Archive for the ‘#Fridayflash’ Category

Rise and Fall

Friday, August 12th, 2011
Pilar held the tip of her sword to the assassin’s throat. “How much?” she hissed.

He swallowed, his eyes crossed from looking at the weapon. An amateur, she thought. The bounty must have gone up.

“I will not ask again.” She pressed the sword down, drawing blood.

“Ten thousand,” he whispered.

Her stomach clenched. That would feed a family for years. A large family. She hadn’t thought she had any tears left, but her eyes managed to uncover a few.

“This isn’t my fault, you know.” Pilar’s hand didn’t waver, though her voice did. “I was cursed. They set the spell on me and sent me off to where I would cause the most damage.”

She leaned closer to the man, who tried to squirm away and earned himself another cut. Not that it mattered; he would be dead from the curse in a few days if she didn’t kill him now. Like everyone in Tremont, and Fairhaven, and Port Royal with its tall white towers and fabled hanging gardens. Like the people of all the other cities she had passed through in the three empires that were no more.

“I’m trying to find a cure,” she said. She wasn’t sure why, but she wanted him to understand. “Is my life worth less than any other? Can you justify murdering one innocent person to save a hundred more? A thousand?”

“I don’t care about them,” the man said, gritting his teeth. “You killed my family. I was across the sea on business and–”

“But it wasn’t me!” she screamed. “Those damn mages did this! Why don’t you go after them instead!”

“Because,” he muttered, avoiding her gaze. “This is easier.”

Her eyes dried. “Not as easy as it will be to slide this into your throat. For what it’s worth, I am sorry.”

“So am I,” the man said.

Pilar frowned. “Why?”

“He’s only a decoy,” said a voice behind her.

She felt a sharp pain in her chest and suddenly couldn’t breathe. Was that a sword? Try as she might, she couldn’t turn to see who had done it. Not that it mattered. She hadn’t seen most of the people she had killed, so it only seemed fair that she couldn’t see her own killer.

Not my fault, she tried to say, but all she could do was mouth the words as she stared at the man beneath her. He stared back as she fell to the cold ground, with what might have been pity in his eyes, and then she saw no more.

The man stood up, holding his injured throat. “Is it over, then?”

“We’ll know soon enough,” his partner said, wiping his sword clean on Pilar’s clothes. “If the curse doesn’t die with her, then we are all doomed.”

Sex and Sexibility

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

“You write like a man,” he told her.

She sipped her chocolate martini. “How so?”

“Straightforward. Active.” He leaned in and she could smell the gin fumes in his throat, welling up from his round belly. “No maudlin sentiment or insecurity.”

She considered this as she surveyed the hotel bar. Dark, polished wood shelves lined with liquor, behind them mirrors presumably intended to let the bartender keep watch over patrons while his back was turned. She could see the reflection of her eyes, but the bottom of her face was lost in a bottle of Jameson.

“I presume you mean that as a compliment,” she said finally.

“Of course. Other women write the same trite, banal garbage for their women readers to consume like greedy children eat candy. But you… you are a true chef of words.” He grinned, and she imagined he was pleased with his analogy.

“Delicious. So there isn’t a single other woman out there who can appeal to your refined palate?”

“Not one.”

“Not Atwood, or Lessing, or–”

“None. I see a woman’s name on the book cover and I ignore it. I know I will only be disappointed.”

She crossed her arms. “What if they used a male pseudonym?”

He shook his head and moved even closer, laying a hand on the bar next to her drink. “It’s still obvious when something is written by a woman. Anyone can tell after a few sentences. You, though… perhaps. You would almost certainly double your readership. Appeal to those of us who avoid women writers.”

She looked down at his hand. “But not women in general?”

His smile broadened. “Where would we be without women?”

“Alone in a hotel bar, I suspect. Tragic.”

“Tragic indeed.”

She looked up at her reflection and saw another pair of eyes approaching behind her.

“Sorry I’m late,” her girlfriend said, wrapping an arm around her waist and kissing her neck.

“It’s all right,” she said. “This gentleman was explaining to me how I write like a man.”

Her girlfriend smirked. “I’ve never thought so. Every inch of you is very, very much a woman. Ready to go?”

“Definitely.” She regarded the man beside her, whose jaw was trying to unhinge like a snake’s. “Tragic,” she said thoughtfully. “Without a woman, you’re alone in a bar. Without a man, I’m still going to get wildly fucked.”

She raised her glass and downed the rest of her drink. “Cheers, asshole.”


Thursday, March 10th, 2011

She stood in the darkness at the back of the cave, waiting for the man to reach her. No doubt he had practiced fighting blind to prepare for their confrontation, but her senses were no longer human, and she had skills of her own. Still, this sort of thing made her feel bad, even if he had only come to kill her.

“We don’t have to fight, you know,” she said.

He froze and cocked his head to the side, sword raised.

“You’re the third one this week,” she continued, stepping toward him. “I’m sure you saw the second one outside.”

She heard his breath quicken, tasted his sweat on the stale air. Her skin prickled.

“The first made it home, didn’t he? Only a few scrapes, maybe a bruise here and there from when he ran into… your predecessors.”

The sweat intensified and she licked her lips. Would he flee back into the night? She hoped not. It had been at least a month since she had, well–

“What do you want from me?” he asked.

She smiled. Getting him to talk was a good start. “Some sympathy, maybe,” she said. “I didn’t ask to be this way, you know. I was just a regular girl, even if now I’m–”

“You’re a monster.” His tone was harsh, but a trifle uncertain.

“Only some of me.” She inched closer to him, practically tasting each hard curve of his muscles. It was all she could do to keep her movements slow, restrained. “The rest of me is still the same as it was before I was changed. I have all the same feelings, the same… needs.”

Had that other boy talked, she wondered? She’d gotten so far with him, and then at the last minute he’d raced off. Mostly her little “heroes” seemed embarrassed, ashamed, even terrified at what they’d done after the fact. But they all enjoyed it, and sometimes they told others what had happened. Sometimes, more followed.

He lowered his sword. She was almost close enough to touch him.

“What can I do to harm you?” she murmured. “I’m unarmed. Powerless if you can’t see me.” She ran a hand down his arm and he flinched, but didn’t move. “Don’t you want to know what Poseidon himself found so irresistible?”

His breath caught in his throat as she pressed herself against his side.

“I want you,” he said. “To die.”

Before he could move, her snakes lashed out. He was dead when he hit the ground, sword clutched in poison-stiff fingers, his face and torso covered in vicious bites.

Such a shame. She shook her head, snake-hair hissing and writhing from the motion, their tongues flicking in and out to taste the last of this hero’s scent. Why did it have to end like this? Better than another macabre statue getting in her way, she supposed, but even so. If only these silly boys could understand that everyone looked the same in the dark.

Before Valentine

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Lupercalia, of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy. –Plutarch

Two men ran naked down the suburban street, laughing, the blood on their foreheads hot despite the pre-dawn chill. If they were caught, they could go to jail for indecency or public exposure, but at the moment they didn’t care. The sacrifice had been made, and now it was time to run, even if no other brothers of the wolf were there to join them.

As they passed a house, the dog inside began to howl. Other dogs on the block took up the call until a vast chorus sang to the night. The men howled back between giggles but did not break their stride, nor did the noise seem to wake any of the people sleeping around them. Not even a car alarm went off.

Mary, already up, had wandered outside for some fresh air. Her back ached and her feet were swollen, but she comforted herself with the thought that the baby would be coming soon. Or so she hoped; it was already a week past her delivery date, and the doctor wanted to schedule a Caesarean. She had declined so far because she wanted a natural birth, but now even she was growing concerned. She rubbed her belly absently and looked up at the stars, wondering whether it was foolish to wish on one. Or maybe she could pray to St. Valentine, whose holiday was coming up. Not that anyone remembered a saint was involved amid the flowers and chocolates.

Movement caught her eye. The sight of two nude joggers was a shock, but she wasn’t afraid, even when one started towards her. She raised a hand in greeting, and the man slapped it as he trotted past, as if he were an athlete and she a waiting fan. Brow furrowed, she stared at his retreating form, her palm stinging.

A gush of moisture warmed her legs and she looked down in confusion. Then the first pang of labor hit. The man’s laughter followed her as she staggered inside, calling for her husband.

In Absentia Luci

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Brother Abselius had not always been an ambitious man. He entered the Order of the Omniscient Shadow mainly because they promised initiates two square meals a day, and he had seen the way people slipped offerings to the other brothers as they walked the streets of the city. Dark things occurred in dark places, so it paid to be in the Shadow’s good graces. If sometimes the pay happened to go into a brother’s stomach instead of onto an altar, who was to know? But the more he learned of the order’s teachings, the more power he gradually came to wield, and he found that it tasted better than any poor peasant’s stale bread.

“What news, Brother Mordo?” he asked when he reached the designated meeting place.

“The First meditates in the Pit, Second,” the heavy-set fourth-level disciple replied, wiping sweat from his forehead. “Her candle suggests she will be there for at least two more marks.”

“Good. I will send you word when… well, I will send word.”

Brother Mordo nodded and slipped into the shadows, as if the Second could not track his movements easily. Still, he supposed it did not hurt for the disciple to practice.

It was customary for the First to finish his journey into shadow in a reasonable time, thereby allowing the Second to ascend to First and lead the Order. The current First, whose name was mysteriously missing from the Order’s records, had been in her place for at least the past three hundred years. This hadn’t been important to Brother Abselius–until he became the Second.

The Pit was the deepest room underground in the sprawling complex that housed the Order. Brother Abselius passed through the above-ground temple that was all most people experienced, with its jet-black stone walls and portraits of significant historical events. He descended into the upper floors, where the wide-eyed pledges began their initiation trials, then down to the darker middle floors, where routine business was conducted by the fifth and sixth level disciples, and farther down still, past the silent chambers of the third and fourth levels in their solitary studies.

If the First would not go gently into the waiting arms of the Shadow, then Brother Abselius would be more than happy to assist her in her passage. He had complete mastery over the Order’s secrets, after all, and was no less than the First in skill, he was sure. Darkness itself was his plaything, his servant to call upon and mold to his will, and there was no place more full of darkness than the Pit.

As he had been told, the First’s candle sat in an alcove outside the thick stone door, at least a mark remaining until the flame guttered out. With a smirk, he casually flicked a shadow at the light and it extinguished in a puff of smoke.

He could not open the door because the First would hear him, and as no one dared disturb her in her meditations, she would at the least be on her guard, if not inclined to retaliate immediately. But he was a patient enough man, and had carefully crafted the tiniest pinhole through the rock wall of the Pit, curved so that no candle light might accidentally reveal it to the person inside. It was a simple enough task to slip into the shadows and slide through the hole in the blink of an eye.

The First sat in the center of the small room, her back to the door, her small frame hunched over her legs with her head buried in her crossed arms. She was still as the stone that surrounded her, and the Second had only to drive a spike of darkness into the back of her neck to secure his glorious future.

“Brother,” the First said, her voice like a whisper of wind through tall grass. “Reconsider.”

He said nothing, but struck, sending the icy stiletto at the woman with the full speed of dark. It sank into her skin without a sound, and she sighed.

Then, to his dismay, she slowly unfolded her limbs and rose to her feet, her black eyes boring into his.

“Your learning is incomplete.”

“I have mastered the dark,” he spat, preparing for another attack.

She shook her head. “You have not.”

Softly, so that Brother Abselius thought he imagined it, the First began to glow. Her skin brightened from the faintest reflection of a star’s glimmer to the pale gleam of the moon, and the Second’s eyes struggled to adjust from the total darkness. His pupils could not shrink fast enough, and the moon soon became daylight, then the searing glare of the sun itself. He threw up his arms to shield his face, but the light penetrated even through his closed eyelids and thick black robes. He could feel his vision burning to white and knew he had gone blind.

“To master the darkness,” the First said, “you must first master the light.”

Brother Abselius screamed.

When the First left the Pit a mark later, she left alone. Inside, on the wall near the door, a vaguely human shadow stained the stone a slightly darker hue that no one but the First was ever likely to notice.