For some reason, in the middle of spring, the theme for the April flash fiction contest at SFFWorld was “the fall.” The idea being rebirth and change — what spring is best known for — aren’t always good things. The Roman Empire had one hell of a change right there at the end, for instance. So we were set loose on the topic, and I somehow once again managed to be both literal and somewhat off-kilter. I must have done something right though, because this particular story managed to win April’s voting. Setting up the inevitable fall in May.
They fell in fire through a bright clear sky, blazing tears streaming down a vast blue face. Massive plumes of smoke billowed away from them. The roar of the flames echoed all around, mixing with the wind whipping by into a cacophony that drowned out their cries. Far below, the fresh new world seemed to slowly rise to meet them.
“So how long is this bit going to last?” one of them said with a puff of smoke.
“What?” said another. “You’ll have to speak up, there’s quite a cacophony.”
“Who was that?” said still another.
“It’s Ananel,” the first one said, raising his voice. “I said how long is this bit going to last? It seems like we’ve been falling for a good while now.”
“I have no idea,” said Tumael, the second voice.
“Why don’t you ask our fearless leader?” said the third voice, Danyal. “He seems to have all the answers.”
“Now that attitude isn’t going to help things at all,” Tumael said.
“‘Sit at the right hand of the Throne of Heaven,’ he said,” Danyal went on. “He never mentioned anything about being on fire!”
“Well we were rebelling against a supreme being,” Ananel offered.
“Then he should have thought of that!”
“I don’t recall anybody twisting your wings to sign up, Danyal.”
“Pardon meeeeeeeee!” bellowed a large burning shape that plummeted past them.
“Was that Rumyel?” Ananel asked.
“No idea,” Tumael said. “It’s so hard to tell with all this fire and smoke.”
“I think it was Rumyel,” Ananel went on, “he was always so polite….”
“Is this really the time for roll call?” Danyal said.
“You have somewhere else you need to be?” Tumael snapped.
“Nobody ever did answer my question,” Ananel said. “How much longer will we be at this?”
Tumael craned his neck to look down at the broad flat surface spread out below. “Hard to tell. It’s so big, I can’t make out if we’re actually getting closer to it.”
“You don’t suppose we’re just going to fall forever, do you?” said Ananel with no small amount of worry.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Danyal said. “A fall by its very definition has to end at some point. Otherwise it’s just, I don’t know, hovering or something.”
“Could we be hovering?”
“How could Rumyel fall past us if we’re hovering?” Danyal said.
“So you agree that was Rumyel!” Ananel’s mood brightened considerably.
“That’s not the point!” Danyal said. “What you should be worrying about is what’s going to happen after the falling.”
“And what’s that?” Ananel said.
“A sudden stop, most likely,” Tumael said.
“Oh. I don’t like the sound of that at all.”
“Nor should you,” Danyal said. “Either we hit something solid, in which case we’d be subjected to tremendous blunt force trauma, or we drop into liquid, which means we’d have a nice hot scalding.”
“But –” Ananel began hopefully.
“No, there’d still be blunt force trauma.”
“Stop frightening him, Danyal.”
“Ah, right. We’re on fire and falling towards who knows what, but I’m what’s frightening him.”
“I thought this would hurt more,” Ananel mused.
“We’re probably just getting used to it.”
“And just how does one get used to being on fire?” Danyal asked.
“I don’t know,” Tumael replied. “First time for me.”
They turned to see a flaming figure descend next to them, its arms and legs splayed out to slow its fall.
“Oh, great,” Daynal said.
“Hello Barakel,” Tumael said.
“Hi!” Ananel said. “I don’t know if you can see it through all this smoke, but I’m waving!”
“Right back at ya, Ananel! Isn’t this awesome?”
“That’s hardly the word I’d use,” Daynal said.
“Why not, man? Fresh air, clear sky.”
Barakel shrugged. “The price you pay for this view, my friend.”
“So you’re not the least bit upset that we’ve been cast out of Heaven?”
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
“Don’t you know why we’re here?” Daynal asked.
“I saw you guys doin’ the dive, thought I’d join in. Looked like a blast.”
“It will be eventually,” Daynal muttered.
“Barakel, we joined Lucifer and rebelled against God,” Tumael said. “We can’t go back.”
“But I didn’t rebel — ohhhhhh….” Barakel grew quiet. “Bummer,” he finally said.
“That doesn’t begin to describe it,” Danyal said.
Barakel shrugged, sending ripples of flame skyward. “Oh well, what are you gonna do? Still one gnarly ride though! See you … well, wherever it is we’re going!” With that, he tucked his arms to his sides and dropped away like a pointed cylinder expelled from an item that wouldn’t be invented for a few thousand years.
Ananel watched him fall. “What’s that blue sparkly thing down there?” he asked after a moment.
“No idea,” Tumael said, squinting through the fire and smoke. “Danyal?”
Danyal didn’t answer. He simply stared down at the growing azure expanse beneath them.
“Danyal, what is it?”
Danyal sighed. “Scalding.”
The steam blanketed them for units of time that had yet to be conceived, its heat making the blunt force trauma a faint memory. When the clouds finally thinned and they could take in their surroundings, all was dim emptiness.
“Well this isn’t so bad.”
“Do you really mean that, Ananel?” Tumael said, looking around at the sprawled shapes of their companions, scattered in the darkness. The crumpled form of Barakel managed a chipper wave.
“No,” Ananel said glumly.
Just then, an imposing figure strode towards them through the murk, his head bowed in thought. An aura of dampered brilliance clung to him. “A snake! That’s it! Oh, I’ll show him!” he said feverishly as he walked by.
“Oh he’s got to be kidding,” Danyal sighed.
“I don’t want to be a snake,” Ananel complained.
“As long as there’s no more fire and smoke –”
Tumael’s words were cut short as the pit around them burst into flame with the sharp whiff of brimstone.
“Damn it,” Ananel said.
Danyal put an arm around Ananel’s already smoldering shoulder. “Sounds about right.”