Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 10
“Once upon a time there lived a little boy who liked to walk along the beach. One day he found a bottle washed up on the sand, and opened it in the hopes that there was a message inside. But there was no message. There was only an evil genie who popped out and said:
“‘Aha! Now that you have set me free, I shall wreak havoc all across the world! I shall be a terror like none that has ever been seen before!’
“But the boy was clever, and so he said: ‘I don’t know about that. I’ve heard tales of things much more terrifying than you.’
“‘Oh?’ said the genie, and it sat down right on the edge of the mouth of the bottle. ‘I should very much like to hear about that.’
“And so the boy began his tale: ‘Once upon a time there lived a dragon with teeth as big as oars and scales as big as rowboats, and it flew all around the Outer Hebrides frightening any it found upon the islands.
“‘“Give me gold!” the dragon would cry, whenever it came upon a vessel or a little island town. “Give me gold or I shall use my breath to set your hair alight!” And so terrible was the dragon that all who heard its demand would be sure to comply.
“‘Sure, that was, until one day the dragon came upon a hermit sitting on a rock that barely rose above the waves at high tide.
“‘“Give me gold!” the dragon cried. “Give me gold or I shall use my breath to set your hair alight!”
“‘The hermit spread his arms wide. “I have none to give,” he said. “I have nothing, save this tale that was told me by the seabirds that dive for fish here by this rock.”
“‘Now, the dragon might have been terrible, but it was also terribly lonely and terribly bored, and so it set itself down in the water with a splash.
“‘“I shall hear your tale,” said the dragon, “but know that it is only because you have nothing else to give. And if I do not like it, I shall set your hair alight still!” The dragon thought this a good threat, as the hermit had more hair than most.
“‘“Very well,” said the hermit, calmly, and he too began his tale: “There once lived a gull that was seized by a fox. This fearsome animal would have devoured it then and there, had the seagull not said the first thing that popped into its head.
“‘“‘Wait!’ cried the seagull. ‘By all means devour me, but not before you have heard the tale I have to tell.’
“‘“Few dared to converse with this fox, and so in truth it was happy to have a chance to listen to a story. ‘Very well,’ it said, ‘I shall wait. But know that I am hungry and will not wait long.’
“‘“And so the seagull said—”’”
“Dude, the cops are here!”
There was a thud as the bank doors slammed open, and then two more thuds as the robbers were tackled to the ground.
“Many thanks, Rear Admiral Recursion,” said Commissioner Hindsight, shaking the hero’s hand. “These two ne’er-do-wells should never have risked tangling with a costumed crusader such as yourself.”
“It’s just another day in another week in another month in another year for Rear Admiral Recursion,” said the Rear Admiral.
“Tell me, how did you get your amazing powers?”
“Ah…” Rear Admiral Recursion stared into the middle distance, recalling fondly that fateful day. “I was sailing the Strait of Gibraltar when I came upon an old sea dog in a leaky lifeboat. He told me of how his ship had struck a reef while searching for a treasure spoken of by a lighthouse-keeper who had heard the tale from an old salt in a floating tavern. He in turn had read it in a book that recorded faithfully the words of—”
“In retrospect,” said Commissioner Hindsight, “I wish I’d never asked.”
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:
Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.
You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.