Go Ax Alice

July 9, 2011 at 10:23 PM | Posted in Fiction | 3 Comments
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This is another in the series of flash fiction from Chuck Wendig’s site “Terrible Minds.” This week it’s a thousand words, whatever comes to mind based on a photo on Chuck’s site. To see the picture that inspired this and to check out the other entries, go shopping here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge, “The Lady and the Swordsman.”
The first draft that was in my head was about a woman who seeks out bad relationships because she is addicted to the pain of heartbreak. However, I’m just too much of a happy person to write a downer like that.

Is it still a quest if you’re being pursued?
Janice ran down the well-lit, deserted street.  It was full of people only minutes before, when she stumbled and fought for balance as she came up from the street service elevator.
Now everyone was gone.  But she heard voices.  Why was everyone gone?  She just needed–
Hell, what did she need?  She needed someone to protect her.  Something was after her.  Or someone.  The Fencer:  the woman with the sword.
Where was she?
Janice remembered how it had begun, but she knew as soon as she thought it that what she remembered was not what happened.  Every time she thought about it, her memory was different.  She started to cry and claw at her head, but she stopped when she heard the noise.
The noise.
It had been alien and strange-sounding at first, and it affected her the way fingernails on a chalkboard did.  Now she was used to it.  Now, she needed to hear it.  The fencer was coming.  She was tapping-dragging her blade across the brick wall next to the street.
Janice ran the other way.
The people were back now, and the crowd only slowed her down.  She was in a panic, running for her life, and they only seemed to be interested in impeding her progress.  A car honked, and Janice found herself looking into the eyes of a 3-eyed dragon lady behind the wheel of a Hyundai.  The dragon lady hissed a small burst of fire, and Janice ran across the street and down an alley.
Around the corner, she came to a street sign.  It was shaped like a stop sign, but it said, “Keep Running.”  From a block away, she heard The Fencer.  And the noise.  It gave her a comfortable chill down her spine.
Janice peeked around the corner and saw the carnival in the street.  But there was a clearing in the crowd.  Everyone gave The Fencer a wide berth.  Anyone carrying a rapier gets her personal space respected.
It started to rain.  Just a sprinkle at first, but when she tried, Janice found she could make it rain harder.  The cold March rain soaked her, and she felt relief.  She had been burning up with the fever.  Delirium is one of the symptoms.
That thought was poignant to her, and so telling of her life.  She continued to mutter it to herself as she traveled the cobbled brick street.  It was slick now, and also reflected light from everywhere.
But there was very little light here, so the wet brick reflected a shiny darkness.  There was only darkness, and a woman carrying a sword.  The blade reflected in truncated pieces against the brick.  It was strange how Janice knew that, even though she never saw it; Janice was running away and not looking back at The Fencer.  Still, she knew.
She knew that The Fencer had been given the task of killing her.  The Fencer was doomed to walk the earth and destroy art.  And Janice was Art.  She knew it.  In her soul, she was full of art, and it had to be protected.  What would the world be with art, without Janice?   She ran fast, but her thoughts ran faster.  Her mind had already run through hundreds of scenarios.  But in each one, Janice dies.
Sometimes she dies from a blade through the heart.  It manages to cut and partially break a rib as it pierces her heart and runs through her back, cutting into another rib as it exits.  Blood squirts out the back, and then just pours quickly out of her body as it crumples to the ground.  The rain immediately begins to wash away her blood, and Janice can now see under the city, into the sewer, where her blood is diluted with water and eventually reintroduced into the cycle of life and city sanitation services.  Through subway posters and sidewalk graffiti, the soul of Janice would live on.
In other nightmares, Janice would run right at her attacker.  The Fencer would thence hold up her blade and run it right through Janice’s mouth and through the back of her skull.  Still attached, The Fencer would then run the sword into a wall, leaving Janice to hang there and suffer for her sins.  Crucified on the street by the deliverer of justice, and yet on display, like a piece of sculpture from one of the old masters.
Janice ran with the reckless abandon.  The Fencer chased her by walking briskly.  Around every corner, The Fencer seemed to be there.  How was it possible, Janice thought.  I’m not crazy.
This time, Janice decided that’s what she would do.  She turned and rushed at her foe—
But her foe wasn’t there.  She had disappeared into a crash of thunder and a cloud of misty smoke.  Was that all there was to it?  Did she win?  Did she have but to face her attacker?  After going through so much pain and fear and—
With somber resolution, Janice thought, “Thus endeth the lesson.”    It had stopped raining.  Both here and in her mind.  Now she wondered if it had ever rained at all.
She took a pen that seemed to oddly be at hand and finally wrote her message to humanity on the historic wall of this ancient part of the city that had always been her quest.  Stumbling over nameless debris, she reached her target.  In large block letters for everyone to see, Janice wrote:  “Delirium is one of the symptoms.”  Satisfied, she went to sleep with a smile.
When her body was found, police marveled that someone could get this far in a straight jacket.  The window to the art supply store had been broken.  Janice had bled to death, cut from the glass.
On the wall above her was beautifully scripted calligraphy in a dark burgundy of dried blood that read, “Madness is its own reward.”

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3 Comments »

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  1. I have the same problem with the split comments, but it doesn’t always happen. Heck, I don’t know…

    I liked the story. I had a relative who was similar to your character, so that kind of tale gets my attention.

  2. Very neat twist at the end. Didn’t expect that!

  3. Very cool… !

    But.. one minor edit:
    Straitjacket, not straight jacket (which would probably be from Brooks Brothers and somehow change the entire tone).

    All this for want of a Sharpie marker, right? 🙂


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