I’ve never tried this before, so this should be intersting.
Every week Chuck Wendig posts a Flash Fiction challenge on his blog terribleminds (fantastic blog, by the way), and I thought I’d try it out– I mean, sounds like fun, right?
Usually short stuff is tricky for me (hence the maxed-out word count), so… this is going to be some good practice.
This week the challenge is to take one of the lines given to us and use it as the first sentence in a piece no longer than 1,000 words.
Okay… here goes…
• • •
The Shifting of Light
Life was easier before killing all the rabbits. Before they all died out. Before the snow foxes starved to death.
When I was a little girl and my Nana was still alive, she would always tell me about the Shifting Ears, the polar rabbits. After a day out in the bitter snows of late autumn, my papa and I would come back to our home, back to Nana. As night fell we traded our castle of ice for one of earth and fire, one of logs that creaked, of a fireplace that struggled.
When we came home my Nana would sit me on her knee near the fire to warm me, though she was probably too brittle to bear my weight. She braided my hair down my back to look like hers. She sang to me in a language I did not understand, from a place she said most couldn’t remember. And one night, she told me her story.
Shifting Eyes. Shifting Ears. The Shifting of Light.
When my Nana was young, the rabbits were very common. The Shifting Ears, they called them. In winter they were the color of cream, but as the seasons changed, winter white turned to summer brown, and the rabbits would change their seasonal coats.
Every day, my Nana and her friends would set out with their weapons to hunt. But they were never to hunt the Shifting Ears. They were sacred creatures. Only through them could one reach the Shifting of the Light, along with the Shifting Eyes.
To see both Shifting Ears and Shifting Eyes together was a rare blessing from the spirits. The Shifting Eyes were the snow foxes, shifting coats much like the polar rabbits.
Shifting Eyes could see everything in crisp detail. They could count the feathers of an eagle ascending, though the eagle was high in the air, my Nana would say, her voice frail. And the Shifting Ears could hear a lynx’s footsteps from many miles away, perhaps even before the lynx had taken them.
Snow foxes hunted the polar rabbits, but there were always more hares than foxes. The balance was kept right, never shifting too far.
So to see them together was nearly impossible; and yet, my Nana had seen them. Seen, and followed.
That day Nana and her friends were crossing the lake, frozen over from winter. They had been warned not to; the closer it came to spring, the thinner the ice became. But they did anyway.
We were fools, my Nana said. We did not listen to our elders. We heeded no warnings.
On that day my Nana’s youngest brother would fall in. He would drown in the crackling of ice and the bite of snow, and none could save him.
If only it were anyone but him. I loved my brother. But we hadn’t listened. We had killed him.
And so Nana and her friends asked the spirits for help. They wanted to go to the Shifting of the Light. Legend said that in the Shifting of the Light, the souls of the dead were able to flutter to earth like beams of sunlight, and the living could see them again.
The spirits answered them, and from the forest rose a pair of animals—the fox and the rabbit.
The Shifting Eyes and Shifting Ears beckoned them, follow, follow. And so Nana and her friends would follow them, through valley and pine. The Shifting Ears and Shifting Eyes knew the path though they had never followed it. They heard the singing and saw the light far before my Nana could. And they followed.
They were brought to an unfamiliar place. Stars began to cluster in the dark sky. The ground was covered in an even snow. Tall pines pointed upwards.
Light came in ribbons and streaks like paint across the night. The forest sang with an unearthly humming, and there were voices resonating in the air. And down from the light came my Nana’s brother, glowing as brilliantly as a star.
But we were fools. We did not listen.
Eagerly my Nana tried to get her brother to go with her, to leave his place amongst the stars and to fall back to earth.
But it couldn’t be done, you see. He was in the Shifting of the Light. He was light himself—different now. One cannot simply capture sunlight and force it into a jar. He was dead, and we couldn’t raise him.
The light faded. They mourned the death of Nana’s brother, screaming and wailing. And in a rage, they had used their hunting weapons to attack the only thing that was left—the Shifting Ears and Shifting Eyes.
They went on to hunt down every last hare they could find.
Every last rabbit was murdered.
Every last fox had starved.
This angered the spirits greatly. Hard frosts fell upon the land, with shorter summers and frigid winters. Food supplies dwindled. Every animal turned to attack any human it saw.
Her people were hunted by animals and starved by frost. And no person could ever again speak to the dead.
My Nana came to regret her actions. She tried to right what she had done, but couldn’t. She knew that when it came time for her to die, she would see no light—her crimes were too great; her heart to heavy. She’d never see her brother again.
That evening ended with my Nana shedding tears that she was too weak to wipe away.
I am trying to tell you these things because I doubt I will be reunited with you after death. Please, remember what I have said.
In the winter my Nana passed away. She did not get another chance to tell me her story again. But I do not worry. She might have upset the spirits once, but there was hope for her. In her old age, her coat could have changed from the dark color that it once was.
The light is always shifting.