Charles Gramlich has been showcasing flash fiction during the weeks preceding Halloween. Today is my contribution.
He woke to the soft notes of a flute, echoing through the tunnels beyond, coming in through the opening to the rooms of his cave chamber. The sound intrigued him—perhaps the goatherd was out with the goats in the orchard below. He moved quietly and quickly toward the tunnel leading to the waterfall, where a high ledge overlooked the orchard, the Keeper’s cottage, and Miller’s Woods.
Slowing his steps, Odin kept to the shadows along the side as he neared the bright beams of sunlight spilling onto the ledge. He edged his way to a dark niche in the rock wall where he could watch unnoticed. He could see four figures, their grizzled hair unkempt: three who sat side by side on the ledge, and a fourth against the side wall.
The waterfall lapped gently over the smooth stone lip. Within weeks the flow would grow to a noisy torrent, veiling the entire opening of the tunnel, its roar reverberating throughout the tunnels, down as far as the third level of the cavern. Spray flew over the foursome as they sat with their legs dangling over the edge. The three together were enjoying the last of a meal, gnawing on the gristle of a long shank and cracking rib bones with their teeth to get at the marrow.
The largest of the four males lifted his bone in salute to the others. “See what a cooperative effort brings? Now you know how stupid they really are.”
“I didna’ think they would lure so easily…great sport they proved to be.”
“Yeah, made ‘em tender with the chasin’…I do like ‘em carryin’ young. An’ now we don’t havta rely on stingy rations—we can pick out the plumper ones.”
The male who had just spoken turned to the smallest of the company, sitting alone at the far end of the ledge, next to the waterfall and the stone ladder that led to the bottom of the cliff. “Piper, you’re having none of this fine meat…pity.”
Piper shook his head while holding his bone flute in his lap.
“What’s the matter with you?”
“This’ll bring nothin’ but trouble…they’re not from the Colony stock.”
“Pah,” he scoffed, “the Keeper’ll never know…humans go missing all the time. We’ll just take what we need when the rations are low. Just not hungry, or are roots ‘n berries enough for ya?” Wrinkling his upper lip, he reached down to pick up a leather object and tossed it over, taunting him. “What does it say inside, Piper, o learned one of the caverns?”
Knowing it would be imprudent to refuse, Piper picked up the small leather package and pulled it open. He looked at the picture and the words on the thin, flat rectangle he found inside, and sounded them out in his head before he spoke, as Silas had taught him. “Washington driver’s license…David Lawrence…date of birth…”
From "Passage" by Barbara E. Martin
The Comedy of Rules
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