eileen_alphabet (eileen_alphabet) wrote,

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Flash Fiction Challenge - Present Tense

Link to the challenge: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/01/27/flash-fiction-challenge-the-present-tense/

Warning: Contains lots of implied gore

 As soon as they hear the knocking on the door, she knows that the exchange has gone wrong. It's not the careful rapping of their contact, but the sound of a fist hitting the wood with a force as if it's trying to break through it. Even as dread washes over her, she wonders why the people outside aren't being more subtle, why they're not trying to pretend to be the contact. She doubts that they can bluff their way in, but they could at least try.

The heavy machine gun – that someone showed into her hands hours ago, ignoring her weak protests, that she didn't know how to handle it – has been gravitating towards the floor all evening. Now she once again raises it and holds it front of her, like a shield. Her heart is beating fast and all her blood seems to be rushing to her head and staying there.

A sound of something splintering and a shower of glass. It takes her a moment to translate these events and understand that a window has just been broken. Her brain seems far more occupied with the feeling of a single bead of sweat as it is making its way down her back from her bra strap. The warmth and humidity is suffocating.

Something is thrown in through the window and she dives behind a large desk, dizzily hoping that it isn't tear gas. The incredible loud sound of an explosion and the room seems to shake. Something wet hits her left cheek and she realises, with a sickening feeling, that she got what she hoped for. The explosion has almost deafened her and the screams around her are muffled, but when she lifts her head to look out from behind the desk, the sight makes her stomach clench. She quickly wipes the wet smear on her cheek with her sleeve, not daring to touch it with her bare hand or look at it, in case it is something else than blood. A couple of the people on the floor are still moving and screaming, even though at least one of them looks like he shouldn't be able to, ever again.

Someone bursts into the room from one of the other doors; one of her people, although that distinction carries little weight. He takes in the carnage without blinking and then sees her. He gestures angrily at her to follow him and then runs into the next room, not looking back, confident that she will follow. She has to try a couple of times before she is able to stand up on shaking legs. She makes her way through the bodies. The one who most looks like he should be dead is looking at her and extending a hand towards her; begging for help or maybe just a quick death. Looking at the remains of his body is enough to make her break into a new sweat, even though she is already soaked. She has been grabbing the machine gun so hard that it feels like she should have left marks in the metal. It takes a conscious effort to make her fingers uncurl so she can shift her grip. She points the muzzle down at the man, then looks up into the ceiling as she squeezes the trigger. There's a burst of shots, like fireworks and she lets the trigger go with a yelp and almost drops the gun. When she looks down at the man, he is dead or a least no longer looking at her.

She catches movement out of the corner of her eye and lifts her gaze. One of the enemy soldiers has entered the room, no doubt summoned by the sound of the shooting. He is so young, barely more than a boy and it makes the machine gun he is carrying look like a toy, but there's nothing playful about the way he is pointing it at her. She doesn't lift her own weapon, it would be no use. She just looks at him, waiting for the shot. Then he lowers his own weapon, gives her a curt nod and disappears into the next room. She stares after him, confused, then realizes that he somehow thought she was one of his people.

She looks around, uncertain. She can hear the sound of gunshots and yelling and explosions and screaming coming from another part of the house, where the fighting is still going on. She doesn't want to join. She didn't think much about dying a moment ago, but she doesn't want to be another soldier, lying on the floor, begging for a merciful death, that may or may not be granted. Instead she removes the largest pieces of glass and climbs out the window, cutting herself on the remains and not caring. Outside, her legs give way and she sits down on the ground beneath the window, looking out at the naked field, which the rain and too many running feet has churned into mud. In the light from the moon the earth is grey, a greyness that is an absence of colour more than a colour in itself; looking at it, it's easy to imagine that colours have never existed. The smell of mud is overwhelming, she might as well have scooped up a handful and stuffed it in her mouth.

She tries to get up, but her legs refuse to obey her. Maybe it is just as well. She knows what they do to deserters, when they catch them. Compared to that or to joining the fighting, just sitting here until one of the enemy soldiers finds her and kills her with a single, deadly shot seems like a good option.

Tags: flash fiction challenge, present tense
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