Born of the Wall is set less than an hour after the events of "Conflict of Instinct" in the Myth & Science universe. You don't have to have read any of the other stories in the series for this one to make sense.
It’s been so long, that no one knows why the walls were built. Nobody wants to leave. The classics they studied told of a wide world full of beauty and wonders, but others told of death and destruction. Most preferred to dream of the wonders that once were but dared not seek after things long lost. So to say it was a surprise to have Professor McLaggen knock on his dorm room door, urging him to pack a bag and follow his teacher beyond the wall, was a gross understatement.
McLaggen creeped Olson out, pushing his way into the dorm as he did, and they’d argued. The older man seemed unhinged, paranoid. It was so far out of character for the kindly professor, Olson worried some prankster or other slipped the old guy a hallucinogen. McLaggen seemed to calm down a bit when he played along with the man’s delusions, so Olson decided to humor the professor until whatever he was on wore off.
If he let the old man go off on his own and something happened… Well, Olson didn’t want that on his conscience. He began to rethink his position an hour later, with McLaggen still leading them toward the wall and refusing to be swayed.
Athletic, though never one for the outdoors, Olson had never ventured toward the wooded land that screened the walls from everyday view. His grandmother always said the forest had been planted as much as a way to fight the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped inside walls, even ones as vast as those surrounding their valley, as they were to help filter the air. He’d thought it funny until he was faced with weathered stone piled higher than anything he’d ever seen and stretching farther than the eye could see.
Olson’s pulse pounded in his ears as they neared the man-made monstrosity. The very sight of it made him feel minuscule, like he could strive all his life and never make a difference in anything. Memories of the stories told about what lay on the other side played through his mind’s eye, and every snapping twig had him glancing up in fear of the wall crumbling.
“We should head back,” Olson ventured yet again. McLaggan’s shoulders tensed, but he showed no other signs of having heard him. “It’s getting late, and I don’t know about you, Professor, but I’m getting hungry. Come on. The bar near campus has decent burgers.”
McLaggan finally stopped in his dogged trek and looked back toward Olson. The man’s complexion had taken on a waxy sheen, and he looked more gaunt than usual as he stood, hunched and wringing his hands. He looked at Olson with bloodshot eyes carrying a manic gleam to them.
“Yeah,” the professor murmured. He continued to fidget and his adam’s apple bobbed as he seemed to swallow with some difficulty. “Hungry. We should eat.”
Relieved his teacher was finally listening to reason, Olson smiled and nodded. He turned and started back up the path they’d just walked, anxious to leave the woods and the walls it hid behind. He heard Professor McLaggan hurrying to catch up, and he breathed a bit easier knowing this whole weird afternoon would be behind him soon.
Relief turned to startled fear as McLaggan’s hurried steps sped too close, and Olson stumbled forward as the smaller man leapt on his back. A cold hand stifled his yell, and McLaggan wrenched him backward with far more strength than a man of his size ought to possess. The muscles in his neck and back strained as he fought to pull away even as he staggered off balance.
A rending sound sent creeping shivers up Olson’s spine, and the rumbling growl uttered by his professor made his blood run cold. McLaggan pulled Olson’s head to the side, and a searing pain tore into his neck faster than he could blink. Adrenaline spiked his heart rate, and Olson twisted and clawed, fighting to free himself of the crazed man. But he couldn’t get a good hold or shake the man loose.
Olson’s struggled slowed, and he dropped to his knees as the edges of his vision blurred and faded to black.
Each story in this series is 700 words or less and is prompted by a first line taken either from a random first prompt like this one or reader suggestions like "Don't Forget Me" and "Culture Shock." I much prefer working from reader suggestions over generators, but to do that, I need to hear from you.
If you have a prompt you'd like to see done, comment below or tweet it at me. I'll screen shot it, write it, and post it for you.
A. B. England is a small business owner, mom of two, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
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