Posted by: danzierlea | June 14, 2012

Purpose!

Well, I think I’ve got it figured out. I discovered some flash fiction challenges, posted by The One, The Only…Chuck Wendig of Terribleminds.com. So far, they’ve been… um, entertaining. My brain’s been on a very dark side trip lately, though, so my little stories are somewhat scary. Still and all, they’ve led me to this: I think I will use this blog to post them. It will be fun. It will probably also be a smidge creepy, but I can live with that.

Here’s this week’s addition to the role. 990 words, counting the title (but not this introduction). It’s a little gorey; you’ve been warned.

Decisions

“Surprise!” Richard yelled, yanking the blindfold from my head. I blinked in the sudden light. He pressed his axe into my hand and waved at the forest in a grand, sweeping gesture.

All around us, trees had been stripped of their leaves. Hanging from the bare branches, twirling in the midmorning breeze, were the skeletons of monsters. Each tree was wrapped in bones; skulls dangled like macabre Japanese lanterns.

I wanted to cry.

Instead, I smiled at my big brother. “It’s amazing.”

He grinned. “Gregory and I put a lot of time into it. Ha—just about everyone in town’s worked on this. Come on, there’s more to see.”

Richard was bursting with pride as he described each tree. “Markos did this set. Oh, and here’s Misty’s tree. Fairy wings! Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Your girlfriend’s a real artist.”

Richard walked on, mouth running. “And here we are,” he said at last. “Welcome to the Bone Cathedral, Katie.”

It was a cement slab the size of a basketball court, surrounded by more gruesome trees. At one end was an unlit bonfire; at the other, an ancient mausoleum. Between the two was a giant sarcophagus.

Between trees and cement stood everyone I’d ever known who still lived.

Jackson Bright, the mayor, climbed up on the sarcophagus. “Friends, welcome once again! Your diligence, persistence, and hard work has once again brought us a harvest. Within the Last Refuge lies not one, but two denizens of evil!”

Richard screamed right in my ear. His cry was lost in the wave of cheers as the crowd went crazy. I rubbed my ear and glared at him.

“And today we are joined by the next generation of hunters. Watch and learn, children, for this is your destiny. Monsters beset us on every side, but we will prevail. One day, you will take our places and slay the vile creatures on this very stone! Sheriff Jones, bring out the prisoners.”

The sheriff—the man I’d always been told was the most worthy of respect—threw open the mausoleum doors and dragged a pair of nearly-normal people out.

On the far side, he held a woman dressed in simple jeans and a baggy t-shirt, with long blonde hair. Closer to me was a man with brown hair in a similar outfit. Both were terribly pale, and both struggled weakly. The sheriff hauled them  up onto the sarcophagus as the mayor stepped down.

“You see, people? They have no strength. The daylight binds them tighter than ropes ever could! I give you: vampires!”

The crowd made some sort of appreciative noise. I barely heard it. The two creatures had struggled upright and now sat back-to-back, and the man was looking at me. The weariness brought on by the sun was not the only weariness in him. His face was a picture of despair beyond hope. But there was something nameless in his eyes as he stared at me, something nobody in the village ever had in their eyes. It seemed almost passive.

The mayor wasted no time in lighting the bonfire. “Bones mark our trees. The bones of our enemies mark the places they die. With vampires, we have to take the bones first. Step forward, children.”

I stepped forward. Eleven other kids did, too, most with knives in hand, all barely teenagers. They’d been told in advance what this was about.

So had the vampires. I stared at the man’s face. He closed his eyes. “I love you, Marie,” he whispered.

My mind raced.

Love. There was no love. Love was a lie, a trick, a trap. Love was what monsters said to draw you in. Just an act, being nice for no reason but to catch you. Parents liked you. Siblings tolerated you. Boyfriends and girlfriends liked each other enough to stay together. But love?

Why would he love her?

Unless it wasn’t a trick.

If he thought it was real—

If she thought it was real—

If there was something better—

And they had it!

What was that look on his face?

Sheriff Jones grabbed the man and hauled him to the end of the sarcophagus, right in front of me.

I shut my eyes.

“Now, children, watch carefully. The first thing you must do when killing a vampire is sever its head.” There was a wet THOCK. The man let out a howl. The mayor kept right on talking. I couldn’t think.  When I opened my eyes all I could see was Sheriff Jones’ back. The grownups moved to better see the woman being dismembered. They shouted encouragement to their kids.

Richard’s axe was in my hand, and then it was in the back of the sheriff’s head. He collapsed, his blood mingling with the woman’s all over the table. The man licked it, blinked, licked some more, and suddenly there was pandemonium.

The man caught me around the waist with one arm and held the sheriff’s body up with the other, stopping two knives and an arrow in a lightning-fast twist. Then he threw the body away, grabbed something else and started running.

What had I just done?

When he stopped, we were miles away from the Bone Cathedral. The trees had leaves. The air smelled fresh. He set me down, gently, inside the mouth of a shallow cave, and I saw at last what he had taken.

The woman’s head. He held it in both hands, then set it gently on the floor and turned to me.

“Why did you do that, child?”

I suddenly realized I was weaponless, face to face with a starved vampire. And I looked him in the eyes and saw fear. I licked my lips. “Be… because you… you love her. And I need to know why.”

“If they ever catch you, they’ll kill you,” he said.

“I know.”

“What’s your name?”

“Katie.”

“That must have been very difficult for you, Katie.”

I shook my head. “No, sir. Killing monsters is easy.”

 

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