Free photo 625529 © Pavalache Stelian -


Author’s Note: the following short story is a 500-word flash fiction. It contains allusions to violence and sensitive thematic material related to hate groups. Reader discretion is advised.

Daniel always did what he was told: Brahms told him to follow that liberal woman home, so he didn’t protest. When she pulled out her pepper spray, he was already goggle-clad to protect his eyes from the burst of ocular irritant. If Brahms had instructed him to speak, he would’ve asked the target not to bother fumbling for her phone—he’d removed the SIM card and battery during her yoga class. (She habitually left her car unlocked.)

He would’ve told her not to waste her breath on hollering for help, because her next-door neighbors were enjoying their annual Fall Colors Tour and wouldn’t return until Sunday evening; and the widow who lived behind her, Mrs. Doussett, regularly bullied her on social media under an anonymous account that sported a Goldendoodle puppy profile pic. The targeted woman had no clue that her secret troll was a card-carrying Neo-Nazi grandma who would love nothing more than to watch the leftist feminist’s tattooed neck snap, entrapped within a self-inflicted hangman’s noose.

It’s not that Daniel hated the target, but he hated the type of person she symbolized: a pro-choice, equality-for-all, women-run-the-earth, freedom-grubber. He had no desire to kill her—besides, Brahms didn’t want to use his cop connections for any business that didn’t involve growing his radical conservative fanbase. She just needed to be scared silent. Stifled into submission. Snuffed out, like a trick candle on a birthday cake that’s been doused in water to keep it from relighting. Daniel could do it: he didn’t mind roughing up a woman, as long as she couldn’t positively identify him in a lineup. Keeping the trust of Brahms and the brotherhood trumped a personal reluctance to dirty his hands.

The damn thing of it was, he hadn’t expected her to be so resourceful. She didn’t carry a gun, but she kept a paring knife taped under the doormat—and she reached it before Daniel could reach her. He had a utility blade of his own, but he struggled to unsheathe it after she sliced his Achilles tendon; then it was impossible to retrieve his weapon after she stole it from his back pocket and slashed his throat with it. He hadn’t expected to exsanguinate on her welcome mat (or lament, in his last moments, about how he shouldn’t have taken Brahms’ reassurances that she’d be an easy target).

To Daniel’s great surprise, she tried to save his life. Ripped off her shirt and pressed it against his wound to slow the bleeding—attempted to dial 911. Her cellphone was useless: he’d done a bang-up job of disabling it. When he attempted to communicate that his own was in the glove box of his truck, he couldn’t speak, because his vocal cords were cut. In a curious act of compassion, she removed his goggles so he could watch the moon playing cat-and-mouse with the wily clouds.

The stars prepped a spotlight on Daniel as he followed Death, a superior leader, to his new home down below.

“Follower” © R. N. Jayne 2020

All Rights Reserved.

Featured image: Eclipse |625529| © Pavalache Stelian –

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