Three Flash Fiction Stories by
Copyright © Alyssa Grant, 2016
All Rights Reserved
First Shakespir Edition
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Table of Contents
Norman hunched forward, his elbows on his knees, as Laurie gulped down the rest of her merlot and set the glass on the table. A single crimson drop rolled down the side like blood on ice. A frigid breeze blew, and the swath of gray obscuring the sun thickened, threatening to drown the pair in rain at any moment. Neither of them made a move to go back inside.
“So, how’ve you been?” Laurie asked, taking a sudden interest in her bright pink manicure.
Norman folded his hands together and stared at his untouched glass of wine. His feet tapped against the cement patio. “Fine.”
His mother’s gaze boiled his skin like the sun, but he didn’t meet her eyes.
“You don’t look so fine, you know,” she said. “You look more like a raccoon with those circles under your eyes.”
“How much sleep you been getting?”
It wasn’t a lie. Not really.
The woman rooted around in her purse and pulled out and lit a cigarette. Smoke bloomed from her lips. “You haven’t been doing drugs or nothing, have you?”
His eyes snapped upward. Laurie’s hoarse laugh grated against his eardrums like sandpaper.
“Just joking with you, kid. Don’t make the same shit mistakes I did. Ain’t worth it. Don’t let no one tell you different.”
He caught himself before he could scoff, and finally allowed himself to take in her image. Her coiffed blonde hair reminded him of Marilyn Monroe. The style might’ve suited her about fifteen years ago, before her features were ravaged by cocaine. Now, her eyes were sunken and dull, and premature wrinkles rippled across her skin. Her lips were cracked, and her teeth were stained yellow, crooked, and no longer a complete set.
Norman cleared his throat, which burned as though someone had struck a match across his esophagus. He considered his wine.
“I missed you, you know,” Laurie said.
He remained silent, seeing no point in challenging her statement. The moment she walked through their hotel room door would be the moment she walked back out of his life without looking back.
The thought didn’t bother him. Not anymore.
The cloud cover thinned. Norman glanced at the white disk of the sun and shifted in his seat, tugging his loose sleeves past his wrists.
“You haven’t touched your merlot,” Laurie said.
His stomach churned, and he pushed his glass across the table with two pale fingers. Laurie didn’t move to drink it.
“Norman.” Ashes dripped from the cigarette hanging limply between her fingers. “I heard about Rob – about your dad. I want to be here for you, okay?”
A chill seeped into his chest. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. He stood and retreated into their hotel room.
“You don’t have to,” Laurie said. She followed him inside.
Norman grabbed a paper cup from the bathroom, and he filled it to the brim and chugged it in one go. The burning did not cease. Nausea swirled in his stomach, and he gripped the edges of the sink when the ground swayed beneath his feet.
“It – it was an accident,” he said.
An image of his father’s cold, lifeless corpse invaded his vision, staring up at him with his blue eyes, but not seeing him. And the blood. God, there had been so much blood. The liquid spilled from the man’s neck in a deluge, filling the air with a sickening metallic scent.
His mother gave him a skeptical look. “An accident? You mean a… Oh, Jesus. Was that bastard drunk driving again? Is that what happened? Good God…”
Norman brought a hand to his forehead and found it damp with sweat.
“Norman, I’m sorry,” Laurie said. “I don’t want you to suffer, honey. I’ve been a deadbeat for too long. Tell me what I can do.”
His eyes rose to meet hers. The forest fire in his throat tuned out her words, and a persistent ring filled his ears.
“How about we talk over lunch?” she asked. “I’ll pay.”
He dipped his head in a single slow nod. Laurie moved to retrieve her purse from outside, but froze mid-step to look back at her son, and at the mirror behind him. Her lips parted in shock.
He followed his mother’s gaze to the single reflection in the mirror’s surface, in which his hungry, wrathful glare could not be seen.
Crimson-spattered black boots padded against the dust-laden ground, each step soundless to the untrained ear. Blood stained the tips of the elf’s uncommonly pale hair pink. Her hair, loose and disheveled, captured the curiosity of those nearby, rather than the splotches of red scattered about her dark leather uniform. Blood was normal enough a sight in Qalari, she supposed—at least in comparison to the river of snowy hair flowing behind her.
Recia approached the Penumbra Syndicate’s entrance, hesitating for a split second before she passed through the weathered golden arch. With an upward tilt of her chin, she swept aside the thin maroon curtains barring her path and stepped inside the dim interior of the building, wrinkling her nose against the assault of incense and spices that greeted her.
The exuberance of the syndicate had always been something the assassin found quite ironic. It was a sprawling palace decorated with silks, century-old paintings, spiraling pillars, and gleaming golden statues depicting tigers and elephants. Yet it was also the former home of a notably frugal noble family.
Our presence must have them rolling in their graves.
She found Velendar in the open courtyard at the heart of the palace, draped unceremoniously across a red and gold settee, raven locks scattered about his shoulders as he gazed at the brown haze clogging the sky. She knelt before him, and the other dark elf stretched his bare, onyx-colored arms skyward before rolling onto his side.
“Recia,” her master greeted, a knowing glint in his vermilion eyes. “I assume the target’s death was swift and true, as always.”
Her lips twitched. He knew.
“I’ve no sufficient excuse for my inadequate performance,” she murmured.
Velendar rested his chin atop one of his hands, waving the other dismissively. “Oh, no, no. The target is dead. That is what matters, hmm? I am merely curious as to how you attracted witnesses.”
Her mind flicked to the previous night, and to the pompous lord who wrongly assumed he could extort money from the syndicate. A glint of candlelight upon armor caught the corner of her eye, and she escaped impalement by a hairsbreadth as the noble’s bodyguard thrust his spear at her torso. Four more men appeared through a false wall. She only managed to cut down one guard before escaping through an open window, yet she took down the noble by hurling a throwing knife at his neck.
Recia fought to hold Velendar’s gaze. “My visit was expected. I underestimated his intuition. It will not happen again, Master Velendar.”
He smiled at her, slowly, before returning to his back, clasping his hands behind his head. “You’d do well not to make promises that cannot be kept.”
Recia averted her eyes to the polished floor as a chill cut deep into her chest. She remained still for several moments, numb from head to toe.
Death in the field would have been more honorable a fate. Assassins who performed poorly were punished by execution at best, and torture at worst. It troubled her that she had not yet been dragged off to a cell to await her sentence.
“Ah, there is another matter,” Velendar said, recapturing her attention. “It relates to humans. Shocking, really.” He crossed one leg over the other, idly rotating his ankle in its socket. “Know you the name, Pontiff Dane of Doran?”
She nodded once. Of course she did—there were few who didn’t know of the corrupt pontiff, and how his toxic version of the Iladian faith twisted the minds of almost the entire human race, consequently bending them to his will like a horde of marionettes.
“The… holy man requested the services of an assassin,” Velendar said, “and he offered a rather generous sum of money for the extermination of a certain wood elf.”
Recia’s brow furrowed. “A wood elf?”
“Mm. The unfortunate girl has the eyes of Empress Ila.”
She stared at him, lips parting in surprise. In the human kingdom of Doran, wood elves served as slaves, and were treated like little more than vermin. For one to show ties to the empress of legend…
“Why is the pontiff concerned with such a thing?” she asked.
“Creed. So he says.” He smiled. “It’s a lie, of course. The hearts of men are fickle things, the poisoned heart of a man of power even more so. But his motives are not mine to question. I am curious to see how our actions may shape the future of this wretched land, for better or for worse, and regardless of the outcome… The possibilities make me positively giddy.”
Recia remained silent as he stood and approached her, gesturing for her to stand. She rose and did not react when he brushed aside her long white hair, but a tingle ran down her spine when his lips grazed her cheek, coming to rest just an inch above her pointed ear.
“You’ve always been a favorite of mine.” Her master’s voice came as a low purr, soft and calming; yet his words uncannily carried the weight of a threat. “Your skills deserved to be envied. Feared by all. So I entrust this task to you, darling. I know you will not let me down.”
A kiss on Recia’s cheek rendered her frozen, bringing unexpected tension to her shoulders. As Velendar left the courtyard, her ruby eyes remained locked on his back until he vanished into the shadows. Above her, the sky howled with a sudden gale, battering the palace with a fog of sand.
She turned for the exit and lifted her dark hood, tugging her cowl over her nose to protect from the coming sandstorm. A journey to Doran would be arduous, and one made beneath the cover of night, but this mission would not be one so poorly executed. The fate of the empire would turn with the blood on her blade.
She would not disappoint him again.
A frigid burst of air greeted Spencer as he escaped into the school parking lot. His eyes darted about the sea of moonlit cars before they rested on an argument unfolding at the far end of the street. His heart sank. He’d parked his dad’s Jeep close to the angry trio.
Rather than loiter around and risk missing his curfew, which would surely evoke the combined wrath of his parents, he kept his eyes melded to the pavement as he headed in the direction of his dad’s car.
“Okay, you know what?” A girl’s voice said. “I don’t give two shits about what he thinks about me. He’s a lying, cheating snake, and a coward if he thought sending you two assholes out here to intimidate me would change anything. You can tell Dan to go suck his own dick, ‘cause we’re done. Got it?”
Spencer risked an upward glance. The two guys – jocks, by the looks of them – didn’t seem very happy with her response. One of them seized her by the shoulders.
He blinked, and by the time his eyes opened, one jock was on the ground, groaning and covering his crotch. A chill seeped through Spencer’s veins when the other guy whipped a butterfly knife out from his pocket.
He didn’t think. He threw himself at the taller, broader student and managed to knock him to the ground. The knife skittered across the pavement. The jock’s fist landed squarely on his jaw, knocking him to the side like he weighed less than a feather.
The girl plucked the knife from the ground and heaved Spencer to his feet, her stunning blue eyes brightened by urgency. “Get in,” she said, shoving him towards the nearest car, a jet black classic Cadillac.
The next thing he knew, he was sitting on a cedar-colored plush seat stained with the smell of cigarette smoke, an engine was rumbling, and he was tearing into the night with a girl he didn’t even know.
No, that wasn’t true. Brooke. That was her name. He knew her through malicious rumors hinting towards hardcore drugs and defaced property, as well as her wavy pastel pink hair that changed color whenever he saw her around school. Which was almost never.
Brooke pulled the Cadillac into a suburban side street a couple miles down the road. They shared a wide-eyed glance, and the girl burst into laughter.
“Dude, that was so awesome. You saved my skin! What’s your name?”
“I’m Brooke,” she said, and shook his hand.
“Um, what… What happened back there?” he asked.
Her grin fell, and anger ignited in her gaze.
“My ex is a freaking psycho and wants me dead ‘cause I dumped his ass, even though he cheated on me with some prissy, stuck up cheerleader. Whatever. You don’t kill someone for not wanting to put up your bullshit. What is this, the Dark Ages? Jesus.”
Bewildered, Spencer sat plastered against the passenger door as Brooke pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and he shook his head when she offered him one. She shrugged and lit one for herself.
Rain pattered against the roof of the car, filling the silence between them. Spencer’s heart pounded in his chest. Out of all the things he expected to happen that night, from awkwardly wandering the edges of the school gym without a prom date, to getting shoved into a locker, sitting with a girl whose life he’d saved was not one of them.
Brooke finished her cigarette and tossed it out the window. “Hey, relax. I don’t bite.” She smirked. “Unless you’re into that.”
Heat filled his cheeks. “Uh, I – I’m not… I don’t…”
She giggled. Her expression sobered, and she fiddled with the edge of her black leather jacket.
“I’m making you uncomfortable, huh? Sorry. I’m shit at the whole friend-making thing.”
His stomach twisted with guilt. “No… Me too. I’m bad at making friends, I mean. Um…” A wave of courage swelled inside him. “Want to get coffee tomorrow at noon?”
Her eyes lit up in surprise. “Hell yeah, dude. At the Starbucks downtown?”
He nodded. The girl’s smile returned, and he smiled back. Red and blue police lights shone through the Cadillac’s rain-streaked back window, interrupting their moment of mutual understanding.
“Wh-what did you do?” Spencer asked.
“Recently? Picked a couple locks, shot crazy string all over the girl’s locker room, kicked a jock in the balls.” Brooke grinned again. “Took off with the principal’s Cadillac.”
About the Author
Alyssa Grant is working towards a bachelor’s degree in Full Sail University’s Creative Writing for Entertainment online program. She attended Interlochen Arts Academy for creative writing in 2014, and had her work featured in their winter 2014 issue of The Red Wheelbarrow. She plans to launch her debut novel series, Yuvaria, in the near future, and is interested in pursuing a job as a video game writer. When she isn’t writing, Alyssa is defeating evil in her favorite RPGs and making friends with the local dragons.
In each of these stories, not everything is what it seems; and this may only prove to create more obstacles in the long run. Spencer, the epitome of social awkwardness, meets his polar opposite. Norman, a man with a deadbeat mom, deals with a subtle yet deadly affliction. Recia, an assassin, is thrown into a mission that could cause an entire empire to crumble. As shady as a few of these characters are, they crave their own sort of validation--just like us. How they try to find it, though... Well, some of their tactics are a little out of the ordinary.