, Charles. Actually, you can edit until your story is approved, at least for me, and it hasn't been yet, so maybe I'll try to work a little more on it. I completely understand what you are saying and will put effort into improving upon it in the future.

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P. Jean
18:58 Aug 10, 2020

Yikes! I felt the pain, struggle and frustration! You write like a writer! I hope that pleases you. It is a gift!

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Phebe Emmanuel
20:23 Aug 10, 2020

Thank you, P. Jean! I'm glad I connected to you, and yes, that does please me! Thank you for reading!

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P. Jean
21:21 Aug 10, 2020

You are welcome

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Adah M.M
19:49 Aug 09, 2020

This is amazing and beautifully written

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Phebe Emmanuel
20:11 Aug 09, 2020

Thank you!

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J. Ernst
15:46 Aug 08, 2020

I really liked how you chose to end your story. Very nicely written. If you get a chance would you please read my latest story .... Emma’s Promise

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Phebe Emmanuel
04:27 Aug 09, 2020

I will! I don't think I'll have time tonight, maybe tomorrow morning. Is that ok?

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J. Ernst
05:39 Aug 09, 2020

Yes that’s ok. I do appreciate your time.

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Estelle Westley
06:10 Aug 08, 2020

Absolutely brilliant story. I loved this read. I stand to correction about your paragraph near the end but I think a door is hung. A person is hanged for a crime.😊 I can't wait for more.

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Phebe Emmanuel
06:52 Aug 08, 2020

Oh, right! LOL :) Will fix, thank you!

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María Barrios
02:53 Aug 08, 2020

I liked this piece so much. A unique world unfolded in front of my eyes. The only thing I would change in it would be the length, I think it could be expanded in more words, but I adore your writing style as is. I'm truly longing for a follow-up. Thank you for following me btw. I have recently submitted a new piece, would you mind checking it? María

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Phebe Emmanuel
06:48 Aug 08, 2020

Of course, anytime!

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