Drawing by Emily Tupper, Age 8
A flash fiction response to a challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com.
The assignment was to write flash fiction of 1000 words or less using 3 of 5 random words: box, fountain,
tax, bottle, and cockroach. And a vampire.
Nicholas thought he’d seen it all. Then they sent Jean-Michel.
Jean-Michel floundered fully clothed in the dark water of the fountain as he tried to locate the bottle under the icy detritus of decomposing leaves. A bottle hidden inside a safe box in the church. For a Vampire of four hundred years, Jean-Michel still had a lot to learn. Starting with sleight of hand.
The damn Vampire really was an idiot. Most of the French Clan were. They averaged IQs slightly higher than a cockroach and therefore should have been easy to put down. Yet like the insect, they persisted. Nicholas would not underestimate a man who tracked him into Sweden. The Vampire wouldn’t stop until he had what he came for.
A few kilometers into the forest, Nicholas knew. Out for a walk in the quiet night, the empty void that followed quickly drew his attention. One of the Undead. Nicholas found it curious. And alarming. He circled around until he came to the front of the church. Then he waited.
Not long after, the creature stepped out from the cover of tree boughs. Nicholas didn’t need the faint light from the parking lot to know he had guessed right. Only a Vampire would tromp through the forest in a suit and expensive dress shoes.
The Troll King forged a pact with the Clan to stay out of Scandinavia. For the most part, the Vampires had. The French Clan was intelligent enough to foresee the consequences: a visit from a conquering army of Trolls, Dwarves, and Fae to hunt the dark nooks where Vampires rested by day. What did the Vamp want badly enough to risk breaking the Continental Pact?
It stopped at a slight distance. “What do you want, Vampire?”
“Pardonnez-moi the intrusion. My name is Jean-Michel Clerselier.” He gave a faint bow as he said his name. “I have come to ask for something.”
Nicholas shifted his weight back. He knew of this creature. And it knew about the bottle. Jean-Michel tilted his head. It’s charm wouldn’t work on him. He allowed himself a faint smile. He always enjoyed the odd fight of predator versus predator. It was infinitely more satisfying than outwitting teenage girls.
“The bottle. I have to come to beg, Monsieur Grimm. S’il vous plait, name your price.”
“You have nothing I want.”
The Vampire stiffened. The answer could not have come as a surprise. “I see. I suppose an explanation of my predicament would be a waste of breath, non? You have no interest in Clan disagreements. ”
“You are correct. I see no need to take sides on Continental matters. They must be bad if they bring you here.
Jean-Michel’s eyes flashed. “Oui.” He smoothed the lapel of his suit. “What if I were to tell you a story about two gay maidens who live in Paris with their parents. Every morning they skip down les grand boulevards to school. They do not suspect a monster shadows them from afar. Alas, it would be a terrible tragedy if something were to happen.” Jean-Michel stepped forward. “I could assist you in their care. Perhaps you would reconsider?”
And that was that. Vacation was over. Nicholas reached out. Satisfied no humans were nearby, he shrugged.
With a click, fangs split the line of Jean-Michel’s lips. “Allons-y. Now we dance.”
A moment later the Vampire was upon him. The Fossegrim shifted forward, forcing the Vamp to pass him. Jean-Michel turned quickly but Nicholas was just as quick. They turned as the Vampire sought caught Nicholas by his upper arms. He couldn’t bite Nicholas like a human, but there were other ways to break a body. Nicholas leaned back and kicked. His worn black boot caught the Vampire beneath the chin. The impact forced Jean-Michel to stagger back, hissing. Again, Jean-Michel lept forward. His arms sailed forward as he threw his body over Nicholas. Nicholas struggled. He swung his arms to throw the thrashing creature off. Nicholas fell to the ground, the stink of Jean-Michel’s foul corpse upon him. As the Vampire reached for his neck, Nicholas punched forward, finding the very center of the dead spot. Jean-Michel flew back into the air.
Nick was satisfied. When the lunge came, Nicholas allowed the broadside. He felt the wind first. Then the impact. Together they toppled against the rough cement of the fountain. Chunks of rock flew through the air. Nicholas didn’t need them. He had the one in his hand. As the pain transmitted wildly from all bones, he stood. He threw the rock from the forest. It landed with a splash a dozen meters away in the still sloshing water.
“You want the Nettle Elixir from the Tree of Life? You’ll have to get it yourself!”
Nicholas threw his head back and laughed as the Vampire scrambled over the wall into the water. Frickin’ Vamps. Every time, they underestimated the ones who taught war to the Vikings. This one wasn’t close to worthy of the blood-free immortality enjoyed by Nicholas’s kind.
As Jean-Michel floundered, his rage grew. He found the rock a minute later. That was the last time he flew. Nicholas clinically noted the terror Jean-Michel expressed as he impaled himself upon the fresh stake. What he forgot was how the cloud of Vampire dust got into every open orifice. He limped to the pool and peeled the torn cotton shirt from his bloodied body. As he wiped his face, he considered the future. It was time to evacuate the family from France and bring them to safe ground.
For the first time, he noticed the statute of St. Bridget. Such delicious irony. On a day far from today, Nicholas might find himself in the purgatory she described as he awaited burial in the roots of the Tree. Until then, he would escort those who threatened him to Hell.