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The Archtree -- FWG Flash Fiction for 1/20/2024

It's been a few weeks since my last post. The Fiction Writers Group took a break for the holidays, and I missed when the prompts restarted. But, I'm back now. Here's this week's prompt:

The Archtree

Joshua paddled slowly toward the archtree straddling the river, a portal to other worlds. The conditions were ideal for his plan. With no breeze, the water surface was a mirror perfectly reflecting the archtree’s graceful curve.

Josh checked the sun’s position. The solstice would occur when the sun reached the zenith, and the tree’s shadow fell directly below it, splitting the circle made by the tree and its reflection. In that fleeting instant, the portal to the Uberworld would open, and Josh would pass through to take his place among the gods. Missing that window by a second either way would plunge him instead into the Netherworld.

With glances at the sun and the advancing shadow, Josh picked up his pace. So focused was he that he didn’t notice his younger brother, Desmond, paddling furiously and closing quickly from behind. With a whoop, Des flew past him toward the gap, just as it began flickering and the view wavered.

“No!” Josh yelled. Desmond, despite being his brother, was also his nemesis. Whatever Josh accomplished, Des did better, usually with a flair that the stolid Joshua couldn’t manage. “Slow down, Brother!” But he knew it was no use. He gasped as the portal turned black just as Desmond’s boat crossed the threshold and plunged into the abyss.

Shocked at his brother’s rashness, but undeterred from his own goal, Joshua continued his modest pace, timing his entry just as the portal, having swallowed his brother and sent him to Hell, flashed to a bright white and delivered Josh into the realm of power, immortality, and unending feasting and pleasures of the flesh.

Shaking his head, though, Josh knew his first task as a god would be to somehow rescue his brash brother and restore him to the world of the living.

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