This is the story that didn’t make it into the Silhouette short fiction contest at the Clarity of Night; the story I wrote and then changed my mind about and replaced with “Dangerous Games” instead. Entries have closed, now. The voting begins as does the waiting. Who cracks the nod? Who grabs the title? Somehow it’s less about the prizes and more about the prestige, with these contests.
But anyway… here you are, my poor little 250-words-or-less story that didn’t quite make the cut…
BEFORE TODAY’S DAY
“Josh, where are we going?”
“Wait and see. You’ll like it, I promise.”
Their footsteps crunch on brittle grass, scorched by the African winter. Where the big white thorns block their path he holds the branches so she passes unscathed. Pa taught him to look after his sister in the bushveld.
“Shit! Watch out for the puff adder sleeping under those leaves.” He holds the .22 rifle ready, just in case.
“You said shit. I’m going to tell Ma.”
“I’m older than you, I’m allowed.”
“I bet you wouldn’t say it in front of Pa.”
Josh breathes in sharply.
“Well Pa isn’t here. Look, see the buck droppings? Keep your eyes open. They use this track to get to the river. Come, we’re nearly there.”
Further up, they leave the path. Once through the barbed wire fence, he slings the .22 across his back and takes her hand. It is a long way to the bottom of the cliff.
“Are you mad?” Her whisper is a squeak.
Beneath an acacia tree they drop to their tummies and wriggle forward. The rocky ledge is hard and cold. Denying vertigo, they peer over.
The eagle below rises from its nest to become a soaring, circling silhouette in the pre-dawn sky. Like a guardian angel, thinks Josh.
Sunrise splits the horizon, setting the heavens aglow and he remembers the day.
“We’d better go. Ma will be upset if we’re late.”
“For the funeral.”
“What’s a funeral?”