Micro Story: Parlor Tricks

The crowd seemed to be enjoying themselves. There was muted applause for the sleight of hand tricks, a few laughs for the slapstick comedy, and one or two gasps for the flaming juggling pins. However, one person in the front continued to stare at me. His arms were folded across his chest. I had made it my goal by the end of the evening to impress him somehow. So far, it hadn’t worked.

Sighing to myself, I pulled a dagger out of one of my pockets. The blade was sheathed in a simple leather sleeve. Walking to the front of the stage, I took a bow and removed the sleeve with a flourish. “For my final trick…” I bellowed, “I will drive this dagger straight through my hand without leaving a single mark!” A hoot came from the back of the room. That person had been drinking fairly heavily from the start of the show, and it was finally catching up to him.

“Now,” I said, my voice almost a whisper, “this is not a prop knife.” I pulled an apple out of my pocket, and carved a slice out. I then took a moment to eat the apple slice. Building up apprehension before the grand finale…I ran my finger along its edge. “The blade is razor sharp, able to easily cut through food, rope – “

I winced in pain. I had been ‘careless’, and drew a shallow cut across my middle finger. Some of the crowd looked away. The unimpressed man? He unfolded his arms and began to pay attention. Perhaps he was hoping that I would mess up or hurt myself. Some people took pleasure in that sort of thing. Continuing the act, I finished “ – or a finger.” I put the dagger on the table, and reached into my pocket for a glove. The white glove was completely nondescript, save a small pentagram with runic lettering on the back of the glove. As I used my good hand to show off the glove, my injured middle finger rubbed itself against its palm. That was the easiest part of the trick.

I took a deep breath, and put on the glove. My vision immediately blurred. Both the front and back of the glove were faintly shimmering. I reached for the dagger, missing grabbing it on the first try.

Wasting your life on parlor tricks again? The voice boomed in my ears. Surely, there could be a more productive way to die?

Quiet, you, I replied., I need to pay the bills somehow.

Why not steal something? I’m sure that you could easily pocket plenty of fancy jewels in this town. Anything is better than watching you pull carrots out of a hat.

“And now…”I ignored the voice. Rather than count down as was normal, I ran the knife into my gloved hand as hard as I could. There was a scream from the back of the crowd. Others sat there with their mouth agape. The man at the front? He clapped twice, and then went back to his stoic judgement of my act. Following his applause, the rest of the crowd quickly joined in. I ripped the glove off as quickly as I could, and tossed it into a jacket pocket. I could feel warmth returning to my body, and the voice slowly fading. One of these days, I wouldn’t be able to finish that trick, but until then…I smiled, bowed to the crowd, and walked off stage.

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Birdwatching (Part 1)

The two of us had barely reached the gates of the fortress when we saw a stableboy with a fresh pair of horses. He handed me a letter.

“Father got another request while you were out. He wants you to leave immediately.”

Not a moment’s rest. I frowned. “I need to make a report to Father on the last mission.’ I handed my partner the letter. “Marie, can you read through this and see if we need anything from the quartermaster? Won’t be but a minute.”

“Will do.” She took the reins of my horse after I dismounted, and led the horses towards the stables.

The fortress was well designed, with a thick wooden outer wall enclosing the stables, farmlands, and armory. A second, stone inner wall enclosed the housing, as well as the Citadel, a bleached stone building where Father and the journeymen maintained their offices. I walked up the stairs to the Citadel. Before stepping inside, I handed my revolvers to the guard at the entrance. Nodding curtly, he allowed me to enter.

The inside of the Citadel was enormous. Pairs of stone pillars went from the entrance of the building all the way to the end, supporting the unreasonably tall ceiling. Behind each pillar was an office, where journeymen were busy working their trades. At the end of the hallway was Father’s office. As I walked to his room, the others in the building gave me a wide berth. It made sense – I probably still smelled somewhat of blood and gunpowder, not to mention that they typically tried to stay clear of those with ‘dirtier’ jobs in the Citadel. I didn’t care, as it made it easier for me to reach Father. Continue reading

Untitled Western/Supernatural (Part III)

Part 1

Part 2

 

I fell back to the stairwell, emptying the revolver. The spent shells clinked as they bounced off of the floor. My hand felt its way down my bandoleer. Smooth… smooth… smooth… aha! My fingers brushed against the jagged edges of one of the cold iron rounds. I quickly chambered it and felt for another. I managed to load three before the demon came at me again. The rounds in him must’ve angered him more than I thought – his punches were getting harder to dodge. I couldn’t stand my ground, and found myself dodging away from him each time. I eventually found myself on the stairwell.

Without thinking, I sprinted up the stairs to get some space. I quickly filled the remainder of the chambers with cold rounds, and then cocked the hammer back. It was at that point that I realized where I was. With an entire wall knocked out, the second floor could collapse if a fight broke out up here. I looked down the stairs, but didn’t see the demon. There wasn’t any sounds coming from downstairs, either. Was he still there, or had he gone outside? My heart skipped a beat. I ran to the window upstairs, paying no heed to the creaking and swaying of the house. I looked out the window, and there was no sign of the beast. She would’ve taken a shot at him if he had gone outside…I realized.

There was a load roar, and then the floor collapsed underneath me. I hit the second floor feet-first, and stumbled forward a few steps. I could hear the demon snarl behind me. I turned a second too late.

It felt like being kicked by a horse. The force of the demon’s punch was enough to send me flying back out the front door. I hit the ground, my momentum causing me to tumble a few paces. My vision was muddled, and I was choking for air. To make matters worse, I apparently dropped my revolver when I got knocked outside. I heard part of the door frame splinter. I drew my other gun and fired all six rounds in the direction of the noise. I heard the roar of the demon, but there was no way that the lead rounds would do anything but anger it. I started to reload, desperately feeling for more cold rounds on my vest. There wouldn’t be enough time.

The crack of a rifle could be heard. I heard the beast roar in pain, similar to when I had unloaded on it earlier. I blinked a few times to clear my vision. The demon was clutching its side, staggering backwards. I saw a glint of metal off to my side. I sprinted towards it, paying no heed to the second rifle shot, or the loud thud that followed. The glint was the revolver with colds, like I had hoped. I snatched it up and turned back towards the house. The demon was down, and not moving. I approached it slowly. Standing right beside it, I fired two rounds directly into its head.

“You alright?” I heard her yell from partway up the hill. She had started jogging towards the house, rifle in hand.

“Nothin’ feels broken, if that’s what you’re asking,” I replied, holstering the revolvers. “Was that with a silver?”

“Nah, iron.” She grinned. “That’s why it took me two to down ‘em.”

I whistled. A shot from that range would’ve been doable, but difficult with a good bullet. Using a cold round? If it were anyone else, I’d have chalked it up to luck. “Guess it’s your mark, then. Good shooting, sis.”

“Guess it is.” She slung the rifle over her shoulder. “Was it just the one?”

I nodded. “Looked like a summoning. Small circle, though. Can’t have been more than the one.” I pulled out a silver knife. “Let’s finish this one off and head back. The deacons can take care of the rest.”

Untitled Western/Supernatural (Part II)

Part 1 can be found here

Despite the fact that it was midday, the house was dark. Most of the windows had been shuttered, only letting small amounts of light sneak in. There was still enough for me to see, though. The smell, though…I knew that it would be strong, given that I could smell it from up the hill, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this strong. The rotten smell was so strong that I could practically taste it. Nothing could be done about that, though, so I continued forward, stepping into what must’ve been the family room.

It had been a massacre in here. Blood was caked on the floors, the walls – even the ceiling had a thin layer. What had done this? Definitely not bandits, that was for sure. I took a few steps into the middle of the room, and looked at the floor. There were several candles. One…two…five in total, forming a rough circle. Definitely not bandits, I had to remind myself. I pulled a handkerchief out of my pocket. The blood, although dried, still came off the floor easily. Underneath… intersecting lines had been carved into the floor. Someone had attempted a summoning, but were they successful?

There was a creak in an adjacent room. I snapped to attention, gun at the ready. There was another creak, and then silence. I waited a beat. No additional sound was heard. Whoever it was, they were waiting for me. I walked slowly and quietly towards the doorway and listened as best I could. I could hear ragged breathing coming from the other side. I cocked my hammer back.

That click was all that was needed. A roar came from the other room, and then several heavy steps. The doorframe – along with half of the wall – exploded out towards me. I ducked underneath the largest pieces of debris, but I felt a few chunks bounce off my arms and legs. The creature stepped through. It was a full head taller than I was, and its fur glistened in the dim light. It didn’t look like any animals I had seen before. A demon, then. Its hands opened, and I saw claws the size of daggers. We stared each other down for a moment, and then the demon charged me. I fired a round into its chest. The beast didn’t even slow down. It took a swing at me. I ran out of the way, cocking the hammer back. It turned slowly towards me, and I fired again. This time, it staggered slightly, howling in pain. I backpedaled, heading back into the foyer. If anything, his second roar was angrier than the first. It charged at me, breaking through the other doorframe on the wall. I could hear the house start to creak. We needed to take this outside soon, lest we bring down the building around us. I fanned the hammer as fast as I could, unloading the rest of my rounds into the beast. He staggered back a few steps, but stayed standing. I was wearing him down…I hoped.

Unnamed Western/Supernatural

((Below is the first page for a short story, that may become part of a larger series of short stories if I get into it. Enjoy!!))

The horses slowed as we neared the top of the hill. When we reached the peak a few minutes later, I could see our mark – a two-story, nondescript house at the bottom of the valley. A few days back, a large amount of howling, shrieking and gunfire had been heard late in the evening. A pair of deputies had gone to investigate, but never returned. We were called in the very next morning.

When we attempted to head down the ridge, the horses began to buck and whinny. We dismounted, and I inhaled deeply. Although faint, I was able to pick up a hint of rust and charcoal in the air. A discarded smithy? Unlikely, as the chimney was a single, narrow pipe. In either case, I’d have to go in on foot. I looked over at my partner, who was loading rounds into a holder on a rifle’s stock. That done, she slung the rifle over her shoulder and said, “Ready when you are.”

For what?” I removed my duster, and slung it over the saddle. As I was pulling my ammo vest from a saddlebag, I heard her reply, “To help you, of course. Two floors will take a while to go through, you could use another gun in there.”

How you gonna aim that longarm in there?” I put on the vest, checking that each bandoleer was full. That done, I turned back to her. “I’d prefer you outside, in case something makes a break for it. Don’t know who or what is inside, or how many.”

Yeah, yeah…”She smirked. “You just want another notch on your belt, Mr. Five Half-men and Two Demons.”

You don’t want to go there.” I snapped. “You wanna risk your life, do it when you’re done with training.”

I’m kidding, don’t worry.” She grabbed a blanket off of her horse, and began looking from the crest to the house. Satisfied, she laid the blanket down and turned back to me as I was starting down the hill. “What should I load?”

I glanced back for a second. “Your call. Probably lead or silver, don’t think cold will work well at this range.” Nodding, she laid down on the blanket, and pulled out a small notepad and pencil. I left her to it, and started down the hill. As I got closer to the house, I pulled out one of my guns (loaded with lead) and took another whiff of the air. As was expected, the smell of rust was a bit stronger, but I could also smell some char and rotten egg. Neither of those were comforting. I put away the first gun and took out the second. This one had a mix of silver and cold rounds, to be ready for anything. Taking one last breath of the air outside, I stepped through the broken doorframe and into the house.