Short Story: Deadly Target

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #5: Raven.

~Deadly Target~

Raven black hair, topaz yellow eyes, a crescent burn scar above the left elbow.

Target found.

He lined his sight to put the woman in his cross hairs. His fingers pressed on the trigger and he braced for the kickback as he fired.

The woman dropped without a sound.

Was that it? The unkillable lady with a bounty large enough for any successful hunter to retire for the next two generations, felled by a single shot?

He watched for a few minutes longer, finger on the trigger as he observed the unmoving chest. It was only after he was certain that she was dead that he released his breath. He shuffled back under the cover of the trees and rose out of his prone position.

“Not bad, but not good enough,” a voice said behind him.

He jumped and swung his rifle toward the threat. His weapon almost fell from frozen fingers when he saw the very woman he thought he just killed.

“Let’s make a deal. You don’t try to kill or harm me again for the rest of your life, and I’ll let you live. How does that sound?” she said, completely relaxed despite the gun pointed at her.

If she hadn’t spoken up, she could have easily killed him before he realized she was behind her. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he was hopelessly outclassed.

“Alright,” he grunted.

She pulled out a small branding iron. With a flash of her golden eyes, the crescent head burned red hot.

“Give me your arm,” she said.

He bit back a yell as she pressed the heated iron above his elbow. When she pulled away, he had a matching mark to hers.

“If you ever attempt to kill or harm me, that mark will immediately take your life. Am I clear?”

“Yes ma’am.”

* * *

She watched as the sniper disappeared from sight. Only then did she allow herself to grimace as she dug his bullet out of her heart. Immortality had its perks, but the inability to feel pain wasn’t one of them.

Well, that was one new bounty hunter she didn’t need to worry about. She used to kill them in self-defence, but that didn’t stop others from coming, only increased the bounty on her head. This method still didn’t stop the attacks, but at least the larger organizations now ignored her in favour of other more deadly targets.

She stepped into the shadows and vanished.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: Life and History

Their house was going to burn tonight.

It was only because of a coincidence that a neighbour of their friend’s niece overheard the plan while cleaning as a janitor. The invaders weren’t satisfied with taking over their town, they were going to wipe out their history too. A few hours wasn’t enough to save all their relics, only their lives.

But there were things more important than their lives. Her family had been archivist for generations. Keeping history alive was in her blood. While the others ran, she turned back and grabbed all the treasures she could carry. She hid them everyone she could. The hidden underground cellar, the ancient stone walls around the grounds sturdy enough to last until the end of time. As long as there was a space, it was good enough for her. Not everything would survive, but she would stay and burn with her home if that would let her save one more relic.

“What are you doing?” Hands tightened around her arms and threw her over a broad shoulder. She kicked and writhed, but her strength was not match for her father’s.

“Let me go. We can’t let them destroy our history,” she said, hoping words would work where brute force failed.

“They can destroy the physical reminders of our past, but as long as we live, so will our stories. Rather than stay and die, live and remember.”

She watched the house shrink as they ran, watched as the light of the sun gave way to a blaze that devoured the stars.

Her father never looked back once.

Tears streaming down her face, she made a vow. This wasn’t goodbye. She would return and restore her home to its rightful state. However long it took.

~End~

Genre: general

September post count: 4/12

Short Story: The Cabin in the Mountain

Only seasoned hikers challenge the physically demanding but popular two-day mountain trail. That means that most of them plan the trip with the cabin in mind.

No one knows who owns the cabin. All they know is that hikers have been sharing it for years, and no one has ever come to chase them out. The large structure, more like a mansion than a hut, has enough room to house half a dozen groups at a time, and the unspoken rule is that anyone who uses it is also responsible for taking care of the place.

Either from the forums or through the more experienced hikers, everyone learns the chores needed to keep the building running. How to stock up the firewood, where to collect water to fill up the tanks, the tradition of leaving extra supplies for the emergency pantry, and more.

Those who don’t do their part, or worse, actively sabotage the amenities, get booted out. It doesn’t happen often, but a freezing night outside and with the howls of nocturnal predators are usually enough for most people to learn their lesson.

After all, if they don’t take care of the cabin, they won’t have this pit stop to refuel, and this trail won’t just be challenging, it’ll be deadly.

~End~

Genre: slice of life, general

September post count: 3/12

Short Story: Feast of Crumbs

Genre: general

 

The poor watched from the outside, face pressed against the bars to watch the feast on the other side of the wall.

Inside, the table groaned under the weight of all the food. The guests ate carelessly, tossing leftovers to the floor as they reached for more food.

Eventually, the feast ended, and the guests left to make way for a second feast. The doors, previously kept shut, now opened for the poor to flood in. In their hunger, they threw their pride aside and ate every crumb off every surface, cleaning the hall more thoroughly and quickly than the servants could.

Unnoticed, the young prince watched the madness they called the ‘feast of crumbs’, hands clenched against his thighs. A thought burned in his heart.

When I am king, things will be different.

~End~

Short Story: Weekend Plan

Genre: slice of life, romance
Related to The Letter, Unhelpful Friend, Dream Come True, Sweet Nightmare.

 

It was a great meal, with great food and great company. He didn’t want it to end, but more than that, he wanted it to happen again.

Last time, he had the buffet tickets as a prop. This time, he only had himself. Gathering the tatters of his remaining courage, he tentatively asked if she was free the next weekend.

“Sorry. I’m going out with some friends.”

He hid his disappointment with a weak smile.

“Come with me,” she said, “A few people are bringing their friends too so you won’t be the only new face.”

It would be different with a group than with just the two of them, but it could be a good different.

“Sure.”

~End~

Love Rival takes place after this.

Short Story: The Art Exhibition

Genre: slice of life

 

“That tower looks horrible.”

“I don’t like that colour.”

“It’s crooked.”

Art lovers whispered among themselves as they walked past his painting. He stood unassumingly nearby, pretending he was just another visitor in the art exhibition and that the comments he overheard didn’t sting.

He had lingered around for feedback on areas to improve on. Instead, hours of negative comments had eroded his already fragile confidence to nothing. He didn’t know if he could take another two days of the same.

He was about to leave when two girls stopped before his painting.

One more, he thought. If they could stop to look at his art, he could stay, just in case.

“I like the wings. They look very delicate.”

“The leaves are the same too. I like how the layers make them pop. Must have taken forever to paint them all.”

Not forever. Just three months. And by the time he started on the tower he only had a few days left.

“It’s nice.”

“I like it.”

“Thank you girls,” he said.

The girls spun around, shocked and embarrassed. They shared a polite, awkward conversation. After much blushing from both sides, the girls moved on. He stayed, buoyed by their compliments.

Even if the rest of the exhibition brought only criticisms, this one positive conversation was enough.

~End~

Short Story: A Flavourful Team

Genre: slice of life
Talks about characters from Mission Gone Wrong. You’ll want to read that first.

 

“Eileen is like sugar. Sweet, but have too much of her and you get fat,” Theo said.

Eileen, who was offering cookies she baked over the weekend, looked at Theo. “So you don’t want any?”

“Gimme. I can be fat for you.”

“What about Vincent?” Thomas asked.

“He’s like pickles,” Theo said after some thought. “Best in small doses.”

Across the room, the vice-captain was freaking out over… something.

“Agreed. What about Alan?”

“Captain is like… meat. He’s the big man. He gets things done.”

“What about me? Aren’t I the big guy of this team?” Thomas flexed his arm.

“You’re like a turtle. We can throw you anywhere and you’ll still come back.”

“We’re talking about flavours, not animals.”

“We ate turtles on our last mission.”

“Fine. What flavour is Ezra?”

Theo’s eyes shone at the mention of the senior who had mentored him when he first joined the team. “Ezra is salt. Just sprinkle a bit of him on anything and everything becomes ten times better.”

“That sounds weird.”

“The conversation was weird from the start,” Ezra commented behind them. Theo choked on his cookie.

“What about you? What’s your flavour?” Thomas asked once Theo could breathe again.

“I’m bread. No. Rice. I don’t taste like much. I’m just there. But, I’m more flavourful¬†when I’m with the rest of you.”

The last part was said in a mumbled whisper, but the rest of the team caught it anyway. Nosy eavesdroppers.

“Aww. Our little newbie is growing up.”

“Here. Have another cookie.”

“I knew we kept you for a reason.”

Theo ducked his head, cheeks burning but lips curled in a helpless smile.

“Don’t sell yourself short. I like rice. Rice goes well with a lot of food,” Ezra said.

Theo’s smile widened into a grin that lifted his whole face.

“You’re right. A little sprinkle of Ezra makes everything better,” Thomas said.

A few elbows dug into him.

“Shh. Don’t ruin the moment.”

~End~

Short Story: Thorny Little Problem

Genre: slice of life

 

Everyone had a thorn in their side. His came in the shape of a little girl with thorny protrusions on her left arm.

He took a deep breath, then stepped out into the living room.

“Good morning, uncle!” His little niece threw her arms around his middle. The thorns dug into his side. Something tore.

“Good morning.” He patted her head. “What are you doing today?”

She happily chattered about her upcoming playdate. He nodded along and looked at her while trying very hard not to stare at the thorns.

One more week, and they would have the surgery to remove their ‘thorny little problem’.

He snickered to himself.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing. Let’s eat. I’m hungry.”

~End~

Short Story: Official Profile

Genre: slice of life, humour

 

As part of their “let’s get to know our new teammates better” initiative, they were writing each other’s official profile.

“Favourite colour?”

“Black. Yours?”

“Yellow. Pets?”

“None.”

“Same.”

On the other side of the circle, they heard, “Has a penchant for honey-dipped pens.”

“Say what?”

“You eat pens?”

It wasn’t difficult to pinpoint ‘you’ as the scowling lady.

“Don’t write it like that,” she complained to her activity partner.

“I like my version better. Comedic gold.”

She frowned, then dictated loudly as she wrote, “Preferences: Has a penchant for bad jokes.”

“Perfect.”

~End~

Short Story: To Go or Not to Go

Genre: slice of life

 

There was a festival in the city.

There were also three young cousins under her care.

“We’ll be back before anyone knows you left,” her friends said.

She wanted to go, but she couldn’t disobey her family and leave the kids alone, even if they were already asleep.

“Sorry. Maybe next time.”

“We’ll get you something nice,” they promised as they left.

The next day, she found her friends in the hospital, each crippled in some way because of a drunk driver who smashed into their car.

~End~