“Look, somebody has to make a decision!” one of the women behind me finally exclaimed, the frustration in her voice only echoing the tension in the room at large. All the other chatter stopped, and the leader—well, she wasn’t really a leader so much as a person who spoke the loudest for the longest amount of time, though most of us had come to agree that she had a good head about her and was generally fair in her dealings between women with disputes, and so on—turned in the direction of the voice, who had been quiet up to this point.
“Really?” the leader asked. “Then make one.”
“Ditch ‘im,” the bronzed woman said immediately. “Why are we even fighting over this guy, anyway? He’s just a man, after all.”
There were murmurs of agreement, but the leader frowned. “He’s still a person,” she countered.
“No, he isn’t. Look at ‘im.” She motioned down to the bound man in front of us. He was crying and the gag in his mouth was only partially muffling his cries.
One of the other women groaned. “Gods, stop whining,” she said, kicking him in the thigh. “You brought this on yourself.”
“Just leave him bound and gagged like this?” the leader asked.
“Yeah, why not? Everyone knows the only thing the ancients got right was ‘women and children first’; men just mess everything up.”
“He’ll die if we just leave him.”
“Isn’t that kinda of the point?” another woman asked.
The leader sighed. It was clear she knew she was out-voted. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. “All right, fine. We’ll leave him. But let me talk to him first.”
A cheer went up among the crowd, and several of the women exclaimed things like, “Finally talking sense!” and “It’s the only logical thing to do.”
“You, you, and you,” the leader said, pointing at me and two other women, “you’re with me. Everyone else: back to the ship. We’ll cast off at 1500 hours.”
Everyone else exited the premises, presumably to eventually make their way back to the Mermaid’s Agreement, the ship that had proven to be our saving grace during the hostilities. The leader knelt down in front of the man and pulled his gag from his mouth. Before she could even say anything, he was begging for his life.
“Please, please don’t hurt me. Please; just let me go. I’ll never say a word to anyone about this; I swear.”
“I know,” she said, her voice tired. “I know you won’t.” She looked at him for a moment, then rose again and stepped back.
“Hold him,” she ordered, pulling out her pistol. The three remaining women, myself included, reluctantly stepped forward, not liking the idea of touching a man.
One of the other women asked, “I thought we were going to just leave him…?”
“I can’t just leave him tied up here to die of starvation or have some animal eat him alive,” the leader snapped. “Hold him.”
We kneeled on either end of the man’s bonds and held him still while she loaded the pistol with one round. His crying began anew, and his pleas for freedom became more frantic.
“Poor kid,” the leader said. “I’m sorry I have to do this.” She pointed the gun at the man and pulled the trigger.
Immediately, the man went limp, his cries silenced forever.
“Don’t speak of this to anyone,” the leader said, returning her gun to its leather holster and wiping the sweat from her forehead with her dirtied shirt sleeve.
As we left the room and headed back toward the ship, one of the women caught up with the leader’s long strides. “You wasted a bullet on that guy? That man?” she asked, incredulous.
“No, I showed him mercy,” the leader said. “We must be better than men; we must not let them suffer, even when we want to. They are already men, after all. Putting him out of his misery was the kindest thing I could do.”
This post is part of Flash Fiction February.