Recently I started cranking out flash fiction, just for fun. This kind of thing is how writers sometimes relax; pulling together a short piece, usually around 1,400-1,500 words. Mine are all going up on Reddit, because Reddit’s a major thing for me when it comes to the internet. Also, there’s a fairly vibrant sub for Writing Prompts that is a pretty steady flow of ideas to run with. Find something that sparks my fingers to start typing, and about half an hour later, poof; finished flash fiction piece. I call them flash fiction because, to me, even a “short story” is going to be at least three or four thousand words. Your mileage may vary. Anyway, enjoy.
This one’s called Estranged. The prompt was “your custody is split between a demon and a witch.”
I got a really good reaction from this when I posted it in the subreddit. And I’m quite pleased with how it came out.
“You don’t have to participate in the séance if you don’t want to.”
“I want to,” Julie said, rolling her eyes while she stuffed things into her bag. “How many times do I gotta say it?”
“I just worry honey,” Shedem said as his daughter sheathed the killing blade in its angelic bindings and pushed it into her bag near the top, where she could easily reach it at need. “Some of those rituals are dangerous.”
“That’s what mom says about yours.”
“That’s different,” he said with a frown.
Julie zipped her bag closed and set it next to the other one before straightening to look at him. “Dad, we’ve been through this.”
“I know you are. You know what I think about how to make this easier.”
His frown deepened to a scowl. She didn’t even blink as his features turned from dangerous to terrifying; she’d seen every expression his face could generate. None of them held any terror for her; he was just dad. It was others who had to worry when he scowled. “That’s up to your mother.”
“She says it’s up to you,” Julie replied calmly. When he just continued scowling, she shrugged. “Anyway, I had a nice time. Can we visit the sixth circle next week?”
“I’ll check. It depends on the overseer.”
“Dad, you promised.”
“I’m working on it,” Shedem protested. “I’m powerful sweetie, but there are still rules.”
Julie looked apologetic. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s not fair for me to give you a hard time over it.”
Shedem stood up and fluffed his leathery wings a few times before folding them tightly behind his back. He ran a hand over his horns absently, then looked at her luggage. “Got everything?”
“Yes,” she said, picking up her bags.
“Let me take those,” the demon said, reaching for the bigger of the two.
“Not unless you’re going to let me initiate the teleport,” she said immediately, twisting away from him.
“You know you shouldn’t initiate until you’re older.”
“Then I’ll carry my bags and you can worry about the teleport.”
Shedem smiled. “You’re getting so big. So bold. I still remember when you did your first sacrifice, and now look at you.”
“Dad,” she moaned, “don’t get mushy.”
Giving into his parental amusement, he watched as — predictably — the booming tones of his laughter broke through her instinctive independence, and natural embarrassment over parental affection or attention. When she smiled, he nodded and stepped forward so he could put his hand on her shoulder. His claws hung down the front of her shirt, dusky white against the black leather underlying the rings of the armor vest. “Ready?”
Concentrating, Shedem summoned the dark forces that girded reality from the foolish mortals who knew not what they were missing. A crackling rumble of power erupted around him and his daughter, and abruptly they were both twisted out of his home on the outskirts of the eighth circle. An eternal instant that was immeasurable, but always stretched on far too long, and then he felt the disgustingly cool and wet air of the forest she lived in on his skin.
“And hello to you too Chrystal,” Shedem said as politely has he could manage. If only for Julie’s sake. Fortunately, she was getting bolder now that she wasn’t a little girl anymore.
“Mom, don’t start.”
“I’ve been waiting for a while. Dusk was nearly an hour ago,” the witch said. Her face was pallid and sickly looking in the green fire that crackled on the ground next to the tree stump she was sitting on. But beautiful despite the unhealthy color; she’d lost none of her allure, her intoxicating appeal. The fire was the only light in the otherwise pitch black forest.
“It’s my fault, not dad’s,” Julie said firmly. “And you’re late lots of times when we switch, so ease up. Please?”
Chrystal rose from the tree stump, smoothing her black skirts down. She still managed to glare up at Shedem though. He was long past being remotely surprised she could manage to look up from her barely five feet at his over nine with such venomous hostility. Most people, really anyone except his ex and daughter, shrank from his true form. “I just don’t want you to miss the Blood Moon Festival.”
“I thought nothing was going to start until moonrise.”
“There’s preliminaries Julie. And you’ll need to change if you’re going to participate in the lunar séance,” Chrystal said, giving a slight look of disapproval toward the leathers and ringed armor her daughter wore. Hell could be dangerous, even for the daughter of an eighth circle demon. Even one who combined human magic with her demonic lineage.
“Got everything I need,” the teenager said, hefting one of her bags. “Right here. But I’m using my angel blade.”
“Honey, we’ve been through this—”
“I know. And that blade you keep telling me to use never works,” Julie said firmly. “You might be an experienced witch, but you don’t know me very well. My powers are different from yours mom.”
Chrystal glared at Shedem, who just shrugged and very carefully didn’t smile. Julie caught the look and sighed. Loudly. “Mom, if you want me to participate, then leave dad alone. I’ll do the festival, and the ritual, but my way. Aren’t you the one who’s always telling me to look beyond the words of the spells?”
“Your power works your way, mine works mine,” Julie said firmly. “So let me say bye to dad, and we’ll go do the festival, okay?”
“Fine,” the witch said, after a moment where she clearly kept herself from saying several things that flickered across her expression. Unhappy, accusatory things.
“You want to summon me, or should I just arrive at the usual time?” Shedem asked mildly when Julie turned to him.
“I’d better summon you,” she said after several seconds. “Just so you’re not standing around waiting.”
“It’s no bother.”
“I’ll summon you.”
“Fine. You have everything you need for—”
“Dad, don’t you start too. I know the ritual. I’m sixteen, not six.”
“Have a good time sweetie,” Shedem said, holding his arms out. He did not get down on his knees; his daughter had made it quite clear she didn’t like him doing that. Instead, he let her step in close to him, and then bent to enfold her in a careful but warm hug. She all but vanished beneath his bulk, but giggled when he snuck in a quick tickle on her ribs.
“Come on Julie,” Chrystal said. “We’re already late.”
“Bye dad,” she said, stepping back. Shedem straightened to his full height, and gave her a little wave. His claws glinted in the green flames that shifted as Chrystal brought them off the ground, arranging them in a trio of small flickering balls that circled above her head.
“You should take a bath before you change,” Chrystal said. “You smell of sulphur and brimstone.”
“Sure, but I am not wearing the hat.”
“Mom, I’ll wear the dress. And even the jewelry. But I’m using my knife, and I’m not putting that stupid hat on. It messes with my peripheral vision,” Julie said as she collected her bags.
“The hat is traditional.”
“But not required for the spells.”
“You’re getting to be so difficult,” Chrystal said, waving a hand. A path through the densely packed trees shimmered into being, the vegetation and ground cover just melting and shifting aside under the witch’s power.
“You need to open your mind up a little. Tradition isn’t everything,” Julie said, starting through the opening in the trees. Just barely visible in the distance, at the end of the greenery shrouded road, were the flickering lights of the witches gathering.
“That’s your father talking.”
“Mom, if you want to spend your week bitching about dad again, I’ll just take one of the brooms back to Haven and lock myself in the library again. I wanted to finish reading that potions book anyway; there wasn’t time last week.”
Shedem very carefully didn’t smile as his ex-lover and daughter walked through the trees toward the gathering. The liason with Chrystal that had resulted in Julie had rocked a lot of traditions, both on the mortal and immortal coils, but he was pleased with the results. In a few more years, as soon as she finished maturing into the first stages of her power, his daughter was going to be one of the more powerful beings to walk the planet.
Then her real training could begin.
He managed to keep from laughing triumphantly until he’d teleported back to his house. Where his laugh made the attendant fallen souls in the vicinity cower in fear.