294. The children all hauled a lumbering beast behind them

The children all hauled a lumbering beast behind them, a hundred feet tall, its arms and legs the size of tree trunks. On top of the beasts a small forest grew, with lush pines and green meadows, a safe haven to retreat at night, to eat and rest for another day’s march along the barren plains.

I had often asked them why they journeyed the globe this way. How they had tamed the beasts and why they were only led by children, not by adults – the sight of whom I had yet to experience in this strange land. But they never spoke a word. All they did was walk into the big nowhere.

Not until my fifth week did I notice a change in the pattern. I saw one of the older girls of the troupe  climbing from her beast, kissing it goodbye and then wandering off into the night. I tried running after her but the beast blocked my path until the darkness had swallowed her.

The following day the beast that had lost it’s child, decided to stay behind, broken-hearted, yet somehow contented. As if it had fulfilled its destiny and was now able to lead a life alone.

We never encountered the runaway girl again, though a few days later a new beast joined the troupe. It was led by a child so young it could barely walk. But she kept up with us and when night fell, like the other children, she climbed up her animal, ate some berries and fell sound asleep.

She had her mother’s eyes, this child.

And when she was old enough, she too would be allowed to stand on her own feet, find her own path and burst from her fragile cocoon to blossom into a magnificent, caring beast.



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6 thoughts on “294. The children all hauled a lumbering beast behind them

  1. hanafe says:

    Really enjoyed this story

  2. evilsoup says:

    I like this, but I think you’re running up against the limits of flash fiction here. This could be a much stronger story with a bit of a higher word count. You’ve got a good sense of mystery for most of it, but then you just let rip with that last line. It’s sort of like…

    …well, you know there’s the kind of ‘fair play’ mystery story where the reader is allowed to figure things out along with the detective? It feels satisfying: the reader has a sense of gradual enlightenment, in the best cases. More than once I’ve put down a story for a second and thought ‘oh you magnificent bastard’. The bulk of the story feels like it’s leading up to that — the narrator will discover the secret, and it’ll be satisfying. But instead the narrator just *knows* the solution, out of the blue, even though you’ve made a point of the fact that none of the children will talk to her. You switch from a limited narrator to an omniscient one.

    So, yeah. I really like the concept, and I think you’ve executed it about as well as can be done in flash fiction, but it’s a meaty enough idea that I think you should have a stab at writing a longer piece along the same lines. If you don’t, I might have to steal it.

    • Not quite 40 says:

      Yes, this. Fantastic idea, and beautifully written, but just BAM ended, with an omniscient understanding. If the beast did something that echoed what the girl had done, then maybe. But a longer story would be delicious…

  3. kellygrow says:

    That would be a great way to travel. 😀

  4. Reminds me of George RR Martin, interesting and mysterious piece

  5. […] my best flash fiction stories. Will it be the certified bullshit? Or the fantasy tale about big, lumbering beasts? You […]

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