Short Story: Unafraid

This time he would hit it.

Power surged through Terrance’s arms. He felt the warmth of the glow on his face, the tingle of power in his fingers. Lifting his head and opening his eyes just a crack, he locked onto the hay bale thirty paces away.

Come on, Terrance. You can do it this time. Just keep breathing. Lift your arms. Straighten your fingers. Then let go.

A cry exploded from Terrance’s mouth as he released his magic. The bolt of energy fired cleanly from his fingers, made it three feet forward, and fizzled away.

Terrance moaned and sank to his knees, mud squelching under them. His arms were still warm from channeling his power, and he held them close to his chest.

“Again.” The voice said sharply and quietly just behind Terrance. He slowly shook his head.

“I can’t do it, Alli. It’s gone,” Terrance protested, his eyes fixed to the muddy earth.

“Call it back up, Terrance. You were born with this power. It should never go away.”

“But it did!” Anger burst from Terrance’s chest and he lunged to his feet, opening his palms wide, struggling to resurface the magic that had always been inside him…always been a burden to him. His chest heaved as he breathed deeply.

He could not remember a time before he had been training under Alli to learn how to handle his magic. She too was a power-bearer. But unlike him, she could wield it.

“Alli, I can’t control it yet. It comes and goes whenever it pleases. It is not a part of me…it is something else.”

Alli sighed and pursed her lips together. She folded her arms across her chest and her long hair swayed from side to side as she shook her head.

Terrance slumped his shoulders. He had disappointed his teacher. Again.

“Terrance,” Alli said, walking toward him, her back straight and her posture confident. “When I was training under my teacher, I couldn’t control it as well. I felt it as a weight, not a gift. I was afraid I would misuse it, or kill someone. But when I learned to harness it, to control it, my fear disappeared.”

She crouched, and her thin arms darting out from the massive cloak hanging about her shoulders. Power coursed through them, and then crackled around and out of her fingers. The bright glow streaked through the misty gray sky and smashed into the hay bale with frightening speed. The bale burst into flame one moment, and disappeared the next. All that was left was a pile of ash.

Terrance swallowed, his eyes wide as he watched his teacher.

She slowly turned, her eyes shut tight. They flickered open, questions resonating from them.

“What are you afraid of?”

She brushed passed him and walked away.

Terrance’s vision blurred as he watched her disappear into the barracks of the power-bearers. Few remained. Most, after harnessing their power, had run away to other parts of the world to use for their own ends. The ones that stayed loyal to the kingdom protected it with their power.

A tear dribbled from the corner of his eye and he felt it slide down his cheek. Soft. Bitter. He would never become a full fledged power-bearer if he was unable to control it.

More anger boiled up from inside of him and he clenched his fists, willing the power to rise out of him and channel out into the open air through his fingers.

He saw the glow in his arms, saw it move toward his hands, felt the powerful sensation…but then it disappeared.

His heart thudded in his chest. What was wrong?

“Why was it me that had to inherit this power? Why can’t I be normal? Why must I carry this burden?” Terrance whispered as more tears dripped off of his face.

The wind picked up suddenly and ruffled Terrance’s long locks of hair. The air smelled of a storm, but Terrance didn’t care. He was beyond caring. He was just afraid.

The last thing Ally said before leaving their training session bounced around in his mind.

“What are you afraid of?” Terrance repeated the words, sniffing softly and rubbing his eyes with the back of the leather gauntlet strapped to his arm. “I’m tired of being afraid!”

Then it struck him. “I’m afraid…I’m afraid of being afraid.”

Terrance slowly stood, his tears stopping almost immediately. “I’m afraid of failure. Afraid of letting everyone down. I’m…I’m afraid of the power. And…afraid of myself.”

He could suddenly feel it building inside of him, but not like it normally did. Not just traveling up into his arms. It built it, layer upon layer of stinging, hot, unstoppable power. But it was not just that. It was himself.

His hands lit up with a bright glow, shimmering in the darkness of the coming storm.

Turning swiftly to spot another hay bale several yards away, he raised his arms and a bolt of magic, brighter and stronger than the ones he had released before, flew through the air. He did not let go of it to fire, but directed it.

It whirled, bright and strong, faster and faster, farther and farther.

It blew just passed the hay bale and exploded into the ground just behind it. Flames rocketed up into the sky, and Terrance could hear quick footsteps behind him.

Alli lay a hand on his shoulder and they both watched as the rain, bursting from the dark clouds overhead, extinguished the flame.

“You missed,” the power-bearer said at last.

Terrance nodded, a smile growing over his face. “I know I missed. But I can do it again, and again, and again, until I hit it.”

Terrance could not see her, but by the way Alli’s voice sounded as she spoke, he knew she was smiling too.

“I know you can. Well done.”

Terrance let the power soften inside of him. It obeyed his command. He shook his head in wonder. The fear had left completely. Now in its place was pure confidence.

He may have missed the hay bale, but he had gotten closer, and he knew in time, he would get closer still.

Copyright © 2020 Caleb E. King

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