Flash Fiction Friday – You Who Stole The Thunder

This story is a result of:

a) consecutive days of violent thunderstorms

b) this song:

c) this writing prompt
  photo Prompt567_zps96aa105e.jpg
  

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You Who Stole the Thunder

 

There aren’t a lot of things worth stealing, you once told me. But the best things to steal are those that people take for granted. There’s something immensely satisfying about stealing something people have come to expect to be there.

And thunder – who would miss it? It was just noise, white noise, the growl and roar of the gods that dissolved in rain. You would capture it with nothing but a glass jar, and no one would be the wiser. It was the perfect crime, and you were so gleeful about it, counting your chickens before they were hatched.

Two days later, the storm came. You ran home sopping wet in your mud-stained sneakers. Your mother chided you for being out in the rain, but you only came over and pounded on my door, wearing that triumphant grin that made me just as foolishly happy about your spoils.

“You do know the thunder thieves will be coming for you now, don’t you?” I told him, as we huddled under the blanket fort we set up. It was getting harder to fit in there, but on a rainy night like this the proximity was something we clung to.

“Let them come,” you said. Your voice wore the unevenness of a boy transitioning to a man. “They’re just bummed they were too slow.”

We sat the jar of thunder between us and shone our torchlight at it. In it, a dense black cloud swirled and swirled, a tempest in a glass prison. No wonder it looked pissed. I would want to be free too.

But I wanted more to see the look on your face, see the corners of your eyes lift, when you heard the storm’s music.

I wanted to experience the world knocked askew because of the absence of thunder, or at least feel a dent in this giant tin heart we lived in.

I wanted to know that people had sat up in their beds, straining their ears for the cry from the skies that wouldn’t come, wondering what was amiss, and know that we were the ones who had shaken their world.

But who knew if thunder would be missed? There were far louder cries that went unheard.

The thunder thieves – no, thugs they were – came around midnight, before we could open the jar. They were an unapologetic bunch, and I could tell you hated the racket they made. Don’t wake my mother, dammit! was probably what you meant to yell at them, but for the need to conceal ourselves.

We pressed closer together under the covers, torchlight off the jar hugged tightly between us. But it was only a matter of time before the thieves found us. Their dark hulking shadows cut brazenly across the room. In seconds, they would corner us. In seconds, they would rob us.

You took my hand, squeezed once, and I knew what you intended to do.

Breathless, we tore out of the blanket fort, out through the emergency exit next to your room, down the narrow flight of stairs and into the restless night. We could barely hear the thieves over the rumble of the skies’ muted fury.

It was still pouring, perhaps even heavier than before, as though the gods were unleashing their outrage at your heist. All the while, you had your arms wrapped protectively – possessively, as if it were rightfully yours – around the jar of thunder.

The air threatened to snap us in two. Winds thrashed and lashed, ready to rip the world apart. The glass jar rattled and flashed. In it, a restless beast demanded to be set free.

I hated to say it, really I did, but I said it anyway. “We need to let it go. We have to.”

You sent a silent plea with your eyes. “This may be the last time I hear thunder.” There it was, laid out bare. A plaintive statement made matter-of-fact in your measured, even voice.

Like always, I responded with stony silence, letting the storm take over our conversation. None of my responses – it’s not ours for the taking, you’re not going to die, you will hear the thunder again – seemed particularly convincing.

Eventually, we settled on flinging the jar as hard as we could across the field. It disappeared into the wall of trees blackened by night.

There was no crash of glass, like the rain had swallowed the jar before it could land. We stood there for a long time, soaked to our bones, waiting, counting – one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi – the time it took for the thunder to return.

The storm died with a satisfied murmur.

You were right, though. That was the last thunderstorm you and I ran through, the last time you heard thunder and held it in your hands.

I knew you wanted to leave your mark on the world, and you thought robbing the heavens of its voice would be the way to do that.

But I could have told you that the marks you left, though invisible, were indelible. Really I could, but I didn’t.

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Flash Fiction Friday – Monster Memory

“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

– Ray Bradbury

 

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.”

– Edgar Allan Poe

 

“The great thing about a short story is that it doesn’t have to trawl through someone’s whole life; it can come in glancingly from the side.”

– Emma Donoghue

 

See more lovely quotes about short stories at Aerogramme Writers’ Studio!

 

This week’s flash fiction is a result of this song – White Doves, by Cider Sky:

and this prompt:

Prompt 533

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Monster Memory

 

It takes a monster to kill a monster.

But no matter how many monsters she fought, there was one she could never slay. The one that grew stronger inside her the more kills she racked up. Monsters came in various forms, but there was none quite as scary as the one that looked back at her in the mirror.

You mustn’t grow a conscience, was what they said when she decided to join the Creed. It’s bad for business.

But she couldn’t stop the third party – unwelcome or not – from settling in her gut. It was an occupant that would turn the house inside out and leave muddy footprints all over the floor, but even this beat the emptiness that lived there before.

As she slipped through the desolate night into the target’s house, she wondered if she was right in taking on this assignment.

Stop thinking like that, she chided herself. She had been a shivering, bloody mess reaching, grasping for support when they first found her. And it was the killing – the single-minded focus of ridding the world of evil, evil that she had had to encounter – that nursed her back to health; it was the killing that made her stronger than she had ever been before.

Why then was she shuffling her feet around this mark? Was it the file of sketches she found in his study, the one that called to mind the quiet melody of a piano filling a room, the low, gentle voice next to her ear, a warm, dry hand that smoothed the hair off her face? Whatever it was that raked up these fragmented sensations, it made her inch towards the room at the end of the hallway with an uncertainty that was as bewildering – disorientating – as it was atypical.

Even monsters had memories. What did it say about her that she recalled nothing of her life before she joined the Creed?

She shook her head hard, shoving the thoughts back into the store cupboard of her mind. Memories are dangerous things, they said. They get in the way of the job.

The doorknob was loose. It jiggled in her hand. She froze, not because of her less than perfect entry, but because of the sudden draught. All the windows were closed.

She had seen things, many things, terrible things, as a result of this job. The violence she witnessed was what conditioned her hand, froze her heart, and drew her further and further away from herself. But here in this sparsely furnished room, where moonlight collected into a concentrated pool on a mounted canvas in the corner, what greeted her wasn’t a sight that made her killing a gratuitous act.

There was no mark. No ugliness, no violence, nobody. Only the barren shell of a home abandoned by its occupants, and the pure blank canvas on which the moon made its art.

She stood in the middle of the room like a soldier stranded without an order.  Memories surged in to fill the void, seizing her by waves, driving her to her knees. And there she remained, splayed out. Played out.

When she saw him, a luminous spectre in the moonlight, she got to her feet and whipped out the knife from her shoe in a practised move. But the sight of him turned her to sand. Her knees barely supported her; even her voice came out as a rasp, raw and scraped dry.

“You were dead.” She couldn’t remember his name. She wouldn’t.

Even though everything was starting to come back to her. All the times she had spent in his room, dreaming and laughing and loving, loving, loving him. Until one day, there was no one left to love anymore. Her dreams died along with him that day, and she had never dared to say goodbye or think of him.

But here he stood now, right before her as though he had never left. As though he weren’t just a faint shadow of himself.

His eyes fell on the knife in her white-knuckled hand, then rose to meet hers. “What happened to you, Aderyl?’ His gaze was an unbearable thing, heavier than the ravaged world.

The Creed had warned them of a test not too long ago, a test that many before her had failed because they had let their guard down.

This is not real, she told herself over and over. She squeezed her eyes shut and told herself that over and over again. This is just a test.

She had given life to the monster in her, and this was where it meant to devour her, in a house bursting full of tears and memories, a house from another life.

“That’s not my name.” Her voice cracked like a whip, renting the tight air in a brazen move. Revenge was her name now. She had liked that, how she was labelled and known by her purpose only.

“That’s who you’ll always be to me,” he said. “Aderyl.”

It wasn’t a goodbye, this unexpected encounter, but she felt it as keenly as the cold air brushing against her skin when he reached for her hand. She gripped her knife tighter, afraid to let go of her weapon, of herself.

It was only after the night claimed him that she allowed her knife to clatter to the ground. Her mind, once wired for the kill, now tripped over itself, and her limbs were clumsy, awkward things, unsuited for wielding weaponry of any kind.

The Creed was right. Memories were dangerous; they were monsters. Memories awakened every nerve and pulse, and left her vulnerable. They became her.

They were her.

The Creed should never have set this test.

 

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