“Job Hunt”

“Job Hunt”

Author’s note: I wrote this as part of my Flash Fiction Challenge.

*Recording submitted for evidence at Criminal Court, Case 21 3425-32448128*

“Another round, gents? On me…”

“Hey, thanks.”

“Yer all right, fella! What’d ya say yer name was?”

“Dex.”

“Marty, this is the guy I told you about.”

“Yeah, I heard this was a good spot for guys like us to find work.”

“Sure. As long as ya don’t mind the risk’a gettin’ beat into a coma… or breakin’ a few limbs. That reminds me, Pete, how’s the ole jaw?”

“Hrrts!”

“Cheers, gents… Ahh, that hits the spot.”

“So, where are you thinkin’ about looking? Cause it’s very important to make the right choice.”

“Wait… but they hire us…”

“I mean, technically, yes. But given the current sociopolitical climate, there tends to be a perpetual dearth of available labor.”

“Don’t mind Leonard. Mister college graduate over here… thinks he’s smarter than everybody. But he’s right. Lots of bosses and wannabe bosses in this town… and they all need help.”

“Dat’s why ya nevah wanna sign a long-term contract.”

“Oh… Wow… I never knew. So, where do you guys work?”

“Much like yourself, I currently find myself between employers.”

“I’ve been with Dr. Destruction for the past few months…”

“He still make everybody wear those get-ups?”

“What do you mean?”

“He still make everybody wear those get-ups?”

“I mean, most of the bosses have uniforms… Even the mafioso, before they all got killed or locked up, wanted you to wear coat and tie. What’s the difference?”

“Maybe cause the Doctah wants ya to wear a one-piece skintight silver bodysuit. Talk about ridin’ up in da crotch!”

“Fair point, Martin… and let’s not forget the risk of chafing during hot weather!”

“Look, the dress code’s not the best, but he’s also like the only villain in town who offers decent, affordable health insurance.”

“Wait… you guys get insurance?”

“Oh, you’re gonna want insurance, pal!”

“But make sure they also offer dental. Quite important, eh, Peter?”

“Fckr!”

“Yeah, thanks to You Know Who, if the bosses didn’t offer health insurance, nobody would stick around. And there’s lots of doctors in this town with decent copays who don’t ask questions.”

“Of course even with the health coverage, you do not have to worry about paying taxes.”

“Unless ya work fer The Accountant.”

“Oh yeah, avoid him.”

“OK… any other advice?”

“Mr. Tuxedo acts like he’s rich an’ well-to-do but bet yer ass you’ll be payin’ yer own dry-cleanin’!”

“Chef Pierre is a cannibal, so bring your own lunch each day.”

“I suggest avoiding El Chupacabra unless you want to find strange hairs all over your person every night.”

“And what about… You Know Who?”

“Haw haw. Part o’ the cost o doin’ business in this town, I’m afraid. That’s why the pay’s so good. Just watch your jaw.”

“And your nether region. A frequent target, to my experience.”

“Mrrrk!”

“We’re little fish to him and everybody knows it. You take a few lumps, do a little time, then get back at it.”

“Mrrrk!”

“Hang on, Pete, I’ll get you… another smoothie over here?”

“He never comes and hassles you guys, you know, off the clock? You know, for information?”

“Mrrrk!”

“I said, hang on… it’s never really come up.”

“Why so curious?”

“Because, well, I think he’s outside.”

“OH GOD LOOK! THE WINDOW! HE’S HERE!”

“HLLLLLP!”

*End of recording*

“The Last of His Kind”

“The Last of His Kind”

Author’s note: I wrote this as part of my Flash Fiction Challenge.

He woke up and wondered where the sky had gone.

A pale light shone down upon him, brighter than even a full moon at midnight. He looked up and saw row after row of these lights, gleaming down… so strong they hurt his eyes. Strange music, playing from somewhere… up above?

What was he lying on? Not grass and earth… it was hard. Flat. Smooth. And strangely cool. He shivered uncontrollably in his linen waistcoat, which already had been damp with sweat from the heat of the summer night—that, the rush of the fight and the burning fires… that he had helped set.

He looked to his left and right, and found himself flanked by tall objects—taller than a man. Immediately, he leaned onto his elbows and started to move back, his scuffed boots sliding against the smooth surface. Were they towers? Siege machines? No. He squinted. They looked to be larders, though each of them was enormous—so tall and wide, and filled with boxes in garish colors with strange lettering upon them. What was that? Eggo? Some sort of savage dialect!

Each larder had a clear door… glass? Unsure, he reached out with a trembling hand and placed his palm against it. He repressed a yelp in surprise as his flesh made contact. It was cold! He whimpered. What witchcraft was this?

Witchcraft…

Witchcraft…

He started to remember.

He came to the colonies like most others—looking for a fresh start. He hadn’t been much for logging or construction. He couldn’t fish, couldn’t shoe a horse, couldn’t fix things with tools. The thing he was best at, the only thing he was good at, if he was honest, was killing. First, he hunted for the settlement. Then one day a man came to town, driving a wagon carrying a rough-looking bunch. The man was hiring help to clear out the wilderness, for 10 pounds a week. 10 British pounds.

And so he left and went to work, and learned clearing wilderness had a lot less to do with cutting down trees and a lot more to do with killing any savages they found. The last thing he remembered, they were in another village… he had no idea how many there’d been by now… they’d done like before, storming in at midnight and killing everything that moved. Men, women, children… it didn’t matter. Every scalp paid.

Near the end, as always, he and his mates started taking torches to huts. But this time, in the firelight, this old crone had stepped out of one of the huts, naked as her born day, her body twisted and gnarled like an old sickly tree. The way he figured, she was the last in the village left alive.

He leveled his flintlock in her direction, and she pointed a finger back at him.

He could remember even her words.

“Now you will know what it means to be the last!” the crone said.

And now he woke up…

Where was he?

He looked left and right and saw long rows of these huge larders. A voice boomed out of the air all around him. God? The Devil? It came from the air, and the man who killed and scalped with no remorse squealed and wet himself.

“ATTENTION FOOD-MART SHOPPERS, DON’T FORGET OUR THANKSGIVING SPECIAL… 10% OFF TURKEY BREASTS AND 20% OFF WHOLE BIRDS. THAT’S 10% OFF BREASTS AND 20% OFF WHOLE BIRDS, ONLY AT FOOD-MART!”

He covered his ears and began to scream, the last shreds of his sanity slipping away.

“Hey, What Happened To Your Eye?”

“Hey, What Happened To Your Eye?”

Author’s note: I wrote this as part of my Flash Fiction Challenge.

“We was all in the tavern, you see—oye, don’t gimme that look, you know I come here whenever I can! Anyway, ‘twas the usual collection of sellswords, cutpurses, scoundrels, thugs, an’ assassins… until the door swung open an’ in stepped this catfolk. He was wearin’ some bright yellow suit that was tight to the skin. All the chatter in the place stopped—not like catfolk is common ‘round these parts. Then the cat speaks… an’ he says,

“ ‘Scuse me, dahlins, I’m lookin’ for the Crimson Hand.’

“You and me both know the Crimson Hand’s rep and nobody goes lookin’ for those folks unless they’s either crazy or crazy tough. But that didn’t stop ol’ Steecs.

“You remember Steecs, yeah? Just goblins being goblins, ya know? Well, Steecs jumps on the bar an’ pipes up with,

“ ‘Hey kitty kitty, if ya want milk, head for the barn!’ And the whole place busts up laughin’, but that’s how it all started.

“The cat moved so fast, like a yellow blur. He grabs a pint glass offa the table closest an’ wings it at Steecs, catchin’ him right between the eyes, an’ ol’ Steecs keels over. That had some of the heavies who run with Steecs reachin’ for their guns. I’ll be damned if the catfolk whips out this massive revolver. It gleamed in the light, like it was made o’ pure silver.

“He was the fastest draw I ever seen. One second he’s empty handed, the next the shooter’s in his hand an’ he’s squeezin’ off rapid-fire, an’ not only is he fast he’s accurate, hittin’ those thugs in their gun hands.

“But now the rest o’ the place has come to on what’s happenin’, ‘cept the catfolk’s gone empty, see? No bother to him. He’s got this hat, this wide-brimmed green number with some outrageous yellow feather in it, an’ he spins it off his head on the hat rack by the door—you know the one—an’ turns an’ uncorks this flyin’ kick to that troll, Razi, the one what does muscle work sometimes for the syndicate? An’ there’s this crunch an’ big Razi just drops like a felled tree. Now the cat is all over the place, punchin’ kickin’ an’ head-buttin’ an’ leavin’ bodies sprawled all over the place. An’ nobody can match this furry fury, an’ finally I see my opening!

“There’s only a few fellas left standin’ by now even though maybe a minute’s passed since he came through the door, an’ I pick up my dagger an’ fling it at him while his back’s turned. An’ gettaloadathis, he reaches out without lookin’ and grabs my dagger outta midair. With one hand, he’s punchin’ the teeth outta one of them duergar that mess around town, and with the other he takes that dagger an’ wings it back at me, hilt first, an’ it catches me right in the eye! Next thing I know he’s right on top ‘o me an’ he uncorks this punch to the jaw that drops me. Imagine bein’ hit with somethin’ incredibly hard, but also soft from his fur, like a velvet brick.

“When I come to, the catfolk was gone, an’ everyone else in the bar had been laid low.”

The man behind the bar looked at the speaker, his eyes narrowing.

“I was just trying to be polite. … And I think you’ve had enough.”

“Big Game”

“Big Game”

Author’s note: I wrote this as part of my Flash Fiction Challenge

The hunter strode through the forest, a cloud of breath wisping from his mouth. His shadow stretched to his right under the unflinching light of the full moon, darting between the dormant and leafless trees.

What had brought him to such a bleak place?

Redemption.

“I assure you, sir, I am no stranger to the pursuit of dangerous prey, as my news coverage would attest,” he said three days prior on the edge of northern wilderness. “The White Rhino of Kampuchea? The man-eating Kodiak bear? Their skins hang in my den. Or the 93 buffalo kills to my name. There is no game too fearsome, too dangerous for me to conquer…”

“And yet, you need a guide,” the Indian continued to rock back and forth in his seat. Frankly, it was unsettling.

“Yes. You see, I am unfamiliar with this region. If one of your trackers might help me find the beast’s path…”

“The prey you seek is no beast. Nor is it man. It is wendigo. Forever hungry, forever hunting. Wendigo feels no fear or pain. You will find no tracker here to join you, hunter.”

And so Edmond ventured forth himself. He had never taken human life, but with every mishap since leaving that hunting lodge, he had pondered at each whether it would have been better to put a bullet into that old Indian. Had some savage curse been placed upon him? It rained for the first day solid. What gear survived the drenching, he had awoken the next day to find shredded into the tiniest of pieces. And now, after a sleepless night on frozen ground, Edmond found himself irrevocably lost in this skeletal landscape.

Edmond Shillingford, renowned hunter of big game, here to slay the mythical wendigo. That would scuttle the accusations of drugging his prey, claims that scuttled his clientele as a safari guide and cost him patronage in both New York and London. If only they knew the full truth…

The tainted bullets he fired into the white rhino, who wandered pain-blind for four days before he finally died.

The Kodiak had never eaten a man and was, in fact, female. Coaxed from her den when Edmond dealt one of her cubs a mortal wound with his knife, then tethered it so she could hear its cries.

And yes, those were group hunts for the buffalo, but Edmond always had been an excellent shot.

A noise drew Edmond out of his reverie. Nails, scrabbling on stone. The hunter whirled to his right… nothing. He squinted. There, in the moonlight. Edmond stepped forward and then saw it—a single, splayed footprint in the earth, a curved talon at the end of each toe.

An ear-splitting howl cut through the darkness, creating a knot of fear in his belly. Edmond spun in the direction of the howl and fired blind, the echoes of the shot rolling through the forest. Disoriented, Edmond never realized the wendigo was upon him until a single slash of a talon severed both Achilles tendons. As Edmond fell, another stabbing strike had warm blood spilling out on the rocky ground.

Another howl, now from much closer. Belly down, Edmond felt an incredible sharpness penetrate his jacket, his clothes, into his flesh. He began to scream.

His skin would hang in a den as well.