Friday 20 July 2012

Flash Fiction: Shark Knight Rises

Apologies for the slightly rushed nature of today's flash, it's been a slightly mad couple of weeks. I had the first line for a week, but the rest only came in the past couple of days so I hope you'll excuse it for being a little rough around the edges... =)

Shark Knight Rises

The squidmen had Shadow City clutched tight in tentacles of terror. A yellowing crescent moon hung overhead like a scythe waiting to fall and the stars seemed muted, as if even they had turned their faces away from that damned place.

Josie peered into the darkness between dumpsters and heaped rubbish. She didn’t think anyone had followed her, but this was too good a find to risk being wrong. When she was satisfied that she was alone, she pulled back the loose sheet of corrugated metal and squeezed through into the warehouse.

It was her tenth birthday. Maybe. She thought it must be about now. The weather was right. Her older sister used to keep track of the days but the squids had taken Amy two years ago and Josie had been too busy staying alive to worry about such things.

She had discovered the warehouse a week ago, just intending to spend the night in the alleyway, hidden amongst the other detritus. Then she found the way in. The first night she had just slept behind the stacks of crates. The second night she had explored a little. Through a grubby upstairs window she had seen guard anemone shuffling about the yard in front of the building, but the main doors were as locked to them as they would be to intruders. She looked inside the boxes.

They were full of food. Tinned fish with little keys stuck to the side.

She had gorged herself, unable to stop. It tasted so good, better than anything she had experienced before. It was more than her stomach could take. She had barely made it back out into the alley in time to vomit in the bins.

The nights after that she had paced herself. She didn’t need to be greedy, just a tin or two should do, combined with the scraps she scavenged in the daytime. It would keep her a little stronger, strong enough to survive, she hoped. Besides, if she took too much, someone might notice.

She opened a new tin, the salty, iron-rich smell of the fish wafting into her face, when something clack-clacked behind her. She froze, rigid with fear. She knew that horrible noise, a squidman’s disapproving tut.

“Rell, rell, rell. Seems I’ve caught me a rittle rat.”

Josie shook, suddenly feeling clammy all over. Every street urchin became conditioned to fear that clipped sound of English through a hard beak. The sound of Squinglish.

“Turn around, rittle rat.”

She turned, slowly. Her knees wobbled and she felt dizzy, she felt nauseous and was glad she hadn’t already eaten some of the fish.

She had never seen one up so close, with its glistening white head tapering upwards to a conical point; its massive staring eyes; the twitching beard of tentacles rearing up aggressively to expose its hard beak. The body was more-or-less human, although it had the same rubbery white skin all over and in place of arms two powerful manipulator tentacles. It slapped at Josie with one of those, lacerating her cheek with hidden hook claws and knocking her to the floor. She cried out at the sudden hot pain.

“Move, rittle rat,” it gestured towards the front of the warehouse.

Josie’s breathing came in rapid, uneven huffs and her head span but she dared not disobey. She had heard the stories of angry squids tearing men apart. She struggled to her feet and staggered between crates, heedless of the splinters catching between her fingers as she pushed herself onwards, ever aware of the squidthing behind her. She could hear the impatient fluttering of its tentacles.

Then it went silent, and that was somehow worse.

She struggled into the open loading area and fell to her knees as two more squidmen turned to look at her. She couldn’t go any further.

“Rhere did you come from, pest?”

Josie wrapped her arms around herself and shivered, waiting for the squid behind her to make his claim.

“Rell? Rhat rere you doing?”

The two squid moved towards her. Their facial tentacles grew agitated and their beaks began to clack. She didn’t understand why the other squid hadn’t come out from behind her.

Then something landed with a heavy, wet thump on the concrete between her and the new squids. It quivered with the impact but moved no more. She found it hard to tell the squids apart, but to her reeling mind this looked like the one that had caught her. Red and black fluid leaked from the corpse and began to spread across the floor.

The two squids looked at their dead companion, then at her. Their beaks opened and a piercing, hissing screech issued forth. She was sure they were about to attack her when something rushed past and straight at them.

She could see grey hide, wicked teeth and rolling, wild eyes as something brutal laid into them. They tried to defend themselves, tried to fight back but it was futile and as one of them ran away the newcomer tore the other apart. He held the squidman in place with thick, finned arms and bit and bit and bit. Chunks of quivering flesh and blood and ink splattered the floor.

And when he was done he turned to Josie, who backed up on her hands and feet till she was pressed hard against a crate and had nowhere left to go. He gnashed his stained teeth and red foam frothed from his gills. He blinked and shook and slowly he seemed to calm.

“I will not harm you girl. Do not cower from me. Too long has this city cowered.”

“Wh-who are you?”

“Just a shark looking to bring Shadow City back into the light.”

There was a crash as the last squid pulled the door open and fled into the night.

“Aren’t you going to st-stop him?”

“No. He will be my messenger.”

She pointed at the dead squids. “And them?”

“They are the message.”

In other news...
Check out my first ever author interview over at In Case of Survival! ^_^

And, previous Shark Knight stories:
Sharks of Old London by John Xero
Shark Knight by John Xero
S.H.A.R.K. Knight by Jack K. Holt


  1. "rough edges" felt part of the story - splintery. And compulsive. And Josie such a good name for the girl. More?

    1. Thank you, Sandra. =)

      You know how a name sometimes just pops into your head when you aren't even really thinking about a story? Glad you thought it felt right. =)

  2. Shark Knight to the rescue! I love these stories!

    1. Thanks, Larry. ^_^

      It's pretty fun writing them. =)

  3. Great story, but something about it just seems... fishy.

    (I'm sorry. I had to.)

    Actually, I would love to see these as Flash-style animations. They would rock that medium (in story form they already rock, too, mind you).

    1. Heh. Thanks, Katherine. =)

      I have nothing even approaching the knowledge or graphics skills to make such flash animations, would be pretty cool though! =)

  4. LOL I love it. Love the title too!! (Sounded a little like the dark knight rises!)

  5. Yay for Shark Knight! the only good squid is battered and fried ^__^ Nice edge to this one John.

    1. Oh, I do like good battered squid, with chilli and a good dose of salt. =9

      Thanks, Helen. =)

  6. A great return for our finned crusader, brutal. Nicely topped off with that last line too.

    And John...? Squinglish??? (Heheh!!)

    1. I know, I couldn't help myself. XD

      Thank you, Steve. =)

  7. You can't keep a good shark down. I must confess I read the squidmen like Kim Jong Il in Team America. ;)

    1. I did actually worry the squinglish would be see as badly stereotyped 'foreigner' speak, but I was trying to imagine what they would speak like without flexible lips... (OK, I was sat in my living room trying to speak without flexing my lips...)

      Thanks, Pete. =)

  8. Hi there John --

    I loved 'squinglish' ha,ha,ha. And literal squid guys are cool -- so often the simile, never the star. Go the shark knight.

    Watch out for practising squid speak, should anyone casually pass by:

    Q: "My god, are you okay?"

    A:"Yesh, I ish, trishing ta speak lish a squid."


    Gratz on two years of excellence, BTW. And there is an optional award nomination here:

    St. :)