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And a free flash fiction

In honor of International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day...a free flash fiction, "Hide-and-Seek", which was originally published in Flytrap, Issue No. 2.


By Stephanie Burgis

This time it’s my turn to hide.

Cormac is still sleeping when I slip out of our valley, moving as quietly as I can. On my way out, I pass his hundred-foot axe, lying ready for the chase.

My neck feels soft and vulnerable. I’ve only worn this head for fifty years. In the old days I would have kept it for a century.

I’m not sure I like our games anymore.

I can’t hide under the ocean. I’ve done it too often. Last time, I sat holding my breath for less than a day before I saw Cormac’s legs splash through the water towards me.

I slide between mountains, careful not to dislodge them, following the sun as it rises. My breath comes faster and faster now, buffeting the trees below me. Calm, I think. Remember why we do this.

Sharpening our wits, we’d decided, all those centuries ago. Raising our endurance. Renewing our bonds.

Taking each other’s lives would be the ultimate intimacy.

The first time Cormac ever raised his axe to me, tears streamed down his cheeks, forming a lake that remained for a thousand years.

The first time I lifted mine to him, I froze, pinned by pain and fear. He had to spend days reassuring me before I finally agreed.

The last time, my axe whistled through the air, and I screamed with rage as it fell.

How many times are too many to forgive?

When did it stop being a game?

My knees buckle, and I collapse. Earth shatters around me, forming a new valley full of painful, jutting edges. I want to curl up inside and bury myself so deep that my lover will never find me. I want to stay there forever, so that I never need to face him and the truth.

How could I have been so blind?

It’s too late for escape. The ground is shaking. The mountain before me cracks and falls, and Cormac’s battle cry fills the valley, cracking my heart.

Cormac charges towards me, holding his axe high above his head. His face contorts with hatred and satisfaction. The rules of our game say that I cannot move.

We’ve been lovers for eons, but he looks like a stranger.

I rise to my feet. The earth tilts around us as we watch each other. The axe hangs ready above my head, and I search his face for the remnants of love, for any impulse towards understanding. My axe lies halfway across the world, useless to me now.

“No more,” I say. “Please, love. No more.”

Sunlight flashes off the axe, blinding me, as it falls.


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