This is the 53rd in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
The Second Chance, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 23rd January 2012
Word count: 865
Theme: saviour, hero, sacrifice, ultimate ultimate sacrifice, religion, end of the world, saving grace, fate
“Okay, I’m sorry it has to be you,” the professor said, his voice echoing round the damp dark cave, illuminated by only a couple of battery powered lanterns. Eric thought the Professor looked gaunt, these past few weeks had been tough on the whole group, but the Professor had seen his hopes and dreams smashed too.
“I volunteered, I know what I’m doing. I knew this quest of yours would be dangerous, and I volunteered anyway. Just make sure the people outside, know it was my honour to have been with them on this, and make sure the world knows how close it came,” Eric said nobly. “Well if I pull this off anyway.”
“You have my word,” the Professor said sombrely. “Right do you want me to go through this again?” he asked gesturing to the three inch cables protruding from the wall.
“Please do,” Eric knew it by heart, but he didn’t want to spend the last moments of his life in silence, and darkness.
“Okay these two walls are going to glow, they’ll start softly, we think one will be red and one will be blue,”the Professor started.
“I don’t think the colour matters for this bit,” Eric said.
“Am I telling you this, or are you telling me?” the Professor asked, in full teaching mode.
Eric couldn’t help but apologise.
“Okay then,” the Professor said, then continued, “The walls will glow, when they get so bright as to be truly unbearable, that is when you need to dig deep. This whole thing is some kind of test, so really dig deep. If you act to soon, it’ll be the end. If you wait too long…” his voice dropped off.
“If I wait too long, I’ll be dead before I can do my job, and it’ll be the end anyway,” Eric filled in.
“Yes, quite,” the Professor said, “But I have faith in you Eric. When the time comes grab the cables connected to the walls. Life needs to bridge the connection, at that right moment. You must not let go,” the Professor stopped, “I am sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Eric said, “The fact we found this, with just hours to go until the flash tells me, we were meant to be here, I was meant to do this.”
“You’re a fine man Eric,” the Professor said. That was when he noticed the eerie light, “Good god, it’s starting.”
The passage way out of the cave started to close, a sheet of rock was rolling over it.
“Professor you’d better go,” Eric said pushing the Professor towards the exit. “Its been an honour and a privilege, now get out of here.”
As the door sealed shut, Eric could just here the Professor say what sounded like “Thank you”.
Eric returned to his post at the centre of the cavern, and mentally prepared himself. Now he was alone he could admit to himself that he was terrified. The fate of the world required a life, and he’d volunteered. Oh course he wasn’t the only one, but when they drew straws, he’d purposefully, and discretely snapped his in half to make it shorter.
Eric wasn’t suicidal though, the others, they were all scientists, he was the strongest, he’d been to hell and back on war zones. He felt confident, at the time that he could do this.
With the walls growing brighter and brighter, signifying the end of the world, that confidence was slipping.
Moments later he had to close his eyes, the light was too bright. That didn’t help for long, the light penetrated his eyelids all the same. His skin felt like it was on fire.
The pain was intense, and a growing part of him wanted to let go of consciousness, but he couldn’t, the fate of the world was in the balance.
He couldn’t hold out much longer though, this had to be the time. Despite the burning pain, he crouched down and reached around for the cables. He got them and held then tight, one in each hand, he couldn’t stand again.
Even more waves of pain crashed through him from his hands, an electrical current, while his body burned from the intense light.
This is hell, he thought, but he held on. He never knew his death, one moment pain was his universe, and then he was gone.
Around the world billions, both awake and asleep, heard his last agonising cry as if in the distance. No one understood why, it became an obsession with news media, a focus of religious debate, and a slightly worrying curiosity for the majority of people.
It wasn’t until two days later when a small bedraggled group of scientists returned to civilisation, that the real story started to emerge, the origins of the scream, and Eric the greatest hero of the human race who had sacrificed his life to give humanity a second chance.
No one ever found the cave, it was hidden somewhere in the Sahara desert, Eric’s remains were never recovered. His legacy lived in though, in those alive, for better or worse.