Here’s another from this semester’s Flash Fiction Contest (with an appropriate snow-theme)…
Something was moving. There! A very brief movement, but she could see it. Rising and falling in the window. There, again. For a moment, the sound of the rain was forgotten even as it pounded loudly on the umbrella above her. Yet the more intensely she stared and the harder she watched for it, the shadow ceased movements. Lain thought that perhaps it was just a trick of her eyes. Maybe she’d been imagining it all along. Yet she continued to stand there in the middle of the street, eyes focused intently on what she may or may not have seen. This part of the city was forbidden, she knew. Yet this was where she lived or, rather, where she had once lived a long time ago before the world had begun to die.
It was late and the surroundings were lost to the inky blackness of night. The slow and steady blink of a broken traffic light above her occasionally chased away the shadows and gave her a brief insight on where she was standing. Lain didn’t need this reminder, nor did she welcome it. Being here caused a sharp tightening in her chest and an unexpected shortness of breath. She had confirmed that the window she was watching was the window of her old room. This run down house, practically ready to fall down at any moment, was hers. Or it once was hers. Standing from this distance, Lain could not see the shattered windows on the first floor or the bullet holes along the wall. She couldn’t see the rust or the chipped paint or the scorch marks from the flames. It was better than way.
“It’s it weird that a traffic light is still working all the way out here.”
Lain jumped and nearly dropped her umbrella. She hadn’t even noticed the red haired girl who had stepped up beside her, looking somberly at the house as if it belonged to her, too. She was drenched from head to toe, hair matted and sticking to her face and white shirt gone see through. She turned her head and smiled at the shorter girl.
“Especially since this is a forbidden zone. We can’t even get electricity to work in the parts of the city where people actually live. You’re so predictable, Lain.”
Lain’s eyes narrowed slightly from behind her dark framed glasses and she looked away, back towards the house. She was annoyed that Karin had followed her. She didn’t want friends and she was beginning to regret taking the offer of joining this band of thieves.
“We’re partners, not friends,” Lain replied as coldly as she could. “Don’t forget that.”
Karin blinked and stared at her. After a moment Lain turned to look at her, giving her a puzzled look. Abruptly the red head laughed and snatched the umbrella from Lain’s hand. She shuffled closer so that they could both stand underneath it.
“I guess,” She said, still smiling. “But we’re going to be working together, right? So we might as well be friends, too. It makes life easier.”
Lain almost laughed, but she bit her tongue instead. Life was not easy anymore for any human being struggling to survive on this dying planet. It was such a silly thing to say. For Lain, who had lived her life on the streets for as long as she could remember, it was especially so. As the two girls stood there, the sound of rain began to cease and slowly the air started to chill. Glancing up, Lain watched the rain freeze into snowflakes.
“Snow season,” Karin commented, following Lain’s gaze to the black sky.
“It’s always snow season,” Lain deadpanned and turned away. Tucking her hands into the pockets of her long coat, Lain stepped from the umbrella’s protection and began walking down the street.
“The planet is dying,” Karin said, jogging over to catch up. “Every season gets colder and colder. We don’t even get summer here anymore.”
“You’re stating the obvious.”
Karin looked thoughtful, tilting her gaze up to the sky again. “Yeah, but at least I’m not here sulking in this depressing place. Why are you here, anyway? You know if Raji finds out about this, he’ll be really mad.”
Lain stopped walking, bowing her head to hide her expression. Karin stopped a few paces ahead of her, turning to look back at her curiously.
“That was my home,” Lain replied quietly.
Karin looked surprised. “That old house you were looking at?”
Karin lifted her head and strained her eyes, trying to see the shadow of the house in the distance. The snow was getting heavier now, however, and she was unable to. She noticed instead that the street light had gone out now that Lain was no longer standing near it. Karin turned bright green eyes back at Lain and remained cheerful.
“That’s nice. My home isn’t even standing anymore. It got flooded when the oceans began to rise. What happened to your home?”
Lain flinched very slightly and Karin did not notice. Lain suddenly began to walk again, briskly moving past her partner.
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” she said softly. “It’s in the past.”
Karin shrugged and trotted after her, coming up beside her so they could share the umbrella. “We’re always living in the past. Humans are always striving to get back to their former glory. But those days are really over. We need to focus on the here and the now.”
Karin suddenly darted in front of Lain, forcing her to stop shot. Upon her quizzical look, Karin grinned. For some reason the grin sent an uneasy chill down Lain’s spine and she took a step back.
“You’re pretty powerful. A cyberkinesis ability is a very nice thing to have on our side. But you’re also dangerous and don’t think we don’t know that.”
“What are you talking about?” Lain said, instantly on the defensive. She couldn’t possibly know.
“You’ve found Her, didn’t you? That shadow in the window… You’re keeping her there.”
Her voice had suddenly gone cold. It was such a turn around that Lain was forced to take another step backwards.
Karin smiled again, but it wasn’t a friendly one. It reminded Lain of someone who would do anything to get what she wanted.