So I’ve been reading Chuck Wendig’s posts in his blogs for a few weeks now, and then he dropped this Flash Fiction challenge. So I was tempted to try it out immediately, but first I had to fire up a blog.
And here it is. My blog.
And my attempt.
The random title generator gave me The Black Flying.
Also I clocked in at a bit more than 1000 words; 1153 in total, minus the title.
Without further ado, here it is. Hope you guys like it! 🙂
The Black Flying:
He opened the door and calmly strode towards the ledge.
It was a small stone wall – barely more than ninety centimetres high – and it was all that stood between the courtyard on his rooftop and the sheer drop into the Eleventh Region. Five and a half kilometres straight down.
They say it’s not the fall that kills you. It’s the sudden stop at the end.
He shuddered as he instinctively pictured the moment of impact on the snow-covered rocks far below him. He looked down at his hands. They were shaking like compass needles.
He removed his woolly cap and silvery white locks of hair fell free into his face. He wiped them back, dropped the cap on the cold, dirty stone surface and took off his coat as well. Puffs of dust bubbled up from around the coat the moment he dropped it on the stone surface.
All that shit I carry around in my pockets, I guess.
He turned to face the ledge. Then he climbed on top of it. The little wall was barely thicker than a grown man’s thigh.
No more stalling, he thought. No more looking back.
There is no back.
Then he jumped.
Four days earlier:
Ghetsira Forreiph was tired and pissed off. Moments away from quitting, really. He just couldn’t seem to connect the command module to the rest of the set.
Most of the time, the command module barely even acknowledged his voice, let alone what he told it to do. There was no other way to operate this set – it had no manual controls. No dials, no levers, no buttons, no touch screens, nothing.
All the greatest inventors of history tackled one innovation at a time.
Not me, he thought bitterly as he shook his head at his own overzealousness. I had to pounce on two at once. And of course the most impressive and ground-breaking one won’t do a damn thing if the other one doesn’t work.
He grabbed one the pieces of string that he always kept on a nail hammered into the wall above his workspace. He wrapped it around his wrist, brushed his unruly, sweaty hair back with an equally sweaty pair of hands and tied his locks into a hopelessly messy pigtail.
Then he grabbed his empty coffee mug and filled it up again.
This was all he knew; working hours, sometimes days, on end just to build a set of mechabirds. He made different types, but the majority were for military purposes. These new ones would, if successful, be big enough to carry a full-grown human being – not just extra weapons or supplies.
Thanks to engineers like him, the humans now had an extra edge in their never-ending conflict with the harpies. Unmanned probes had been used for over a century before the advent of nanotechnology, but their mobility was limited. Signals to and from their control centers also tended to get jammed or simply bounce off against a peak somewhere.
Humans may have adapted to living on a world filled with nothing but endless mountains, but long-distance communication was still a challenge. The harpies made it even more difficult. When two intelligent species who inhabit the same area consider each other to be irredeemably evil enemies, thing tend to get uglier and uglier as time goes on.
Ghetsira took a large swig from his mug and looked up at the wall behind the coffee stand. One of the pictures caught his eye – a large framed photo of a woman in her early sixties. The family resemblance was impossible to miss. His skin was the same pale shade of turquoise as hers. His face had the same sharp, angular features (under the perpetual three-day stubble, anyways) as hers. And they had the same wavy silver-white hair, although his was always long and messy while hers was expertly styled according to the fashion of several decades prior.
Her brown eyes stared straight at the viewer and her uniform was in pristine condition.
Admiral Fasclarus Forreiph.
The Bronze Champion.
A legend among legends. A hero to her people.
Ghetsira was eight when his grandmother died a true warrior’s death; fighting off a large-scale nocturnal invasion of the Upper Bronze peaks. They say she tried to get as many of her soldiers as possible to parachute out to safety the moment she realised the harpies were successfully seizing her airship. Everyone knows that harpies avoid the ground as far as they can. On solid ground, a human fighter will always have the advantage.
They say her men and women respectfully refused to leave their beloved admiral. And they say she went down fighting, even beating some of those feathered monsters to death with a broken piece of steering wheel once she was out of bullets.
Ghetsira was never a fighter, but he could still help the cause. He could still do his best.
Wind whipped into his face as he fell. It tugged at his clothes and his limbs, and he had a hard time getting his hand to his earpiece to activate his collapsible helmet.
Goggles shifted down over his eyes as the helmet unfolded itself across his head. A double mouthpiece snaked its way along his jawline, wrapped around his mouth like a fake moustache made of wire and plastic and emitted a strange scratching sound as it picked up his breathing.
“Emergency wingspan!” he shouted into the mouthpiece. “NOW!”
The command module attached to his helmet beeped once.
The harness strapped around his torso ejected two cylindrical structures, one above each of his shoulders. The nanites got to work, churning out the one artificial feather after the other. They even grew him a tail for steering and braking.
The wings automatically stopped his fall within seconds after his initial command. They worked beautifully, making him soar very quickly around the cliff and back towards his house again, passing very low when they got to his rooftop.
The momentum gave him a dizzying involuntary backflip, and his fall was broken by a wooden table and chairs.
The wings rolled themselves up again as he struggled to his feet. There were a few places on his body where he knew he’d have some nasty bruises for a few days.
But he was happy.
He stumbled through the door and bent over the recorder.
“And that was Voice-Activated Human-Mechabird Synchronisation. Experimental Model 1 for emergency search and rescue crews. Test Flight 1. Visuals from gogglecam to be uploaded shortly. Final thoughts…”
He stopped to catch his breath. Then he grabbed the glass of whiskey that he’d poured earlier and placed right next to the recorder, and gulped it down in one motion.
This should help with the shakes. And the fact that I just almost died.
“Final thoughts are as follows: the brakes aren’t quite there yet, but the rest of it works. It works much better than anticipated,”