Story — Fire Salts Pt. 1

She pulled the knife from her chest and smiled. “Was that supposed to hurt?” She wiped the blade on her shorts. A calm and careful action. “When you’re trying to mug somebody,” she continued, glancing back at the three men, who were still standing in stunned silence. “You should go for something more vital. I usually go for the thighs, myself. If you hit your target just right they won’t be able to walk. For example,” she thrust the knife into her leg, where the shorts didn’t cover. The assailants staggered back at the self-inflicted wound, stunned.

She didn’t even flinch.

“Well, maybe I’m not the best person to use as an example. None of this is going to work on me, anyway. You could also go for the neck, but that’s typically easier to defend, even with the three of you.” Again, she pulled the knife from her body and wiped it on her shorts. Blood now fully soaked her shirt and leg. It added to the aesthetic.

“But I’ll tell you what, boys.” She examined the knife and wiped any remaining blood from it with her thumb. “I’ll give you all a first hand experience of what it’s like to defend yourself from an attacker. Free of charge! You’ll learn valuable information about what it’s like to be on the other side of the blade. What do you say?” She took a few steps forward, knife gleaming in the moonlight.

“H-hell no!” one said, turning and bolting back down the street. His friends didn’t even have the nerves to make any reply at all, they simply fled like Death himself was on their pursuit.

“But this is your knife!” she called across the sidewalk. They kept running. Holding the tip of the blade in one hand, she took a firm stance and squinted at her target. After an extra second to aim, she tossed it. One, two seconds later it hit its mark, sinking into one of her attacker’s legs and sending him to the ground. His friend didn’t so much as look back.

“Too low again,” she said to herself. “Harder, Senna! You’ve got to throw it harder!”

The man was trying to grasp at the knife as she approached. It hit him in the calf, so he was struggling. She relished in the horror in his eyes when he looked up at her. “Having trouble?”

“L-look, I don’t w–”

“It was a rhetorical question,” she snapped. “I’m not going to kill you. The Watchers will take care of that much. I’m just going to take your stuff. Let me take care of that knife for you.” She pulled the blade out of his leg and slammed it between his shoulder blades. He screamed in pain and fell back onto the pavement. He was still conscious, but he wasn’t going to get back up. “That’s where I meant to hit. Hitting a moving target isn’t easy, you know.”

Unfortunately, he didn’t have much on him. A band of gauze and a half-empty bottle of water was all that was worth taking. The gauze, at least, would be useful. She pocketed both of them, though the bottle was bulky and uncomfortable. She returned to the vacant alley way where she was attacked. Not that it was necessary. Pretty much everywhere was vacant these days.

She took out a small vial from her pocket. Popping the lid open she tossed two of the pills into her mouth. Almost instantly her organs felt like they had erupted into flames, consuming her with an unbearable heat. After a few moments, the pain started to subside. She looked to the bottle. Only one pill left. She had to get back. If she was still out by sunrise, the Watchers would find her.

This time of year there was less and less moonlight to work with. She hated being cooped up all day, but there was no choice. Forty years the world had been under the looming gaze of those things. Forty years looking for things like her. Well, not forty of her years. She was barely old enough to drink, if the laws of the old world still applied.

She got back to the apartment building not having seen another living soul, not that that was surprising. Most of the population had banded together and made new little towns out of the rubble of the apocalypse. But her kind wasn’t welcome there. Echoes, they were called. While most humans didn’t even know they existed, large quantities of people were under the harshest scrutiny of the Watchers. She shuddered at the thought of them. Even making eye contact with one would be fatal for her.

The building was more sturdy than most. That’s why she had picked it. “Baxter!” she called up the stairs. “I’m home!”

“Finally! I was getting worried, you know,” Baxter’s voice sounded down the hall. It was getting deeper every time he spoke these days. “Another hour and the sun will be out!” A young teenager walked into the stairwell to meet her, but as there were no lights, it was hard to discern anything.

“Aww, you worry too much, little bro,” she said once she got to the top. “You know I always come back.” She ruffled his hair, even though he was barely a head shorter than her.

“You’re covered in blood again,” he scolded.

“Yeah, I got mugged.”

“That’s twice in two weeks! You’re not going near the city, are you?”

“Damn, Baxter. What are you, my dad? Relax, I got some gauze and water out of it. Well, not much water, but still.” She walked into the kitchen and put the bottle into their cooler, trading it for a granola bar. Baxter followed her in.

“We’re running out of clean clothes because of you.”

“Yeah. I gotta meet with Charon anyway. I’ve only got one pill of fire salts left. I’m going to go change.”

He nodded, running and grabbing her a new shirt. She smiled her appreciation and went into ‘her’ room. She pulled off her shirt and started munching on the granola bar, examining the wounds. The one on her chest was more shallow than she had anticipated, which was a good sign. Perhaps two pills had been a bit overboard.

Baxter walked in carrying a small bottle of peroxide. “Hey, you might need–”

“Baxter!” she yelled, covering her chest with an arm. “I told you I was changing! Get out!”

“Sorry, Senna! I forgot!” he stammered before scurrying away, leaving the bottle behind.

“Yeah, right! We talked about this,” she said across the apartment. “Knock on the door frame when you want to enter. You need to stop scrambling to find an excuse to look at me every chance you get. One more time and I’m going to crack your head open.”

There was no reply. “Dumb kid,” she said under her breath. She went back to her examinations, and she noticed that the blood on both wounds was hot to the touch. That couldn’t be good. She felt her forehead. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Could it be a new side effect of the fire salts?

She had a bad feeling about this. Something told her she had to find Charon now, and not wait for tomorrow night. Daylight was fast approaching. The Watchers would be out. Was it worth the risk?

5 thoughts on “Story — Fire Salts Pt. 1

  1. “Thirty years the world had been under the looming gaze of those things. Forty years looking for things like her.”

    I’m unsure if the “thirty” here is a typo or not, since the Watchers could have been looking for 10 years before taking over everything. Felt a little ambiguous and it was the only time brought up, so no context for me to determine one way or the other.

    Other than that, it’s quite a different tone on things than I’m used to from you. The impression I got is jumbled; the violence set the tone fine and I could roll with that without much issue, but the interaction in the building went from brother/sister to uncomfortable real quick. I’m not sure if you were just purposefully trying your hand at some new sorts of scenes or what, but it given the size of the story, it seemed… out of place? Unnecessary? I personally just didn’t feel there is enough character development to warrant a sort of “walking-in-on-someone” scene. That’s opinion though and I don’t think I found anything particularly *wrong* though.

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    1. Just as I hit “post” I realized I typed “though” twice (I didn’t want to end a sentence with an asterisk) and immediately wished there was an edit button.

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    2. Weird. It was thirty originally and I could have sworn I changed both to forty. Fixed!
      And yeah, I knew it would be weird. I wanted her being “home” to feel very different from being out in the world, which it sounds like I did a good job. The scene you brought up was intended to establish a bit more character on both ends.

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      1. I thought that might be what you intended, but it ended up feeling like it established “trope” more than “character” – perhaps if Baxter boldly walked in BUT had his face covered or something. Or if this is only a new problem because they’ve grown up together for the past 15 years.

        There is one glaring bit that I’m unsure about though: do I have an issue with the scene because there is genuinely nothing useful about it, or does it just throw me off balance because my little brother wrote it? I honestly don’t know.

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      2. I think it’s probably a bit of both, but mostly the latter. It’s not a useless part of the scene, I just probably did a poor job making it do what I wanted. As I said, there’s a lot about this story that I haven’t tried before.

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