Wednesday Challenge- August 7

For last week’s challenge:

Spohie Bonaste wrote Perfection Under the Setting Sun


This week’s prompt: Earthquake


Don’t forget to check out Layla’s prompt of “Hospitals” on her site:



  1. I think it was probably the discussion of “Clan of the Cave Bear” earlier that made me go this direction with the prompt. 😀

    Wolf Heart and Darklight

    Looking back, he saw the signs, the portents.

    Looking back, he saw what he should have seen before.

    But the gods do not lay their signs like tracks upon the land, to be easily understood. The gods hold their secrets close, tucked away like bright pebbles hidden under clay.

    Things had gone wrong that morning. Crouching over the pit fire, Wolf Heart’s wife Sky Eyes was painstakingly grinding a mix of dried berries and bearfat on a flat rock, tilting the rock toward the fire to make the fat melt. “Oh!” she cried as the rock tumbled into the fire. That would have been breakfast for the children.

    “It’s all right,” Wolf Heart said. He left off flaking a flint spear point — he’d fractured one already, ruining a good blank, another thing gone wrong — and he put an arm around her, kissed the top of her head.

    She looked up at him, knowing him well, saying more with her eyes than with her words. “Are you going hunting?”

    “I may be gone some days. There are mammoth in the east.”

    She just nodded. “Where the shaman’s caves are.”

    “Where the shaman’s caves are,” he agreed.

    “Be well,” she said, “and come back when you can.”

    They’d been engaged in early childhood: That is the girl you’ll marry, his mother had said, pointing to a small chubby girl with hints of red in her curly hair. And they were friends now. They understood each other.

    Some had it worse.

    Wolf Heart kissed the children goodbye — his boy was four winters, his girl two, and he doted on them both. Then he picked up his spear and went walking with long, swinging strides. Walking east, into the rising sun.

    It was a raw world, a young world. The glaciers were not long gone off the land. Lakes dotted the glacier-torn landscape, and as he walked, geese and ducks rose from their small bright pools — hundreds of them, thousands of them, dark against the sun. They were distressed and crying for no reason he could see.

    Another portent he would later remember.

    He saw the tracks of mammoths, sometimes a great hank of dark brown hair, recently shed from a winter coat. The animals were good luck, and though he was not hunting them today, he hoped to see one.

    He didn’t.

    The caves gaped dark in a low limestone ridge that rose from the tundra. Wolf Heart leaped over a stream frothing at the foot of the white-gold cliff. “Are you there?” he called. His voice echoed from the rocks, sent a few swallows darting out into the sky, not to return.

    There was no answer. Darklight must be deep in the caves, waking the spirit of the rock with paint and brush. I only bring out what is already there, he’d said once. They had been lying cheek to cheek, warm and sated, their naked bodies wound together in a nest of reindeer furs on the floor of Darklight’s favorite cave. Overhead, a herd of horses danced across the ceiling. In the flickering firelight, their legs seemed to move. Each of the neatly rendered bodies was built across a ridge in the stone, so that the firelight fell upon them and created natural-seeming roundness to their bodies. I look at the rock and I see the spirit within it, and I bring it out, Darklight had said, his breath stirring Wolf Heart’s hair.

    I don’t know how you can do that, Wolf Heart had said. I can only kill things. I can’t see what you see.

    That’s why I’m me and you’re you, Darklight said. He was always saying things like that.

    A hare darted from the rocks beneath Wolf Heart’s feet, making him jump. It shot past him and vanished into the low scrub of the tundra. As he turned to follow its spear-straight path, he heard the low rumble rising in the ground beneath his feet.

    Because he was looking out across the tundra, he saw the ripple traveling toward him, a visible movement across the shadow-dappled ground. The ground wrenched hard, sideways and back. He staggered and fell to one knee. From behind him there was a greater rumble, and he whirled, breathless, to see chalk-white dust billowing from the mouths of two of the caves. The ceilings had collapsed.

    He had fallen in the stream and he crouched with one hand on the rocks and the white water snarling past his knees. The caves. Darklight. And Sky Eyes and the children — surely she’d have heard it coming, surely she’d have gotten the children to safety. Anyway, their rock shelter at home, with the rest of the tribe in the winter quarters — it was safe, it was solid, it was hard granite that had not fallen through all the many generations of the tribe that had lived and died and had been buried there.

    They were all right. Surely. They must be. Those caves had weathered earthquakes before and would do so again.

    But the limestone caves — the soft rock —

    He scrambled out of the water and began to climb, desperate and frantic. The dust was choking, a fine layer of chalk settling on his hair and skin.


    A section of path gave way beneath his feet, sending him sliding down the hillside in a shower of dirt and gravel until he managed to fling out his arms and stop himself. The ground was still shaking, he realized as he crouched with his hands buried in the tough grass that grew in the thin earth covering crumbly, slippery rock. It was not constant, just an occasional shudder, but it was enough to make dust billow from another of the caves.

    He called his lover’s name again and continued to climb, using hands and feet on the suddenly unstable hillside. He’d climbed this path dozens of times, but now it was cracked and fragile. His heart felt the same: once solid, now crumbling.

    “Wolf Heart?” a voice called back, a faint and unsteady voice — and this lent him the strength of his namesake; he bounded up the hillside, scrambled to the open mouth of the largest cave just as Darklight staggered out. The shaman was white with chalk dust, his dark hair plastered to his head with blood.

    Wolf Heart caught him and kissed him — his mouth was gritty; it tasted of sand — then just as quickly pushed him back to feel him up and down every limb. He seemed to be basically unhurt, just dazed. The blood on the side of his face was from a series of scrapes along his cheek and temple.

    Wolf Heart led him down the hillside, away from the unstable caves. Darklight came like a man in a dream. When they got to solid ground and Wolf Heart finally turned and looked at him, though, it wasn’t fear he saw in the shaman’s eyes — it was a kind of ecstatic elation.

    “Are you all right?” Wolf Heart asked him.

    Darklight blinked, then focused on him. “What?”

    Wolf Heart made him sit down beside the stream, dipped up water in his hands and washed away the worst of the dust and blood. Darklight continued to stare around him, at the plains and the hillside, as if he had never seen it before, as if he hadn’t lived most of his life here.

    “I was deep in the back,” he said suddenly, “painting, bringing the living creatures out of the rock. I had a lamp with me.”

    He paused.

    Wolf Heart had gathered a handful of soft moss and was using it to wipe the shaman’s face. “Yes?” he prompted at last.

    “I don’t know. I — I felt as if the earth spoke to me, not in words, but something like …” Darklight hesitated. He was started to come back down, to become seated in his body again, but a hint of that eerie excitement came into his eyes again. “Like a song, distantly heard, like — I don’t even know, but it told me to run. So I did — I dropped my paints and scrambled for the mouth of the cave. If I’d stayed back there, I’d have been crushed.”

    “Lucky,” Wolf Heart said.

    Darklight shook his head fiercely. “Not luck. Not at all.”

    “I don’t know of voices from the earth,” Wolf Heart said. “I’m just a simple hunter. What I do know –” He took Darklight’s face between his damp palms and kissed him, more deeply this time. “What I know is that I thought you were dead, and if the gods of the earth saved you, then I will sacrifice a part of every kill to them, from now until forever.”

    He pulled Darklight to him, and buried his face in the other man’s dusty hair. Darklight gripped him back, and for a long time, no one moved or spoke beneath the slowly circling sun.

  2. Pingback: Flashfic – “Wolf Heart & Darklight” | Layla M. Wier

  3. A Pile of Rubble

    Gone. Everything was just gone.

    Kicking a piece of rubble out of my way, I continued to walk down my street. Or what was left of it. Every house on the street was in ruins, trees and their limbs everywhere. The emergency crews had finally broken down and allowed us to go to our houses to see if there was anything left. We were warned ahead of time that it was bad, but I never thought that it would be this bad. At least Jimmy and the kids were spared from seeing this.

    As I walked farther down the street, I thought about how Jimmy was going to handle this. We had already been through so much in our life together. Growing up in the South, we had both had to deal with homophobia after coming out in high school. Sure, the hatred around us brought us closer together, but it still stung. We continued to face bouts of homophobia through college and grad school. It started to diminish after undergraduate school, but it was still there.

    I know it is something that still scares, Jimmy. He is still afraid someone is going to hurt him or me because we are gay. In fact, that was one of the reasons he never wanted to have kids. He didn’t want to be hurt. It took me three years to convince him that it would be fine. That we would make sure of it. I know that he still didn’t believe me when we started the adoption process. He just went along with it because I wanted to. Of course, his heart melted when we first got our son.

    Things started to look up after that. We got our two kids, a boy and a girl. Jimmy’s job as a producer was looking better and better. There was even talk that his new show might be up for an Emmy this year. My marketing firm was safely in the black. And, best of all, the homophobic comments all but ended once we got to Los Angeles. It was amazing.

    And then this. I knew that earthquakes were common in this area, but I never imagined that one would devastate us. Everything that Jimmy and I worked so hard for. Destroyed.

    Finally, I stood in front of the house Jimmy and I worked so hard to create. It was in shambles. I had a hard time even calling it a house any more. It was just a pile of debris and rumble. I let tears running down my face as I looked at the pile. There was nothing left here. All of the mementos that I had built up over the years. Some of those things were irreplaceable. But now they were lost forever.

    Knowing that there was nothing that I could do, I turned away and headed back up the street. As I walked, I tried to think on the bright side. I tried to think about how Jimmy and our kids were safe at a hotel. Nothing had happened to them in the earthquake. That was really I could ask for. As long as I had them, we could rebuild. They were the most important things in my life. And as long as I had them, we would be okay.

    At least that is what I tried to tell myself as I walked through the devastation. But somehow, as much as I loved my family, in that moment it didn’t seem like enough. I knew one day it would be. One day we would put our lives back together. But right now, it seems as broken as the house that Jimmy and I built together.

  4. Pingback: Wednesday Challenge- August 14 | Brynn Stein

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