Flash Fiction challenge this week was to choose from a list of 10 titles and create a story from that. I rolled randomly and got Omen of Seven (submitted by stella winters). It may be a little rough, but here’s the result.
The first time she thinks she sees it she’s slipping down moss-covered roof tiles, fingernails tearing as she scrabbles against the slick surface; a failed attempt to slow her fall. Her feet meet air, then her torso, and she’s falling, heart in her throat and wind in her ears. And she thinks she sees it, but her vision’s gone hazy, there’s black at the edges and she can’t be sure. Everything goes dark when her body hits the ground. There is no pain.
When she wakes she convinces herself there was no Black Dog watching her from the roof as she fell. No harbinger of death foretelling her end with three sets of red eyes and gnarled silver antlers. Just a figment of her imagination; a hallucination in the moments of panic as she fell. Yea, that had to be it.
Except she sees it again, lurking at the mouth of the alley when her contact slides a blade into her gut and leaves her bleeding out in the filth. And again, just out of the corner of her eye, as she drinks her tumbler of whiskey. The one meant to celebrate a job successfully completed. The one that’s been poisoned by her partner. Yet she continues to survive.
There are stories. Whispers in pubs late at night, when everyone’s too drunk to remember not to speak of it. If you see a Black Dog once and live, you are lucky. If you see a Black Dog twice and live, you are cursed. If it’s ever found out that she’s seen one three times, someone will make sure the next time sticks. And she’s not too fond of the idea of burning at the stake.
It’s been nearly a week since she’s had any sort of food and her body feels heavy. Red eyes have been watching her from the shadows since just before dawn. By mid-afternoon the knowledge that she won’t survive the night finally feels real, so it’s a surprise when a man offers her food and a warm bed in exchange for help on a job. The Black Dog grins and she knows she shouldn’t, but she’s so hungry.
A week of recovery is all she gets, then it’s time. It’s a simple job, really. The owners of the shop are gone, so breaking in is easy. Her lockpicks make short work of the safe lock and she fills her personal pouch with coins before letting the rest of the team fill the sacks to take back and split. She curses when the sound of whistles echoes down the streets. Something heavy and blunt connects with the back of her head, knocking her senses awry, and she knows this was their plan all along. The scapegoat.
When her vision clears there’s a Black Dog standing just feet in front of her, head cocked to the side. The beast is so close she can make out patches of dark scales amongst the fur, and the cloying scent of old blood and decaying flesh.
The sound of a whistle startles her and the blood drains from her face at the sight of the Watch at the street corner, crossbows drawn and trained on her. She doesn’t think, just takes off down the alley. But they must have circled around, because the bolt that strikes her comes from her front. Her vision narrows to the sight of it in the middle of her chest. The tip grinds against bone as she falls and all she can hear is the howl of a dog.
The cell smells like mold and piss and shit. There’s no light so she presses her fingers to her chest to assess the damage. The wound has scabbed, but the skin is soft, swollen, and hot to the touch. An infection then, possibly a cracked sternum. Why wasn’t she dead yet? Five sightings and still she lives. How?
Her musings are broken by footfalls and a splash of torchlight against the walls. She knows they’re here for her before they reach her cell. The fur under her fingers is surprisingly soft and leaves behind a thick, coal-like residue. The first kick knocks the air from her lungs, but so long as her gaze meets red she feels no pain.
The gallows is teeming with people, loud with their shouts and thick with the scent of unwashed bodies. One of her legs is broken and the pain keeps her mind fuzzy as two men drag her toward the wooden stage. There are four other men already hanging there, leaving one noose for her. The undertaker hauls her up and slips the knotted rope around her neck, tightening the loop until it bites into her flesh.
A man, the Constable she thinks, steps to the front of the stage with his hands in the air, “This criminal has picked her last lock! She has been a terror to our streets for too long and today she hangs for her crimes!” He turns to her then, smiling so smug she wishes she could punch him, “Have you any last words?”
She shifts her gaze, intent on not saying anything, and sees the Black Dog again. It weaves through the crowd and leaps up to stand next to the Constable, tongue lolling out with a toothy grin. And she can’t help herself as the laughs spill past her lips. Something in her face must startle the crowd because they all step back in unison. Her laughs grow louder, deeper, and start to echo. The Black Dog’s grin grows wider.
When her eyes meet the Constable’s she can see his fear. It only grows as she finally speaks. “The Black Dog comes to me now, for the seventh time. Let us hope your rope is sufficient.”