The flash fiction challenge for this week was to write a story incorporating four random items. There were ten items to choose from but I selected the following off the list: An unopened envelope, an iron horseshoe, an animal skull and a leather mask. As always, there was a 1000 word limit and no guidelines on what the story had to be other than the four items. So here it is:
Four Items Flash Fiction
I watched as the strange old drunkard entered the dimly lit tavern. Carrying a small box with what appeared to be an animal skull and a leather mask within, he stood in the entrance. Looking hesitantly around the room it seemed as though he was searching for someone. I knew it was me. I was the one he had traveled a great distance to meet. I had the power to reanimate the dead.
Spotting me in the corner of the room, he nodded his head in my direction. I did not return the acknowledgment. Something about this guy gave me pause. I was an excellent judge of character and I sensed malevolence towards me in this aged bum. I had heard of his quest, had heard of his desire to bring back life to his only friend, a large snarling beast of a dog from what I had been told.
Both had wreaked havoc wherever they journeyed and were scorned by all who knew them. Stories followed in their footsteps of a man wearing a leather mask who attacked unsuspecting victims nightly on the roads. He was known to brandish a solitary blade with which he sliced throats and cut up bodies to leave no witnesses behind. It was said he fed the remains to his vicious man eating dog who was reported to be nearly the size of a horse.
I debated on leaving. I could see in his right hand he held an unopened envelope. I had no doubt it was stuffed full of cash. My price for returning life to the long deceased was hefty. It was tedious and time consuming and I never worked for free. Those who wanted their loved ones brought back from untimely demises had to pay and pay they did. I had accumulated a fairly substantial fortune. I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk the backlash of helping this supposed serial killer. If I were to help such a man, I might lose a large portion of my customer base. My fortune might dwindle. Then I had to wonder if this man would set me up, pay for my services only to hunt me down and kill me for my fortune later.
Deciding I could defend myself just fine, I waved my hand slightly to signal he could approach. Reclining against the creaking wooden bench of my table, I watched in amazement as an iron horseshoe fell from the top of the doorframe and landed –smack- atop the balding man’s head. Collapsing immediately into a dirty heap, I could see he was unconscious. The blood seeping from the gaping wound upon his scalp told me he would be dead within minutes.
I sipped my ale as the bartender rushed from around the bar to assist the fallen man. Other patrons of the small establishment followed in his stead. Some stood on the outskirts of the circle and made comments about the dangerous nature of horseshoes fixed above door frames, about how it’s a silly superstition, and about how it clearly was not lucky for the man who now sprawled lifelessly upon the floor. Others milled about the body trying to find a pulse, attempting to resuscitate and keep him breathing. It was all very moving, the response these people who despised this man had and their concern for his wellbeing.
I contemplated the meaning behind the attempted life saving actions. It was amusing, to watch these people try so hard to keep someone alive. I smiled slightly and laughed at their naivety. So concerned with life, with living, it was pathetic. Standing from my corner seated location I walked slowly toward the cluster of shuffling people. Stopping just short of the stragglers lingering at the very edges of the circle, I reached down to retrieve the box with the animal skull and leather mask. Then I walked a few more paces to pick up the unopened envelope. Feeling its bulk, I smiled. Cash. Cold hard cash. It was intended for me anyway, no need in letting it go to waste.
Leaving the old wooden building, I debated on my next action. I could resurrect the dog, another pet would be nice. Or I could wait till later, when the body had grown cold, when it had been laid out for burial and I could resurrect the poor old man. If I were feeling particularly energetic, I could resurrect them both. After all, every region needed a good knife wielding villain and menacing beast. What would the heroes do without them? Who would they save? Who would the townspeople fear? Who would they hate? Who would they scorn with their self righteous indignation?
I decided the fate of this man and his dog rested on just what was inside the bulging envelope. Slicing open the sticky seal with my solitary silver blade, I peered inside. Whistling for my own large beastly dog to come hither, I tucked the envelope and its contents inside the leather mask and hid them away inside my coat. Glancing at the setting sun, I knew it was time I hit the road. It would be dark soon and my dog was getting hungry.