Given my post just a couple of days ago about about the need for dark content to have a redeeming quality, I have mixed feelings about how this piece turned out. In my mind, Jonathan and Aramis are trying to accomplish something they believe (perhaps misguidedly) is good. However, I simply didn’t have enough space to squeeze that into 500 words.
Okay, I probably could have, but I have a 3 hour drive ahead of me (going help a friend move) and I really need to shut down my computer, pack and hit the road. Maybe I could, with more time, indicate the intent of these two within the confines of 500 words. That would add another layer to the story and, at least in my mind, give it some more depth.
What could have been, right? Anyway, my writing time is up and I’m determined to post some flash fiction every Friday of this year, so this is it, folks.
The prompt for this dark little romp came from the 500 Club this week:
Not everything needs to be spelled out. Sometimes deliberately not saying something will best convey your meaning to the reader. Write 500 words about something or someone without mentioning him/her/it specifically in the piece.
Please feel free to tell me what you think, good or bad, in the comments. (Really, that always applies.) Your compliments encourage me and your criticisms help me grow as a writer. I win either way.
“Don’t say the name!” Aramis said.
Jonathan recoiled. He wasn’t yet accustom to the secrecy. The ritual. The perverted sanctity of the world he’d entered.
Seeing that he’d succeeded in staying Jonathan’s tongue, only one word–five letters!–away from disaster, Aramis explained: “It acts like a beacon, for him and for others. You must never speak the name.”
Jonathan’s face screwed itself into an expression of befuddlement. “But, people say…that word…all the time. No one thinks anything of it. It never calls to anything when other people speak it.”
Aramis nodded absently and returned to the elixer he was brewing. He plucked two dried basil leaves off the counter top and crushed them by rolling them between his old hands. He dropped these in the small cauldron and then smiled at Jonathan. It was a fatherly smile, warm and assuring. Still smiling he said, “Now, a rabbit’s foot.”
Jonathan turned to the shelves behind him and reached for a jar on the fifth shelf, all the way to the right. Aramis tisked. “No, it must be fresh. Very fresh.”
Nodding, Jonathan walked to the far side of the lair and carried back a cage. Aramis retrieved a live rabbit from the cage and pinned it to the table with his left hand. He held a knife in his right. First the paw, which he added to the brew, and then the neck. Handing the body to Jonathan, he said, “Dinner.”
Jonathan took the dead animal in hand and asked, “About the name?”
“Ah, yes. The name. Names are special, you know. They have power. True names have the most power–the name spoken over you at birth–but any name you answer to will wield some degree of power over you. Even a nickname. Even slang.
“The power of a name is power over the being who answers to it, assuming you can sufficiently subdue that being. Some spirits we can bind. Some we cannot. We most certainly cannot bind him.”
Aramis stirred the thick contents of the cauldron.
“But what about my question? People speak his name all the time.”
“Indeed, they do, but without intent. Most people don’t even believe in him. Jonathan, understand what we’re doing here. We’re using small amounts of his power, trace amounts, through ritual and potion, through sacrifice and residue of his presence. But we don’t want to actually encounter him. Boy, neither of us would live through it!”
“I don’t understand…”
“The name,” Aramis said. “His name. He would hear it, and, knowing we cannot possibly bind him, he would consider it an invitation. You’ve seen the power of these incantations. Last week we burned a man alive–from the inside. We did that with nothing more than a few words from his book and the sacrifice of three crows. Can you imagine what his actually presence would do to us?”
Understanding spread over his face. “My God…” Jonathan said, steadying himself against the wall.
“Not that name, either!” Aramis snapped. “Do you want to start Armageddon?!”