Fifteen Minute Ficlets (#15MF) is a weekly Sunday writing challenge hosted here on The Literary Phoenix. Based on a single word, write a short story in fifteen minutes. The word count is irrelevant. Just write your heart out for 15 minutes and be inspired by the word. You never know what you’ll end up with!
1. prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.
2. the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
Handling the Mob
The shouting from outside the wagon escalated. It grew louder and louder until the slurs scraped the insides of Harleyquinne’s skull. She pulled her blanket over her head and buried her face in her pillow, willing it to stop. It didn’t. She rolled back over on her back and stared at the top bunk.
It shouldn’t have mattered, but it was the women’s voices that reached her the loudest. Their high-pitched shrill cries rattled against their pots and pans. The light from their torches illuminated the space between wood slats, like burning demons entering their sanctuary.
Harley’s father sat up from his bed. The wagon rocked as the crowd drew nearer. In the darkness, she watched him pulling on his boots. “Da?”
“Stay here, Harley,” his gruff voice tried to sound soothing, but it came out strained.
A shadow jumped in front of her and her twin brother twisted his shoulders and cracked his neck. “I’m coming out too.”
“Stay, Riley,” their father ordered, and the wagon door slammed shut behind him. Harley slung her legs over her bunk and pulled her twin beside her. Riley sat, but she felt his tension.
They sat there, surrounded by the slurs and hate, in the dark within their cabin.
“I can’t sit here,” Riley grumbled. He didn’t move – both knew that their father’s word was law.
“It’ll be alright, Ri,” Harley told him, trying her best to sound cheerful. “Da’ll handle it.”
He always does, she didn’t say.
The road away from Gatstown was narrow and steep, not ideal for the slippery spring rains. But the caravan would have to move in the morning, or the townsfolk would burn it. It wasn’t the first time they had been attacked by a mob, but it wouldn’t be the last.
Riley stood. “I’m not going out,” he said before Harleyquinne could protest. He swung the door to the wagon open and hovered there. Drawn by a mixture of fear and curiosity, Harley joined him.
Outside, the night was dark save for the sliver of the moon high above and the crowd of men and women with their torches. Their father stood with Gan and the other elders, a line of peace and patient resistance. Gan stood a step ahead, in not-so-quiet conference with one of the townsfolk. It was difficult to hear their conversion over the shouts of the townsfolk, but Harley was able to make out a little.
“-dirty travellers off our land.”
“My friend, I assure you we have no intention of stealing from you fine folks. I give you my word.”
“You people are liars and cheats. Your word means less to me than the stuff my pigs roll in.”
Riley banged his fist against the doorframe. “We should teach these racists a lesson. Teach them to respect us.”
“Hush!” Harley resisted pulling her brother back into the wagon. Sharp swirls of smoke twirled around her nose. She had a scent for burning things, having spent most her life with fire. She turned sharply to the right. One of the cargo wagons at the end of their train was burning.
Her heart stilled.
“Da!” she shouted, even though she knew she wasn’t supposed to be watching. What if it was the food wagon? She thought she smelled cooked beef, but that sweet, charred aroma could be her imagination.
At her voice, her father turned, but his fury melted when he saw where she pointed.
Then, chaos erupted.
Harley and Riley are characters from my heart’s story (as I call it), The Sin Series. Harley is a fire mage, but before she joins the group she and her brother and parents travelled in a caravan offering exotic entertainment and wares to the people of Malai. Harley herself performed as a fire juggler before the Queen and her court, which was how Jessica knew of her. In my story, the People face opposition every where they go… but this is their life and for all its challenges, they cannot bear to stand in one place too long.
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