Photo and the Flash – No. 2

I pass by this machine every other week or so.  It now looks in much worse shape than it looks like here, this photo is from three years ago, and it’s not looking really great here. 

12136_MISC_021409_1

I cranked the colors up a bit, but one can see a more “natural” looking gallery HERE.

The machine is a John Deere Model “B” circa late 1930s http://www.retiredtractors.com/Modelb.html.  I don’t know why it’s sitting where it is.  There is nothing around it.  There is construction equipment stored in the area, but this particular piece of equipment is obviously no longer functional, and it sits well apart from the other, more modern, equipment.  I might have to take another series of photograph to document the ravages of time and weather.

And now, the Flash Fiction.  This is a tad longer than “flash fiction”.  Damn near 2,000 words.  Wrote it last night, when I got home.

Ancient, My Love

By E. J. D’Alise (Disperser)
Copyright February 2013

Bill let his mule rest as he looked down on the farmhouse.  A nondescript and isolated valley, a nameless stream, and a few small fields of different crops.  He noticed both solar panels, and the two windmills.  The windmills were of the latest design available just before The Collapse.  These people had planned well.

A secluded valley in the middle of nowhere, water, growing their own food, and generating their own power.

He debated going down to the farmhouse.  Someone who planned that far ahead might not want strangers dropping by.  Might shoot without asking questions.  The pain, and a momentary dizzy spell, let him know he had no choice; the loss of blood was taking its toll, and he could not risk passing out.  He had given better than he got, but there were more of them than the three or four he had killed.  They would track him, which meant he had already led them here.  He should warn the residents of the farmhouse of the raiding party likely within a day’s ride..

He heard a noise, and spun around, gun in hand.  A dog.  A dog sitting; watching him.  Even as the sudden motion almost made him pass out, he remembered his own dog, lost in the attack on the town where he had settled.  He missed his dog.  He lowered his gun, and closed his eyes, resting for a moment.

When he opened his eyes, there were two dogs staring at him.  And a cat. Feisty, his mule, chose right then to start walking toward the farmhouse.  Bill barely had the strength to hold on, let alone object.  He did notice one dog walking along his side, and the other dog and cat trotting toward the house.  Fighting to remain conscious, he did not think he could make it down to the farmhouse . . . they would not have to shoot him; he would probably fall and die on the side of the hill.

Incredibly, a hummingbird came to hover in front of his face.  A hummingbird?  The surprise, and the constant chirping, helped him focus until Feisty stopped in front of the house’s wrap-around porch.  Again, Bill closed his eyes, but opened them when he heard a rustle.

He must be hallucinating . . . a vision of radiance, beauty, of  . . . Bill had no words to describe her.  Somewhere between twenty and forty years old, wearing a simple dress.  Her deep black hair matched her eyes, and her face . . . her face was the last thing he remembered before he lost his grip on the saddle and fell.  He could have sworn something or someone caught him before he hit the ground, but by then he no longer cared.

~
He woke to a purring noise.  He remembered the cat he had seen up on the hill; it was now sleeping, or what passed for sleeping in cats, heavily leaning against Bill’s side.  Looking down to his side, Bill noticed his wound had been treated.  The dressing was clean, with no trace of blood, but more important, there was no pain.

Bill took measure of the room.  Small, comfortably warm, and decorated with  . . . he looked closer.  Those were not decorations.  A hummingbird sat perched on a twig sticking out of the natural tree trunk supporting the corner of the room.  A crow was perched on another branch, half sleeping, but moving enough to let Bill know it was real, and alive.  The butterfly sitting on the flowering plant growing in a container on the window sill flexed its wings, and flew to the flowers on the other window.  A ferret watched it, but did not get up from its makeshift pillow consisting of Bill’s shirt, cleaned and folded, and sitting on the side chair.

Trying not to disturb the cat, Bill swung his feet over the edge of the bed, and stopped.  Sleeping in the corner, near his shoes, was a Bobcat.  He stared, unbelieving, when he caught a movement out of the corner of his eyes.  She was standing by the door, carrying a glass of water, and a plate of bread and cheese.

Bill was about to speak, when she turned her head toward the window.  He followed her gaze, and saw the raiding party.  He counted seventeen men, making their way down the hill.  He turned to the girl, and could have sworn that, before turning to leave the room, her eyes had gotten larger; larger and blacker, if that was even possible.

“Hey!” He called out, “Where’s my gun?”

She said something; it sounded like “You won’t need it.”  Barefoot, shirtless, he followed after her.  He was not even surprised to see a badger in the corner of the kitchen, gnawing on a root.  Finding his way to the front porch, he stood, weak, and leaning on the doorway, and looked out at the girl standing in the yard, with the two dogs at her side.  The party was just entering the courtyard, and fanning out on either side of her.

They stopped, guns drawn, in a semicircle in front of the girl.

“Well now, glad to see you again, Bill.” The man speaking wore an army uniform.  All the men wore various uniforms.  A few policemen, a couple of security guards, and the rest military.  Power can do strange things to men, especially during difficult times.

“And I see we’ll have entertainment after we take care of you.”  He smiled at the girl.

Looking back at Bill, he continued. “You killed some of my best men.  That is punishable by death, but I think that will come later rather than sooner.  I think we’ll be making an example out of you.  I think you’ll be begging to die long befo . . . “

“Leave.”  The girl’s word interrupted the man’s obvious enjoyment in detailing his plans for Bill.

The man was not pleased.

“Well now, why would we do that?  And, I might add, not very neighborly of . . .”

“Leave, or die.”  The girl’s voice sounded deeper than it did a moment before.

Visibly angry, the man composed himself.  Waving his gun toward her to punctuate his words, he started to answer “You, I’m going to deal with personally.  I’m going to enjoy . . .”

This time it was one of his own men who interrupted him.  “Uh . . . Hank . . . “

Hank snapped his head toward the man, ready to yell at him, but stopped, mouth agape.  Bill could not see what the men were staring at, so he took a few steps further out of the house.

Birds lining the tree branches, on the roof, and on the fence.  He had not heard or seen them arrive, but they were there, and more coming.  Hawks, ravens, sparrows, hummingbirds, and some he could not name.  But the mountain lions held his attention.  Three of them laying down to one side, their tails twitching.  A snort had Bill turn his head to the other side.  There had not been any grizzlies in the area for a hundred years, but there was one there now, slowly lumbering toward the group.  The Bobcat walked out of the house, and with a look toward Bill, hopped on the railing, and atop the small shed attached to the house.  Two other Bobcats were already there.

“What is this?”  The man’s voice was less sure, and as he asked the question, he drew another gun.   The rest of his men drew more weapons as well.

“They are my friends.”  The girl’s voice was now very deep, and Bill swore her hair had turned into a solid mass.  From behind her, he could see her arm were showing dark lines . . . ridges, from the elbows down to the wrist.  Her hands . . . her hands were chiseled, fingers sporting long black nails.

“Well, if you think your friends will protect you, you have another thing coming.”  He pointed one gun at her, and the other at one of the dogs.  “Tell them to . . . WHAT THE HELL ARE THOSE?”  Bill looked at the dogs.  The best special effects animators could not have imagined beast such as these.  Hell-hounds?  Basilisks?  A combination of both?

The man recovered, pointed both guns at the girl, and almost yelled, “They won’t help you.  You’ll be dead before they move!!”

“They are not here to help; they are here to clean up.”  The girl’s voice was almost a growl.

In unison, both hounds and the girl moved.  None of the men got off even a shot.  Bill threw up on the porch.

~
They sat across from each other, a rough wooden table separating them.  Bill kept looking at the vision of beauty, but he kept seeing the  . . . thing from just a half hour ago.  He looked down at one of the dogs, now just ordinary dogs.  It looked back up at him, then laid its head over Bill’s bare foot.  It sighed, and closed its eyes, seemingly napping.  Bill did not move.

“He likes you.”  Her voice was once more melodious, clear, and music to his ears, her smile lighting up the room..

“I . . . you . . . “ He did not know what to say, what to ask.

The girl lost her smile.  She looked sad.  She got up, and went to the window.  Bill followed her gaze; the last of the animals heading off from whence they had come.

She spoke without looking at him.  “You are welcome to rest here as long as you want.  You can leave whenever you feel strong enough.”  She turned and left the room.

Bill hesitated a moment, then went after her.  She was nowhere to be found.

He did not see her again during the five days he rested and regained his strength.  The dogs kept him company, and he almost forgot what he had seen of them.  The rest of the animals in the house ignored him, none more so than the cat . . . even though it slept near him every night.

Feisty was rested, he was rested, and there was nothing else to do but to gather his things and head out to . . . he did not know to where.

He would have called for her, but felt silly yelling “Hey, you!” He did not know her name.  Heck, he did not even know what she was.  He picked up his gun, slid it in his holster, and was about to snap the strap on, when the light coming from the door went dim.

She was at the door, against the light.  He could not see her face.

“What are you?”  Bill noticed the dogs getting up to stand between them.

“I am the last dragon.”

“Seriously?!”  Bill regretted uttering the question the moment he asked it.

She did not answer.  Her shape slowly changed, hard edges appearing in place of gentle curves, talons instead of fingers. She moved toward him.  There was a fluidity to her movement.  A gracefulness that somehow lessened the horror of her new form.  The dogs stood between her and Bill.  They growled, and she stopped.

She slowly reverted . . . “I’m sorry; I have been alone for so long . . . I’ve forgotten how . . . you better go.”  Once more a girl, she turned and left.  There was enough light for Bill to catch a glint from the wetness on her cheek.

He followed her out, and once again she was nowhere to be seen.

He made his way to Feisty.  He hefted the saddle, and strapped it on, making sure it fit properly; mules did not suffer ill-fitting saddles for long.

He took one last look around, mounted, and headed toward the path up the hill.  When he crested the hill, he stopped and looked back.

The girl stood on the porch, hair blowing in the breeze, her dress flapping gently around her.  As he watched, the two dogs flanked her.

“Last dragon, eh?”  He spoke out loud.  Not that she heard him, but seeing him stop, the girl stepped off the porch, walked a few steps, then stopped, looking up at him.  “I could do worse . .  . much worse.”

He turned Feisty around, and headed back down the hill.  “At least there won’t be a mother-in-law.”

The End

I wrote this instead of spending the evening with Melisa, so readers better like it, otherwise both Melisa’s and my sacrifices were for naught.  

If you enjoyed reading it, please tell everyone you know.  If you did not enjoy reading it . . . well, no scales off my back. 

Androgynous
Androgynous

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