Greylands, Part 3: A Rising Tide

by Colin F. Barnes

The familiar laughter of Kerisa and Briana flittered into the dorm like aural butterflies, demanded Geisha’s attention, and woke her from her cocoon of pain-filled stupor.

A single un-shaded light bulb swung gently from the low ceiling. The swaying reminded her of home: a boat, adrift off the coast and disguised as a patroller. Tory, Geisha’s one-and-only ran a pirate radio station from there. The thought of the waves gently lapping her to sleep at first was a comfort, but then her stomach lurched, gripped and twisted.

A pain slithered through her chest, hot and molten. No matter how hard she closed her eyes, the tears still flowed, still arced down her red cheeks.

The compact room, with little space for much else, contained just a cot and a wooden single-drawer cabinet. The Sisterhood eschewed too many personal possessions anyway; it wasn’t prudent to become attached to anything–or anyone.

With its unreflective grey walls, and stained wooden floors, it comfortably assumed the aspect of a prison cell rather than a paid-for accommodation cube. But she was there, which meant one thing: she wasn’t dead. Whether that was a good or bad thing, she wasn’t entirely sure.

Kerisa’s voice grew louder and her shadow, starting in the doorway, stretched across the floor, its head inches from Geisha’s cot. Kerisa leant against the doorframe with slender hands on hips, thick lashes covering dark eyes. She wore bright red nail varnish. Entirely ridiculous and impractical.

“Hey, Sis, how’re ya doin’?” Kerisa’s thick Brooklyn accent slithered like oil, covering everything.

Geisha opened her eyes, looked down. Around a smooth slit in her leather chest guard, dark brown droplets of blood spotted the surface. Blood. Then a flash memory: a knife, from the shadows, striking her in the chest. Her assailant like smoke, no details.

“I’m…still alive.” Geisha answered as she sat up slowly from her cot. The floor chilled her bare feet. “Where are my shoes?”

“Your attacker jacked ‘em. Crazy, huh?”

Crazy, and but not unexpected. Quality shoes were a premium item on the streets. Would be enough to feed someone for at least a week. If they weren’t killed for them.

“Who found me?” Geisha asked.

“Marie; she’s real pissed though.”

“No shit.” When wasn’t Marie pissed about something. “So I take it Marie used my last Medpack ration?”

“Yeah. Said you’re lucky to be alive.”

Geisha ran her right hand over her leather chest guard; it was one of her very few personal items, and made for her by a skilled armourer in her hometown back in Fuji. His name was Jin, and even back then was older than the gods. And more skilled. It broke her heart to see his precious work defaced. Still, it’d done it’s job. Without it, the blade would surely have struck too deep.

Kerisa sat next to Geisha on the narrow cot. She wore the same form-fitting black-cloth outfit that all the girls in the Sisterhood wore. Her dark auburn hair was pulled into a pair of side bunches. She couldn’t have been older than fifteen. Her makeup applied as if she were going out to party with her girlfriends. It wouldn’t take her long to realise there wouldn’t be any more parties. She’d only been in the Sisterhood for a few months—just a single hit completed, the reality was yet to strike home; it was all still a novelty to her. Still high on her first. Still thought she was something special. They all did at the start.

It was the third hit that made Geisha realise the reality of the Sisterhood and the consequences. She was partnering with a so-called veteran with four hits. The stupid bitch froze and panicked. The hit went badly wrong and Geisha took a bullet that ended any hopes of having a child. She always told herself she was better off for it; who’d want to bring a kid into this world?

“So, what do you want Kerisa?”

The girl smiled. Her perky breasts bounced as she quickly stood up and clapped as though she were a cheerleader. “Marie’s got another hit for you — your last. Number six.”

“Hah! Like I’m in any shape–”

“It’s an easy one, here.” Kerisa, grinning like a child at Christmas expecting a Barbie playhouse,  handed Geisha a note with Marie’s handwriting on the front. It wasn’t in its customary black envelope.

“You’ve looked at my contract?” Geisha couldn’t believe the girl’s temerity. It was one of the prime rules of the Sisterhood: only Marie and the assassin whose hit it was shared the details of a hit. Geisha sat up, the urge to throttle the cheerful little bitch too much.

Kerisa stepped back casually knowing Geisha wasn’t fit enough to do anything about it. Impotent rage made Geisha’s hands tremble. Stars of colours blinked in and out of her vision as she suddenly felt as if someone had turned the world upside down.

Kerisa giggled and skipped from the room, slamming the door behind her.

“Goddamn kids!” Geisha whispered under her breath as she lay back on her cot and gained her composure. She waited until the footsteps had stopped before she opened her contract.

Number six. Retirement beckoned. But without a Medpack it wasn’t going to be easy. Hits usually only have an expiry date of a few days; after that it was fair game to the other sisters. Not to mention that she would then become the target of a future contract. The only way out of the Sisterhood was through retirement, or death.

Geisha’s hands shook as she unfolded the paper. Inside, just four words:

Tory

Tomorrow Noon

Retirement

 Tears flowed down her cheeks until they dripped onto the paper. Each landing with a splash. Tory! Her beloved Tory! All hopes of living with her on the boat after retirement crumbled as bile rose quickly up her throat. She vomited what little contents sat in her stomach onto the wooden floor.

Within the pool of vomit and spittle, something caught her eye: a flat worm-like object, about three inches long. It was greeny yellow like old grass. And then she realised why she wasn’t dead.

The knife wound wasn’t mean to kill her–but infect her.

To kill her slowly.

Make her suffer. Obfuscate the truth and origin of her killer.

She couldn’t have no more than a few days left. What benefit was there to fulfill the contract now? She might as well just lay back in her sweat-soaked cot and wait for death to take her in her sleep. Screw the Sisterhood, screw the contract.

But Tory — she’d be a target for any of the Sisters if she didn’t fulfill the contract, and given the vital information that Tory gave out via code in the songs on the radio station, it would implicate so many of the people living in the shadows just trying to survive, trying to avoid the corrupt police, the death squads…. No! Tory was too important, no matter what her condition, Geisha had to make sure she remained alive.

Which meant only one thing: there would have to be no more Sisterhood—no more…Marie!

Geisha shredded the paper and let it drop to the floor like confetti.

Feeling underneath her thin mattress, she withdrew a katana.

She stood up, and breathed deeply into her deceased lungs. Swallowing, she closed her eyes and willed her body to fight one more fight.

The world would burn before Geisha would allow Tory to be a target.

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5 comments

  1. Excellent! I was hoping we’d find out what happened to Geisha. Another great addition to the growing Greylands tale. Well done, and great way to build the tension.

  2. The Greylands setting just keeps getting richer and deeper with each round of flash releases. I got caught up in the moment, and with the character’s feelings in this one. Great job.

  3. Another excellent submission, Colin! Love your work! Love how this is going, Kris, excited to see what happens next 😀

  4. I like the crisp prose and tight dialogue. And the opening has a nice double-metaphor around butterflies and cocoons – imagery that’s nice: “The familiar laughter of Kerisa and Briana flittered into the dorm like aural butterflies, demanded Geisha’s attention, and woke her from her cocoon of pain-filled stupor.”

Thoughts?

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