“Question everything, it might just save your life!”
I wrote this story in answer to the following prompts:
Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #115 — The picture above.
Word of the Day Challenge — Fortunate
Pensitivity’s three things challenge — Giving, Way, Hold
Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie – Wordle — Tight-lipped, Inconstant, Texture, Yummy, Reverse, Gurgle, Pipes, Solvent. Olive, Prosthesis, Clang, Discord
Battle of Fortress Woods
‘Fortress Wood, Field Archery contest, all archers welcome.’
The contest details had appeared in Sophia’s post box. She was a fitness instructor and her favourite sport was archery. This competition was something she could not miss.
Sophia had immediately called the number to register. The receptionist was tight-lipped about the contest, saying all would be revealed on the day.
Saturday arrived sunny and bubbling with excitement. Sophia strapped on her prosthesis and pulled on her olive-drab cargo trousers, black jumper and orange waistcoat. Her favourite archery outfit. The prosthetic leg was the result of an IED detonating in Afghanistan. Sophia always felt fortunate to have survived that incident well enough to have a good quality of life.
Fortress Wood was fifteen miles away. Sophia arrived at three forty-five. Giving her fifteen minutes to get ready. Putting her car into reverse, she slipped into a parking bay with furrowed eyebrows. There was one vehicle, a Land Rover parked here. A small and inconsistent number for a competition day surely.
“I reckon there must be another car park around here somewhere,” Sophia mused as she made light work of stringing her murderous looking one-piece Black Mamba recurve bow. It gave her 40 pounds of draw strength to wield against her targets.
With her pink fletched, carbon fibre arrows in the quiver strapped to her waist, she set off along the path to locate the competition.
This was an ancient woodland of alder, oak and silver birch trees. Sophia was a keen tracker. She quickly discovered the spore of red, roe and muntjac deer. There was even a recent fox track that made her smile.
Sophia’s smile lasted as he heard the birds singing and woodpeckers drumming in the trees. Yes, the woods surrounded by nature was the perfect place to be. But not these woods, the lack of people and the feeling of darkness beneath the canopy were unnerving. She couldn’t help a clang of discord crossing her mind. An alarm bell, signalling something was off.
Reaching a crossroads in the earthen paths, Sophia removed her bow from her shoulder and knelt to search for tracks. Again, no recent sign of humans. Sophia sucked in a deep breath. Now, she was feeling unnerved.
Turning to regain her car, she heard the whip crack. Felt the bullet flash past her face and burrow into the trunk of an alder tree.
“Welcome to the Fortress Wood hunting competition Corporal Sophia Harding.” announced a deep voice the texture of sandpaper.
Sophia dashed off the path, using a rhododendron and oak tree for cover. “Who are you? What is this?” she asked while dropping an arrow into the hand which held her bow.
“Ha! The yummy Corporal doesn’t know, Captain. Let’s not hunt her, we could have a lot more fun before we kill her that way,” said another man with a sneering voice.
“Shut up, you idiot! These fine gentlemen have paid a fortune to hunt her,” said the gravelly man in charge of the hunt. “Yes, Sophia. As you can tell; you are the target. Let the games begin!”
Peering around the tree trunk, Sophia searched for her attackers. She could tell each was wearing army fatigues. The texture blending in perfectly with the old woodland.
A muzzle flash.
The repeat of a rifle caused bark chippings to fly from the tree trunk. Sophia saw some of her blonde hair trickled past her face. That shot had been far too close. “Game on!”
Keeping low, Sophia ambled through the bushes as fast as her prosthetic leg allowed.
Silence didn’t remain in the woods for very long. The rifle’s barked a spray of rounds every time their target revealed even the smallest bit of herself.
Sophia kept moving unflinching as the bullets smacked into the trunks and foliage all around her. A pile of mossy rocks became better cover. Running around those, she nocked her arrow and drew her bowstring taut. Back to the rocks, she rolled into the firing line and unleashed her fury.
An arrow imbued by the power of a bow as it lances toward a target fills an archer with powerful energy. To see it burrow deep into her attacker’s shoulder, brought a satisfying smile to Sophia’s face. One which vanished instantly, as she dived away from a salvo of bullets.
“The bitch got, Hawk! Why the hell did you let her bring a bow for?” yelled one of the paying hunters.
“She had to have some incentive to come to the woods. I did tell you not to underestimate her, you idiots. Now, fan out and finished her off.”
Sophia was already moving, heading for thicker undergrowth. A fresh arrow was already knocked into a bow ready to remove another target from play.
He came around an oak tree.
She shot him cleanly in the thigh and kicked his lights out.
An hour of stealthy movement brought her to a burned-out car. It smelled strongly of solvent. Lighter fluid used to douse and torch the vehicle no doubt. Sophia doubted she could use any part of it.
A bullet slammed into her leg. The impact, so strong it knocked her to the floor. A scream tore from her lips as she rolled about in agony.
A dark figure emerged from the darkness aiming his hunting rifle at her. “There’s my beautiful mouse. Looks like the hundred grand is going to be —”
Sophia flinched but the gunshot hadn’t been aimed at her. The hunter standing over her suddenly lost his head. The round burst right through his skull.
“Sorry, Vickers. That money’s mine!” said another man striding toward Sophia. He reached and hauled her up in front of him. “Shame you have to die for me to get rich,” he said through a mouthful of festering teeth.
“Greedy bastard!” Sophia’s face was contorted with fury as she blasted his groin with her prosthetic leg and landed steadily on her feet. Seizing his gun, she smashed his face with the butt and watched him crumple to the floor. “Next time, do your homework and check what leg you shot.”
Sophia revealed the bullet had gone straight through her prosthesis. She would walk a little slower from now on but she was by no means incapacitated. He was by the time she’d choked the life out of him.
By nightfall, Sophia had taken out two more of the hunters with well-placed arrows. As far as she could tell that left one – the man who’d orchestrated the hunt. Covered in a layer of earth and sweat, she moved through the woods like a stealthy vixen. If he had night vision goggles, her chances of survival were slim. She knew the risk was high, but she had to try and escape.
Everything seemed tense and silent she came back within view of her car. The Land Rover was gone and had probably belonged to a dog walker.
With nothing more than the smallest slither of moonlight to see by, Sophia edged closer to freedom. Stepping from the foliage into the car park, she watched in horror as a ball of fire erupted from her car. Flares bounce to the ground all around her throwing sparks into the air.
Amid it the fire of hell, he came like Satan himself. A man cowled in a dark fleece hoodie. A shotgun rested over his shoulder as he strode through a rain of sparks.
“Those were all very skilled hunters you killed,” he said in that demonic gravelly voice.
“I’d call you idiots if you asked me, Fleischer!” Sophia retorted she drew an arrow taut and fixed it upon him. She recognised that hoodie. He’d been wearing it the last time she stopped him too.
“Well, remembered. Now, you will pay for imprisoning my entire brigade in Afghanistan. You will learn, we are not all stupid!”
Sophia heard a branch snap behind her. Letting the arrow fly, she spun on her heels.
“Hallo, yummy lady,” jeered squeaky voice. “Lets have some fu —”
Sophia caught the man with a tooth-breaking elbow. Her arrow shot through Fleischer’s sleeve, pinning him to a tree.
Squeaky voice recoiled with a broken nose as his eyes widened in fear.
She flicked around him and tightened her bowstring about his neck. “I really hate killing people,” she breathed.
Being strangled by the bow, the man could only gurgle and splutter like blocked drain pipes.
“Let him go!” Fleischer demanded with her arrow in hand.
Sophia felt her man’s knees giving way beneath him. She did not relinquish the hold on his neck. “Let me leave, and I let him live. Your choice!”
Fleischer locked eyes with her. “You’re a strong woman, Sophia. You were never strong enough. You’d have killed us all in Afghanistan if you were.”
“It’s not about strength. Our orders were always to keep as many people alive as possible. To make arrests rather than murders. Believe me, for what you did to those people out there, I would have murdered you on the spot had I been allowed.” The man had gone limp in Sophia’s bow. She released and dropped him to the floor.
As if a traffic light had gone green, Fleischer brought his shotgun to bear.
Sophia leapt towards him, rolling beneath a shot that decimated a copse of bracken ferns. Rising, she screamed in pain as her own arrow was driven deep into her right bicep.
“Gotcha!” Fleischer smiled.
She shook her head, having seized the knife from a pouch on his belt. With a groan of pain and disdain, she buried the blade in his stomach. “I got you too!”
“Argh! I hate you!” Fleischer managed as he dropped to his knees.
“Feeling’s mutual,” Sophia pulled the arrow from her body with gritted teeth. Gathering her bow, she set off on foot towards the road.
The slide of the shotgun ratcheted. It was the most terrifying sound a person could hear.
Sophia spun around drawing her bow. She let loose one final arrow.
The shotgun discharged a wave of buckshot.
Buckshot and arrow passed each other. Fletchings disintegrated in the blink of an eye.
Sophia stood stock still as Fleischer snapped back. The arrow had gone beneath his clavicle ending his battle. His own buckshot had gone wide. Bleeding but alive, Sophia left the woodland feeling triumphant having won the battle of Fortress Woods
Don’t forget to join me for Mason Wants to know. This time a question about your favourite character.
Have a great day!