I think I’ve said I was never fan of writing shorts, but there is satisfaction to be found in subtle scene building.
It’s this art of minutiae that bridges the gap between dialogue and setting. Anyone can do dialogue – he said, she said, he replied, she admitted, they queried, it pondered – but it takes patience to build a scene without it.
This one is about patience.
Faldan took his time. He savored the movement of every muscle in his arm and hand as he raised the cigarette to his mouth. His stomach grumbled in emptiness. As his lips touched the slightly pinched filter of the cigarette, a few tendrils of smoke wafted into his eyes. Staring out at the blood-thirsty crowd, he let his tears build up and flow without care. Maybe they would think he shed tears for his poor choices in life. As he inhaled, he turned his eyes inward and watched the dance of the embers – like fire goddesses undulating before walls of flowing lava.
The crowd’s impatience grew, and their restlessness only served to heighten the din of their displeasure, but Faldan took his time.
Smoking the cigarette in long breaths, he alternated his exhalations between nose and mouth, creating colliding streams of smoke that swirled into strange galaxies as they floated away on the breeze to mix with the charcoal skies of his planet’s neat and tidy little post-apocalyptic hell. He smoked the cigarette down to its filter, and then pinched out the ash, taking a moment to look at the charred filter.
The magistrate’s representative gave him a withering glare, waiting with his Book of Law to read the official charges and commence the execution.
Flicking the cigarette butt away, Faldan resigned himself to the task at hand. As the magistrate’s representative began to speak, the roar of the crowd died down, pleased that the moment of blood-letting was fast approaching.
Faldan looked out at the crowd, waiting patiently for the herald to end the formalities. Every face he looked at belonged to a person that could just have easily been standing there on the Executioner’s scaffold. In this hell, everyone was a brigand, a thief, a cheat, or a liar.
“May the gods have mercy on your soul,” the representative finished.
Sighing to himself, Faldan hefted his mighty axe onto his shoulder, and set himself. Without even looking at the face of the man he was about to execute, he gripped the axe with both hands, heaved it over his head, and brought the weapon down with force.
The dull blade only bit a quarter of the way through the man’s neck. The crowd erupted in both boos and cheers as the man ‘s wound erupted in a fount of blood. Sighing, Faldan cursed his assistant for forgetting to sharpen the axe again.
The crowd and the magistrate wanted a head.
Faldan took his time.