Small Rituals – A Flash Fiction Story

Sian stared at the castle. It took over the sky and could almost block out the sun. It seemed to grow larger every year. Sian knew the truth.

She approached the bridge that crossed the moat. The drones appeared, sliding into vision when they sensed her presence. One held a laser assault pistol and the other looked at her with an unblinking red eye. She knew they had cloaking software, but they were still fucking creepy. They scanned her face and her body. The air was filled with the sounds of electric current. Sian knew that this came from the moat itself. She could see tongues of the current reaching into the air.

A chime sounded from the drones. She had been given the all clear. She bowed to the drones with a flourish. She didn’t know why she bothered. Human emotions like humour were lost on them. Walking past them, she approached the electricity that thrummed and moved like water. Watching it, she was almost mesmerized.

Looking down as she crossed the bridge leading to the castle’s front entrance, Sian knew that the electric current could kill in a seconds thought should the drones wish it. Thankfully, this was her home, so she was safe. She could still be awed by the display below. When she crossed the bridge, the front door slid open and she made her way inside.

“Jessia?” Sian called out. “Jessia!”

“Must you shout so loud?” Jessia said. “I’ve told you how loudly things echo in here.”

Her sister appeared. She was more android than woman. Though her face and hands were human, large portions of her were made of metal. Watching her, Sian didn’t know when Jessia had stopped being her sister and had instead become her protector and general. She still felt guilty, however. Sian would never be able to make it up to her.

Jessia saw something in Sian’s eyes and came towards her and enveloped Sian in an embrace. “Stop thinking like that.”

“How do you know what I’m thinking?”

“I can see it on your face. You always look at me that way whenever you see me.”

“What do you see in my face?”

Jessia reached out and caressed Sian’s face. “With pity.” Beat. “And fear.”

“A part of me dies every time I see you. I wish I had been there.”

“You were leading the alliance against the rebellion. How were you to know that they would target me?”

“I should have known!” Sian said.

“You can’t keep beating yourself up over this. Here, let me make you some steeped tea.” Jessia went toward the kitchen and took out a tea press. It looked old and the glass was cracked. She took out some loose-leaf tea and poured it into the press. She poured boiling water from a kettle onto the leaves and the scent of lavender filled the air.

“I don’t know why you still use that thing.” Sian said. “Mother and father used to make their tea that way.”

“I know. It’s the small rituals that keep them alive.”

After waiting for a few minutes, Jessia poured them both a mug of tea. They clinked their mugs and Sian said, “To Mom.”

“To Dad.” Jessia said.

There was the sound of air moving outside the castle and they heard the electric current out in the moat rising up angrily. Something exploded and there was the sound of gunfire. Something struck the castle and the whole place shook, but Jessia and Sian went on drinking their tea.

“It looks as if the rebellion has found us.” Sian said. “What would you like to do?”

Jessia took a sip of her tea and put the mug back on the counter. She let her dress fall to the floor, revealing a body that was almost entirely made of metal. There were touches of humanity left, like her hands and one of her legs. She was more robot than mortal.

Thankfully her eyes were still human. When Jessia looked at her, Sian could see the fire within them and she was looking at the sister she knew, the sister that had always been her protector.

“Why don’t we make them feel welcome?” Jessia said. Then she blinked and her eyes were filled with fire.

Jessia lifted her hands and spread her fingers. Sounds of gunfire filled the air and Sian head the sizzle of electricity fill the air. Sian marvelled at Jessia’s control, though it shouldn’t have been surprising.

When Sian had found Jessia after the attack on their home, the castle had been in ruins. Sian had found Jessia amongst the rocks and pieces of broken glass. Sian had gathered Jessia into her arms and had taken to someone who could help. His speciality was the manufacturing of androids.

The only way to keep her sister alive was to make sure that she was more android than human. When she had the castle rebuilt, Sian was astounded to see that, though her sister never grew much taller than her five-foot four frame, the castle grew for her. She was less and less human every year. Jessia became more a part of the castle with each day. Calwalder had warned her this could happen.

Sian knew that every blow to the castles walls was a blow to Jessia. That every window or brick that broke meant that something within Jessia broke as well.

“Can you see who is out there?” Sian asked.

“Yes.” Jessia said. “It seems the rebellion has sent a large number of visitors.”

“What are we going to do?”

Her sister didn’t answer. Outside, there was a brilliant flash of light and Sian watched as light began to flow from her sister. Jessia looked at her with horror and when she opened her mouth, the light consumed her. Sian knew that it was the electricity from the moat, once their protector, now it was their ending.

When the light faded, Jessia was gone.

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