I'll be a Daisy

Submitted for Contest #74 in response to: Write a story that takes place across ten seconds.... view prompt

32 comments

Jan 02, 2021

Drama Fantasy Suspense

*Author’s Note: “I'll be a Daisy” is a standalone story, set in the same universe as my other Reedsy short-stories, with overlapping characters/events.*


I was dead as soon as Cam said ‘No’. He hadn’t said it himself – he never addressed the line directly – but his second in command had repeated his decision; his glorified megaphone. It was a bullshit decision!

My price was fair. It was common knowledge that Cam hated greedy people (that weren’t him), and punished them severely. Even knowing this, my asking price was still practically theft. I knew he would say ‘no’ as soon as he saw my sample. His eyes gave away his thoughts; they twinkled, but not from seeing a great deal, instead it was the type of sparkle that men like him only have when they get something for free.

It took me three seconds to make my choice once my trade was rejected, but it should have been instant. I would die on my own terms, not his.

I had come to Cam because his Rolling Market was the only place that could afford to buy in bulk. His gang controlled this part of the Wasteland, and always collected their tax. That’s why we were leaving – me and my family – and this trade was meant to be our seed money. We had no choice; although barter made my stash of canned food a valuable commodity, we couldn’t travel with it all because it was too difficult to hide from raiders while on the road.

The Rolling Market controlled three locations along their motorway, and visited each one on the same day every week. Everyone knew their schedule – eventually we all needed to trade for something. The locations were safe against raiders because they were situated between the gang’s two strongholds. These strongholds were impregnable, and they had to be, as the electricity created by Cam’s steam generators made them shine at night like beacons. They were the closest thing to the old world I’d seen in the Wasteland, and his gang patrolled the motorway between them to protect their slice of civilisation.

I’d chosen the location furthest from our home to make my trade. But that wouldn’t be enough to protect my family now. They would torture me, and I didn’t know if I had the strength to resist. If I told them where my family were, my sons would be forced to join Cam’s ranks. I forced my mind not to imagine what they would do to my wife and daughter. 

My daughter was the youngest of my three children, and my sons would keep her safe. She took after her mother in looks, and had always been a beautiful child. I was thankful that she’d only inherited my blue eyes and not my temper; she was a child far too sweet for the Wasteland. That’s why I’d come to my decision. It was the only way I could still protect my family.

Peaches was a high ranking member of Cam’s gang, and she always watched over him. Her reputation promised me a quick death; she never misses. Once I was dead I would no longer be a threat to those I loved. 

I had left some of the canned food with my family, which would be enough for them to survive without the seed money. They had to…it was their only option. They knew not to wait for me if I didn’t return. I hadn’t even told them where I’d buried the cans I was offering Cam, so they had no temptation to retrieve them if the deal went south. I’d made Peter swear he would force them to leave; as my eldest he will be the man of the family now. I wish I had taught him more; I hoped there wasn’t too much good in him to survive.

Peaches was in her nest, watching through a scope. I knew her by reputation, but I had seen her once. She was young – like most of Cam’s gang were – and had the steam whistle tattoo on her left cheek, which told everyone who she belonged to. Her shaved head failed to hide her beauty, but her cold eyes showed that she wished it did. 

The only thing about Peaches that mattered to me now was that her aim was true. When I saw her, she wore a rifle slung over her back, and that type of gun would have a muzzle velocity of approximately seven hundred metres per second – maybe less with low grade cordite. Her nest was positioned nearly a kilometre away, so she could see anything coming from the motorway, as well as watch over Cam. Once she took her shot, I would have less than two seconds left in this world to take him with me.

Time slowed in my final moments, which allowed me to take in the details of the scene before me. 

Cam’s Rolling Market was a train of vehicles connected by thick chains, and pulled by a steam engine that his father had restored. The smoke danced over the engine’s chimney, in slow soothing movements; a carefree couple enjoying the music only they heard. Cam’s expression didn’t change as I reached for my gun. He looked like a man merely enjoying the midday sun. He was bald, but his dark tan blended his scalp into the blonde hair that remained around the sides of his head. He wasn’t a domineering figure – he had the arms and shoulders of someone that didn’t need to work – and looked more like a geography teacher than a gang boss. But he was one, and he knew his gang would protect him as it always did. 

The first reaction to my hand reaching to my hip came from Cam’s megaphone. As with many dim-witted people, his mouth was the first thing to kick into action, but the sound moved too slowly for me to hear it yet. It wasn’t until my hand reached the handle of my gun that Cam’s face finally reacted to the situation, and it was curiosity rather than fear. I hoped his relaxed demeanour meant Peaches’s reputation wasn’t just spin.

The megaphone had a M16 hanging in front of him by a shoulder strap. My gun was already in my hand before he thought to reach for his. He’s lucky I only had time to fire once, and that bullet was saved for his king. Cam’s throne was an open top double-decker bus, which kept him at a distance from the line of traders he looked down on. But a bullet could still reach him.

I saw a puff of gun smoke come from Peaches nest in my peripheral vision. From the size of the cloud, the cordite must have been so low grade it was practically gunpowder. It had taken her over a second to get her shot off – I expected better.

My gun was freed from its holster, and the countdown begun. My finger anxiously rested on the cold metal of the trigger, waiting for Cam to appear in my sights. If I pulled the trigger now, only his bus would die. In its previous life it was an old tour bus, which shared the sights of London to countless people on its top deck. Now all it saw was Cam’s motorway, and his gang members were its only tourists. 

Cam’s minions ducked for cover behind the handrails of the bus, except for the megaphone who still stood tall beside his boss. His thick black beard hid most of his steam whistle tattoo, but his clothes failed to hide his bulk. He was a powerful man, but moved slowly, and had no chance of beating me to the draw.

You never hear the bullet that takes you, and as my death came for me on silent wings, it was the others in the line that fled. 

I stuck to my purpose; I wouldn’t let distractions, nor fate, stand in my way. My eyes were transfixed on Cam’s, as they waited for the gun’s sights to come between them and their target. The gun sights inched their way up the side of the bus; that’s all it was in the end, a matter of inches and seconds.

My arm was outstretched. The megaphone had both hands on his assault-rifle now, but was still losing the race. Cam remained calm. His lack of fear became my focus. I willed him to react with all my hate, but it was not enough. As my hate rose to the surface and oozed out of every pore of my skin, darkness consumed me.

I felt the rush of wind across my ears, but heard no sound. My sight was stolen from me as well as my hearing, as if I was floating in the vacuum of space without a single star to guide me. The ground rose up and jarred my body out of the vacuum, and I felt the ground against my back. My eyes were blinded, my ears were deafened, but I was still able to feel. I shouldn’t have been able to still feel. Then I heard the crack of Peaches’s shot, which confirmed I’d failed.

Time returned to normal speed to mock me. Each sense that returned to me reconfirmed my failure. The top of my arm burned, and the pain spread through my body like a wildfire. The only thing I wanted to feel was my gun in my hand, but I couldn’t even feel my hand. As faceless voices surrounded me, I forced my eyes shut; I couldn’t stomach seeing Cam’s face calmly looking down on me.

I knew Cam would ensure the remaining moments of my life would seem everlasting. The punishment he gave to greedy traders would feel like a spa day, compared to the suffering he inflicted on those that tried to kill him. His acts of torture were beyond the imagination of most men. 

I vowed to myself that I would endure whatever he had planned. I would buy my family enough time to flee to safety, and would never betray them, but I wouldn’t suffer in silence. My fear and anger swirled inside me and then burst out in a guttural scream, like the juice flying out of a blender without a lid; drowning out the noise of the Wasteland.

“AaaaaaaarrRRRGGHH!”




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32 comments

Laura Clark
20:28 Jan 02, 2021

What a cool addition to your universe! I love the rich detail and the way you’ve obviously thought out each angle. The shooting became a little confused for me towards the end as I didn’t know why he was waiting to take the shot even after she’d pulled the trigger. The motives and the characters were set up very neatly and the world you’ve created is very cool indeed. An enjoyable read!

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Andrew Krey
00:33 Jan 03, 2021

Thanks Laura, really glad you liked it! The Rolling Market was from an idea I had for another prompt, but by the time I wrote it the story it was too long to cut down to 3k in time for the deadline. So I was glad I got to re-use it. It's a blessing and a curse to limit my writings to the same universe tbh, depending on whether the prompt God's are kind lol I went for what I thought was the tough prompt this week as a challenge, so I see what you mean about the shooting itself. What I was aiming for (pun intended) was to have the adrenaline...

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Laura Clark
08:51 Jan 03, 2021

I really like the concept of the rolling market. The world you’ve created has flavours of Mad Max or Daybreak, both of which I enjoy! Ah, that clears that up then. I got the slowing down of time for him, though perhaps signposting the seconds going by might have made that easier for readers to understand. Something for next time! It’s such a shame that he didn’t get his target - sounds like it would’ve been for the greater good. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

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Andrew Krey
22:40 Jan 03, 2021

I love Mad Max (new and old) so it's definitely an influence, my character with the pet squirrel is a nod to Max's dog. I considered a countdown, but thought it would probably something a lot of people did, so probably over-reached a bit trying to stand out lol. Plus the first three seconds are a retrospective, and the last three seconds was just a descent into despair, which makes a countdown harder...I think it was just a best case scenario with the plot I'd chosen lol but thanks, I'll definitely keep signposting in mind for my next one :...

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Andrew Krey
05:50 Jan 15, 2021

Hey Laura, thanks again for your feedback, I've finally re-read the story and I see what you mean :S I've made the below tweak to the ending, hopefully this help clarifies what I was trying to achieve. I've also just posted a story to the dialogue only prompt, I wrote it with what you said in mind, and am doing another dialogue only story for a different competition, so if you've got the time to take a look (its 1500 words), I'd really appreciate it, thanks :) "I stuck to my purpose; I wouldn’t let distractions, nor fate, stand in my way. ...

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Laura Clark
15:41 Jan 15, 2021

Oh that ending is much clearer for me! I’ll take a look at your next one ASAP but I’m a bit snowed under atm. Might not be right away. Looking forward to it though.

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Andrew Krey
17:53 Jan 15, 2021

Great, got there in the end! Thanks for the steer :) I also added in this line earlier in the story to clarify the delay in pulling the trigger: "Cam's lofty perch improved his chances of survival, as it would cost me extra milliseconds for my arm to complete it's aiming arc; even time knew to back the favourite". Thanks for taking a look at the other story, doesn't matter if it's after the deadline for this prompt as I'll use the feedback on this one as a steer to improve the other comp story...well that's the plan :) Cheers

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Gary Belton
12:10 Jan 20, 2021

Awesome.

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Andrew Krey
14:10 Jan 20, 2021

Thanks Gary, I'm glad you liked it :)

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16:45 Jan 10, 2021

I really enjoyed this story! I like how you introduced the conflict with the certainty that this man would die. That made me curious to what would happen. You ordered the story remarkably. For example, you left the feelings of his family hidden, but by doing that, made it even more emotional. You set the scene right at the beginning and got straight to the action, also giving the man a believable motive in only a few hundred words. Superb description all around per usual! I can only think of one critique, which was that I found the ending ...

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Andrew Krey
17:38 Jan 11, 2021

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it!! :) Yeah I wanted to hook you in from the first sentence, plus having it first person and all done within the mind of the POV across ten seconds, I thought it was begging for a slightly unreliable narrator (he thought he would die, he will die, but just not in those ten seconds! Lol). As for the family, I thought his sacrifice tells you all you need to know about how much he loves them - I also thought that in that moment who would put them out of his mind as dwelling on what he will lose might soften his res...

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23:31 Jan 12, 2021

I very much look forward to reading it!

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Andrew Krey
05:42 Jan 15, 2021

Great, glad to hear it :) just posted the dialogue only story. Following your feedback, I've finally re-read the story and made the below tweaks (to my copy of the story), which hopefully makes the ending clearer :S "I stuck to my purpose; I wouldn’t let distractions, nor fate, stand in my way. My eyes were transfixed on Cam’s, as they waited for my gun’s sights to come between them and their target. The gun’s barrel inched its way up the side of the bus. As the speed of my arm, raced the speed of Peaches’s bullet, it was a matter of inch...

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17:47 Jan 16, 2021

I will make sure to leave some feedback! Also, thank you, the ending is definitely clearer for me, you're a great writer, and I appreciate the revision!

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Andrew Krey
21:37 Jan 16, 2021

Great to hear it's clearer. Thank you for the feedback, I keep a record of all these stories, so even if the competition is expired, I still want to improve the story so your feedback was really helpful, thanks again!

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Katina Foster
22:58 Jan 07, 2021

This was a hard prompt, in my opinion. You handled it well. It's difficult to build tension in such a short window of time, but you managed to do just that with the race of two bullets. I liked this line a lot - it created a lovely mental image: "The smoke danced over the engine’s chimney, in slow soothing movements; a carefree couple enjoying the music only they heard." Nice addition to your Wastelands world :)

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Andrew Krey
01:21 Jan 08, 2021

Yay! Glad you liked it, I thought this would be the least popular prompt too as it seemed difficult, but I guess it had a wide scope for inspiration and proved very popular! I try to emulate an old western in style - what the title is a reference to - so with the right hand man on the bus too, it was a three way draw like a Mexican stand-off; he was quicker than the megaphone, but not quicker than Peaches. Thanks, I threw myself into that line lol I wanted to add emphasis to it. It was a justification to explain that the gang were powerful ...

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Maya W.
17:10 Jan 05, 2021

Hello Andrew! I'm sorry I came here a little late, but I really enjoyed this one. I haven't read many of the other stories in this universe, but I still found this very comprehensive, except, as Laura said, at the bit at the end. The ending in general confused me, and I think it could be cleared up a bit. Other than that, you have a great world you're developing with wonderfully written settings and characters. Keep it up! Would you mind reading some of my recent stories? I just published a Greek myth retelling the other day.

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Andrew Krey
21:05 Jan 06, 2021

Hey Maya, it's never too late to read one of my stories! :) Lol glad you liked it. I have a rule with feedback that if one person says it, it can be preference...but if a few people say the same thing, it's something you have to address, so now I have to listen to you and Laura! Lol I swing towards ambiguity when it comes to the balance between subtle writing Vs spoon feeding the reader, but if it's coming across confusing I've definitely swung too far! Lol thanks for highlighting it too, I'll give the story some time to breathe, then go bac...

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Maya W.
21:09 Jan 06, 2021

Ah, I love Percy Jackson! I look forward to your feedback!

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Andrew Krey
02:51 Jan 07, 2021

Just read it and left feedback :)

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Andrew Krey
05:53 Jan 15, 2021

Hey Maya, hope you're well. Following feedback, I've tweaked this section of the ending of the story (for my copy), does this make it clearer? "I stuck to my purpose; I wouldn’t let distractions, nor fate, stand in my way. My eyes were transfixed on Cam’s, as they waited for my gun’s sights to come between them and their target. The gun’s barrel inched its way up the side of the bus. As the speed of my arm, raced the speed of Peaches’s bullet, it was a matter of inches and seconds that would determine whether the bullet that hit its mark t...

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Rayhan Hidayat
14:40 Jan 04, 2021

Heya, been meaning to check out your stories for some time! A shootout is just the sort of hyper-intense, life or death scenario that becomes even more engaging when condensed into ten seconds, so kudos to that idea. The gritty setting is my favorite part though, reminds me of the Borderlands video game series. Not sure if it was intended, but there was no dialogue until the scream at the end, which made me chuckle. Good stuff overall! 😙

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Andrew Krey
15:35 Jan 04, 2021

Hey, thanks for reading my story, I'm glad you liked it! :) Great to hear you like the setting; it's something I'm consciously building up, and the Rolling Market will appear in other stories too...or a random person in the background with a steam whistle face tattoo lol I've not played Borderlands, but love the genre, Fallout is a heavy influence on the world I've created, but I wanted it to have less things from the old world still surviving, so less guns as bullets run out (despite this being a shootout lol). In one of my of my other sto...

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Rayhan Hidayat
22:36 Jan 04, 2021

I respect the lengthy response, that’s a symptom of being passionate about the world you’ve created 😉 I like how you’re setting your stories in the same universe but making them standalones. A bit of marketing for a novel you have planned perchance?

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Andrew Krey
01:24 Jan 05, 2021

Ha the only people who will listen to me are Reedsy commenters! Lol I made them standalones because (part 2) is off putting for me in the story title, and I'm therefore less likely to read it, if it means I have to read another one first. This way, you don't have to read the others, but if you do there's some nice references you'll get as a bonus. Yeah I'm thinking of self-publishing a collection of short stories, some from the site, and some not posted on the site as "exclusives", but from the same universe. But as the universe develops, ...

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Rayhan Hidayat
17:00 Jan 05, 2021

Yep, if you ever need a shoulder to cry on, just hop on Reedsy and we've got your back haha Ah, nice. For me it's the opposite--I have the world of my novel already planned, and some of my short stories here are little snippets intended to showcase what it's like, just to test the waters, see if people like what it's all about. It's been helpful so far! :)

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Andrew Krey
20:58 Jan 06, 2021

Lol thanks, I feel the love! That's great if it's working for you to test the waters and develop your novel :) I did consider that for the main novel I'm writing, but I wasn't sure, as Reedsy's copyright is slightly different to most competitions, as they retain ownership of the prompt, and you can publish your story yourself, but have to acknowledge their contribution if you do so. To be honest, that's fair enough, and suits me for the short story collection, but I wasn't sure how that would work for my novel - I'm sure the characters and...

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Lucía M
22:01 Jan 02, 2021

I love how you're developing and entire universe based on Reedsy prompts! Your depiction of the characters is amazing, and your creativity is beyond this world! Great story. It would also mean the world to me if you could check out my last story! Its on this same prompt and I would love to have your opinion on it.

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Andrew Krey
00:34 Jan 03, 2021

Thanks Lucia, glad to hear you enjoyed it! :) Great to hear someone else picked the tough prompt too! Lol I'll check it out now

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