Matt Potter, who just barely missed becoming the fifth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, has published another story of mine, "Bus Window Warning". It is the third of three stories that came to me in a dream, or something. I don't really know.
On another note entirely, Chuck Wendig, new father and author and exhausted, semi awake humanoid, initiates another week of Flash Fiction madness with a Sub Genre Tango, giving contestants like me a list of subgenres and the challenge to mix two of them into a Flash Fiction story. I don't know how successful I was, but I'm calling this a Southern Gothic/Sword and Sorcery mashup, and it's called "Mission".
I watched Camellia walk away from me. There was a flask with a cork in it, half full with amber liquid, sitting on top of a cabinet that came up to her tiny waist. The dress looked too tight, her flesh pulling it taut where the fabric was trying to preserve her silouhette. It looked uncomfortable. Camellia uncorked the flask, pouring some into a dirty glass.
"Why?," she said, choking out the words. "Why now?"
"You know why," I said. The Confederation was making inroads again, taking our border villages, forcing us back into the larger towns. The call had went out for veterans to return to the colors, push the invaders back. We needed to protect our way of life, they told us. I went because I knew how to handle myself. I went because there was occasionally food to be had. I went because it was the only way a kid from nowhere could make a name for himself. I also went because they would find me if I didn't.
"But, Bar-" she said, corrupting my name. She knew I wanted to be called Bartholomew.
"But nothing, Camellia. You know I have to go. They'll come looking for me if I don't."
"I hate the fighting," she said, her bare shoulders trembling. "I hate it."
"We all hate the fighting," I said. "Especially the ones who fight."
"So why do you do it?," she said, whipping around to face me. Her red face was wet with tears. The dress was taut where it tried to keep her body restrained. "Why are you going to leave me? I just found you, and now you have to go? Why now?"
"Now is when it's happening," I said, not even believing it as I said it. I had graduated from stealing apples from the kitchen to sneaking into her bedroom at night. She always promised me she would reveal me to the family, but I always slunk back out the window in the morning.
"You can't leave me now," she said. "Not now." She had poured herself a glass, and she took a long swallow.
"Camellia, you know I must." She was breathing deep, heaving breaths, like she had run from the fields into the sitting room. I watched the fabric of the dress pulling tight across her tiny belly when she breathed in. I thought about the carnage, the charnel house of battle I was about to face, and wondered why I could see that now, standing at peace in front of her. Yet when I was in the fray, hacking and slashing and smelling the explosions and hearing the cries, I would picture the way the moonlight would capture her bare, sweet smelling peach skin as she slept.
"Bar, you must understand something. You have to come back to me. You have to."
"Will you tell your father about us? While I'm gone?"
"You know how he feels. He's obsessed with our bloodline. He wants me to marry of noble blood- one of those half breed dimwits he presents to me, all full of bravado. He wants me to take one of them and make another generation playing dress up in these giant houses with no one living in them. I can't tell him about you- as soon as he knows who your father is, he'll set the dogs on you."
I felt my sword at my hip. I could picture running the old man through, the shocked look on his face when blood and entrails splashed on his feet.
"Can't you talk to him?"
She took a deep, shuddering breath. "Bar, come back to me. I promise, when you come back, things will be different."
I had heard that before. "Truly, Camellia?"
It was three days' ride to the frontier, unless the losses continued, in which case the front lines would find me.
"I have to go."
"Do you know how long you will be?," Camellia said. She drew herself up to her full height, pulling in another deep breath. The dress was still taut below her ribs.
"Until it's over." I wondered if she wanted a final embrace. I had spent the night holding her, but she may want a final, lingering hug. I didn't want to leave, but I knew what I had to face, and I felt almost itchy to leave and get it started.
"Come back, Bar."
"I will," I told her, and, with a final, lingering glance at her, I left. Fighting to keep food on your plate was one thing. Fighting for her, to come back to her and rejoin her bed, that required a different sort of skill. I used to fight to live. Now I fight not to die.