I hold my violin closer to my chest and stare up at the rings of spectators.
All calling. All cheering. All clamoring.
For my death.
Jago holds out one hand.
“I’ll keep it with me, thanks.”
He scatters the weapons the other fighters will use when they come out. All the city council leaders who tire of hearing my violin in the park every day. “You know it’s why you’re in here, right, Marisol?”
“No one can outlaw music.” I dig my feet deeper into the sand.
He shakes his head. “If only you weren’t so crazy.” He raises his hand and walks backward from the ring.
But as soon as his feet leave the sand, he spins and faces me again.
And pulls out a dagger sheathed inside his coat.
No one told me I’d be fighting my best friend.
He charges at me. I can’t think of anything beyond what I’m seeing.
But I can feel the timing of the rhythm deep in the ground. So I count it off. “One, two, three, four . . .”
I tuck the violin under my chin, taking my eyes off him. Let him come. I force my muscles to relax.
Just as he would have landed his final blow, I raise my bow.
And music pours from the violin.
A few of the chants in the crowd die away.
Jago pulls off at the last second. His dagger nicks my shoulder.
I clench my jaw. One off-key note sounds. I keep playing.
“You have to fight! Those are the rules!” Jago calls from several paces away.
“I am,” I whisper in time with the music.
With each dance of the bow across the strings, the crowd falls a few notes more silent.
Jago strengthens his pose, preparing to go at me again.
I prepare myself, too, and lose my mind in the music.
One, two, three, four . . .
Jago pauses and turns to a new angle, as if he’s forgotten how to fight.
One, two, three, four . . .
Somewhere in the crowd, someone claps.
One, two, three, four . . .
And with that one person rises an army. One by one, across the crowds, person after person stands, clapping their hands with the folk song that tumbles from my violin. A folk song of the nation that used to be.
My eyes open. Jago still stands a few paces away, his dagger raised, but still.
“Magic,” he whispers.
I let the note dangle in mid-air.
One lone person calls for his death.
I shake my head. “No. Just music.” I take two steps toward him and hold out the violin.
He stares at it numbly.
“I think we wound up on the wrong sides of this war.” I hold out my other hand.
Slowly, as if swimming in a dream, Jago places the dagger in it.
I toss the dagger into the sand on the outskirts of the arena.
That leaves only the violin.
And Jago takes it softly. Tucks it under his chin. Raises the bow.
And I lose my mind in the music.
Conversation With A Mirror
Her hair is black. I stare into the mirror and straighten the folds of my gown.
Her hair is white. I pick at my sleeve. "It doesn't suit you."
"I'm expected to wear blue for the ceremony." They must see me as a strong future commander.
"I wish…" My husky voice cracks. Those words never work.
"You can't come."
"Don't you need me?" I twist a strand of my hair and curl deeper into the glass. "No, of course not."
"I have to establish myself." Not as a girl who talks to mirrors. "Then you can come."
My dark hair falls over my face. I'm only good if I bring something to the table.
Maybe I'm tired of serving others' convenience.
I lay one hand against the glass. "Don't worry. I won't forget you."
But she already has.
I peel my hand from the cool glass and leave.
I slip silently from the glass.
Why I Stole Your Bicycle
Sorry I stole your bicycle.
To be fair, it hadn’t moved for two days. I mean, that alone is a feat with a war on.
And, well, I needed a bicycle.
But I figured I would check the bags first, see if there was anything I could sell. For the record, I didn’t find anything worth selling.
But I did find an envelope with my name on it.
I’ve never gotten an envelope with my name on it. So I opened it. Maybe I shouldn’t have. But I did and I can’t change it now.
The message didn’t make much sense at first. But I read it again and again, and each time it got a little bit clearer. Code, right? Does it do that for you, too?
I wasn’t quite sure I had it all figured out, but I did know one thing.
This message wasn’t for me.
And if it didn’t get to the actual Andre? I had a hard time imagining the consequences. Maybe it would mean they just didn’t pick up the umbrella they left at the university. Maybe it meant the war would drag on for another two years.
How would I know?
There was a list of addresses in the pocket of the bag. You seem like an organized fellow, so I matched the seventh address on the page with the letter I held in my hand. Smart, marking the code number on the back frame of the bicycle.
And then, I just got on and pedaled to that address.
I know my father has really been after you and the other spies, and I don’t even know if you’re still alive or free to see this, but I’m not like him.
I’ll return the bicycle tomorrow.
Confession To A Pigeon
Hi, everyone! I entered this piece in Kingdom Pen's March short story contest! I'd entered their contests before and have learned a lot from doing them. I was so excited when mine was their choice for the March winner! Check out the link to their site here, where you can sign up for their newsletter where these contests happen every month (as well as writing articles and videos and a bunch of other cool stuff): https://kingdompen.org/. Now, without further ado, Confession to a Pigeon!
P.S. Here's the picture prompt I had to write from for this month's contest!
You know, sometimes I see things that shouldn’t belong here.
I know, I know, I’m not supposed to tell people. But since you’re a pigeon, I’ll tell you.
It’s always on this stretch of sidewalk—right here, from my house to the end of the cul de sac and all the way back. Especially right next to that old gray building, where the sidewalk gets bumpy.
I play out here a lot, you know. Sometimes I just walk and collect treasures. Sometimes I find a stick—they make great swords, did you know that? Sometimes I ride my bike.
And sometimes, the breeze gets big at the weirdest times, where there wasn’t any breeze before. Red leaves scamper across the street, when it’s not even fall. And those leaves don’t like the ones crunched in the street by cars. They look like fire.
But when I ride my bike, my stick at my side, I see things. As pigeons like you scatter into the sky—I promise, I didn’t mean to hurt any of your noble ranks. But the occasional scare does keep you lively. Sorry if you ever lost a feather because of me.
Where was I? Oh, right.
I see other creatures.
Dragons, unicorns, griffins, and pegasuses. Pegasuses . . . pegasi . . . pega . . .
Some monsters, too.
Past my shadow on the brick wall, I see flashes of lightning. Past the rustle of litter, I hear battle cries and cheers. And they call my name.
Sometimes I see angry men. Sometimes I see tears. Sometimes I hear shouts.
Sometimes I sit on my porch steps all by myself.
But when I’m on my bike, with my stick and an army of most honorable pigeons, I feel different. Kind of like a knight, I guess. I always defeat those monsters, you know. I watch the angry men go away.
And I hear the cheers.
There. At least now someone knows. Even if you are a pigeon.
Dear Captain Teahan
Hello, everyone! I entered this flash fiction piece into The Writer Games' Arena Mini Contest. I was so excited when they announced it took first place for the round! So very grateful for the work they put into this contest every January. Check out their site here: https://thewritergames.weebly.com/*
Dear Captain Teahan,
You forgot about me, didn’t you?
You thought no one saw death sail close enough to shake your sails. Or the crew member that raised his gun. Or how you failed, turned too late to save yourself.
You though no one heard the shot shatter the air.
But it didn’t shatter you.
Because my father, the captain you so despised, jumped in front of you. The bullet meant for you smashed into his chest.
And he fell.
And you didn’t even flinch. You only scoffed. “The hero dying for the villain?” You had the nerve to kick his motionless body. “Try a new tale, brother.”
You strode back across the gangplank to your ship, your coat billowing in the wind.
But you forgot about me.
You didn’t see me take the wheel.
And now . . . we’ll meet again.
Sincerely, the next hero of the seas we sail.
Ashes Of London
*Hello, readers! This is a flash fiction piece that I wrote for the Young Writer's Workshop Community Writing Contest: Hope! While it did not win, I am grateful for the experience and even more excited to now share it with you!*
London, May 1944
Darkness seeps from the walls of the train station.
I’m fifteen years old. I shouldn’t fear the dark.
But I do.
Ash filters through the ceiling of the tube station and showers us all. I brush it away. My elbow strikes a shoulder. “Ow!”
“Sorry,” I mumble. All of London must have taken refuge tonight. The thin blanket someone’s grandmother wrapped around me does nothing to fend off the chill from the stone platform.
I scuff my shoe against the stone platform. The train has stopped. Passengers push, shove, and prod. A dingy clock a few feet away assures me it will remain that way for five more minutes.
I stare out the through the smoke that fills the room. I wish for a window, then change my mind. I don’t want to see. I cough into my ash-stained sleeve.
No one’s come to see me off to America. I have only a slip of paper. An address that promises I’ll find someone waiting for me when I disembark.
I don’t see Mum or Dad. They made it. They had to. They taught me year after year, “At the first sound of the sirens, run for the tube station, no matter what. We’ll meet there.”
When we emerge in the morning, I’ll find them waiting for me.
But I hadn’t. Found them waiting for me, that is.
“All aboard!” the conductor hollers. I gather my two suitcases. I don’t really need two. I could have carried my belongings in one.
I walk the streets alone. Streets I’ve played hopscotch on. Streets I’ve dashed up the first day of every school holiday. Streets I’ve traveled to the store and back again every Friday. I turn the corner.
Nothing but ashes.
I scurry aboard just before the door closes. I choose a seat all the way in the back and stow my luggage above. The latch on my suitcase pops loose and rattles in protest. I try to jiggle it into submission.
A small Book slips out, the cover black as soot.
The pages still smolder. I pick it up anyway. Blow off the ashes.
I give my suitcase one last yank. It works.
The whistle screeches. The train lurches forward. I lose my balance and fold into a seat. I clutch the Book tighter as London vanishes before my window.
A splash of color arrests my eye. A handkerchief amidst the crowd of well-wishers? A mangled playbill torn by the wind? An abandoned suitcase kicked aside?
A butterfly flits about my ears. I swat it away.
The butterfly hops about the ashes and charcoal. She lays down her brilliant violet wings for but a moment. A wisp of smoke hides her from view. I slump back in my seat.
Her wings spring up and she soars through the smoke. She sails away, over the roof of the station.
I lay the Book in my lap and prop my chin on my hand.
I jump. I hadn’t even seen the boy slide in the seat across from me. He, too, holds a Book.
He drums his foot against the floor. “Don’t you think?”
“I’m Kit. Short for Christopher. What’s your name?” He holds out a hand.
I take it. “Hope.”
(C) Rachel Judith Leitch
Hello there! Rachel again, with some of the short stories and flash fiction I've written. Enjoy!