I’m still alive!!!!
Yeah, I’ve been more or less on hiatus since I launched my recent short story The Heart of Alchemy back in April. As you may know, I am expecting our second child in November. (Yay!) But pregnancy takes a lot out of me and so I scaled way back on my writing ventures. (Boo!) But it’s what was best for my family, so I have no regrets.
However, I do miss writing and The Annual Penprints Flash Fiction Dash seemed like a great way to exercise my rusty writing muscles. (Thank you Rosalie for hosting it again!)
So the Dash was done slightly differently this year. We got to pick a genre and then everyone in that genre got the same prompt. It will be interesting to see what everyone else came up with. There were ten genres to pick from, so in the spirit of the exercise, I Googled a ten-sided dice roller and had the dice pick one for me at random.
I got cyberpunk.
Now I’m not totally unfamiliar with the genre, but I don’t work in it very often. So this would be a challenge.
Then we got the prompt which was the song Arrow by Half Alive.
This was hard for me, especially because this isn’t the style of music I normally listen to. I think I listened to the song like ten times and had nothing. No ideas at all. So, I turned to Pinterest. I needed a character to tell a story so I started looking under character inspiration. Here are the two that stood out to me: First Character. Second Character.
Now I had an idea.
Below are the results of this exercise. Total word count is 885. I hope you enjoy!
Emoji kept her arrow trained on their prisoner as Beetle and Fluke laid into him with punches and kicks. Their leader, Zone, watched on with a sneer. They had all been waiting for this opportunity for a long time.
The prisoner, a young man with dark hair, was not making a sound besides the occasional grunt of pain. His clothes, that had looked fashionable and expensive ten minutes ago, were now muddied and torn. Emoji flipped her bleached blonde hair out of her eyes and shoved down the sympathy that had been threatening to surface. It wouldn’t do at all to wonder why this spoiled rich kid seemed to be used to this sort of abuse. He was the son of Muramori Nozushi. He belonged to the tyrannical family that had jurisdiction over this part of the empire. And now the rebellion had him. This was their chance to change everything.
The neon lights of the city sent an eerie green glow on their back alley rendezvous as Beetle and Fluke finished their work. When Zone gave the word, they held their prisoner up, Fluke grabbing a fistful of the man’s hair so he could face their leader.
“So,” spat Zone. “What’s a Muramori doing in this part of Drodridge all alone at night?”
“Just getting some air,” the was the hoarse reply. Was that a hint of humor in his voice? Emoji found herself admiring their prisoner against her better judgement. Despite the obviously lavish lifestyle he lived, he wasn’t a milksop.
“Do you know who we are?” Zone questioned the man again.
“The Chainless rebels,” the man guessed. “Or some faction of them, I’d wager. I suspect you think you can use me to put pressure on my father to lift some of his more stifling laws, if not get him to release his jurisdiction all together.”
Emoji blinked. He was right.
“But do you know who I really am?” the prisoner added. Emoji’s heart skipped a beat. Had they made a mistake? What he not from the Muramori family?
“I am Muramori Nozushi’s third son, Tomosai. Third. The only reason my parents were allowed to have a third child was because of their influence in the empire. They were hoping for a girl.” The prisoner shrugged, his messed up hair falling into his eyes. “I’ve been a disappointment to them since day one. They won’t make a deal for me. They might even pay you for the trouble of getting rid of me.”
The thought that anyone’s parents could be so cold stung and Emoji hissed through her teeth. Zone turned and looked at her, raising an eyebrow critically. She shifted, retraining her crossbow.
“Nothing ever goes as planned,” she said, giving a weak excuse for her reaction. She couldn’t be showing sympathy. Not now. She owed Zone and the Chainless too much to let them down now.
Zone seemed satisfied for the moment and gave Beetle and Fluke a nod. Once again they began beating the prisoner. Emoji tried not to wince as they pummeled the man without mercy.
When Zone once again gave the signal to stop he pulled out a knife and held the point dangerously close to the young man’s face.
“Well, if you’re really not going to be any use to us I suppose we should just get rid of you,” Zone said. “Slit your throat and dump you in the river for your cursed family to find. If we can’t use you as leverage we can at least send them a message.”
Emoji saw Tomosai swallow hard, but he said nothing. She knew Zone was bluffing, trying to get the young man to offer something of use to them and barter for his life. But the young man still said nothing. Perhaps he was calling Zone’s bluff, Emoji wondered. But then the young man glanced in her direction. For the briefest moment their eyes met.
The dark grey eyes pierced her heart like the arrows she wielded. This man, Tomosai, truly believed that he was going to die and he had nothing to offer for his life.
What was she doing? Why were they doing this?
Emoji had joined the Chainless because she had nowhere else to go, but also because she was sick of seeing that very same look in the faces of the people on the streets. She had wanted to do something about it. She wanted to help the people.
Emoji was starting to lower her arrow when Zone suddenly turned around and faced her. She pulled herself back to attention.
“Shoot him,” he instructed her.
For a moment everything slowed down. Her mind took a moment to realize what she had just been ordered. And what she had to do now.
Emoji took a deep breath and steeled herself. She planted her feet and squared her shoulders before she sent her arrow flying. It landed in her target with a definitive thunk.
In their surprise, both Beetle and Fluke lost their grip on their prisoner and Tomosai wasted no time. He dashed away from them and grabbed Emoji’s arm.
“Run!” he shouted, rousing her from her shock.
She turned and fled with Tomosai, leaving Zone where she had left him. On the cold pavement with her arrow in his heart.