This piece of flash fiction was inspired by one of Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenges. This particular challenge involved two lists of 20 random words each. I then went to a random number generator and had it pick two numbers for me. Those numbers matched up with two words from the lists and became my title. The story would need to be 1000 words, and match the title in some way.
The rest was up to me. While I came in a little over the word budget, I was dangerously close. Since this is my first attempt at writing something so short, I am cutting myself a little slack. Enjoy!
The Cerulean Wire
It was a good day for a jump. Mist hung over the water like a thick soup, clinging to any light, creating beautifully fuzzy dissipation that reminded me of a painting I had noticed somewhere. It amplified the usual smell of greenery and fish that wafted from the Divide. Days like these made it less likely to be spotted from afar, but it also meant there would be more boats in the water to compensate, so I would have to adjust my tactics accordingly.
The Cerulean Divide is the solitary body of water that runs from east to west, as far as the eye can see. Some say that there are great waterfalls on either side, dropping the precious liquid out into the void. Others say that our world is round, that the water simply connects to itself again like one giant ring. Either way, I was only interested in what lies on the other side.
A slight worry gnawed at the back of my mind, that this would truly be my last jump, that I would finally be caught. I plunged into the water anyway, and my fears proved to be unfounded, that is, until I found myself inside what I thought to be an empty home.
"Don't even think about moving," a voice emerged from the darkness behind me.
My hand was fully inside a coin purse. I had crept in, found my way to some sort of office, and rummaged around a desk until I found what I was looking for. Any coin would do, I just had to grab one.
"Hands where I can see them," it was a woman's voice. "You're going over the Wire for this."
I chuckled as I placed the purse on the desk, minus one coin, and lifted my hands in the air. My fear of capture had fallen away. I knew my fate.
I was born and raised below the divide, a Souther. Our people are united, to an extent, and stand separated from those in the north, by both geology and ideology. They call themselves The Union. We refer to them as the Northers, or just those people.
History says that their people had united under one flag when the great king took over. He brought about a period of prosperity. Whenever a crime was committed, or someone fell out of favor with the great king, they were banished. The Northers had long ago discovered that there was land beyond their little strip of ocean, and the best use for this land was to send the undesirables over to farm, to gather resources, to increase the wealth of those above them while falling deeper into poverty.
They would send us over the divide, "over the Wire" we called it, after the way they had punished criminals before they found this land. We would work under the careful watch of guards, overlords, and under-kings. These were wicked men, of which I would rather not detail.
Some complied, worked honestly, and were eventually restored to the north. Then there were those who made a life down there, started a family. I was born there and, consequently, was destined to die there. There was no way back for me, the son of a murderer and a jewel thief.
Except, now there was nowhere I would rather be than the other side of the wire. The Cerulean Wire: my curse, my freedom. How I hated and loved that brilliantly blue strip. Life and death both; a dichotomy of existence.
"What's so funny?" The woman asked. She gasped as she must have noticed the single coin in my hand.
The jumpers, such as myself, were known to at least some of the Northers. Those who lived so close to the Wire were undoubtedly told to watch out for us at night, breaking in and taking coins. There were even worse punishments for our kind.
"Listen, I just want this coin. I will gladly be on my way and not bother you any more," I said, turning around to face her. "This is my last jump, after all." I flashed a smile.
Jumping the Wire was sort of a black-market game. Bets were made, money exchanged, but I had a sponsor who took care of all of that. All I had to do was to make it over and back, and bring back a single norther coin as proof. This was supposed to be my last run, one round trip, just like the hundreds I had made before it.
At least, it would have been if not for her: the most beautiful and complicated woman I had ever met. I started Wire jumping for the money, but the only reason I kept doing it was for a chance to see her again. The only reason I was the only wire jumper to never have been caught, the best in the business, the closest thing to a sure thing in the betting pools, was I had stopped doing this for money long ago. Now I jumped for love. Now I had something to lose.
The woman was standing just inside the shadows, something long and heavy-looking in her hands.
"And, how do I know you're telling the truth?" She took a few steps towards me, light spilling onto her from the streetlamps outside. I already knew who it was. This was just a game that we played with each other.
She was stunning. There was something about finally running away together that made her even more beautiful. I wanted to drop everything and kiss her, but time was of the essence, and we were losing the fog by the minute.
"Why don't you just let me give you a coin? It would be much easier than all of this." She gestured around at the empty room.
"It's the rule. I have to steal the coin."
"But no one would know," she said as she moved closer, her voice playful. She was carrying a bag on her back, full of whatever possessions she would be bringing across the Wire.
"I would know."
We ran back to the water's edge, still under cover of darkness. I was much more concerned about the return trip then I was on my original crossing. This time I had to worry about twice as many people.
"Now, I need to give you the ten-second version of how to jump the Wire," I said once we were standing on a little patch of sandy shore. She nodded in affirmation, eyes wide with the prospect of what we were about to do.
"I'll take your pack. You need to watch me carefully, and do exactly what I do. The key is to remain calm and, above all, quiet. They will hear us long before they can see us, especially on a day like this."
We slipped in the water together and made our way into the fog. I was thankful for the extra concealment, and we swam nearly side-by-side into the wall of white mist. I was impressed by the gentleness of her stroke; she was an excellent swimmer.
I could not have prepared for the boat that we encountered. There was no way to see it. Luckily, it was one of the large boats and we were swimming directly beside it, so we wouldn't be seen by the crew unless they were to look directly over the edge of the ship which, from the conversations I overheard, and the apparent state of sobriety aboard, was unlikely. They were crass and it made me sick to my stomach.
We swam on, and the ship slowly disappeared into the fog, out of sight. The crossing had become casual exercise for me, but I knew that my companion would require rest, so we stopped once in the middle of the divide to catch our breath.
"How are you?" I asked. My voice was a barely audible whisper.
"Fine," she said, matching my volume, "just winded. Have you ever been that close to a ship before?"
I didn't dare speak any more, in case there was another boat close by. Soon, we were off again, and it was not long before the relief of land. I felt the dirt between my toes and rose out of the water triumphant yet again, for more reasons than usual.
Wordlessly, hand in hand, we stole away into the forest just beyond the divide.