Last month I took part in Devin O’Branagan’s flash fiction contest. My story ‘The Joining’ tied for first place.
The Joining by Ella Grey
David hadn’t been there when the preparations had begun but he’d read enough of the ancient texts to know about them. Seven tall, orange candles were positioned around the pillar. The priests burnt them for seven days, a protective circle of light. The wax had gathered around the base in thin trickles making the candles appear warped, worn down. Seven round stones, varying in length had been balanced one on top of another made up the pillar. On top of that was the egg. He hadn’t been able to take his eyes off of the spherical orb since he walked into the ceremony room. The way the light danced across the creamy white surface. The moving shadow inside of it. Time ticked down and there was nothing he could do about it except accept his fate. He’d never seen anything so equally beautiful and terrifying at the same time before. There was a gentle throb of pain behind his left ear. David gingerly reached up and touched the cold metal. The doctors had grafted the special alloy, lighter than steel, a few weeks ago. He’d only been out of bed for a few days. The hair had started to regrow. A short stumble that felt odd to the touch. In another month or so it would have grown back enough to hide the implant. The tests for the joining had been extensive, medical, physical and spiritual. The original group had been made up ten boys and girls. It didn’t seem possible that little David Chan, the son of a fisherman, would succeed where the others had failed. David studied the egg. Time trickled down like the sands in an hourglass and the creature stirred.
“How are you doing?”
David hadn’t even heard the priest approach and he practically jumped in surprise. The priests of the joining were all impressive men, tall and imposing. Redbrush was no different. He wore the white robes of his order and kept his hair bare. It made it impossible to miss the implant. David glanced down at the floor, embarrassed to have been caught. It didn’t matter that in an hour he’d forge a bond with the creature in the egg. A strong connection that could only be broken by death. He still wasn’t a part of the Order. “I’m fine. I’m sorry for staring. I never thought that this day would come and now that it’s here…”
Redbrush smiled at him. “You don’t know if you’re ready.”
“Are you sure that you haven’t made a mistake.” He glanced back to the egg. What if he wasn’t ready for the responsibility of having a life so intertwined with his?
“The Order doesn’t make mistakes.” The priest replied gently. “This is a great honour but you aren’t the only one who has had doubts about a joining and I’m sure you will not be the last.”
“Were you worried?” For a second he thought he’d gone too far. The priests were the most important people on Terra, A world apart from the rest of them that even kings came to their small inland to ask their advice. People like him didn’t question or even begin to understand what that meant.
“Yes, I was.” The priest reply startled him. “I might have been born into this world but I still had to pass the same tests as you. The only difference was if I failed, I would have been sent away. There is no use for a priest who hasn’t successfully gone through a joining. How am I supposed to help, if I didn’t have a clue to what a candidate goes through? David you are not alone in your thoughts, I promise you. You scored unbelievably well and you had a swift recovery. It is like the Gods themselves have blessed this union.”
David let out the breath he’d been holding. “Thank you. I needed to hear that.”
Redbrush nodded. “That’s why I’m here. Now it’s time for you to take your final steps.”
A chant barely heard over the rapid beat of his heart filled the chamber. David laced his fingers together, his head respectfully bowed. Today he wore the red robes of a novice, but whenever he returned to the inland, he would wear the blue robes of an initiate. He could sense the slow heartbeat of the creature in the egg. A beat that would gradually become in tune with his. He stopped short of the circle of candles. The words washed over him, touching him like the fingers of an intangible ghost. David needed to connect with the creature and thanks to his implant, which would be simple enough. In theory. He’d spent plenty of time calming the voices in his head to the point it wouldn’t feel too crowded to have two voices in there but in reality things were rarely that simple. David took a deep breath, letting worry and uncertainty slip away. “Can you hear me?”
The seconds dragged until he heard a tentative. “Yes.” The implant warmed against his skin as they talked.
“I am your bondmate, my name is David. Do you have a name?”
A wave of panic hit him and the strong emotions had nothing to do with him.
“There is no reason to be scared. I’m here.” He stepped inside of the barrier of light and reached out. The egg was smooth underneath his hand. There was a gentle pulsation of heat and David felt the precise moment his own heart slowed, matching pace with the creature. “You are the other side of me. Our futures are linked. Join me.”
The egg started to break. Firstly it was only small pieces and a hole appeared. Curiosity urged him closer to take a peek and a green eye blinked up at him and wings unfurled, discarding the rest of the shell. David knew what it was a Pterodactyl. “I shall call you Tero.”
If a dinosaur could smile, this one did. “I like that.”