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 Sister Pissed. The prompt was simply “Little Red Riding Hood’s Sister.”
Again, I sort of took this one on a darker path. But I like it; there’s sort of an urban fantasy vibe, minus the urban part. But really not ‘classic fantasy’, unless you consider the actual classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales fantasy. Which, to be fair, some do. But, again to be fair, not all that many people, even readers, have actually read the Grimm’s versions of those stories.
The man turned when he heard the footsteps behind him, and smiled broadly. “Well hello, what have we here?”
“I need you to do something for me,” the girl said, smoothing her clothing down. The thickets and underbrush had continually snagged it, but here in the clearing she could straighten her cloak and skirts down properly.
“Now why would I do that?” he asked, rising from his campsite and starting toward her.
“Because I’m asking nicely.”
“Nice little girl like you, all alone out here?” he said, coming closer. He was tall, broad shouldered, and smelled of the forest. Her nose wrinkled even though he was still over a dozen feet from her. “Where there’s no one to hear you?”
“I want you to kill my sister.”
That brought him up short, and he stood there. Studying her. “You’re not old enough to be plotting murder. Whatever’s got you all riled up, it’ll pass. Go for a walk.” Then he shook his head. “What am I saying. Too late for that. I’m hungry. But, in the next life, when you start thinking evil thoughts, remember how they led you into this sort of trouble.”
She looked up at him, and he blinked when he saw confidence, defiance, and determination in her eyes. Not fear, not hesitation, not doubt. He was twice her size, at least three times her weight, and she just stood there facing him like he was a traveling peddler come to hand out candy.
“I’m not afraid of you.”
“You will be,” he said, putting the stray thoughts out of his mind and starting forward again. She watched him come, watched his hands come up toward her, and didn’t move until his fingers were a moment from contact. Her body twisted, and there was a flash of silver as her hand came out of her cloak clutching something. A line of searing agony lanced across his forearm as she swiped at him. As he recoiled, she backpeddled from him clutching a long curved knife.
“I asked nicely,” she said evenly, leveling the blade at him as he stopped and gave his bleeding forearm a glance. Then he took a longer look. The cut wasn’t healing as it should. And the pain wasn’t diminishing either.
He brought his eyes back up to her and scowled. “Silver?”
“I know what you are.”
“Then you should know you can’t stop me, even with that silver toy.” He took a step toward her, and collapsed as his knee buckled. Both legs were going weak, and he barely caught himself before he sprawled out on the forest floor, face down and helpless. Propped up on his good arm, he took a deep breath, trying to process what was happening.
“Silver, laced with wolfsbane,” she said, staring at him coldly. “Now, do you want to listen to my request so I can give you the antidote, or will I just end you and resolve my problems without your help?”
“You have the cure?” he asked, keeping his tone calm with effort. Little scared him, not even silver; but wolfsbane wasn’t something he could fight. There was no honor, no chase or hunt or excitement, in facing off against it. The poison was insidious and unrelenting.
She considered him for a moment, then backed up several more steps. Her free hand went into her cloak again, emerging with a small stoppered vial. She held it up, shaking it gently to swirl the contents around. He saw the telltale specks of nightshade and firefly larva, and scowled unhappily. If she knew those were part of the counteragent, then she probably had the right recipe.
“What do you want?” he asked, shifting around carefully so he could sit. His body was weak, and even holding himself up was taking too much effort.
“I want my sister killed.”
She tucked the vial back into her cloak. “My sister. She’s a few years younger than me, and is every bit the stupid little girl you expected me to be. You can eat her, and she’ll be dead, and then we can both be on our separate ways.”
“How old are you, fourteen?”
“None of your concern.”
“Far too young to be plotting murder.”
“Also none of your concern,” she said angrily. “Kill her for me, or die here and now.”
“Wait,” he said quickly, managing to lift his free hand when she started forward raising the knife, when he said nothing for several moments. She stopped, and he took a deep breath. His heart was slowing, and even breathing was taking conscious effort. “How am I supposed to find this sister you hate so much, much less kill her, in my condition?”
“I know what you are.”
She shook her head. “I know that once you have the scent, you’ll follow through. So, here’s the deal. West of here, there’s a cottage. A woman, old and feeble, lives there. My sister is on her way to visit her. In the cottage, I have placed a second vial of this,” she patted her cloak, where she’d put the antidote, “waiting for you to find. But it’s not a completed dose. It lacks the rose and daisy petals.”
“I can’t get to the cottage like this,” he said, not seeing any point in bluffing. She clearly knew more than enough about him for that to work. “And the antidote doesn’t work unless the ingredients are harvested by someone pure of heart.”
“I will give you just enough to stave off the effects of the wolfsbane for a few hours. If you want to live, you will stalk my sister and remind her our grandmother loves flowers. She’ll pick the rest of the components, and go to the cottage. Wait for her there, and you’ll have a good meal and be healed. Then you can leave.”
“Why would I leave, after I’m whole again?” he said with as much malicious cunning as he could muster.
“Because the village will be hunting the wolf who killed an old woman and her granddaughter. And I’ll make sure they’re armed appropriately. So you do what I tell you, and leave. Go wherever you like, but go. And we’ll be even.”
He snarled at her. This form didn’t have the mouth and lungs to really get into it, but it was still enough to startle even blood crazed warriors. He’d seen it many times. She didn’t even blink. Just stood staring at him. Like he was amusing.
“You’re a real piece of work,” he said, resisting the urge to cough. His body was weak, and the ineffective snarl had pushed it harder than it should’ve.
“A full belly and the cure, or die here?” she said relentlessly.
“Fine!” he snapped. “West you said?”
“She’ll be on the path. In about an hour, maybe a little less. Plenty of time for you to be waiting for her.”
“You’ve got to give me enough to hold out that long,” he reminded her.
“Here,” she said, reaching into her cloak. She tossed the vial to him. He reached frantically, terrified it would break if it fell, and nearly dropped it in his bane-induced clumsiness. When his fingers closed safely around it, he sighed in relief. A thought occurred to him, and he held the vial up before shaking his head. “You’ve been watching me, if you knew how much to bring. Enough to help, but not to cure.”
“My concern, not yours,” she said as he unstoppered the vial.
“You know, I could just drink this, and kill you anyway.”
“You might get me, but only if you guarantee your own death,” she said, not moving. Not taking a single step back, or even looking like she wanted to run before he could drink the antidote. “I’m supposed to visit my grandmother today. If I don’t return, and feign illness, not only will my sister not make the trip in my stead; but no one will. They’ll all be out looking for me. You’d rather live to hunt another day.”
“Damn you,” he snarled weakly before swallowing the potion.
“West of here, on the path to the cottage. She’ll be wearing red,” the girl said as he dropped the empty vial.
“Right.” He rolled over, away from her, and crouched on all fours. His strength was returning. Not all of it, but enough. With a wince, he reached inward and found the wolf. Summoning it forth, bringing it out. His body began shifting, stretching, as it realigned. The fur flowed, his muscles and limbs thickened and lengthened. Closing his eyes, he kept his jaw clenched as his snout pushed out from his flat man face; he would not yell or grunt in pain before this annoying girl who had trapped him. The wolfsbane was still in him, and it made everything hurt.
Especially reaching for the wolf.
When he was finished, he shook his body out and regarded her balefully. She just stood there, still holding the silver blade. For a moment, just a moment, he considered killing her anyway. Just for the satisfaction of wiping that confident superiority off her face. Even on all fours, he was taller than she was; and even weakened he had strength enough to smash her with a single swipe. He didn’t realize he was growling at her until she lifted her free hand and wagged her finger at him.
“Be a good boy and do as you’re told,” she said. And a green gleam of witchfire abruptly shrouded her hand. He turned the growl into a snarl of frustration. Armed with silver, and a witch to boot.
He hated humans. So much.
Turning, he padded from the clearing. Testing his body, feeling out how much of his strength had returned. The cut on his forepaw wasn’t bad, and was slowly healing. He could run. When he was certain, he broke into a steady lope; dodging through the trees, snaking past the underbrush. On the hunt.
She was right, damn her. He wanted to live. What was one old woman and a little girl?
Dinner. And a fresh start.