Short Story - The Final Fortress - Rebecca Laskowitz
By: Rebecca Laskowitz
There wasn’t much time left. Philip knew this. The entire village knew as well. What did they have? Hours? Very unlikely. More like minutes. Minutes that flew by with increasing speed as the enemy drew closer.
Philip looked at all they had accomplished. The walls were high and foreboding, but size was not enough to prevent annihilation. Strength was the key factor to guard against the great enemy, and Philip prayed to the gods that the fortress held strength.
The villages that had once stood here obviously lacked the strength needed to keep the enemy out. How many fortresses—great fortresses built with the blood and sweat of great men—had stood here before today only to be wiped away by one pass of the great enemy? There must have been hundreds, maybe even thousands, of towns that have been destroyed. Completely and utterly erased from the map.
There was no way for anyone to ever know the number of villages that had once stood here. The great enemy never left any traces of the civilizations it destroyed. There were no artifacts to be uncovered or histories to be remembered. It was as if they never existed and the great enemy was all there ever was.
But Philip knew better. He understood his village was not the first to face the great enemy, yet he prayed it would be the last. If he could defeat the great enemy, all other nations would bow down to him. They would come to him for protection, for wisdom, and for alliance. He would gain the respect of all the world’s leaders. If he ever needed anything from anyone from anywhere, he would have no questions to answer. The thought was enough to make his chest puff up and his lips to form a triumphant grin.
Philip’s smile disintegrated instantly, however, when a thundering crash jolted him back to reality. The enemy was approaching faster than he had anticipated and the odds of his victory were extremely low. His workers scrambled to finish the fortress to be used as protection from the oncoming attack.
Most of his people looked as terrified as he felt. He would never show his fear on the outside, however. He was, after all, their leader. Nothing could break the spirits of a civilization quicker than a leader admitting to fear and doubt.
Nonetheless, a fear was present in his heart that Philip could not squander. He looked at the structure being built for his village’s protection and only saw towers that would crumple like paper, gates that would be knocked down with one swift blow, and walls that would surrender after one wave of attack.
The sound of the thunder grew louder letting all know the great enemy was advancing. Within a few minutes, the strength of the fortress would be tested. If it didn’t survive the first wave, there was very little chance of it standing the second and third. The great enemy was very persistent and would not stop sending wave after wave of destruction until the village was no more.
As Philip focused on the sounds of onslaught, his gaze drifted to the sky. Several birds swarmed overhead, making circles around the highest towers. They showed no fear when they flew close to the fortress and then up to the sky again, as if taunting his workers. The birds were spies of the great enemy and hinted that the attack would begin any second.
Then, as if confirming his fear, one of the birds dropped a missile. A single missile fell from the sky in a direct path toward the highest tower. There was nothing Philip could do but watch. Upon being hit, the tower fell flat to the ground. It was as if a giant stepped on top of it in an angry rage.
“No!” yelled Philip, realizing his fortress would never stand against the great enemy.
“Philip!” came an even more powerful voice. Philip looked up into the eyes of a woman who seemed startled by his outburst.
“Sorry, mom,” he said as he plopped down on the sand.
“I think you’ve had enough sun for today,” his mother said. “And it looks like the tide is coming in.”
Philip and his mother packed up their belongings and trudged up the beach. Philip risked one final glance back as the first wave of the great enemy washed over his fortress.
You can find more of Rebecca’s work at: http://rebeccalaskowitz.blogspot.com/