Monthly Short Story Winner: Flash Fiction
Postcard Fiction. Short, Short Stories. Micro Fiction. 500 words or less. This month, that’s all our entrants got.
Wikipedia says that flash fiction ‘often contains the classic story elements: protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and resolution.’ It adds that ‘the limited word length often forces some of these elements to remain unwritten – that is, hinted at or implied in the written storyline.’ This sounded like an intriguing writing exercise to us. It of course leaves the stories open to a lot of different interpretations, which is what makes this month’s contest so interesting.
1. This must be prose.
2. Must fit the word count. 500 words or less.
3. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That’s why they’re called limits.
Congrats on your wins, wakarimasen and OnlyOneHighlander!
You can find all our entries for this month here.
And now on with the stories!
– – –
“For Evil to Triumph”
He pulled the child tighter under his cloak, as if it could protect her from the heat. Incandescent motes swirled about them on air maddened by the strength of the fire. For years he had watched mutely alongside the other townsfolk at every Purge; conspirators in their silence as the damned were jabbed into the burning maze. Finally, he had found his voice. Finally a whisper of wounded justice had found its release. That release had condemned him as surely as this child he had tried to save. Now he looked down into wide eyes, wet with terror, and felt a renewed certainty.
“Can you conjur with the earth?”
The child shook her head, the tears falling free. He clasped her shoulder. Of course she couldn’t. They were burnt young so they would never grow to learn. Purged as soon as the birds came. It might have been a simple roosting of sparrows or a circling of crows. Something that would delight any child and drive anguish into the heart of every parent.
“I can call water,” The child croaked, barely audible over a crashing maze wall, which threw up a burning constellation. “But not enough.”
“It may be this time. It may be.” He reached into the sickening past. There he found all the years he watched the others die. He felt the fear in his chest, the sucking black that kept him from acting. The same fear that ruled his days. It made him weak. Unremarkable. Safe.
He delved deeper. Using the fear, crafting it. No one had seen the birds when he was young. No one had been looking for them. Ever since, he had hidden. Unwilling to sacrifice himself for another. But that was gone now, like the fear. He unlocked that ignored power and, magnified by years of suppression, it channeled into the child.
“Now. Call the water.”
Eyes screwed tight, the girl muttered into his tunic. Her conjuring was instant, it would have been a trickle, perhaps a stream but empowered by his years of guilt it became a spiraling torrent, a screaming tumult. It smashed fire into steam and tore the roof from the maze. It was greater than a waterspout born of the fiercest sea under an implacable storm.
The conjuring chased the flames further and further, revealing the charred shell of the maze and the other children’s corpses. Soon a fine rain spattered all the remains. He unwrapped the cloak. Together they looked up at the crater’s rim.
Horror and hope mixed equally on the faces of the townsfolk lining the edge. The arch-deacon glared down, imperious and vengeful. It would have been a sight to cower any god fearing parishioner but neither man nor child buckled. They were done with fear. Sweeping in behind it was anger.
“Again,” The man said quietly, his eyes fixed above. “And this time I shall show you how to make blades of ice.”
– – –
Count Globulus stopped writing. He set down his quill, unhooked his spectacles from behind his drooping, pointed ears and guided his eyes through their cataratic fog to his faithful servant. “How?”
Scrofula’s arthritic fingers played around the rim of his battered iron helm. What to say? “It appears,” Scrofula started. Too quietly. His master could not hear him. He started again. “It appears he choked on a chicken bone.”
“A chicken bone?” The Count gave one soft chuckle. It was a private joke, between him and the universe. “Well, well, well. How about that. Was it,’ the Count pushed a yellowing finger nail under a stack of cracked papers. He flicked through them. His schemes, his plans, his evil plots, all recorded for posterity. As if it would care, he thought. “Was it at least an evil chicken bone?”
“Alas no,” Scrofula said. “Quite the opposite. I’ve heard the chicken in question defended its coup against the onslaught of a particularly vicious fox. Mortally wounded, it fought the creature off. This is why the farmer gave it to him, presumably thinking a heroic chicken deserves a heroic stomach to lie in.”
“A heroic chicken. Yes. It would be.”
The Count stood. He would do no more writing this night. He walked to the window and listened to the still dark.
No mobs, no torches, no righteous priest banging on the castle gate. Even the wolves had gone.
It pained Scrofula to see his master this way. The last few decades had not been kind. To be slain was one thing. But to be forgotten… The life had gone out of him, which, for a vampire, was saying something.
“When is the funeral?”
“Two days, Master. Shall I prepare the carriage?”
“No. That will not be necessary. I will go alone this time, if that is alright with you?”
“As you wish, Master.” Scrofula turned to leave.
“Scrofula?” the Count’s voice drifted, as if speaking more to himself. In a way, he was. “Have I been… a good employer?”
“The worst, Master. The absolute worst,” replied Scrofula.
“You are too kind, old friend. It does not suit us.”
“Yes, Master, but it is true.”
* * *
The Count’s shadow poured into undertaker’s parlour. He did not want to go to the public service. It would not feel right. That was for the legend. He would pay his respects to the man.
Time had not been kind to his nemesis. Rolls of fat spilled over the parlour table. The body was large, and yet, small, much smaller than he remembered. Empty.
The Count put a hand on the chest. Cold. But then maybe that was him. Hard to tell anymore.
His eyes wandered. There, by the embalming tools, white and weak, the chicken bone.
The Count took it in his fist and crushed it, letting the dust fall to the ground.
“It should have been me,” he said. Then he was gone.
– – –
Congratulations again to wakarimasen and OnlyOneHighlander! If you’d like to enter our monthly writing contest, check out our forum for more information.