Friday, February 11, 2011


Too tired to shed her clothes stained with blood, Nightingale retreated to her tent. Her eyes closed as soon as she leaned against her hard bedroll, but sleep hid from her. The faces of those who had died flickered in her eyes. War was pointless she wanted to scream through raw lips.

"Nightingale?" Pili, one of the apprentice doctors, asked tentatively. When she stirred, he continued, I know you search for news of your brother --"

"He's dead." The apprentices were too tentative. They thought her healing was magic. She grimaced, but let it fall away and tried to smile to ease the lines around her eyes.

"Yes, but when I brought water through the camps, one of the soldiers knew you. Your fame gives them hope."

A sadness burned in her throat. They didn't need hope. They didn't need her. They needed to stop the war. "You wouldn't wake me because one of them knew me. We've earned our fame by saving lives.

"He... he..." Pili dropped to his knees. His face was chunky like rich loam. "He fought at your brother's side."

Nightingale raised her hand to place it on Pili's collarbone, which scratched with dried sweat. "Where is he?"

"Gone, but with his last words he asked me to give you this." Pili handed her a sheet of papyrus with the corners folded and brittle.

A half-page of writing in her brother's cramped style. Addressed to her. She held her breath as she skimmed. It couldn't be her brother's writing. The writing ended in mid-sentence. She dropped the paper.

"What is it?"

"Nothing," said Nightingale, pressing her hand against Pili to keep him from rising as she fled the tent. She climbed a ridge where the moon shone with black rents where streams etched scars into the earth. Pili's footsteps had followed hers, but he abandoned the chase.

The letters couldn't be true. They'd had enough money when father died. No! Her brother couldn't have come south to fight wars -- create wars -- for profit. Nightingale gulped a breath of cold air. She sang one of her people's funeral dirges. The mournful notes pealed into the canyons leaving her empty.


  1. More sad times are coming to the canyon...

  2. Ouch! Reality bites mercilessly...

    I like the echoes of the real world in this too.

  3. How sad for Nightingale to find out this way. Death never comes easy, though.

  4. "The mournful notes pealed into the canyons leaving her empty." Great visual line that directs the emptiness back inward.

  5. Florence Nightingale came to mind, especially since this was a war story, but I like how it twisted slightly into something more surreal, when she sung at the end.

  6. Hmm. I assume this is a continuation of your Phoenix stories? It's been a while since I read those...

  7. Thanks all for the comments, I've been fighting with the flu this week.

    @JohnW, @Mari, @Stephen, I'm glad the sadness comes cleanly through this piece because hitting the emotional tone was one of my goals for writing this flash.

    @JohnX, I'm curious regarding what reminded you of the real world in this piece.

    @Lara, great perspective on the line.

    @TS, I knowingly went into it with Nightingale, but hope that my sense of the who will keep it as a separate piece.

    @StephenW, this is intended as a different world (although I've filed off some of the more exciting parts about the world in this flash to analyze the character).

  8. The Nightingale/ Florence Nightingale resonance, nicely twisted by having her sing at the end so tying the name into another side of its nature, and the idea of creating wars in order to profit from them... dark business.