I thought it would be fun to write a flash fiction piece. For those readers who aren’t familiar with the concept, it’s just very short fiction. Some purists claim that if it’s longer than 75 words it’s not flash; others say anything under a thousand words is fine. I’ve opted for the latter.
What isn’t imposed on the writer is how long they have to produce the piece. But, in order to exercise various writing muscles in the way I want to, I’ve set myself some limits for this–and future–pieces:
- Up to ten minutes thinking of a concept.
- Up to an hour to draft.
- Up to ten minutes to edit.
- No cheating.
So without further ado, here’s my first ever flash fiction piece–‘The Killing Floor’. Let me know if you like it.
* * *
Kal listened to the audience.
They waited in the chamber above his holding cell, impatient in their anticipatory hunger. A crowd at least thirty thousand strong and growing all the time as stragglers squeezed in, no doubt cursing the misfortune or lack of foresight that had led to their late arrival. They would be consigned to the outermost of the Judgement Round’s three viewing circles, along with the C- and D-class citizens; the labourers, the haulers, the miners and workers, that heaving mass of unwashed humanity. (The unclassed never entered the Round, of course. Well, not through the spectators’ gates, anyway.) Most of the outer circle crowd were probably half-drunk already on spiced wine or Ozark vodka. Morning be damned, it was a holiday after all.
Kal smiled. He’d given them a day off, at least.
The second viewing circle held the B-class, the doctors, the teachers, the engineers and business professionals. Smartly dressed, greeting each other with bright eyes and smiles tinged with madness and isn’t this exciting? Yes, it is. We were lucky to get tickets. I know, and this is Jacen’s first time, would you credit? No! Lucky ragger, they don’t come bigger than this—
The inner viewing circle was raised only slightly above ground level. The front row– the Autarch’s ruling family, whichever councillors were in favour this month, the inner circle, geddit?—would be a mere ten metres from the centre of the killing floor when the hatch slid open and the holding cell rose into view. The Autarch would show no expression, his court would applaud politely. The rest of the mob would yell, or scream, or bay for blood.
Kal had seen all of this. He had visited the Round three times over the last year, using three different identicards and flash-nuking each immediately after. It had amused him each time to see his face—his real face—flashed across the giant holoscreen above the killing floor.
‘TERRORISTS! CRIMINALS! SUBVERSIVES! MOST WANTED! BIG CA$H BOUNTIES!’
The last time he had come was two months ago. A faint smile had curled the mouth of his nano-flesh mask when he saw that he had hit the top spot.
‘KAL SENNA! KAL SENNA! TERRORIST! KILLER! WANTED NUMBER ONE!’
They had wanted him, and they had got him.
He’d kept out of their clutches, stayed one step ahead of the Guard and out of sight of the Watch for one whole year. Just long enough to climb that ladder of notoriety. Just long enough that when they caught him, he would be number one. That when they killed him, he would have the right audience.
It was noon. The blare of the siren was audible even above the cacophony of the crowd. The hatch above the transparent plasteel holding cell slid back, and Kal squinted against the sudden light as the noise went from muted roar to ferocious din. A click, a whine of motors coming to life, and the cell began to rise.
The Professor had been right, of course. Even Kal had doubted him, when the time came and the Guard took him in. The old man had promised that they wouldn’t find it, couldn’t find it—that the tech was so old, so advanced-ancient that their scanners would just slide over it and declare him clean.
Fit to meet the Autarch.
Kal ran his tongue over the tooth. It wobbled, ever so slightly. He waited, gazing at nothing, breathing even and calm. His head cleared the level of the killing floor and the noise ramped up again, the volume greater than he’d thought possible.
He slowly lifted his gaze, hoping, knowing, but fearing that somehow he hadn’t—but surely, surely he had come?
Scarlet boots. Black trous. Scarlet jacket. Trimmed white beard. Eyes so dark as to appear black. Eyes that had witnessed thirty years of oppression by the old Autarch. Eyes that had overseen a hundred more.
Eyes that gazed into his.
Kal barely registered the sudden muting of the crowd as the silence fields flickered into life around each quadrant of the viewing circles. He ignored the burst of martial music that always pre-empted the announcer—the synthetic semi-intelligence that spoke in a voice modulated with psycho-suggestive cadences, whipping the already-frenzied crowd into a rabid fury.
He stared into those black eyes, and with one sharp prod of his tongue, poked the loose tooth free. Carefully, oh so carefully, Kal moved it back in his mouth, held the fake tooth between its former neighbours.
And bit down.
The enamel shell crumpled away, leaving a small round object made from a metal that only one man in the world still knew how to shape. A metal that disobeyed most natural laws, that could be melted and worked and wrapped and hardened and finally sparked.
Pocket dimensions, the Professor had called them. Kal had just nodded. He only cared that they could contain objects bigger, far bigger, than seemed possible. A cruiser in a space the size of a groundcar. A groundcar the size of a briefcase.
A warhead the size of a tooth.
He could hear the beeps, now. Fifteen seconds it took for the micronuke to arm. Five remained.