Peer Review by Maryam Q (Malaysia)()

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the honest hero; a burning tragedy | #HomoSapiensStory

By: Anha


out of ashes arose a hero.

you sneer almost reflexively. the innocence, the naivety of a line that is so ignorant it belongs in a bard's song.

mothers in slums use it as a line to comfort their impoverished kin; "see? even people in hardship can overcome their bearings." their children play at being heroes for a day, with wooden sticks for swords and gap-toothed grins.

but they scuttle away from you in fear when you walk among them; they do not like to gaze upon hardship. they want to see the polished steel, not the tarnished metal that came before. sometimes you cannot remove all of its rough edges.

there is black under your fingernails and the taste of soot in your mouth. perhaps if you ate something, the taste would go away, says the stupid princess. (she reminds you that she is the duke's daughter, but you see no difference between her pearly white teeth and the cheshire grins of nobility.) and you do eat. you are ravenous. ever since you burned for the first time, the fire could never go out. it consumes you from within, licking the walls of your stomach, your throat, your heart, it all burns.

out of ashes arose a hero.

you rose out of the ashes, all right, but you'd never call yourself a hero. the thought itself leaves a scald against your conscious mind; do not pretend to be what you are not. you are many things - you have become many things. but you are not a liar. least of all to yourself.

when they place you in front of mirrors, you'd rather see them shattered. you do not fear what you've become, nor do you despise it. it was a matter of necessity, after all. you rather think you would have crumbled if you had not hardened. but you never get used to seeing your burn-marred skin in the silver reflection. it's a leather-thick reminder of where you came from, even when you don't want to remember.

out of ashes arose a hero.

you can barely remember a time before you burned like this; it's clouded with smoke and the memories are covered in char - black as pitch - the nights seem longer when one doesn't sleep. you fight your nightmares with rage and vengeance that leaves you sweating and shivering in the early morning chill. it seems summer hasn't come for a long time. you wonder if the heat would only make the flame within you flare.

out of ashes arose a hero.

it burns, it burns, and to remember is to let it consume you. so you drown yourself, night after night, when the sun's holy light cannot see your debauchery. you drown yourself again and again, hoping the flame will go out. you choke on water and ale and women's mouths; they lust for the taste of power, and you give it to them, just for a night. (some are disappointed. some are satisfied. you never understood the ones who thought they could love you; that you could somehow love them.) the fire doesn't even dim. perhaps you were swallowing oil this whole time.

out of ashes arose a hero.

but they do not tell you where those ashes came from. who those ashes were. not that it matters anymore, you suppose. death is death, no matter how splendidly adorned or snatched eagle-quick from the air.

out of ashes arose a hero.

you wish you'd never risen at all.

alternative title: when everything burns, try drowning.

inspired by aryelee's they told me everything about heroes except how to become one

an entry for and-peggy's contest for the prompt 'hero'

Message to Readers

was really struggling on finding a title worthy of this piece. still struggling; if you think you have a good title idea, comment below.

if you enjoyed this piece, comment!! likes tell writers nothing without feedback
reviews very much appreciated

Peer Review

I don't even know where to begin. I had to read this a couple of times to understand it, but I think that applies to all the best stories. Just wow. I'm blown away. The way you take an innocent, overused line, and created a spectacular story from the hero's point of view is incredible.

I would love to know more about the hero's story, but not in this piece. Here there is just enough to understand what is going on, but you left enough hanging that it's mysterious.

Reviewer Comments

This piece alone is earning you a follow. I think 'the honest hero' is enough for the title, the second part is kinda unnecessary and makes it long.