Hey all! Something a little different today; I’ve got a bit of a buildup of flash fiction pieces right now, and so my next few posts will probably be duos or trios of those pieces. Hope you guys enjoy!
The chirp chirp chirp of the crickets and the soft screams of cicadas nearly drowned out the crackle of the fire and the whisper of the wind through the tree branches above. It was night, and the forest was calm in that way that a held breath is calm, quiet with the tension and anticipation of a moment stretched thin past the point of breaking and yet stretching ever on and on. We held our breaths with it, watching past the edges of our little circle of tents to see what lay beyond the soft orange glow of the fire’s light, past where the colour seeped out of the world and shadows stared right back at us no matter how long we looked. We, perhaps, should have been used to this by now, given how long we had been here, how many nights had been spent in this half-quiet half-sleep with eyes trained ever outwards, but we weren’t, and I wasn’t sure we ever would be. The quiet stretched, on and on and on, the cicadas and the crickets and the fire and the wind and the occasional hooting and rustling and calling of the creatures, the forest, growing louder even as the silence settled in, and all of our breaths, one by one, caught in our throats.
A new sound began, the quietest of them all and yet utterly deafening, the first sound from within our circle, behind the range of our ever-careful eyes, hidden in everything but its intention– the soft, silent snick of a knife pulled from its sheath. And all at once, the forest breathes in, and screams.
The sun glittered red and gold and purple and pink as it sank from the sky, throwing the world’s shadows across the ground in long dark streaks. Deep in my ice-strewn valley, the golden glow was a little bit harder to see, but there was still just enough light to make out where I was going. It was late, later than I had promised my father I would be home, and I knew that he would be upset if I didn’t bring the day’s gold home sooner rather than later, with enough time to spare for him to sort it and set it aside for market tomorrow. The house was only minutes away now, just past the old mine entrance, but with the earth frozen solid beneath my feet, it feels so much further. I can’t help but shiver, drawing my cloak closer around my shoulders, clutching my small, heavy pouch of gold a little closer to my chest. Rumour has it, these hills used to bleed gold, but that was ages ago, now. Now, we fight for what tiny scraps are left, underground and above, and the old gold mines sit empty. I wonder, sometimes, what this place used to look like, before we dug too deep, before we tore every ounce of gold from the earth, before we wasted it on nonsense and sent it all away. I wonder if, perhaps, the gold of the sun might ever sink below ground, some time after the sun sets, to fill the hills once more and bring life back to the mountains. It’s a nice thought, perhaps. But everyone here knows that our golden days are long, long over. And so, I walk, until the sun goes dark and the sky is silvery-starred once more.
I pressed the embroidery needle through the fabric in my lap, my leg bouncing beneath me as I did. Secrecy wasn’t as important now as it used to be, but old habits die hard, and they die even harder when you’ve had sixty some-odd years to build them up, and so my nerves were pounding through my chest as I sewed, even though my breathing hadn’t varied from the rhythm of my stitching since I started. This was the biggest version of this design that I’d ever done, even before all of this, before that one morning…
I slink through the streets, thirty-five years younger and no less angry and reckless, sticking to the shadows as much as possible on my way back to the safe-house. The officers are a lot less active at night, preferring the blinding, harsh, unending light of day for the sorts of violence they cause. Unlike us. I reach the safe-house well before dawn, and don’t notice the thread from the torn-out patch in my jacket that I left behind on a worn-out brick wall several blocks away until it’s too late.
There was a sharp pain in my finger, and I blinked, the jab of my embroidery needle jolting me out of my reverie. I turned my embroidery over and tied off the leftover thread. It looked just as good from the back as from the front, and I couldn’t help but to grin at the sight. That was hard to do, and something I’d never done before, but I pulled it off. Of course I did. I always managed to pull it off in the end. Or, well, almost always…
I’m already half-asleep when they come, when the shattering of glass and wood jerks me awake. I’m the only one in the safe-house at the time, which is good for everyone who isn’t me, but does mean that when they grab my arms and drag me away, there’s nothing I can do to resist. I try, anyways. And I don’t tell them what they want to hear. No matter how hard they hit me or how long they leave me alone, I never break. I will pull off anything I need to in order to help the cause, and if that means spending thirty years living in a concrete box of endless light and never letting it get to me, I can do that. I have to do that.
I unscrewed the embroidery ring, and the black flag inside unravelled, the bright red symbol of the Resistance embroidered across its centre. It was beautiful, it always had been, and I could feel my grin broadening at the sight of it. Outside of the steel, windowless door to my cell, I could hear footsteps, shouting, distant gunfire. They were coming for me, the people I’d helped, so long ago and while in here and again, soon enough. They were coming for me, and when we reached our final battle, my flag would fly over our heads as we fought.