This is one of the very first short stories I wrote. It became the inspiration for the Universe of the Tration Empire where most of my fiction is set, including Shifter Unknown my first novel.
In the past he would have jumped to safety with the rest. But not now. Not anymore. He was the GateKeeper. Charged with holding up the staff and keeping the gateway open. He was John Staffhand the last of his line. He stood firm.
His hand ached. John nearly shifted his feet to ease his discomfort. But keeping the Staff upright was the only thing that mattered. Without it the gateway would close and they would all die
Rocks were being drawn into the Gateway now. The power of the vortex growing stronger the longer it was open. Scouring sand lashed at his back, finding his skin through the layers of clothing. Supporting the Staff and staying upright was becoming difficult. He would stand firm he was a Staffhand.
“Strange family” the people would say, “heard one of they say that bit of old wood can open a gateway between worlds”. Then the creatures had come through with their teeth of death destroying lives. Then is Grandmother had opened the first Gateway and the mocking stopped.
Her hair whipping wildly round her face, into her eyes, his Grandmother had held firm for three long hours during the first journey. She stood holding the unwavering Staff, while soldiers buckled and wept from the wind. An entire country passed through that first gateway. The last soldiers had been blown through but the old woman stood firm.
Protecting his eyes from the stinging sand, John looked back. Soldiers being chased by death were near .
“We’re the last Gatekeeper,” shouted the soldiers as they ran past.
It was time to jump.
John rammed the Staff into the hole he had created earlier. Slowly releasing his grip John kept his hand in place. Ready to catch the Staff before it fell closing the gate and condemning John to the death that he could see bearing down on him.
The staff held firm.
Carefully he began to pay out the line coiled around his belt, ensuring no tangles that would prematurely pull the staff free from it mooring and trap him.
“No snares now boy” his grandmother always said.
Looking back in farewell John could see the teeth of death staring back. Had he left it too late? Time to run.
Legs pumping. Heart pounding. Lungs bursting. Praying the Staff would hold just that little bit longer.
John leapt into blackness.