Every week Chuck Wendig does a flashfiction challenge over at TerribleMinds, which I often try to write for – I love challenges. This week’s was called ‘Last Lines First‘. I narrowed my lines to choose from down to two – then I talked to Michelle, who said ‘wouldn’t it be fun if…’ so this story uses both the ‘last lines’ that I had narrowed down to choose from – one to start the story, as is the point of the challenge, and the other actually as a last line.
Once more, I precisely hit the 1,000 word limit with my flashfiction.
Summary: Anna has been kidnapped from her world and her calm, quiet, normal life by a book and now all she wants is to go home – is there a way?
“Truth be told, I’m not sure any of them are actually dead.” Darius said, looking down at the book Anna held, rather than the field of open battle behind him. It was quiet, now, and Anna had thought it was over. . .
Anna swallowed a whimper, unable to drag her own gaze away from the bodies scattered over the field, among huge splotches of bright, sickening red and vivid, terrifying blue blood.
“A- Any of them?” Anna said, hating the way her voice wavered, but unable to keep it from doing so.
“The Raillyn are nearly impossible to kill.” Darius said matter-of-factly. “Anna? Are you all right? I thought you knew this! Breathe, Anna.” he instructed, kneeling before her as she wobbled, then began to collapse.
“When-” Anna said, then had to stop and gasp in an unsteady breath, looking at the pages of the book she held, full of runes that spiralled dizzyingly and entrapped scaly, horrific creatures – Raillyn. “When you said that I thought-” she stopped, shaking her head, to focus on the immediate point. “They aren’t dead?” she demanded.
“They are down, and most of their bodies are probably too damaged to continue, but for the Raillyn, that is only a temporary hold.” Darius told her, gently sweeping hair out of her face. “They will soon rise and seek to travel to your world once more.”
Anna swallowed weakly, remembering the battle that had begun before her very ordinary house, the gouts of bluish fluid – the blood of the hordes of Raillyn spilling out of an old, dusty book – that had splashed up her legs and been splattered over the grass and the pristine white siding.
A slightly rough bit of cloth dabbed at her face, and Anna offered a watery smile to Darius, who looked rather panicked. Anna giggled through her tears.
The man had given a rousing speech to a small army, then led them into battle against an army of over twice their number, of monsters, and won, and had been telling her that while his men were dead and gone, the enemy would recover and try to attack once more. . .
But Anna’s bout of crying was what frightened him. Suddenly Anna felt almost at home, if only by the familiar panic of a man dealing with a crying woman.
“I’m all right, Darius. I’m sorry. Just- A little overcome.” Anna said softly, swallowing and shaking her head. “My world-” she broke into a helpless little laugh. “Well, I told you – you saw. I’m- I’m a buyer for a retail chain. This doesn’t happen in my world!”
Darius sighed, looking regretful, even as he tucked away his handkerchief. “I know, Anna. I am sorry that my world has so attacked yours, and more so that this conflict has involved you, who are not a warrior.” he said solemnly.
Anna laughed a little hysterically, and had to firmly pinch her forearm to drag herself back under control.
Hysterics would help no one and nothing.
Although now would be a great time to have a panic attack, Anna couldn’t help but think. Stranded in another dimension, being hunted by a vicious army of apparently unkillable monsters, with a man who had been fighting them for almost a thousand years defending her.
Anna hiccupped, nearly screamed, and squinched her eyes closed, forcing herself to take deep, slow breaths, shaking. Darius squeezed her shoulder reassuringly, and Anna nodded slowly, taking one more deep breath and opening her eyes again.
“The Book should be able to return you to your own world, Anna.” Darius said softly, helping her to her feet. “The Raillyn may try to follow once more, to break into your world – we are closing in on them, harder and faster than we ever have before, not in centuries, and they will try to take any escape route they have.”
“But. . .” Anna’s heart fluttered. “I . . . can go home? This cursed, fucking book can take me home? After all this mess?”
“It . . . could not have, before. The Raillyn would have prevented it.” Darius said carefully. “I would have told you, Anna, I would not see you kept here against your will.” he swore, his eyes fiercely earnest.
“I know, Darius. Thank you. I just- This thing can actually be helpful?” Anna said, trying for flippancy and falling rather short, she knew.
“We can try to make it so.” Darius said gently, wrapping his big, callused, bloody hands around hers on the book. “The trip may not be pleasant, I warn you. It was not pleasant for me, coming from my world to this, though it has been many years.”
Anna nodded, though she was frightened, and Darius smiled encouragingly and led her through the steps of the book to trigger her pathway home.
It was not unpleasant.
It was a shaky, nauseating, very disagreeable experience. It was full of too-bright light, and the sparkles kept half-blinding Anna, then making her feel like she was going to be cut up or set on fire. She cringed and whimpered, wishing she could cover her eyes, or her ears – the screeching–
Then everything stopped. Not even with a thump or a shift, just . . . stopped.
Anna’s eyes widened as she looked around herself, shaking. There was her own front garden, familiar and comfortable and unchanged, with her house, undisturbed, not far away.
For a moment, she thought she had merely had the most vivid and terrifying daydream in history. Then, as she took a step, she was reminded of the heavy weight in her hands. She was holding the huge book, and blood and bluish fluid were spattered up her arms.
Anna swallowed, then took a breath, firming her resolve. “I am done with that world. Darius said that they could escape into mine? Well, let them try.” she said firmly.
She closed the book and watched as it turned to dust.
After some more talking to Michelle, there may be a very silly little story that is a sequel to this one, at some point.