2nd Place – Flash 405, April 2019: “Magic & Myths”
You have been fighting well, my warrior.
I have known many warriors. People of the longships, souls that fought for the glory of Asgard. Those cradled by the rocking of the black sea beneath them—your forebearers, who travelled far and saw the strange places of this world.
Gaange Rolf, who fought the Franks and was made ruler of Normandy. Harald, who was a boy when he served the Prince of Kiev, who traveled as far as Constantinople. Erik, who traveled west to unknown shores. Erik, your namesake, which you have duly earned. You fight as well as any of them, and have done so every day of your short life.
Come, little Eric. Your fight ends. I am the valkyrie of this battlefield, and I bear you to Valhalla. Let this incubator be your longship, this ventilator your warhorn.
You have fought bravely, my warrior, since that day not so long ago when you were born, blue and silent. Your life is short, other’s lives will be much longer. This is the fate woven for you. Your mother and father have watched over you these three months, but now I have come to take you beyond.
You have battled the greatest foe since they placed you in this natal isolette and ran tubes into your nose to make you breath. Unable to move your limbs of your own power, unable to cry. Many of the warriors I have taken to the great hall cried in one battle or another, but not you. Not in this battle.
The nurses of this place hang beads on the outside of your isolette—“Bravery beads” they call them, but they have no idea. A day will come, when three roosters crow and Garmr will howl and break his chains, but that day is far from today. When the dawn of that day breaks, we will need souls as strong as yours. The chosen await you as comrades and friends, fellow einherjar. Odin expects you, hero come from this world, and glad is his heart to meet you.
You have fought well in your little life. There are many things of this world you will never know, but there is glory that awaits you beyond. Come with me now, on wings of swans and ravens. Cattle die. Kindred die. Every man is mortal, but the good name never dies of one who has done well.
Powerful and poignant, the elevated language of this piece was an instant stand-out. Perhaps the most memorable piece from my first read of all the entries, and one I gladly went back to read and read again throughout the judging process. The “reveal” of the warrior’s true identity is handled perfectly, surprising yet seamless, transforming an epic, high-fantasy tale into a gentle, wistful lullaby. Subtle repetition is used to undercut and uplift the inherent tragedy of a premature child’s death, culminating in that final line: an affirmation; a sigh of hope; a beautiful, a bittersweet goodbye.
Kevin Flanagan is a writer, performer, and artist living in Phoenix, Arizona. When Kevin was three years old, he pushed a sheet metal screw up his nose. It was there for some time before being discovered, and required a trip to the emergency room to remove. This is Kevin’s earliest memory. He can be reached at KevinMFlanagan.com.