Flash Fiction: “Saved By The Shieldmaiden”

Chooser of the slain.  Angel of death and mercy.  EMT-certified.


Saved By The Shieldmaiden, by Alexander Paul Willging

Word Count: 686

Another late-night shift for me at St. Mary’s Hospital.  Javier and I manage to get a fallen old man from his beach house to the ER in record time.  I press my hands against his chest, watching for a spike in his circulation.

Not today, I promise him.  With a pointed glare, I will Death back.  This old fellow still has a few more moments left with his children.  Death nods back, but hovers close by.

It’s up to us and the staff at the ER to get poor Jon Thorsen through his cardiac arrest.  No need for the defibrillator, fortunately.  He’ll live through the night, and I whisper a prayer of gratitude to the Almighty.

My name is Kara Macalister.  I’m a paramedic in Los Angeles, and this isn’t my first brush with Death.

Our shells rain down on the Yankee formations at Churubusco for almost four hours.  Once our ammunition runs dry, there is nothing left but a bayonet charge.

While Pat Dalton defiantly tears down the white flag from the convent, I’m running through the field with the other lads, trying to collect our dead and scavenge whatever bullets and powder we can still use.  They call me mad for doing so, but I can’t leave any survivors behind.

What do they know of madness?  Didn’t we sail out from Galway on a bloody awful voyage?  Didn’t we get our teeth kicked in when we landed in Boston?  And didn’t the Eighth Infantry treat us worse than rats before we left?

But it’s all for naught.  Franklin Pierce and his boys are taking our right flank.  Worth’s division hits us from the left, and we collapse in the middle.  I don’t put up a fight when the Yanks come for me.  I don’t give them any satisfaction when they scream obscenities into my face.

I know what comes next.  Trials for desertion, following by a hanging.  But I’m not scared.

My name is Kara Larkin, though the rest of Saint Patrick’s Battalion know me as a young lad by the name of Johnny O’Sullivan.  This hasn’t been my first battle, nor will it be my first execution.

Gloomy gray skies greet the Kings of Leinster and Brega as they ride out for Dublin.  Ivar doesn’t stand a chance when two armies of Irishmen come pouring into his longphort.

I wish I could say I was on his side, but it’s not my place.  I only choose the worthiest of the fallen.  I wander across the blood-soaked green fields, watching for the Norsemen who go out bravely.  The ones who die with sword in hand and a cry in their throats.

Óttar is one such man.  I kneel beside his cold body and touch his bloody curls.  His ghost rises up from his parted lips, placid as he takes notice of me.

“Valhalla?” he asks softly.

I nod and touch my breastplate.  A quiet promise.  Óttar takes my hand and we mount my white steed Vibeke.  With a cry, I urge her forward as we charge away from the clamor of battle and toward the eternal light.

My name is Kára Halfdanardottir.  I am a valkyrie of Odin Allfather, whose mighty hall I now ride toward.

And yet—

Even this is not my original form.

On a cold British coastline, a woman shrieks and throws her spear.  Her foe is pierced and falls to the ground.

Boats are burned.  The battle is won.  Men retreat as the bodies of the fallen are collected.

And hither come the ravens, a constant flutter of black wings and hungry beaks.  Hither come the wise women of the tribes with their herbs and folklore.  The ravens feast on the dead and the women tend to the wounded.

In that moment, an idea is born.

The idea will grow.  A woman who shadows every battlefield.  A valkyrie, an angel of mercy, a friendly face in the darkest hour.

The mortals do not yet realize their power.  Their ideas will take lives of their own.

And one day, this idea will become Kara Macalister of Los Angeles.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

2 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: “Saved By The Shieldmaiden”

  1. What is interesting about this is that the central figure of the story goes (in reverse order) from a killer (is she justified? is she a murderer? we don’t know) to a savior. Even as the battlefields become more civilized, “Kara” softens, transforming from an instrument of Death to his opponent. Was this intentional? Does this say something about all of use? What if Kara was born in Zimbabwe today? Would she be a killer again or a Valkyrie?


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