Friday 15 June 2012

Flash Fiction: Broken Birds

I am surrounded by angels. They are all me and they are all broken.

++ PARALLEL 0023 ++

Kiara hauled on the stick between her legs, banking the jet hard, fighting momentum as the bird shook around her. Flaming missiles arced past.

After months of training she was finally in synch with her A.I. Warbird co-pilot; the program intuited her responses, assisted her reactions. She brought the jet round in a tight loop, heading back into combat. The targeting display across her visor blinked as it locked onto dragons.

Dragons. What. The. Fuck? Myths, legends, stories to explain dinosaur bones and elevate heroes.

Apparently not. Some kind of rift had opened up over every major city and begun spewing aggressive flocks of the things.

Still, whatever generated the flames they spat burnt hot in their bellies. Hotter than a jet engine, more than hot enough for a missile lock. Kiara fired. Twin trails billowed away. They slammed home and one of the creatures exploded in smouldering chunks.

The A.I. alerted her as two smaller beasts headed their way. They didn’t seem to have the fire breathing or superheated guts of their larger cousins and they were flying erratically, evasively.

Her cannons whirred into life, spitting twin streams of hot tungsten at her new dance partners, but they were manoeuvrable little fuckers. If they were jets they would have streaked past each other and banked for a new run. But they weren’t jets, and her mindset was still adjusting to a different type of threat.

One of them lashed out, claws and wingtip talons grabbing at the Warbird. It struck her wing, failing to find purchase, but with enough impact to take part of the infrastructure with it. There was some small satisfaction as the tiny in-frame video on her visor showed the creature spiralling down towards the ground, but the damage taken was significant.

Landing might be a problem. Then Kiara saw another option. The rift. It was specifically against orders, but if she could shut this thing down from the other side...

++ PARALLEL 7081 ++

Chara banked hard, grunting at the strain on her pinions. She flipped herself just in time, her wings rustling around her as she span out of reach of the metallic wyvern.

The wyvern was a blacksmith’s nightmare brought to life, gleaming sinuous metal that seemed to swim through the air, as fast as her. She came out of her spin with her flaming sword, Inferno, extended and swinging with transferred momentum. Inferno screamed at the foreign things, snapping hungrily at them as Chara attacked. Where the sword bit they bled molten metal.

Inferno was a wild thing, tolerating Chara’s grip only as long as she brought new victims, an arrangement that suited them both. It roared a warning, but too late. Something heavy slammed into her back, clinging with sharp metal claws, heavy and dragging her down.

She swept her wings forward and swung Inferno across her back awkwardly. With any normal blade it would have been weak and ineffectual, but Inferno was far from normal. Her sword blazed and fought with the thing on her back as she struggled to keep hold of the hilt.

She felt the claws loosen, and the thing begin to fall, but it lashed out in death spasm and she cried out as the bones at the end of her wing shattered in a flurry of feathers.

She could barely stay airborne, every flap a hundred jabs of pain. She was below the whirling mêlée now and she saw the rift hanging a short way off, unguarded. The invaders had come through it, maybe the answer to this madness lay on the other side.

++ PARALLEL 3067 ++

“Good luck, Little Bird.” He placed a firm hand on her shoulder.

Chiarr nodded, “Thank you, father.”

She would need it. While their hunters engaged and distracted the whirling, clockwork imps head-on, she was to guide her glider behind them and into the trembling rift through which those whirring, winged invaders had poured.

They could not imagine what she might find on the other side, but if there was some way to close the rift... she had to try.

++ PARALLEL 0333 ++

Kari burst through the glittering rift. The transition from her world to... wherever this was, had put out the flames on the torn wing of her flightWare. The armoured tech-suit was actually maintaining altitude now and she looked around, taking in the incredible sight before her.

She was miles above a blackened, featureless plain and there were hundreds of other rifts hanging in the air around some terrifying, towering, hellish demon. It was an amalgamation of everything: flesh and metal, flame and firepower, magic and tech, and winged. It was as big as a mountain, writhing and lashing out.

And it wore her face. A thousand instances of her face that bubbled to the surface of its skin, screaming, before being dragged below again.

She saw more strangeness emerging from other rifts, in varying technologies and biologies, but all flying and all broken in some way. Her sightWare magnified the faces of all the newcomers and they were all her, they all wore her face, and they were all moving to attack the abomination rearing up before them.

Kari was resolved. From their angles of attack, she knew the other versions of herself were too. All of them were broken, but none as broken as this thing before them, this thing that was them, somehow. It was their duty to end this madness.

++ 0 ++

I am surrounded by angels. They are all me and they are all broken.

They mean to fix me, I think, to end me. But I was broken long ago, broken hard, and the task will not be easy. If they succeed maybe I will finally know peace.


  1. Wow. This is ambitious for a flash but I think you pull it off well. I'm not sure about the last line *shrugs* that's probably not a very helpful comment.

    I love the speed at which you set up the varied realities. I found it easy to visualise too.

    1. Thanks, Peter.

      I think I know what you mean about the last line, but I wanted to show something more of the 'demon' itself...

  2. I particularly liked how the first and second parallels worked together. This rift is very intriguing - is it something you've been working on in a longer piece?

    1. Thank you, Mazzz. =)

      I like the idea of parallels, and you get a fair amount of it in comics (which I read a lot of... ;) ), but this isn't any part of a larger project. Yet... ;)

  3. Uh-effing-MAZING!!! And this is a flash? Double! Love how all the different versions of one fighter come together to fight the *real* threat.

    1. Thank you, Larry. Glad you enjoyed it! ^_^

  4. Outstanding John.

    Four parallel dimensions, all beautifully visual.

    1. Thanks, Steve. Really happy that I managed to make it work! =D

  5. Really interesting take on a parallel universe theme. All the different versions of herself converging for a murder-suicide... fascinating piece of work!

  6. My, I so love parallels! I'm thinking about Sucker Punch, but this is more dimensional and vast. Beautifully drawn and delivered. Great flash!

  7. Cleverly written, well pulled off!

  8. I'm always a fan of the parallel universe ideas. The epigram made it extra interesting, though, because it's from the point of view of the rift-making nexus-demon.

    1. 'Bad guys' should never really be all bad or two-dimensional. Not always easy to do in a flash which often relies on archetypes for space saving, but I wanted to try something here. Glad you liked it. =)

      Thanks, Katherine. =)

  9. This was an exhilarating ride. I think I actually forgot to stop breathing at one point. Fascinating idea, expertly crafted. Bravo!