Palo Alto Weekly 16th Annual Short Story Contest
3rd Place - 12-14 year olds
by Ellen Lathrop
My name is Blade. It wasn't always Blade of course; I think it
may have been Grace, or maybe Katherine. I don't know. But it doesn't
matter now because I am not that little girl anymore. Now I, at
the age of 16, am the most powerful assassin in all the world. And
that is how I came upon the name of Blade. Blade for the eight blades
that I carry on my person. And I am a master with all of them. Some
of them are poisoned with deadly serums that make you want to sleep
for a while. A long while. And never wake up. Some of them have
poisons where a small cut makes you die, writhing in agony. Those
poisons I save for those who deserve to die that way. And I tell
them "I'll see you at the Dark Gates, tell them Blade sent
Once, when I was about 13, I went to confession and just sat in
the small booth, wondering where to begin. I am sure that the priest
thought that I was merely a good little girl, who was wondering
whether she should tell about how she took two candies from the
bowl that said, "take one". He could never be further
wrong. In fact, I was just wondering where to begin the sorry tale
that had started when I was eight, when I came upon that body, lying
in the woods. It was my father, and his throat had been slit. To
this day every time I close my eyes, I see that image, branded on
the insides of my eyelids. We were playing a game. He would run
into the woods, and then I would try to find him. He was lying face
down in the dry leaves, the sharp red of his blood blending with
the browns and deep russets of the leaves. It was the only time
in my life that I remember crying. That was when my innocence was
lost forever, sucked down into that hole inside me where the rest
of my childhood went.
I ran out of the church that day and never returned. The memories
I hold can never be shared with anyone. They are too vivid, too
bright even now. I carry eight blades, the number of years I had
when I became an assassin. I first started out trying to look for
my father's murderers, to make them feel the pain of an eight year
old girl, who discovers her dead father, lying in the woods. Then
I discovered that it was a good way to make a living. My father
was the only one in my life who had ever loved me. Even now I don't
let anyone love me because I know that one day, I may have to kill
them. That's just how it works.
I have had many offers to join the thieves guild, or the assassins
guild, but I refuse them all. I prefer to be alone. I have clients
who boast that they are my friends, but they aren't. They are merely
clients. Until they turn on me. Or I turn on them.
The four years between when I found my father and when I killed
my first person were spent training and working up the nerve to
do what I had to do to keep bread on the table. The first time I
killed someone I was 12. I try to make all of my killings clean,
like my first one. I'll spare you the details of it. All of my killings
were not that clean. Sometimes the fools got some notion into their
heads that I was only good at espionage and the swords at my hips
were just for show. They would then challenge me to a duel, to which
I was only too happy to oblige them. We would take our stances and
I would wonder to myself how long this one would last. I would come
at him whirling to catch him off guard, perhaps toying with him
a bit letting him nick my right arm so that I could switch to my
left and give it a bit of practice. After I had my fun however I
would move in for the killing blow. I did not enjoy suffering much.
I'm not a sadist. I never took joy in killing people, even the ones
who deserve it. I would always try to make it quick, especially
with the good ones. Sometimes it did not work that way and the man,
realizing that he could not win, would beg and plead for his life.
"Please,' he would say," I have a wife and two little
girls". That was the hardest part. When they brought in the
little girls. They reminded me of, well, me. Then the best way to
handle it was to simply kill him quickly then look up his wife,
give her a little money, and tell her that her husband put up the
best fight I had ever had, and that he died honorably. Their responses
were always different.
Sometimes I would get heavy cookery thrown at me, sometimes the
ladies would weep, sometimes there would just be silence, still
others would try to play the good wife and ask me in for tea while
fighting back tears, others would wish poxes on me and swear revenge,
and sometimes the wives would act like really didn't care. But one
of the wives made the biggest impression on me. When I told her
that he died honorably, she looked me in the eyes and said, "Don't
lie to me. Tom would have pleaded and begged, and do you know why?"
I had a good idea why, but didn't want to ruin what she had say
so I simply said, "Why?"
"Because he loved living. That is why he challenged you to
the duel. On the off chance of winning. Plus if he won it would
have made a good story to tell around the fire on lonely winter
nights." At this she smiled sadly. But abruptly the smile dropped
from her face. "But then you had to kill him." she looked
at me intently, searching my face," Why? Was it for the money,
or do you just enjoy killing?"
I looked at her. "I do not enjoy killing. I do my job and I
do it well and although sometimes I don't enjoy it, this is what
I do. And the money is good. Maybe someday I'll make enough money
to retire from the business. 'Till then," I gestured at my
slim figure bristling with knives and weapons." This is me."
The whole time that I was talking she was peering into my face.
"How old are you?" she asked me.
"15", I answered
"Too young to be a hired killer." she said.
"And how old are you?" I countered.
"16," she admitted.
"Too young to be married," I observed.
"Not anymore, thanks to you."
"Hey, I already said I was sorry, but this is my job!"
"Then take me with you."
I thought about this. It might be nice to have someone to commiserate
with sometimes, but what did she know about killing and the nasty
things that went along with it. I looked at her, with her big blue
eyes and dark blonde hair, and smiled sadly. No, she wouldn't last
one day on the streets. She was good for marrying a wealthy lord
and bearing him many children and that was about it. I had to say
no. And I did. And then I walked out. Pretending not to care. But
I left that town and I never went back, but to this day I regret
that decision, maybe more than anything I have ever done in my entire
life. I remember her looking me in the eyes and saying, "Don't
lie to me." And her face will remain burned into my memory
looking at me with those pleading eyes, saying, "Then take
me with you."
I often wonder what has become of her these long and tiring days.
I wonder if she has found someone to grow old with, as I never will.
The strong, self-assured voice is one of the most powerful elements
of the story. The psychological aspect of this story absolutely