Flash-off! #1 – Da Results
Today’s first ever Flash-off! was fast and fun, though with a lot less spandex than anticipated. Thanks to sister Meg who gave us the theme MONSTERS. We had one hour to turn that into a story under 1000 words. Here are the results from first round battlers Char and Bek. 🙂
Charlotte’s Story (727 words):
The One You Feed
Sometimes, betrayals are innocuous things. Your friend tells your secret when they promised not. You hate them for it, but real damage is slight, so the elders say. No one takes slights of word seriously here, where a boy is born with two selves. When every day until the age of fifteen is focussed on refining the good self and shunning the monstrous self, until that day, at rite of passage, when the boy enters the stadium and slays his dark self so the good will become adult.
For Garrick, that day is today. I am nervous. His twin-self crosses the red dust, far beneath the rising seats. A sheer wall separates him from the watchers, and above is a ring of archers. He enters a twin, two boys the same, but only one will leave. And if the monster is the victor, then none will. I could lose this friend today.
But no one thinks the worst will happen; it almost never does. Boys are trained in how to protect their good selves, how to nurture them with learning. Their fathers pass the wisdom of their own battles; those with fathers, at least. I finger the stones behind my back, wondering if I can still feel regret about that. I wait, but none comes. No, then. I am cured of it.
Garrick, both of him, makes his bows. No one can tell which is the good self and which is the monster; that will come only with victory. But I can tell. I know him well.
They each take an edged weapon from their belts, and step away into the dust, as if they are just to spar. Expectation is oddly dim here; the crowd almost look bored. Good, that is good. They think they know Garrick well. They know he is the son of the highest elder, the most educated, the most dedicated. Destined for greatness. This is almost a formality; his monstrous self should be so weak from neglect, the battle will be over quickly.
The first blows fall metal on metal. Good-Garrick and monster-Garrick circle and clash. Dust rises, cloaking their skin, sticking to sweat. They are soon both red-dust boys, no skin to be seen, and only the metal edges glint through the fray. Then, there is a stumble. One Garrick goes down; the crowd leans forward. The other Garrick does not hesitate; he drives the point of the blade through the downed Garrick’s chest. The downed Garrick jerks around the blade, curled like a spider on its back, then is still.
My heart fights my breath for space in my throat. My skin drums with the noise from the stands. The victor Garrick stands before the applause, a red-skinned version of the Garrick who walked in. He closes his eyes and raises his palms, salute to the elders. The archers relax. Then, Garrick retrieves his sword and strides towards the exit.
No elder moves. They maintain applause, standing now, tears on some faces. Pride, I believe, for they see the good-Garrick leave. Passed through the rite, and now to be a man. This is the great moment for them.
I do not stay to witness more but descend to the arena level on the seldom-used stair. Garrick is waiting in the tunnel, and he brings his eyes up from the dust. We look at each other, with our black irises reflecting the torchlight. Garrick, so dusty no one can see the evil marks. Me, with the control I learned from my father, how to use my mind not to show the marks. Monsters, both.
This is the great moment.
I offer the eye lenses he will need to stay concealed. Garrick nods his thanks. He has learned well in all our lessons, proved himself capable of skill and concealment, even from his good-self. And the good-self never realised another could teach his monster just as well. My pride burns my eyes when he leaves.
Now good-Garrick lies dead in the dust. The elders will be slack, not bothering to clean the body of the assumed monster-self. They will not find the unmarred skin.
You see, some betrayals are innocuous, but others are not. Words can cut as deep as a sword, and bring death when spoken wrong. The good-Garrick told my secret and so the monster has his chance.
Rebekah’s Story (995 words):
Jenny Mackillop had a secret.
Even though she was only thirteen, she knew about the world. She read about what the world was really like in the history books, saw it on television. Only the shows on television were pretend. She was old enough to know that. The news was real. But the news was boring and hard to watch. Her dad always told her not to bother him when he watched the headlines. That was okay, because she liked to read more than watch television. She had a whole pile from the library, history books that told of the horrors of the past and the monsters that dressed like men and women. They looked regular, just like her parents.
Then one day, Jenny realised she could recognise monsters. It was in the eyes, she realised. The way they looked at you, with glossy eyes that you could almost stare right into their brain to see the rotting flesh that lay there.
This is why Jenny knew her neighbour, Mr Hill, was a monster. She told her very best friend, Elaine.
“Oh yeah?” Elaine had asked, sitting on her bed, flicking through the latest Cosmopolitan magazine. “What drugs have you been taking?”
“I’m being serious.” Jenny had tried to explain how she knew, but the words had come out wrong. She couldn’t explain how she knew when Mr Hill had yelled at her when she’d accidently thrown her Frisbee into his yard. She had seen into his eyes and saw they were deep and black, spiralling down into some horrible pit that wasn’t human.
Elaine had just rolled her eyes and continued to read her magazine. Jenny hadn’t talked about it again. She just watched Mr Hill. She bought some binoculars and watched him when she got home from school. Did her homework, ate dinner, then watched him some more. She started a log. Mr Hill lived alone. He was an old, nasty man who swore at any kid who dared step on his lawn. He drank beer with his microwave dinner and watched Deal or No Deal every night.
Then the pets in the neighbourhood started to disappear.
Reward posters went up. Jenny watched Mr Hill, making sure she noted any changes in his behaviour. She followed him on the weekend when he went to the local store, where he bought his milk and bread. He’d stay an extra five minutes to complain to the storekeeper about the rising prices and how politicians were crooks and bastards.
Then Bobby Henderson went missing. Jenny watched Bobby’s mum and dad on the news, asking for their little boy back.
Jenny decided it was time to act. She wasn’t sure what kind of monster Mr Hill was, but she knew what would kill him. She decided to wait until Saturday night, the only night Mr Hill drove his rattling Cortina to the local pub to play the pokies.
Saturday night came and she gathered her weapons of choice, tucking it into her schoolbag.
She crept down the stairs and out the back door. The wooden fence was short and she climbed over it easily enough. She crept to the backdoor and gave it an experimental pull. It was locked, but she expected that. Putting a tea towel over the window above the handle, she broke it with her elbow. She stuck her arm in and unlocked the door. Stepping inside, she stopped to clean up the glass, relocking the door.
The house smelt like stale air freshener and burnt hair inside. Jenny began to look around for signs of dead animals.
She came to a door that led down into the basement and squinted into the darkness.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” she whispered. She pulled a flashlight and clicked it on, but couldn’t see anything except filing cabinets and benches with tools on them. Jenny figured Mr Hill had already eaten Bobby then.
She went upstairs and found the bedroom. Poking around, she didn’t find anything to confirm her suspicions, but that didn’t matter. Because she’d seen his eyes and she knew. She’d seen the nasty thing he was and she, Jenny Mackillop was a Monster Slayer.
She found the wardrobe, a big, wooden thing and climbed in. Popped earphones in her ears and played some music. She only had to wait now.
It was nearly eleven o’clock when Mr Hill came home. She turned off her iPod and listened to him downstairs, rattling around the kitchen. Then the stairs squeaked as he came upstairs. She heard the old pipe in the house run as he had a shower down the hall. Heard him complain to himself as he hopped into bed.
Jenny smiled to herself.
Mr Hill was possibly the dumbest monster she’d ever met.
She waited until it was nearly midnight. The time when monsters were their most vulnerable. Then she opened the door gently and crept out. Pulled out her weapon and pulled the trigger a few times. The water-squirter spilt the liquid everywhere, stinking up the room. She made sure she was near the bedroom door before she called out to Mr Hill. It was one last chance. He blinked at her in confusion, the room lit by a half moon outside.
“What are you doing?” he cried, getting out to the bed. He paused when he smelt the gasoline. “What have you done, you stupid girl?”
“Where’s Bobby?” Jenny aimed the water-squirter at Mr Hill. “Tell me and I won’t kill you.”
“Have you lost your mind?” Mr Hill got to his feet. “I’m calling your parents right now.”
“No you’re not.” Jenny pulled the cigarette lighter from her pocket. No point in asking about Bobby anymore. She knew Mr Hill had eaten him. She could see it on his face. Her thumb flicked the wheel . Mr Hill started screaming. Jenny bent over, igniting the wet carpet. She stepped outside the room, pulling it shut behind her.