Flash Friday 28/08/2015: Axing The Questions
As a master thief, I’m used to being put into dangerous situations. Nothing really tops having your head on an executioner’s block, though.
I always thought that when — no, back then it was definitely if — I got caught, they would lock me up for a couple of years or give a hefty fine. Turns out, stealing jewellery from royalty counted as treason. How’s a lady to know? I just saw an amazing gold necklace. Didn’t know it was from royalty.
But enough about me; back to the part where I almost lost my head.
The crowd that had turned up to watch my inevitable, gory death was large, at least. That gave me some happiness. You know you’ve made it when hundreds turn up to see you succeed, and you know you’ve really made it when even more come out to watch you fall. All their eyes were fixated at the man at the front, who was reading off a list of all the crimes I have ever committed. By the looks of the length of the scroll, they were planning to kill me through dehydration alone.
I looked up and to the right, where my executioner stood. There were three kind of people in this world that you could wrap around your little finger; the poor, the fearful, and the dense. His neat black clothing and executioners axe the size of a person tipped me off that he wasn’t scrounging for cash, neither did his ox-like build say he was a coward. His slow alternate blinking and somewhat goofy smile, however, stated that there was still a chance yet. Especially given the reader was only one-quarter down the list.
“Hey,” I said in a low voice. “Nice axe you’ve got there.”
The executioner looked down at me with a vacant expression. When the words finally filtered into his brain, he gave a child-like smile, holding the axe up a little. “Good, innit? Sharpened it myself.”
“Very clever. Say, is that the new Headtaker model? The Headtaker Ace?”
The executioner shook his head, smiling as if he knew something I didn’t. He moved the blade down close to my face, so that I could read the text etched into the metal close to the handle; ‘Headtaker Ace Max’.
“The Ace is such last season,” the executioner said, pulling the axe back. “Everyone knows that.”
“I’m not very up-to-date on the latest in headmen news. What does the Ace Max do that the Ace doesn’t?”
“S’got ‘Max’ on it, see?”
“What about functions?”
“Better weight.” The executioner made a few practice swings at nothing in particular. “More aerodynamic. Cuts through skin and bone twenty-percent faster than the last model. The usuals.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t know about that,” I said, entirely truthfully. “Back home I’m still using the GX model.”
“GX?” The executioner snorted at my apparent lack of axe knowledge. He had a point, though;it was the only one that came to my head. “I wouldn’t be caught dead with a GX. So old, so inefficient. You really need to update.”
“I knooow,” I mused. “I always want to try out the newer models. They look so much better.”
We shared a slight pause. Then, stepping back, the executioner shot me a look like he caught a mouse.
“Aha!” he hissed. “I know what you’re up to. You were going to ask if you could have a go with mine, weren’t you? Well, there’s a good reason why you’re on the block and I’m the one with the axe, and it’s because I have a head on your shoulders. Unlike you, in a few minutes.”
I rolled my eyes. “Damn, you got me.”
“You wanted me to give you this, and then you’d kill me and get away. Not today, missus.”
“Not even a quick go?”
“Course not. I’m the headsman here, I get to hold the axe. Plus, you’d just use it wrong.”
“Like how, exactly?”
“When people pick up these things, they wield them like animals, dunnae? Swinging it about like a madman. You need the proper posture, which is one hand at the bottom, one in the middle, like this. See?”
I snorted dramatically.
“Then, once you’ve got your grasp, you want to put your feet like this, so you can what?”
I turned my head, making sure to lock eyes so that I could give him a judgemental look. “And to think idiots like you get their hands on the best toys. It’s like giving a rapier to a monkey.”
The executioner’s face fell into a thunderous glare. “The hell you mean by that then, eh?”
“Your technique is totally amateur.”
“Oh yeah? And how do you do it then?”
“Much better than that, that’s for sure.”
“Yeah?” I felt a heavy hand grab me by the back of the neck, hoisting me up onto my feet. Then, something large and heavy was thrust into my hands. “Go on then. Show me this ‘technique’ of yours, if you’re brave enough. Go on.”
“Alright then.” I pointed to the block. “Lie down and I’ll show you.”
“Calling me a ruddy amateur,” the executioner muttered, lying his head down. “No bloody respect, that’s what it is. Well, go on then. Prove to me just how good of an executioner you are.”
“Right,” I said. “So, first of all, you need to hold the axe like this, see?”
“Pft,” the executioner spat. “And what good does that–wait.”
“Then, you bring it up to about here.
“Wait, I think I just did something very–”
“And then–!” I said, holding the axe up. But of course, I’m a thief, not a murderer — whatever good killing him would do, jumping off the back of the platform with a huge axe raised above my head did a hundred times better for parting a crowd. And while I never found out what became of that man, I did learn one thing, however; he was totally right about it being the must-have for everyone’s collection.