This week’s flash fiction faction entry, inspired by Quill Shiv’s wonderful weekly prompt (every Thursday) on her blog just over here. Do check out her entry and the others, too, listed in the comments section beneath.
Now. Made it! Last week was a bust, but this week, a story has come to me, and yet again, it’s begging to be turned into something longer. Think I’m storing these up as a sort of inner slush pile, to turn to in times of creative drought. Which leads me to the story below, totally planned, that. I hope you enjoy it, and any and all encouragement is gratefully received. A novel – or at least a collection – must emerge from 2012, but when it works (like now) this is fun all on its own!
PROMPT: Truly the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. –Anonymous
The sun is unforgiving at this time of year. It drains the lakes, shrinks streams and kills crops. Inevitably, one at a time, the six villages of the Saluvian Valley come to beg the three sisters who live at the end of Oak Hump trail for their assistance.
Every year, the sisters make the clouds come and ease the suffering and death in the Valley.
But there is always a price.
My name is Cody, and this time I will pay. To live with them for one year is no hardship. After that, if I still live, I can go home. I try very hard not to think how young Geda looked after she returned just last week. I try very, very hard not to think at all.
They cackle triumphantly as they take me in, and while I wait, chained, in the back of their dingy hovel, I can hear their shrieking appeals to the weather gods to release the clouds. I lose track of time, but it seems to be only a short while before the drumbeat of rain hits their tin roof, and the endless impacting noise is sending the other trapped creatures hissing and fluttering against the bars of their cages.
Finally, the hags re-enter the hut, drenched through, their bones scrape starkly through blotched, naked skin, their wiry ash coloured hair is spread thinly across bad scalps. They surround me, and poke at me with clawed fingers. I could crush any of them with the slightest effort.
But, I have more sense than that.
“He’s got more fat on him than the last one,” the eldest, Makkala, noted as she takes the skin of my waist and pinches too hard, her evil yellow eyes glittering.
“He should last a good while.” the middle sister, Sanalla of the jealous green eyes, strands of ribbons in her knotted hair, chuckles and pulls at my upper arm and chest.
The third sister, named Doma, says nothing, but her blind eyes scare me the most, giving away nothing in their blank whiteness as she tugs on my backside and offers only a hollow ‘hah!’ noise from her toothless hole of a mouth.
“Not cringin’, boy?” Makkala sneers, and I shake my head. “Oh, you’re a brave one. Been a while since we had one of those. eh, sisters?”
I clench my fist but hold steady under their touch. I must not be weak. I remember the Innkeeper’s words. Do not show your fear.
“You’ll do,” Makkala pats me too hard on the side of the head, then says. “It might not be too hard on you, boy.”
But the three of them cackle anyway, and then hobble over to the stinking cauldron for plotting, brewing and eating.
They will starve me for a while, and then…and then…
I hope I do not end up serving them as a crow.
But my earlier hopes were similarly ignored.