Post-Christmas salutations, y’all! I hope your holidays have been splendid so far and that your eggnog and pie are sitting with you quite comfortably. Me, I ate too much, but let’s just not talk about that, eh?
In author Chuck Wendig’s December flash fiction challenge, we’ve now arrived at Part 5, in which we’re writing the final 200 words of four other people’s story. To me, this is the toughest part of the challenge, since I have to take into consideration all the elements the other four writers have brought into the story, *and* I have to pull it all together into a satisfying conclusion.
THIS IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. Don’t try this at home. Keep away from water. Keep away from children. Do not use while operating heavy machinery. This product is not intended for use as a flotation device. Do not eat. This bag is not a toy.
My entry for Part 1 is here. Genre: fantasy, coming-of-age.
My entry for Part 2 is here. Genre: horror? There’s a vampire, anyway.
My entry for Part 3 is here. Genre: paranormal. Witches, a priest, and mutant skeletons.
My entry for Part 4 is here. Genre: sci-fi comedy.
And here’s my entry for Part 5!
Joe Donahue wrote Part 1.
Morag Donnachie wrote Part 2.
Jeremiah Boydstun wrote Part 3.
Justice wrote Part 4 and gave the story its title, “The Veteran.”
My concluding Part 5 follows Justice’s part.
by Joe Donahue, Morag Donnachie, Jeremiah Boydstun, Justice, and Courtney Cantrell
Lying nude in the middle of this cotton field, I sense things differently than I have in sometime. I’m cold. It’s the first time I’ve felt cold since she died. The air flows over my body like ice cold water from a stream. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I can’t help but to hope that I die in this field. I’m, however, smart enough to know that’s not going to happen.
Nothing has felt the same since they killed Adrianna. Every day I roam from city to city, hoping beyond hope that someone will recognize who I am and decide to take my life away. It never happens. Every now and then someone will recognize who I am, but usually they are too frightened to do anything about it.
I don’t blame them. I did some very nasty things at the end of the last war. Several countries banned me from entrance. I, however, did what I needed to do to make sure that the war ended. I did what I was paid for. Little did I know that the immortality they offered as payment would be spent in exile, trying to come up with ways to bring back Adrianna.
I lay there vaguely enjoying the sensation of feeling again after having been numb for so long. I was pondering my next move – I’d heard a rumour of a woman in a nearby village who might be able to help me – when I heard voices calling in the still morning air.
I moved quickly, careful not to disturb the cotton in my haste, on to my front bringing my knees up under me so I could spring up quickly if I needed to. As I did so my hand darted to the pile of clothes by my side and the slender yet deadly blade concealed beneath.
As the voices moved closer I sought the quiet place in my mind,the place where I could leave my self behind. I needed to disengage my emotions, to leave my humanity behind and find the monster within.
I had hoped to be able to leave that part of myself behind but it seemed I would have to hold onto it, for now.
I stood slowly, aware of my nudity and how it would affect my seekers, and held my blade out ready for whatever was thrown at me. Every sense on high alert.
“Over here. We’ve found her,” a voice called.
The morning sun filters through a ragged line of trees to my left, laying bands of apricot light across the field of cotton, and the cold morning air feels charged with the energy of a million lodestones.
About fifty yards to my right another voice takes up the call, and then another, transmitting across a line of a dozen men who wade slowly through the thorny sea of cotton. Some cradle their rifles, others walk stockade-style with their arms hanging loosely over the ends of the weapons slung across their shoulders.
I keep the knife handle tucked into my palm so that the blade rests against the length of my forearm and conceals it from view. I want to cover myself but reaching for my clothes right now isn’t a good idea.
When the men are within ten yards they stop and form a half-circle around me.
“Put down the knife.” A tall, flinty man with grey hair steps forward.
“And if I don’t?” I’m ready to spring. To see blood. To feel the pulpous give of fat and muscle.
“Then you’ll never see Adrianna again.” His smile parts the thin lips enough to reveal a pair of sharp, white canines and my blood turns to ice once again.
“Put it down,” the man commands, “or I’ll tell ’em to really let your pretty little girl have it this time.”
I place the knife on the ground.
“Kick it over here.”
“I’ll cut my foot,” I say, my voice even. “Aren’t antibiotics getting pretty expensive these days?”
“Christ,” the leader mutters. He gestures to a younger man nearby – a kid, really – who darts out from the circle and grabs the knife. I see beads of sweat glisten on his forehead, and he purposefully avoids my eyes.
Good – I need fear; perhaps it will be catching.
“Well, go on,” I say. They put a bag over my head but do not let me dress. I walk naked through the field. There is a slice against my bare skin and a trickle of warm blood. The sound of rotating blades approaches and a dart punctures my neck. I swat at it like it is an annoying gnat.
“Told you it wouldn’t work!” A voice cries out.
“She’s immortal, not invulnerable,” their leader says. “Triple it.”
When I wake, Adrianna is beside me.
I wrote (210 words):
We’re alone. I recognize the white-and-pink tile of The Facility’s central room. Since I ended the war, they’ve repaired the two-way mirror.
I smile. They’ve hunted me as I’ve hunted to bring her back. And now they want me to try.
Oh, the fools shall have what they’re asking for.
I roll to my side and cradle my daughter. We’re both still nude, but it doesn’t matter. We’ll wear the skins of our enemies soon enough.
I lay my lips against her cold ear. Within, I plunge into silence and face the monster. It waits at my core, hearing my thoughts of blood, and it is already slavering.
I let go, and the monster comes forward.
The heat whispers into Adrianna’s mind, calls to her soul, calls her back. The moment she returns, the heat intensifies. My sweat hisses when it hits the metal table white-hot beneath us.
I reach out.
Beyond the two-way mirror wait the minds of our “captors.” The monster’s heat enters them. Pillages. Their screams are like those of the ones I mind-raped to end the war.
“Can we go home?”
The monster and I lead my daughter from the central room as, once again, the mirror shatters behind me.