The Patriots – Traci Mullins

“Charge!” shouts the boy, triggering a mad dash of pint-sized soldiers as they storm the beach at Neskowin.

They’ve been playing War all afternoon, their parents glancing up from their books just long enough to confirm that six familiar shapes still dot the rugged coastline.

The platoon leader is ordering reconnaissance and various formations as his troops practice maneuvers for taking down the enemy, now obscured by the dune grass. Eight little feet pound up and down the sand, sandals flying, war whoops slicing the sky before being swallowed by the crashing surf.

Dropping to their bellies on their final approach, the brothers pant beneath the lip of the dune. Their twin sisters play in the sea grass above, oblivious to the imminent attack. The boys nod in silent agreement and await the signal. Now! They penetrate enemy territory in a wild tangle of scrawny limbs, no holding back on the hand-to-hand combat required to take the hill. They wrestle and grunt as they pin their little sisters to the ground. The girls screech, spitting sand from chapped lips.

“You are now prisoners of war!” declares the commander, as the soldiers dig furiously until each girl is encased in a sandy cell. Keeping watch in shifts, they carry buckets of cold seawater to pour onto the mounds, crushing any resistance.

Once the girls are shivering and defenseless, their shrieks carried thinly on the wind, the boys begin the torture. Pulling back two blonde ponytails, they pour the salty water into unarmed nostrils as their captives choke and wail and gawp like dying fish.

The bony wings of eight little shoulders disappear over the edge of the grassy knoll as the troops rush to refill their buckets.

T MullinsTraci Mullins’s flash fiction stories have appeared in 3 anthologies, Flash Fiction Magazine, Spelk, Dime Show Review, Ellipsis Zine, Palm-Sized Press, Fantasia Divinity, CafeLit, Cabinet of Heed, Runcible Spoon, CommuterLit, and many others. She was named a Highly Recommended Writer in the London Independent Story Prize competition.