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Friday, February 28, 2014

Flash Fiction of the Month: February

Echo....echo......echo........

Yeah, the blog has been pretty dead, but I'm hoping to liven it up a bit. Last month I came up with an idea to publish a flash fiction piece at the end of every month. I decided to start with February since the story I wrote wasn't quite ready by the time the end of January came around. You would think a flash fiction story wouldn't take long to write, but I am slow and a perfectionist. Two strikes against me. I've made this a challenge for myself to get the creative wheels moving in my noggin. I figured, I can write a 1000 word or less story for the challenge once a month, can't I? I better, but knowing me...

I'll probably need a swift kick in the hiney to keep up with it. Darn depression anyway.

At 735 words, here's FF story of the month number one:

The Thirteenth Year
a story of the strige
by K.E. Skedgell

“You are brave, Ariadne.” Momma pushed the last pin into the knot in Ariadne's hair. “My brave, beautiful daughter.”

Ariadne rose from her chair, her white dress billowing in the breeze. Papa took her hand. “Are you ready?”
 
“As best as I can be.”
Papa guided Ariadne to the village well. The priest followed, praying to the goddesses Artemis and Athena to spare their village of its curse, and to the Virgin Mary to save Ariadne's soul. The villagers gathered around, woe now replaced the cheer they once wore during Ariadne's thirteenth birth year celebration. The village elders carried the shackles and hooked them to the well. They turned to Ariadne.
 
“Words cannot express our sorrow,” spoke the eldest.
 
“I've always known this day would come.”
 
“Our hearts ache for you, child. Know this.”
 
They clasped the shackles onto her wrists and each gave a kiss upon her forehead. “If only there was another way to appease the angry goddesses to stop this centuries old plague upon our village,” an elder said. “May your next life be free from this terror.”
 
Momma and Papa kissed Ariadne on her cheek, and cried as they carried each other home. The villagers locked themselves in their houses and shuttered their windows.
 
Alone, Ariadne stood restrained to the well as the mountains turned into shadow and the sky purple. Dust blew upon the breeze and her heart pounded her ribs. Otis, chained outside the house, barked and wagged his tail inviting her to play. Tears filled her eyes, her bravery faltering. “No play tonight.”
 
A scream pierced the quiet darkness within the olive orchard. An owl. Must be. It was only one scream. Then came another, farther away from the first. The first responded to the second, and the two creatures carried on back and forth.
 
Then a third joined them.
 
And a forth.
 
A fifth.
 
Soon, a chorus of screams and screeches immersed the orchard surrounding the village. No, not owls. Striges.
 
Ariadne pulled on her chains. “I don't want to do this. Momma, Papa, please, unchain me!”
 
Her cries fell upon deaf ears. “Please, don't make me do this. Somebody help me!”
 
Dozens of red orbs lit up the trees as the screaming grew louder and closer. Wings flapped overhead and one of the creatures landed on the ground. Its hot coal eyes scrutinized her. The owl-like creature spread its wings, revealing a body like that of a feathered old woman, and belted an ear-piercing scream. The strige hopped toward her and pecked at her feet. Ariadne kicked it, sending the bag of feathers rolling across the gravel. It lay flat on its belly, its wings spread over the ground, and gave a tortured scream. The other "birds of ill omen" responded in kind.
 
Ariadne covered her ears and her skin goose-pimpled. Her nightmares had come alive. Since she was a little girl, she woke to nightmares of this night facing these horrid creatures. What had she done in her past life to deserve this?
The trees came alive and the sky a torrent of shadowed wings and fire-red eyes. Ariadne pulled on the chains, willing herself to break free from the well. A force like bricks and knives hit her back, arms, legs, cutting into her flesh and ripping out her hair. “Mother Mary,” she shouted as her body was picked and torn apart. She glanced to Otis, who cowered and whimpered. Tears of pain and fear clouded her vision. Her knees buckled and her will to live withered like an autumn leaf. Ariadne slumped to the ground and succumbed to the darkness, to silence.

* * *

A click of a door. Then another, and another. The villagers emerged from their homes and gathered with quiet trepidation around the well. A torn, bloodied dress and the chains that had bound her were all that remained of Ariadne. Her parents held each other tightly, but it was the shrill cry of a newborn that broke the silence in the village. The priest stepped out from a home, holding high a swaddled baby and carried the child to the well.
 
“She is reborn,” the priest said. “This night, Ariadne's body fed the beasts that plague our village, and in this new body her soul has been saved. Let us pray the goddesses are satisfied and in thirteen years Ariadne will be spared from the striges. Alleluia.”
 
Alleluia.