French 75 – A Flash Fiction Piece
Another Friday(ish), another flash fiction challenge courtesy of Chuck Wendig. This week’s challenge is to pick the name of a cocktail from a list, and use it as a title for a story. Since my story is a continuation of some previous fics, and I already knew where it was going, I picked the cocktail/title ‘French 75’ which was the only one which (very vaguely) fit the story.
Fine white alabaster sand cushioned Ardillo’s feet as he walked along the pristine beach. He could feel the heat of the sun tanning his olive skin an even darker shade, and for a moment he let his thoughts unravel, merely enjoying the warmth of the sun, the shifting of the sand, and the relaxing sound of the gentle waves dancing up the beach.
As she called his name, his thoughts knotted themselves again. For two days he’d avoided her, knowing that she wanted an answer; not knowing which one to give her.
“Buenos dias, Isabella,” he said.
She smiled at him, a gesture which made her natural beauty shine and made his breath catch in his throat. “Do you mind if I walk with you, señor?”
“I do not mind.”
Taking up position beside him, she closed her eyes as she walked, letting herself be guided by her own intuition. Every so often she would err, and bump into his arm, and he wasn’t entirely sure if she was doing it by accident. Still, she did not speak, which was a welcome relief, and they’d walked almost the whole stretch of the beach before she finally opened her eyes and turned her face to his.
“You are troubled.”
“You can tell that, beneath this?” He fingered the lower section of his luchador mask which covered his whole head.
“You have the bearing of a man who carries a great weight upon his shoulders. I regret that I’m the one who put it there.”
He sighed. “I brought my own weight with me, as you know. You have merely added to it.”
“Have you given my request any thought?”
“That’s all I’ve done for the past two days.” He stopped, and waited for her to do the same. A little further down the beach, a group of young men and women played volleyball, the normalcy of their laughter a mockery of how very abnormal Ardillo’s situation was. “To be honest, I’m not even sure what it is you’re asking me to do.”
“I thought I’d made that clear, Ardillo. I want you to help me kill my father. Not just his physical body, but the non-corporeal being he is at his core.”
“And that is what I do not understand!” he said, throwing his arms up in defeat. “I thought you had already killed him, weeks ago, when he was your brother?”
“I did. But only the human body he was inhabiting. His soul will be reborn. It’s only a matter of time before he comes back.
“Then you could find him and kill him again. Keep him trapped here forever. What is the problem?”
“The problem is, I’ve changed the rules,” she said. “I was supposed to kill myself, after killing him. This has always happened. But because I haven’t killed myself, because my host body was advanced enough to hear me, I have broken the cycle. My father will be reborn, but I will not be a part of that life. Before I can kill him, I must do two things. I must first find a way to kill the entity that he is… and I must also find which body he has been reborn into. This world has billions of people on it, so it is a search which could take me many years.”
“I still don’t understand where I come in. If your father is reborn, won’t he be in the body of an infant? I don’t think I could kill a child, even knowing what he might one day become.”
Isabella was silent for a moment, her green eyes scanning the watery horizon as if searching for answers she did not have. She sank down onto the sand, and patted the space beside her. Ardillo, with no better idea of how to escape this madness, sat beside her.
“The night after I killed my father,” she said quietly, “I had a dream. A dream about a man with two faces. He had blood on his hands that only I could see. That man was you, Ardillo. You were not the only one in my dream, but you were there, and you were crucial in helping me to kill my father. That is why I came to Cancun. I was looking for you.”
He let the weight of her words sink in before adding them to the pile on his shoulders. How very different would his holiday have been, if he hadn’t let Isabella sit with him that day beside the pool? If he’d just said, ‘Lo siento, señorita, but I simply wish to be alone.’
“You’ve said a lot,” he told her, “but explained very little. I can’t kill a child. I won’t kill a child. But if what you say is true, then it is not the child you need to kill, but the powerful entity which lives inside it. How am I to kill something like that? I, a mere man?”
She smiled, leaving him with the impression she’d been expecting this question. “Mine is not the only body to have advanced to the point of hearing me. Humanity stands on a precipice, a point which all sentient species reach during their evolution. The next few decades of life on this planet will determine one thing; whether mankind continues, progesses, evolves into something beyond itself… or whether it dies in its infancy, never to fledge and leave the nest.”
“Mi cabeza… I am no philosopher, Isabella. Such thoughts are wasted on me.”
“Not as wasted as you might think, Ardillo.” She lay a slender hand on his bare arm, and he felt heat emanate from her palm. “There is so much potential in humanity… and some people have more potential than others. Now that I am aware of who and what I am, I have the power to unlock that potential. Written in your genetic code, in what your people conceive as ‘junk DNA’, are possibilities. Songs which have not yet be sung. I can help you to sing those songs. I can help you to become what you have always longed to be.”
He laughed, unable to help himself, feeling genuine mirth for the first time since he had killed a man and fallen into a pit of self-inflicted melancholy.
“Oh, Isabella, you have read too many comics and watched too many cartoons. Are you trying to tell me you can turn me in to some sort of… super-human?”
She looked at him, her face entirely serious. “Not just you. And I wouldn’t call it ‘super-human.’ It is merely the natural evolution of your species. Mankind will get there on its own, if it does not destroy itself through war, or over-population, or ecological disaster. I can merely speed the process up.” The heat flowing from her hand into his arm muscles grew more intense. “You have always wanted to be a hero, Ardillo. That is why you first started taking off the mask, is it not?”
Standing up, she brushed away the sand which clung to her legs. His arm now felt cold, where her hand had been, as if bereft of something vital. She held out her hand, an invitation to join her, but he held back. He could end all of this craziness. He could go home, continue fighting as a luchador, and on his days off he could do his work as a vigilante, protecting the innocent people of his city from the petty and dangerous criminals who preyed on them.
He looked up at Isabella’s face. She merely watched him, waiting in silence for his decision to be made. So, he made it. If Isabella could do what she claimed, then wouldn’t that make him a better hero? Taking her hand, he stood and faced her.
“Could you give me super-strength, or the ability to fly?”
A wide smile split her face. “It does not work like that. All I can do is unlock your potential. What gifts slumber within you, ready to be released, depends upon your genetic code.”
“Very well. When shall we do this?”
“Tonight. My room.”
“And then? We find your father?”
She shook her head, brown curls fanning around her tanned face. “We can not do it alone. There were others, in my dream. Other people we must find, and whose potential I must also unlock. Tell me Ardillo, have you brought your passport with you?”
“Yes. Why? Where are we going?”
“We’re going to France.”