Flash Fiction: Scapegoat


Written for the monthly writing challenge over at Fantasy Faction. It really wanted to be an actual short story, and in another genre, so I have plans to expand it later.

March 2014 Challenge: Grimdark


“I’m never going to face garlic again,” Dece muttered.

Officially, Salia knew that she should reprimand him. Unofficially, she was too busy trying to scrub the blood (and worse) from under her fingernails to give a damn about what the good major thought on ‘proper attitude’.

“Smells to me more like mustard,” was what she said. “Matches the blisters.” Not to mention the pus rising to the surface of the water they were boiling bandages in. She had no idea what twisted genius of an alchemist came with the H.S. gas, but even the slightest contact left its victims with burns and infected blisters on both on the skin and in their lungs. Get any of the resulting pus on someone’s else skin, and most people came out with blisters of their own. The smell was just another layer of indignity.

If her fellow medics needed sharp comments and black humour to stay sane, Salia wasn’t going to say a word against it.

Dece gagged; theatrical, rather than genuine. “Love you, too, Doc,” he started, then cut himself off. Salia turned her head sharply towards the tent’s open flap, and saluted with as much precision as she could muster.

“Major Brasiza.”

The major didn’t reply. Through her exhaustion, Salia felt her heart stutter. It was sensation she knew very well, both as an indicator that she needed to rebuild her reserves, and of fear.

“Major Brasiza, can I hel-”

“Shut up,” the major said. Salia shut up. She heard the dull boom of shells hitting the earth, and the wooden planks above them shook; they were all used to it by now, and didn’t move. The major just took in a deep, almost steadying breath, and continued. “My soldiers, doctor. What are you doing to them?”


“You’re not saving them. You’re not curing them. But you can touch with them with your bare hands… In fact, I’m not convinced that you’re even trying to save my soldiers.”

Salia bit back a sudden hit of hysterical laughter. Not even trying? “The bullet-wounds I can fix, I can stitch them up. But I’m running out of morphine…The gas-victims? I can’t do anything. I’m not an alchemist, sir. And the fact tha-”

The major snorted. “No. You’re a walking corpse who hasn’t had the decency to throw herself into a funeral pyre yet.”

Oh, Salia thought.


Behind her, and as if through water, she heard Dece make a strangled sound. “I’m not dead, sir.”

I’m not killing my patients. I’m trying to do everything to save them, you fucking unthinking regimental brat, and before you do anything, I have the right to a court-martial-

“Yes, you are.” Major Brasiza’s voice rang with the same precision as a judge’s hammer. The younger woman’s punch snapped Salia’s head back, sending her crashing into the support pillar. The blow didn’t knock her out, but when the soldiers came to drag her out of the room, she was too disorientated to stand.

They tied her to one of the ruins’ broken windows, forcing her to her knees and securing her ankles and wrists to the stone frame. She knew them. Corporal Jochi (bullet to the upper-arm, concussion) and Sergeant Toulus (urinary tract infection, partial hearing damage to left ear, beginnings of shell-shock). She might have said, ‘please’, except they were treating her like she was dead already; checking the knots to make sure she couldn’t get up.

Then they left her.

It took her longer than it should to realise she was in range of the enemy’s guns, but by then, she was too nauseous to laugh at herself over it all. She knew Major Brasiza. No matter what the martial codebooks said about legal lengths of punishments, Salia wasn’t being untied in an hour. Maybe in three days, when the funeral pyre was lit again to consume the dead, to set their souls free, to make sure those with blue eyes (like hers) or red hair (like hers) couldn’t come back to kill the living (like she knew she would, the price of her gift at healing).

Three days.

Call it a witch’s intuition.



  1. Yoooo! I thought it had an interesting dynamic on how they had the whole “whoa vampire kill it” mindset even though she’s already been saving people. (we spoke on livejournal by the way. -waves-)

    • And then I failed to reply – SO SORRY. Hi! And 😀 Thaaaaaank you so much – I was playing around how that dynamic might work, particularly when everyone is very, very stressed from war and the injuries (I decided to make mustard gas even worse than IRL). And I was poking at the idea that while vampires are an acknowledged and useful minority in this world, the relationship isn’t always easy.

      And thank you so much for reading 😀

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