More flash fiction — I think I may have caught a flash fic bug.
I’ve asked a number of friends to submit opening lines just to keep things a little more interesting. This one was submitted by Jukka Särkijärvi, and it’s quite wonderful: “The duelists revved their chainsaws.”
How could I not love that?
The duelists revved their chainsaws. A flock of birds took the sky from the nearby tree, startled by the sudden noise. They looked impossibly white in the morning sun.
The challenged party, the handsome Mr. Tito Miranda, Esq., held his massive chainsaw in a low grip and leaned back hard to balance himself, his feet wide. Miranda was obviously still quite drunk; he was showing off, rolling his shoulders, swinging the heavy saw slowly left and right as he goosed the engine, making the onlookers’ ears ring. The saw belched black smoke. It was fire engine red, and Miranda’d freshly painted the name “Ayla” in bright white on its side – another insult to his opponent, Count Kneller.
As for the Count, he looked at the younger man with open disdain. The bags under his red eyes and the stubble on his chin spoke of a tremendous hangover; the broken nose spoke of a fight that hadn’t gone his way. The Count’s chainsaw was a much lighter model, almost elegant, with a long and narrow guide bar. The tasteful white enameling accentuated the rubies that adorned it, and a mother of pearl inlay formed the Count’s family crest. The grips were ivory, and golden tassels hung from them. The Count raised the fine instrument up, as if to inspect it, and revved it again experimentally. Hung over or not, his movements were smooth and precise.
Leaning against his broom, feeling vaguely underdressed in his plain brown overalls and ratty old cap, Anton was already bored to death by the whole fad. He didn’t like the stink of the exhaust, or the noise, or the oily stains they left everywhere. He definitely didn’t like cleaning up the mess afterwards. What was wrong with a good old-fashioned sword fight, or better yet, lengths of piano wire? That had been a good one. He hadn’t even needed the hose. Just hoist the body on the wagon, all done.
Still, with a crowd like this, at least the tips’d be good.
The onlookers cheered drunkenly at the spectacle, consisting mostly of the duelists’ family members and colleagues. Their respective retinues of courtesans, musicians and flunkies wore masks of polite attention. Most of them were up past their bedtime, only here for professional reasons. The two constables who were patrolling the area stood by; they’d been bribed to look the other way, so naturally they showed up to watch the proceedings. A fat man wearing an ill-fitting, but expensive wig clapped too vigorously; he was just an oafish bystander, and was ignored by all.
The shaky old Dr. Dubrovnik, acting as the officiator, stepped up and raised his liver-spotted hands for attention, and the crowd quieted down. Anton took out his battered old pipe and started stuffing tobacco into it.
“Good people,” Dr. Dubrovnik called in his toneless voice, “we all know why we’re here.”
Anton didn’t. He only had a vague understanding of why the duel was taking place. The Count had challenged the younger man over somebody named Ayla. Apparently, Miranda had boasted of his conquest of her, and the Count had immediately taken offense and called Miranda a liar. Miranda threw a punch, the Count threw down a glove, and things had taken their usual course. As the challenged party, Miranda had his choice of weapons, and drawn chainsaws at dawn it was.
And here they were. Business as usual. Anton had really been hoping to hear some juicy details about this Ayla, but no such luck. Whoever she was, she apparently hadn’t even bothered to show up. Typical.
“A challenge has been made,” Dubrovnik droned on. “Demands of satisfaction have been presented. I ask you, gentlemen, are you set on your course?”
“Yes, sir, you bet,” Miranda said. He slurred slightly.
“Let’s get this over with,” Count Kneller said. The new, nasal tone in his voice was a delightful surprise to Anton, who didn’t like Kneller. But he was good. Miranda would probably lose.
“Very well,” Dr. Dubrovnik said. “You shall fight until first blood.”
Anton rolled his eyes. These people. The crowd ate it up, though, murmuring their approval of the admirable restraint shown by the combatants. Anton struck a match off the side of his wagon. He lit his pipe.
Dr. Dubrovnik’s face was a stony mask of indifference. He held up a handkerchief. The crowd became subdued. They held their breath. The only sound that could be heard was the idling of engines. Anton yawned.
Then the man in the wig started clapping again for no reason at all, embarrassing everybody. Dr. Dubrovnik lowered his hand and glared at the fool, until one of the constables walked over and poked the man hard in the chest with his truncheon.
“Be quiet,” the constable said, very loudly.
The man looked indignant and rubbed his chest, but quieted down. Dr. Dubrovnik glared at them, then raised the handkerchief again.
Dr. Dubrovnik let go of the handkerchief.
The chainsaws got loud.
Hours later, when Anton had finally loaded everything into the wagon and was almost done hosing down the square, a young woman showed up wearing yesterday’s make-up, looking confused. She was quite beautiful in an utterly unattainable way, but she ran up to Anton, her high heels and the cobblestones a precarious combination. Somehow she didn’t break an ankle.
“Oh, my God, I fell asleep,” she said breathlessly. “They didn’t wake me up.”
“All right,” Anton said, a little confused.
“Where is everybody?”
A little light went on in Anton’s head.
“You must be Ayla.”
She scowled at his presumption. “I’m Miss Vannier, yes.” But she let it go. She looked around excitedly. “Where is it going to happen? Where are they?”
She scowled some more. “Wait. Did they go ahead without me? Without me?” Then her face fell. “Where’s… where’s Tito? He didn’t get blooded, did he?”
Anton glanced at the wagon, cleared his throat.
“Weeeell,” he began. “See, here’s the thing about chainsaws, ma’am.”
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