Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Flash Fiction #2 - Knowing

Second attempt @ Flash Fiction. Extended the 1000 word barrier a little -- hope that's ok! Still new to this art - will aim to make the next one shorter :) As always, comments welcome.



She awoke to the sound of a scream cut short by silence. Her heart told her to go help; her mind told her there was nothing she could do. Terrified, she lay silent, listening to the too-loud sound of her rapidly beating heart. Eventually the pounding slowed and lulled her back to sleep. As it always did.

When she woke in the morning, the terror of the night had faded to a wisp of a dream. She went out to the pump to get water for her morning chores and surreptitiously surveyed the the townspeople to see who was not visible this morning. Nobody would say anything. He who was gone, would never again be mentioned. It was suicide to cross the wall -- everybody knew that.

"Why would you even want to leave?" the elders asked, and Jezina always nodded sagely as though she too agreed with the prevalent attitude of the town. But really, if she were honest with herself, she wanted to know. She wanted to know what lay beyond the boundary of their little world. The elders said there was nothing. Nobody who had ever left had ever returned, and the occasional outsider that came in would either leave almost immediately, or would settle and seemingly forget the world outside the wall as if their memories had vanished as quickly as the scream in the night.

But, Jezina had realized, the elders had never left. So how did they know there was nothing out there? Nothing worth searching for? Such thoughts were blasphemous and she confessed them at the shrine to Aliah, but during the monotony of her daily chores, she could not stop her mind from wandering out beyond the wall. What was out there? A life that went beyond daily chores, prayer to a god who seemed awfully apathetic about their lives, and people who were not only content but seemed genuinely happy living out their lives within the boundary; a life where every day did not have to be the same as the last. Did such a thing exist? The only way to know, would be to cross the wall. But none who crossed, ever returned.

Jezina went out to gather herbs for the healers; this was one of her favourite chores as it often took her so near the wall. Some days she would take a break and climb it -- looking curiously at the other side. Nothing looked different out there; Jezina couldn't see any reason not to go. With her heart in her throat, she swung her legs over so both feet were technically outside the boundary and . . . absolutely nothing happened. Jezina laughed nervously at her own reaction. She would go for a walk, just a short walk, outside the wall. Nobody would know, and surely it wouldn't be disrespectful to the elders' mandates so long as she didn't speak of it or encourage others to do so.

She paused another second before taking the leap -- and heard her name called in the distance. Denaf. Her cousin and playmate, she and Denaf had grown up together, but while he would've said they were the closest of friends, she knew he would never understand or accept her secret thoughts. "Coming!" she shouted as she vaulted back off the wall before he came into view. Jezina quickly gathered a few of the herbs growing at her feet. Any inspection would make it clear instantly that she hadn't been entirely dedicated to her task, but she knew that on such a warm summer's day that would be forgiven -- so long as nobody realized what she'd almost done.

"Jezi!" Denaf called earnestly as soon as he saw her, "a kelah approaches!" And Jezina started to run; somebody from outside the wall was about to cross the boundary. It was forbidden to speak to a kelah before the elders had, but certainly not forbidden to watch. Ever so briefly Jezina wondered if perhaps Aliah was actually taking an interest in her life -- the timing seemed too perfect to be otherwise. She paused at the shrine before finding a spot on the elders' path. The whole town was there, the elders looking stern and forbidding, the children bouncing with excitement, and all the ranges of emotion inbetween. Kelahs were a rare treat -- although some definitely viewed them more as a threat. And if Denaf hadn't come to get her, she would never have seen, would never have known till it was too late.

The kelah passed through the unguarded gate, hesitated briefly when she saw the crowd, but then turned to speak some unknown words and gesture to the nearest people. The townspeople pointed her towards the elders' hut; Elder Ruset greeted her with the travelers' silent language. The language of signs was forbidden to the townspeople, but elders were taught so as to be able to ascertain the hearts of kelahs. Elder Kesa, a healer for whom Jezina often gathered herbs, had seemed to understand Jezina's need to know and had slowly, secretly, been teaching her the basics. And so she was able to understand both the formal greeting and the response exchanged before her.

Denaf was speaking excitedly to her, but Jezina had tuned him out entirely to her rushing thoughts. The kelah would know what was outside the wall. If Jezina could only have a few minutes to sign to her, then she would know too, without ever having to cross the wall. But despite the answer being so close, she knew she would never get to ask her questions. Either the kelah would stay, and her memories would fade before ever speaking to anybody, or she would leave before daybreak and Jezina would still not know what lay beyond the wall.

The crowd dispersed, returning to their chores. They would find out soon enough if the kelah was staying, and until then there was nothing left to be seen. As Jezina passed Aliah's shrine she made a decision. If the kelah settled and decided to stay, Jezina would put aside her disrespectful questions and refocus her life, following Denaf's lead. But if, late that night, she heard the kelah leave, Jezina would follow, going over the wall just out of sight of the elders' hut. And then she would know.

She had to put those thoughts aside to get through the day without anybody knowing; she was not entirely successful -- Denaf knew something wasn't right but she relaxed when he teased her about her excitement over the kelah. He had no idea what was really behind her tension.

That night, having fallen asleep despite her plans, she awoke to pitch black darkness and the nearly silent tread of footsteps outside her window. Very quietly she pulled her herb pack out from under her bed -- it contained her few meager belongings and some food leftover from dinner. Moving quickly but silently she crept to the wall and as the kelah passed through the gates, Jezina dropped down off the wall.

Her heart was pounding so loudly she was sure to be heard. She could hardly fathom that the elders hadn't heard her land. But nobody called out. Perhaps, having crossed the boundary, she was already invisible to them. Forgotten. She was the farthest she had ever been from the only home she had ever known. She was the farthest anybody she knew had been. She felt a pang of regret that she hadn't been abel to say goodbye to Denaf, but consoled herself that maybe one day she'd be the first to return.

Her eyes were adjusting to the dark. While she could see little, she could make out shapes. She would listen for the kelah's footsteps and then travel that direction as best she could, hoping to catch up when it became light. Perhaps the kelah would let Jezina travel w/ her, she knew some signs, they could communicate. Or if not, she was content to follow to the next village.

She was so attuned to the nearly silent night, pausing every few strides to listen for the faintest of footsteps and otherwise lost in excited thoughts, that the kelah's scream was shocking enough to drop her to the ground. There was a flash of light and a second scream cut off by silence. And then she knew.


Are you going to continue this next week...pleeeease? I have to know what happens next. Thanks for posting!


I *knew* you were going to do that!! Bad Laur!!



Thanks Laura! -- that's about the best compliment there is :) Made my day entirely :)

Jen - who me??? Do what? >;-P


Shocking cliffhanger! I feel *cheated* I tell you!!!

Seriously, great story! I was totally expecting you to go another way with it. Keep it up!


Excellent work. Really pulled me in. I hope you continue it.


Ha! I was expecting the cliffhanger ending, too :)

Good job, Laur!

I hope you keep posting every week.


Thanks WT!

hahaha oh my -- only the 2nd one and already I'm being predictable. Gotta do something about that *g* Sheesh >;-P


But did she really "know," or did she "know no more." Big difference. And you kind of leave it ambivalent. So it could kind of go either way. Rather leaves it up to the reader, doesn't it? Which is what good fiction does.



I like this - i have a fondness for both writing and reading cliffhangers ;-) To Jeff's point, it is quite ambiguous, and the phrasing could be clarified at least whether she survives it or not - still open to the reader's interpretation. Nice job :-)


oOoOoO. Can't wait to read again... next Friday????


I hope this tale continues next week too. With writing like this I wouldn't worry about exceeding the 1000 word mark. Besides, what's 395 words among friends?


Fantastic stuff. You've painted a huge picture of a different world, and left us with the great unknown beyond the limits of our own experience. Don't continue the story, the cliffhanger is exactly how it should end!


So I have to say, the ambiguity was kinda the point :) Did she survive? Did she not? Intentionaly entirely left the the readers interpretation.

hahaha thanks so much for your support guys -- and I'm glad you're enjoying my stories :)



A compelling world and main character here. As the other's have said, I would definitely read more of this. Though I like the idea that we don't get to know what's over the wall. we are left behind with the other villagers. Great stuff.


I liked this one a lot. Personally, I think she bought the farm. The real question in my mind is, did the elders kill her? There are people outside, after all, so the danger does not seem to be an outside threat. Only people who leave get it. Or perhaps the village is under strict quarantine? Wonderful imponderables to leave your reader with. Nice job.


What a world you've built. I would hate to lose such a character, she has curiosity, guts, initiative - all those things, I suspect, the Elders fear most.

So, she may not have survived...

Nicely done. I enjoyed reading this.


Enjoyed this story - did she pay the ultimate price for curiosity? Since she knew after the scream (and there's no indication she made that noise), then there are many alternatives. Level up - next village, perhaps.

Good creation and characterization for such a short piece!


Beautifully woven, hope you turn it into a novel.

Karen :0)


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