Thursday, April 26, 2012

30 Days, 30 Stories: The Hidden Hero

by Erin Shakespear
*The fear devouring Thomas’s stomach and the thick heat of the night combined their forces against him until he was drenched in sweat. And wearing a scratchy ski mask to hide his face didn't help the situation.
“What’s wrong with you?” Sardines, the burly kid who always smelled like fish scowled at Thomas as the group of boys quietly moved through the shadowy remains of the ruined stores and shops. Traveling through the city's carcass was safest if you could stay off the streets.
Thomas stared at his feet. What was he supposed to say?  Something like, “Oh, nothing much. It’s just that ever since those Mole People tunneled up from the center of the Earth and enslaved mankind, I’ve been a little jumpy. And sneaking into one of their Mole Hills to steal food and weapons isn’t my idea of a fun night out.” Instead he said nothing. 
Sardines whispered loudly, “Why did we bring along mushbrains?”
Thomas wondered the same thing.
Gage stopped and stared at Sardines.  The rest of the boys did, too.  “What was that?” Gage, the leader of the Resistance, was only thirteen, but he had plans to overthrow the Mole People’s rule and save the world. At least, that's what The Golden Prophecy said would happen. And who were they to argue with a prophecy?
Sardines glanced at Thomas. “I, well, that is…he’s useless. He’s just gonna get us killed. Or worse.”
Thomas didn’t want to think about, “Or worse.”
Gage narrowed his eyes at Sardines. “I didn't want to bring him either. But we need the supplies. So, are you volunteering to fill and carry back four packs yourself?”
Everyone in the raiding party had two packs thrown over their shoulders. Thomas adjusted his, wishing Sardines would say yes.
But the obnoxious kid scowled. “There wouldn’t be time.”
“Exactly.” Gage glanced at Thomas.
Thomas looked away. He didn’t need to see the disappointment in his brother’s eyes. He got enough of that from everyone else. Thomas and Gage were identical twins, but were still as different as Sardines and a kid who showered.
Gage was a hero. Thomas was useless.
The group continued on, stealthily moving through the destroyed buildings until they reached what was once downtown. Sitting in a dark alley, the boys stared at the largest Mole Hill Thomas had ever seen. Thomas took in the giant mound of debris, at least ten stories tall, made up of broken cars, chunks of concrete, loads of dirt and gravel and pieces of buildings. Inside the hill, the Mole People made a maze of tunnels and rooms. The fear in Thomas's stomach threatened to crawl up his throat and escape as a scream.
“This is simple,” Gage said. “Just follow us.” He motioned to the two boys next to him. “Get out your flashlights. Stay close. We’ll find their storage room, stuff our packs and get out. Let’s go.”
Thomas made his feet move along with the group, wishing he was back in their hideout  But everything went according to Gage’s plan. At first.
They moved through the Mole Hill’s tunnels undetected, found the storage room and began filling their packs with fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and laser guns.
Swinging his full packs onto his shoulders, Thomas turned to find Gage standing nearby. “Great job, bro,” he whispered.
Thomas blinked in surprise. Gage never risked someone finding out Thomas was his brother, which was why Thomas had to wear the ski mask. Everyone thought he had a scar he was embarrassed about. But the truth was, it was Gage who had something to be embarrassed about.
“Um, yeah…thanks.” Thomas looked at Gage, surprised to see his brother smiling at him.
“I’m glad you came.”
Thomas nodded. He was about to say, “Me, too.” But then something caught his eye. He swung his flashlight around and pointed it at the entrance to the storage room.
A strange brown creature with sharp claws and scaly brown skin filled the arch. He spread his arms out and opened his mouth wide, turning his head toward Thomas.
“No!” shouted Gage as he threw himself in front of Thomas just as a stream of spit shot from the Mole Person's mouth, hitting Gage in the chest.
The other boys rushed the strange creature. It managed to squirt three of them before the others took him down.  Thomas dropped to his knees by Gage’s side. Gage gave Thomas a small smile, but he didn’t move to get up. The toxic poison had begun its work. In five minutes Gage would be completely paralyzed.
“Thomas,” Gage mumbled.
            “Someone help!” Thomas shouted as the other boys escaped into the tunnel.  
             Thomas grabbed Gage’s arms, intending to drag him to safety.
            “Thomas,” Gage said again. "You have to go." 
            Pulling Gage toward the tunnel entrance, Thomas ignored his brother. 
            “Thomas!” Gage shouted. 
            Thomas shook his head.
            “You know… the…the prophecy?”  Gage asked.
            Thomas wanted to laugh. “That’s like asking, “Hey, did you know you have hands? Of course. We all know who the hero of the family is.”
            “No….you don’t!”
In the distance, Thomas heard a dull thumping.
Gage continued. His voice slurring as he spoke rapidly. “I knew. I knew the truth. But I thought I could do it. I thought I could protect you.” Thomas tuned his brother's rambling out as he tried to run. But  he tripped, finding himself on the ground by Gage.
The footsteps grew louder. “Hey! Who’s there?” a voice whispered loudly. It was Sardines.
Thomas moved to get to his feet. His brother said, “It’s me, Gage.” He ripped the ski mask from Thomas’s face and kicked him toward the boys who came back.
A light blinded Thomas’s eyes.
“It’s him,” said a voice. The boys snatched Thomas under his arms. They pulled him down the tunnel. Louder footsteps filled the air. Mole People. 
"Stop!" Thomas shouted. He fought the arms dragging him away from his brother. But as they left the Mole Hill, Sardines asked, "Who was that back there?" 
Gage's words finally sunk into Thomas's shocked brain. “The prophecy was about you. You're the hero. You have to save the world!” 
"Come on, Gage." Sardines said as they ducked down the dark alley and started their journey back to the hideout. "Who got spit on?" 
"It was..." Thomas closed his eyes. He thought of his brother and their broken world. He thought of the prophecy. And he knew what he had to do, who he had to become. "It was Thomas."

 You can read more of Erin's nutty ramblings at her blog.

* I learned something important while writing this. It is really really hard to write a short story. Especially if you do it at the last minute and stay up really late. For example, let's say, 2:30 in the morning....hmmmm....I'm hoping this at least kind of makes sense...


Daisy Carter said...

Erin, this is fabulous! I was hooked from the front - great job!

Julie Daines said...

Great job. I loved it. Very exciting. I'm terrible at short stories, so I think this is fabulous!

Scott said...

Great story! But then, any story that name-checks the Mole People has to be good. Love that movie and others like it. Most of all, I love your Sardines character. I'll read just about anything with characters like that.

Erin Shakespear said...

YOU guys are awesome. Thank you so much! I just keep thinking of how I'd tweak it, what I'd add, how I'd make it better. But....I'd also be making it longer!

This was a fun exercise. And, I agree, Scott. I love characters like Sardines. :)

Susanne Drazic said...

Interesting story. Sardines is a very unique name or nickname for a character. : )