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A Hero, I Am

Kat Otis lives a peripatetic life with a pair of cats who enjoy riding in the car as long as there's no country music involved. Her fiction has appeared in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, and Flash Fiction Online. She can be found online at www.katotis.com or on Twitter as @kat_otis.

I am a hero.
Heroes are brave, selfless, and kind. They never skip the village's weekly archery practice or fight with their father about it while they're supposed to be quietly stalking deer. They don't freeze when the bandits come pouring into the clearing, don't run and hide as their father bleeds and screams his last. They never get lost in the Old North Wood and they certainly don't cry themselves to sleep in a bed of moss.
When heroes discover something wrong in this world, they show their courage by making a plan to fix it. They never cower in the darkest shadows they can find, going from hungry to starving and desperately wishing they hadn't neglected their archery and woodcraft. They don't prioritize snaring a rabbit over finding a way home. They certainly never despair of anyone coming to help them and vow to from now on only help themselves.
If a hero finds a bandit with a broken leg in their pit trap, they calmly secure him and bring him back to the village to face justice. They never fall shivering to the leaf-carpeted ground or vomit back up what little food they'd managed to find. They don't grow angry at his taunts about their abandonment of their father, or if they do they do not show it. And they certainly never take up their bow in shaking hands and need three arrows to kill him while he lays helpless.
Heroes who are hunted by bandits come up with clever plans to turn the tables and capture the bandits in return. They don't hunt the bandits from the cover of the treetops instead of facing them in a fair fight--at least not after they've evened the odds. They never fail to be moved when a bandit no older than themselves begs for mercy. And if any died, it would be because of their own treachery; it is certainly not because the hero planned from the start to kill them all.
When heroes return home, they tell everyone the tale of their triumph. They don't flinch from the blood and vomit still staining their week-old clothing. They never wake up sobbing in the night because they didn't do enough, didn't act sooner. And they certainly never slink away from their village in the middle of the night, because they can no longer stand their neighbors' pity.
That is not my story.
Because I am a hero.
A hero.
I am.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Author Comments

Every year, the Codex Writer's Group has a flash fiction contest called Weekend Warrior, in which writers have a little over 48 hours to write a piece of prompt-based flash fiction--rinse and repeat, five weekends in a row. This year was a bit more challenging than most, but I managed to write stories every weekend. The first draft of this particular piece was written while I was crammed in the back seat of various cars on an unexpected cross-country race against the clock, with bonus sleep-deprivation, torrential downpours, and endless phone calls about lost luggage. Thanks are due, as always, to the awesome Vylar Kaftan for running this contest and my family, for putting up with me!

- Kat Otis
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