It took a while, but Phoenix has been re-released under my name and through Voodoo Lily Press at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Oyster, and various other vendors. If you read and like it, I’d appreciate a review at Amazon and GoodReads.
Back to flash fic Monday. It’s been a couple or three weeks since I wrote one.
He stared at the steps that led out over the water, straight to the sun. He was amazed at the construction, as the path had obviously been formed using tree trunks similar in size and placed to facilitate ease of travel. Hop up on the first step, then move forward easily and smoothly, like crossing a stream on carefully placed rocks.
“Where does it go?” he asked his companion. “It ends somewhere, right?” He laughed uneasily. “It can’t possibly take you all the way across the ocean.”
Marok smiled and squinted against the light. “How old are you now, Jem?”
“Sixteen as of yesterday.” There had been a party and presents and stolen kisses with Marok in dark corners. Remembering sent a thrill through him.
“Then it’s time.” He gestured to the wood steps. “Get up there. I’ll be right behind you.”
Jem shot him an anxious look. “And then what?”
Marok laughed. “Just do it. You trust me, don’t you?”
Jem wasn’t sure but saying that would have been impolite, so he kept his mouth shut.
Marok nudged him. “Move. We want to do this while it’s still light.”
Seeing no way around it, Jem lightly leaped to the first step, then jumped ahead to the next one. It was easy. Even his grandmother could have done it. The spacing between the steps was perfect, and there was plenty of surface to land on. His balance would had to have been really bad for this to scare him.
He paused on one round step to look at the water, which gently lapped against the wood as the tide rose. He’d always been drawn to the ocean, spending a lot of time looking at it, feeling it, tasting it as he swam and played in it growing up. He knew its buoyancy and salty tang, and he’d enjoyed eating from its bounty. He didn’t like meat nearly as much as he loved seafood.
He stopped abruptly, Marok landing behind him and colliding with his backside unexpectedly.
“Keep going,” Marok instructed sharply. “What the hell, Jem.”
“The sun will sink soon.” Shading his eyes, he thought he could see to the very end of this strange path. “We should go back now, while we can still see clearly.”
Marok wrapped his arms around Jem and leaned in to nibble his ear. “We have to go all the way to the last step. You’re not afraid, are you?”
“Course not. Why would I be?” Jem swam like a fish. If it came to it, he’d simply swim to shore, no problem.
Marok felt so good against him, Jem dallied, leaning back, feeling hard muscle behind him, inhaling his scent. Why not stay here a while and enjoy the last of the light, listen to the seagulls calling overhead, feel the temperature drop as the night air moved in? The step was big enough for them both. They were in no danger of falling off.
Jem felt soft lips on his neck and sighed. This was going better than he’d expected.
But then Marok pulled away. “We’re almost there.”
Disgruntled, Jem hopped to the next step, and the next and the next until he stood on the last one. Half the sun was below the horizon. In minutes, it would be gone and dusk would set in. The stars were already coming out, and later the moon would rise.
This last tree trunk had a larger circumference than all the others. Marok landed beside him, and there was still room to spare.
“Now what?” Jem asked, shielding his eyes from the dying sun.
Marok yanked him into a kiss, a meeting of their lips that stole his breath. When Marok pulled away, smiling, Jem gasped in delighted surprise. He’d wanted that to go on forever.
“Now what?” Marok echoed. “We jump.” He pushed Jem hard.
Jem went under with his lungs only half full of air. The water was icy, and he immediately struck out for the surface even as Marok splashed into the water beside him.
He had almost broke into the open when something–someone–grabbed his legs, halting upward progress. His chest started to burn as he starved for oxygen. Darkness drew in around him. Panicking, he struggled against the hands holding him under.
Stop struggling, Marok said in his head. Breathe.
Breathe? What the hell was he saying? Not three feet above him, the last of the sunlight sparkled red and gold on the surface. Captured by its beauty, lungs bursting, he opened his mouth and sucked in water.
The pain was ferocious, a wave of cold that sliced through him like knives. He closed his eyes and waited to die, absently aware of Marok holding him tight. Peace flowed through him, and then he realized he was still alive, still breathing… but it was water, not air filling his lungs.
Marok made him look down, and Jem was shocked to see his legs fusing together into a thick tail. Panic returned, but Marok whispered in his head again.
Don’t be scared. This is who you are, who we are. You are born anew. From now until you are twenty-one, you can walk on land or live in the sea. Then you choose.
Jem was confused. Are you… are you thinking thoughts to me?
We are a telepathic race. He laughed. Have you ever tried to talk underwater? Doesn’t work. Marok took his hand and tugged. Ready to explore?
Jem looked up. The sun was gone but he could see as clearly as if the water was lit by floodlights. His eyes must have changed too, along with his lungs and legs. Excitement took the place of fear. Will you stay with me?
Marok grinned. Always.
Then let’s go. Jem took Marok’s hand. Show me my new world.
Word count: 970; oops!
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