Memories Like Smoke

Submitted into Contest #184 in response to: Set your story during a complete city or nation-wide blackout.... view prompt

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Fiction Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Arya Locke glanced down at the knife in her hands. It trembled slightly and she tightened her grip.

Thinking too hard could seal her fate. Thinking too little was just as deadly a mistake.

She walked over to the window, in reflection.

Dusk was arriving on slow currents, the sun setting: a distant orb of orange. The sky hueing to dimmer shades, fading down into the grey buildings and the few sad trees, with green heads bowed in their lonely sorrow. The only ones sentenced to this monotoned and strangely empty street.

She hadn’t always hated New York, but in the past few months of abiding here, her opinion had changed drastically.

The ‘Empire State’, with its lies and confusion, the law constantly swayed, the deceit like mist that shrouded everyone and everything. It was a place that encouraged her in feeling like all was falling apart.

It was distracting from her purpose here; tossing memories through her mind, of a sweet childhood, where she, her brother and others close to her, had been innocent. Free. Unburdened by the cruelty of reality, and the shame of their mistakes.

It forced guilt into her gut and regret into her heart.

As she looked on in longing contemplation, the lights in her apartment cut out. After a few patient seconds, they flickered back to life.

It was just the storm, she concluded, as thunder like a man’s gravelly voice roaring in protest rumbled overhead.

She stayed watching through the grime-clouded window, at the real clouds rumbling on the distant skyline, bruising the sky with angry tones, as rain drilled the roof. Her eyes chased the rivulets of water as they charged down on the other side.

Locke stared at the blinking lights, cabs crawling in congested lines in the distance. Impatient honking blared, just audible. The pounding of rain continued to grind her senses. The thunder growled again.

In this fractured world, where was there ever peace?

Arya had once liked the rain, its patter a melody. But now, to her mature ears, all it sounded like was a raucous repetition. Too loud, too interfering. Merciless.

Never granting her rest.

Arya’s sharp gaze flicked down to see somebody loping across the sidewalk from a car squatted on the edge of the road.

It was the figure of Sander Haawk. Sander was the sallow-faced Reaper haunting her life.

She gulped hard, hoping to swallow her fear. Disquieting unease churned in her stomach, but Locke pressed it down. She glimpsed her own reflection, and turned away. Limp black hair, pale skin, and eyes as grey as the city. Years of hiding and disguising herself had left her empty and broken.

Friends would have claimed she was a quiet and concealed person, who could handle herself. But Locke had no friends. Not anymore.

Her lifestyle had forced her to break all ties, and instead, seek the shadows.

She would be prepared for whatever Sander was planning… or so she thought.

The rain hammered like a running fox across the roof of the top floor, which is where Arya stood, alert.

Then, the lights flashed off again. She waited… waited… but they didn’t turn on.

The dull light from the sky outside seeped in and pooled dimly around her. But that light would fade shortly; all that occurred next would have to end quickly if this blackout continued.

As Arya turned, the door clicked. But she didn’t move to stop it as it opened.

Sander stepped in, a crowded sneer on his face.

He spoke in hushed tones, "You know why I am here."

Arya said nothing, simply fingering the knife.

They stared at one another with ambivalent feelings. The past was too much to speak of. Only now mattered. Today would unveil the truth, whatever happened.

Sander’s dark, hooded eyes met hers. His thatch of hair, black like burnt hay, mounted his crooked head. His fingers twitched, the thick ring on the middle one suddenly appearing more solid than it had the day she had given it to him -for his protection and defense. His hand covered a lump at his belt, but she still saw it. A gun.

Too late, Arya realized. Sander lunged forward, fist driven towards her face, making contact with her cheekbone with an awful crunch.

With barely a second thought, and purely out of instinct, the knife in her hand whipped forward, and dashed his arm, knocking the gun from his grip. The fabric of his dark jacket tore. Shredded material, red with blood, flapped to the floor to be trampled by desperate boots.

The pair were chest to chest and memories swam back into focus.

The blade dropped to the damp floor with a clatter, alongside the other weapon, and Arya and Sander locked arms, pausing and hesitating in sync.


“Sander…” she breathed in return.

Their past had entailed many things, and a fight which had torn them apart… but now, the fire had re-ignited, and it was almost like things were back to how they had been.

Leaning in to her one and only love, Arya Locke brushed her cheek against Sander’s shoulder, inhaling the scent of the only one who had ever understood her.

Sander did the same, seeing again the beauty others could not. Realizing just how wrong he had been to leave. And not run back when she had left him too.

She stepped into him. Their lips met and the couple became lost in passionate history, twined with, and pressed up against one another with a heartfelt feeling only two soulmates can share.

They saw nothing but one another. They felt nothing but love and the regret that was slipping away as they embraced. They heard nothing, including the creaking as the door opened.

A bang.

Arya’s face whipped towards the sound.

A gunshot.

Her gaze met Sander’s stricken face, and with a strained groan, he collapsed backwards, blood oozing from his clothes. His chest shuddered, then he went still. Sander Haawk was dead.

A voice spoke, “He didn’t finish the job, so I will.”

Arya cried out, and tore around to face the killer.

But with the motion, another shot rang out and the heavy, excruciating impact forced her off her feet, smashing her back into the ground. She lay stunned in shock and burning pain, as blood bubbled from her shoulder, spreading across the fabric of her blue sweater.

She choked, gasping urgently for air as the intruder strolled into her fading window of vision.

A tall, tall man, bald, with a scarred scalp, nose bent, grey eyes empty of mercy. It could only be one person.

“…Mayes." She croaked with the last of her breath, “Traitor-”

Her brother pulled the trigger, and as her head slammed agonizingly against the wood of the floor, Arya’s dying eyes saw Sander stand up and scream.

February 09, 2023 10:46

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1 comment

Wendy Kaminski
02:50 Feb 12, 2023

Interesting story, Carmen! I would definitely love to know more about the characters, though this glimpse into a fatal moment definitely stands on its own. Very thrilling suspense, and I think not knowing was an important part of the intrigue. Thanks for the story, and welcome to Reedsy!


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