Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Innocent (765 words)

Sunrise was an acquired taste. A bitter wash of gray on the horizon, scrubbing away the heavy night sky. A light brush of pink, and purple, and yellow, sweet almost to the point of cloying after the weight of the scouring that came before. A following brightness, fading through the last of the stars. Light that sept gently into blood and bone and breath, bright as mint. All of it drawn out, one insistent moment after another, to make it palatable.

Brance blinked into the growing light. He yawned. His tongue felt thick in his mouth, and his shoulders ached dully. Every thought was slow and flighty as a breeze, and constantly interrupted by the notion that shutting his eyes would be very comfortable. Laying down would be pleasant as well, but not necessary. He could sleep just where he was. And yet, after drinking in too many dawns, one more was hard to turn down.

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Flash Fiction: Day Breaks (127 words)

We stay up too late – you, and me, Jezi, Tomas, and Ana. Everyone else on this island seems to have better things to do at midnight, but we sit out on the old docks and forget to count hours. Sometimes we talk too loudly. Sometimes we just sit close enough in the dark to remind each other that there’s still heat in the world.

We’ve seen enough sunrises together to memorize all their colors. If we stay up long enough, we place our bets on what color will come first. Yellow, white, orange, red, green.

“Raging blue,” you always say. We beg you to pick a real answer and you shrug and pay the winner with a grin.

The morning you win, we forget to pay you.

Flash Fiction: Our Games (1215 words)

It was easy to spot the city watch. Even on the wrong streets when they chose to hide and leave their uniforms behind, they were obvious. Their collars were always pressed, the seams in their breeches always perfect straight lines to pass inspection. Elodie knew from a friend that the city only provided them with coats and boots, and they simply wore plain clothes shirts and breeches underneath. Lazy as human beings were, she doubted that they bothered to change more than they had to. Either that, or they only owned one pair of pants.

The man and the woman approached Elodie slowly and she decided not to walk away. She had a few things in her pockets that could get her in trouble, but nothing so large that it could be seen through the cloth. Standing against the wall of the old bakery, she had a good view of the rest of the street. She was enjoying the smell of the morning’s loaves cooling on the high windows somewhere over her head, and she didn’t want to give up such a sweet spot.

They continued toward her and stopped when they reached the bakery. The man hung back, leaning against the wall himself, while the woman smiled at her. It was a nice smile, but a little too calculated to erase everything behind it.

“Hey,” the woman said.

Elodie smiled back, and wondered if the woman could recognize the better form of her mask.

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Flash Fiction: How to Win (1485 words)

Zain kept his eyes on Silas as the kid realized that they had lost their wager. Zain wondered if Silas had ever lost a bet before, or if he’d seen before how quickly those conclusions came. Zain figured that he’d played through a hundred or two hundred in the last five years, but he still hadn’t figured out exactly where the lever was that turned the long rush of the game into the sudden weight of the ending. The most he’d figured out was how to breathe under it.

He watched Silas, knowing that the kid had been mirroring him all night, and hoping he’d keep the reflection a little longer. It was hard to tell though, whether he was still stunned by the abruptness, or if he was breathing too. Zain waited, one moment, then two, one breath, then four, and smiled slowly.

He nodded to Kibens, beside him at the table. “Thank you,” he said. Collecting himself, he started to rise from his chair and held out a hand for Kibens to shake.

Kibens looked at it, eyebrows rising, then took it firmly. “You’re welcome,” he said. “Any time you want another beating, come on back around. I’ll be happy to deliver.”

Silas was standing, too. He didn’t look at Zain, but nodded to the woman on his right, then the man on this left, and smiled a thanks of his own.

Zain breathed a little easier, smiled a little wider. It was near perfect. Still watching his little brother, he leaned closer to Kibens. “Any other night,” he said, voice low. “You’d be screaming at me for taking fourteen hands in a row, not beaming on top of one.”

Kibens shook his head, glared good-naturedly, dropped his hand and pushed it away. “Sit down then. Play another round.”

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Fiction: How to Gamble Part I (1192 words)

Jaera was where she had said she would be, under the only greenery on the South End tall enough for anyone to call a tree. She sat with her back against the trunk, smiling, face tilted up as if the moonlight was warm where it fell between the leaves. Hearing Silas and Zain approach, she raised her head, opened her eyes, pointed her thumb over her shoulder at the weaving stone street that continued behind her.

“Barelman’s,” she said, without introduction. “Has everything you need.”

Zain didn’t stop, touching Silas’ shoulder to push him on as well. “Thank you,” he told Jaera. He turned to give her a smile as he passed her. “I’ll send Terius back for you.”

She might have shaken her head a little, but it was hidden in the dark. It was a stupid thing for him to say, as Terius would find her whether Zain sent him or not. Terius might, if the situation arose, wander across an ocean face if he heard she was free for an evening on the island next door.

After another step or two, Silas ducked his head and twisted to come out from under Zain’s arm. “She’s not coming with us?”

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Flash Fiction: The Value of a Black Eye (999 words)

Rabin was halfway through his second cup when the man slid into the chair across from him. He had rough cut brown hair. His clothes were clean, well-made, and completely unostentatious. He didn’t belong in this crowd. Rabin scanned the rest of the inn’s taproom for any confederates he may have had. No one else looked out of place.

“Connell,” the man introduced himself. He stuck out his hand for Rabin to shake.

His palm and fingers were callused from ship’s work. The heavy muscles in his arms and chest said he was a common sailor. The sturdiness of his clothes said he was good at it. The ease of his seat and smile said he liked it. There was not a thread of ambition in him, and not a note of apology about it. Rabin leaned back, eying the man grudgingly.

“Rabin,” he said, short and sharp, to send him on his way.

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Flash Fiction: The Ante (346 words)

It was a simple game, but in Theo’s estimation, there were equal odds on it being invented by a child and a genius.  Simple rules: deal the cards out in twos, aim for a count of twenty-one, decide whether to call for more or hold steady. But the cleanest lines were always the easiest to play skip-rope between.

Some men played it precisely by the rules, certain there was more than had been explained, looking behind each card for a twist. They were careful. Their movements were small. They were nervous, little men and the only time Theo would give them, was the hour it took to take their money.

Some men played it like a riddle, filling in guidelines where the rules were bare. They wrote guides in logic, and odds, and counted cards. They made it math, knowledge, and not a game at all. They risked nothing. Theo kept an ace in his sleeve and only played it against them. He never played a second hand.

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