The Life of a Shaman (flash fiction)

Here’s a piece of fantasy flash fiction about a young boy, a shaman, and destiny. It’s about 740 words and has an estimated reading time of 3 minutes. Let me know what you think!

For as long as he could remember, Elvan heard a voice in his head.

Even as a young child, he’d hear the voice tell him terrible things. Sometimes those things would be bizarre and sound like ancient, forbidden secrets.

Elvan was thirteen years old now, and he’d been shunned in his village. His mother, Kadri, kept him confined in the house after he’d been beaten up many times by the village boys.

“Go to the center of the forest,” the voice told Elvan incessantly.

He tried to ignore it, but the voice wouldn’t let up.

Elvan told his mother, and she gazed at him with a worried look. “I don’t know what this could be,” she said. “We must take you to the shaman. That’s the only way. He’ll know what to do.”

The shaman, Halim, lived on the outskirts of the village. Like any shaman, he was eccentric and often talked to himself. He lived alone, and his diet consisted chiefly of honey and the insects he caught.

When Elvan and his mother arrived at his hut, the shaman built a fire for the night. The flames flickered into the darkening sky.

“Halim,” the mother said. “We must do something about my son here. He’s been hearing strange voices. Is he a prophet?”

The shaman didn’t look at them directly. “There’s only one way to tell.”

“How’s that?” the mother asked.

“He must do what the voices tell him.”

Elvan’s mother wouldn’t accept this answer. She stomped her feet and pleaded with the shaman for a more suitable solution. Elvan looked on, and the voice in his head said, “You can trust this shaman. Go to him.”

“Mother!” Elvan yelled. “I can trust him.”

“How do you know?” she asked.

“The voice told me so.”

It was settled. Elvan would stay with Halim, the shaman, for a month to learn what to do about the voices. The shaman would train him in the prophetic arts and teach him to harness his strange power.

Sleeping next to the fire that night, Elvan tossed and turned. The voice wouldn’t let him be. It kept telling him to go to the center of the forest.

“Halim?” Elvan whispered.

The shaman stirred but would not wake.

Elvan had enough. As the shaman had said earlier, he would listen to the voice – he’d go to the forest. No matter what waited for him, he’d do it.

The young boy gathered a few things for the journey and set out. The forest was nearby, on the edge of town, and he trekked through by the light of the moon. He heard the howling of wolves and other night-creatures, but the voice told him to not fear them. He would be safe, the voice said.

Elvan traveled until dawn. It appeared he was close to the forest’s center when he heard the sounds of other men. He ducked behind a tree and listened.

The voices of the men were rough and violent. Then, he caught a glimpse of them: about three dozen warriors, probably from another nearby village.

The warriors talked of invading his village in their rough voices. Elvan snuck away, back toward the way he came. He had to warn his people.

When he arrived back at the village, the shaman asked him where he’d been. Elvan told him everything. “Then we must warn the council,” the shaman said.

The council would not listen, though. Instead, they mocked the shaman and the boy for ludicrous threats and warnings.

The next day, near nightfall, the warriors attacked. They burned and ransacked everything, killing scores of villagers.

Elvan and the shaman had left before the attack. The voice told Elvan when the violence would occur, so they left in the morning.

As Elvan and the shaman trekked through the woods, the shaman patted him on the back. “Your days as a prophet have begun,” he said. “Many people will fear you; few will understand you. But do not doubt your powers.”

“Will it be a lonely life?” Elvan asked.

The shaman smiled his toothless smile. “Yes, indeed. But there is no other way. You’ve been given this gift, and you must use it.”

Elvan sighed. The voice was a blessing and a curse, it seemed to him. Life as a shaman and prophet wasn’t what he imagined for himself, but he’d have to get used to it now.

The End

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons – Portugal, Idanha-a-Nova, “BOOM” by Artem Kavalerov)

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