A flash fiction response to a challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com.
The assignment was to write a short story in seven acts in 1000 words. When I began, this felt like scaling Mount Everest. Luckily, the air grew thin and I stopped overthinking it. I just put one foot in front of the other.
They said it would be an easy assignment. Theodore wasn’t sure if anything was easy, much less an assignment, but he let it slide when they tied the military-issued bow around his neck. The color was old-fashioned. Gazing at his reflection in the mirror, he had to admit it suited his looks. Theodore straightened one corner. He was ready.
And so it came to be that Theodore found himself at a birthday party. His General had allowed as her name was Madison. What a lovely name, he thought. The way she threw her skinny four-year-old arms around him, it was like to push the stuffing right out. Then she gave him a big chocolate kiss.
The chocolate was still on Madison’s face when the Mother put his Charge to bed. Theodore won a place of honor against the pillow, tucked beneath the purple and blue quilted coverlet. Madison slid in under the covers. Her little body was warm against his fur. It wasn’t long after the lights were turned off that her breathing calmed. Theodore waited until her tiny body shuddered. Only then did he pull himself from her grasp and give himself a good shake to restore the fluff to his fur. Then he paced the room. He investigated until he was completely familiar with everything in it. To his relief, the closet remained closed. He’d investigate it during the day.
A week went by, then a month, as Theodore settled into a life of domesticity. He slept by day and kept watch over his Charge by night. He had yet to see any sign of a Glorax. But as they said at The Factory, every night we keep vigil. And he did.
One night, during the quietest moment of the Long Dark, Theodore caught a whiff of something sour. The closet door was closed. He sniffed quietly, trying to coax out the source. Would a Glorax attack if the door to its portal was shut? Nevertheless, he slowly rose into position on the pillow beside the head of his Charge. As she dreamed the sweet dreams of little girls, he pulled on the end of his red bow. It unwound into a pool of ribbon. And when the beast showed itself, Theodore struck it smartly across the snout with the razor-sharp edge of his red whip. It jumped away with a hiss. Theodore jumped to the edge of the bed, just in time to watch the green reptile slide under. A Parveka! Even with ninety years of service, his General had fought the vilest of nightmare monsters but a single time.
Theodore ran back to his station to prepare for the next assault. A Parveka wouldn’t give up until the break of dawn sent it packing.
It came quickly. The Parveka sprang from the end and raced up the coverlet to meet Theodore. The galloping knocked Theodore off balance but he managed to jump up and deliver whistling ribbon knives. Only two of the six found home between the edges of the Parveka’s tough scales. Theodore raised his paw and four flew back to him. They joined together into ribbon. He raised his other paw and the two began to dig deep into muscle and sinew as the nightmare roared in pain. Its shifty snake eyes glinted as it pulled the wiggling knives out with gnarled claws. Theodore gave a running kick and knocked it off the bed and onto the floor. The larger creature hissed a mouthful of teeth as it landed with a thump. Dark green blood dripped from the cuts. Eventually, it removed the sharp knives. Theodore summoned them back. Then he formed a new weapon.
They fought in this manner for hours. The Parveka would attack from one side then another. Each advance was thwarted. Time and time again, Theodore sent it scuttling off. His arms and legs grew tired as cuts and tears marred his own fur. It devolved into a contest of endurance. Theodore tried new transformations with his weapon. Knives, a whip, a long-handled hammer, a scythe, yet none of them were sufficient to drive it off.
Theodore kept an eye on the clock. May the Sun rise quickly this dark morn. It seemed his prayers were answered when the Parveka stumbled out of reach of the red hook and slid back under the bed. Was it gone? It seemed too good to be true. Then Theodore realized his error. During the long night, he’d kept his Charge safe. Yet, had he removed the danger? Did I prevent more children from dying? He smoothed the wet ribbon between his paws, wondering.
With a leap, Theodore threw himself on the floor and slid under the bed. On the other side of the spinning portal was the nightmare. It stopped licking its wounds with a forked purple tongue. It watched him warily. The Guardian Bear toyed with the ribbon. Time grew short until he feinted to the left and threw the ribbon forward. The lasso flashed forward to settle around the neck of the Parveka. Theodore yanked. The jolt sent the Parveka skittering forward, claws scrabbling against dusty hardwood. It fell into the portal until only its tail remained. Step by step, Theodore slowly hauled the thrashing Parveka out of the portal. Then he stood his ground.
The Sun finally rose. There was a flash beneath the bed as the portal closed on the raging, injured Parveka. The beast was instantly cleft in two. With a blast, its guts sprayed outward. The viscera fell to the floor as sparkling dust and vanished.
With aching arms, Theodore tied the almost-new ribbon in a jaunty bow around his neck. It was agony but he jumped onto the bed and crawled to his spot on the pillow. Maddy turned over. As she did so, she threw an arm around him. Her embrace was welcome as a wave of fatigue swept over him. In the early dawn, the soldier let go and slipped under.