Short Story: His Biggest Job

Edmund was hired to be a bodyguard. His sole responsibility was protecting Leora’s health and safety.

Officially.

Unofficially, his biggest job was protecting her sleep. From finding good spots to nap to fending off disruptions and even carrying Leora around when needed if she was asleep. As long as she woke and slept at her own timing, he was doing well.

He wasn’t complaining. It was just… weird. Two years ago, he went to Lavi’s office for an interview to become a Fighter, only for his plans to completely change with one conversation.

Sometimes he wondered how life would be if he hadn’t met Leora outside Lavi’s office that day. Maybe he would be part of a squad now, training with his squadmates and fighting monsters outside the city wall.

Or more likely, he would have failed the interview. Being a Fighter was physically demanding. Although he already knew that he lacked the superhuman strength or special abilities most Fighters had, the immense gap in strength between them became very clear every time he joined their group training sessions.

That didn’t mean he was giving up.

The dream was still the same. He wanted to protect his city from the monsters beyond the wall as a Fighter, so he always took the training sessions seriously. Even if he never become strong enough to become a Fighter, the stronger he was, the better he would be at his current job.

An alarm cut through his thoughts. He turned immediately to Leora, who continued to slumber on a large bean bag.

“Rule 2: Do not wake her up. Not even if the world is ending. Especially if the world is ending.”

They chose this room for comfort, not security. He wasn’t going to wait for the danger to arrive before making a move. He scooped Leora into his arms, keeping his movements smooth so that she didn’t wake and hurried to a room which was easier to defend.

And had better soundproofing.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

You can also check out the related story Before the Interview.

Short Story: Unfair

If anyone had a superhuman ability, they either had immense physical strength, or special abilities. Never both. No exceptions.

Unless that person was Shadow.

And not only that, she was miles above everyone in terms of power in every way possible. To date, there was no individual, monster, or squad she had ever lost to.

It wasn’t fair. Why was she special?

He needed to find out.

Like her namesake, outside of work, Shadow didn’t seem to exist. The only person who could reliably contact her was Lavi, head of Department of Defense. A terrible obstacle. No matter how he tried, the young man always rejected his proposals.

What was wrong with studying Shadow? If they could find out the source of her strength, they could create more Fighters to match her power level.

He wouldn’t give up. If legal means couldn’t work, he would just have to bend some rules, starting from Lavi’s one weakness.

His sister.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Part of the Defenders of the Wall universe.

Short Story: Promised View

Have You Ever Wondered | This Girl | A Pioneer’s Life | A Friend In Need | A Change of Pace | An Unexpected Side | A Question of Leisure | Promised View

Would be best to read the pieces above for more context. Most closely related to ‘A Question of Leisure’.

~Promised View~

Once, a girl gave a pioneer a promise that after his recovery, she would bring him to ‘good places’.

He had long forgotten the promise, more concerned about getting better so that he could return to the house he had left unattended for weeks. But she didn’t. On a wet, heavy day, she slipped into his room.

“Let’s go out,” the girl declared.

He looked at her, then out the window, where fierce winds tossed anything that wasn’t nailed to the ground.

Catching his look, she answered his unasked question. “Don’t worry. Where we’re going has better weather.”

“Alright.”

With care, he rose to his feet. His healing injuries throbbed as he moved, but it was just a muted echo of the crippling fire of his original wounds.

The girl hooked her arm with his.

“Follow me. One step.”

She pulled him forward.

“Two steps.”

The guestroom opened up to soft grass beneath a canopy of orange-purple sky, peppered with wispy pink clouds. The ground ended abruptly a few paces before their feet, giving them an unobstructed view of an endless sky.

His breath left him in a hushed gasp.

In the quiet space, the girl’s chuckle was impossible to miss.

“This isn’t even the best spot.”

It didn’t seem possible for anything to top the otherworldly view, but if the girl thought she could outdo herself, then he wasn’t going to complain.

Before he returned to his post as a pioneer in a wasteland, he was going to drink his fill of everything she had to offer.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Short Story: To Stay Human

Everything came with a price. Immortality was no exception, even if he never asked for it.

In fact, his immortality was an accident. To the woman who forced immortality on him, he was just another body to pay the price for her.

Because the price of immortality was to turn into a monster. Some faster than others, but inevitable all the same.

Unless.

“You’re sturdier than I thought,” the woman said as he clutched his clawed hand. “You can turn into a monster, or turn others into monsters to stay human. Which do you choose?”

He didn’t choose immortality, but turning into a monster would be like dying, and above all he wanted to live.

“I want to stay human,” he said.

She nodded. “I’ll teach you how.”

~End~

 

Genre: fantasy

Short Story: The Cake

Takes place in the Defenders of the Wall verse.

 

~The Cake~

A three-tier cake sat on a table in the middle of the wasteland.

Theo rubbed his eyes.

Nothing changed. It wasn’t his imagination.

“What’s that?” Thomas asked the question on their minds.

“Bait,” Vice Captain said.

“For who?”

Vice Captain raised an eyebrow at Thomas. “We’re outside the wall. What else can this bait be for?”

Theo cast his gaze around the monotonous landscape, its almost completely flat surface broken only by one mound of dirt that could almost be called a hill, if he was feeling generous. The cake had been left behind by another squad a week ago, but despite the monster tracks left in the dirt, there wasn’t a single bite in the creamy icing.

Undeterred, Vice Captain directed them to drag the cake up the hill and fan its sickly sweetness into the air. Having long learnt the lesson that no matter how strange, it was easier to indulge their vice captain’s whims than to argue with him, they obeyed.

Despite their best efforts, half a day passed and not a single monster took the bait. Which was strange, because they could see the monsters in the distance, yet instead of charging at them like they normally would, the monsters stayed away.

Vice Captain smiled in satisfaction.

“Next step, get rid of the cream on the cake,” Vice Captain said as he pulled out two disposable bags and a box of gloves.

“What?”

Their confusion didn’t slow them down. They carried the cake back to flat ground for better access and got to work.

That was when they discovered that the cake was a lie.

Underneath all the cream was a box shaped like a cake. And inside the box, was…

Theo lurched back, an arm pressed over his face as he fought the urge to retch.

Raw meat sat in old blood, the heavy smell of decay coated his nose and slithered down the back of his throat, now that the cream no longer blocked it from their senses.

In the distance, the monsters stirred.

“Let’s go,” Vice Captain said.

Between the monsters and the smell, they were more than ready to go. Captain only lingered long enough to close the box before they sprinted away.

It was only after they returned safely behind the city wall that they finally learnt what their mission was. For the field test of the prototype for a monster deterrent, they were the second of three squads tasked with heading out to the wasteland to check on its performance. The squad before them left the cream-covered bait in place, they collected the cream, and a third squad would go a week later to collect what was left.

“You should thank me. I got you the best option,” Vice Captain said.

They immediately looked at their captain.

“The missions were decided with a lucky draw,” Captain said.

As one, their brows furrowed in suspicion. Vice Captain and lucky were two words that didn’t belong in the same sentence unless it also had the word ‘not’.

“… And who drew for us?”

“I did,” Captain said.

Wide smiles replaced their frowns.

“Thank you, Captain!”

Vice Captain grumbled. This too, was nothing unusual, and they ignored him with practised ease. The only concession was made by Eileen, who reached over to give him a comforting pat on the shoulder.

And so the mission ended, but it took much longer before Theo could eat cake without remembering the rancid smell from that day.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Alternate title: The Cake (Is A Lie)

Short Story: A Life of Fighting

She had grown up fighting. Fighting with the land for food, fighting the monsters to live, fighting her own fears as she and the people around her went out to fight again and again.

This was the life of a pioneer, the ones who lived outside beyond the walls so that others could live inside. It was the only life she knew. Even the breaks they took occasionally inside the wall were just that. Evanescent breaks, characterised by brief periods of nothingness in between all the fighting.

And now she was offered the chance to turn those short breaks into her normal life.

Her family had completed their mission. They had defended the land assigned to them outside the walls until new walls could be built around it. Now the wasteland was a new district in they city, and they had a choice: stay inside the wall or keep fighting outside.

She didn’t even need to think. She had grown up outside the wall, fighting for her life every day. The prospect of staying inside the wall, living each day as mind-numbingly placid as the next, scares her more than anything.

People might think she was crazy, but to fight was to live, and she would rather face death head on every day outside the wall than wither way inside.

~End~

 

Genre: fantasy

Takes place in the Defenders of the Wall universe.

 

Short Story: Unyielding

Hunger ripped through his dreamless sleep. He woke with a snarl. His body writhed on the table, held in place by bands over his limbs.

Just two steps away, a man stood. If he could just reach over, he’d eat the man from head to toe to fill the void in him. His eyes narrowed on the human as he tugged and twisted.

“So we’ve managed to bring back the human form but not the mind.”

“Someone get the tranquilliser.”

“Shadow, it’s your turn. Everyone else stay back. We don’t want any accidents.”

Something shifted around his right wrist. He pulled and pushed and dragged his wrist free. With his free hand he wrenched the rest of himself free and he launched himself at the closest human, a girl with long purple hair.

Just as his hands closed over the girl’s head, the girl twisted out of his grasp and grabbed him instead, trapping both his hands in one iron grip. She pushed him back and pinned his legs against the table, then pushed him down with a hand over his eyes.

He hissed and bucked, but the girl didn’t budge. A unyielding weight pressed on his body, then his mind, and forced him back into a dreamless sleep.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Part of the Defenders of the Wall universe.

 

Short Story: To Survive

The challenge of a city built in the middle of a wasteland was this: the city wall was the dividing line between life and death, but the city population grew, and the city wall didn’t. To survive, they had to go out beyond the wall.

The pioneers created safe spots in the wasteland. The builders built new walls in new territory. Fighters fought the monsters that came sniffing, attracted by all the human activity.

It was a plan with many lives on the plan.

It was Theo’s opportunity to go wild at full strength.

Theo planted a foot on the monster’s corpse and pulled his blade free. The blood-sleeked weapon slid out easily. His mind had lost track of how many monsters he had cut down since he started his shift, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that there were more, and he wouldn’t stop until he had destroyed them all.

A low gong swept through the field as he kicked a monster in the ribs. At the second gong, he disengaged and retreated back towards the city, blade raised to slash those that got in the way. By the third, he had shifted his stance from attacking anything in sight to just standing his ground.

Captain approached him from the front with his empty hands in full view.

“Shift’s over, Theo.”

Blood still pounding in his ears, Theo took a deep breath and pushed his battlelust down.

“Ready to go back?” Captain asked.

Theo nodded.

“Let’s go.”

~End~

 

Genre: fantasy

Short Story: Daily Routine

DD – Department of Defence

 

Every morning, Alan started his day by watching the pulchritudinous sunrise from his roof. As the sky changed hues above him, he sorted and settled his thoughts within.

Then it was a hearty breakfast and a quick jog to work. He arrived at DD feeling comfortably warm and let himself into his squad’s training room.

He turned on the lights with a familiar swipe, then settled into his usual stretches. He took it slow, letting his mind cool as his body warmed up.

One by one, his squadmates arrived, becoming rowdier and rowdier as the squad assembled.

Finally, the squad was complete. Alan rose to his feet with a deep breath, marking the end of his predictable morning routine and the beginning of the controlled chaos they called ‘training’.

“Good morning.”

“Good morning, Captain!”

~End~

Genre: slice of life

 

Short Story: The Charismatic Traveller

In a world overrun with monsters, travellers were rare, so they watched the foreigner with cautious curiosity. He seemed pleasant enough, and made it clear that this was just a pit stop before he continued his journey. That coupled with his friendly smile soon won the locals over. They flocked to him, and he returned their attention with wondrous tales of other people in other cities.

More than a few picked up his wanderlust. When he announced his plan to leave in a week, they swarmed him with requests to follow him on his journey.

“If you want to come with me, there are two things you must consider. First, you need to take this supplement.” He shook a bottle of pills of emphasis. “There are no doctors out there, so you have to keep yourself healthy.

“Second, there are many cities out there, and I may never return to this place. So make your choice: stay with what you know or leave for the unknown. There is no middle ground.

“Third, I will only accept one person. It’s a dangerous place out there and I can only promise to protect one person.”

The statement stirred great competition among the young ones who wanted to see the world outside, but in the end, no matter how they tried to sell themselves, the choice was the foreigner’s, and he chose a forgotten young man without a coin to his name.

“This young man needs a fresh start, and there’s no better way to start afresh than a journey into the unknown.”

The foreigner’s explanation silenced any dissent, and they happily accepted his choice.

When the time came for him to leave, they showered him and his new companion with as many gifts as they could carry, then they bade the two men farewell.

They were never seen again.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

 

The foreigner also appears in The Ticket Out.