The Ink Loft Flash Fiction Challenge #3
(I’ll greet y’all once I scrape the dust off my blog and am able to see you. I’m sure you guys are around here somewhere.)
Happy Friday, readers! Today I’m participating in Rachelle O’Neil’s third Flash Fiction Challenge. The challenge is to write a flash fiction story below 1,000 words. I received my prompt from Rachelle at The Ink Loft, and prompted T over at To Be a Sennachie.
Vano’s feet pounded on the metal walkway beneath him. The coppery scent of blood stung his nostrils—some of it his, some of it theirs, painting his knuckles red.
The sky above him exploded with color.
Vano jerked. He skidded, stumbling, and hit the railing. In the blackness of the night sky, another volley of fireworks went off. Vano froze, straining his ears to hear any movement behind him as the echoes died away.
Two hundred yards beneath him, the city sprawled: homes and businesses clustered like rats on a cold night. Bright banners stretched across roads, proclaiming: “Happy New Year!”
Even from up here, Vano could make out the neighborhoods where his people lived: they were quiet and solemn. Their year started in the springtime, and they would celebrate it right, subjects in a pagan land or not.
Something moved on the other end of the walkway. Vano’s breath kicked in his lungs, and he lurched into a run again. Decades-old layers of oil and dust on the walkway made it slick beneath his feet, beads of water from the recent rain clinging to the metal.
A gun went off. The air moved beside his face, and above him, another set of fireworks painted the night blue.
“I’m going to die,” he gasped. He leaned over the edge of the railing. Below, another walkway ran parallel. “Help me.”
He swiped his slick hands against his trousers, fingers brushing against his tassels. If he lived, he would have to wash the red out tomorrow.
The man behind him fired again, footsteps pounding. Vano grabbed the railing and took a breath, muscles tensing.
“Happy New Year!” Someone below him screamed.
Vano launched himself over the edge and let himself fall.
He hit the walkway beneath, smashed his arm into the railing and skidded. For a second he lay flat, feeling the bruises already begin to develop.
Then, silhouetted against the blackness of the sky, a blacker figure leaned over the railing above him. A crime lord who wanted to start the new year right—namely, without Vano Fischel alive. He had been in the wrong place at the wrong time; seen the wrong thing.
He accidentally found himself in possession of multiple names that the authorities had sought for years.
Vano rolled onto his stomach and pushed upright. He glanced over the railing, but there was nothing beneath him—nothing but a straight fall to someone’s roof.
Vano started running again.
A hundred steps later, he swung around the curve onto the stairs that led to another layer, hand gripping the railing. The stairs were steep, but the elevator took too long to summon to the top. The handrail here was more uneven and ragged, the metal rusted and sharp at every turn of the stairs.
His tassel caught on the rough metal, jerking him to a halt. Vano grabbed it, able to see from the lights below where his hand left grime and blood on the white and blue stripes. It didn’t move when he pulled, caught in the ragged edge where one piece of metal met another.
Vano released it and jerked with his body. Something clicked, and his clip broke. The tassel fell away from his clothing, the end tangled in the metal and swaying in the wind.
The sky lit up. Vano left the tassel and kept on running. At the end of these stairs were buildings, but they were quiet. There would be no hiding among crowds here.
He stumbled down the steps, street lights below growing nearer, lighting up his vision. He couldn’t see the man after him, but there could be half a dozen in the city after him—they could come out of anywhere.
Then his feet touched dirt. Vano forced himself into a sprint, leaving the stairs behind.
His lungs stalled.
Vano swerved into the space between two buildings, stumbling over rubbish cluttering the area, and then sank to the ground.
He choked on air for a moment before managing to suck in a breath. It wasn’t safe to stop; if he was found, he would die here.
But he couldn’t run if he couldn’t breathe.
Vano pressed himself against the slick wall, whole body shaking as he forced air in and out, counting breaths. One. Two. Thirty. Eighty. One-hundred-fifty. The fire gradually left his lungs, leaving him to feel pain spreading throughout his body.
He needed to get out of here. He wasn’t safe.
A light flashed in the alley. Vano’s breathing stopped again, and he spun toward the source.
The world froze, his brain unable to process what he was seeing.
“Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.”
Vano sat on the edge of his bed, shoving clothing into his bag. Mira stood on the other side of the room, staring at him with her innocent eyes wide open; their mother hovered in the doorway.
Mira leaned forward. “How do you know it was an angel?”
“What did it look like?”
He opened his mouth, and then closed it again. The words didn’t come. The images barely came—he couldn’t explain what he had seen. Not even to himself.
“Vano, it’s been years since God has sent a prophet,” his mother finally said, voice low.
Vano stilled. He knew: not since their country was conquered, not since they were removed from their homeland.
“You don’t look like a prophet,” Mira said.
Vano laughed. He laughed because his lungs hurt, and his body was half bruises. He was down to three tassels, his trousers torn where he had skidded on the walkway. His knuckles were bruised and stained with blood.
His mother’s voice was barely able to be heard. “What will you say?”
Vano drew the drawstring on his bag and stood. The action hurt; every part of him hurt. “Repent,” he said. Just saying the words sent a thrill through him. “There comes a man who will take away your sins.”
Disclaimer: As with C.S. Lewis, I do not tell an allegory here: I tell a, “Suppose, in another world, things were to happen differently.”
Happy New Year, kids. Go: proclaim the good news. And write on.