Hey, everybody! As promised, I have returned with a ~500 word flash piece for Nick Wilford’s Overcoming Adversity blogfest. This was a fun challenge, and I wish all the best to Nick and his family.
Nasir saw an opportunity and he ran for it. It was just a moment, when only one of the corporals was in sight – far away, and facing in another direction. In a few second Nasir had slipped between two trees, his bare feet squishing in the muddy water, climbing through the undergrowth and hoping that he could find a clear trail before anybody came after him with a gun.
Nobody seemed to have followed him. He’d wondered about the other kids with him, knowing that he wasn’t the only one who longed to be free, or was tired of carrying a gun when they told him to carry one and pointing it where he was told to point it. Surely once he’d shown there was a chance to escape, somebody else would have taken it too…
But Nasir found a way to look on the bright side, as he hurried through the likeliest gap in the trees. So he was alone. That would make it even harder for the corporals and sergeants to track him.
He picked up the pace, and immediately tripped on a thick arching root, landing in the muddy water with a quiet splash. As he climbed up, he realized that he was not alone. A handful of paces away, the long triangular head of some fearsome beast rose out of a patch of deeper water – a triangle as long as Nasir’s thigh, with a fleshy nose close to him and two large beady eyes further back. Further back, a string of backbone spines broke the surface of the water, but the rest of the creature was invisible in the liquid murk.
Nasir froze for a second, and the beast drew closer to him. “I am not to be trifled with,” Nasir whispered to it. “I am a fierce warrior myself, and if you seek to prey on me, I shall drag you to that world beyond with me.”
The predator hesitated for a second, then lifted its nose out of the water, showing a row of dozens of sharp teeth, each one curving back in the direction of the eyes – pointing, Nasir was sure, to its unseen throat.
Boasting and bluffing hadn’t worked. Nasir ran. He ran faster from that reptilian monstrosity than he would have fled an army of a hundred thousand. He lost count of how many times he tripped, stumbled, fell, or ran into trees. Actually, he probably never started counting at all. But every time he got up and started running again.
And then, just as the pain in his side felt as if it would split open, he looked around. There was nothing following him in the water – no eyes, or nose, or teeth, or spines.
He wasn’t sure what direction to go to find shelter, but Nasir smiled. He had run from the soldiers who had taken him from his family, and he had outrun the swamp beast. For this moment, at least, he was free.