Flash Fiction – Edited Version

So, here’s the final version after some edits. Still not great, but it’s as polished as I can get it. It’s really more of a prologue, but even then it would probably get cut.

As an exercise, it was great to get back into writing again. I may or may not revisit this world, but we shall see.


 

The first breath shattered her world, the second shattered her heart. The third ended in a wailing cry that was quickly cut off. Emenda held the child close to her breast and felt him latch on.

The room stank of afterbirth, blood and unwashed bodies. It was simple stone cell and she lay on a wooden slab that had once served as a table. No restraints. They didn’t expect her to wake again.

He looked up at her then. His eyes were an iridescent blue that shaded into green, and they glimmered in the meager light. She could lose herself in those eyes.

A light patch of dark fuzz covered his head. It felt like soft velvet, but she recoiled slightly as she saw her hands. Broken fingernails and cracked skin bore the evidence of her struggle.

Time was running out. She wrapped him tightly against her chest with the rags that were left of the shift she wore. Excess movement would slow her down. They would be coming to check on her soon.

Her legs felt wobbly still. Using the blood pooled between her legs, she wrote the Writ of Strength on her belly. Her Will was weak after months of torture and confinement but with it she found the strength to stagger towards the door and peek outside.

Mother Superior was entering the room two doors down, her sharply pressed habit impossible to miss as she disappeared inside. Emenda slipped into the hallway and ran towards the opposite end.

The stairs there would take her to the main floor. The doors would be unlocked. They had become complacent.

The stairs led into the transept, behind the altar. Nude bodies writhed in mad embrace and covered almost every part of the floor. None of them noticed Emenda as she crept through.

She sidled up to the cracking plaster wall that separated the altar and the nave from this part of the church and surreptitiously looked out towards the exit doors: solid oak framed by concrete pillars. That was where her freedom lay, but it was unreachable all the same.

The beast lay in the center of the room, pews pushed to the edges by its great bulk. Its leathery skin was a red so dark that it looked black in the faint light of the moon shining through the skylight windows. And yet it had felt like the softest suede against her skin. She shuddered at the memory.

It lay curled up like a lion in slumber, daggerlike claws and teeth sheathed. It’s horns reached towards the ceiling and swayed with each breath.

The exit beckoned and a flicker of hope bloomed in her breast. The baby squirmed against her, but kept silent. His eyes were closed tightly. It wouldn’t be long now.

But hope’s feeble flame died as the doors splintered and blew open. Standing in the wreckage was a figure of shining gold and steel. A blue silk surcoat bore the distinctive Mater Dei Cross.

“No,” she whispered. Joy and despair clashed within her. Seeing him again was what she had prayed for. But now, she was torn. He would take the child and kill him. His Oath would allow nothing less.

The beast stirred and opened a baleful eye.

“Begone, Raktha.” It’s voice was surprisingly smooth, a mellow baritone timbre. “The vessel has been spawned. It is too late.”

The Oath Knight charged as he cried out the words of Dei engraved on his armor. He crossed the room with sword held high, the Sacred Writ leaving trails of blue smoke as it glowed.

The beast struck so fast it looked it blurred as it moved. Emenda staggered as she felt the room itself shudder from the impact. Shockwaves reduced the remaining pews to splinters as they battled. Afterimages of red and blue light swam before her eyes. The battle was horrific.

She was so close; but no manner who won, her and the baby would lose. It was an easy decision to make.

Blue smoke had turned grey as the Knight’s Writ faded. His breastplate was a disfigured mess of twisted steel and his surcoat lay in tatters. The final word of Dei left his lips and he slumped to the floor, but his eyes were fierce.

The beast’s breath slowed as it looked down on the sword embedded in it’s chest. Blue light shone brightly along blade and hilt.

Emenda didn’t even realize that she had moved as she strode into the open. They hadn’t noticed her yet, and she moved up behind the Knight and pulled out the dagger he kept in the small of his back. It was hers, of course. How else would he have found her.

Take or be taken. It was the Final Oath of the order. She remembered that part of herself at least. Aim below the breast, between the fourth and fifth rib at an angle and slant towards the left.

She plunged the knife in perfectly. The pain barely registered. It was a minor irritant compared to what she had already suffered. She would only have a few minutes more.

The Knight turned to face her, his expression changing from puzzlement to shock.

Jura Dei,” she said. There were no tears left in her. She held out her son. “And thus, I transfer my Oath.”

“Emenda, no.” Grief gripped his heart. He had tears enough for them both. “I have searched so long.”

She smiled then. Her first smile in months. “I knew you would come.”

“But I was too late.”

“It wouldn’t have mattered. I was lost as soon as I was taken.” She gripped him fiercely. “So much was taken from me. But this, I give freely.”

The Knight stroked her hair. It was limp and oily, but his touch was as soft as it had ever been. He looked at the child.

“It is an unholy vessel,” he said. “How could you let this abomination live?”

“I have given my Final Oath. You can’t deny me this.” She could barely breathe out the words. “He is, and always will be, my son.”

She smiled as the blackness closed in. No more pain.

Oren sat slumped against a single pillar standing among the ruins of the church. The light of morning warmed his face. Only a day ago, he would have seen the hand of Dei in the rising of the sun. But now, he had other things on his mind.

The source of confusion lay swaddled on his lap. The child looked so much like her it hurt. There was really, no other choice.

Imposter’s Syndrome

There’s a lovely video based on Ira Glass’ series on storytelling:

It’s a great message for any storyteller, especially those of us who are getting into this later in life. This was the basis for my post Novice Writer, Advanced Reader. But I think this is also one of the main contributors to the prevalence of Imposter Syndrome among writers.

Emmie Mears has a great guest post on Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds Blog about it: We’re Here to Revoke Your Artist Card.

I think the reason this affects so many writers is that no matter how hard we work to close the gap, we run into two main problems:

  1. We don’t realize how far we’ve come
  2. We keep moving the goal posts

When I first started working, I used to install antennas on communication towers. The standard height was about 110 feet or so, and climbing the ladder to the top was an arduous process.

When working at height, the conventional wisdom is not to look down. But from experience, I can tell you that it’s much worse looking up. Seeing a hundred feet of ladder stretching away in the distance makes the whole thing seem really daunting.

And that’s the problem with not realizing how far you’ve come. Sure, you’re halfway up, but the ground looks so much closer and the top so much farther away. It’s hard to reconcile the fact that you’ve made a lot of progress.

As for moving the goal posts, it’s like an adage World of Warcraft players used to pass around: you kill mobs to get better gear, so you can kill more mobs; so you can get better gear, so you can kill more mobs. Ad infinitum.

No matter how good you get objectively, you still see work that so much better. And you strive to be that good, but then you get there and realize, well, know I know how to do it, so it’s not as good as I thought it was. Oh, look, that one over there is much better. I should do that. Ad infinitum.

There isn’t much that can be done except to keep pushing forward. But identifying the process helps to cope in some small way. And that’s all we can hope for, really.


If you want to check out Emmie’s work you can find it on Amazon:

Ayala Storm Series (Book 1)

Shrike Series (Book 1)

They’re both free to read if you’ve got Kindle Unlimited.

 

Thoughts on the Flash Fiction Challenge

So I barely sneaked in and got 1000 words done in a week. Less than 250 words a day. Easy, I thought. Yeah, not so much.

I have two major problems: the story didn’t accomplish the things that I wanted it to and the writing was sloppy.

So, instead of taking the next Flash Fiction Challenge, I’m going to do some revisions and see if I can’t fix it up. I may end up scrapping it altogether, but we’ll see where this goes.

Writing Problems

There’s really not much I can do about this except write more. I’ll do the best I can for now and see if I can’t add some polish.

Story Problems

Here’s the story I was trying to tell:

  • Mysterious woman has a baby. Show the bond between mother and child.
  • She sneaks her way out. This isn’t difficult since everyone seems occupied.
  • A demon beast blocks the way. Her hopes are dashed.
  • A Knight bursts through the door, and she is discouraged even further since both would have their own plans for the child.
  • They battle to a stalemate.
  • She sacrifices herself to kill the beast.
  • She makes the Knight swear to care for the child.

Not the greatest of stories, but it’s a start.

The mood I wanted to evoke was one of desperation and urgency. I also wanted readers to empathize with her and the child. The Knight and beast were supposed to be antagonists to this.

I’ll let the story sit for a few more days and then dive back into and see what I can do.

terribleminds.com Flash Fiction Challenge 2016-02-26

Chuck Wendig has a great little flash fiction challenge every Friday. I keep meaning to do it but I never get around to doing so. This time will be different.

This week the challenge is to pick from a list of opening sentences submitted the previous week. Word count is about 1000.

6. “The first breath shattered her world, the second shattered her heart.” (Fred Yost)


The first breath shattered her world, the second shattered her heart. The third ended in a wailing cry that was quickly cut off. Emenda held him close to her breast and felt him latch on.

Time was running out. Cut the cord; wrap him tightly to her. Excess movement would slow her down. They would be coming soon.

Her legs felt wobbly still, but she found the strength to stagger towards the door and peek outside. Mother Superior was entering the room two doors down. She slipped into the hallway and ran towards the opposite end.

The stairs there would take her to the main floor. The doors would be unlocked. They were all volunteers after all.

The stairs led into the transept, behind the altar. Nude bodies writhed in mad embrace covered almost every part of the floor. None of them noticed Emenda as she crept through.

She sidled up to the cracking plaster wall that separated the altar and the nave from this part of the church and surreptitiously looked out towards the exit doors, solid oak framed by concrete pillars. That was where her freedom lay, but unreachable all the same.

The beast lay in the center of the room, pews pushed to the edges of the room by his great bulk. It’s leathery skin was a red so dark it looked black in the meager light of the moon shining through the skylight windows. And yet it felt like the softest suede against her skin. She shuddered at the memory.

It lay curled up like a lion in slumber, daggerlike claws and teeth sheathed while in repose. It’s horns reached towards the ceiling and swayed with each breath.

The exit beckoned and a flicker of hope bloomed in her breast. The baby squirmed against her, but kept silent. His eyes were closed tightly. It wouldn’t be long now.

But hope’s feeble flame died as the doors splintered and blew open. Standing in the wreckage was a figure of shining gold and steel. A red silk surcoat bore the distinctive Mater Dei Cross.

“No,” she whispered. He would take the child and kill him. His Oath would allow nothing less.

The beast stirred and opened a baleful eye.

“Begone, Raktha.” It’s voice was surprisingly smooth, a mellow baritone timbre. “The vessel has been spawned. It is too late.”

The Oath Knight charged as he cried out the words of Dei engraved on his armor. He crossed the room in a blur, the Sacred Writ leaving trails of blue smoke as it glowed.

The beast struck so fast it looked like teleported rather than moved. Emenda staggered as she felt the room itself shudder from the impact. Shockwaves reduced the remaining pews to splinters as they battled. Afterimages of red and blue light swam before her eyes. The battle was horrific.

The infant stirred, it’s eyes open. She held him closer and huddled against the wall.He was staring at her now. Iridiscent eyes shifted from a cobalt blue to a ruby red. She could lose herself in those eyes. Would he be tall? Short? Would the whispy golden fuzz on his head be straight? Or curly like her own?

She would never know. She was so close; but no manner who won, her and the baby would lose. It was an easy decision to make.

She strode out in the open.

Blue smoke had turned grey as the Knight’s Writ faded. His breastplate was a disfigured mess of twisted steel and his surcoat lay in tatters. The final word of Dei left his lips and he slumped to the floor, but his eyes were fierce.

The beast’s breath slowed as it looked down on the sword embedded in it’s chest. Blue light shone brightly along blade and hilt.

Emenda didn’t even realize that she had moved. Take or be taken. It was the Final Oath of the order. She remembered that part of herself at least. Aim below the nipple, between the fourth and fifth rib at an angle and slant towards the left. Death in minutes.

The knife slid free smoothly and quickly, as it should, and she plunged it expertly in. The pain barely registered. It was a minor irritant compared to what she had already suffered.

The Knight turned on her, his expression changing from puzzle to shock.

Jura Dei,” she said. There were no tears left in her. She held out her son. “My life for his. Swear the Oath. You cannot deny me this.”

“Emenda, no.” Grief gripped his heart. He had tears enough for them both. “I have searched so long.”

She smiled then. Her first smile in months. “I knew you would come.”

“But I was too late.”

“It wouldn’t have mattered. I was lost as soon as I was taken.” She gripped him fiercely. “So much was taken from me. But this, I refuse to give up.”

He stroked her hair. It was limp and oily, but his touch was as soft as it had ever been. He looked at the child.

“The Oath binds me,” he said.

“I give you my Final Oath. You can’t deny me this.” She could barely breathe out the words. “Please.”

She looked into his eyes as the blackness closed in. No more pain.

Oren sat slumped against a single pillar standing among the ruins of the church. The light of morning warmed his face. Only a day ago, he would have seen the hand of Dei in the rising of the sun. But now, he didn’t know.

The source of confusion lay swaddled on his lap. The child looked so much like her it hurt. There was really, no other choice.