Damian the sword eater died every ten minutes, each death vivid in horrible detail and oddly serene as he blacked out and started over again. A thousand spectators crowded the wooden bleachers under the big top, rounds of applause and gasps of amazement replaced by screams of horror. The first time had been an accident — the lady in the pink dress wandered on stage and tapped him on the shoulder. Startled, Damian turned and the sword slipped into his heart.
He knew he was gone, even as the paramedics lifted him onto a gurney he was already dead. Then he was back on stage, sword in hand and bowing to the audience before his act. As if somebody pushed the rewind button while he slept, the last ten minutes of his life kept replaying. On the third time he placed a hand on his throat to feel his heartbeat, sucked in a breath of moist air, and noticed the pink dress at the edge of the stage. This was no hallucination or weird dream.
She was a very short woman with scraggly grass-colored hair, her face a nearly perfect skinny oval, the pink dress hung limp on her lanky frame. Behind her glimmerings of rainbow light flapped and flexed — wings. A fairy. She smiled — teeth crooked and yellow with black stains on her gums — and her cold pale eyes turned golden and bright as the sun.
“Not even a thousand of your deaths will bring justice to my brothers and sister.” Her words flowed like honey and stung him at the core.
Damian’s wife had been adamant they not harm the fairy circles on the land where they built their house, something about old world superstition. He told her at the time he’d lay out offerings for the fairies regularly, and then ordered construction to begin while she was away on a business trip. When the circus job come up he stopped bothering with the offerings, not like he’d noticed any fairies taking the milk and bread.
He dropped the sword, the steel clattering on the wooden stage. “I’ll have none of your tricks, fairy.” Damian walked away.
“Fire!” The fairy yelled, her screech pierced his ear drums. “Fire!”
The thousand spectators swarmed down the bleachers, across the stage to the far exit. Damian died under the stampede. After the blackness faded he was bowing to the same audience, sword in hand.
The fairy was suddenly very close to him. He pointed the sword at her chest, a sliver of greenish-blue blood bubbled up around the point and poured down her dress. “Let me go.”
“Never.” The furious golden glow returned to her eyes. Her rainbow hued wings beat steadily — thump… thump… thump… — a gusting wind blew forth and knocked Damian backwards. The sword fell out of his grip as he fell face first. The blade buried itself in his stomach. The blackness came and went.
Damian stood still and waited. A few minutes passed. The crowd booed and hissed and threw beer bottles on the stage. Glass shattered all around him while the fairy woman seethed. She flew to the stage, her fingernails visibly grew long and pointed like the sword’s blade. The glass shards rose up around him. The audience cheered and hooted in delight.
“I am sorry,” said Damian.
“As you should be.” She dug her nails into his sides. Damian pulled her head back by the hair and shoved the sword down her throat. Her oddly colored blood bubbled up. The broken beer bottles fell back to the stage. He passed out from blood loss.
The blackness came.
I’m working on a new flash fiction collection, so I’ll try to post a new story every day or so until the work is done.