Originally posted on my writing livejournal site, nanoweylyn.livejournal.com, this is a story I wrote for a flash fiction contest. The Finish That Thought contest happens every Tuesday, and you are given the first line from which to create a story of up to 500 words.
I always like seeing what I can do to twist expectations.
[cryout-pullquote align=”center” textalign=”left” width=”85%”]
“Watch out for that tree!”
Margot dives into a roll, but not quite fast enough, and the branches scratch her arms, tearing her shirt. She steps back a few paces and flashes me a quick smile before turning to face her new opponent.
The oak only has a few rings beyond sapling, but is a determined fighter – better strategy than I’ve seen on most foliage that size. The young are usually, pardon the pun, greener. But this one seems to have absorbed techniques older trees use, diverting an opponent’s attention while sliding into position for a better attack.
If Margot were a lesser ‘jack then she’d be in trouble, but the extra hours put in after classes, and coveted holiday hours spent in groves has paid off. The other fights have drifted away from hers. The burrowing tortoise has found a softer belly in other contestants, letting her concentrate on the flora.
The oak rains down acorns on her, but Margot is prepared for the move. Her shield scatters most of them, but a few find flesh. Her eyes are bright with adrenaline, but her brow furrows as she glances at the fallen seeds. She nudges one with her steel-toed boot, and frowns. A rustling alerts her, and she jumps back. The oak’s leaves shake as though a tropical storm disturb them, but the day is dry and still.
Margot is treading more carefully now, concentration replacing her reassured smile.
I lean closer, trying to determine what’s wrong, but a holly bush slides in and blocks my view. The kid hacking at the other side is greener than a sapling, his arms covered in small scratches from the sharp leaves, his blood as bright as his opponents’ berries.
A rustle and thump from beyond the bush, and I hear Margot let out a little yelp of surprise. Growling in frustration, I squeeze past the other viewers, and run for the little hill beyond the observation deck. The field is full of motion, flora and fauna paired off against human fighters, a twisting of nature and brutality where our youth prove their worth to become full ‘jacks, sanctioned to go on missions with the adults.
There are always those who try too early – I’m going to wait until I’m sixteen, personally, but Margot, at fourteen she’s better than most who have the full two score most ‘jacks do.
I scan the grounds again, trying to pick out Margot. My eyes finally settle on the one spot in the field where stillness reigns. Splintered branches of the oak are jarring sight, but my heart stops as I see Margot, still as the tree, propped up against its bark. Tears form in my eyes as I realize the leaves that surround do not belong to the oak.
It is as lifeless as she.
The glossy foliage is inherent to an older plant. Craftier. Pulling Margot into a final embrace, waist and throat.
A creeper vine.[/cryout-pullquote]