My words for this challenge were gecko, cape and diamond. I don't really write flash anything, so have 1000 or so words of anthropomorphic oddness:
Rain pelts the rooftop with all the gentleness of crystalline bullets, the sound becoming a gentle plat plat when it hits the plastic hood of my waterproof. It’s more of a cape, really – four legs and a tail don’t lend themselves well to human clothing standards.
But it’s got plenty of coverage and that’s all that matters at the moment.
“Do you see it?” As sidekicks go, Skink is all right. He’s cheerful enough and fast on the take, but he can’t stick to walls for shit.
“Not yet,” I hiss. “And move over. You just poked me in the eye.”
“Like that's hard to do. Friggin’ big enough.” But he shifts all the same, peering through the slick glass into the museum below. “Remind me again why we thought this was a good idea?”
“Because someone had the bad sense to play cards with Python last night...and got caught cheating?”
He flushes, his skin mottling. “How was I supposed to know he’d have spotted that extra ace?”
“You’re a lousy card player, Skink. The moment you got cocky he was bound to know something was up.” I give him a sour look. “Never mind it now. We pull this off and we’ll be all set. Probably have some left over. Besides, I’m tired of eating that mealworm slugbait Rabbit calls food. I want a proper meal of salted crickets for once. And that little beauty is going to help me get it.” I incline my head toward the skylight, far below to where the Ulun'suti lays mounted on a crystal pedestal.
I’m not sure Skink really believes Uktena ever existed. I’m not sure I do either. But Python does and apparently the promise of getting his coils on a family artifact is worth more than lining his jacket with what’s left of my friend’s skin.
At any rate, there’s no denying that there’s a damned huge diamond waiting to fall into my sticky little padded fingers. Whether it came from a mythological serpent or not makes no difference to me. I just want the goods.
“Let’s get this over with, aye?” Skink uncoils the rope at his hip.
My tongue flicks out to land on my eyeball, slathering it in comforting moisture.
But there it is. I remove the waterproof before motioning Skink to use his glass cutter to slice through the skylight. The sound sets my teeth on edge, but a moment later and there’s a smooth hole just large enough for me to fit through.
Skink hands me the rope and I hook it to the belt at my waist. “I’ll go first, like we planned. If I hit trouble, pull me back up.”
“Aye,” he agrees soberly.
I slither into the hole; my toes spread wide over the glass to grip the smooth surface with ease.
“Piece of cake,” I mutter, and a moment later I’ve wriggled through so I’m hanging upside down and staring back at Skink.
“Looking good, boss.”
“Damn right.” The rope hangs easy from my belt, but Skink tugs it briefly to keep the line taut so it doesn’t twist around my tail.
The climb down is quick. I find myself scuttling from surface to surface, keeping a wary eye on my prize, but it remains as motionless as ever on its pedestal. Something about it makes my vision waver, but I concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other until I’ve completed my descent.
The museum has other artifacts, of course. Dusty scales and hen’s teeth and the remains of a barnacle goose beneath a glass cover. On any other night, I’d probably take my time to see if there was anything else worth stealing. But not tonight.
A shadow skitters down one of the side hallways and I freeze.
“Gecko,” Skink whispers, giving the rope a tentative pull. I shake my head. This close to the diamond I can see the streak of red within, giving off a faint pulse of light. I stand on my hind legs and twiddle the toes on my right front foot as though testing its reflexes. Quick, quick and gone.
“It needs blood, you know.” My hand jerks to my chest on instinct, though there’s no doubt whatsoever as to what I’m doing here.
“I beg your pardon?” Stunned or not, no sense in bad manners, and the Panther who struts in will not be fooled.
Her agate gaze slide over me with amusement, but she doesn’t seem particularly worried. My tongue flicks back over my eye before I can stop it. Dammit.
“Blood,” she says archly, circling around the pillar and me, even as her chest rumbles with a soft purr. Her tail slinks around my waist and I struggle to keep from shuddering. “A proper thief would have done his research before his pilferage.”
“Ah, well. I’m not exactly a proper anything.” I’m babbling, my brain whirring with possibilities and outcomes. None of them are good and at least two will involve me losing most of my tail.
The purring stops. “Pity.”
When she strikes, it’s beyond fast. The claws slice down my chest, raking over my hip. Skink has finally figured out what’s going on but from the way the rope suddenly puddles to the floor to curl around my feet, it’s clear I’m on my own.
Can’t say I blame him, but he can forget about getting his cut for this little endeavor.
Panther swats at me again, but I duck this time, my breath hitching at the exquisite rush of pain from my wounds. Twisting out of the belt, my fingers leave a bloody trail down my side, but I no longer have to worry about tripping.
In fact, all I have to do is grab the diamond and climb the wall. She won’t be able to follow me once I reach the window.
I roll between her legs when she moves toward me, leaping forward to the top of the pedestal. The pads on my fingers barely brush the surface of the diamond when a low wail ripples through the room.
An alarm? But no, the diamond in my hands pulses to life, beating like a crystalline heart, crooning with a song I have no name for but which terrifies me to the marrow of my bones.
The room spins, darkness overtaking me in a swirling rush.
When I wake, I am in the desert, clutching a blood-smeared red diamond.
The End. (For now)