My first attempt at one of Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction challenges. This week he chose ten random words. The challenge was to choose five and incorporate them into a single 1,000 word piece of flash fiction...
...so here goes. Hope you like!
The hound Yahweh had been whining all day. He got like that in Winter. The Gatekeeper untied his leash and wandered through to the kitchen where month-old piles of pots and pans littered every surface. Scouring around through the mould and dirt he found the hardened cooking fat from an old bear cub steak, scooped up a fistful and ate a little to try and sate his hunger then fed the rest to the animal, using the greasy remains on his palm to slick back his hair. "Waste not. Want not" he mumbled. The pair stared out of the doorway past the giant foxgloves which lined the edge of the moor at the coming storm. The time had come for their nightly rounds, but it was going to be heavy going if they got caught in the weather. The Gatekeeper grabbed the protective clothing hung by the door. Industrial boiler suit. Slicked gloves. Galvanised helmet. Hopefully they'd be back before the rain began but he wasn't going to take any chances. The hound? He'd have to run for cover.
Dressed up in the gear the Gatekeeper admired his image in the window. He looked like something from one of those old science fiction movies - the Forbidden Planet or the Day the Earth Stood Still. Better that, he thought, than eaten by the acid storm. Almost as an afterthought he pocketed his whalebone shard knife, a present from Mary before she passed last Winter. She'd scratched his name on the handle - it must have taken her weeks, the bone was as hard as steel. He readied himself. "Yahweh?" he growled with false enthusiasm "let's get moving". The hound bounded to his side and grabbing his meatsac they began their struggle around Princetown's wall, leaning diagonally into the wind. They'd find nothing, as usual. If there was anything out there which was still alive, it never came near this place anymore.
He paused to look up and the sky and spat on the ground. It'd been different once. Back in the time of Zadiq. He'd find food - wild beasts who had lost their way. But then Zadiq had been overthrown and forced to leave the town and the beasts stopped coming. Zadiq's scarred face drifted into the Gatekeeper's mind. He stared at the storm and grimaced. Even with food his old friend wouldn't survive this winter outside Princetown's walls. Orphans together, they'd been childhood friends. Zadiq had the brains, the Gatekeeper, the brawn. They had left the orphanage and grown into men together. Laughed at the same jokes, made the same mistakes. That's how they were sent here to Princetown. They'd got a bit too carried away in the riots after the first Great Ecological Crash. Looking back at it now, that was the best thing that had ever happened to him. The cities were all flooded or burnt to the ground not long after. His thoughts were interrupted by his stomach - a low moan - and he gripped the handle of his knife. Everything was different now. The town was running low on supplies, they'd need more meat soon.
Yahweh by his side, the Gatekeeper fought his way around the corner of the huge wall, where the wind dropped enough for him to crouch and light a dirt stained 'roll. He inhaled deeply feeling the smoke and thick cold mingle in his lungs and breathed out a cloud of yellowy smoke. Through the haze the Eastern gates looked even more foreboding. To think once, back in the time of men this had just been a prison. Now, it was the only refuge they knew of. A cage become fortress. He took another drag and growled to himself, savouring the flem in his throat. They trudged on into the wind, two beasts together. The gatekeeper took a last drag and stopped dead in his tracks. In the shallow light of the 'roll tip he could see a beast up near the edge of the Northern wall. He breathed the smoke out silently and grown the butt under the heel of his boot. The acid rain began to fall.
"Yahweh. Get." he whispered hoarsely and crouched down in the foxgloves to unsheath the knife. The dog sprang forward and hurtled on through the heavy drops disappearing into the dark. He hoped it was a quick kill. The dog wouldn't last more than a few minutes in the rain.
The Gatekeeper waited. He strained to listen but all he could hear was the shrill whistle of the wind, the thudding of the falling rain on his helmet and the thudding of his own heartbeat. To calm himself he counted slowly to thirty and then swept forwards. He saw the beast prone on the ground and ran to finish the job. Whalebone sliced through the acid drops and straight into the beast's neck. There'd be meat tonight.
The Gatekeeper's eyes shot left and right. He whistled, but Yahweh was nowhere to be seen. With any luck the hound had run for shelter before the acid ate through his fur. From a distance he thought he could hear a whining, but it could have just been the wind. He hauled the dead beast into the meatsac and dragged it behind him along the Northern wall continuing his round alone.
As he turned to approach the Western gate he spotted something else on the floor. A bundle of rags or, if luck was with him a bear cub caught out in the acid storm. The Gatekeeper hurried forward, the meatsac following him step by step, partners in a strange sluggish dance. As he drew close, the knife dropped from the Gatekeeper's hand, the meatsac from his grasp and he fell to the floor over the two lifeless bodies. Several minutes passed. Swallowing hard, the Gatekeeper straightened himself up, fetched his knife and shifted the beast in the sack to make room for the dead hound. Feeling the tears well up behind his eyes, he turned back to the second body, Yahweh's teeth marks still gleaming where there'd torn into his neck, the rain already beginning to eat away at the edges of the wound. He turned the dead man over to look into his scarred face for one last time and hardening his heart, added the third corpse to the sac. Dragging the meat behind him, the Gatekeeper struggled on. Waste not. Want not.