Write about now

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.”


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