I haven’t flash fictioned in a while, so you know what I thought might be fun? Combining two challenges into one story. Don’t worry. I’ve done it before.
The two challenges come from Dan Alatorre and Chuck Wendig. Dan’s was to randomly choose a plot from a list of plots and use that for the story. My result is the title of the story. Chuck’s challenge was to click this site (note for Mom: there’s naughty language there, so don’t click that) and use the resulting character in the story. Here’s mine:
Dutiful tiefling ranger form a boarding school who is absolutely astonished by jugglers.
I don’t play D&D so I had to Google what a tiefling is. From my quick scan of Wikipedia, it’s a humanoid that descended from a demon race, though distantly. So they’re mostly human but have things like horns, sharp teeth, hooves, and extra fingers. They aren’t necessarily evil, though. Also, I’m turning the boarding school into a group home. I didn’t think anyone would mind.
All right. Let’s do this.
The Deadly Diamonds
I scan the dozens of faces before me, squinting in the bright sunshine. Where the hell is he? I should have known better than to bring him to Pearl Street on a Saturday.
An angry, male voice draws my attention. “Hey, what are you doing?” The big guy shoves the costumed young man – my cousin – away from the performer. “Go back to your cave.”
Those watching the scene laugh. I rush towards my cousin’s side, ready to defend him to the masses. Again. “Damon!”
He snaps his head around. “Jimmy!” His huge smile takes over his face, a testament to his ignorance of what people think of him. If there’s any gift to his condition, it’s that.
When I reach him, he wraps his big arms around me. While his mind remains in early childhood, his size accurately tells of his nineteen years. Keeping one arm around my shoulders, he points to the juggler, who holds four bowling pins. “Look!”
The juggler extends a pin out to me, shaking it. “He got too close. I could have hurt him.”
Removing Damon’s arm from my shoulders, I take his hand. “He doesn’t understand.”
“Just keep him away.” He tosses a pin, then another, beginning his routine.
I pull Damon away from the crowd, stopping a dozen feet away. His eyes stay fixed on the juggler, his jaw dropped in amazement. I try to ignore the stares he’s drawing away from the performer and to himself.
Today he’s dressed as tiefling. Costumes had been my uncle’s idea, before he’d decided Damon’s condition required more constant care and a move to a group home. People were staring anyway, he’d figured. Might as well give them something worth staring at. The tiefling became one of Damon’s favorites once he learned that they, like he, had polydactyly.
I try to take him on day trips every month. This being the first warm day of spring, I thought he’d enjoy seeing the street performers. He enjoys them too much, it turns out. Enough to get clobbered by a bowling pin. Maybe taking him out of the home at all was a bad idea.
“Ow!” Damon keels over, grasping his stomach.
This is new. “What’s wrong? Are you sick?”
“Owwwwww!” He crouches, staying low to the ground. “I need my Coke.”
“Okay, buddy. I’ll get it. Stay here.” Leaving him is a terrible idea, but he thinks Coke cures everything and there’s a food truck not far away. Maybe the placebo effect will take care of this. Keeping my eyes on him, I make my way there.
He hasn’t moved when I return with the drink. I hold the straw up to his lips, and he takes a sip.
“No!” He falls back onto his butt. “It’s not right.”
“What do you mean?” I eye the cup. “It’s Coke.”
“There’s no diamonds!” He wraps his arms around his belly and moans.
Diamonds? “All right. Let’s go.”
Half an hour later, I pull the car in front of the group home and lead him inside. He hasn’t worsened, but he hasn’t improved either.
“Damon!” A young, blonde aide sitting behind the counter jumps to her feet. “What happened?”
“He just started feeling sick.” I hold the soda cup in front of him. “Want to try again?”
“No.” He shakes his head. “It needs diamonds.”
I look up at the aide. “Do you know what he’s talking about?”
“Yep, I do. Hold on.” She rushes from behind the counter and toward the back of the place, leaving us standing by the front door.
Returning a minute later, she scoops large granules from a skinny, plastic container. “Open the cup.”
“Why? What is that?” I pull the lid off.
She dumps the granules into the soda. “Stir it.”
“What is it?”
“Just…stir it and give it to him.”
Scowling, I follow her instructions. As Damon straightens up and guzzles the beverage, she pulls me aside. “It’s a vitamin powder. We tell him they’re magic diamonds that make him stronger. So he can be the characters he pretends to be.”
“But…” I focus on Damon, who has finished the drink so quickly he’s now slurping the drops at the bottom. “What does that have to do with his stomach?”
She shrugs. “Maybe he’s constipated and thinks the diamonds will cure him. I can take him back to his room, if you’d like.”
“No, I’ll take care of it.”
“Okay.” She holds up the container. “I have to put this away.”
After she skitters off, I examine my cousin. He seems to be fully recovered. But how?
“Come on, Damon.” I take his arm. “I want to take you somewhere else.”
“Where?” His face lights up.
The doctor slides an x-ray image over the bright panel. “Take a look at this.” With her finger, she circles an area of the image showing Damon’s abdomen. “There’s significant swelling in his spleen, his pancreas, his liver…” She shakes her head. “If you hadn’t brought him in, he wouldn’t have survived much longer. I’m amazed he was able to walk around with you at all today.”
I twist around, gazing at Damon sleeping in the bed, an IV slowly dripping into his arm. “He was really excited to go.” I clear my throat and focus on her. “What caused it?”
“We’re analyzing the cup you brought in, but from what I’m seeing and what you reported about the granules, I believe he was being poisoned by these ‘diamonds’. There may have been a painkiller in them to keep the symptoms hidden.”
A memory from my last visit with Damon flashes in my mind. “His friend from the home died recently. They have no idea why.”
She switches off the lighted panel behind the x-ray. “If our tests show what I suspect, we’ll be calling the police about the home. They won’t be able to hurt anyone else.”
A lump forms in my throat. I’d stirred that crap into his drink.
“You’ll need to think about where he’ll live once he’s recovered. Or his parents will.”
“No. They couldn’t handle him anymore.” I step towards his bed, then connect with her eyes. “I’ll do it. I’ll take care of him.”
“It’s a big responsibility -”
“I know. I’ll figure it out.” I glance at his closed eyes, then at the costume folded in the chair. “I have to.”