Flash Fiction for SCREAMS!!! 3/15. Winner.
|A Creeping Redness
“He’s coming! Genghis is here!”
The terrifying words brought ice to Ivan’s soul, fear freezing his innards in an instant. No, not Genghis and his bloodthirsty horde, he prayed. Anything but that. Already he could hear the fighting at the gate, the clash of swords and shields rising from the battle the town militia must be losing.
Staring around at the panicked people, he noticed the tavern’s sign swinging above the disorder. Of course, thought Ivan, the tavern would have a cellar. He ran for the door.
Inside the tavern all was quiet. Ivan leapt over the counter and began to inspect the floor carefully. A square of solid wood, ventilated with rough holes drilled in the surface to form a lattice, promised a cavity beneath. He felt the edges, searching for a handhold to lift it. In the dark space between floor and counter, he found it, a gap just big enough to insert the fingers of one hand.
He gripped the edge and pulled upwards. The square moved easily to reveal a narrow space beneath the floor, walls stuffed with provisions and barrels and sacks. There was just enough room for a man to stand and Ivan, without a thought, dropped down into the space, pulling the square back into place above him.
There was no time to consider his position, however, for he heard the front door slam open and the guttural voices of the attackers as they poured into the tavern. The place dissolved into a cacophony of shouts and thumping feet, the invaders’ short but stout physiques giving added weight to their footfall.
Then the noise abated and it became clear that the horde had found the beer. Sounds of breaking barrels and drinking commenced, the voices muffled now by their consumption.
New voices appeared, frightened, entreating voices, begging for mercy in the Russian so familiar to Ivan. It seemed the horde was bringing its captives into the tavern. The sound of footsteps directly overhead increased and then died away into silence. The noise that then arose into the stillness had Ivan wondering for a moment. And then he knew.
The twang of taut bowstrings and whoosh of arrows was unmistakable. The soft thump of bodies hitting the floor was a macabre rainfall.
Ivan became aware that some sort of liquid was pouring down on him, dribbling down the walls and soaking him everywhere. It was warm and he knew it must be blood. On and on went the slaughter above as fresh captives were added, and Ivan could feel the red tide rising to his knees and then his hips. Still the killing continued and now the blood reached the level of his chin. Desperately, he wriggled, trying to find a way to preserve some breathing space, but it was hopeless. There was no room to move.
He struggled to lift the lattice but the weight of bodies above made it impossible. Ivan must drown in blood.
Word Count: 496