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March 5, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge – The Four Part Story Final Part

Filed under: flash fiction challenge, Uncategorized — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 6:54 pm

This week’s challenge from the bearded sage Chuck Wendig is last part of the collaboration where everyone took turns to write parts of a story. This is the final part of Time Warp, started by Lauren and continued by Simon and CJ. I’ve copied their parts in below with links to their respective parts of the internet.


Part 1
It was a day like any other. She had come down the stairs, her phone was ringing, and she stopped to answer it, realizing her pump had slipped halfway off. She put her hand against the building, and leaned in, pulling the pump over her heel. She caught herself looking at a bearded man, sitting in the park, reading a newspaper. Her eyes looked him up and down.

On a hunch, she crossed the road to the park, not even looking for taxi cabs, even though she knew they wouldn’t stop. She’d read just the other day about a kid who had been hit, holding hands with his father. She didn’t know why she was headed to the park. She should have turned right and walked the length of the street, on the way to Barnes Butler to drop off the package. But there was something vaguely familiar she saw in the man.

When she had crossed, she stopped and she stared at the back of his head, silently daring him to turn around. He was engrossed in the newspaper, and she thought maybe she should just turn and leave. Instead, she barreled forward as if driven by a motor and stood in front of him, like a tree, blocking his reading light. He shook the paper and tilted his eyes up towards her. His face twitched in instant recognition, but it was too late for him to go anywhere.

“I thought that was you,” she said.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“I work across the street.”

She sat down next to him, and he folded up the paper and sat it on his knee. He gave her a sidelong look as she stared at the print on the paper and gingerly picked it up with her thumb and index finger. “You know if you’re going to sit here on a bench in Central Park in the middle of New York City, the least you could do is buy a newspaper dated for today. March 4, 1972, really Henry?”

“I take it there’s nothing in that manila envelope I need to be worried about. It doesn’t look thick enough to carry a gun.”

“What do they say these days?” she asked, raising her eyebrows at him. “Take a chill pill?”

“Yes, I think that’s correct. I’ll tell you the English language is not what it used to be.”

“You’re not my target this time.”

“Who is?”

“That’s privileged information, and you know it.”

“So how come you can’t kill me now, but in 2150 I’m your mortal enemy?”

She shrugged, clutching the package in her hand, and looking from side to side to make sure no one had followed her. He put his hand down on the bench, and he moved it over towards her skirt, but her reflexes were quick and she slapped it away. It pained her too, because she’d always found him attractive, even with a target on his head. But this wasn’t one of those spy movies where the two people fell in love and forgot all about the price on their head. She knew she’d have to target Henry next time they warped, and she didn’t want to risk unnecessary emotions becoming involved. She had never been here, to this time, and it was a surprise to see him. He looked innocent and younger than the last time she’d seen him. Of course then, his hands had been gripping the side of the building and she had been just about to peel them off one by one. She had imagined the scene as he dropped the fifty stories to the ground. She could even hear the splat his body would have made against the pavement, but in that exact moment in time she had warped.

The next assignment had not been a good one either, because it had occurred during the war, and it had taken much longer than she expected. Blue versus Gray, and she had been a housewife. She thought to herself that she should have never taken this job. She had no roots. Babies born and abandoned. But here she was, still at the hands of the powers to be. “I could help you,” he said.

“And why would you do that?”

“Because you didn’t kill me last time.”

Ha, she thought to herself. Only because there was a glitch in the machine. “I tried to.”

“Have you thought that maybe the orders have changed?”

She looked him in the eyes. She felt like she could trust him, but she didn’t know why. Her mind jumped to the moment in time where he was about to fall to his death. His eyes had looked sincere and warm, and in that moment she had felt a twinge of guilt. She never felt that way. It was always just business to her, never guilt.

“And why would they have changed?”

“Ophelia, we’re working for different people who have the same objective, aren’t we?”

She nodded, because she knew he was right. She looked down at her watch, the second hand spinning fast, and she felt the familiar wave come over her. No, not now, she thought. She couldn’t warp now. She grabbed the park bench, her grip tightened against the wood, as if she could save herself from traveling through space and time.

“What is it?” he asked.

“I think it’s coming. The warp.”

He shook his head. “That’s impossible. You haven’t done your job yet.”

“And how do you know what my job is?” she asked.

“That’s simple,” he said. “Our groups, they’ve—“

But the words were gone, in a swirling whirlwind, because in that moment her body was disassembling into millions of tiny particles, atoms, quarks, and it was traveling through a funnel towards another time period. ………

Part 2
Re-materialising was unpleasant. There’s no other way to put it.

Hundreds of hours of training. Thousands of real-time warps, some of them across vast distances and durations. Rational thought. Mental preparation. Will. None of it really did much to take the edge off the sensation of having your body smashed to its component parts and swapped with identical ones somewhere, and somewhen, else.
Though it was supposed to be instantaneous – at least to to the five pitifully dull human senses – operatives often spoke about an almost imperceptible moment as they came out of a warp, a moment that passed in a fraction of a heartbeat. A brief, excruciating instant where the consciousness was present, but the body was not. They called it the Void, and it was terrifying.

Ophelia came around screaming, certain she could feel every tiny layer of skin being drawn to her bones like filings to a magnet. Someone put a hand over mouth, another on her back and lowered her gently to the floor. Her memory kicked in, then her hearing. Someone was speaking, softly, reassuringly.

“Phe. Phe, I’m sorry, there’s so little time. It’s OK, Phe. It’s OK.” A hand on her forehead. “I had to pull you. I’m sorry. No time.” It was Isaac, the warp tech. His pale, boyish features were shot through with guilt or concern or both. Ophelia focused and let him guide her back to her feet, doing most of the work as his slight frame struggled to support hers. She calmed as recognition of her surroundings flooded over her. The two of them now stood in a debriefing chamber under the clinical glare of three perfectly spaced strips of LED’s. The chambers were designed to be identical, from the dimensions and the furniture down to the shade of high-gloss grey that covered the walls, ceilings and doors. There were hundreds of them scattered across six continents, hidden in office buildings and disused railway stations and specialist bunkers. She could’ve been anywhere in the world.

“Zac, what’s going on?” Ophelia asked, scanning Zac’s face for clues. “I haven’t made the drop. The target’s still out there somewhere – I didn’t finish the job.”

Now she’d a chance to look at him properly, she could see Zac was haggard. Tiredness dragged at his cheeks and brow, and his usually alert and inquisitive eyes were watery and ringed with black. His once-white shirt and coat were stained with old sweat.

“There’s not much time to explain, Phe,” said Zac, busying around her. “I’m setting you up to go back straight away.” He pulled the watch from her wrist and replaced it with another, identical one. “Things have changed. Bad changed.” He met Ophelia’s gaze and held it, and it took a moment for her to realise he was holding out a hand for the envelope. The one she’d been clasping all this time. She handed it over.

“What do you mean, changed?” Henry had hinted at that, too. What had he meant? Had he known she was going to be here, now?

“Zac, Henry was back there. I was talking to him when you pulled me.”

“Henry?” He handed her another envelope, indistinguishable from the first. “In NYC04? Henry, as in – ”

“Yeah, that Henry.”

“And you spoke with him?”

“Sure, he was sat on a bench in the middle of Central Park, reading a paper. I had to be sure it was him.”

Zac ceased his fussing and took a step back. His expression had been grim before; now, hopelessness was starting to show. He rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands. “Damn, Phe. Things are worse than I thought. We need to get you back to where you were and pronto.”

“What the hell is going on?” said Ophelia, irritated now. “You’re sending me back to the exact same time and place? For what? What’s changed? I – ”

Ophelia’s breath caught. The room was shaking violently, the tortured screech of twisting metal drowning out her words. Zac stumbled, about to fall, and she pulled him quickly upright with a hand under his armpit.
The tremors stopped a few moments later. Ophelia thought she could hear muffled voices in the distance.
Zac swore under his breath. “Phe, I’m heading straight over to control. In a couple of minutes you’re going to warp back to NYC.” He walked to the door of the chamber and produced a key fob from his pocket, which he held up to a small panel mounted on the wall before throwing to her.

“Lock the door behind me. If you’re not in Central Park in five minutes from the point I leave you, get out of here and stay low. Left out of this door, straight on and up until you see daylight.”

“What am I supposed to do in New York?”

“Make the drop. Deliver the package – the one I just gave you. Same place. If you make it, your watch will bring you home.”

“What about my target? The briefing said letting him walk would be catastrophic.”

Another tremor rocked the room, throwing the door open. Zac shut it hurriedly, covering it with his back. His eyes were wide and fearful.

“Everything’s changed. There’s a new target. They know I’ve pulled you and they’re coming. They know you’re here. I have to get to control. Now.”

Ophelia crossed the room and put a hand to Zac’s cheek. His expression hardened, but she could see he was shaking. He looked exhausted. “What are you going to do?”

“Get you into warp. That’s all that matters. The only way to fix this is you.”

Zac turned and opened the door, taking great care to check both ways before stepping into the corridor outside. “Good luck, Phe. Get ready to lock the door.”

“Wait, Zac – who is the new target?”

Zac smiled. “Isn’t it obvious?”

He started off down the corridor. Ophelia watched him go, her hand resting on the doorknob.

Over his shoulder, Zac called: “You.” …….

Part 3
Rematerialising was bad. Twice in under fifteen minutes was testing the limits of Ophelia’s resolve. She threw up in the nearest garbage can and looked around. Central Park was fairly empty this morning, but a few joggers gave her dirty looks as they went by.

She tucked the package under her arm and scanned the benches. No sign of Henry. It didn’t make sense. If this was the same time and place, he should be here.

Ophelia took the path out of the park and headed for Barnes Butler. At the first light, she made the mistake of looking behind her.

They were almost blending in. But she was trained on the right clothing and accessories for almost every time and place in history. The hats were wrong. She made eye contact with the shorter man. He stopped, grabbing his companion and they spun away into the park.

She moved faster up 5th Avenue. They would be back. Ophelia tried to remember the paths in and out of Central Park. If she could get clear before they came out, she’d have a better chance of reaching the store in time to make her original drop.

As she passed the convenience store, someone grabbed her arm. She went for her gun, forgetting they didn’t exist in this time period so she hadn’t been allowed to bring it.

“Henry!” She snapped, recognising the beard before she fully saw his face. Her heart pounded a little less. “I thought you were those guys.”

“I know. They showed up just after you vanished. I saw them looking around and leaving when it was clear you warped. They must not have gone far.” He gestured towards the package. “I think they’re here to stop you leaving that.”

“Well, my assignment hasn’t changed.” She swallowed, uncomfortable about the idea of who her target was.

“No, I got that.” He looked outside of the shop and nodded. “Come on, it’s safe.” Ophelia hesitated to follow him. They were still on opposite sides. He rolled his eyes and pulled her by the hand. “Come on, I’m not trying to set you up.”

He walked close to her, keeping one hand against her back. It was almost protective and she hid a smile. On days like this it was easy to forget they were at war.

“Are you planning to escort me all the way there?” She joked. He nodded, tight-lipped.

“I told you, things have changed. They’re not going to like that you’re back.”

Ophelia scanned the glimpses of the park over the fence. “I can’t see anyone. Maybe they didn’t expect to get made and they’ve left.” She and Henry looked at each other. Ophelia laughed. “I know, I know. But a girl can dream of the easy life.”

They covered the three blocks to the store, moving at a fast pace. She preferred this. It was almost too fast to talk.

“There it is.”

“Stay with me.” He held her arm tighter. She tensed but she wasn’t sure if Henry was the one triggering her feeling of unease.

Ophelia had the familiar sense that something wasn’t right. Everything had happened so fast that she hadn’t had a chance to sit down and work out which piece of information didn’t fit.

“It’s right there.” She scanned the streets, but the light had changed and everyone was stopped. “I have to get this done.”

Ophelia pulled her arm away from Henry and ran out into the street. She was halfway across the road when he yelled to her. The words vanished behind the blare of horns.

She didn’t see the black town car accelerate through the red.

The driver’s side clipped her. Ophelia flew into the air, coming down hard on the car’s hood. Pain sparked through her hip and up her side. The car wasn’t slowing down. She rolled, sliding off the side of the hood and onto the pavement. She didn’t want to move. A taxi skidded to a halt beside her, and soon a stranger was helping Ophelia stand. She limped forward, her left knee turning purple as it swelled.

Ophelia looked around. Henry was gone. She didn’t know if that meant he had finished his assignment. If he’d been here to kill her, he hadn’t done a good job. Neither had the other two men and the idea they might have unfinished business pushed her to keep going.

She brushed aside offers of rides to the hospital and looked around for the manila envelope. Heart starting to race in panic, she dropped to her knees, ignoring the pain. It had slid under a parked car. She wriggled under on her stomach to pull it out and stood. She saw the town car turning onto the street. She was right; they’d circled to check she was dead.

“I have to go.” She pushed through the crowd of onlookers, the envelope clutched in her hand. Each step sent bolts of blackout pain up her spine and into her head. No one could say she wasn’t dedicated to her job.

She entered the store and approached the counter. “Hi, I have a package to drop off for someone?”

A sales associate took it, looking at the name. “Oh yes, my manager. She’s just in the back. I’ll leave it here for her.” She did a great job pretending Ophelia wasn’t covered in scratches with ripped clothing.

Ophelia nodded her thanks. A wave overtook her. Combined with her injuries, it was enough to make her swoon and grab the counter for support. She glanced at her watch. The warp was coming.

“Oh, Ms. Dell. This is for you.” A shadow loomed over the counter and the sales associate handed the envelope to someone beside Ophelia.

Ophelia looked up. Her eyes widened. The room started to blur. This didn’t make sense but suddenly she knew what was wrong. As the whirlwind overtook her, she scrambled to undo the clasp on her watch. She couldn’t go back.

Part 4
She managed to get the strap loosened and threw the watch on the desk. It disappeared before it made contact with the wood, leaving her temporarily stranded.

The sales assistance’s eyes went wide and she opened her mouth, but the woman called Ms. Dell silenced her with a glance and sent her into the back room with a wave, before turning her attention to Ophelia.

Except that she was Ophelia. Ophelia herself felt severely underwhelmed at this discovery. It wasn’t just that her training had prepared her in case this ever happened, but everything had been turned upside down in the last hour or so and this revelation seemed almost mundane.

No, what bothered her was the fact that this Ophelia seemed to be neither form her future and certainly not her past, but seemed to be the exact same age as her. Her hair and make-up was different and she had a rounder face, a fuller body, but it still spoke volumes about Ophelia’s own beat-up condition that the sales assistant hadn’t noticed the resemblance. Hell, she even had a few of the grey hairs that Ophelia had discovered only last month. The woman, Ms. Dell, was her, but as she had never been.

There’s a new target. You.’ Zac’s word echoed. She reached for her gun, a second before remembering that she didn’t have it. She scanned the room, but saw nothing she could turn into a weapon and in her battered up condition she could not expect to come out on top in a fight.

Ms. Dell smiled as if guessing Ophelia’s every thought.

What …” Ophelia’s mouth had gone dry and she had to lick her lips before continuing. “What the hell is going on?”

I’m trying to stop time travel. For good,” said Ms. Dell. She looked at the envelope in her hand. “And this is the last piece I need.”

Wait, what? Why would you do something like that?”

When I was just a few years older than you are, I realized the truth about what they were doing and what it was doing to the world. So I went back in time to talk to my younger self and got her to infiltrate the agency.”

No,” Ophelia said, more firmly than she felt. “I’ve never talked to an older version of myself. And I would never betray …”

Oh, but you have. And you did. But the story doesn’t end there. Their move was to send someone forward in time to kill the older version before she could talk to the younger. They could just have killed the younger Ophelia, but this would not only lose them a valuable player, but also cause several events to collapse in on themselves, irrevocably.”

So it never happened.”

Ms. Dell smiled sadly. “The original Ophelia, if we may call her that, had predicted this move and made plans with the younger to circumvent the effect. And the agency made their counter moves and so it continued; a game of chess, played in four dimensions. At some point the time line couldn’t handle all this going back and forth and it split. Now there’s one version of Ophelia, where she’s a mole and one where she’s a loyal agent.”

Ophelia’s head had started spinning and not only because she had just banged it on a speeding car. “Two alternate time lines in one universe. I’ve heard about it, but it’s only possible in theory and only with subatomic particles. To do it with anything bigger than that would require …”

A paradox generator.” Ms. Dell waved the envelope. “This contain the calculations I’ll need to build it.”

You haven’t built it yet? How do you even know it will work?”

Well, I’m here, aren’t I?”

That … makes absolutely no sense.”

Ms. Dell merely shrugged in an infuriatingly nonchalant way.

But they sent me here with the papers. If what you’re saying is true, why would the agency just hand them over?”

I told you that the younger Ophelia infiltrated the agency and one of the persons she managed to turn was Zac. Half the time he’s loyal to them, but the other half he is our man. He told me that the papers would be delivered to Dell and he made sure to pull you out and put you back in at the same time and location, except that I had taken Ms. Dells place.”

Ophelia shook her head, trying to clear it, but that only made the pain worse. “He said something was happening. Everything was shaking.”

Ms. Dell nodded. “The agency are trying to preserve time traveling while at the same time I’m trying to destroy it and the pressure is making the time stream unravel at the centre. That’s why they wanted Dell to build them a paradox machine to get the upper hand.” She was going to say something more, but never got the chance. A shot rang out and blood blossomed like a rose on the pristine white shit. Ms. Dell looked down with a grim expression before toppling over onto the desk.

Ophelia turned and saw Henry standing there, gun drawn.

You shot me!” she exclaimed.

He frowned. “Not you. A version of you. A bad copy.”

Ophelia looked at the body and didn’t feel so certain. A tremor went through the earth, making everything shake. Now that Ms. Dell had been shot she would no longer be making the paradox machine and everything had once again been thrown to the wind.

She wasn’t even armed.”

She was a threat to everything. So much so, that your group and mine decided to work together to take her out. We knew she would try to contact you sooner or later, but we weren’t sure if she would pick up the formula herself. But it worked out. Now, just hand me that envelope.”

Ophelia picked it up, but her fingers tightened around it protectively.

I know what you’re thinking but you have no gun, no watch, this is the end of the line. Don’t make me shoot you as well.” Henry looked at her pleadingly, but now she could see how fake it was and she didn’t understand how she could ever have thought him sincere.

No, she thought, you don’t know what I’m thinking. But the other Ophelia had. And the other way around. She knew that the other woman would have seen this coming, would have had a contingency plan. And her eyes fell on the watch around her wrist, where the hands were turning faster and faster. She made a dive for it. Henry fired, but too late and missed her and she grabbed the watch and tore at it so hard that the strap broke and then the warp came. I can do it, she thought, even as her body was torn apart at a molecular level. I can invent the paradox machine. After all, I’m here, am I not?

February 26, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Four-Part Story Part Three

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 12:33 pm

This is third part of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Four Part Story. This week I’ve written third part of Bart Luther, Freelance Exorcist. First part by Josh Loomis here. Second part by Pavowski here. You should go read those first. I’ll wait here.


I knocked on the door. Ed retreated back towards the stairs like he was expecting something to blow up, but the door simply swung open without a sound.

The room was a mess, even worse than downstairs; books, clothes and other belongings strewn everywhere. But except for that, it was as typical of a teenage girl’s room, as to almost look like a set piece. Posters of the latest boyband on the walls, although half of them were torn to shreds; a vanity decorated with string lights, the mirror cracked.

Samantha herself was sitting on the bed, on the quilted bed cover with the rose motif which looked handmade under the filth. She had her hands folded in her lap and was looking at us, unblinking. Her breathing was loud and erratic, but other than that she was sitting perfectly still. A grimy, blue sundress, one strap slipped from the shoulder, a mix of girlish innocence and womanly allure.

At a casual glance she might have looked like any other girl, except she looked pale and her skin was glistening, dark curls clinging to her forehead. I remembered asking Father O’Donnell, if it was possible she was just running a fever. But there was something in her eyes. Literally, something in her eyes. Her pupils were enlarged, not just to catch the rather dim light, but as if something or someone inside her head wanted a better view and had thrown the shutters wide open.

Dry, cracked lips contorted into a smile, as if to tell me that she knew that I knew and it didn’t worry her at all.

“Hello, Samantha,” I said. “Are you alright?”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?” Her voice was perfectly light and charming.

I took a step into the room. The smell of sulphur made my noise itch. I had to fight the urge to scratch it.

“You seem a bit pale. Unwell.”

“Do I?” An innocent tone laced with mock surprise.

I took another step into the room, allowing Nora to enter behind me.

“So you father wanted us to check up on you.”

“Did he now?” Her face was expressionless as a mask, but there was a hint of disapproval in her voice. From outside on the stairs, I heard a small gasp.

I took another step towards her.

“Tell me, priest, is that a bible in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

“I’m not a priest.”

A frown, the first hint of real emotion, I had seen on the girl’s face and it was gone in an instance. “I see the past, the present, the future. If I say that you are a priest, then that is what you are and what you yourself think is of no consequence.”

I started to run through the catalogue of demons in my head. Quite a few would have the knowledge that this demon claimed to possess and all of them were prideful fuckers, but it did still narrow it down.

“At least you’re right about the bible,” I said and took it out.

She didn’t even flinch. “I’m not some squatter, whom you can just kick out. I took a lease on this place.” It ran Samantha’s hands up and down her body, a sensual motion.

I frowned. If what the demon said was true – and I had never come across one who was able to lie about these things – the possession of the girl wasn’t just pure bad luck, but rather something had drawn it in, given it a foot in the door to the household so to speak. But surely the girl’s father would have …

Beside me, I heard Nora ask: “Her mother? She had an affair, something like that?”

Yes, of course. I let out a quiet breath. She hadn’t left because she couldn’t deal; it had been guilt. She had known, at least on a subconscious level, that she was to blame.

The demon gave a loud screech of mirth, making us all jump, and clapped her hands in an exaggerated motion. “Very good. Very, very good, priest’s daughter. And now you see why you don’t scare me. You have no power here.”

I bit my lip. She was right; I didn’t have any advantage over her. Unless … I went through my mental list again. Knowledge of the past and future, connections to Lust, both narrowed it down, but there was still too many. I sent up a wordless but heartfelt prayer before making what I would like to think of as an educated guess.

“Are you sure about that, Vual?”

The demon’s lips formed a pout, the very image of teenage sulkiness. “That’s Duke Vual to you.” It narrowed its eyes as if in a belated attempt to hide its true nature. “Much good it will do you.”

I gripped my bible tighter, the leather worn soft and warm from my touch; it almost felt like living skin. I held it in front of me. “Exorcizo te, omnis spiritus immunde, in nomine …” I began. Then everything happened at once.

February 17, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Four-Part Story Part Two

Filed under: flash fiction challenge, Uncategorized — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 5:18 pm

This week’s flash fiction challenge is the second part of a four-part story. First part – which you should go read first – is here, written by Addy and it is part of the challenge, so I’m allowed to continue it.


Weir didn’t have time to fire, but her training kicked in. She swung her riffle and it smashed into the husk’s face with a wet crunch and enough force to send it flying back and make her hands go numb for a second.

“Run!” she yelled as the husks closed in on them. She started down the street, jumping over rubble and when a screeching husk jumped in front of her, she blew a hole though its chest.

A few hundred meters away, the central tower loomed. As they neared it, one of the mounted turrets turned towards them and the husks.

Weir’s sensed something wrong. “Duck!” she yelled and threw herself behind the fallen remains of a buildings facade, the rest of the team at her heels.

A shot blasted through the space she had occupied not a moment ago, but at least, she noted with grim satisfaction, it hit one of the husks coming after her. It would seem nobody was controlling the turrets, so they were just shooting at everything that moved.

The husks were behind them and they were unable to get closer to the tower. The bullets sprouting from the turrets were keeping the husks back, but it wouldn’t be long before they would find a way to their hiding spot.

Weir dared a look out and almost had her head blasted off. The central tower was so close, but might as well have been on another planet. There was no way past those turrets. But maybe they could go beneath them.

With a few punches on her wrist, Weir brought up a 3D map of this part of the city. They were in luck; the street they were on had a subway line running under it.

“Get ready to move,” said Weir and grabbed a shell from her belt, a small explosive charge designed to clear inaccessible areas. She looped it over her head, down the street and a moment later there was a sharp crack, more like the sound of thunder than an explosion and small pieces of debris rained down over them.

The blast had punched a neat hole in the ground leading down to the subway tunnel.

“Move!” she shouted and began running, the turrets firing, bullets spraying up concrete all around her,

She jumped into the hole and took a roll as she landed, her squad following. She heard a sharp yell from Danny, looked up and saw Sara grabbing his arm, dragging him the last few feet, before she dumped him unceremoniously into the hole and jumping in after him. They both landed heavily on the ground. Danny giving a grunt of pain.

Weir bent over him to asses the damage. The shot had gone straight into his upper arm, tearing his suit.

“You’ve been exposed,” said Weir quietly. “I’m sorry.” She aimed her riffle at him.

“Wait! I … Just wait,” he said.

She hesitated, but didn’t lower her weapon.

“Just let me … Not like this. Let me die fighting. The husks are going to follow us any moment. I can delay them.”

Weir thought, but only for a moment, before nodding. “Good man,” she said.

She turned to look at the rest of the squad. “Keep moving!” she ordered and they all started running.

A few moments later they heard the first shots behind them. It went on, getting dimmer as they moved away. Then there was the sound of a scream, cut mercifully short.

They reached the subway station right underneath the tower, so far still free of husks. The doors to the building were sealed, but this was why Weir had brought the explosives and it took only a few moments to blast a hole in the door big enough to push through.

Weir went in first, then the rest with Sally last. The large hall they were in was untouched by the destruction raging in the rest of the city. Neither were there any sign of husks.

“Should we seal the doors?” asked Felix.

“Leave them,” answered Weir. “We’ll never get it done properly before the husks get here. We’ll have to get to the control room and secure that, then we can …”

She turned at the sound of a noise, her riffle up and ready to fire, but it was not a husk coming through the door, only a woman wearing the clothes of an office worker. Weir studied the figure carefully but saw no signs of the virus. Maybe she had gotten lucky and the tower had sealed itself before the contamination had gotten inside. But if that was the case, her luck had just run out. Weir shot a glance at the doors they had blasted open and felt a pang of regret. Still, with the city about to be wiped put, it didn’t really make a difference.

“Are you here to save us?” The woman was young, as far as Weir could see. She was trembling slightly, but her voice was steady.

“No,” said Weir, “we’re here to collect data. Where’s the control room?”

“It’s two floors up. You’ll have to take the stairs; there’s no power. Anyway, you can’t get in.”

“Leave that to us. Can you take us there?”

The woman nodded.

“Let’s go,” said Weir, with a final look at the opening behind them.

“I’m Lyra,” said the young woman as they started up the stairs.

“Weir. Are there other survivors?”

“About twenty of us. We’re holed up in the room next to the control room. It’s the safest part of the building.”

She wasn’t lying. As they reached the floor the control room was on, Weir saw a glass wall and behind it a group of frightened civilians huddled, among them two small children.

“Blast the staircase,” she told Felix. “We won’t be coming that way again and it will slow down the husks.”


Third part by ToniJ here.
Fourth part by CJ here.

February 12, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge – The Four Part Story Part One

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , , — Eva Therese @ 10:23 am

The is the first part of a story, written for a flash fiction challenge courtesy of Chuck Wendig.


 

The smell hit her while she was still in the hallway. Thick, sickly-sweet, but without the note of iron usually associated with blood. Rather this had a hint of something sharp, maybe alcohol. It smelled, she decided, as cough syrup tasted.

Evelyn ducked under the yellow tape and entered the hotel room. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the bright green spatter on the otherwise pristine bedcover.

She walked around the bed and took in the crime scene, the body lying on the carpet. The back of the head was smashed in, but the face was undamaged. It was a decidedly ugly face. It put Evelyn in mind of Dopey from Snow White if he’d had skin like wrinkly parchment and really ugly teeth.

She looked up and met the gaze of Andrew. His large hands were holding a small pair of tweezers which he was using with surprisingly delicacy to examine the damage.

“What have you got for me?” asked Evelyn.

“Dead for around four hours.” Andrew had lived in Aliceville for the better part of fifteen years, but still retained a hint of a Jamaican accent.

Evelyn nodded. “Fits. Officer Young filled me in. The night porter says he saw the fairy return to the hotel around five in the morning, but didn’t see or hear anything else until half an hour ago, when he heard the cleaning guy scream his head off. I’ll get a full statement later, but I don’t expect much.”

“Cause of death is a single blow to the back of the head. Fairies have more brittle bones than humans, but it would still have taken some force. They haven’t found the murder weapon yet, but I’m thinking a wrench, something like that. Iron of course.”

“Not something normally found in a hotel room, which indicates premeditated.” Evelyn scratched her nose, then snapped on a pair of rubber gloves. She knelt beside the victim and started going through the pockets. The second one yielded a wallet and she pulled out an ID-card. Next to the name ‘Tierny Belenus’ there were two pictures. One of them was a photograph showing the ugly face on the body. The other was a small scan of a rendered drawing of how the fairy would have chosen to look to any humans, while he had still been alive to uphold a glamour. It shoved an eerily beautiful young man with silver hair and striking green eyes.

Evelyn showed the picture to Andrew.

“Hot,” he commented. “You’re thinking crime of passion?”

“Too early to say. But it’s interesting to note that he wasn’t trying to blend in. Apparently, he wasn’t worried about hate crimes.”

“Which means he must have been powerful and thus high up in the hierarchy,” Andrew finished for her.

She nodded and bagged the wallet and the ID-card before getting up to have a look around. She looked in the garbage can and fished out a take-away coffee cup.

“It would seem our fairy had a visitor,” said Andrew and got up from the floor with a grunt.

“Really? How do you know it isn’t his?” asked Evelyn.

“Fairies like sweet things. Coffee is bitter.”

“Oh.” Evelyn turned the cup over. There was a name scrawled on the side. “Rowan,” she read.

“Fake, but still significant. Twigs and branches from rowan trees can be used to ward off evil, including fairies.”

“It could be someone who sees themselves as a weapon against fairies. But all fairies in general or just this one?” A notion struck Evelyn and she looked at Andrew thoughtfully.

“No,” he said. “Absolutely no.”

“We don’t have a fairy-related crime division; we don’t have anyone to handle public relations. We have to investigate the murder of a high-ranking fairy and you’re the only expert we have on the subject.”

“And as an expert, my opinion on the subject is, that it’s a horrible idea. Fairies don’t like halfbreeds,” he pause for a moment before adding, “either. Especially not those high up. They’ll see my inclusion as an insult.”

“We won’t tell them, obviously.”

Andrew just gave her an exasperated look.

“Okay. Maybe that won’t work. But look, this is what I’m talking about. I’m flying blind here; I don’t know anything.”

Andrew sighed and rubbed a big hand over his forehead. “Okay. I’ll go with you. But you do all the talking; I’ll just stand in the background and take notes and, I dunno, look pretty, I guess.”

“Very pretty.”

“Shut up.”

 

The night porter hadn’t had anything to add to his explanation and trying to track down whoever had bought the coffee, had given them nothing more than a description of a nondescript black woman in her late thirties, early forties.

If they wanted information, they needed to know about the victim and this was why Evelyn and Andrew were right now standing outside a nightclub which was currently closed. It was named Dunluce Castle and Andrew had reluctantly told her that it was the place to be and be seen for fairies and their hang arounds. If Mr. Belenus stayed out till five, this was the likeliest place.

Evelyn knocked at the door, waited a moment and when nobody answered, she pounded on it with her fist.

There was a sound of incoherent muttering and then the door was unlocked and opened just a crack. A pale woman peered out at them, blinking owlishly in the sharp midday light.

“Homicide,” said Evelyn and flashed her badge. “We need to speak to you and anyone who was working here last night.”

“About what?” The voice was beautiful, melodic, making the two words sound like a poem. Behind her, Evelyn heard Andrew clear his throat loudly.

She unfolded a scan of Mr. Belenus’ ID-card and showed it to the woman. “Was he here last night?”

The woman’s eyes went wide and she made a jerk as if to slam the door, but then changed her mind. “Better come in,” she said.

February 5, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge: The SubGenre Blender

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: — Eva Therese @ 1:37 pm

The weeks Flash Fiction Challenge, courtesy of Chuck Wendig, is a mash-up of two genres and the random number generator gave me Conspiracy Thriller and Wild West. I chose to interpret Wild West as a more general settlers/frontier setting in an undefined placed since that gave me some creative freedom.


The silence was enough to give her goose bumps. There should have be voices and children playing and the noises of work being done; another frontier village being built and expanded, creaking and groaning with growing pains.

There was nothing but the blowing of the wind, the soft hiss of sand being displaced and their own footsteps.

Sheriff Jackie Trainor was going from door to door looking for … for what? Survivors? Bodies? A bleeding clue as to what had happened?

Carver’s Creek was not her jurisdiction, but since the village’s sheriff was one of the missing people and her village, Whitepond, was the closest, she had set out to investigate. With her, she had Whitepond’s doctor. She had figured it would be a good idea to bring a medical professional in case there were any bodies that needed to be examined, but right now it was looking like a waste. Still, it was nice to have someone to talk to, to say things out loud rather than mulling them over in her head.

“No bodies,” Trainor began, then silently congratulated herself on her ability to state the obvious. “No signs of them leaving voluntarily – everything’s still here – but no signs of violence and struggle either. It looks as if everyone got up and went to look at something interesting and then never returned.” She sighed and rubbed the back of her head. This made no sense.

The Borderlands, as the frontier area was known, was a dangerous place. There were wild beasts and freak weather and horrifying diseases and, of course, outlaws. In the five years since Trainor had been sent to Whitepond to be their first sheriff, she had seen all of that and more. But she had never come across anything, which could make a whole village just vanish into thin air.

“We’ll have to bring more people. Do a proper search of the area.”

“Are you sure that’s wise?” asked the doctor. “We could lose more people that way.”

Trainor looked at her blankly. “We have to know what happened or it could happen to us, to Whitepond as well.”

“Or we could be stirring up trouble. Go looking for problems and you’re sure to find them.” Doctor Gaynesford’s mouth was a thin line, a stubborn expression on her face, but in her eyes was lurking something like fear.

Sheriff Trainor stopped and grabbed Gaynesford’s arm, forcing her to a halt as well. “Doctor Gaynesford,” she said, trying to make her voice stern, which was difficult because she was talking to a woman who was old enough to be her grandmother and had treated the bruises she had acquired in pursuit of duty more times than she could count. “Do you know what happened here?”

“No.” The answer came straight, without hesitation, but there was a flicker in the eyes.

“But you know something, don’t you?” A thought struck her. “You’ve seen this before!”

“I’ve seen this before, yes.” Doctor Gaynesford walked over to a bench in front of a house and sat down heavily as if she suddenly felt her years.

The sheriff sat down next to her. “I’ve never heard about it. When was this?”

“It was a long time ago. I was a newly appointed doctor to a small village called Westerlake. Today it’s a proper city well inside the civilized part of the map, but back then it was right on the edge of the Borderlands.” She looked at Trainor, dark eyes twinkling. “I was quite like you back then, all bright-eyed and bushytailed and eager to do the duty.” For a moment she seemed lost in memories, then she continued.

“One day, the same thing happened as here. Everyone in the neighboring town vanished overnight. We searched high and low, but never found them, never found any trace of them. Finally we sent word to the metropolis, requesting assistance to solve the mystery and manpower to fight back against whatever could do such a thing.” She smiled sarcastically. “They sent manpower, but not the kind we had expected. The soldiers, who showed up, told us in no uncertain words to keep our mouths shut and forget about the whole thing.”

Trainor moved uncomfortably in her seat. “Are you saying that they were behind the disappearances?”

“No.” The words came out a bit hesitant. “At least I don’t think so. But they didn’t want the news to spread, since it would scare off potential settlers. So they stamped it out right at source. I still don’t know what happened to the village, but I know what they threatened would happen to Westerlake if we didn’t keep quiet and I believe they were serious.”

Trainor hesitated a moment before asking. “You can’t just stop there. What happened afterwards?”

“Nothing much. We all agreed to keep our mouths shut. I and a few other people left Westerlake to go to other frontier villages, where we only had to worry about hungry beasts and freezing winters, things you can prepare for and fight. Or maybe it was just that we could no longer bear to look each other in the eyes, knowing that we all knew, but had elected to pretend we didn’t.

Certainly nothing happened to Westerlake. The people who stayed prospered and now it’s a city with trade agreements and full privileges. Maybe the metropolis had a hand in it, as a reward for be reasonable; maybe it’s just that the kind of people who can keep a secret like that and move on like nothing happened, are more likely to prosper.” She sighed. “I don’t know. The older I get the less certain I become of everything. But now you know, why I don’t think it worth it to pursue this.”

The sheriff was quiet for a while after this story. “Do you think they know?” she asked. “Our leaders in the metropolis. Do they even know what it is they don’t want the rest of us to know about?”

Gaynesford sighed. “I’ve asked myself that many times. I think not. I believe – and I have no proof to offer, but this is something I have thought about through a long time – that the disappearances have happened even before my time and for whatever reason our leaders don’t believe we can guard against them.”

“And so they would rather bury the truth.” The sun was beating down mercilessly. Trainor ran a hand through her curls. “Well,” she said, grim and stubborn determination setting in. “We might not get any help from the metropolis, but since when is that any news? They don’t help when we are beseeched by bandits or when everybody comes down with thalevia and we manage anyway. Why should this be any different?

One thing is for sure.” She got up and gave Gaynesford a hand to help her stand. “I will not sit idly and hope for the best. I won’t let it happen, not in my village. Not on my watch.” She stood for a moment, then she deflated a little. “But even as the sheriff I can’t do it alone. Will you help me?”

Gaynesford smiled, then looked her straight in the eyes. “I will.”

January 28, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge – Must Contain Three Things

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: — Eva Therese @ 6:27 pm

Challenge courtesy of Chuck Wendig and can be found here. My three things were Betrayal, Survival and A Bomb.


Ariana scrambled on the floor trying to pick up the money, but her hands were shaking so badly, she mostly just scattered them even more. She muttered every single swearword she had ever heard and quite a few she had just made up herself.

She had misjudged the time and the bomb had exploded before she had expected. It had been shock as much as the shaking of the building which had caused her to stumble and fall down the fire escape. It had been a bloody miracle that she hadn’t broken her neck.

The fall had knocked the suitcase open and spilled the cash all over the ground and now she had to pick it all up. Mr. Slate would have every inch of the place searched and if his men found even one note, he would know that they money had not been lost in the explosion and that someone had made it out. It would put him on her track.

She turned back towards the suitcase, a handful of crumpled papers in each hand, and dropped them all when she saw the woman standing next to it. She jumped up and moved backwards without taking her eyes off the newcomer, but only for a few steps, before she backed into the stairs and fell backwards. She managed herself into a sitting position. After her first panicked reaction running seemed just silly.

They looked at each other.

Cecilia walked over and sat down on the stair next to her. There was a faint whiff of smoke clinging to her.

Ariana pulled back from her. “How did you get out?”

That’s it?” Cecilia cocked her head; a few dark strands of hair made a run for it and got as far as her cheek before they were caught and once again hooked behind her ear. “You’re not going to lie? Say that it was an accident that you set off the bomb and that the door slammed and you couldn’t get it open?”

Ariana reached down and picked up one of the bills, started fidgeting with it “You’re much too smart to believe that.”

I am.” Cecilia sighed.” Although when you look at where I am right now …” Her voice trailed off.

How did you get out?” Ariana asked again.

Cecilia looked at her as if she had for a moment forgotten she was there. “That’s what you want to know? Not ‘what do you want?’ or ‘what happens next?’

Of course I want to know that as well. I just can’t figure out how you got out. Not even now when I know it’s possible. You were always the smart one.”

I’ll trade you an answer for an answer. First, you tell me why you did it.”

Does it matter?” Ariana fidgeted some more with the paper, started to fold it into a small plane.

Indulge me.”

Very well.” Ariana sighed and tried to gather her thoughts. Her reasons, which had seemed to important and clear when she closed the door on Cecilia now seemed rather vague and stupid. “It was a dream. A fantasy. Slate would hunt us down, no matter where we went, and kill us. Not to get the money back, but just to make an example of us. But I thought, if one of us was found dead in an explosion, maybe he would think that it was just one person acting alone and that the money had been destroyed and leave it at that.” She looked at Cecilia, willing her to understand.

Cecilia looked distant, not really angry, but certainly without any trace of sympathy. “You should have talked to me. Told me all this. We could have found a way.”

I …” Ariana shook her head. “I wanted to. But I couldn’t see what good it would do. I didn’t want to die and I couldn’t see any other way. You were always smarter than me.” Tears were running down her cheeks now.

In some ways.”

So,” Ariana sniffed noisily and dabbed at her eyes with her sleeve, “you promised to tell me. How did you survive the bomb?”

Oh, that,” said Cecilia. “I didn’t.” She looked straight at Ariana. “And neither did you.”

What? I don’t understand?”

I wasn’t there, but if I was to take a guess, I’d say that you fell down the stair, broke your neck.” She looked up and Ariana followed her gaze to where a figure she hadn’t noticed before lay like a crumpled heap of old clothes in the middle of the stairs.

I’ll be moving on, but I wanted to tell you first,” said Cecilia.

Moving on? But where are you going? And what happens to me?”

You’ll figure it out. You always were smarter than you gave yourself credit for.”

And as Ariana stared at her, she started to glow like embers and then turn black and start to dissolve into flecks of ashes which then melted away into nothing, leaving an empty place on the bottom step of the stairs and a faint whiff of smoke.

 

September 26, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge – One Amazing Sentence

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 8:19 pm

It’s been forever since I last did one of these, so maybe it’s a good thing that I can ease back into it, with just one sentence. Challenge as always courtesy of Chuck Wendig and can be found here.

And the sentence is:

When the rain finally came it started as a cool drizzle, barely more than a mist, which turned into a downpour that flooded the scorched and cracked earth and made the temperature drop like a fever breaking.

May 31, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge – Mirror Murders

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , , — Eva Therese @ 10:12 am

This weeks Flash Fiction Challenge as always courtesy of Chuck Wendig. Randomness delivered unto me the title ‘Mirror Murders’, which was actually rather easy to work with, since I find mirrors creepy, especially when it’s after dark and I’m home alone. It also ties in nicely with an idea I have been kicking around with for a long time.

——————————————————————————————-

”Professor Crane?”

The woman sitting on the bench turned her head towards them. In the sharp spring sunlight, her eyes were little more than slits and yet Detective Walker felt her studying them, cataloguing them and filing her findings away for future reference. “Yes?”

“I’m Detective Walker and this is Detective Schuler.”

“Detectives? Really? For a moment there, I thought you were two of my students. I really must be getting old.”

Walker took a closer look at the woman. She was not unattractive, but dressed plainly and used no makeup. Her hair was blond with grey streaks that she had done nothing to cover up. It couldn’t have been easy, being a pretty, young, blond teacher in a place like this and she looked like she had been doing her best to hide it. Walker thought she could relate; as a Latino woman she was used to being judged by appearance.

“We wanted to talk to you, about the Mirror Murders ten years ago,” said Schuler and sat down next to Crane.

She didn’t look surprised, but she got an expression of distaste. “I would imagine that the police still has these places called archives. There you can find the testimony I gave a decade ago.”

“We have read it,” said Walker, sitting down next to Schuler so as not to close the woman in. “But we want to hear it from you in person.”

“I have nothing to add.”

“Professor, please …” began Schuler.

“Don’t,” snapped Crane. “If you know enough about that case to come see me, you also know that the only thing that came out of my testimony was that I was deemed crazy and had to spend six months in a psychiatric hospital, while my life fell apart around me. I lost my job, my fiancée.” She stopped herself. “Crazy or not, I have no other recollection of what happened that night, than what I said in my statement. I have nothing to add. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” She got up to leave.

“The murders have started again,” said Walker. This wasn’t exactly how she and Schuler had planned to deliver the news, but at least it made an impression.

Crane sat down again. “Are you absolutely sure?”

“Everything fits. How it seems to be a different killer for each victim, but with the same M.O. The scene of the crimes, locked from the inside. The victims found dead near a large mirror. Even details the were never released to the public.”

“Like how the killer in each case seems to be the same height and build as the victim?”

“Yeah,” said Schuler. “How did you know that?”

“I thought you said you’ve read my statement?”

“Professor Crane,” said Walker, “you are the only one who survived an attack back then. If this is the same killer or group of killers, they could be coming for you again.”

“Oh no. They’ve had their chance. If the same person still wants me dead, he or she will have to look for another way.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because I killed my assailant back then.” She gave an impatient sigh. “Are you sure you’ve read my statement?”

“Do you have any idea, who could have wanted you dead?” asked Schuler.

“No, but that’s your job to figure out.” She got up again. “It could be the same person behind these new murders or it could be someone new, who has discovered the same method. Find what connects the victims and you’ll find who wants them dead. Simple as that.”

“Be that as it may,” said Walker, also getting up, “we would still like a statement from you.”

Crane looked at Walker for a rather long time; cold, grey eyes, that seemed to pierce her brain and read the thoughts written on the back of her skull. Walker wondered what it was like having her as a teacher and had a sudden, vivid mental image of a lecture hall full of students all frozen in their seats, too terrified to do anything but pay attention.

Finally Crane said: “Very well, if you insist. Let’s go to my office.”

About half an hour later, Walker got up from her chair. “Thank you for your time,” she said, while thinking exactly the opposite. Crane had really been serious when she had said that she didn’t have anything to add. In fact she had hardly changed a word, compared to the statement she had made ten years ago.

It still didn’t make any sense and there were no useful details. In essence, Crane had been attacked by her own reflection coming out of the mirror, but had managed to fend off and kill her attacker, who had then melted away to nothing. Walker had to ask herself, whether the attack had actually really taken place or if Crane had just imagined it, incorporating the details of the Mirror Murders, that had been known to the public.

Crane went with them out into the hallway. “I hope you find whoever is responsible for this,” she said. “But please, do not worry about me.” She stood as if she wanted to see them on their way, to make sure they really were going. Walker gave a curt nod, Schuler muttered something polite and the two detectives walked down the hallway past the ladies’ room.

“I’ll just be a minute,” said Walker and opened the door. The room had one of those huge mirrors that covered the whole wall above the sinks. Walker could see herself in it, naturally, and she could see Schuler and there was also part of the hallway and even the door to Crane’s office. And just as the restroom door closed behind Walker, she saw the door to Crane’s office open and close as if somebody had gone in. Somebody who had not been reflected in the mirror.

April 6, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge – Life is Hell

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 3:32 pm

A couple of years ago I actually finished a novel set in a world where Heaven and Hell and the war between are at the heart of the story. I just had to revisit that world for Chuck Wendig’s challenge.

A couple of explanatory details: Demons do not have names until they earn them. Damned souls get sorted according to whatever sins they used to damn themselves when they were alive, but Hells internal security get no souls that way, so they get to hand-pick the ones they want using criteria unknown to anyone but themselves.

——————————————————————————————–

Pandemonium. All Hell broke loose. No doubt all of the new arrivals had used those expressions on several occasions, without having any idea what they really meant. They couldn’t have imagined the controlled chaos of Hell. For them, the closest approximation would be the inside of a bee hive. There was a system and an order to the writhing movements of the masses, but it was devised by an alien mind, unfathomable to humans.
It showed in their faces as they huddled together in the centre of the square, staring wide-eyed at their surroundings. They were all naked but most seemed oblivious to the fact, although some of them tried to cover their bodies with their hands and at least one of them stared greedily at the nakedness around him. The demon wrinkled her nose at this. Hell do not suffer fools gladly.
“Right!” Her voice was sharp and crisp like a gust of the wind that never stirs in Hell. The damned souls all turned to look at her. The man from before stopped gawking at the others and looked her up and down instead. She ignored him. “I don’t think I need to tell anyone where you are.”
This close to them, their thoughts could be sensed. They were scared and confused, but there were no-one here who did not know where he or she was.
Slowly their thoughts became more coherent. Why am I here? I don’t deserve this? I didn’t do anything, I just watched. I would have paid the money back. I hardly touched her. It was an accident.
Their thoughts seemed to be coming from all directions, but they all ended up in the same place. They melted together until they were all the same thought, repeated over and over again. It’s not fair. It’s not fair. It’s not fair.
The demon smiled. “Right,” she said again. “It would seem you are all ready to move on.”
“Move on?” one of them asked.
“This is only the transit hall. From here you will be handed out to the different Princes depending on what particular vices and weaknesses that landed you here.” She bared her teeth in what might have been a smile, but then again, perhaps not. “Think of it as the Sorting at Hogwarts.”
“So,” it was the indecent little man from before, “does that mean I get to go somewhere having to do with sex?”
The demon Looked him over. “Yes. Go stand over there.”
He was actually grinning as he went to the spot she had pointed out. She shook her head and wondered whether he was all there. Not that it would make any difference to him in the end. Hell suffered lunatics even less gladly than fools.
She started Looking over the rest of the souls and dividing them into groups. Most were easy to make out, but a few had so many sins in so many different areas that it took several long Looks to find out which were the most prominent.
She had just finished, when she felt someone behind her and turned to find herself standing face to face with a demon much taller than her, with a body made of unsubstantial smoke.
“I am here to collect souls for the Web.”
The demon tried not to look afraid but suspected that she failed miserably. The demon in front of her came from the Web, which amounted to the internal security of Hell, and no-one liked to talk to them, because doing so almost always meant that you had been accused of something and there was little chance of clearing your name. Still, she told herself, the demon was simply here to collect souls.
She bowed her head and stepped aside and the smoke demon glided towards the souls and started to inspect each one, her following right behind it. Most of them it spared only a glance, although she suspected that it still Looked deeper than she had been able to. Others, it examined for longer, before moving on. Finally it stopped in front of the nasty little man.
“This one,” it said.
“That’s not fair,” the man complained. “You said I would go somewhere with lots of sex.” He would have protested some more, but she grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and threw him at the ground in front of the smoke demon.
“Sorry about this. That guy is an ass. I’m sure there are others that are more suited for …” She trailed of. She had no idea what the demons from the Web actually did with the souls they collected.
“No.” A smoky tendril uncoiled itself from the lowest part of the smoke demon and touched the man, as if it was prodding him with a foot. “He will do very nicely.” Then it continued.
It only picked one more soul. A young teenager, really no more than a child, who had been weeping silently but uncontrollably the whole time. Her youth and desperation belied the fact that she had ended up here because she had killed her younger brother.
Done with its work, the smoke demon turned towards her and hovered for a moment as if assessing her as it had the souls. “You have done well.”
“Thank you.”
“I will see you again.” With these words it turned and started to float away, the two souls following it. The man wasn’t complaining but was eyeing the girl next to him.
The demon stood frozen in place, the words echoing in her mind. Finally, with an effort, she shook her head. It had only talked meant it would see her, the next time it came to collect souls. Yes, that had to be it.
She looked back at the remaining souls. “Right,” she said. “I’ll get you lot on your way.” She wasn’t in any danger. She hadn’t done anything. It wouldn’t be fair.

March 20, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge – SomethingPunk

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , , , — Eva Therese @ 6:06 pm

This weeks challenge from the lovely and beardy Chuck Wendig is ‘SomethingPunk’. Please, see here for an explanation of what the heck that is supposed to mean.
I then chose to cheat I bit. The description specified a ‘new SomethingPunk’ world. but I thought that this tied in really nicely with a world I had already invented. So this is me writing PsionPunk (or possibly OrichalcumPunk or maybe both). The story works as a sequel to this Flash Fiction Challenge but if I’ve done my work properly, it should be possible to read this without having read the other.

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When I was six, my father started working for the Company, flying raw Orichalcum. He left me behind as a guarantee that he wouldn’t try to abscond with the load. I remember the night before he left. I had been fed and given new clothes and I was lying in a soft bed in a small dormitory with seven other children. My father tucked me in and then he told me about all about the airships and how every trip would be an adventure. He would come back as a rich man and we would have a house to live in. I remember some of the other children looking at us, listening, as if he was their father as well. He sat with me and stroked my hair until I fell asleep. When I awoke, he was gone.

It was some time later, maybe a few months, that I first witnessed the two men come for one of the children, a boy named Ami. All the children from the different dormitories were gathered in the playground, there were about a hundred of us, but they walked straight up to Ami. We all stopped playing and watched Ami and the two men. They talked to him, too low for us to hear and he was nodded shyly. Then all three of them walked out of the playground and slowly we all went back to what we had been doing before the interruption.
This was the last time any of us saw Ami. At dinner-time of the girls from his dormitory, named Tinnaf, said that she had been back there and all his things were gone.
“So,” someone – I don’t remember who – said, “his father must have come back for him.”
Everyone nodded.
“But, he didn’t even say goodbye to me,” insisted Tinnaf. “Why wouldn’t they let him say goodbye?”
There were some mutterings at this, but I didn’t care. I hadn’t really known Ami and I didn’t like Tinnaf. I thought the most likely explanation was that he simply hadn’t cared as much about her as she seemed to think.

 Still, I couldn’t help being a little bothered by what had happened, so when I had finished eating, I sought out the caretaker. He was a very old man, named Briar, with a crooked leg, which meant that he had to use a walking stick. He was very kind, even though he tried to be stern with us and I liked him a lot.
When I came to see him, he was in the workshed, mending a broken toy wagon. I put some more coal on the fire, since the evening was chilly and got a grunt of thanks from him. I climbed onto his workbench and sat there with my legs dangling over the edge.
“Briar,” I said, “what happened to Ami? The men came and took him and now his things have gone.”
“He’s moved out,” Briar said, not looking up from his work. Then I heard his voice in my head. “He’s dead. Dead. Can’t let her know.”
“Dead?” I repeated confused.
There was a small ‘thonk’ as Briar dropped the wagon. He turned to look at me. “Dead? Why would you say such a thing? Who told you that?”
Even in my confused state, this struck me as unreasonable and unfair. “You did. You just said he was dead.”
He just stared at me. Then I heard his voice again in my head, even though his lips were not moving. “Did I say it out loud? She can’t know. What will they do to her if they know?”
“Who are they?” I asked. I was getting uneasy.
He looked at me as if he had never seen a creature like me in all his life. Then he grabbed my shoulders. “Don’t tell anyone. You can’t let anyone know, about any of this. Do you understand?”
I didn’t. I still nodded.
This seemed to make him relax just a bit and he let go of me. “FRun along with you. And remember, not a word to anyone.”

I didn’t tell anyone, but the next time I saw the two men coming for a child, it made me feel sick and I didn’t look at them, afraid to draw their attention.
Then one day, maybe two months later, they came again and this time they walked straight up to me.
“Aisha,” one of them said, speaking softly, so the other children wouldn’t hear. “I want you to come with me.”
I wanted to scream or cry or run away. But none of the other children had done this and I was dimly aware, that if I did it, they would realize that I knew something. And I had promised Briar I wouldn’t tell anyone. So I just nodded and followed them out of the playground.
The door in the wall had just slammed shut behind us, when Briar came hobbling up to one of the men and grabbed his arm.
“Wait!” he said. “Don’t kill her!”
The man shook him off impatiently. The other made a face. “Briar, we’ve been over this. And honestly, if you can’t …”
“But she’s different,” Briar interrupted, pointing at me, as if there could be any doubt who he meant. “She’s a telepath. The Company will want her alive.”
The man looked at him incredulously. “Are you sure?”
“Nah, he’s making this up to save the girl,” said the other man.
The first man ignored him and just looked from Briar to me and back to Briar. “You know what will happen if it turns out you’re lying?”
Briar nodded. “I know. But it’s the truth. She read my mind one day, clear as if I’d spoken my thoughts out loud.”
“Hm.” The man looked at me. “If it’s true, she’ll belong to the Company, body and mind. Not sure that’s a fate I’d wish for anyone.”
“At least she’ll be alive,” replied Briar.

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