Characters · Writing

Flash Fiction Challenge, March 2015 (Pain, Hope).

Hey, everybody! Today I’m participating in Rachelle O-Neil‘s flash-fiction challenge. After two failed stories, I finally (yesterday) wrote a story that would work (I came up with the idea for it the day before yesterday). After grueling edits (okay, maybe not grueling), in which I edited out 206 of my precious words to come down to 1,000 words, I came up with what I have now. Critiques are welcomed. Enjoy!

This is the prompt I got for it:

Okay! Without further ado, I present my flash fiction.


Pain, Hope.

Asma tightened the scarf around her lower face, sure it would disguise her as a wealthy religious woman.

Walking on foot effectively destroyed that image.

Squinting to see in the half-light, Asma lifted the parchment closer to her face.

Her surroundings were not on the map.

    “Stay safe, Asma Fariq.”

She was doing a fine job of that.

Growling under her breath, Asma scanned the narrow street.

I’m lost.

“You need a guide?”

Asma pivoted.

It was a boy. Probably only six or seven, his shaggy blond hair nearly covered his grey eyes.

“Wh-why do you ask?”

“You look like you’re lost.” The boy shrugged, dropping from his perch on the dirty windowsill. “I know my way around the city.”

Asma slowly spoke. “Who are you? You’re not from around here.”

The boy gave a lopsided grin. “Why do you say that?”

“You’re pale.”

He nodded. “Well, yeah.”

Asma crumpled the map in one fist. “So who are you?”

“Tell me who you are first.”

Asma narrowed her eyes. “Asma.”

“No second name?”

“No second name.”

The boy shrugged. “Okay. Then I’m Asad.”

Asma turned away. “A pleasure.”

“Wait!” Asad grabbed her arm. She jerked back.

“Don’t touch me.”

“Where do you need to go? I can get you there for a copper.”

Asma looked him over. It can’t hurt anything. I can’t possibly be any more lost than I am.

“I need to get to the execution yard at the palace.”

He looked at her wide-eyed. “Ma’am! You don’t want to go there! They’re having an execution today.”

Asma’s eyes narrowed. “I know where I want to go, Asad-ali.”

He chewed on the edge of his lip, looking at her skeptically, then turned. “Keep up.” He dashed down the street. Asma had to run to keep up.

Surprisingly, they made it there in a few minutes.

Great sandstone walls towered above, but the gate was open, people and carriages streaming in.

Asad looked at the crowd briefly, then turned to her, eyes grave and breath slightly quick. “You’re sure you want to go there, Asma-ali?”

Asma nodded, breathing through her nose to hide her exertion. “I’m sure.”

He sighed. “I know a way to get in faster.”

He led her around the wall for several minutes, then crouched, gripping a cloth-wrapped iron handle half-buried in sand. Bracing his feet against the wall, he pulled.

A section of sandstone slid from the wall, leaving an opening barely big enough for Asma to crawl through.

Asad glanced up at her. “Follow me.”

He disappeared into the opening.

Asma crouched, then crawled in after him, the hot sand stinging her hands.

She reached the end after a few feet of crawling, and adjusted her scarf as she stood in the dim light.

Asad leaned down, pulling on a thick rope. The sound of rock against rock was followed by total darkness.

Asad’s work-rough hand slid into hers. Though she pulled away, he did not let go. After a second, she allowed him to lead her through the inky blackness.

After a few minutes, Asad stopped. “Close your eyes.”

Bright daylight nearly blinded her.

When Asma’s eyes adjusted, she saw they stood by a doorway in the rock.

Asad pulled her through, then closed the wooden door.

They stood behind a shed of some kind.

As Asad lead her through the outer courtyard, Asma briefly wondered how often he snuck into the palace.

They soon reached the execution sight. The smell of death made Asma’s stomach churn, even through the scarf.

The crowd stood, gathered in a circle. Asma started to shove through, but stopped at cheers from the mob.

Asad hissed. For a second, Asma saw pointed teeth. “The monsters.”

Her words came as a whisper; it was a wonder that Asad heard. “Who is being executed today?”

Asad grimaced. “Just one man. A war prisoner from Andirkh.”

Asma’s stomach twisted into a knot. “The name?”

“Fariq Akeem.”

Asma felt the blood leave her face. She stumbled a few steps backward.

She turned around, her vision blurring, though her eyes were dry. She sank to her knees.

So she was too late.

“Death to Andirkh!” The crowd called.

Too late.

Asma pulled in a shuddering breath. “No.” She whispered.

“Asma!” Her collar tightened, and she was yanked from the street, landing flat on her back. Her scarf fell from her face. A carriage rattled by.

Asad dropped to his knees beside her, hastily replacing the scarf over her scars. “I won’t tell.” He whispered, gripping her shoulders and heaving her into a sitting position. “We have to get out. I don’t think anyone saw, but…”

A murmur passed through the crowd. They froze in their departure.

“Death to the Andirkh!” Someone called, and several people stepped forward.

Asad snarled, shoving her toward the shed. “Get out, Asma-ali.”

He stood, facing the crowd. Asma stumbled toward the shed, her feet pounding in time with her heart.

She pulled the door open and fell into the passage, slamming the door behind her.

Too late.

It was several moments before Asad slipped in. His pupils were narrowed to slits, but they returned to normal almost instantly; Asma doubted she had even seen them.

Asad shut the door. It was once again dark. He slipped his hands into hers. “It’ll get better, Asma-ali.”

***

Asma pressed her back against the wall.

Asad sat beside her, but said nothing. She was grateful.

He slipped his small hand into hers, nodding toward the sky. “Look.”

Asma looked at the dull grey skyline, silent.

And then, slowly but surely, the sun rose, sending gold and pink auras across the sky.

“There is pain, Asma-ali.” Asad said, softly. “But there is still hope.”

Asma kept her eyes on the sunrise.

“Don’t pay me.” He whispered, then pulled his hands from hers. The next moment, he was gone. Probably back to the streets where he came from.

Asma rose, watching the sunrise. “There is pain.” She whispered. “But there is hope.”


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22 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge, March 2015 (Pain, Hope).

  1. Wonderful story! I wish there had been more explanation, but obviously the word count limits that. 😉 I really enjoyed it! It’s something I think you could definitely extend and make into a novel.

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  2. Okay. Here’s your critique. 🙂

    – Generally, you could have used less adverbs and more description, but I think that suffered because of your word limit. :p

    Walking on foot effectively destroyed that image. — This sentence can sound a bit confusing (at least it did for me) when read for the first time. The word “effectively” throws it for a loop and left me wondering if it was talking about how effective it was to walk on her feet. xD

    Asma crumpled the map in one fist. — I think a little more explanation of this action would be nice. Did she crumple it because she was frustrated? Nervous? Or was she putting it away and it should have been ‘folded?’

    “Okay. Then I’m Asad.” — Though their names aren’t super similar, they are similar, so while reading through it the first time I got mixed up once in awhile on who was speaking. :p But it isn’t a huge deal. It’s more to keep in mind for future stories with characters who have similar names.

    Wait!” Asad grabbed her arm. She jerked back. “Don’t touch me.” — It’d make more sense if you made a new paragraph after Asad grabbed her arm. So:

    “Wait!” Asad grabbed her arm.
    She [or you could put Asma] jerked back. “Don’t touch me.”

    It can’t hurt anything. I can’t possibly be any more lost than I am. — After having a string of dialogue between Asma and Asad, somehow her internal chatter messed up the flow. You could keep the first part, but I’d take out the second sentence since she already verified that she was lost. [I can’t possibly be any more lost than I am.]

    “I know where I want to go, Asad-ali.” — I know what it means now to put the “-ali” after the name, but I didn’t know when reading through it the first time.

    Surprisingly, they made it there in a few minutes. — To the characters it might be a surprise, but to the readers, it’s completely plausible that they were able to make it in a few minutes.

    She reached the end after a few feet of crawling, and adjusted her scarf as she stood in the dim light. — Since was crawling in the tunnel, it was a bit confusing for her to all of the sudden to be standing up. It might be better to describe that she came to the end of tunnel and “there was a large open area” or whatever it might look like. xD

    Asad leaned down, pulling on a thick rope. — Was he leaning down on the rope?

    Asad dropped to his knees beside her, hastily replacing the scarf over her scars. — You mention the scars so quickly here, it would be nice for you to either describe Asma’s reaction that he saw her scars, or either describe the scars for us to see how bad they really are.

    “Death to the Andirkh!” Are the Andirkh people who have scars? I’m not really sure what makes ‘her’ and Andirkh, though it adds a lot of suspense to the story. 😀

    That’s all I have for the critiques. After each comment I was starting to put, “I realize that there was a word limit…” but then I would have just repeated myself a bunch. :p So I completely understand that it is hard to make changes to most of the things I commented on, but they are something to keep in mind in case you decide to revise it.

    Praise: (Because there were a ton of good things about this story. :D)

    – The dialogue between the characters. — I can tell this is something you really excel on, and it showed through this piece. It was fun seeing the character’s personalities come out through their banter, and it seemed like something real people would say in turn to each other.

    – The culture. — Maybe this is based off of a different story, but it was awesome how you could bring many aspects of their world to such a small snippet. I loved the possibility of different races, lower and upper class, putting “ali” after a name for respect… You did a very good job with that. 😀

    – And even though I also put this as a critique above, you still managed to create hints of description here and there so the readers could ‘see’ the places in their mind. I’m glad you didn’t cut it out completely and made it a point to describe some part. 🙂

    —-

    I probably seemed rather picky here. I tend to critique that way, so I’m not meaning for it to come across harsh at all. Your entry was wonderfully written, and I really hope to read some more of your writing someday, Faith, because you have a talent for it.
    It was a pleasure being your partner in this challenge! 🙂

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  3. Great! Easy to read, as usual. And I like the way you wrote it, so it was easy for me, having no preface to the story whatsoever, to become immersed easily. The story started off with just enough of nothing (if that makes sense) to make me want to keep reading, and ended with enough resolve for me to accept the end [of the chapter, scene, whatever.]
    My only suggestion; use less-conspicuous adjectives when describing unimportant things, like in “Walking on foot effectively /destroyed/ that image.” Draws a little bit too much attention to a detail that, ultimately, doesn’t weigh much on the story. Maybe that’s a bit nit-picky, but you don’t leave me a whole lot of material for critiquing. 😛 Adjectives are powerful tools, sometimes a bit too powerful, like synonyms for “said”.

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