This week’s Flash Fiction challenge was called The Who, The Where, The Uh-oh. We received a list of protagonists, settings, and problems. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/01/17/flash-fiction-challenge-the-who-the-where-the-uh-oh/
For my story, I chose a bartender, a far-flung space station, and unsolved murder. (Though when I began writing the story, the “uh-oh” was left for dead, out for revenge. As I wrote the story it was “ooh, no, my protagonist is trapped.” But then as I continued writing, it turns out that she was trapped because of…well, read the story and you’ll see why she’s trapped.)
And now…Briony and the Ka’chera.
Briony tried to open her eyes, but her lids were too heavy. The spot between her shoulders ached and she could barely feel her legs. What a night she’d had. Maybe she should sleep in today.
She tried once more to open her eyes, now realizing that the lashes were stuck together. She sat up, wincing from the pain in her back, and rubbed until her eyes opened more easily. She looked around, wishing she had kept them closed. She was in a large, pristine white room with four walls, and no doors or windows. She was on a flat, white bed that protruded from a wall. There was one bed behind her and one in front of her. She looked to her left and there were three more beds protruding from the wall. Why was there no door? Where in the hell was she?
There was a noise behind her and she turned quickly to see where it came from, now aware of a sharp pain in her left arm. The wall seemed to slide open, revealing a door. An eight-foot tall green…thing came toward her. It looked almost cylindrical and had nothing to suggest any sort of humanity: no eyes, nose, mouth, or even limbs. It glided toward her and its chest area began to open as something came out of the chest, extending toward Briony. She opened her mouth to scream, but no sound would come out. Worst still, paralyzed with fear, she watched as the thing that came out of the creature’s chest touch her left arm. The pain in her arm subsided; perhaps this creature wasn’t so scary after all.
The door opened again and someone else entered the room, this one looking more human, to Briony’s relief. As it got closer, the face gave a less-than-human appearance less human. It had four eyes placed in a diamond shape on the face. Its nose was thing and long, with a wide mouth below it, accentuated by thin lips. The body was clothed in white, though there was nothing about its figure to suggest whether it was male or female. All the eyes looked back at Briony.
“You have finally awakened. I was worried.” The rasping voice coming out of the creature was calm and feminine. “How do you feel?”
“Okay,” Briony’s own voice sounded strange to her, much more hoarse than usual.
“I am sure you have many questions. My name is D’lheera and I am a physician. This is Estwen,” she gestured to the green creature who made a move similar to a bow.”
“Physician,” Briony repeated. “So…this is a hospital?”
D’lheera’s top and bottom eyes shifted to the left and then back again. “Of sorts,” she replied. “This is the sick bay of a space station.”
Briony’s two eyes widened. A space station? “How far am I from home?”
“Quite far.” D’lheera inclined her head to the left. “You are in the custody of the Ka’cheva.”
D’lheera’s wide mouth spread even wider and she sat down next to Briony. “I see I must explain further,” she mused. “The Ka’cheva rule the western half of the Andacassian Galaxy. The space station where we are now is in the middle of their province.”
Briony thought for a moment. “You said I’m ‘in their custody.’ What does that mean?”
“You have been placed under arrest.”
Ah, so it meant the same thing here that it meant on Earth. “Wh-why am I in their custody?” she sputtered.
D’lheera made a sound as though she couldn’t believe what she just heard. “You cannot commit a crime of this magnitude and expect the Ka’chera to do nothing.”
“What crime?” Briony cried out. She tried to stand up, but her legs buckled and she had to sit back down again.
D’lheera squinted at her. “Why, you have murdered the Leader’s son.”
Briony was stunned into silence. Murder? Surely not. For a moment, she couldn’t think, but then forced her mind to try to remember something, anything, that had happened before she woke up in a space station, far away from her home planet. What did the Leader’s son even look like? For that matter what did the Leader look like?
She closed her eyes, allowing her mind to scan for her last memory. She was at her job, nearing the end of her shift. Most of the customers had gone home, except for one guy sitting at the end of the bar. The only two waitresses working that night were counting their tips and would be going home in a few minutes. Briony announced last call and wiped down the bar. There had been a loud sound, one of the waitresses screamed and after that…nothing.
She opened her eyes and looked up to see D’lheera watching her. Estwen had already left the room. “So, I’m in custody. What happens now?”
It was several minutes before D’lheera responded. “A decision must be made for…” She stopped, not wanting to say any more.
“A decision for what?” Briony prompted.
D’lheera’s four eyes looked away from Briony’s face. “For the date of your execution.”
“My execution?” Briony shouted. “Just like that? I was on Earth and now suddenly I’m going to die?”
“Lower your voice,” D’lheera commanded. “Someone will hear you.”
“Who cares if anyone hears me? I’m going to die.” She was suddenly out of breath, as though she had just run a long time. “I don’t even know if I really killed the Leader’s son. I’d never killed anyone before this.” She put her head between her knees, trying to calm down, trying to slow her breathing down. A thought occurred to her and she sat back up, looking at D’lheera. “Don’t they have some kind of trial where I can defend myself against the charges?”
“Not for this sort of crime,” D’lheera shook her head.
“Wait, so why am I here in sick bay? I woke up on this space station after being unconscious for who knows how long. They nursed me back to health just so they could kill me? Where is the justice in that?”
“Who said there was any justice?”
Briony’s eyes widened and she leaned in closer to D’lheera. “You have to help me,” she whispered. “I have to get out of here and get back home to Earth, where I belong.”
D’lheera stood up. “I cannot assist a criminal.” She took a few steps away from Briony as though she were about to leave the room, but she turned back. “Do you have any idea how long it took me to get where I am now? Do you understand what a privileged position it is to be a physician for the Ka’chera?”
“You’re just going to let me die, then?” Briony nearly whimpered. “You’re going to let me take the fall for something I didn’t do?”
“If you did not do it, then perhaps you can tell me who did.”
Briony put her head in her hands. “I don’t know,” she moaned. She peered up at D’lheera. “The Leader rules half of this galaxy and the murder of his son is blamed on a bartender from Earth? He doesn’t have any other enemies?” When D’lheera didn’t answer, Briony stared at the floor. “That’s what I thought.”
An uncomfortable silence filled the room, finally broken by the door sliding open. Estwen glided in, pushing a tray into the room with his body.
“I will leave you in peace to sustain yourself,” D’lheera said. “I will return in a few hours to check on you.” She and Estwen exited, leaving Briony in the empty room with an aching body and a terrified spirit. The Ka’chera had trapped her here until they decided when she would die. Her only hope now was that death would be quick and painless.