Hello, everyone! Today is the deadline for my fourth flash fiction challenge, and stories are going up all over the Internet. I received this prompt from Jessi L. Roberts: “I’m no hero.” I used it as inspiration for my piece, which ended up at 909 words. So, without further ado, I present my flash fiction:
Heroism was dead. She had decided that long ago. Yet, watching the boy dart among the market stalls, she felt a shiver along her arms. There was something about him…
No, he’s just a thief.
Shaking her head, Vana turned away. A light breeze ruffled her hood, pushing the soft material off her forehead. She jerked it back, trying to forget about the boy across the plaza.
Heroes don’t exist anymore.
Everyone knew that. Heroes had vanished with the dawn of Triton, long before Vana’s birth. Looking for them was pointless. The best one could hope for now was a life undisturbed by the ruling class. And few got that.
Vana intended to be one of those few, so wondering about heroes was out of the question. Her traitorous brain did it anyway.
What might it be like if a hero rose up? Would anything change? Would life be better? Impossible to know. Dangerous to consider.
Vana glanced across the plaza, shielding her eyes against the constant veil of dust. The market stalls seemed shaky, their frames leaning more every day. Their owners were barely visible, huddled against the backs of their stalls. What drudgery it must be to stand here day after day, blinking dust away, getting a few customers an hour.
Shuddering, Vana pulled her cloak more tightly around herself. Today she was thankful not to have been born in the merchant class. Being a landowner’s daugher was much better.
She tasted dust under her tongue, gritty like the unpleasant introspection. What was going on with her? This was ridiculous. Jerky and potatoes. Then she could go home.
A spiraling cloud of dust caught her gaze, beyond the market limits. Her steps faltered.
Her stomach tightened. Running for home was pointless, as she’d never make it in time. Eying the quickly approaching cloud, she sucked in a breath and ducked into the shadows of the nearest booth.
The hover pushed a wave of dust into town, prompting Vana to pull her scarf up. How could she have been so stupid? She’d let herself be distracted by entirely too many deep thoughts. And now the moon had joined the sinking sun in the sky.
The hover’s repulsors cut out, gently lowering it to the ground. The door lifted.
Vana stopped breathing. Of course. Of course. She had forgotten about collection day, and now, instead of the normal official, Kyn stepped out of the vehicle.
A cold feeling slithered through her stomach, but she remained motionless. Maybe he wouldn’t see her.
As Kyn’s boots touched the ground, his blue eyes brightened. “Come on now. You know very well that today’s the day. Where’s Triton’s money?” His gaze slid around the square.
Vana inwardly cursed the merchants, scrambling to gather Triton’s share, half their earnings. They knew Kyn’s gaze wandered when he had to wait; he was notorious for taking young women from the square.
Everyone else knew it, too. As Vana scanned the faces of the few people present, she saw tight lips and wide eyes. And there…the boy from a few minutes before. He was older than she’d thought, lanky with a healthy scruff across his jaw. He watched Kyn intently. That same curious feeling stole over Vana, leaving a shiver in its wake.
Coins clattered, drawing her attention back to Kyn. He was staring at her.
Inhaling sharply, Vana fought the urge to drop her gaze. Weakness attracted him. But apparently, so did defiance. He crooked his hand and her world began to spin. Act ignorant or not?
She didn’t get to make her decision as he said, “Come here.” His voice was silky, his eyes sharp.
Vana clenched her jaw and strode forward. For a moment, her gaze darted to the young man’s place. He had disappeared.
Heroism is dead.
She knew that. Yet her shoulders dropped. Stupid hope.
Kyn’s gaze pinned her as she walked up. One of the merchants rushed over, collection box in hand. But it wasn’t enough of a distraction; she could see it in Kyn’s eyes.
He merely flicked his fingers at the merchant. “Put it in the hover.”
Vana swallowed hard.
Kyn looked her over. “How would you like to come to Mardais?”
Why did he phrase it as a question? She bowed her head. “I am happy here, m’lord.”
“Happy?” His voice dripped disbelief.
“That’s what I heard.” A different male voice soared across the square, and Vana whipped her head around.
Kyn gave a half-laugh. “What is this, Defy the Government Day?”
The young man touched the sword at his side. Just a brush of his fingertips, really, but his gaze was hard.
Just as he took a step forward, though, the merchant jumped toward them. “The money is secure, m’lord. Triton will be pleased.”
Vana’s eyes widened. The merchant’s hands shook. And, for a moment, all was silent. Then Kyn stepped back.
He surveyed the area before leaning over the merchant. “Hope that he is.” One last gaze flicked over Vana.
When the hover left, her legs collapsed. A shadow fell over her.
Looking up, she saw the young man. Her throat constricted. “Thank you.”
He nodded briefly. “He’ll take you next time, you know.”
“Yes. He’ll probably kill you.”
He tilted his head. “That’s what a hiding place is for. You’re going to need one, too.”
Her brow furrowed.
Grinning, he offered her a hand. “Want to be a hero?”
Keep a look out tonight for the complete list of everyone’s flash fiction pieces!