Showing posts with label death. Show all posts
Showing posts with label death. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

“Prey in the Cemetery”: a terribleminds flash fiction challenge

Holy moley, has it been a long time! Somebody really should do some dusting in here. I can’t even say I have a good excuse for not keeping up with the blog, except...I’m no good at remembering to keep up the blog. I live on Facebook and talk everyone’s ears off there, so.... *shrug*


I’ve been stupid busy in the last year, both with fiddling about with Isle of Dogs and cranking through the first draft of the new project, which has needed so much research that I haven’t really given much thought to writing any flash, more’s the pity. And there was OryCons writers workshop, some Indigo seminars, and two Willamette Writers Conferences, each more mind-blowingly awesome than the last. The short of it is that many people I’m neither related to nor friends with now seem to think that this pirate saga has real marketable potential, and that just makes me all kinds of happy.

But we’re here for some flash, damnit. Chuck Wendig’s latest flash challenge is to collect a randomly-generated title and spit out a story in 1000 words or less. Well, after sifting through a couple of rounds of nonsensical chaff on the generator page, I was given “Prey in the Cemetery”, so here we go.

     We were a quarter-mile from the truck when from behind me Dani said, “Oh, hell.”
     “I forgot the quail.”
     Cleaver bated hard off the glove and the goshawk’s bells rang discordantly in the cold autumn air. She wanted to fly, to hunt. To kill.
     “You won’t need it. I never bring one.”
     “Is this really kosher, hawking in a cemetery?”
     “It’s legal. There are so many rabbits here I’ve never even been all the way to the back. I’m guaranteed a double before I get halfway in. Been keeping this little honey-hole a secret, so don’t tell anybody.”
     We reached the cemetery gate, half-shrouded by the ancient gnarly apple trees crowding us. Even in spring the place seemed gloomy, but on a cool fall afternoon like this it was downright eerie.
     Dani stopped, eyeing the crooked old gate. “Creepy.” Cleaver squealed her impatience. “What if someone’s visiting in there?”
     “I hunt here all the time and I’ve never seen anyone. It’ll be fine, don’t worry.”
     She was one of a few thousand others here for the big national falconry meet. The whole place was full of out-of-state license plates; people lugging dogs, birds, and field gear into hotel rooms and filling every all-night diner for quick pre-dawn breakfast before the morning’s hunt. Most brought falcons to hunt upland game-birds in the wheat fields. Prairie chickens are the holy grail of falconry, they say. But here I see this kid, all young and sweet, with a maniacal red-eyed gos the size of a dinosaur on her fist. She’d never been here and needed someplace with trees for Cleaver to catch some fur. I was only too happy to oblige.
     The old cemetery was mostly forgotten, even by the locals. Headstones poked up through its rangy yellow grass. The broken markers hidden underneath were dangerous when you were chasing after a rabbit; I’d caught my ankle on a couple of them, nearly broke my foot once.
     Two cottontails busted in front of us almost instantly. We both yelled ‘Ho!’ as Cleaver took off. The rabbits zigged and zagged and even more busted during the chase, but the hawk was savvy: she cut left and lit up the afterburners as one jinked the wrong way. Bells jangling, she piled in on top with her barred grey wings thrown wide. It was all over before we got there. Cleaver was already breaking in as she mantled over the kill, her hackles raised in excitement.
     Dani, all smiles, traded her off with a choice tidbit so she could gut the bunny and hide it in her hawking vest. “Wow, you were right! That was quick. Can we try for a double?”
     “Sure. But this girl of yours put the fear of God in them more than my redtail ever does. Did you see them all bolt?”
     “Yeah, that was crazy! Is there maybe another good place here to roust one? We’re kind of losing daylight.”
     “Well….” I looked toward the back of the property, even more grown over than the front where I’d kept the jungle knocked down. “She is a gos. She could handle that stuff. Let’s head back there and see what she’s made of.”
     Dani got in front, holding Cleaver to the glove as we slogged through. Pretty soon she was breaking trail and I was following. She had briar-jeans.
     “Hey, you dropped this,” I said, picking up a freshly-severed rabbit leg.
     “I did? But I.…” Frowning, she hooded the hawk then pulled the rabbit out. “No, I didn’t. See?” Clearly it wasn’t missing any feet. “I just gave her the heart,” she said, and stuffed the carcass back.
     We stared at this mangled leg, both wondering the same thing. “What’s wrong with this? Look at it.” It was in bad shape—not like it had been chewed, more like it was rotting from the foot up. But at the hip ball, the meat was fresh.
     She tossed it aside and unhooded Cleaver, who shot off in pursuit of something before we even saw what it was. Murphy’s Law states that any chase will lead into the most impenetrable stuff in the field, and that’s exactly where she went. I saw a white cottony flash just as she crashed after it into the briars. While trying to figure out how to get in to help, we heard the rabbit scream. Except it didn’t sound like any rabbit I’d ever heard.
     It sounded…angry.
     “Did you see what she was chasing before it went in there?” she asked, looking a little freaked out. “There was something really wrong with that bunny.”
     “Like what?”
     “Like, are you sure these critters are healthy?”
     The bells rang from somewhere in there, so Dani wormed her way into brambles so thick that she disappeared. Then she started to curse. “She’s in too deep; I can’t get to her. Damn berries.”
     “Need any help?”
     “No, I’ll just take this off—holy fuck!”
     She plowed out of the thorns like they weren’t even there, ignoring their scratches. She was ghostly pale and staring at the vest where it fell. It was moving. The hawk’s bells had gone silent.
     “What the hell?! Are you okay?”
     “M-my vest—”
     “What? You said you left the quail in the truck.”
     “That dead rabbit I put in there…it wiggled.”
     I’d watched her clean the thing. I saw her feed its heart to Cleaver. But the ripstop vest writhed and then tore open. A gutted rabbit carcass crawled out and tottered drunkenly into the brush, making ugly sounds that a dead rabbit shouldn’t make.
     Before we could make sense of that, we heard the bells. Cleaver laddered up out of the brambles, her beak as wet and red and evil as her eyes. She launched straight for Dani’s face with a scream that didn’t sound like any goshawk I’d ever heard.
     Then Dani’s scream didn’t sound right, either.
     God help me, I ran for the truck, hearing hawk bells gaining on me.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

“Bloody Pirates”: a terribleminds flash fiction challenge

The flash fiction challenge at terribleminds this week is to feature DEATH in 1000 words. Incredibly appropriate, I thought, because after the break-in at our house this week, I felt like ki—ahem. Well. Let’s just say that if I was a different person than I am, this might have been a flash NONfiction challenge….

“Four-fifteen, right on time,” Dave teased as we pulled into my driveway. A double-decker train was nearing the house as I parked the truck; we could already feel it coming. Two-plus miles of cargo at less than forty miles an hour equaled almost seven minutes of rumble. Right on time.
We were sore and tired after another long festival weekend, too old to keep getting smacked around with cutlasses anymore…but it was always fun. We were Captain John Weston and the Crew of the Red Herring, with my neighbor Dave as my trusty Quarter-master and a handful of other ne’er-do-wells for comic relief. Scallywag fun for the whole family: three shows daily. I buckled my sword-belt, then pulled on the leather great-coat and hat—easier to wear than carry them. The jolly roger yard flag rippled in the passing train’s breeze and beyond it I noticed a moving van next door at the empty house. Had there been a for-sale sign? Maybe they were renting.
Dave was fidgety. “Gimme the keys, man, my teeth are floatin’.” I tossed them over while collecting gear to unload. He must have taken the porch stairs two at once to get in so quick.
About the time I noticed the gap on my living-room wall where the plasma screen should’ve been, I heard Dave upstairs, shouting. And another man, yelling back. Something crashed. More shouting. I ran for the stairs. There shouldn’t be anybody else up—
My .69cal converted cartridge pistol discharged up there, rattling the house. I’d left it on the workbench; had I also left a charge in it? “What the fuck!! Dave?!”
More breakage. A skinny powder-burned meth-head thundered down the stairs away from Dave, who was limping, brandishing the pistol like a club. The guy piled into me, clutching my laptop —my new laptop! —and a bottle of rum. Right then I was angry enough to use him for every piratical torture method I’d ever known. The roar I let out as I shoved him backward and drew my steel was no act.
He threw the bottle at me but I deflected it with the blade as he made a break for the front door. The bottle crashed against the bookcase, filling the room with a warm spicy vapor. I only had one rum that smelled like that.
“Motherfucker! That was thirty-year Cuban!”
One of Dave’s throwing knives whistled past me and caught Tweaker in the calf just as he reached the door, sending him ass-over-teakettle down the stairs to the parking lot. My laptop cartwheeled away from him to freedom, only to burst into shrapnel on the concrete. Fuck.
The moving van next door suddenly revved and peeled out of the driveway, careening down the street with the door still up. They hadn’t been moving anything in at all: they’d been moving me out.
Tweaker flipped onto his back, pulled a gun out of his pants. The punk-ass held it sideways, ghetto-style, which pissed me off so much I even stopped caring that he was holding a gun.
Until he fired it.
Time crawled. I felt the slug pass close by my ear; it blew my tricorn off and shattered the living-room window into a huge spider-web…and then I stopped thinking. Next thing I knew, I was standing over a deceased Tweaker whose sternum had sprouted my un-edged cutlass. Dave was behind me on his cell, screaming panicked obscenities at an emergency dispatcher, and just like that, time resumed its normal speed…maybe a little faster.
“Jesus, I killed him! Oh my fucking God, I killed him! Ohshit ohshit….” Blood was soaking his grimy shirt, pooling red in the fir needles. This wasn’t an re-enactment and that wasn’t stage blood. I stumbled over to the bushes and puked.
Police cruisers showed up fast: lights and sirens. A sheeplike flock of gossiping neighbors gathered across the street. Weapons drawn, the cops barked commands and slammed us against the house: took awhile to remove the considerable arsenal I was wearing but when I produced my ID things calmed down somewhat. They seemed impressed that I could even move, packing that much weaponry, let alone sword-fight. Tweaker had stabbed Dave in the knee —not deep, luckily—and hit him with a lamp. Dave had grabbed the flintlock just to scare him, not realizing it was loaded, although Tweaker hadn’t really ‘dodged the bullet’. The gun’s stage-friendly powder charge wasn’t lethal, but it sure would’ve burned at close range. It could’ve even set the office on fire. Adrenaline made us jittery as we talked. Meanwhile, officers kept staring at us like they’d never seen grown men dressed from cocked hats to bucket boots like authentic Golden Age pirates. Three shows daily.
An officer followed me around to inventory what was missing. The big-screen? Gone—but the assholes left the remote, adding insult to injury. Three whole shelves of CDs, high-end stereo gear, DVR, change jar? All gone. I stared at the empty entertainment wall: something else had been there.
“The X-box! Fuck me, they took the X-box…and the games! I was forty-two hours in on Mass Effect 3! Shit.”
“No great loss there, Mr. Weston,” the officer smirked, making notes. “Trust me, you’d have hated the ending anyway. He did you a favor.”
Sometime that evening they removed the body and let Dave go home. I wandered around in shock. Didn’t bother mentioning that my hand-blown glass bong and herbs had disappeared, but I could’ve used a hit just then. My shit was looted, pillaged, plundered. Bloody pirates!
Eventually the sergeant said no charges would be filed against us: it was “justifiable homicide.” They were confident they could recover my stuff, too. Tweaker and his ring were not the sharpest tools: county lockup was their second home. Their rap-sheets were long enough to fill a filing cabinet.
“You’d think when they saw the pirate flag they woulda known better than to try this house,” he joked. “Looks like self-defense to me…Cap’n.”