The following flash fiction was a contest entry for Challenge 1, Round 1 of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge.
By mid-morning, families had started to gather in twos and threes and fours. The elves and fairies grouped together. The orcs and goblins congregated. The trolls… They stayed to themselves, as usual. Coming out from under their bridges into daylight was traumatic for them, and they weren’t good company.
Everyone headed for the Peace and Harmony Fountain, the giant crystal sculpture with water spewing from upraised swords. It commemorated when the humans and the unhumans stopped slaughtering each other and agreed to live in peace. Peace, indeed, but a separate peace. The unhumans stayed in their enclaves; the humans in theirs. The peace had lasted for centuries now, though after some recent elections in the human world, the old, human prejudices had sprung up again.
But on this glorious morning with the rays of the sun creating uncountable rainbows from the sculpture, there was no need to worry about the human world. There were the curious humans, though. They came every day to watch, hundreds gathering outside the park’s perimeter, careful not to cross the boundary.
If you crossed the boundary, you were fair game. The same was true for the unhumans.
An orc herald appeared, the horn of a long-extinct orcus rhinoceros gigantus at his lips. A long blast sent the fairies up into the air, their translucent wings stained by the rainbows from the sculpture. The humans at the boundary covered their ears. The unhuman children gibbered in excitement. Two more short blasts, and a vortex opened near the boundary, and something appeared.
An orc family, the Gerfvulds, had repurposed a war wagon into what the humans called a food truck. Having been a war wagon, the orcs’ food truck was immense; in human terms, the length of a city block and several stories tall. The Gerfvulds had seen these food truck things because they’d bootlegged satellite television and become addicted to the Food Network. They might be orcs, but entrepreneurship knew no bounds. The war wagon, festooned with the skulls of the peoples and animals they had conquered, had become quite the rage among the unhumans. And the Gerfvulds didn’t only cater to the orcs. All unhumans found something palatable there, and business had boomed.
The unhumans lined up the way the Gerfvulds had insisted: fairies, elves, goblins, trolls, and orcs, last because the Gerfvulds didn’t want to be accused of preferential treatment for their own kind. There was also a practical reason for this. Because the goblins ate fresh flesh and the trolls and orcs ate putrefaction, it was best they go last, lest the stench of their meals make the fragile fae gag.
The orc herald played a deep, throbbing note on his horn and said, “The Harmony Council has agreed to allow two humans to cross the boundary.”
That caused quite a buzz, and the orc herald blew a note for silence.
“The two humans,” he roared, “are from something called the media. They are here to do something called interviewing. They will have no weapons, and they are not fair game. Esthurdritch?”
A tall, elf stepped forward, his silver hair glowing in the sunlight.
“You have agreed to translate?” the herald asked.
“Yes, I have agreed,” Esthurdritch said, with a sigh. Clearly, he didn’t consider this an honor.
The orc herald gestured for two humans, a male and a female, to cross the boundary. As they did so, the magic there scanned them to ensure they’d kept their word about weapons. Had there been weapons the magic would have disposed of the humans then and there, but they passed through without a problem.
“Interviewing the Gerfvulds first might be the best,” Esthurdritch told them. “There are those of us here who still remember the wars, and we are wary.”
The female, with pale skin and dark hair and wearing a red dress, frowned and said, “But everyone here looks so young.”
Ah, Esthurdritch thought, the naiveté of short-lived races.
While the fairies ordered pollen pupusas and cups of nectar—paid for with, what else, fairy dust—and the elves purchased herbal soups using gems and silver, the eldest Gerfvuld brother, Arghst, lumbered from the food truck, an apron the size of a baseball infield tarp around his waist.
The human woman asked Arghst questions while the human man took pictures, but the bulk of Arghst’s body hid the fact the goblins, trolls, and orcs now bought their lunches.
The goblins paid for their raw flesh and blood sauce sandwiches with iron mined that morning. The trolls gave the Gerfvulds goat bones—great for stewing—for bowls of rotting internal organs. The orcs paid for their shanks of rotted flesh platters with the teeth of their enemies. Not a good image for the nightly news.
Arghst grunted his answers, and Esthurdritch duly translated.
“Can we see the inside of your truck?” the woman asked.
Arghst and Esthurdritch looked at each other. The orc’s smile revealed his black teeth, dripping yellow-green ichor. The elf’s thin-lipped grin showed rows of pearl-like fangs, points of light glinting from each.
“Yes, of course,” grunted Arghst, and led the two humans to the truck’s side door. He opened it with a flourish so they could see inside.
Where human bodies hung from hooks.
Arghst’s brothers carved pieces from them. Some were alive and screaming; others dead and hanging for a while.
The human woman began to shriek. Arghst picked the two humans up, one in each hand and threw them toward the gathering of goblins. “On the house!” he shouted, and they feasted.
Arghst drew his war mallet from behind him; Esthurdritch produced his long, slim blade, which had been dry of blood too long. Unhumans in the park did the same as a wizard appeared to banish the boundary. More unhumans manifested, weapons ready, before the humans could figure out what had transpired.
A battle cry emerged from thousands of throats. The armies marched again. At last.