Flash fiction — Her (part two)

Oh, goodness, thank you all so, so much for your positive response to Her!! Everything you said was so encouraging, inspirational, and just so overwhelmingly nice! *group hugs* Have a cupcake, and a bag of chocolate chips. (find Part One here.)

Her [part two]

Light.

Crouching on the ground, your eyes closed, even then it’s blinding.

Your head spins.

Teleportation three times in half an hour will do that to a person.

The first time you are too much in shock to take the child’s mother with you.

You remember the child.

So you went back for the stick woman with the sky-eyes.

Finding her dead was another shock.

It makes sense (you think now). Without her child, what reason was there to live?

Finding her limp body, the strong spirit fled like a falling star…

You open your eyes.

The sight of freshly piled dirt floods your vision.

Taking lives and burying those already gone.

Will you never be done with death?

A soft sound filters into your awareness and you look up.

The child shifts in her bundle of blankets. She watches you curiously with her blue eyes. Blue eyes that are too bright.

Too trustful.

You look away and stand up straight.

With a flick of your hand, the child floats up to shoulder-level. She lets out an excited squeal and tries to squirm around so she can see you.

You ignore her and look down at the grave at your feet. A cool breeze wafts past, smelling of pine and cold water and mountain air.

How do you say goodbye to someone you hurt? To someone who should have lived?

You never learned how.

In the end, you say nothing.

Words are empty.

So you turn and walk away from the mound of already drying earth.

Away from the woman with the eyes of sky and fire.

Her child floats along behind you. You resist the urge to turn your head when she squeaks, and walk steadily on, moving aside branches without bothering to touch them.

And so you make your way across the pine-clad slopes without the child receiving a scratch.

Meadows are good for hiding in. You don’t need to hide, but it makes you feel safer.

You never feel safe really.

A twitch of your fingers and the child drifts down to rest in a jumbled heap among the long, tangled grass.

She is asleep.

You move a few feet from her and sit cross-legged. The grasses stand taller than you. Sound is muted here. The whole world shut out and far away.

You look down at your gloved hands.

One heartbeat and your mind pours out a nightmare. Fractured images. Color. Sound.

A moving picture of every person you destroyed.

Automatically you begin to count backwards from a hundred.

Anything to keep away the memories.

You’ve rescued people since. 

You look away from your hands.

The hands that killed.

Faces of Men in Red flash before you.

That still kill.

In the end, do the lives saved even matter?

You can’t breathe.

“Take care of her.”

How?

How?

For the first time you look at the child (the baby). Really look at her.

She is tiny. Tiny and helpless.

You can’t remember what it’s like to be so innocent.

“Take care of her.”

It shouldn’t be you.

Not you who lost all innocence years ago when a victim’s blood spilled on the dirt.

Not you who broke the bones of a woman with eyes like the sky.

The bones of her mother.

Not you who are broken yourself.

(you want to be fixed.)

I can’t do it, you think.

Protecting a child? Being a father?

You can’t do it.

You want to. 

Getting attached to people only hurts.

You want the pain.

Losing her could break you.

You are broken already.

You don’t know how to be caring.

You want to remember.

Please, you want to remember.

Fists clutched, fragmented words tumbling through your brain — you almost don’t hear the faint, mewling cry.

You stiffen and lift your head.

The child (baby) looks at you — eyes like the sky — and yawns.

The walls built around your soul crack.

You take a deep breath.

Carefully, you tug off your black gloves, one finger at a time. Your veins show blue through your pale skin.

Without the gloves you feel vulnerable somehow.

The baby blinks at you sleepily.

You lift your hands. They tremble.

How long has it been since you touched another human?

You lean forward and gently, slowly, you scoop the baby up.

She is tiny. Light as a cloud and warm with life.

You hold her close, shifting her into the crook of your arm, and it feels natural and unfamiliar all at once.

For the first time in years your heart stumbles from something other than fear or anger.

Your eyes burn and you taste salt water on your lips.

The baby looks up at you and yawns again.

“Hey, there,” you whisper.

Flash Fiction — Her (part one)

 
(image via pinterest. words my own.)

There is this chap around the Twitter writing community that I collided with a few months ago. His name is Brett, and one day on a whim I trotted over to his website to read an article about Heroines that some of my friends had mentioned. Whilst I was there I read a flash fiction he wrote in the beginning of August entitled simply, Ashton. It was vivid, poignant, and captured my attention so completely I didn’t even notice the specific style he wrote it in until I reached the end. Over the next few weeks while I went on holiday and visited tiny, gloriously overflowing bookstores, and swam at night in glimmering pools, and rode ski lifts and ate ice-cream, I kept on thinking about Ashton in the back of my mind. A thought started to percolate as thoughts do.

And so I finally wrote a flash fic of my own told in the same style Brett used. Enjoy! I’m hoping to post Part Two next Friday. (part two can now be found here.)

Her [part one]

Dark.

Shadows stretch like fingers along the passage walls. Grey blends with black, shattered only by the intrusion of red where each guard stands.

Light is cold, blue, and faint here. Sound is swallowed up before it begins. Time exists only by the change of red to fresh red.

From your place in the deepest corner without light you watch the crimson-clad soldiers march by.

Red like blood. 

Their footsteps echo into silence and the Men in Red stand still once more.

Statues waiting to be broken.

Your fingers flex of their own accord, and you smile in the dark.

And move.

Shadow on shadow, black against black. A rapid, complicated dance you’ve done a thousand times.

The guards fall one by one, their uniforms crumpled blotches against the floor.

Red like blood.

You leave them where they are — stumbling blocks to make time when the alarm sounds.

The laser grids and razor wire are next.

Most men could never do what you do; could never turn their too-wide bodies at the precise angle and speed to flip and twist through a maze, through a tangled web of red death.

You have always been small. Small, slight, and agile.

But, as usual, your body whizzes by the last laser a fraction too close.

A high-pitched shriek like a demon let loose fills the air. Most people would hit the floor, and curl up, hands over ears.

You are not like most people. 

Past history as a Man in Red makes sure of that.

Adrenaline shoots through your veins, and you hit the floor and roll to your feet in one fluid motion.

Darting over to the nearest cell, you burn a hole through the steel with a slap of your gloved hand and toss an activated teleport cube inside.

You move from cell to cell in a matter of seconds, teleporting the prisoners off without even bothering to glance inside.

Last cell.

You burn a hole, fling a cube in…. and someone grabs your arm.

No time to think. No plan.

Just gut reaction.

You twist your hand. And snap the unseen wrist.

A split second too late your mind catches up.

Heart surging, you stagger back a step. Then raise both gloved hands and burn through the cell door.

Inside a woman crouches at your feet, breathing in painful gasps. One wrist dangles at a freakish angle and she clutches it against her chest.

Seeing her feels like being kicked in the gut.

With a flick of your hand, you de-activate the teleport cube. The woman doesn’t move as you crouch in front of her, and you realize why. You also realize why breaking her wrist felt like snapping a twig.

She is skin and bones, dressed up in rags.

Bile rises in your throat, and you spread your hands, careful to angle the palms away from her.

She lifts her eyes. Blue eyes burning with fear and rage and despair.

You hear yourself stammering out words in a voice that threatens to splinter and shatter, but you know it can’t make a difference.

Words are empty.

Know that any number of apologies can’t atone for the pain you’ve just needlessly inflicted on her.

For the pain you have inflicted on others.

“I’m sorry,” you say anyway. “I am so sorry, ma’am.”

Holding your voice together by a thread. It still cracks.

Holding your soul together with twine. When will it break regardless?

The look in her eyes changes, and she mouths suddenly, “Take care of her.”

The woman’s gaze flicks to the left, and you follow it with your own.

A child sits in the corner.

A baby, to be exact.

It’s so tightly bundled up you doubt if the alarm even bothers it. You think it’s asleep.

You glance back at the stick woman with the blazing sky-eyes.

“Take care of her,” she repeats.

Your eyes widen, and you forget to breathe.

The woman holds your gaze with a fierce grip, and you can feel your soul stripped bare before her.

“If you’re sorry,” she says, “take care of her.

Four words.

Four words she grits out between, chipped, stained teeth.

Four words that hang suspended in the air.

Four words that make your heart tremble.

How long has it been since you felt raw fear? 

You open your mouth.

No.

IamakillersheisjustachildIcantkeephersafeitshouldntbeme.

No. I can’t.

“I will,” you say.