Written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Complications of Heroism.

A Second to Think

The thing about being a hero? It was never said that people would agree with me. That they would understand. That I would be recognized for my contribution.

It mattered little as the city burned on the horizon. My home. The place I had lived. Loved.

It burned so that our world wouldn’t have to. A strange thing to see, a fire fixed in place.

Six gods stood before me. Poised to strike. Frozen in time for the sake of my selfish contemplation.

Murdoch. I was honored. It was, in part, to him we owed thanks. Thanks for a chance at life. A chance to be better than we had turned out.

Karael. Goddess of Light. First angel. This purity is what I fought for. It wouldn’t last.

Son. Dragon God. Blocker of my view by way of his immensity. I wanted desperately to look on the world behind him. Was it as dismal there as the rest?

Celedirian. The Rinezhal God. First son of man and Demon.

Aegrym. God of Death. Last of original giants. I hated him. I thought to end him if given a chance. But he had a purpose to serve. The world needed Blight.

Chaos. Wearing his foolish mask. Being a hero himself. Thinking no one would know. For the first time, I admired him. I would keep his secret.

Odium was absent, though his demons weren’t. They fought alongside Murdoch’s angels. Even that wretched woman’s undead. Their enemy?

A horde of Nyth’s nightmares, straight from the abyss. She was a fearful planet. With good reason. She knew what I knew.

But this hadn’t turned out well for me. Good aligned with evil, all for the sake of seeing me destroyed.

No. This was good. When time came for them to face their true challenge, maybe they would be ready.

Do I try to explain myself? They wouldn’t believe me.

At any rate, I deserved this. The only way I could be a hero was to be a villain.

To kill the four my home lauded as heroes. Those I once held as heroes myself. The Incorruptible. I needed to know for sure that their title was deserved. Corruption had proven as strong a force in them as anyone else.

I felt guilt over the fourth. Not regret. But, if not for me, she may never have fallen. It had been necessary all the same. She would be my light in the darkness. My reminder after death. Why I held on. Why they could kill me but never be rid of me.

My gaze was locked longingly on what little I could see of the sky behind them, eager for one more glimpse of sun. I had blotted that out. In its place were thick clouds of abyss. Ink-black wyrms weaved throughout them numbering well beyond thousands.

Had I made a mistake? No. If not for this, my people would have brought about our end willingly. Corruption would have damned us all.

At least, that is the tapestry my nightmares wove before me. All threads led to Nyth’s abrupt end. In all iterations. In all realities.

Had I wanted to undo what I had done, I couldn’t. I cannot reverse time. Nor can I skip ahead to see the results of my actions. I can merely pause. I am allowed nothing but to wallow. In my thoughts. My hopes. Dreams. Doubts. Fears.

The city burned. Corruption burned. But the flames made no allowances for the pure. Children burned so children may live. So I told myself.

Had I missed something? Was there a better alternative? I could spend eternity in the chrysalis of this moment. The world would be spared the fate that comes. No. That thought was hubris of the highest fashion. They cared not whether time stopped forever. They would still come.

This second had lasted long enough. I released my control over the moment. Let the passage of time return to normal.

They could kill me. It would only give me more time to…

It was over before I could blink.