I accepted the Flash Fiction challenge, but I have to warn you -- it's not flash fiction. I never CAN end these things! Though it has a sort of conclusion... Can you spot the words we were given? I think I used them all.
I had to be hallucinating. The orange cat that habitually sunned on my twentieth-floor fire escape in the late afternoon was missing, but in its place was a naked guy.
My finger poised over the 9 button on my cellphone, though it would be a miracle if I got a timely response to an emergency call in this neighborhood, and that was when cell service was functional, which it might not be. We protected ourselves in Diyu Ten, as much as we could afford to. We all did things we weren’t proud of, but we were alive, right?
Could the guy on my fire escape say the same? Was he alive?
He was big, but he wasn’t moving. Silent as the cat I wasn’t, I very carefully bent the old vinyl blind so I could see more, see if he was a threat.
If he was a cat shifter, I’d be fine. I’d been polite to the orange cat, fed and praised it, not knowing if he was yokai or animal.
If he was a different kind of shifter, maybe a cobra shifter—or, worse, a pure phantom yokai in temporary corporeal form—I was in deep shit.
Only the cats were safe. Everyone knew that. But you couldn’t tell who turned into what until they actually...turned. By then it might be too late.
Was it too late for me? Or for my unwelcome visitor?
His medium brown chest rose and fell with his breathing, but his eyelids didn’t so much as flutter. I didn’t see any wounds, any empty booze bottles. Didn’t see any piles of clothing, either. Damn, if he was an eagle shifter, I could get a pretty penny for some of his feathers. Maybe enough to get me out of this high-rise hellhole into one of the human oases.
Then again, if he was an eagle, he might be sleeping off a meal—the orange cat. I had quite the attachment to that cat, even though I assumed he belonged to one of the building’s other residents.
Eagles were such assholes.
Cautiously, I pulled the nearest window open a half-inch. “Mister. Hey, mister? Are you okay?”
I did not want to walk out of my magically protected apartment to deal with an unidentified shifter. He had to be a shifter, to be on a fire escape twenty stories up. Otherwise he was an acrobat, but if so, why was he slumming in Diyu Ten?
Hell beans. Why me? Why always me?
Well, I couldn’t ignore a man on my fire escape.
I shrugged into my charmed Kevlar and precious helmet and laced up my combat boots, all standard attire for venturing forth as a human into the jolly old United States on the cusp of the twenty-second century. Never leave home without the armor or my charm pendant, which never left my body. I lowered the helmet’s visor, fetched a broom, and undid the enhanced chains on the fire escape door.
Easing the steel door open an inch, knowing this was the stupidest thing I’d done all month, I slid the broom handle through the crack and poked the sleeping guy with it.
“Hey,” I said in as deep a voice as I could manage. After six months of practice, I was getting good. “Wake up.”
Still no response. Ugh! How many restore spells did I have in the medicine cabinet? Would have to be a spell—chemical medicine was far too expensive for the likes of me. Not for the first time I wished I’d studied magic instead of ecology in school. Talk about a useless career when wild magic had fritzed the entire planet from the ground up.
Taking a deep breath that was redolent—even this far up—of the alley below, I stepped onto the fire escape. The rusted metal clanged under my boots.
Before I could blink, the unconscious man leapt to his feet, tackled me into my home sweet hovel, and kicked the door shut behind us. The baohu security spell sealed itself with an audible hiss, locking us in.
“Abomination,” he growled, his breath steaming up my black tinted visor. “I have found you, and I will have my revenge.”
His revenge? His revenge for what, my affinity for coaxing Old World technology like calculators and coffee makers to work?
He ripped off my helmet. My hair flew into my face and into his mouth.
He spluttered. His weight pressed me into the shabby carpet, and his fingers wound beneath my Kevlar and around my neck.
“You are shrinking this far from the ocean, dakuwaqa,” he gloated, thonking my head against the floor. “If I had found you any sooner, you might have put up a fight.”
“I’m not who you think I am,” I managed. “Let me go.”
I scrabbled at his hands, but he only dug his fingers in deeper. He caught the leather thong of my pendant—my pendant!—and ripped it off my body.
My hair—long, black, straight as quills—fell free of my face. I stared up at him. He glared down at me. “If you aren’t the shark, why are you living in his home? Using his baohu spells?”
“That’s a long story,” I said, realizing this man, despite his words of revenge, could be a vigilante. A bounty hunter. Would he be happy or angry that I’d gotten the shark first? Except I hadn’t collected the bounty, because I’d wanted everyone to think I was the shark.
That and the pendant were the only things that had been keeping me safe in Davu Ten, and now this asshole might have blown it.
Smart. Snarky. Seductive. And that's just the books.
http://www.jodywallace.com * http://www.meankitty.com
Saturday, April 16, 2016
Flash Fiction: Fire Escape in Davu Ten
Posted by: Jody W. and Meankitty
About us: I'm the world famous Meankitty who lives with Typing Slave (Jody Wallace), Food Slave, Pink Thing, Loud Thing, and Big D (another cat). Typing Slave is a published author who's supposed to be at my beck and meow, but instead she sits in front of the computer muttering to herself. This is our shared blog to discuss her career and the mean things I do to her to maintain my status in the SOHC (Society of House Cats) as well as assorted musings and felinious advice.