Sunday, August 11, 2013

Prompt: Keeping strange company (riding the bus)

Kellem ducked under Raphael’s swinging blades and shoved his long scimitar upward, sliding through Rafe’s chestplate like butter. Rafe hung suspended on the blade and dropped his, clattering on the steel below them. Face to face, Rafe began to laugh. Kellem pushed him away, drawing his blade down. Rafe should have fallen, but he rose into the air.

Ah, Kellem realized with doomed certainty they were not playing on a level field. His blade shimmered and disappeared. When he felt the shimmer against his back, he arched away from it and cried out. They weren’t even playing the same game. “Rafe! No!”

He felt his body lift up from the top of the bus, his back an agony of fire. Rafe simply stood there, as if he were merely watching. Kellem’s feet touched the bus, and Rafe lunged forward, driving his blade deep into Kellem’s belly and twisting as he pulled it out. He lifted the blade and bowed in a mockery of the formal farewell. Kellem slapped his arm across his middle and spat at Rafe’s feet.

“I will see you in hell, Raphael.”

“Not today, spawn,” Rafe’s voice dripped disdain, not even calling his blood brother by name. “Though you’ll return there soon enough.” And he was gone.

Kellem dropped through the top of the bus.


Robin pressed her head against the back of the seat and closed her eyes, trying to convince herself she was comfortable enough to sleep, at least until Boise. The guy next to her was sacked out, twitching as he dreamed. She worried a little what she might do by instinct if he dropped his head on her shoulder while she slept.

The bus was too crowded for her to find a row to stretch out in. If she’d been wearing fatigues, someone probably would have moved for her, despite her protests. But it had been six years, and she never planned to wear them—or have anything to do with the military—again.

Pediatric physical therapy was a far cry from the bloody triage work she had specialized in through two tours in Iraq and Afganistan. Parents were always amazed at how calm she was, even in the face of a hysterical infant or temper tantrum-throwing toddler. She never felt the need to explain how very relative it all was. Children seemed to recognize that she could easily handle anything they threw at her; and when they were done, she would be waiting to continue with the next stretch, the next exercise.

Six years on the job since she got out, and they laid her off without so much as two-weeks notice or a severance package. Don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out. Funny how things work out though. Her first call was to her best friend in the peds program, and by the next day, Louanne had arranged a six-month contract job at her clinic out in San Diego. Robin just had to get herself out there by Monday. Flying was out of the question. Go Greyhound.

The sharp tang of iron sent a surge of adrenaline through her body. She jerked awake and looked around, trying to make sense of what she smelled on the dark bus among sleeping passengers. She glanced over at her neighbor. His head leaned against the window, but he was facing her, his right arm pressed against his stomach. She looked up and saw his eyes open. She blinked. Surely they had not been that brilliant blue before. She would have noticed those Peter O’Toole eyes. She blinked again. His eyes were fading, not closing, but turning opaque.

She reached out to touch his arm. “Mister? Mister? Are you okay?”

She smelled the blood again. His arm dropped away, and she saw the gleam of blood and organs spilling across his shirt under his arm and his jacket.

The lady walking down the aisle headed to the bathroom screamed.

Dogs in house
Ofra Harnoy, Vivaldi’s Complete Cello Concertos
Time writing:
50 minutes, interrupted
August word count:

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