What Your Name is Worth
1128 words long
Is it worth dying to keep it? Is it worth living without it?
Notes from the author:
Any magician worth their mana can tell you about the power of names. Know something or someone’s name, and you have power over them. Even in a world where magic is, by and large, discredited, names are tightly bound up with identity and self-determination. Changing your name changes who you are.
My writing prompt, a bouquet of random words and phrases, included “kangaroo court,” “barter,” and “annihilated metropolitan.” I don’t often think to write about currency-free post-apocalyptic tyrannies, but that’s what writing prompts are for.
It was all he had left, and it was everything. But the boy wasn’t willing to die for the sake of keeping it.
“And why,” sneered the Deputy, “would the Sheriff be interested in your name?”
“‘Cause I’m young,” said the boy, “and a young man’s name could go on to mean just about anything.”
The Deputy’s frown tightened. He was not young. He had been the Deputy for forty years now. It had not been tactful for the boy to bring up age. “You scrawny, puling kid. Your name ain’t going to mean nothing but a corpse in two days’ time. You can’t fight, or you’d do that rather than come here with your worthless name in trade. Your bones’ll be picked clean, either here or out on the wastes, and no one will miss you.”
What he said was true. All the land as far as anyone knew was blasted by radiation. The most honest acres were simply barren; the duplicitous ones grew crops that pleased the mouth and filled the belly but killed you just as slow as starvation did and a lot nastier too. The settlement here sat upon ground less tainted than the rest, and its population could tolerate a small amount of toxicity. But walk too far in any direction and you risked hitting the hot-spots, the places so far gone that you’d die just from walking through, and the vultures that attended your funeral, they’d die too. So you stayed on the settlement, because you had to, and you either did what the biggest bullies said or you became a bully so you wouldn’t have to.
By all accounts, Sheriff McGill was the biggest bully of them all. His protection was the last hope the boy had of avoiding a slow death in the wastes or a quick one right here. “Fate of my bones’s for the Sheriff to decide,” he said.
“The Sheriff don’t need to waste time on the walking dead,” said the Deputy. “Now get on back to wherever you feel like dying. You’re done here.” He turned to walk back into the Sheriff’s tent.
Halfway there the boy’s response caught him between the shoulder blades and went on pounding away. “What are you afraid of, Deputy? You never let nobody talk to the Sheriff direct. Everyone talks to you now, like you think maybe you’re the one in charge. Tell me something—Sheriff even in that tent anymore?”
The Deputy whirled, enraged, and drew his gun....
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for December 18, 2015. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1128 words) from Patreon in PDF or MP3 format depending on their pledge tier.
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