26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner
Samuel and I look at Quinn, who is curled up in Jenesis’s arms.
“You can’t lose. I’ll offer to take your place in the next battle.”
“And when Myndi makes that same offer over and over again? How long until I have to face her?”
Chimes sound in the distance. Jenesis lets go of Quinn and heads to the closet.
“You need to prepare,” Samuel says as he takes a step backward, toward the door.
“I need answers. I need to know what really happened that day.”
“Fight first. Focus on winning. Keep Quinn safe.”
Jenesis kneels before me, tapping my leg in an effort to get my attention. I know she wants me to slip into my fighting costume. But I need to know.
“Tell me. Should I hate my own brother? Or is it the face of Brydanz I should picture when I step into the ring next?”
He looks at Quinn. “Attie, please. There’s more to it.”
“Or what? You’ll throw the fight? Look at Quinn! Really look at him, Art.” Samuel heads to the door. “I’ll be back after the fight.”
“Even if I am not the winner?”
He hangs his head. “Yeah. Even if I have to come back to say goodbye to another child.”
My opponent looks like a yellow flower. A yellow flower half the size of the Bunker Hill Monument. Every blow I deliver results in my being showered with liquid. It feels like lemon juice, acidic enough to be annoying but not enough to do real damage, so long as I keep my eyes protected. I worry because it just stands there, letting me beat on it, not fighting back. Is there a killing blow coming? Do I just keep hitting until I die of exhaustion?
“Worst. Opponent. Ever.” I give it a hard kick. My foot slides into the stem. I jump up and kick with the other. That foot eases in. I grin as I kick-climb my way up.
At the top, I grab a petal. “She loves me,” I yank it out. Acidic lemon-juice-like liquid erupts, soaking me. My opponent bends.
I grab another petal. “She loves me not,” I laugh as I tug. The petal, my opponent, and I all fall to the arena floor.
“You won?” Samuel asks as I’m escorted back to my chamber.
“Yes. I ripped a giant flower apart. I’d love a shower.”
“It’s not a flower. That acid kills other species. You shouldn’t clean your uniform. Quinn, come over here and hug your Uncle Attie.”
Quinn runs over and wraps himself around my leg. I tilt my head as I stare at Samuel.
“Myndi can’t go near that acid.”
“Maybe I should challenge her now, while I’m fresh off my win and covered in the stuff.”
Samuel shakes his head. “No. There are other ways she could kill you without getting near you. I’m the one you’re going to have to fight. It’s my place that you’re must take. That’s how you’ll get off this world.”
Have you ever pulled petals from a flower while playing the fortune-telling game?
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