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#BookbedFictory 027: ‘anathema’

by Therese Danielle
This year’s Fictory is for a cause. We donate P100 to a chosen beneficiary for every fic submitted this July. Participate here if you can. You may also submit a story anytime of the year. Enjoy this one!

Prompt: People acquire superpowers when they undergo a severely traumatic event.

“I wish I never had this Gift.”

I look on sullenly as they spit out in a few choice words a lifetime’s worth of bitterness at existence itself. There is no one else left; everything had been burned to the ground by the time we arrived. All the charred bodies have been accounted for—only this child is left.

If protocol were to be followed, the Regiment will take them into custody as a case of Initial Activation gone wrong. Such incidents are not uncommon; as a rule, almost all Gifted awaken after traumatic experiences in their lives. The Ministry comes to these people at the lowest points of their lives, ostracized from society for being threats to Existence itself. And they reach back out, in hopes of regaining what they have lost.

I, too, was one such person, a child of merely twelve years back then. It still unnerves me to this day whenever I remember it.

Ours was a seaside village in a large cove, closed off from the world by a wealth of lush rainforests and a plethora of wildlife. Every day was a lesson in idyllic reality—men took to the seas to make a living, women to the shores to enrich the community, and children to the skies like time didn’t exist. We knew not about Gifts and the Gifted, but we never needed to; after all, we were always happy and would continue to be forever.

It was Paradise on earth, and to us, our only home.

All that changed when the Ministry sent a detachment of officials to our village. It was a warm, sunny day, like any other, but felt as if everything had frozen over in an instant. Everyone waited outside the Chief’s house, fearing the worst—the end of our peaceful lives as we knew them.

“No,” came our Chief’s resolute answer with undertones of great anger. The younger ones yelped in fear; they had never heard the Kind Elder use such a thundering voice. I merely tensed up as I held their hands; this will end horribly.

A mirthful laugh came in response, a warm but ominous baritone that sent frigid chills down everybody’s spines as it spoke next: “There was never a choice.”

There was a hitched cry of pain, then a sickening crunch of bones and squelch of guts—and we all knew the Kind Elder was no more. We were too stunned to move, much less even breathe, as the Head Mandarin came out, two knights on either side, fresh blood drenching their clothes.

The youngest children cried first—in trauma, in raw grief and anger. Dark clouds immediately gathered, and rain fell—at first in drops, then in torrents. The women’s eyes flashed in outrage, and large waves from the sea rolled in from the deep bowels of hell itself. The men lost control the most, as Hydras rose from the waves, menacingly towering over the entire village as they declared war with the invaders who trampled on and destroyed the happiness we knew. The Head Mandarin only sneered, as if he had been expecting this all along.

I felt very afraid amidst the chaos that followed, the village decimated in mere minutes—but most of all, of those eyes that bored through me, reading into my very soul.

“Make it stop,” I croaked, desperately begging to eyes that no longer saw and ears that no longer heard. “Don’t fight anymore, please.”

But no one heard me amidst the fighting, and waterlogged bodies piled up on the seaside we called our home. The youngest ones falling before my feet was the last straw, as I pulled at my hair and screamed:

“I wish Gifts never existed!”

The violent seas calmed at once, and the bright sun shone once more. And the Head Mandarin, with a single flick of his wrist, executed everyone else on the spot.

Only I remained, frozen in place, not understanding what had just happened.

“A Nullifying Gift, born of anathema,” he murmured, approaching my still form and taking both my cold hands in his. “Worry not, child; you still have a place in this world. The Regiment needs you.”

That vile bastard, whom I now directly answer to, has given me a home and my worth in society, despite having stained my hands with the blood of everyone I knew. That massacre had been erased from the annals of history, but I still awaken every night with screams that ring hollowly in my ears.

Existence may have forgiven me enough to let me live, but the memories of home will haunt me until the end of my days. It is something I have learned to live with; there has never been a choice.

For this wretched child, however, maybe I can give them one.

I kneel down and look them in the eyes; for a moment, the reflection of flames is replaced by rains of seawater and blood. The child pleads silently, and my frozen heart thaws, just a little.

“Are you sure?” I whisper solemnly; if I can use this curse to bring salvation to even one being, it would be more than enough.

They slowly nod with conviction, and that is all I need.

I gently embrace their wretched form, murmuring foreign words in their ear as my Gift quells the raging flames in their heart. When it is over, tears fall from their eyes as they smile at me in gratitude.

“Go, now,” I firmly instruct them, “run away, far from this place, before they catch you.”

A flicker of childlike innocence returns to their eyes, and they take my gloved hands into their scalded ones. “Thank you,” they silently mouth the words, before taking off into the woods beyond.

Soon, my comrade calls from the other end of the burning rubble. “Any survivors?”

I stand back up, alone once more, my heart as calm as the deep sea of home. “None, sir.”

It is more than enough. ☁️

Therese Danielle is a physician by day and writer by night. She mainly pens fan fiction in her spare time, but has also dabbled in some original pieces. She can be found on Tumblr and AO3 as “cyanoscarlet.”

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