In A Flash: Felipe

Anna smiled as the security agent handed back her passport and moved forward to the conveyer belt. As she pulled out some trays from the stack and set her belongings in them, she glanced up and saw Felipe in the line across from her and frowned. They were racing each other, having chosen separate lines, and up until this point she had been ahead of him, her line moving at a steady pace.

She hurried with the trays, moving them onto the conveyer belt, and went to stand at the line in front of the x-ray machine.

“Shoes,” the bored woman standing on the other side of the machine said.

Muttering under her breath, Anna quickly slid off her shoes and jammed them into the tray alongside her purse and jacket. Felipe, she saw, was still removing his belt. She had time. Back at the line, the woman waved her through and Anna went, savoring her triumph. It was short-lived, for the alarm sounded.

“Check your pockets, ma’am,” the security guard said. “Keys. Cell phone. Jewelry.”

Anna frantically searched her person for the stray item, but was unable to locate anything. “I’m sorry,” she said. “There’s nothing in my pockets.”

“Come through again.”

Anna did, and this time no alarm sounded. Still the woman insisted on waving her squeaking wand around Anna’s body. Each change in pitch sounded ominous, but when she was done she waved Anna away. She went over to collect her things and met Felipe, who was watching her grinning, beyond the security checkpoint. Continue reading

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In A Flash: A New Career In A New Town

The dead ruled the back roads. They had worn and weathered faces, eyes hard against the horizon. They were staring at that unwavering point, always visible, no matter which direction one was traveling. The horizon beyond the horizon and the sky beyond the sky. No matter where one looked, it was there, and the dead were always walking toward it, though they could never arrive at that destination. It was the land of the living, and they had passed beyond it.

Xue had as well, though he was not dead. Not yet, anyway. He avoided the dead, hiding himself along the roadside whenever he saw them approaching. Caution was his watchword in this place, for he had none of the powers of the inhabitants here. He was a mere swordsman, practitioner of those sacred arts, though no master. His failures were that of any man, and for them he had been punished—cursed—and now he found himself wandering this land, just as the dead did, hoping somehow to reach that point on the horizon and cross to the world beyond.

Xue stayed to the nether regions and the back roads, for beyond them were things far worse than the dead. If he wanted to return to the land of living he needed to stay alive, a difficult proposition in this realm, where ghouls, demons, and things not even imagined by mortals existed. Had he understood the terrible cost his actions would carry, the damnation he would incur for his wrongs, he would not have been so quick to act.

“Vengeance is a luxury only the rich can afford,” his master had once told him. He had been correct, but Xue had not been willing to listen. Now he rued his impatience and anger every day.

The road upon which he walked during this endless day—for evening never came here, just as morning never returned anew—was a trail worn by an unending multitude of walkers. Dust stirred with his every step. He was on a vast and arid plain, that seemed to cross all of the realm here, the sky above vast and incomprehensible. It was blue, though somewhat faded and drawn, with specks of clouds adrift within. They never seemed to move and the weather never changed. It was as though the sky was caught in an instant forever. And he was ensnared in it as well. Continue reading

In A Flash: A Brief Encounter

“For two?” the waiter said, reaching for a stack of menus before hearing a response.

“Yes. Thanks,” J said.

“This way please.”

They followed the waiter as he made his way across the restaurant to a table sitting against the far wall. J and her companion sat down, smiling their thanks at the waiter, who disappeared behind them into the kitchen, moving rapidly.

“This is a big place,” her companion said, looking around the room.

“Hm,” J said, intent on the menu.

When she finally glanced up she saw her companion was correct. The restaurant was L-shaped and they sat near the junction of the two parts of the letter. The top part of the L, which extended from the entrance to the kitchen behind them, had more than twenty tables easily, she guessed, set in four precise rows. The other end of the L was longer and had even more tables. Maybe a third of those tables were filled now, a low murmur of conversation reaching their ears.

“What are you thinking?” her companion said, flipping through the menu. “Dim sum? And maybe some noodles?”

J did not reply. In her study of the room, she had set her eyes upon a group at a table two rows across from them. She hadn’t noticed them when they first entered the restaurant—for which she was now cursing herself—and now that she had, she found herself unable to stop looking. At last she forced herself to turn away—before they noticed, and before her companion did as well. Continue reading

In A Flash: Two Skulls

The bones had been bleached dry by the sun and now were a gleaming white amidst a sea of green grass that stretched on for miles in any direction. The sun glimmered off the bones, drawing the two riders to it. They came across the rest of the body on their way to the skull—a femur here, a rib there—the body having been torn apart by whatever carrion hunters inhabited these parts. When they reached it, one of the riders dismounted, picking it up gingerly to study it, while the other kept her eyes upon the horizon in all directions.

“Be quick,” the woman, whose name was Harni the Cleaved. “There is someone approaching.”

“You know this cannot be rushed,” Mejk the Unharnessed said, not taking his eyes from the skull.

“It may have to be,” Harni said.

Hearing the urgency in her voice, Mejk looked up from the skull and cast his eyes along the horizon. “Who is it?”

“Who else,” was her whispered reply. Continue reading

In A Flash: Lost Coordinates

The first call came that afternoon as Mary finally settled down to get some work done on her computer.

“Give me my fucking phone back cunt,” the voice on other end of the call said. The man was more than angry, he sounded unhinged.

Mary was left disturbed and, after taking a moment to gather herself, she called the police. The officer listened sympathetically and took down a report, promising to follow up that week.

Not more than an hour later there was a knock at the door. When Mary got up from her computer she saw two police officers standing outside. That was quick, she thought, assuming they were following up on her earlier call.

“Ma’am, may we come in,” the first officer, an unsmiling woman said. “We have a report that there is stolen property located here and we’d like to look around.”

Mary blinked, a tiny ping of doubt echoing through her thoughts. “That’s crazy. Do you have warrant?”

“We were hoping you would cooperate with us,” the second officer said, offering a placating smile.

“I will. When you have a warrant. I can assure you, I haven’t stolen anything. You’re the second ones to accuse me of that today. The other one I had to report to the police.”

Both officers frowned and glanced at each other. “When did this happen?” the woman said.

“About an hour ago,” Mary said, and explained the phone call.

Neither officer had anything to say to her story. They thanked her for her time and retreated to their squad car, parked in front of the house. There they spent some time on the radio and their computers as Mary watched, glancing from time to time at the house. After half an hour they left and Mary finally allowed herself to relax, though she was still left unsettled. What was going on? Continue reading