Another Flash Fiction Challenge from Chuck Wendig, this time the story must contain psychic powers selected randomly from a list.*
The ground shuddered again, harder. Some massive beast twitching in slumber, on the verge of waking. Kotah could feel the tremors run up the callused soles of his feet and join his drumming heart. The blue tattoos that patterned his chest and shoulders were interrupted by gashes that oozed blood. He could barely feel them. The venom was beginning to set in, he thought. It wouldn’t be long now. Animals fled past him on either side, predator and prey together. Above it all, birds rose like columns of black smoke over the shaking trees. He looked at the bow in his hand, carved and painted so carefully by his love, Caia. The wood was cracked and he could feel splinters prick his palm. The bowstring hung slack. Kotah let it fall, as she had fallen. He could not bear to look again at her sightless eyes, her copper skin that already seemed gray, the inky feathers of her hair he once tangled around his fingers. His bare chest heaved as a spasm of pain shot through the deepest cut.
The shamans said a great evil would come and destroy the whole world. He and the other warriors had scoffed. The shamans always saw darkness in the smoke and ill omens in the entrails of the beasts they gutted for their rituals. Caia had believed them, he thought. He saw the fear in her tawny eyes when they spoke. But he soothed her, as he always did. The Kitsenye had never been defeated. The legends of their victory spanned ages, beyond the memory of even the oldest shaman. Kotah was marked as a warrior of the Kitsenye at thirteen, over twelve years ago. He rose among the men until he stood second only to the chief and the shamans. With each kill and each new line added to the maze of blue across his chest and back, he grew proud. Proud to be a warrior of the Kitsenye.
“The Kitsenye are second only to the gods,” he told his men before each battle.
Who were the gods really? He often asked himself. Their stone and wood images never spoke to him and he never heard their voices over the noise of the shamans’ chanting and wailing. As men fell beneath his arrows and his knives, he knew there were no gods. There were only the shamans with their superstitions and stories and the warrior, bathed in the blood of victory.
Kotah realized he was on his knees on the rocky ground, hands gripping his skull, shaved except for the ridge of thick black hair that ran down it, ending in a tail that was braided with blue beads, one for every ten kills. This was the wrath of the gods. He had scoffed at them, scorned their power, and now a force such as the Kitsenye had never seen had come to the island. Their strange craft that flew through the air as the pirogues did through water, creating a wind that shook the tops of the trees. They set beasts loose on the island, beasts with too many legs and too many eyes, whose foul breath could stun and whose venom tipped claws could kill.
The thunder of the enemy’s skyboats died away after only a few days, then earthquakes began. The shamans had sent the old and the sick, the children and the unwed women in the pirogues when the strange beasts first appeared. But it was too late now. The island had been lifted—by magic, by the hand of the gods, by the attackers with their machines, Kotah did not know. He had stood at the brink of what had once been the shore and gazed down at the ocean that roiled far below, as though the island was a strange flower that suddenly sprouted. As the tremors worsened, Kotah knew that the island was teetering on its weak stem of earth and whatever sorcery their attackers had used. He knew it would not be long now before the waves battered away at the base and the island of the Kitsenye and all those left alive toppled into the ocean.
He was still on his knees, and the quivers were so violent that they almost threw him flat. He struggled to stand, the ground bucking beneath his feet and began to run. He could almost hear the core of the island beginning to crack under the strain. He knew chunks of land had been plummeting into the sea for days, crumbling off the shoreline. He did not look back. Caia was no longer there, just the shell that once held all he loved. He set his gaze on the great white stone that stood at the center of the island, a spike of glistening rock that the shaman’s claimed was a way to speak to the gods. He did not have to cut his palm to smear blood on the pristine surface—his lifeblood already mingled with the sweat that poured over his body.
As soon as his crimsoned fingers touched the stone he felt a strange force run through him, as if lightning struck nearby. He still felt the rough surface beneath his fingers and the island shaking beneath his feet, but suddenly he was blinking in a dim room, staring at a group of men. They stared back at him, mouths hanging open like pink caverns in their fleshy white faces. They sat around a large wooden table, covered with the remains of a feast.
“The Kitsenye…have fallen…all….lost,” Kotah struggled to speak, feeling as though a great weight was pressing on his chest.
The men simply stared and the weight pressed harder and harder until Kotah, gasping, found himself back on the heaving island. He slumped to the ground, blood watering his crumbling land.
“Well, looks like that little problem’s been taken care of,” the general said, brushing crumbs off his lapel. “Phone the Prime Minister and let him know the first phase is complete.”
* I received bilocation. And I may have cheated. Sue me