I got to type "The End" last week and while the project is far from finished, it's into the next stage which means that I have to let it sit for a few weeks. In the meantime, there's work on the short story collection (not as a project, but as individual stories) because several have been sent back rejected without comment and clearly aren't up to my current standard...
And there's also the new screenplay. Which is to say, the old screenplay that I dropped because act 2-"however many acts you like to divide a screenplay into" were terrible. I think I've found the proper voice for it. We'll see in about six weeks.
Today, however, is not about editing or screenplays. It's time for original fiction.
by Jon Stark; December, 2013
Anika moved quietly through the trees. The snow muffled her footfalls and when she stopped, the white of her gloves, hat, and parka melted into the frozen crystals. She listened intently. To the Northwest. Sounded like two but she knew there were three.
A Jay called nearby. Sharp and harsh in the cold air, stabbing knifelike into her thoughts. She hated Jays. All birds. They were vectors, unwitting agents of men with dark hearts. Men who infected them with biotoxins and sent them into unsuspecting villages. To kill indiscriminately -- men, women, children, soldiers, nuns. Just because they could. In places like Mali. But not here. Not again.
She moved forward, dark memory of a far warmer place heating her thoughts. Adrenaline coursed through her system. She could see movement ahead, two were pacing, their parkas like brightly colored christmas lights against the snow. They watched the tree-line that surrounded their clearing, little eyes peeping over scarves and bouncing over Anika's hiding place. The third was building up a snowbank for cover. He was the smart one, the one she worried about.
The saplings around her had long ago given up their leaves but there were deadfalls and a few conifers that continued to hide her approach. She moved like a dancer, or viper, across the remaining distance -- blending shape, color, and movement into her surroundings.
Anika's targets were laughing. Like the children in Mali must have been. Before they collapsed, before they bled out. She would not forget what had happened there. But this wasn't Mali, and just beyond the edge of the trees they were happy, enjoying the sunshine, the sharp bite of the cold. But they weren't innocent like those children had been. They knew someone was coming for them.
A final scan of the area. Watching their pattern. There, almost in a line. Heartbeats -- three... two... one. Anika exploded from the woods. They screamed. And scattered. She pelted them as they ran, snow flying like grenades, exploding on impact.
Snowballs flew everywhere. One caught Anika in the shoulder but she continued on -- driven, on point. She was among them now, committed to action, bringing them all to the ground. The boy caught her in an arm bar, forcing her into the drift. She shrugged him off and spun. He backpedaled away from her, real fear in his eyes as--
Anika stopped. This was not Mali. What was she doing? The boy's little sisters dove onto her and she caught them up in her arms. Not Mali, she repeated over and over, struggling against her every instinct to break free from them, to advance. To move forward. To complete the mission. The fog of memory cleared. She was not too late. These children were alive. Safe. As long as she had breath in her body.
Far above, a Tu-95 flew by. It's distinctive sound, the thrumming of the four Kuznetsov turboprops, settling onto them. Breaking up their game. Four pairs of eyes looked up. Anika pulled her children in tighter. The girls buried their faces in her coat, but the boy watched the bomber as it crossed the sky.
As long as I have breath, she promised.