Yo ho! Here’s this week’s flash fiction. For the interested, you can still read the ongoing serial novel (of which this is not a part) at its Figment page. That will update later today. Until then, here’s…
(A Tale of Lucky and Goode)
Lucky snuffled his nose into the dirt as the acrid smoke drifted up from the hole.
“You shouldn’t smoke, Frank. It’s bad for you”.
Franklin Goode propped his shovel up against the thick, wet dirt of the pit’s walls and looked up at the big Alsatian dangling his paws into the side of the hole.
“You wanna get down here and see how it smells otherwise? Be my guest”.
Lucky wrinkled his nose at the thought. “I can smell it just fine from up here”.
Frank flicked the butt of the cigarillo out into the damp grass above, where it sizzled and died, then grabbed his shovel and got back to work.
The only other sound at the bottom of the pit was the man nearly folded into the corner, scratching away at a small, leather-bound pad with a pen. He was remarkably good at staying out of the way- though when you’re barely five feet tall and slight as a taper, it can’t be that hard.
“Not what you expected?” Frank tossed another clod of dirt over the edge of the pit.
The man twirled his pen idly through his fingers as he gazed skyward. “I try to go into these things without expectations.”
Frank just chuckled. The man was an Author, Rhuke Wilson- barely a story to his name and not a single character of note. If anyone knew about failing to meet expectations, it was Rhuke Wilson.
“It’ll never work,” Frank said as he hocked another shovelful of dirt over the edge. “You know that, right?”
Rhuke just smiled and kept taking notes. “What else am I going to do on a Saturday night?”
Frank grinned and kept digging. A moment more and his shovel rang with the tell-tale clang of the head striking metal. “Alright, there she is,” Frank muttered. “Go on, make yourself useful and scoop away some of the dirt”.
Lucky watched the two men brush the thick muck off the coffin, letting the scents of the charnel yard through his nose. No danger, yet. With a smooth and practiced motion, he flicked his leg up behind his ear and scratched away a fleck of dirt.
Frank finally cleared the last of the dirt from the large metal coffin and, with a grunt, hauled the lid up. The body inside was barely intact- buried in the uniform that had made her famous, but the once-beautiful face long since dessicated and drawn. Alanis Cole, the Human Electrode, once Adrastia’s greatest legend, beloved by thousands. She deserved better than a knife in the back, courtesy of a drunk who couldn’t even remember the deed the morning after. Such a near thing. Her author had taken the night off to spend time with her beau- turn your back for five minutes…
Still, nothing to be done about it now. Well, nothing other than what they were already doing, at least. Frank looked up at Rhuke and scratched at the black ring around his left eye, feeling the hollow space under the skin. “Sure about this, eh? I’m not about to pretend it’s much fun”.
Rhuke shrugged. “It’s worth more shot than anything else. All of Van is labouring to bring back the Human Electrode. I figure if you can get the story as it really was, Kubal might have a better chance”.
“And if you’re the one to do that, it’ll catapult you from B-grade pulp novelist to the hottest property in town”.
Rhuke grinned knowingly. “Just so”.
“Alright. But don’t say I didn’t warn you”.
Frank pulled his hand into his sleeve and rubbed away at his eye until the green and purple spots behind his eye started to fade. When he opened it again, he could see the blackness creeping into the edge of his vision. Without another word to Rhuke, he knelt over Alanis’ corpse and stared into what was once her eye.
Being that she was freshly dead, it didn’t take long for her story to come back to Frank. Her life before she’d been Written, just a girl growing up in Van, meeting her author, the course of every adventure she’d ever had rolling into Frank’s head, and the final moments of her life, ended in a flurry of regret and shock.
Lucky’s ears perked up and he jolted to his feet. “Wilson,” he barked, “Get out of that pit!”
Rhuke just bit the end of his pen and looked up. “Sorry? Couldn’t hear-” He was cut off as the full force of Frank Goode took him clean in the chest.
Lucky didn’t waste a second. He leapt into the pit and clamped his jaws around Frank’s leg, 40 kilos of pure dog tearing at Rhuke’s assailant. Frank was already squatting on Rhuke’s chest, driving his fists into the Author’s face over and over. Rhuke struggled to shove Frank off, but the gravedigger had both size and weight over him, and it was a losing fight.
“Frank,” Lucky shouted around a mouthful of pant leg. “Back off ‘im!”
The darkness began to recede from Frank’s vision, and he looked down at the broken and bloodied face of Rhuke in front of him. With a quiet croaking noise, he slumped off to the side, the Author gasping as the weight lifted from his chest.
“I- uh,” Frank muttered as he fished a cigarillo from his pocket. “You okay?”
Rhuke gingerly prodded his face. “Well, I’ve still got all my teeth, anyway.” He grinned weakly, blood running from his lower lip.
Frank coughed. “Hope it’s not as bad as it looks.” After a long drag, he passed the cigarillo to Rhuke, who gave it a quick pull. “I, uh, I’m sorry about that,” Frank mumbled. “It’s never been that bad before. Sometimes… sometimes something else comes through, but this was, uh…”
“Something else,” Rhuke supplied.
“Yeah,” Frank sighed. “Well, I got her story, in any case. You wanna take the notes here, or back home?”
Rhuke spat out a mouthful of blood and chuckled. “Forget her story,” he said, “I’m more interested in yours.”