Flash Fiction: Beyond the North Wind

The beam of light painted a rainbow on Julia’s eyelids, warming her face, and she fluttered awake. The light emanated from the crystalline ceiling, playing across her prone form.

“Jules.”

She shifted to glance at the soft-spoken man seated beside her and nearly fell off the moss-covered stone slab by jerking away from him. His strong brow wrinkled, quickly changing from happiness to concern.

Julia thought it must have been happiness, at least. The utterly smooth white face was hard to read, his pale blue eyes beneath snowy brows cool as ice and not quite settled on her.

His eyes flicked to hers.

A shiver rumbled through Julia as she met his gaze, though the room was perfectly warm.

“Are you well?” the man asked, leaning toward her.

She inched away, her hands pressing into the spongy moss and giving her little to grip.

Julia had never seen moss like this. Had she?

Her muscles ached as if she had slept on them wrong.

“Let me call for the healer,” the man said, his voice a steady rumble that seemed overlaid with a musical lilting a pitch higher than the words he spoke. He stood and she realized his colorless chest was exposed, revealing hard lines and toned muscle shifting beneath the almost translucent skin.

Without realizing it, Julia put a hand out to halt him, breathing out the word, “Wait.” Her fingers gripped his firm arm. He did not tense at her touch, which Julia knew must be significant.

The man sat back down, concern knitting his arched eyebrows. With the motion, his bone-white hair fell around his neck, framing the strong jaw set in a slight grimace.

Part of Julia twisted to see him upset, but that did not make sense. She shook her head to clear to knock the cobwebs out and finally asked, “Where am I?”

Gesturing with a wide sweep of his hand, the man said, “The greenhouse. We always talked about coming here, but I didn’t expect it to be under these circumstances.”

A faint tickling at the nape of Julia’s neck made her think he was telling the truth, but she did not recall ever conversing about such a place. With his gesture, she could not resist taking it all in, though her eyes chided her momentarily for leaving the broad shoulders of her companion.

Plants sprouted from both the ground and from lines of pots. The earth containers were not in rows like Julia expected, but rather in concentric circles with just enough room in one section to walk through. From her elevated position on the stone slab, the potted plants seemed a playful maze, and yet the space seemed efficiently plotted.

Green dominated, but bright colors splashed the entire garden, reds, yellows, purples, and blues all flaring out from exotic flowers and strange fruits. The yellow-tinted light from the uneven crystal ceiling fell on the plants in soft, precise shafts.

“You like it even better than I had hoped,” the man murmured, hand resting on the moss near hers. The warmth of his skin radiated across the inch separating them.

“It’s the only place we have that could reasonably aid your recovery from hypothermia,” he went on, his smile its own source of refreshing light to Julia. At the same time, a faint memory of pain gripping her hands, feet, arms, legs, and finally clutching about her head and chest before all went numb.

It seemed a dream, or rather a nightmare, and as she reached to recall it, the memory slipped out of her grasp.

Julia closed her eyes, trying to get ahold of her swirling thoughts. The stranger, odd as he may be, was an attracting force. She shut that part of her thinking out for now with an effort of will and focused on the most important thing.

“I don’t remember…” she started, then felt unsure how to finish the statement. What did she not remember? It seemed impossible to peg down exactly what was missing. “I don’t know how I got here. Or where here is.”

“I brought you,” the pale man said. “We came together, to Hyperborea.” He paused, considering. “I believe that is what mortals of your tongue have called this land in days past.”

He reached to take her hand and she reflexively took it away. His crestfallen expression gnawed at her, but she needed her space right now.

“Jules,” he whispered. “Don’t you remember me?”

A tear slipped down her cheek and she silently chided herself. No time for emotions until the logical side was firmly established. Her mind, her heart, paid this instruction no heed as she shook her head.

His mouth fell open slightly. “I am so sorry, Julia.” He slumped and drew his lean legs to a crossed sitting position then took a deep breath. “It’s me, Tiresias.”

At the name, a swirl of sensations hit Julia. The Arctic expedition, her team scouting across that frozen wasteland for a basecamp site, and a shadowy face of a man. She felt it must be Tiresias. He had joined them at the last minute, but still Julia got the sense they had spent much time together.

Though she tried to root out those hazy memories, another presented itself in stunning clarity: the ice beneath her feet cracking.

Frigid water had washed over her as the field broke apart and she scrambled to get up onto the next chunk of ice.

The chill had quickly turned her limbs numb, and blackness shortly followed.

“My team?” Julia asked in the barest whisper.

Tiresias looked uncertain. “They may be well, but we have not located them yet.”

Julia swung her legs over the side of the stone slab. “We have to find them.”

Tiresias touched her knee and a jolt of sensation shot through her. “We will,” he promised. “Together.”

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Genre: Paranormal Romance
Setting: The Hollow Earth
Element: Amnesia

Let it be said that combining amnesia with romance and trying to fit all of that into 1000 words is Not Easy. Just for fun, have a setting which is probably interesting enough to warrant its own thousand word description, but is not particularly ‘romantic’ (though it fits well enough with the ‘paranormal’ side of things).

I feel like I made a fair attempt, though I know it gets a bit weaker as it goes on. My ‘problem’ is that I keep thinking in longer works, as if this is the introduction to a novel, so I don’t really tell a whole story in the course of the flash fiction piece.

I know it can be done, because I’ve read some good flash fiction. I suppose it’s just something I’ll have to develop.

Regardless, these Game of Aspects challenges are fun.

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