Flash fiction is a love of mine, and so are geeky tropes and pulp-style stories of every variety. Sometimes it's the characters that spur the writing. Other times it's atmosphere, concept, magic system, or a twist. One Page Wonders blogs started as a writing exercise. Now they're digestible, one-shot stories you can read on the bus or while sneaking 5 minutes at work!
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Price’s hands shake so much he drops the phone into the dirt next to a newly fertilized Gala apple tree. “You have to ignore that video,” he tells himself, snatching the phone with a dirty gloved hand. “The entire garden needs you to water it first. You won’t be in any more danger if you take just ten minutes more. Without you, the water won’t distribute the chemicals well and the leaves will burn, and—”
A two hundred foot hose snakes toward Price, coils itself into two arms, then rises and pulls Price to his feet. The hose—now full with water pressure although Price had never turned it on—rises higher, like a cobra. It forms a mouth the size of a basketball and speaks like water over stones. “Hide. They march against nature herself this day. Did you not see the video?”
Wiping sweaty, gloved hands off on apron and jeans, Price stands to his full height, then shudders and holds the dirt-caked phone out. “I saw enough. The A.A.C.E. They had these rail gun things and they were shooting at elementals.”
“No militant ‘ecologists’ will harm me, for I am FiShaw of the Waters. They cannot hope to take me, nor you, nor this garden. It belongs to this town as we do, and A.A.C.E. has not solved the riddle of liquid matter assault.”
Sunlight pounds down from the clear afternoon sky and Price pulls his long black hair into a tail at the back of his head. “You’re learning English pretty good. I heard the air quotes on the word ‘ecologists’ there.”
FiShaw slithers a length of hose out and systematically waters every crop, tree, and flower the open end comes across. All while retaining a mouth shape and replying. “Is this your habit of distracting yourself from that which you would rather not face?”
“Ugh, yes,” Price says, catching his own exasperated face in his phone’s reflection. Locks of black hair cling to his cheeks and the stubble on his jaw shows a bit of silver among the dark hairs. “But you said to hide and not to run.”
“I am confident. A Company of Ecologists they may claim to be, but Aggregated and Armed as they are, they only know how to assault solid matter. Not. Liquid.” FiShaw finishes watering the college’s fenced-in garden, then kinks a length of hose and points it like a finger toward the lake with the now-abandoned bike path and urban park. “Plus, I shall have help.”
“Right, I’ll hide in the shed.” Price turns toward the red-and-white barn-like garden shed, then pauses with his back to the campus and the cityscape. “Wait, did you just say you’ll have help? I thought you were a water elemental. The water elemental of this campus. Like a queen.”
FiShaw drags most of her hose’s length toward the street parallel with the bike path along the lake shore. “Good of you to recognize a queen when you speak with one.”
Engines snarl loudly behind Price and he spins so fast he almost stumbles. Humvees and troop carriers emerge from around the corner of the newest campus dorm building. Price sees students hanging out the windows filming their arrival on phones. A man in one of the troop carriers fires off a ray from the long gun mounted on one of the carriers. It arcs up toward the higher floors of the dorm, missing the students by a foot. No one goes back inside.
“A queen has subjects, Price,” the water elemental says. Her hose is now charging toward the A.A.C.E. caravan. Her voice comes from a puddle near Price’s feet, a puddle that swells fast into a flood. It too surges toward the troop carriers, though another puddle remains. “Groundwater and well water are my identity. The water table itself.” FiShaw’s puddle ripples into a hand shape and Price’s eyes track where it points back to the lake.
Dark crests of lake water churn out along the grass and cement lowest to the ground. Odors of algae and wet pavement billow around the garden. FiShaw says, “They will find they cannot handle the lake and me.”
Waves clash with Humvees near the dorm building. Men scream and bellow. The railgun goes off again, electrifying the waves for only a short distance before it fizzles and the waters swirl once more. A hose slithers up the mounted gun and throws the gunner off. FiShaw hisses with laughter.
“Well,” Price says, “I’d be polite and ask your lake friend’s name, but I’m going to go hide now.”
As he runs for the shed, the puddle undulates along the garden, always in the spaces lowest to the ground. “We have both seen you care for nature for more than a decade. She will be glad to meet you and coordinate tactics once we conclude our defense of this place.”
Price reaches the shed’s open doors, slams them shut behind him. “Tactics?”
FiShaw’s voice rises from the puddle just outside. “Our quarrel is not with nature’s caretakers, but with nature’s destroyers.”
Another bubble of laughter. Soothing. Intimidating. “Yes. You are familiar with the expression, ‘Time to weed the garden?’”