While I was in hospital I met up with a nurse who had looked after me when I was there two years ago. She remembered I was a writer, and after we talked and got caught up, she jokingly remarked that I should write a story with her as a character. Well I did. Now I’m not sure if this is what she had in mind, but nevertheless I dedicate this story to my nurse from the Moncton Hospital. Thank you Charissa, for all your loving care and comfort. ~L.F.Young
In centuries past, there was a story told of a legend among the Sonnie peoples. The Sonnies were a warrior tribe of incredible strength with expert battle strategies, and a penchant for showing no mercy to their enemies. They were feared throughout the land. Even the bravest soldiers quaked beneath their chain mail armor at the thought of doing battle against the Sonnies.
There was one warrior who stood out from the rest. An orphan child raised by the master warlords to be the best of the best. Even at an early age, the young girl showed great promise in all aspects of battle weaponry, especially the garrote, and longbow. She would be groomed to be both battle warlord and assassin. She excelled at both. None could match her skill with a sword or battleaxe. Those who felt especially bold and capable enough to dispatch a mere girl, soon felt the sharp edge of her steel, rumored to be enchanted and having a taste for blood on its own accord.
One such story goes as follows. Charissa was receiving instruction from one of the masters on a bright spring day. Her task was to stand on one leg on tip toe and implement the moves know as the executioner, a complicated series of sword parries, thrusts and manoeuvres. She had seen seventeen springs, and was as graceful and strong as the purest deer which raced in the woods nearby. In fact, she was the only warrior of seven hundred strong, who could outrun the fastest buck in the forest, and dispatch its soul to the gods in the heavens, with nothing more than bare hands, and incredible strength.
The master would intercede from time to time, offering advice and instruction to his student. He was distracted slightly by a fly buzzing around his face, and several attempts to ward off his tormentor only resulted in yet another attack. “I wish this fly would stop vexing me.” A fraction of a second later he felt the air brush his nose as cold steel whizzed past.
“I think you somehow killed that fly, Charissa.” He spoke to the girl, astonished.
“Oh, my apologies, master.” She stopped her exercise, bent down on one knee and bowed her head in supplication. “I did not know you wished the creature to cease living. I merely removed the pest’s wings. It rests as we speak, in the folds of your robe.”
Sure enough, the fly was crawling around on the master’s lap, very much alive, but wingless.
“That will suffice for today, Charissa. You are improving greatly, but we will need much more work.”
She bowed, sheathed her weapon and retreated to her quarters. No one in the clan’s history had ever performed such precision swordsmanship, and the master was in awe of his student’s ability.
After that, when word got out of such skill, her status was elevated to something just this side of the golden wall, which separates the Gods from mere mortal man. She had become legend at seventeen.
In her twenty fifth summer, the Galganese from a neighboring kingdom decided they needed to increase their wealth. It was suggested by the scribes and seers of their realm, that a raid on the Sonnies would rebuild their fortunes sufficiently. The ill thought plan would end in their total destruction.
On the day, when army met army on the Great Plains, and the ground ran red with the blood of the Galganese, Charissa the Brave was nowhere to be seen. When the few survivors crawled back to the refuge of their city, the gates were unmanned and locked from within. The carnage inside the walled city was as if opening the gates of hell. No living human soul was left. The king’s chambers, also locked from within, took three hours with pike and axe to open and smash through the thick wooden door strapped with iron. The king’s head was on a shelf, facing the door, and the room was crimson with royal blood. The only material thing missing was the King’s special ring. It was never off his middle finger, which was also missing. It was rumored the ring held special magical powers to grant the wearer everlasting life.
“Hey, Charissa. Welcome back to hell. Okay, the guy in 502B coded this afternoon, but he’s stable now. Mary in 520D is up to her old tricks again. I think she smokes in the stairway. Anyway her pulse ox is way off, usually around mid shift. And yes she sneaks it at night too. I’d like to strangle her, the little weasel…well, not really, but she’s also at code risk. Hey is that creep still following you at night? Maybe you should tell security.”
“I haven’t seen him in a while. I don’t think he’ll be a problem.”
“Well don’t take any chances. Us girls have to be extra careful, you know? Here are the files. Oh, nice ring! I love that infinity symbol. Is that real gold?” ~L.F.Young
*Author’s note: After farming this story out to some beta readers, I was interested in their opinions on content and flow. I was thinking about submitting it in a flash fiction contest, and at 961 words, it fit under the usual 1,000 word limit for most flash fiction contests. Nearly all the beta readers said they liked the story, but it ended too soon. They wanted more of nurse Charissa, and definitely more of Charissa the warrior. This flash fiction piece is now nearly 9,000 words and heading into novella territory. Here is a taste of how this tale is growing.
“Well don’t take any chances. Us girls have to be extra careful, you know? Here are the files. Oh, nice ring! I love that infinity symbol. Is that real gold?”
“Yes, real yellow and white gold. It was my grandmother’s.” If there was one thing she had learned over the centuries, it was how to lie convincingly.
She stared at the ring as she took the bundle of files from Angela. Her mind raced back to that day. The battle was unfolding as it was meant to. Her mission was not to be on the field that day. Her master, in a secret meeting, explained her duty. Her ability as an assassin was without question and it was her task to destroy the leader of the Galganese. “We must separate the head from the snake.” He instructed her.
The king, in his arrogance in attacking with out provocation, made a fatal mistake. He left very little protection at the castle gates themselves. A small twenty man garrison, and not much else. They were all silently dispatched within the first hour of entry. The King even tried to take her virtue, thinking her a weak female worthy of his royal lust. His laughter at her appearance was cut short and she made sure he felt her rage as he died slowly beneath her blade, his screams falling on dead ears everywhere.
The creep Angie had been talking about made the same mistake. He underestimated the diminutive figure huddle against the wind and weather making her way home. Her instincts picked him up the first morning, when she saw him across the street as she left the hospital. He was observing her and averting his gaze when she looked in his general direction. He followed her the next three mornings. She never tried to hide where she lived from her stalker, for she had no fear of him. She was never without weapons. The fine leather harness fit like a second skin, and held three very special knives, all retrievable within seconds of attack.
On the third day when she left the building, she sensed he was feeling brave. Charissa’s awareness was heightened, and she suspected this would be the day of his misfortune. She was correct. His soft soled shoes were no match for her superior hearing, despite the street noise surrounding them. His pace quickened as they approached the small alley. He forced her into the cramped space and hissed that he would kill her if she tried to scream. The words were just leaving his lips when they were immediately replaced with a gurgling sound, as her blade slid into his arm pit, and through his aorta. A fine spray of blood painted the brick wall of the alley, her enemy dispatched.
She calmly stepped back onto the sidewalk and continued her journey home. No one could know of her many victories. There was never any remorse for her slain enemies. They all attack first, as is her will, for she is well versed in every battle strategy and there are seldom any surprises she is not ready for.
And then there is the ring.
The ancient scribes chronicled the ring as a charm of extensive power over life and death, and thus was considered a ring of eternal life. The owner would never die. Although Charissa had won every battle she ever fought, she was unsure of the ring’s true power, as she had yet to test it. Yes she had been wounded, once severely, and was on several occasions surprised at how fast she healed, but didn’t attest her ability as related to the ring itself. Over time she had come to know of it’s power and strength, and hoped she never had to rely on it’s restorative energy. She no longer celebrated birthdays. That ended centuries ago, when friends and family and relatives all eventually died. She felt human in every way, except she somehow evolved otherwise. Her skill with any kind of weaponry was at times magical and she enjoyed the look of amazement in the faces of her instructors as perfect score racked up after perfect score. In modern times she had been actively recruited by several governments and their respective agencies as news of her competition wins became public knowledge. She would smile, shrug her shoulders and reply thank you, but she was just a nurse.
The steady chime of a call bell brought her attention to the present, and her night shift officially began. She noted four new assistants who were going to be a big help, but wouldn’t be able to give needles for a while, and she was always called upon. Her nick name here was Charissa the painless. She never missed a vein, even the nearly impossible to hit rolling vein, often seen in the elderly with weak circulatory systems. She knew she had the skills to be a surgeon, but she preferred to stay just outside the spotlights glow. She once had an invitation to dinner by a new doctor. They talked for hours and he told her it took him ten years to get certified with a practice set up in his field. He already had enough patients to last a steady twenty more years. Charissa smiled and said how great that was, but she admitted to herself she could never commit to a time line like that. How do you explain looking like a twenty something young woman when you are supposed to be in your sixties? You don’t have to explain if you fly low, and move on after a short while. Her maximum limit at her previous jobs had been ten years in any one place.
“I hate to bother you, but I’ve tried three times to get an I.V. into Mrs. Johnstone. Would you mind, Charissa?”
The newly minted nurse looked like she was about to cry, but she was holding her own.
“No worries, Julie. She’s got veins like flat ribbons. Oh, your name tag is upside down.”
“Oh my God, I am such a ditz today. Just nerves I guess.” Her lower lip was sandwiched between teeth as she fixed her tag.
Mrs. Johnstone was sitting up in bed and not looking pleased at all.
“I see those darn tubes of your’s are causing some grief tonight, Wilma.”
“Yes. That nice Julie tried so hard dear. I felt bad for her, poor thing. I think she was more upset than I was.” The elderly lady was holding a square of gauze on her forearm as she spoke.
“Well we’re going to give that arm a rest. You look like my Aunt’s pincushion.” This brought a smile to the old gal’s face, and Charissa could see her visibly relax. I’m going to get some moist warm towels and see if we can’t coax a vein to the surface of your other wing. Be right back.” A wink on the way out the door, and her patient was settled and ready for the procedure.
The hot towels worked and as she calmly talked to her charge, Charissa was deftly getting the needle ready for insertion.
“There, all done. Is there anything else I can do for you, Mrs. J?”
“All done? I never felt a thing, dear. Thank you. Perhaps some ice water?”
It was a busy night on the fifth floor, but then every night was busy. The nurses knew that night time often brought the most trouble, with people’s bio rhythms low, and pain levels so high. The time did pass quickly for the hurried staff, and that was satisfaction enough for some. By the time the charting was done, and the morning shift was made aware of changes to their patients information, the noise level was increasing to the normal din of every day hospital routine. Room bells were going off as Charissa waved goodbye to the new crew and made her way to the exit doors on Park street.
The sun was bright and warm on her upturned face, as she left the antiseptic smells behind and welcomed the new day. She missed the aroma of the country, and was always a bit disappointed when she breathed in that first breath of fresh air in the morning, only to taste the foul bitterness of spent fuel and rotting garbage. She promised herself she would rent a car this weekend and escape to her favorite mountain stream. She needed to practice her craft in the open spaces of nature. To feel the earth and detritus of the forest beneath her bare feet. ~ L.F.Young