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Wheat shines golden in the passing headlights. An occasional red glimmer lurks in the darkness they leave behind, but the driver’s eyes never stray from the road: until she sees the combine harvester, reaping and threshing and winnowing, a lightless silhouette under the full moon.

She brakes hard, more by instinct than design, and stares at the thing through her window. She can’t make out the driver: a wide-brimmed hat shelters them from the gleam of the night’s blackened sun. The combine is utterly silent as it moves.

Fear shivers down her spine. She floors the gas, tyres squealing, and flees from the spectre of something she’d hoped not to meet for many years.

-

How are all you motherfuckers doing tonight?!

The crowd roars. She stands before them in leather and corpse paint, feasting on the burning radiance of their euphoria. Behind her the double bass drums roll out a beat peppered with snare notes.

You know this one,” she calls out, and suddenly stops. The guitar riff comes in, covering her silence, but her eyes are still caught by the figure at the centre of the pit: a man in a wide-brimmed hat, tall and thin and white, his clothes somehow blacker than those of the headbanging crowd all around him.

He finds her after the show. Her hair is streaked with moonlight and sweat, her eyes alight with challenge. “You come to take me, then?” she asks, in a tone that says Bring it.

The harvester smiles.

“I enjoyed the show very much,” he says. “I would like to repay you.”

“If you’re offering me drugs or sex, I’m not interested.”

“No,” he says. “I suppose you are not. Who do you think I am?”

She doesn’t answer, but the diamonds twinkling in the corners of her eyes tell him that she knows.

“Your time was meant to come today,” he tells her. “You would have cracked your head against the edge of the stage. But, for your music, I’ll give you the only thing I can: your life.”

She takes it from his hand, long-fingered and scrawny, and feels the world become her own.

-

She sees him again, not once but many times. He comes for cats and dogs and rats and mice, for aunts and uncles, siblings, niblings, bandmates, friends. He never comes for her.

She leaves on the first rocket. The earth has become tired, cold with the dust of frozen flowers. She finds new hope among the stars. There are worlds upon worlds to visit, to explore, to watch over as they sprout new stories, new music, new art: tin machines carry her from one galaxy to another as quickly as dreaming.

Here, now, she is a creature of legend. The Deathless One. Desperate queens and pirates vie for her service, showering her in credits and gifts; youngsters serenade her with theremins and electric lutes. Each time, she sends them away.

The harvester no longer wears his wide-brimmed hat. She sees him in a thousand different spacesuits, a million different blacker-than-black robes. Only his gaunt white face never changes, one century to the next.

She stops him one day at a crowded spaceport, the scene of a crash with six hundred dead. Tossing her life from one hand to the other, she asks: “You want to take this back?”

He smiles, as he always does. “Are you finished with it?”

“Yeah. It’s been good, but after a while immortality stops living up to the hype.”

“How would you like it to end?”

“Surprise me.”

He nods, and tucks her life away into a fold of his robe. “I would very much like to hear one more song,” he says.

One last time, she sings.
Written for Flash Fiction Month 2018, day 21, challenge 10: write a story beginning in one genre (southern gothic) and ending in another (space opera), featuring an iconic character; it must include five distinct images from within David Bowie's lyrics, as well as the names of two bands David Bowie was featured in over his lifetime. The wordcount must be the length of a song from David Bowie's last album, Blackstar. This year I'm also fulfilling a challenge by an anonymous contributor: Every character must be queer.

I have also been somehow wrestled into taking on another challenge by joewright:
The All-Star challenge.
Over the course of FFM, your oeuvre must address the following items:
  • -Something somebody once told you
  • -The sharpest tool
  • -A finger and a thumb
  • -The shape of an L
  • -What does it mean to be 'fed to the rules'?
  • -A smart brain and a dumb head
  • -"You'll never shine if you don't glow"
  • -Definitive proof that all that glitters is in fact gold
  • -A shooting star that breaks the mold
  • -The meteor men, and the hole in the satellite picture
  • -Skating on thin ice
  • -The world on fire
  • -"Can you spare some change for gas?"
  • -An all-star, getting their game on, and going to play, or alternatively and perhaps easier, a rock star, getting the show on, and getting paid.
  • -Shrek
David Bowie images: diamonds in my eyes ("Blackstar"); Moonlight strokes the highlights in her hair ("Like A Rocket Man"); The dust of cold flowers ("If You Can See Me"); Gleaming like blackened sunshine and They burn you with their radiant smiles ("The Stars (Are Out Tonight)"); It's in his scrawny hand ("Valentine's Day").

David Bowie bands: The Hype, Tin Machine.

The rest of today's stories can be found here.

Wordcount: 622 (Lazarus).

If you've enjoyed this story, you may be interested in the collection of all my FFM stories this year: Beyond Dreams. You may also enjoy my FFM collections from the previous four years: Borrowed Strength, Ephemeron, Palalgia, and Changeling.

This story is also featured in LitConquistadores' 2018 FlashFictionMonth collection, The Ruminations of a Multiheaded Monster, which can be purchased for points on dA here or through Blurb here.
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:iconwindysilver:
WindySilver Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Wow, I so love this one! Fantastic work with the challenge, the interaction between the protagonist and the harvester was my favourite in this! :D
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2018   Writer
Thank you! :D I'm pleased with the way this one came out.
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:iconwindysilver:
WindySilver Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome! :)
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:iconbookcrusher:
bookcrusher Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2018  Student Writer
You totally nailed the transition, and that ending was both beautiful and haunting. Loved it.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2018   Writer
Thank you! :D
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:iconscfrankles:
SCFrankles Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
I so admire that idea that the contemporary Death uses a combine harvester. And I admire your subtlety with that idea - it could have been a risible image but you make it so sinister. 

Echoing ilyilaice's comment - I love the way you use the plot to make absolute sense of the change in genres. And that ending is just perfect. 
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2018   Writer
Thank you! :D I'm especially glad you liked the image of Death in his combine harvester: it felt perfect for the genre.
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:iconilyilaice:
ilyilaice Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2018
I adore the concept here. The transition from genres is smoothly done and makes sense. Well done!
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2018   Writer
Thank you! The genre transition was tricky to pull off - especially with these two genres. They don't really fit together too well. ;p
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:iconnamelessshe:
NamelessShe Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2018
I love them both. This is fantastic! 
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2018   Writer
Thank you! :D
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