Notes: a fusion of Fullmetal Alchemist live-action movie and Ball Lightning. Cover source: Wellcome Images

I stood on the banks of the ocean. The waves ebbed, flowed, ebbed, flowed. Sometimes it rose, sometimes it fell. One day, would the waves ever stop? The clouds rendered the sun ineffective, and my feet shivered in the cold sand. That was when I saw it: far away, a great snake, flying through the air like a firework. I peered forward, trying to catch a better glimpse. It stopped spinning and dove towards me. I just stood there, petrified by its majesty. The snake grew closer until it whooshed over my head, sending my hair flying. Its razor-sharp fangs narrowly missed me, I strained my head to follow it until I fell over. Then I jumped up and ran after the creature.

I was 6 at that time. My parents told me that snake was a legendary Abana, a mythical beast only seen once in a very lucky lifetime. They told me I was lucky to survive. I didn’t care-I was hooked. I read and memorized all I could about the Abana-not very much given the lack of scholars willing to risk life and limb. The Abana lived somewhere in the sky, but no one knew exactly where. The Abana hunted birds, but no one knew which ones, or any of its hunting tactics. The Abana was getting rarer and rarer, but no one knew why. There were many things no one knew, and I decided that I was the one who was going to change all that. I raced through the years, trying to learn more and more. All throughout, I waited for my chance to leave this backwater town and hit the Abana trail. Finally, when I was 12, my chance came.

The zero-lings were fish-like pirates, attacking small towns from the sky. They flew around in hot air balloons, and one day they attacked my small town. Whilst everyone else was loading the cannons, I planned to steal their hot air balloon and fly for the Abana. I knew nothing about piloting a balloon. My fighting skills were definitely in doubt. I had had no time to bring any rations. Get a grip, I told my thumping heart. This might be your only chance. I chose the simplest balloon and crept towards it. All around me, I heard the shouts of battle and breaking furniture. Every sound felt like it was happening right beside me. After what seemed like hours, I tumbled inside the balloon. At that very moment, a few zero-lings approached. They were going to climb into the ship! I searched frantically for a place to hide. A tiny opening in the floor! I squirmed into it, thankful that I hadn’t eaten those buns last night. The zero-lings climbed inside and began to fiddle with the balloon ropes. We lifted into the air. I grabbed onto the straw at the last minute, now dangling a couple feet in the air (and rising). Who knew where they were taking me?

“Boss says ta do some strafing,”

one said.

“Ha! That’s always fun!”

I had no idea what they meant, but it didn’t sound good. The townspeople were losing, and despite all my lofty dreams of discovery and adventure, they were still my family. My chauffeurs had drawn their crossbows and were shooting down at the townspeople. Pulling myself into the balloon, I threw them over the edge before they could say a word. Now that I was in control, I searched the basket for anything that could be used to help fight. By the time I realized that no one was driving, it was too late. The balloon fell, bowling over both townspeople and zero-lings alike.


I called out to them, before frantically pulling ropes at random. The balloon flipped over and over, and the only reason I stayed onboard was because I had accidentally gotten my legs caught in the basket. All the while, crossbows whizzed past me, some tearing into the balloon’s fabric. The balloon plummeted. A scream began to build up in my throat. At that very moment, another zero-ling balloon flew close by. I tugged myself free and landed onto the other balloon just in time.


down they went. This balloon was much more well-stocked. It had weapons, rations, and most importantly, a manual. I skimmed through the bible-thick manual and lifted the balloon into the air. With a crossbow, I shot at the zero-lings, ducking when they returned fire. Finally, the zero-lings retreated. The battle was won!

A few hours later

Without further ado, I was on my (air)way. The zero-ling battle was already a big delay; I couldn’t stay for the festivities. As the clouds drifted lazily past me, I sat back and took a swig of water. Just you wait, Abanas, I thought. Your secrets will be revealed.