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…for a flash fiction challenge!

Yes, I know. I promised you all updates on my revision progress. I will post that next, after there’s some progress. My revision novel is so terrible that I can’t bear to look at it right now. I’m sure you know the feeling.

Anyway. Chuck Wendig, of www.terribleminds.com , has posted a flash fiction challenge! It’s here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/05/25/flash-fiction-challenge-one-random-sentence/comment-page-1/#comment-139232

The rules are simple. Get a random sentence; create a thousand words of fiction, post on blog, link back to Chuck, maybe win a book. Read everyone else’s fiction and alternately weep and giggle maniacally. I have decided to accept this challenge for two reasons. First, the random sentence generated grabbed my muse and she’s snickering loudly at me. Second… well, I’ll tell you second after the story. And so, without further ado, here it is.

Our Place

Inside our desert spins my sword.

They think it is their desert. The lines on the map tell them as much, and they have no desire to think anything else.

But it is not. No desert creature died to sustain their lives, as so many did to sustain ours. Not a drop of their blood touched it. We fed its coarse sands with ours. The blood of men, far from home, fighting man and beast and sun and earth. Survivors all, cut down at the last. The desert is the soldiers’ desert, and the soldiers are ours. We will remember them, as brother remembers brother, here in this place. The place made sacred by their deaths. Our place.

The lines are carved into the blackened yellow stone of the cavern. I stare at them, entranced, and for a moment the false chill of shade becomes the bone-chill of ghostly men standing around me at parade rest. I shiver.

The slight movement draws me out of the past. I step back a pace, framing a shot, and absently reach for my camera case. I need a wider lens; the zoom lens I’d been using on the tarantula’s nest nearby can’t possibly capture this.

My camera isn’t new. It’s interesting. It has threaded lenses and a crack in the viewfinder. It’s dinged, scratched, older than I am. But load it up with 35mm 100-speed film (which is really hard to get these days), light the shot independently, and it takes better pictures than most new cameras. Anyone willing to spend fifteen grand on a camera will have better quality prints—but they won’t have the art of it. There’s something magic in the art of photography that only comes to light when you know you have to spend 45 minutes getting the shot right because there’s only enough film for three shots and you’ve already taken two.

I’m waiting for the light, now. In about fifteen minutes the sun will spill over the ledge that hides this strange shrine, and the mirrors I placed earlier will light it up like Christmas. It will be a beautiful shot. The local governor will pay dearly for it. He will never know who else will buy the print.

Something moves near my foot. I look before I move—moving first usually ends in death before bedtime out here. I was right to look first. Another one of these desert bugs—who knew there were so many?—has crawled halfway onto the steel-toed boot-top. I doubt its stinger could get me, but I prefer not to chance it. Slowly, I crouch and offer my lens cap as a new floor for the creeper. It accepts, and I deposit it in the mouth of the tarantula’s nest. It skitters off the hard plastic, unwilling to leave the relative safety of the cap for the deathtrap, then lands on the floor. Its carapace ticks against the stone.

When I stand up again, there are three men in my shot.

I ignore how they got there. The people who live in this place are very good at moving quietly. “Excuse me,” I say in the local dialect. “Could you please move? I have to photograph this. It’s for the governor.”

Usually mentioning the governor gets me smiles and nods and anything I ask for. Now, I am ignored.

The men are grown but not old, and although none of them are looking at me, they could not have helped but hear me. We are less than ten feet apart. One of them puts a sandaled foot on the mark I’d made to measure the focal length of the shot, obliterating it. Well, I know the distance. Patience isn’t a virtue here. It’s the first rule of survival. I wait, and I watch.

The man closest to the shrine has a messenger bag slung over his shoulder. When he takes it off his hat gets caught in the strap and falls to the floor, crown-side down like a bowl. Apparently the man expected this. He crouches down and dumps something from the bag into the hat. I can’t see it, but it hisses like sand.

The other two men come to crouch beside him, circling the hat. The man on the left produces three fat, stumpy emergency candles that I recognize from the survival kits I’ve seen for sale in the market. He lights them with a cheap lighter and murmurs something, then grinds the candles into the sand.

The guy on the right reaches into his vest for something. It takes me a minute to recognize the knockoff Swiss Army knife, but the blue handle gives it away. He lays it gingerly in the sand.

I cannot look away. The three men raise their hands, resting their elbows on their thighs, and begin to chant. The hat owner reaches out and spins the hat. The knife shifts minutely; the candles flicker and one of them tips. Wax drops land in the sand and on the hat brim, thrown out by the hat’s movement.

I can hear the words now—they are the words carved in the wall. “Inside our desert spins my sword. The desert is the soldiers’ desert, and the soldiers are ours. We will remember them, as brother remembers brother, here in this place.” Over and over they repeat the lines. Every few seconds one of the three reaches out and pushes the hat, to keep it spinning.

And then they fall silent. The candles have guttered out, flames lost in the slight breeze. The hat grinds to a stop.

The sunlight pours over the top of ledge. I raise my camera without a single conscious thought, and gently push the shutter button. Something moves beside my foot, and I jump.

On my boot, the creeper pulls its stinger from the thick leather. A needle jabs my foot just this side of the steel, and I collapse.

The floor is cold.

Inside our desert spins my camera.

*** fin ***

Title: 2 words

Story Length: 1000 words

***

Want to know the second reason now? It’s because I wanted to write a camera as a sword.

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