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Monthly Archives: August 2011


How do we measure success?

For the past thirteen days I’ve been consistently writing a new piece of fiction (if we don’t count weekdays, my vacation, and the two parters). As it draws on, I’m starting to get the itch to turn my focus back to my major projects. The goal of this self imposed challenge was to learn how to break some bad habits I have. One of those being editing while writing. It is a major hindrance to getting something done. I get so focused on each individual sentence and if it sounds right that I can’t move on and just get the story down on the page. Because of that, I gave myself the challenge.

With it I didn’t have time to consider each sentence. I just had to write. Get the sentences down and worry about editing later. I feel like I achieved that goal. Daily I was able to get out of my way and just write. Was everything good? Not at all. Did I get some good ideas out of it? Absolutely.

But, I feel to some degree I’m letting myself down by not going through with all thirty days. On the other hand, it is a self imposed challenge that had a simple goal that was met. So, should I keep slogging through with it or switch gears and get cracking on my major projects with a renewed vigor?

After some thought, I have decided that changing my focus is the right thing to do. My ideas are burning again and I don’t want to waste the energy. Thanks to those that read each one and gave me their thoughts. It was a fun thirteen days. Now, I don’t think I’ll stop these little flash fiction exercises all together. They’re fun and I can explore different ideas quickly. So I imagine I’ll be doing them now and then. Just to keep the juices flowing.

Seems like the right thing to do, right? Write.


Day 13: The Boy of Bone pt. 2

The marker was not hard to find again. A bird, full of bright plumage, rested upon the arm of the small skeleton. The bird preened itself, squawked down at William, then flew off deeper into the jungle following the skeletal direction. Sergeant William looked back to the river. Now I have a proper guide, he thought, and followed after the bird.

Inside the deep jungle, the foilage was thick and tangled William’s feet beneath him. He crashed loudly through the underbrush, his hatchet lost to the river. William crushed down small trees and bushes beneath his boots to clear a path. Several times, unable to push through the dense jungle, he worked his way around. He was relatively sure he was heading in a straight path.

It was the bird above that gave him that hope. Staying just ahead, it landed from limb to limb. Waiting until William reached it before flying to the next spot. Excitement had taken root in William’s stomach. With each step the fire was stoked and spurred him forward.

Hours had passed and the sun dipped down into the horizon. Overhead the canopy caused the jungle to be thrown into darkness sooner than the explorer had anticipated. He had lost count of the times he had to stop and search for the bird’s next perch. William caught up with the bird and watched it fly west into the black jungle. When would he get there? Had he been following this animal for no reason? The questions ran through his mind as he fought against snagging branches and tripping roots.

He kept his eyes up at all times, looking for the bird, but unease set in. He should have seen it by now, he thought. It had not been so long as this before. William turned in a slow circle, looking for the bird. But it was no where to be found. Then a rustling above and behind him caught his ear.

He spun, but so nothing.

Again the rustling but now to his left.

William turned to it and darted forward, hoping to see the bird.

Another rustling but to his right.

Running after it he cried out to the bird.

The jungle fell out from beneath him.

Sergeant William tumbled down a steep ravine and landed hard on an outcropping of roots. A sharp pop echoed from his left shoulder and the fire of pain lanced down his arm. He let out a scream of agony. William flopped onto his back, his left arm was stiff and stuck to his side. The explorer breathed deeply, escaping into his own mind to shut out the pain. He should have waited for his guide. How stupid he was to follow a bird.

The sounds of the jungle were ominous as the sun dropped behind the horizon. He would need to rest. Then find his way back to the river.

A bird worrbled behind him. Its song echoed and bounced. William looked back. A cave opening, naturally within the side of the ravine, gaped wide. Large rock formations, pointed and fierce, jutted from the top and bottom of the opening. Just above the opening, the gray rock was carved to appear as if it had eyes and a blocky, hooked nose.

“The hardened face of gray.”

William pushed himself to his feet, and stumbled into the dark opening. Unable to see, he fumbled within his pants pocket and retrieved a metal square. With his thumb, he flipped open the top then struck the wheel, hoping for a spark. The lighter stayed dark. He shook the lighter vigorously then struck the wheel again. It sparked and caught fire. The small orange glow illuminated the tight cave. William licked his parched lips, and descended down.

He took the uneven surface carefully. Each step sending a shock of pain through his shoulder. The cave twist and turned. Ahead, he swore he heard the flutter of wings. More time passed as the delirious man walked further down.

Time had ceased to be comprehensible to William. Only the lyrics kept him company.

He could not tell how long he had hear it, but his cloudy mind snapped into focus when he caught the sound of rushing water. William stumbled over his own feet as he rushed forward.

“There life eternally lies.”

Sergeant William Faucett stumbled into a large cave. A torrent of water poured out from the ceiling above, filling a large pool. It sparkled and appeared to be illuminated from within by a soft blue light.

“It is here. I have found it after all these years.” William cast down his lighter and with reverence, slowly made his way to the pool. The mist of the falling water cooled his hot skin. His mouth fell open, ready to drink its fill. The pain of his arm ebbed away with each step closer to the water.

The pool rippled and waved from the crashing water above. Sergeant William bent down and reached a dirt covered hand into the pool. He cupped his palm and dipped it in.

From the water, a bloated arm shot from the roiling water and latched onto the explorer. William’s eyes went wide. He pulled hard against the hand but could not break it’s grip. With a hard jerk, the algae covered arm pulled William into the pool.

Beneath the water, a dozen bloated bodies surrounded the sergeant. They all turned to him, their eyes glowing a faint blue. More hands wrapped themselves around William as he struggled to break free. But they were strong. So strong. And the water was so cool and refreshing.

Perhaps. Perhaps he could just stay within the water. Yes. Beneath the water. Forever.


Day 12: The Boy of Bone pt. 1

The bob of the river boat made William sick. Planes. He liked planes better. They were smooth, solid, and the sound of the engines propeller was enpowering. The putter of the river boat reverbarated in his body, jostling that mornings toast and jerky in his stomach. It rumbled, threatening to be retched into the water.

William leered over his shoulder at his jungle guide. The Brazilian native grinned, his gums were covered in grime and three yellow teeth jutted upward. The native nodded affirmatively at William. Aggreeing to some assumed question. William shook his head in disgust and turned back to the river ahead.

The Amazon stretched out before him. It had been all he’d seen for the past three days. Miles of water surrounded them and thick jungle pressed in on either side. His path had taken him down a forgotten finger of the river. Large populations of Black Caimen lined the banks. And the jungle began to stretch out over the water, like a green giant closing his hand over a stream. The canopy overhead was growing thick, casting dark shadows over the little river boat.

Sergeant William Faucett, pushed down that mornings breakfast then pulled out a weathered map from the pouch of his large traveling pack. The path drawn on the map was seared into his brain from hours of pouring over it. But he continued to check it, just to be sure he hadn’t missed any detail. It had taken fiften years, ten different experts in linguistics, and too many man hours stuck in libraries across the world to dicipher the ancient language written on the scroll. It was his life’s work. A passion to discover what lay within the ancient ruin marked in red.

If the map was to be believed, the signs should be showing up soon. William looked between the map and river. His eyes wide and the protests of his stomach falling to the background. The small boat puttered around a large bend and into the darkness of a heavily canopied tunnel. Bird song and insect noise rose in pitch within the tight space. Overhead, William could see gathering of some type of small primate.

His eyes remained in the trees above. The image of a drawing on the map flashed in his mind. Deeper they traveled into the tunnel, swishing from side to side in the river. Then at last, almost imperceptible were a grouping of bones tied to one of the many limbs overhead. They resembled a small human, bound together by dried animal sinew. One arm stuck out straight; its index finger pointing into the thick of the jungle.

Sergeant William turned back to his guide, “Stop! Stop here,” he quickly put away the map into the pouch on his bag and began gathering his things. The guide only smiled a gummy grin and nodded, continuing their path forward. William looked to the man, waiting for him to stop, but they continued forward. William waved his arms in the man’s face. “I said stop here! I was told you spoke the Queen’s English!” he shouted, hoping the louder he was he would be understood.

But the guide continued on.

Anger seethed inside William. He could feel the heat gathering in his face. Standing up inside the boat, the waved his arms more wildly and pointed toward the shore. “Take me there, you savage!” The boat rocked under this feet with each swing of his hands. The guide’s face turned shocked and he yelled at William in his devil tongue.

“How dare you yell at me. I am a Sergeant in the Queen’s Navy. Now turn this boat around this instance.” William took another step toward the guide. The boat pitched left slowly, then suddenly reversed direction and threw William overboard. The sudden dump into the water panicked the Sergeant. Visions of caimen, piranha and other creatures of viloence attacking him played out in horrific detail in his mind. He screamed and began thrashing to get his head above water. The moment was quick, and Sergeant William popped up with a wail and splash.

Several meters ahead, the guide crouched within his boat staring back at William. He called out more gibberish as the boat disappeard around another bend. The faint spewing of the boat’s engine was quickly swallowed by the sounds of the jungle and William’s racing heart. Fear driven action consumed him, and he splashed haphazardly to the shore.

Sand clung to William’s wet clothes as he laid, panting for breath. Would his guide return? Should he wait? The site is so close though. Just a few meters more into the jungle. So the map said. Another lance of fear struck him in the stomach. William bolted up and pulled his sogging pack off his shoulder and reached into the outer pouch. In his hand, he withdrew the remains of his map. What ink had clung to the faded face now had washed away, and as he held it aloft it split into two pieces. William screamed in rage, then threw the two halves into the river.

No mater, he thought. “I know that map as I know my own face.” Standing, William took up his drenched bag and set off to find the marker. The last words written on the page played through his mind.

“The Boy of Bone points the way.

To the hardened face of gray.

Enter its gullet through gaping mouth wide,

There life eternally lies.”

Man, I’m having a hard time holding it to a single story per day. I’ll finish this up tomorrow and then get better at keeping them shorter for the future.

Day 11: For Tyr! Continued

Contiued from the last post.

The dragirk lowered its head, dug its hind legs into the snow covered ice and pushed off. Behind the beast, water burst up through holes gouged into the ice.

Biorn held the ax over his head, ready to bring it down in a deadly arc. He continued to scream in defiance. The sound of his life’s blood thundered in his ears. The young warrior stared into the green eyes of the creature and readied himself to severe its head.

Just yards away, the dragirk launched itself into a pounce. Its arms were spread wide, claws prepared to rip through the boys simple leather armor.

Biorn dug his heels into the ice in an attempt to change directions. His furred boots slid out from under him and he came down hard on his elbows. The ax flew from his hands and chopped into the ice.

The weakened ice, covered in holes and cracks, groaned. From the impact of the ax, the last crack split and splintered across the lake. Heavy, black claws slammed into the ice around Biorn and the world fell away.

The boy and the beast slid into the icy black depths of the water.

Frigid water sliced through Biorn’s furs. Within a heartbeat he could no longer feel his extremities. He tumbled through the water, unsure of which direction was up. In the water he could feel the dragirk thrashing. With no moon above, it was hopeless for the boy to know which way to swim. His feet landed on the crazed beast and panic struck his heart. Without thinking, he pushed off the dragirk and swam forward.

Biorn swam head first into the ice. His helm took the brunt of the blow and was pushed down over his face. The impact bent the helm, trapping it around his face. He fought to pull the stuck helm from his head — lungs burning from exertion. Time was running out. Biorn spun around, braced his feet against the ice and pushed down on the helm with his hands. What felt like hours, the helm stayed stuck, before popping off the boys head.

It sunk down in the black water. Behind it, the dragirk was swimming upward at full speed toward Biorn. Before he could move, the beast’s bulk slammed into the ice next to the little warrior. The splintered surface gave way under the immense force, carrying blocks of ice and Biorn out of water.

Both boy and beast landed and slid across the surface.

The two laid upon the icy ground. Both gasping for air, their bodies shaking against the night air.

Life was draining from the boy. Each breath felt like daggers being pulled through his chest. His large furs clung to his skinny chest and weighed him down with water and ice. Biorn reached up under his thick mantle and pulled it off. The soggy mass of hair flopped to the ground. Biorn’s stone amulet of Tyr, the god of single combat and glory pounded on his chest as it fell away from the mantel. Biorn gripped it in his fist.

A warmth fell over him. The frost beginning to form over his boots and hair melted. In the center of his chest, where the amulet rested, he could feel power running over him. His small muscles flexed against his drying undershirt. Biorn turned on a heel to face the dragirk.

The giant lizard was slipping on the ice, trying to recover from the wracking cold. Its breathing was labored and its cries feeble like a hurt goat. Biorn stalked over to the creature. The wrath of the warrior god filling him with courage.

He had no weapon upon him but his bare hands. But the thought of how he would manage to kill the monster did not cross his mind. Only the singular desire to end its life filled him.

Walking past a chunk of ice. Biorn stooped and picked it up. Its weight did not slow him. Reaching the dragirk, he hoisted the block of ice above his head, ready to smash the creature’s head in and leave a ruined mess upon the white ground.

The dragirk lashed out with one last bit of effort. Its neck, thick as a ship’s mast, whipped Biorn and knocked him to the ground. It climbed atop the boy before he could react, pinning him down with a two clawed arm. Biorn’s fight washed out of him. The beast had won. The little warrior picked up his amulet of Tyr and held it in his hands.

“I am not worthy.” He said.

The dragirk reared back its head and struck, mouth wide.

A wild thought surged into Biorn in that instant. He stuck out his arm, still gripping the amulet, and jammed it straight into the creature’s mouth. The dragirk choked and tried to pull back from Biorn. But the boy held onto the monster with his other hand, not willing to let it go. Inside, he could feel the dragirk’s tongue and throat work to expel his hand. The wet, slimy insides spasmed as the dragirk tried to scream.

It wrenched and bit down on Biorn’s arm, tearing it off from the shoulder down. It spun and knocked the boy back and onto the shore. The creature kept spinning and choaking. Thrice, it slammed its head upon the ground in an attempt to dislodge the boys arm. Once more it spun and thrashed before slipping and falling back down into the deadly water.

Biorn held is severed stump, a wild grin on his face. Tyr had smiled down upon the boy. The boy who faced death without backing down. A true warrior.

The battle had only lasted a few minutes before the men of the watch arrived. They discovered the boy unconscious through loss of blood. Back in the village, the elders were able to save him. When he awoke, he regaled them with his tale. Of how he defeated the last of the dragirk. From that day, he was honored among the greatest warriors of their village.

Biorn One-Arm. Slayer.

Since I went so long with the second half, I’m going to count this as day 11.

Day 10: For Tyr!

Biorn’s helmet slipped down over his eyes. The skinny viking boy pushed back the hardened-leather helm with practiced repetition. He adjusted his heavy furs and thick iron studded belt. The boy’s clothes hung loose from his tiny frame and his long blonde hair, covered in grime, hung in strands down his back. ‘

A gust of evening wind blew a wisp of snow skittering across the ice of the lake. Biorn hated watch duties. Every new moon and he was subjected to the bitter cold of the lake. Leaning against the boy’s back, as long as he was tall, was a battle notched shaft leading down to an ax head. Many runes, worn down by friction from tiny hands, were carved along its length.

The boy shivered against the wind and watched the opposite side of the lake. Stout pines guarded the other side. Like stalwart sentinels they huddled together, guarding the unknown. Biorn hated them. His great-nana had told him the stories. How these great trees were waiting for the day of Ragnarok, when they would uproot themselves and take vengeance against the men who had cut down their brethren to make their weapons, homes, and ships.

Biorn spat at the ground and crossed his arms beneath his furs.

Nothing ever happened during watches. Not since Yoren defeated the dragirks before Biorn was even able to crawl. The village had posted watches every evening on the East lake, watching for any sign of the monsters return. As the years passed, the number of watchers dwindled and the age of the guardians dropped lower and lower. Now only the young watched the lake, while the warriors ransacked along the coasts.

The heavy dragirk horn, hallowed out and tipped with brass, served as the call to arms. It hung on Biorn’s left hip, and always made him feel as if the weight was causing him to walk crooked. Even at such a young age Biorn knew he was getting the short end of the whole affair.

A wicked idea flashed through his brain. The men left behind to defend the village in case of a dragirk attack would be deep in their mead right now. What would they do if the horn sounded. He chuckled to himself. They’d fall all over themselves trying to muster. Probably hurt each other and look right fools. Would serve them right and would teach them that an attack could still happen at any time.

Biorn’s index finger circled the brass mouth opening. It would serve them right, he repeated to himself. His long reedy fingers wrapped around the black bone. Time they were taught a lesson. The boy lifted the horn to his lips, drew a deep breath, and blew hard into the instrument.

He had expected a blast of  sound that would peel the very night from the sky. But a mournful, dull wail escaped the dragirk horn. Biorn pulled back in surprise, but the note hung like a stink in the air.

Across the lake, the trees shuddered.

A tingling started at the base of Biorn’s spine and crawled up to the back of his neck, causing the hairs to stand on end.

Deep within the trees, the horns call was answered. A roar, ancient and seething, sent a shock wave across the icy lake; which cracked and splintered in fear. Biorn was frozen in place, eyes fixed on the black shadows that hung deep within the forest beyond the lake.

Pine’s cracked and splintered. The sounds of limbs crashing to the ground bounced around the open area. Two hands, each with only two fingers and tipped with slick black claws,  reached out and dug deep into a set of pines. Pulling hard, a leather skinned creature propelled itself out onto the lake. It was as big as an ox, with black skin that shone despite the lack of moonlight. Its green eyes smoldered and hot breath steamed the air around the creature. A purple barbed tongue flicked out of its mouth, testing the air.

Biorn gripped the haft of his ax with both hands and lifted it high overhead. He let out a shrill warrior’s cry. The dragirk turned its gaze to him and croaked a challenge.

The young warrior boy was overtaken by courage, battle-lust, and fear. Not knowing why, he ran toward the monster.

To Be Continued…

Didn’t get much time to work on this one so I’m going to finish it up tomorrow. Here is what I have to show at the moment. I think it’s pretty fun so far.

Day 9: What’s with the glitter?

Jessica flashed her fangs. They gleamed in the vanity light from the visor. In the driver’s seat, her new friend Beth whipped her head back and forth between the road and the fangs, her eyes wide.

“Jess, those look so real. So awe-some. Where did you get them?” The corner of Beth’s mouth curled up.

Jessica flipped up the visor and leaned back in her seat, a smug look over her face. “There’s this dentist on 5th that makes ’em for, like, super cheap.”

“So awesome.” Beth repeated. The evening snow was coming down in large, slow flakes, that clung to the car’s windshield. Beth’s Honda vibrated from the snow chains wrapped around her tires. Ahead, her lights struggled to cut through the darkness. Beth was leaning forward, eyes squinted in an attempt to see further.

“Have you actually ever been there before?” Jessica was annoyed.

Rolling her eyes, “Yes.”

“Will there be any cute boys there?” Jessica ignored Beth’s harsh tone.

“I told you. This is the best Vampire LARP in the city. The guys are insanely hot and everyone is always in character. It’s the best.”

Jessica leaned back further in her seat and propped her feet up on the dash. Evanescence’s dark melodic tones filled the empty space between the girls. Habitually Beth checked the GPS on her phone, its blue light illuminating her sharp features. Worry began to etch onto her face.

“Are we lost?”

“No. Let me concentrate. Geeze it’s coming down thick.” Beth leaned across her steering wheel and looked up into the black sky.

“Crap! Beth, dude!” Jessica braced her legs against the dash and tucked her head between her knees.

Beth looked just in time to see a human body huddled against the oncoming snow. Two quick jerks left and right on the steering wheel and Beth swerved around the person. Slamming both feet on the break pad, the tire chains bit hard into the ice covered asphalt. A rough grinding noise blasted over the girls screams like giant stones being ground against each other. The car stopped with a jerk, sending empty fast food cups and discarded clothes flying into the front seats.

White knuckled and breathing hard, Beth stared straight ahead into the darkness, unable to move. Jessica lifted her head up from her lap and looked out of the back window. The person remained standing in the middle of the road, bathed in the red light of the brakes.

“Beth, Beth look.”

Still shaken, the young girl glanced into her review mirror.

“We have to go check on him.” Jessica undid her seat belt and dashed out of the car. The bitter cold night nipped at Jessica’s nose and snowflakes gathered on her wool knit cap. “Hey, dude. Are you okay?”

He, at least Jessica assumed it was a he, wore a large blue parka. Both hands were in his pockets and the hood was pulled up and hung low, concealing his face. His large, brown timberland boots were covered in a layer of ice and snow. A set of tire tracks snaked around him. Jessica shivered against the cold air. She approached the man, a sense of caution falling on the young woman. “Um… You okay?” Behind her she heard Beth get out of the car.

A few steps closer and fear started to tickle its way up Jessica’s spine.

“For Christ’s sake!” The man shuddered and fell to his knees. Jessica let out a little cry and jumped back. He whipped his hood back and now Jessica could see sweat pouring down his face and his eyes were wide with terror. “Did that just happen?” he screamed.

Jessica rushed to the guy, hoping she could relieve his shock of almost becoming road kill.

“You guys, like, came out of nowhere!” He ran his hands through his wet blonde hair.

Helping him to his feet, Jessica said, “We’re so, so sorry man. We are just lost looking for this stupid party and its snowing like crazy and I swear, Beth didn’t see you. Are you okay? Do you need a ride?”

The man’s eye widened as he looked at Jessica and his mouth flopped open.

“Oh shit.” Jessica reached into her mouth and plucked out the prosthetic teeth. “They’re fake, no worries” She smiled at him, parading her real teeth.”

“Man, you nearly made me have a heart attack!” He laughed and calmed down instantly. “Yeah, my car broke down on Spektor, just a few hundred feet back.” He laughed again, ” I swear thought I had just walked into a horror movie.”

“Funny,” Beth purred from the trunk of her car. “Because that’s precisely what’s happened.”

White fangs flashed, then a blur of motion and the man, and Jessica, were dead before hitting the ice packed road.

Day 8: Lineage

Standing-Doe squat motionless within the thick brush. The afternoon sun’s rays  cascaded through the canopy over head. Bird song and the buzzing of cicadas filled the woods. To his left he could hear the rustling of some rodent. Sweat was trickling down his brow. Ahead he focused on a large buck rooting for food among the grasses. He had been at it all day. Following the instructions from his grandfather but growing frustrated at his failure.

He focused again. Filling his mind with the noises of life around him. Reaching out with his minds eye, he could see the buck ahead. Feeling its powerful muscles flex.  He pushed out the mother bird feeding her children in the nest above him.

Slipping into his mind, he could sense the roots of the trees growing. Then the rush of a stream not far away pounded against his temples. The image of the buck slipped and the images of the forest rushed in to fill it’s place.

An exasperated sigh escaped the young boy as he let go of the images. They slipped away like water off the back of a duck. He opened his eyes and his world was tinged blue in the bright light.

He stomped out from his hiding place, sending the buck boudning deeper into the wood. Standing-Doe lifted his hand in reverence as it dissapeared behind a massive pine.

Taking a deep breath and exhaling, the boy turned and walked in the opposite direction. Starting deep within his chest the anxiety took hold. The air in his lungs became tight and his legs felt weak. He had failed again and didn’t know what his grandfather would say.

Rushing-Water was always hard to read. A stoic shaman. He would listen to Standing-Doe as he always did. Silent and unmoving. The boy could see the dissapointment in his grandfather’s eyes. Then he would only say, “Again,” and turn his back.

Before this last try, the shaman only waved the boy away. Distraught, Standing-Doe went out himself. Maybe this would be the time.

Lost in his own thoughts, Standing-Doe dropped down a small ravene, unaware of the black bear on the other bank. Its massive shoulders, thick with fur, shifted.  Raising onto its hind legs, it towered over the unsuspecting boy.

Crossing over the small creek, the bears shadow fell over Standing-Doe. The boy raised his eyes to the towering beast before him. Weaponless, he halted in his tracks.

The black bear roared. Its yellowed teeth slick with saliva. Its pink tongue lolling over the side of its mouth.

Forgetting all of what his people had taught him in an instant, the boy turned and ran down the creek. His feet splashed the water as he ran with desperation along the river rocks.

Beneath his feet, he could feel the earth pounding from the tremendous weight of the bear giving chase. Its labored breath felt like it was on the back of his neck. Standing-Doe ran with all his might down the stream. Ahead he could make out the mouth feeding into the lake. He pressed on harder, his legs burning with exertion.

Reaching the lake, Standing-Doe leapt high into the air. He felt as though he were hovering above the clear water. Below him he could see a school of fish swimming. Standing-Doe focused on a single fish separated from the group. Closing his eyes, he focused on the clear image of the fish. Shutting out the bear behind him, his own heart racing, and the rest of the world around him he focused on his task. He felt the scales between his hands and the cool water washing over his body.

The vision took root. Solid and strong. Standing-Doe released the energy welled up inside of him and in that instant morphed from a boy flying through the air, to a fish hitting the water.

It was an incredible feeling. Never before had he been able to swim with such ease. His tail fin sliced through the water with hardly any resistance.

Underwater, a force slammed him from behind. The black bear had barreled into the lake. Standing-Doe spun around losing track of which direction he was heading. Disoriented, Standing-Doe pushed hard with his fins, hoping he was going the right way.

A massive paw swung through the water. The boy saw it coming. A clawed monster sweeping toward him. But he was unable to get out of the way. Struck by the paw, he was flung high out of the water. He spun in the open air, his gills sucking, unable to breath. The bear roared in triumph and stood up on its legs. He gave a snap of his jaws, missing Standing-Doe by inches.

Above, a hawk screeched.

Standing-Doe saw the bird, cleared his mind of the dangers he was in and felt the sun on his back and the fine feathers running across his face.

The fish’s scales burst into long feathers. Its gaping maw stretched and hardened into a razor sharp beak. Tiny fins elongated into a three foot wing span. Standing-Doe let out a shriek of his own above the bear. The beast roared in kind and swiped at the hovering bird.

The bird of prey dodged the strike, pumped its wings to fly over the bears face. With its talons open, the bird raked them across the bears eyes before ascending out of its reach. As the boy, now bird, flew away to safety he could make out the sounds of the bear thrashing in the water.

Flight. It was liberating. Standing-Doe soared above the world and let his triumph ring out with shrieks. His grandfather would be proud of him. Rushing-Water would now see him as a man worthy to become a Shaman.

The boy spent several hours reveling in his triumph before returning to his grandfather. Flying low and fast, he could see the hut before him. With ease he shifted back to his human form while still in flight, never breaking stride as he ran into the shaman’s home.

“Rushing-Water! I did it. I am a shaman! I did just as you instructed!” Standing-Doe beamed with pride.

The old man was hunched over his fire. Heavy furs were laid over him, making him appear larger than his actual size. His hair was long and hung over his face. “I am proud. And just like your father, you needed a bit of motivation.” Rushing-Water lifted his head to the boy, a fresh bandage soaked through with blood covered the old shaman’s left eye.

“But unlike him, you survived.”

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