The Shining 2: Beginner’s Luck

This is a Flash Fiction challenge courtesy of Chuck Wendig over at his Terrible Minds blog. The Challenge is this: Write a story about Luck. So… Sequel time!

*Psst. Here’s part 1*

“You can’t be serious. This has to be a fever dream!” Emilio cried. The stranger grabbed Emilio and lifted him to his feet, earning a hiss of pain from the boy.

“That looks bad, son. We can get you patched up but you gotta hurry,” the stranger said.

Emilio watched the stranger closely, looking for any sign that the man was deranged or unhinged in any way. This Shining business seemed too crazy to be believed. But then, the still cooling body of the monster that had nearly eaten him was proof enough, wasn’t it? Don’t trust anybody, the stranger had told him before. Would he trust this stranger now?

“I don’t want to join your brotherhood. I just want to find my father and get home. I don’t want any part of this,” Emilio said. The stranger nodded thoughtfully.

“If your father lived here for more than a year’s time, the chances are great that he is no longer alive. But for your sake we will find out for certain,” the stranger said. Emilio coughed, holding his throbbing shoulder.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Here,” the stranger offered him a cloth bandage. “Keep pressure on it. And follow me. I’ll take you somewhere you can mend in peace. Then we can discuss things further.” He led Emilio outside and toward a coach which had no horse or anything else pulling it.

Once they were situated inside, Emilio turned to the stranger and asked, “Sap powered?”

“We try to avoid Sap where we can. It attracts them.”

“Them?”

Them,” the stranger said. The coach began to move. Emilio saw it was because two men he hadn’t seen before had climbed out of the coach’s interior and were pulling it along.

“That… thing said she knew my father,” Emilio said.

“Hmm. It’s possible it was bluffing. It might have been trying to lure you closer. Or perhaps it did know your father. You saw through its charade real quick like.”

“I remembered what you said.”

“Lucky you,” said the stranger.

“Where are we going?” Emilio asked.

“A safe place,” said the stranger.

The coach rolled along cobblestone streets before returning to the smooth pavement that Emilio had first encountered. They stayed off of main avenues and stuck to side streets away from where most of the city’s commuters traveled. The yellow glow of the Sap powered lights felt oppressive. Where before they had amazed him in their splendor, now they seemed sickly and draining and he didn’t want to look at them anymore.

“How many people did that creature…” Emilio paused.

“Consume?” the stranger offered.

“Yeah.”

“From the looks of it, quite a few. Though it hadn’t eaten in some time.”

“How can you tell?” Emilio asked.

“You get an eye for these things after a while,” the stranger said, nibbling on his piece of straw.

The coach rounded a corner before reaching what appeared to be a dead end. The crumbling brick edifice before them seemed immovable. The stranger leaned out the coach window and whistled in a high pitch. The wall shifted, then moved inward and away to reveal a doorway. The coach sped inside before the wall slid back in place. Emilio found himself in a grand hall filled with streets and storefronts of their own. A city within a city. Everyone seemed to keep to themselves, but a few waved and nodded as they passed.

“You built all this? The brotherhood, I mean?” Emilio asked.

“This here is about a century of labor. Back before the purges, we were very numerous. More of us than you could shake a stick at. Now there ain’t so many of us. Few people experience the Shining anymore so our numbers don’t get replenished. The monsters have gotten very good at staying hidden.”

“It wasn’t that hard for me to see this Shining,” Emilio said.

The stranger considered him for a moment before saying, “Beginner’s Luck, kid.”

“Oh.”

“What?”

“Nothing. I thought for a second that I was special or something.”

“Everyone’s special. That’s what the monsters want you to forget,” said the stranger.

“You keep calling them monsters, but what are they really?” Emilio asked.

“That’s a long and complicated answer. I don’t know if I feel like telling you, seeing as how you don’t want anything to do with us.”

“I was just curious. Ow,” Emilio said, clutching his shoulder. He was getting dizzy.

“Almost there, kid. Hang on.”

The coach stopped in front of a building with a red cross on the front of it. The stranger helped Emilio inside. A stocky woman beckoned them to a waiting bed.

“What do we have?” she asked.

“He got clawed real good,” the stranger said. The woman was unimpressed. “Stab wound to the right shoulder. Sap Sucker, camo subtype.”

“Dehydrated?” she asked.

“Yeah. Practically dust by the time I got to it.”

“Good. You got real lucky, kid.”

“That’s what everyone keeps telling me,” said Emilio. As the woman worked, Emilio asked the stranger more questions. “Where did these things come from?”

“He doesn’t know?” the woman asked.

“Focus on what you’re doing, Clara, ‘fore you stick another frog leg on some poor soul’s forehead,” the stranger said. Emilio laughed, then stopped when he saw Clara’s expression. “Anyway, there are lots of stories about them. Some think they were here as long as people were, some think they cropped up when we first discovered Sap. Whatever you believe, know that they are cunning, smart, and lethal beyond reckoning. They come in all shapes and temperaments and they all have one thing in common.”

“They love Sap and will do anything to get it!” Clara exclaimed.

“I heard stories about monsters before. But… it was never anything like this,” said Emilio.

“The world ain’t ever what we think it is,” said the stranger.

“Does the whole world really belong to them?” Emilio asked.

“It does, to hear them tell it. But our little brotherhood of Shining Ones thinks otherwise,” said the stranger.

“That’ll do it. Rest now, boy,” said Clara.

“Thank you, ma’am. And my name is Emilio.”

“Don’t care,” she said before leaving.

“Pleasure to meet you too,” Emilio mumbled.

“Don’t mind her. She’s a prickly one,” said the stranger.

“Seems like an odd thing for a healer to be,” said Emilio.

“She had her Shining when she saw her little brother get eaten by one of those things. That tends to make one ornery,” said the stranger.

“Oh no. That’s terrible,” said Emilio.

“Not as terrible on the wrath we will visit on those parasites. Get some rest. We’ll get working on finding your father once you’re on your feet again.”

Emilio nodded and pulled a scratchy blanket over himself. His dreams were filled with needle teeth and hungry yellow eyes and he wished his father looked human again.

*Part 3*

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