Hey All –
This is a piece of flash fiction I did years ago. The prompt was “domino,” and the goal was to tell a story in under 800 words. This clocks in at 522. I’m playing around to see if I can expand on it. Love to hear your thoughts.
Smoke billows, thick and gray, just beyond the tree line. If it didn’t smell acrid, I’d almost think it was the familiar fog. Almost.
Behind me, Mom and Jessa rush about, shoving family treasures and important papers into backpacks.
“Toff, get over here and help. We don’t have much time,” Mom says.
I glance again at the distant trees just in time to watch them fall – one at a time, like dominos. Must be tanks clearing roads for the troops.
I step away from the third story window and into the organized chaos of our house. We’ve run so many times over the years; packing is routine.
“We have to go.” Jessa tugs at my arm. “Toff, c’mon. They’re getting closer.”
She’s right. The soliders are near now. As they go house to house looking for rebels, their shouts clash with the deep rumble of tanks.
I’m not afraid. This is what I’ve been waiting for. Still, a heavy knot forms in my gut.
Jessa thrusts a backpack into my hands, and I loop my arms through the straps. She’s always so calm and confident – everything she’s supposed to be. I’m the screw-off twin. The boy who’d rather study than learn to fight.
Mom tucks a piece of gray hair behind her ear. “Dad’s waiting for us on the other side. We’ll be safe. I promise.”
She says it more for herself, I suppose. How can she promise we’ll be safe when we first have to cross several miles of occupied territory? And when are we ever safe? We live in constant fear of blowing cover.
At the front door, Mom swings her eyes around the living room one last time. I want to yell at her to hurry up. That we need to get this over with. But I don’t.
Finally, she yanks the door open. Jessa volunteers to go first. She always does. Mom and I follow behind her once she gives the all-clear signal.
We dart across the street, away from the advancing army, and through our former neighbors’ empty yards. Only rebels stayed behind when the fighting started.
Smoke hangs heavy in the air now. Somewhere in the distance, metal grinds against metal, creating an unearthly scream.
We don’t worry about the planes overhead. Washington won’t use bombs. No, they want to maintain as much of the city and its infrastructure as possible. But soldiers will shoot on sight.
Mom motions to us. Like Dad, she’s spent her life fighting. She’s battle-worn and cautious.
But not me. This is not the life I’ve chosen. Always running. Always hiding. Always trying to undermine the government.
From my jeans pocket, I retrieve the small transmitter all students are required to carry. Mom and Jessa keep going, unaware of what I’m doing.
I press the cold metal button.
“Cadet Toff reporting,” I say. “I’m with two rebels, headed down Clay Street to the City Center.”
The voice on the other end responds, “Copy. Men on the way.”
I turn away from my mother and sister. Away from the life they’ve forced on me, and toward my future with the advancing army.