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Old World Burdens

by Gregory Fahrenbruck about a year ago in science fiction
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My steps pounding the stairs as I make my way to the roof of the school. My breath horse and my body aching already from my previous encounter with those boys—the bullies.

“Why do they want me to fight them so badly,” I ask aloud coming to the forth floor of this all in one school for kindergarten though twelfth grade.

A door leading to the roof ajar and sobbing coming from behind it. They do have her, they brought my sweet sister into this…

Ramming the door open I’m blinded by the brightness of the sun before my eyes adjust and I feel my arms being restrained by two of the three bullies here. I haven't been here more than a month, I don’t remember there names, are they mad about that?

“Skyler!” My sister yells trying to puller herself away from Todd, he’s the only one that I have committed his name to my memory. After my first day here he gave me something known as a swirly.

“Yes, Skyler, are you going to finally give us that fight?” Todd asks, rising my sister up by one arm so she hangs. Kate, she’s quite small for a girl her age, only a year below me, while Todd looks to be an older teen, and apparently has been held back one too many times.

Struggling the two stooges chuckle at me, “he hasn’t laid a finger on you, why would he this time?” One asks while the other answers.

“Because he loves his sister, we harm her, we may get aggression from him finally.”

They chuckle again and Todd smiles, “right, if I lay a finger on Kate...” His hand drops from her arm, and she tries to run towards me but her grabs her around the waist with his flabby arm. Pushing her back some and taking his other hand and holding her by the back of the neck, his free arm swings back, than forward.

A shriek leaves my sisters mouth as she falls backwards, getting slugged in the stomach and keeling over, coughing.

They let me go in that same instant but I’m frozen, I can’t get myself to fight them even if they are telling me to, even if I know I have to to get them to stop, my body just won’t move. Why can’t we just talk it out, why do they have to be mean, and toward someone who doesn’t have anything to do with them. I don’t have anything to do with them, they just want me to fight. Yet I take it.

Todd only frowns as he sees me looking at my sister who’s in clear pain, “how much of a pansy are you...”

“I’m a pacifist.” I answer back. “I’m not going to fight you.” Still, my mind is racing, why won’t you, why am I not fighting back?

He grits his teeth at me and nods to his friends to come to him while I remain motionless, watching on as he bends over Kate and kicks her. “Really, you can’t even fight to defend the ones you love?”

I think I see her cough up some blood as she begs me, “please brother, just fight...”

Todd gets down on his knees and grabs her face in his hands, squeezing it and pointing her towards me, “I gave her a black eye just for you.”

Still noting for me, even with my body yelling at me, telling me to fight I won’t do it, it’s not right, it’s never been right.

“Boy, you don’t give me any other choice then...” He takes my silences and picks up Kate, walking toward the edge of the building, there are no fences like there are on many other roof tops in the city here. “It’s not suppose to get this drastic, but there are no longer any options.”

His voice changes, more deeper, while he still has his eyes on me, “Kate will have to die to get you to do anything won’t she?”

She begins bawling as I watch on, move it, stop thinking right or wrong and just attack this bastard! My mind spinning as he now carries Kate in both arms, keeping her snug as she tries to struggle, “your brother is pathetic.” He says, releasing Kate over the edge of the building her scream fading before too long and I have already charged at Todd. My mind going blank as I let nothing tell me no.

Swinging my fist right at his face he looks surprised but smiles as all the light, the noises of the city and the laughter that was coming for his friends fade. Instead a new scream and the sound of skin on skin echos in the dimly lit room. The candles around us flickering and in front of me, an old man with a busted lip still smiling as I remove my fist from his cheek.

Right...I’m here to learn of the Old World Burden of Wrath. I think I have…

“Been a while since I’ve had that long of a trance, you did not make it easy.” He tells me, than looks besides us to a woman who looks shocked, “Carnation, how long would you say that was?”

She stutters as I slump back down sitting cross-legged before the man, “I would say almost a whole lunar phase.”

“That long,” he looks surprised, “I must thank you for tending to us for so long than, most times it only takes a few hours.” He now looks to me, “both to go on for so long, even after facing down all the previous Burdens, you must have a very strong will. Every Burden you take on brings you closer to what they fear, Modern Man.

“I didn’t mean to punch you, Wrath.” I respond and he shakes his head.

“Wrath is the strongest of the Burdens as it’s unbridled rage. You reacted here instead of in the trance because of that. You see now that it’s impossible to control...”

“What do you mean, I was controlling it fine, you egged me on.”

“You carry the other Burdens as well, I can see why the elders are hesitant in allow you to continue, but you won’t stop will you?”

I stare at my fist, my eyes adjusting to the light, my aura slightly changing, a mixture of red glows around my fist, even some blood remains from punching Wrath. “Yes. I know that we’re missing something, that getting rid of the Burdens isn’t an option, but I am not sure what the alternative is. Seeking them out, I feel as if I can come to an answer for myself, as well as stopping that dream.”

Carnation interrupts, “The one where you get burned by the fire you created?”

I nod as my vision fades and I start to sway. “Wrath...”

He looks at me, “it’s been a long time since we’ve moved, you body maybe a bit stiff, why not get some sleep.”

Agreeing I rise, staggering myself into a room away from them and lying myself on the cold bed with a single pillow and blanket on top made from the wool of the sheep that Wrath tends. Taking in a deep breath I’m instantly asleep.

His frown returns as he stares, “Carnation, both of you know that was only an example of what I have to offer him...”

I nod, “but that was awful, I felt him in a panic the whole time you two were in the trance.”

“It gets worst,” he laughs, “as clinical as I’ve become carrying this Burden, it’s noting compared to what he needs to experience now. He will get a break for three days before we continue, but I can’t tell him how it all will end. But you can know.”

“Wh...what do you mean?”

He grows somber as he speaks, “The last part of Wrath is experiencing it’s extreme, a war...World’s End War, do you know anything about that event?”

Shaking my head, “I only know that it’s what ended the Old World.”

“He’s going to have to experiences that, and the longer that damn fool stays in the trance like he did the more agony he’ll be feeling.”

I can already feel Wrath’s intent radiating in my aura, making me feel queasy, but I have to ask why, and his response silences me.

“When we leave the trance, he’ll murder me, just like I did to the previous Wrath a thousand years ago.” His face masked by the dancing firelight as he gives a smile, “don’t stop him.”

science fiction

About the author

Gregory Fahrenbruck

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