Flash Fiction: Forged Paper (461 words)

Some things looked like knives, but were not knives. Imalie had been carrying one for a decade now, a thin piece of steel that someone had sharpened for a clear purpose, though Imalie had confused it with a thousand others just as soon as she could.

The sharpener, no doubt, had been in perfect agreement with the craftsman who had carved and wrapped the hilt so that it fit easily in a hand and would not slip out of sure fingers. Both of them worked in agreement with the forger, who made the steel into something thin enough to barely need a point, and heavy enough to drive itself through a cut, as if it had some small measure of will all its own.

But it was not a knife. Knives were for slicing, cutting, and stabbing. For breaking, if it came to that. For severing. Imalie had tied all its weight into a sheath and strapped it to her arm under her sleeve, and never taken it out. She had never used it to cut a thing, so now, it was a memory, and a threat, and something which rode just on the edge of her curiosity before she dropped into sleep.

It was still a weapon, but a blunter, subtler sort than it had been created to be. Dragging, instead of driving. Quietly beating its bruises into her, and no one else. It worked so gently she never quite convinced herself to put it down, cruel, but nothing like how it had been made.

Standing at the back door of her client’s house, Imalie handed over the precious package she had been hired to lift, and watched it leave her fingers with all the usual mixture of relief and sudden tightening of her bones as she prepared to convince the fates and magistrates that she had been nowhere near this transaction. And she held still, watching.

It was just a stack of papers. Stolen now, but not marked by it. Most of them were soft enough not to offend rich hands, crafted carefully out of the sweetest pulp. There was ink on them in three different colors, just for the joy of writing in something other than black. There were ribbons around then, tying their folded edges shut, or glossy wax broken for the first reading. Letters. Endearments. Promises. Gentlest things, if one counted love as a gentle emotion.

And somewhere between Imalie’s fingers and the fingers of the woman who had answered the door, they all became thin blades, the whole package a knife with four paper corners still smelling faintly of perfume.

Because some things that did not look like knives, were knives.

Imalie felt the weight on her arm, and accepted her payment with a smile.

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