Friday, September 16, 2011

#Fridayflash Always Get a Name

As always, I appreciate comments, but don't be afraid to show me some Stabby Love.

He wanted to strike at my legs for the last couple parries, but he didn’t have the confidence. When our steel met once more, I listened in on his thoughts. I’m going to do it. This time, I’m going low. I prepared myself to step back, and as soon as he swung, I sent my sword through his back.
Images of his wife and two children flashed in my mind; my legs weakened. Their grim situation became apparent as I quickly learned about the local magistrate who was notorious for taking the wives and daughters of debtors as sex slaves. I pulled the sword out and collapsed onto the ground. A pair of tears ran down my cheeks. I made a mental note to try and make it to his family and help them, Mary and the twins, Catherine and Charles.
Once the images ceased, I gathered myself and stood up. I had hoped nobody heard our battle; another fight, another death, was not high on my list of things I wanted. I closed the man’s eyelids and left the passage.
I crept up the stone staircase towards the great hall where the lord ate with a pair of his advisers. I hugged the wall and moved patiently so I wouldn’t be seen like downstairs. When I was only a couple steps from the lord, I took out two of my daggers. I threw one at the table, sticking it in the wood. The men froze and stared at it for a moment while I rushed at the lord.
Before he was able to react, I had the steel of my other dagger pressed against his throat. Immediately I heard his thoughts rushing through the steel and into my head. How did they find me this fast. Could I stick my diner knife through this punk’s throat. Is anybody going to help me? Why are they just sitting there.
I took the dinner knife from the lord’s hands. “I wouldn’t even think about that.” I said. “And the rest of you,” I motioned towards the advisers, “would best be suited to leave. I’m here on orders of the king.”
Shit. He knows. They’re going to take me into the dungeon.
“That’s right, you are going to lock you up for a long time, that is if they let you keep your head.”
“Are you...You’re one of those freaks who can read people’s thoughts aren’t you?” He tried to mask his fear by speaking with confidence, but I knew better. I could feel his terror.
“That’s right. And since you know what I’m here for, tell me his name?”
I can’t tell him about Alexander. If I tell him, they will have me killed before the week is through.
“Tell me more about Alexander.”
“Son of a a bitch, I forgot you can do that. Listen, you know him as well as I do. He’s just one of those crooks that work around the embassies.”
It didn’t seem like he knew more, but still I asked, “Who was he working for?”
What was his name? He was the guy wearing the brown cloak, but shit, I don't’ remember his name. Did he even say? I only remember his face. “I don’t know his name.”
“But you got a look at his face?”
“Describe it for me?”
His mind, slow initially, was now spinning with more momentum than a large, stone flywheel. “He had a round face. But his nose, I don’t know how to describe his it. It was very distinguished.”
He couldn’t put it into words; unfortunately for him, I could. I jammed my knife in the side of his throat. Instantly, the face of the man in the brown cloak rushed into my mind. I had what I needed and pulled the knife out of the lord’s neck.
I took the handful of coins he had on him while he bled out on the floor of the castle. “Next time, get a name. Always get a name.” I said to the corpse.
Killing the lord was nowhere near as painful as the man. He at least deserved to die. “Mary, Catherine, and Charles, hopefully you can forgive me.” I jingled the coins in my hand and started off for their home.


4ndyman September 16, 2011 at 11:30 AM  

I like the idea of this story. It's great that you left the actual specifics of why the mind-reader was there completely out, giving the reader free rein to fill in the gaps.

I was put off a little when the lord "forgot" that the assassin was a mind reader almost immediately after learning that the assassin was a mind-reader. That forgetfulness wasn't necessary for the story.

The hard part for me, though, was putting this in a real setting. From the descriptions, I'd place this in 17th-century England or earlier, but the dialogue is straight out of the late 20th century. I don't know if the word choice (esp. "son of a bitch") is actually anachronistic, but it certainly feels that way.

This is a great idea, though, of putting people with powers in historical situations. Not necessarily an alternate history, but a more fantastic retelling of history.

Michael A Tate September 16, 2011 at 6:09 PM  

Thanks for you comments!

I've always written my fantasy with modern dialogue, but I do wonder where the line is with modern phrases, such as "son of a bitch." Very interesting thing to ponder. Thanks!

FARfetched September 16, 2011 at 7:51 PM  

I think "punk" was more of an anachronism than SOB. Insults involving dog ancestry are ancient.

A killer with a heart. I would think mind readers would lose their stomach for the work after a while.

John Wiswell September 16, 2011 at 9:56 PM  

I agree with 4ndy that "son of a bitch" at least feels anachronistic, even if it isn't. I wouldn't mind if the piece didn't feel historic, and rather purely Fantastic. Fantasy can do mostly anything so long as it coheres.

My central problem was the assassin not experiencing enough challenge. We win the first paragraph. The boss seems screwed from the get-go. It doesn't feel like much is overcome or even really avenged. That might be a result of flash fiction length, but it exists. I wonder what ways you might build legitimate struggle or jeopardy into it.

Helen September 16, 2011 at 9:59 PM  

I liked the story and that it was told from the main character's POV. However I got a little confused at the era it was set in. First I was thinking old England but then later you mentioned ' He’s just one of those crooks that work around the embassies.'

The word embassies made me think perhaps this was a different world, a modern one but still we had sword fights and men on the King's business.

My on criticism was that it was hard for me to establish a visual because I couldn't make up my mind when in time this was taking place.

Icy Sedgwick September 17, 2011 at 5:24 AM  

I'd agree with the comments about the modern dialogue in a seemingly historical setting, it creates a juxtaposition that's not necessarily helpful. Also, I was a bit thrown when he suddenly forgot that the guy could read minds so quickly.

Other than that, the pacing is good, and the insertion of the thoughts makes for interesting dialogue.

Michael A Tate September 17, 2011 at 8:48 AM  

FAR: Yea, that's essentially what I was going for as a theme, but I think the word constraints of flash really squashed me developing it more.

John: I think the main thing structurally I realized after reading your comment is that this was not supposed to be a man v man plot, but a man v himself. (Perhaps a little physical struggle might be interesting as well) but I didn't really do much with the internal conflict. I knew something was lacking, and I think you were finally able to point it out.

Icy: I am really curious about anachronisms in fantasy at the moment. The setting generally has middle ages 'furniture' but many other things are different. Not so sure Shakespearean dialogue would work either for a full length work. I am really curious about this.

Thank you everybody for you comments. You have all been nice and stabby and I love it! VERY helpful.

Stephen September 17, 2011 at 2:29 PM  

Like others, I like the idea of the story. It feels like the nice start to something good. And what a gift to have, reading other people's thoughts. Though, at times I probably wouldn't want to have such a gift. Ignorance is bliss.

Adam B September 17, 2011 at 7:02 PM  

The principle of the story is a good one, and I can see the internal conflict it presents to the character. Anachronisms aside, a great idea and well worth exploring.
Adam B @revhappiness

Damyanti September 19, 2011 at 3:43 AM  

Great premise, and good pacing.

Thanks for stopping by my blog to comment...would be happy to share #stabbylove via email any time you need an extra pair of eyes.

Chuck Allen September 20, 2011 at 2:45 AM  

I really like the concept you have here, Michael. The mind-reading assassin is an interesting character. I wasn't really thrown as much by the language choice as others were, but then I was reading it on very little sleep.

Safireblade September 20, 2011 at 9:38 AM  

First I read this through several times.

I'd love to see you rework this concept in to a short story of about 10K words. I like you thought on the man vs Himself but even then there doesn't seem in this short of a piece the sense of struggle.

Your MC feel a bit like Superman in that he never took a single hit and was clearly under matched.

Also, I agree with the settings issues. We (readers) need a definitive setting because if it IS set in the 17th century then the fact that he can read minds takes on a lot more meaning. It could explain why a not a single guard attacked him.

Overall, as a reader I enjoyed it. Superman issue assign the concept is one I've love to see done in a larger piece.

I look forward to more writing from you!

Michael A Tate September 20, 2011 at 1:07 PM  

Thanks everybody else for the comments. And yes, my mind might be in tune with yours. I'm seriously thinking about turning this into a full length novel. I just find this concept so interesting, I think there is a lot I can do with it.

Thanks again!

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