A short piece of flash fiction for this challenge. Do note that this takes some liberty (not intended to be a pun!) with a famous historical character, but it is done in the spirit of fiction and not with any intent to slander.
The captain of the Liberty was floating three feet above the deck, held in the invisible grip of something glinting in the sunshine, slowly choking him to death. The crew was paralysed with an inexplicable fear for their souls.
Thief… Pay… It was wheezing words into his mind using his own memories. Images of his crew loading the wine onto his ship floated next to a vision of his body crumpling like used paper being discarded. He knew he was about to die, and he grasped at the only thing he could think of that might save him, with his remaining breaths.
“Anything, I’ll do anything! Please…”
The creature painfully dug his thoughts out. All his plans for the united states, his plans for the wine he knew now was cursed, his wife, the Congress, everything sped past him in an ironic montage of what would now never be. Strangely enough, the malevolence he had been sensing was ebbing away. Liquid fear trickled down his spine – his pardon would not come cheap.
Freedom… At a price… Your dreams… For half your life… A low chuckle, as the creature let him fall onto the deck with a reminder that it would collect on its end of the bargain when the freedom of the state was secured. He looked wildly around at his crew as it faded away, from his mind and from their sight.
4 July 1776
He held the printed Declaration in his hands. Holding it gave him a tremendous sense of relief and foreboding, at the same time. He whispered to himself, “Is it over?”
No. Gently dripping evil.
His head snapped up, his eyes wide and blazing with near-madness. He’d never get used to that.
2 August 1776
As he signed the page with a flourish, John Hancock exuded confidence despite the gentle pressure guiding his hand. After years of imprisonment, the spirit of the nation was finally going to be free, the people to be united under their rightful title as citizens of their country.
He handed over his quill as the handful of others began stepping up to sign the Declaration. He loosened his cravat – it was beginning to get quite stuffy in here and all he wanted to do was just to go home and finally get some unimpeded sleep.
Making his excuses, he left for a short walk. It was when he was passing through the woods that he began hearing the crunching of leaves behind him, a slow pace at first and then faster, as though trying to catch up to him.
No, he panicked, he would not let it take over him again. He risked a glance and saw the telltale mother-of-pearl sheen about fifteen feet away, the nearly invisible footsteps punctuated only by the loud crunching picking up speed.
He realised it was only toying with him by pretending to be chasing him, but his instincts took over in a desperate attempt for survival. He prepared to run and took the first step, and immediately found himself hanging from a choke-hold three feet from the ground.
I am here to collect, little Johnny.
He couldn’t find his voice as he tried to scream. It felt like he was burning and all the energy in his body was being drained, like a wet sponge kept on a hot stove. After an eternity of pain, the creature dropped him, apparently satisfied with what it had gotten.
Half your life for your dream… You were very useful, little Johnny. This new land, it will serve my purpose well.
It faded away as John struggled to stand up. He looked around warily. He couldn’t make sense of what had happened – he had just signed the engrossed Declaration, and had felt quite hot; he’d left before it was finished and was walking home… It must be some kind of exhaustion, he thought. The past few years had been quite stressful, but at least a bright new future lay ahead of them. This fledgling nation had great potential…
Why did he feel so old?