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Fields (Lords of Fate)

With over thirty publications in the last few years, some of JC's work has appeared in Buzzy Mag, the Stoker nominated Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, S.T. Joshi's Weird Fiction Review, Dark Visions 2, and Spark: A Creative Anthology. He is also the 2012 winner of The Washington Pastime literary award.

He lives in Colorado with his wife and two dogs.

Sounds of war awoke the farmer.
He listened as roars of bravery collapsed beneath cries of agony. Swords clashed with swords, armor with armor, flesh with flesh. The farmer sprang from bed, ran for the door of his shack, flung it wide, and froze. Chaos had taken shape. Soldiers in silver poured from the eastern woods to greet the hordes of loping creatures emerging from the high grasses to the west. Flame-tipped arrows hung high above their heads, a thousand lanterns briefly turning night to day before reverting to missile form and completing their deadly arc. All of this--men, creature, fire--came together upon the farmer's field. Where flowering flax had grown was now a crimson tangle of death, a dumping ground for the young, the strong, the valiant.
Dual horn blasts sounded through the night, one from each side of the field. A black river of mounted creatures flowed like oil from the high grass, countering a shining river of cavalry flanking from the forest. The advancing columns met head on, their hooves making mud of those who had fallen. The two forces slaughtered and were slaughtered, an unceasing machine dedicated to flaying life from the living.
The kings and tyrants responsible for the war began showing themselves, lingering in the outskirts of the battlefield, not yet seeing the need to participate but growing anxious as the two great armies neared depletion. They approached the farmer in their desperation, closing on him from east and west with golden promises on their lips. The farmer listened as these lords of fate offered him the Earth in exchange for his allegiance. "One more soldier to tip the scales," they pleaded, both king and tyrant alike, baring teeth at one another, blaming the other for all that is wrong and terrible. "One more log for the pyre," the farmer replied, gaze fixed on what was lost--his field, his livelihood, his reason for being. All that remained was for the kings and tyrants to fall upon each other. And they did. With zeal. Swords clashed once more. Blood flowed. King was made indistinguishable from tyrant, tyrant from king.
When all were corpses at his feet and the flames had burned out and the night plunged into stunned silence, the farmer set about the task of restoring the field's original purpose. The work was arduous but necessary. Graves needed digging; the field needed clearing before the flax could return. For the future held mouths to feed, tithing to pay, and soldiers to clothe.
As it always had.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

Author Comments

Like most of my shortest works, "Fields (Lords of Fate)" came to me during one of life's many mundane tasks. Sometimes these flash stories come while I'm driving, or cooking dinner, or just staring at the city of Denver from atop Green Mountain, or any other time I allow my mind to drift into that supremely ethereal Land of Imagination. This time, I was in the shower. I worked out the themes while I shampooed, the first paragraphs while I conditioned, and by the time I was on the body wash, I was racing through the process of showering so I could put the damn thing on paper already. (Go ahead and imagine a bearded, bespectacled man madly typing at his computer, wearing nothing but a white towel. Yeah, you're welcome for that.)

I can't explain this story beyond that. It came to me fully formed, ready to be told. What this story is, what it means, that's for the readers to decide. I'm just the guy who happened to stumble across it, as I occasionally will, while traversing that most holy of places, the Land of Imagination.

- JC Hemphill
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