On his blog, Terribleminds, Chuck Wendig regularly asks his readers to play along (it’s a great blog, go follow it!) Every once in a while he asks for some fun made-up titles and then challenges his readers to come up with a flash fic for those titles..
It’s entertaining and I enjoy reading what people come up with. This time the titles were so much fun my fingers were on the keyboard before I knew what was happening. Damn them. So here’s my flashfic for a five word title created by a Terribleminds.com reader. It’s a little under the 1,500 word limit, mea culpa.
It will be linked back to Chuck Wendig’s blog, so you can head on over and read some other fics and have a good laugh at the titles. His readers are a creative bunch!
Paper Cuts Make Good Bait
Ana pulled the edge of the paper quickly across the pad of her thumb, five, six, seven times.
Seven stinging little cuts opened up in a line, but she didn’t wince. Just to be sure, she slashed again at the palm of her hand and saw two more thin red lines appear. The paper was folded over and shoved in her back pocket. She curled her left arm to her side, hand held out at a straight angle. While waiting for the blood to collect a little she watched the darkness around her.
People always thought darkness was one, uniform black velvet shroud but it wasn’t. It was little slices of gray and puddles of brown, tiny black pools and little eddies of dusted white from the moonlight or stars. If you learned the trick of it, you could watch for the darker movement of shapes in the shadows. Of course, you never heard them coming.
A pack had been reported in this area for weeks. She was here to clear them out and collect a nice fat check for it.
There was no sound other than dry breaths from the wind. A leaf scraped and shuddered across the open ground in front of her, the gold muted by darkness. It could be just a leaf left from the piles that had wept out of the trees in the last few months, but she doubted it. She hadn’t stayed plain human for so long by thinking everything was happenstance.
The leaf had blown in from her right. She turned to face that way, almost but not quite a full turn, and let her eyes unfocus to take in the dark landscape spread out in front of her. At her side, her hand sent little whimpers of sting up to her brain.
To her rear, a pile of boulders, humped and gray. To her left, open field broken by the yellow stems of last summer’s weeds. Inside the smooth leather of her jacket, she shivered. The wind was trying to snake down her neck. It smelled of dead grass and rotten leaves, a good, clean smell.
The blood was making her palm slippery and she slid her fingers up and across it, spreading it out. A drip of it shivered on the tip of her pinky and then fell to the dust by her boot.
Almost directly in front of her the woods exploded. The shadows ballooned out and separated into shapes. Three of them. She grinned, and pulled the sharpened ash stake out of the front of her jacket with her unhurt hand.
The first of them was reaching for her when all three of them collided. Forget working together, they had no pack instinct. It was smell the blood and get it for these things. They might be quiet as death on the move, but when they attacked they couldn’t seem to help the cut-glass cries.
Ignoring the fact that they had just careened off of each other they came on, trying to get a grip on her, mouths already open. She could see the teeth, all razor points glinting in the starlight underneath the pale blobby dome of bald heads. She could smell the rot stench of them.
The closest one got the stake, underhand and into the chest. He skittered back and fell, writhing around the wood sticking out of him, kicking up little spurts of dust.
Ducking, she fought the grip of the other two and tried to work out her second stake. The blood sliming her left hand helped her there, letting her slip out of the second one’s grasp. As she twisted away the third one screeched and bulled into her, trying to knock her over, lips twitching and working as she mouthed at Ana’s jacket sleeve. She kicked out at the pale, leechy thing and got a grip on the stake.
From behind her she heard two solid thumps. Reinforcements, hidden in the boulders, had arrived. The second vampire threw herself sideways at these two new human morsels, hands reaching, mouth already open. She moved like some great big beetle, all twitches and jerks through the darkness. Like she’d never been human.
Her shriek was cut off when Marco elbowed her in the throat, hooked an ankle around her legs and shoved her down. He knelt and shoved the stake through her in one neat movement. In the brief flash Ana saw of his face, he looked surprised.
She yanked her arm away and let herself go over while the third vampire fell on her. On the ground she shut her eyes. The sharp flash of light didn’t blind her, but the creature on top of her.
It took half a heartbeat to bunch up her legs and kick the weight off of her. There was a solid THUD as the thing hit the ground. By the time she opened her eyes and sat up it was impaled and writhing in the grass. The other two had already stopped moving.
“Machete?” she asked Mikhail, and shoved herself up off the ground.
He tucked the little black tube of the UV flashlight back into his jacket and pulled her blade from his belt. As the bait, she couldn’t wear it. Even for vampires it would be too obvious. She took it with a smile, and then winced. Her paper cuts were stinging her in jabby little waves, annoying.
With both hands she raised the machete high, like chopping wood, and brought it down on the neck of the vampire she’d staked with a grunt.
“Is it always that easy?” asked Marco.
Mikhail chopped away at his own vampire’s neck, digging his blade in and twisting it to start ripping at tough tendons. He said nothing, as he always said nothing.
“No,” Ana grunted out. She jerked the machete out and raised it for another blow. “They’re not easy when there’s a . . . swarm of them.” The blade connecting interrupted her words.
“Oh.” Marco dragged in the bundles of sticks they had piled up while they waited for it to get dark and kept an eye on the trees. He seemed twitchy about it. Good. Fear would make his eyes sharper. Stupid kid. If he lasted past his first few hunts he’d even out, get smarter.
Unless they were attacked again, they could be back to the safe house by dawn to sleep the day away with the rest of the hunters. As jobs went, Ana liked hers. She got out in the fresh air a lot, got to see a lot more of the country than the humans holed up in their walled cities. The risk of death added some spice to it.
“And . . . your hand?” Marco hesitated. “Why not just gut a rabbit or something?”
She rolled her eyes and brought the fat blade up for another strike. “Do you see them out sucking on deer and rabbits? They don’t like animal blood. Our blood will get them out every time, but I don’t want a huge gash interfering with my fighting. Keep an eye on the trees, Marco.”
The machete bit down, thunking deep into bone, and she had to yank hard to get it back out. Mikhail was already done with his first beheading and starting on the second. Marco’s face was still turned to her, a pale blur in the night. He was rubbing his own hand, reflectively.
“When you think about it,” she told him, “paper cuts make good bait.”