wordwhacker: (NaNo 2006)
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A few other pieces of flash fiction, written for prompts 171, 172 and 173 respectively over at [livejournal.com profile] tamingthemuse last year. I must have been SUPER busy when I wrote them, because I have almost no recollection of them at all. Anyway, here they are, preserved digitally for the ages.

The Point (flash fiction, 550 words)

Billy was the hard corners of a man only; the rest was imagined, filling in the space between. He came up over the hill one point at a time, the long shadow of him descending in front, a black dividing line on the dusty streets. To say that the law feared him was to be too blunt about it; Billy demanded a quieter understanding, a tacit acceptance. The law simply stood back and let him work as though he was outside of it. And he was; he had outgrown the law a long time ago.

Graham watched, waited, stood his ground. He ground his heel into the dirt. He felt it, and heard it, differently this time than he had before. The high swell of breath that came to him every few seconds, gaspingly, felt like a weakness to him and he wished he could be utterly still. Heavily, maybe awkwardly, there was the weight of the silver star that hung on cheap flannel and moved with him, breathed with him. It was a free pass.

He knew they were watching and sensed their eyes following him. He imagined the corners of their eyes squinting against the sun that backed down against the hill, its half mile slide into town starting down the road where Billy’s points cut sharply into the scene. He was the Marshall that wasn’t; he could do the things they wouldn’t dare to do. He had a deeper need.

Billy stopped down the road fifty paces away at least, but the tip of his hat wasn’t far out of Graham’s reach. This had to be quick, before it was dark. Graham’s night vision was blurry at best, and he had trouble telling the end of one shape and the beginning of another. He had one shot.

He had been poised for this all day, his nerves aching for the challenge. Billy waited; the bastard was patient.

“You’re under arrest,” he said, his voice cracking once. He coughed the dryness from his throat.

“This ain’t your fight.” His voice was quiet, not intimidated by the shroud of emptiness on the town. “You think a tin star’ll keep me from shooting you?”

“Thought you’d like the target practice.” Graham adjusted the star so that it fell over his heart, or where he imagined it to be at least. “You wanted to know what it was like to hit a county Marshall, Billy? You go right ahead.”

Billy didn’t move. “I’m willin’ to give you the benefit of the doubt, Marshall, since you’re not from around these parts. This is my town. It runs all right without you. Now you can sit back and collect your pay check and keep things nice and peaceful – “

The shot rang out sharply across the arid turf. Billy’s eyes widened in surprise. Then he slumped, a dark pool forming under him. Graham turned to leave as the crowd gathered around the criminal come martyr.

“Marshall – Marshall!” He stopped and glanced over his shoulder. A boy with a shock of tousled blond hair stared at him in a kind of slack-jawed awe. “You shot him. You shot him dead!”

“That I did, son.”

“But he didn’t – you don’t even know him, do you?”

Graham holstered his gun. “That’s the point, kid. Isn’t it?”


Impasse (flash fiction, 631 words)

It is up to me, I suppose, to once again make the peace between us; because you cannot see me, meet me, or grasp the side of the conversation that I have argued over and over. And it isn't your fault alone, of course; the rest of the world, the western world at least, is in agreement with you. I am standing alone facing a crowd of millions, a tide of thought and desire and order, and - for you - love.

The light is dim in the kitchen; we have been up all night talking - I will not say 'arguing' because it is not so forceful as that, though the depth and the brewing discomfort are the same. I am weak and woozy and in need of sleep and food, two things I can't conceive of consuming at this moment. Tremors move through me, originating from some deep pit in my stomach and wracking out, coiling down the lengths of my fingers, sending hot tendrils into my brain through the stem. I have a strange emotional anatomy, and I am glad at times like this that I do not understand the physical processes that I undergo in times of stress. It would be less personal, less mystical. I do not so much mind that I have no control over it.

You are sitting back in the small kitchen chair, and while I am feverishly thinking of anatomy I imagine the curve of your spine in that position, the fitting of your joints into one another, the bend of muscle and tendon and flesh around hard, warm bone. Your head rests in one hand, the elbow propped on the table, so that you can avert your gaze and yet keep me in your peripheral vision as you watch where the sun will be rising in the smog and cutting roofs. The other arm hangs limply before you, between your legs, dangling as though released at the shoulder. It is a young man's pose, a child's pose, something from a Norman Rockwell painting, and yet it suits you because you are comfortable in your awkwardness.

We are waiting for something, but the silence has hung between us for long enough that I have difficulty now remembering what it is. I cough and the sound recalls for me who spoke last - it was you, something quiet, something about your inability to change. Then it comes back to me, and with it the chills - it was the realization that you were telling the truth, and that when I said the same thing, so was I.

It must have happened to others, this impasse of needs; we cannot be the first to feel so many linkages and compliments and yet feel threatened by one, overthrown by one. It should be simple: you want exclusivity - not just between us, but for me; you want me to want what you do. And I want... something different. I want others - I want to want them - and it would please me so deeply to have you want this as well, to feel what you feel for me two, three, ten times over again. I want you to know the beauty of my affection for you, the wholeness that transcends these small thoughts, hard thoughts, numbers and fractions. These things are from your world.

But my world is pliable, and so I bend. I will be irenic; to have you, I will give in.

I will give in, to save you the little death that has come over me, and pretend to see the sun rising through the drawn curtain.


Unseeing Eyes (flash fiction, 549 words)

"C'mon, baby."

He said it in a way that she could have read as a joking plea or a question, but the threat behind it suddenly came through clearly, as though he'd been working up to it all evening. Until now she'd been playing along and tricking herself into buying that smile and the crinkle in the corners of his eyes. She would have described him as "jovial" or "charismatic" to her friends later on; she'd laughed, only a little nervously, when he made that joke in her ear about skipping the rest of the movie - it was a pretty boring movie, though she'd tried to enjoy it because he had insisted she pick - and "doing something more entertaining."

It was a first date, and a warm one, even though the late evening was wet and smelled like fish. The smell permeated the uptown and clung to their coats when they slipped into the same side of the restaurant booth. They ordered greasy appetizers and a limp salad, a token concession. She indulged and licked her fingers, he rubbed his knee against hers under the table and watched her grow more accustomed to the curve of his arm and his thumb hooked on the waist of her jeans.

She wanted to believe that she could bring a boy home if she wanted and not have it end in something messy, even if it was their first date and he was becoming quickly possessive of her, even predatory, grinning wide when she spoke to expose his large teeth. It was just the way she read him, she decided; she was inclined to see people that way after all. But now he was on her couch and claiming it - and her - with his body language, half turned toward her with one arm behind her back and the other braced on his knee, ready to trap her against it with the flat plane of his body.

"C'mon." It was half said into her lips as he pressed her back against the couch with a kiss. He was hot enough to burn. She tolerated it, monitored her body language, tried not to lead him on. She knew now that his charm was like a weapon, a weapon that was also a shield, and she worried what would happen if she bruised it by turning him down cold.

But he didn't back down, meeting her apathy with fresh vigour and closing himself around her. She pushed him back. "Jeb," she said, laughing a little, hoping this would ease the transition. "I told you, I've got to get some sleep. I'm working in the morning."

She expected there to be a moment - a definite shift, something she could see. But then she had been fooling herself: there was no change in him. It wasn't some monster that suddenly appeared, forcing her down onto the couch with the weight of his body. It was just him, and his big teeth, and the strangled need for control.

The breath came out of him in a gasp as she sank her fangs into his neck, clinging to him as she fed on the heat, the blood of her fellow predator until all that was left was a cold shell with wide, unseeing eyes.
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