Reply To: Den monthly competition September 2018


The Power Word

Jeff stood by the rounded tree, whose branches were starting to sag. The leaves had turned a papery shade of brown, the trunk would whiten next, and then it would be only him and the dead earth. Not even a microbe.

Clouds topped the blue air. Did he regret having used the power word? What had possessed him? Jealousy, he supposed. Boyish anger. But what cruel creator could allow such a device? What purpose could it serve? It wasn’t his fault such an appalling thing had been left lying about. A self-destruct button, that’s what purpose it served. A great big cosmic I-told-you-so-but-you-wouldn’t-listen.

By now contrails in the sky were a memory. Had birds fluttered across the valley just then, they would have startled him rather badly. The day he had uttered those syllables, that phrase had consigned him to life everlasting even as his schoolyard tormentors grew up, grew old and then died. Then their children. And their children’s children, while centuries spanned into millennia upon millennia til the wind was his only companion. And hunger. And pain from infestations and tumours that had taken root and ballooned in him, even though the power word would not, for the sake of a moment’s forgotten vindication, let him die.

“Where is God in all this?” he cried. Pages from Bibles spoke of names long gone, of ice ages that came and went, came again, and still Jeff hurled himself from the branches of the rounded tree to smack onto jagged rock, or breathed in lungfuls of toxic waters. Nothing. Limb separated from limb, to crawl back to his body, a spurned lover who cannot bear solitude. And even these diversions were denied him when the oceans turned to vapour and the mountains flattened to desert with every visible increase of the sun’s reddening disc.

Every bit of him would be sizzled away, yet something awful would persist. There must be a reverse word to counteract the effects of the spell. He tried saying it backwards. The heat mocked his efforts – this power word was a one-shot gift.

The rounded tree was dead. Through clouds and steam the approaching red disk pressed close. One day, Jeff thought. One day, the sun.

Time runs funny the nearer one gets to a celestial body. Something might happen. Could he go back? Would he have the nerve to never give voice to those words?

#400w excl.