Hello Readers, Writers, and Friends,
Today’s flash fiction come to you from northern Arizona as I am on a retreat where the clouds are dropping rain and the wind is something fierce. I love it. I’m looking forward to a whole weekend of pine-scented glory and maybe a little writing.
But enough idle chatter. Today’s prompts are smoke and a member of the clergy. (Remember my post about what makes a good prompt? These totally fit the description).
Maybe it was the constant exposure to incense that dulled Brother Franco’s senses. He simply rolled over and went back to sleep when he smelled it. It wasn’t until the bells started tolling long before the hour that he realized something was wrong.
Byt hen, of course, there wasn’t much he could do but run for it like everyone else. He stumbled over his dark robes as he made his way out of the dormitory. There it was. Half the cathedral already in flames.
The smoke stung now, his nose and throat. He coughed as he looked around for a away he could help. The fire department was just pulling up, lights flashing, a mere flicker next to the conflagration. But he knew they were too late. Too late to save the great edifice that had drawn eyes toward heaven and instilled faith in the community for generations. It had taken a generation to build, and now the stained-glass windows’ filigree was melting. St. Peter bursting on the ground below, fallen from his lofty place.
“Some of my best work.”
The voice startled Franco for all its stillness, just behind him. He shouldn’t have been able to hear anything over the sirens and the roar of the flames. But the smug satisfaction in the voice insisted on being heard.
He turned and found a man impeccably dressed watching the ruination with a perverse delight.
“Father Richards is in there you know. So pious even at the age of eighty-five.”
“He’s not supposed to say the late night prayers anymore,” Brother Franco said, stupid with sleep and shock. “His hands shake too much to–“
“Right the candles, yes I know. It was too easy.I didn’t;t even have to jostle that candle. He fumbled it all himself.” The man practically cackled. “But my best work is usually simple. The tiniest nudge. The simplest lie.”
“What lie?” If the devastation before him was really the result of Father Richard’s aged fingers then it was a tragedy. But that was all. An accident. A horrible accident.
“I told him it was fine. That’s all.” The stranger shoved his hands into his pockets, the self-congratulatory smile never leaving his face. “He didn’t need to listen to the other priests and their overly concerned griping. He was “Father Richard” after all. He had been showing his devotion for so long he needn’t worry about a little tremor fo the hand. ‘This is fine” I whispered to him and he believed and now look, look at what one innocent lie can do in the heart of a proud man.”
Franco would never had described Father Richard as proud. He was so kind and thoughtful. But then memories came back. Moments when Father Richard had seemed frustrated by his aging body, moments when he wanted nothing more than to go back to being the priest he was as a young man, seeing to the poor, taking other’s confession and walking through repentance.
“See? Not so humble at the end,” the stranger said as if privy to Franco’s thoughts.
These days Father Richard mostly did paperwork and counseled quarreling married couples. He hadn’t been allowed to perform the mass in months, the younger men of his order taking their place as the leaders must be when he was gone. And now, if what this stranger said was true, he had gone to his eternal rest in a nearly unspeakable way. Betrayed by the hands that had lifted so many, because they could not accept that it was time to rest.
The stranger’s eyes glowed in the light of the fire, watching Franco now with a kind of hungry curiosity.
“Who are you?” Franco asked in voice so low he didn’t even hear it above the noise.
The stranger smiled all the wider, becoming a feral beast with teeth ready to snap and bite, but nothing about him had really changed as far as Franco could see. Still his heart pounded a vehement warning. He needed to tell someone about Father Richard. He needed to help. But he stayed rooted to the spot as the stranger reached into his coat pocket and produced a card.
Franco took it in hands that trampled worse than Father Richards’ ever had.
It was black on black. Slick reflective writing printed on dark, high quality card stock. The light of the fire catching the letters just enough for Franco to read by.
Lucifer: Father of Lies
I hope you enjoyed today’s impromptu fictional sprint. Please feel free to comment with your own riff on these prompts or link to where we can find what you have written. Hope your weekend is restful and full of the truth.