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.