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Candidates -- Flash Fiction for 9/5/2020

This week's 300-word Fiction Writers Group flash fiction prompt is


Patrick’s lantern limned the cave mouth, but beyond it was utter blackness. The climb up through the mountain had taken three days. Three days that saw the troupe of eight Candidates reduced to just Patrick and his twin sister Penelope. They worked as a team, overcoming the obstacles that broke the other Candidates, until this morning. While Penelope slept, Patrick slipped away in the dark in a final sprint to the top.

The Portal had appeared in the sky every eighteen years on this night since time immemorial. The Candidates were children born on the day of the last Portal appearance. One of them would be lifted by the Portal into the realm of the gods, ensuring prosperity for the village.

Patrick sat on the stone bench overlooking the darkness and waited. His betrayal of Penelope haunted him, but he felt justified saving his sister from whatever lay beyond the Portal. No one knew what fate awaited the chosen Candidate as none had ever returned. As he stared into the darkness, a gaping opening into—somewhere—appeared. Patrick spread his arms and felt the ecstasy of the light’s embrace. Weight left him as the Portal lifted him from the bench and levitated him out over the cliff face and the valley below.

The sound of running feet turned Patrick’s ecstasy to terror. Penelope raced through the cave and leapt from the bench into empty space, but they both knew she would fall short. Risking everything, he leaned his upper body out of the Portal’s embrace and grabbed her wrist. Swinging back and forth, Penelope climbed and Patrick lifted until they were locked in each other’s arms. They hovered in space as the Portal decided whether to take both or none. Then they floated up into the unknown.

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