Category Archives: 2000 word limit

The Lost Eyes

Lord William stood on his balcony. His wide, green estates stretched out to the horizon. Small hovels with dark smoke puffing from crumbling chimneys squatted near dying patches of trees. Lord William turned his back on his rich fields and poor tenants. His mind lingered on a subject far away. It lingered on things lost to mankind, things lost to him.

“He has hidden them away, Lord.”

“Witch!” Lord William shouted. He slammed his fist on rough table, which had suffered under all his ancestor’s blows before him. “Do you think I do not know this?”

The old woman stumbled backwards, falling from her stool. With a scream she landed on the rough wooden floor, something cracked.

Lord William grabbed the crystal ball from its stand on the table. He raised it far above his head as he towered over the old woman. “He stole them from me, from my family.”

Crouching down, Lord William held the crystal ball before the old woman’s face. He sneered, his thick brows drawing together, his bone white teeth shone in the torchlight which cast shadows across his dark brown eyes. “Do you even know his name, Witch.” He hissed, spittle flying into the old woman’s face. “Can you see that in your ball? Can you even tell me where he is?”

“Lord,” the old woman whispered through her pain. “He has shrouded himself.”

Lord William stood again, glowering down upon her. “Then I thank you for your services to my family, but it seems you have outstayed both your welcome and your usefulness.”

“Please, Lord, no!” The old woman’s eyes widened in fear as Lord William brought the crystal ball down upon her head. Lord William laughed as he brought the bloodied orb down again and again. His black hair lashed his face as he came down and then, as he rose again for another strike, it would fly back to reveal a face speckled with blood, framing eyes filled with savage madness.

Lord William stopped, frowned down upon the bloody, broken corpse on his floor, and turned toward the table. “What a mess.” He picked up a book from the table. A drawing of a pair of eyes stared at him from the word pages, coded, flowing scripts surrounded the eyes. Lord William placed two fingers on the eyes. “Where are you?”

Striding back to his balcony, Lord William cast the bloodied crystal ball down into the moat below. He looked up and stepped back in shock. There, only a few hundred yards from him, sat a rider clothed in dark blue and purple robes. Despite the shroud which covered the riders face, Lord William knew the rider’s eyes watched him in an unwavering gaze. He was of the Order of Aelra. He knew they were watching him; they had been since the eyes went missing, but this was a boldness he had not seen before.

“Guard!” Lord William shouted, never taking his eyes off the rider. He heard the commotion behind him, heard the slight gasp when the guard saw the old woman’s body, then waited for the guard to stand silent, before speaking. “See that rider?”

“Aye, sir.”

“Take a group of riders out and bring him to me.” Lord William leaned forward, clutching the balcony railing.

“Aye, sir.”

Lord William heard the door shut and waited, counting his breaths, until he heard the drawbridge fall and the sound of hooves pound across it. He then straightened and smiled as six of his best riders galloped across his estates toward his prey. Soon he would teach those arrogant warrior-priests what it meant to spy on him.

As Lord William watched, the Aelra rider dismounted. Lord William’s guards bore down on the man, but never did he show any intention to flee. A glimmer of steel shone as the man drew his sword and fell upon it. Lord William jumped back from the balcony railing, turned, and ran down the curving stairway that led from the tower to his central hall. His son ran toward him smiling and laughing, but he shoved the boy away. Out of the corner of his eye, Lord William saw the boy’s tutor, Henry, grab the boy by the shoulders and draw him away into another room.

“Jacob!” Lord William shouted, his voice echoing in the empty hall. “Where is that boy?”

“Here, lord.” Jacob said as he bowed toward Lord William, his shaggy blond mane falling in front of his handsome face.

“Ready my horse.”

“Aye, lord.” The boy bowed several times before scurrying off.

Lord William moved to the main door and was about to lay his hand on the handle when it was cast open. He raised his hand to strike down whoever came through, but when he saw the dark blue and purple robes he lowered it.

“What is this?” He demanded as his guards carried the bleeding man into the hall.

“He is still alive, sir.” One of the guards said as they set the body down.

“Not for long.” Lord William knelt down, drew his dagger, and slit the man’s throat.

“Sir!” One of the guards began.

Lord William turned on him and placed the dagger tip right between the man’s ribs, pushing it in, smiling as the life drained out. He turned back to the rest of his guards. “He is of the Order of Aelra, he would not have told us anything in the few short minutes he had to live.”

Stalking to his chair at the back of the hall, Lord William slunk down into it, running his thumb along the bloody blade of his dagger. His guards followed him. He watched in amusement as they glanced at each other, at the wall behind him, shifting on their feet, but never daring to look him in the eyes.

His thoughts wandered back to the eyes illustrated in the book. They were the same shape as his own, same color too, but they had seen things he had not seen, things he wanted to see. He had spent long years searching the family crypt, only to find, on the night of his son’s birth, a night that should have been glorious that they had been stolen. From that day he had been searching for them, scouring the land for miles around, his agents lurked in every city. The witch lying dead in his chamber was just one of many he had employed and killed, the only difference being that this one had served his father before him. He did not regret her death; he only feared her fate would become his if he could not find those eyes.

“Lord,” one of the guards asked, jerking Lord William from his thoughts.

“What?” Lord William growled.

“Your agent has arrived from London.”

“Bring him to me.”

The agent was led in. He was a small man clothed in a long coat and a worn top hat. “Lord,” he said, bowing. “I bring word of the things you seek.”

“Tell me.”

“There is a legend among the Order of Aelra, whom I see you are acquainted with, of a boy with eyes that contain the secrets of lost technologies.”

“Are you certain it is a boy?”

“That is what I am told, lord.”

“You have been helpful to me. If I find what I am looking for I will make sure you receive your reward.”

“Thank you, lord.”

“Take him to the dungeon,” Lord William said with a flick of his hand toward the guards who then grabbed the man and drug him down into the depths below the castle. “Kill him when you get down there.”

“No, lord!” The man yelled. He struggled against the guards. “Please, please, spare me!”

“I do not enjoy groveling.” Lord William stood. “Kill him now.”

A guard drew his sword as his comrades stretched out the unfortunate man’s neck, baring it for the severing blow to come.

“I know who the boy is with the eyes!”

“Do you now?” Lord William walked over to the man, picking up the man’s fallen top hat along the way. He stabbed it through with his bloody dagger and held it in front of the man’s face. “Who is it?”

The man managed to smile as the guards loosened their hold. “Not until I am on a horse and outside your gates.”

“Are you bargaining with me?”

“Aye.”

“Not a good idea,” Lord William placed the dagger blade to the man’s cheek and drew it slowly down. Blood welled and ran down the pale skin.

“You kill me and you will never find out who has the eyes.”

“Release him.”

The guards did as they were bid.

“Thank you,” the man said, taking his torn hat from Lord William and placing it upon his bald head.

“I am not giving you a horse, nor am I letting you out of my sight until you lead me to the boy with the eyes.” Lord William said. “I give you my word as a lord that you will be free and rich besides.”

“I do not need to lead you anywhere, lord. The boy lives here, under your vary roof.”

“How is this?”

“Did you ever wonder why the Order Aelra was watching your castle?”

Lord William frowned and nodded. “Guards, bring all the servant boys to me.”

“It is not a servant boy, lord.”

“No!” Lord William snarled. It made sense, the theft on the very night of his son’s birth. The rumors afterward that his son had been born blind, but miraculously received sight only a few hours later. The tutor, he was the one, it was rumored he was a wizard, only he would have had the power to veil himself and the boy from a witch’s spells. He threw open the main door and rushed out into the courtyard.

“Hold!” Lord William roared. His eyes widened in anger and panic as he saw the tutor and his son sitting on his prize steed, ready to ride.

“Now you know, Lord William.” The tutor said. “But I cannot allow you to know these secrets. You are unworthy.”

“Guards! Kill him!” Lord William shouted, pointing toward the tutor.

“Call them off.” The tutor said, his voice even, a crossbow pointed at Lord William’s chest.

“Stand down,” Lord William motioned to his guards who lowered their weapons.

“I shall give you one more chance to put aside your obsession. Answer me truthfully, I warn you, else I will end you here and now.”

“I will answer in truth, traitor, make sure that your own words are honest.”

“If you could obtain the secrets of the eyes only through the death of your son, would you kill him?” The tutor asked.

“I would.” Lord William said without hesitation, his body shaking in rage.

“Then you will never see your son again, Lord William.” The tutor raised his hand and smoke obscured him and the boy from Lord William’s vision. When the smoke cleared they were gone. Lord William turned, his heart filled only with anger, not regret.

By Joshua A. Spotts

Copyright 2013 Joshua A. Spotts

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Blind Vigilance

Blind Vigilance

By Joshua A. Spotts

Soiled pages rested in his left hand. They were brittle and yellow. Rain began to fall. The slow trickle of water into a barrel snuck into his ears, ears that were still filled with an entirely different sound. A sound, not soothing like water, but terrifying and painful like flowing blood, it was the sound that upheld his life and would, he knew, someday end it.

A book lay on the wet, bloody ground, a smoking hole in its black leather cover. The pages scattered on the ground, torn from the book, were just like the ones in his hands. Stepping forward, a few brittle pages shattered under his feet. The rain beat down. The paper in his left hand cracked and fell through his fingers unto the bloody stones and so did the pistol that was in his right.

Turning, the man walked from the alleyway. Thunder shook the earth from above. Nearby, lightning left a black scar down the side of a building. Grabbing a lantern at the end of the alleyway, the man tossed it over his shoulder. The alleyway burst into flames. The black words stood out on a yellowed, brittle page.  An image flashed into his mind, searing itself there. Thou Shalt Not Murder.

Gunpowder burns were still evident on his fingers. The man laid them to his right temple. He pushed in, trying to force the crushing pressure out. He found another memory. But instead of his fingers there was a pistol. And instead of his temple it was another man’s. He heard the click of the pistol hammer releasing. He watched as the blonde hair blackened and then his memory disappeared.

“I need a drink.” The man muttered. A nearby pub beckoned to him. Raucous singing leaked from the shuttered windows, its sound dulled also by the pounding rain.

The man laid his left hand on the hilt of his sword. Pain consumed his hand. Smoke curled up and stung his nostrils. The man tore his hand from his sword hilt and looked at him palm. His eyes widened and then narrowed. Red words crawled across his skin. Thou Shalt Not Murder.

“By god! I always start seeing things when I’m sober!” The man glanced at his hand, shook his head, and then threw open the doors to the pub. Another glance revealed that the writing still blazed red on his palm. He swallowed and glanced about the pub. Silence reigned as if a Banshee had just burst through the door, claiming someone’s time had come. And perhaps someone’s time had come.

“A mug of ale, bartender,” the man said. He winked his scarred eye at the bartender, “quickly.”

“Aye, sir.”

Within moments the man was sipping from a clay mug. A smile crawled up his cheeks, twisting a scar into a frowning shape. He glanced at his hand as a broad shouldered man came up behind him. The heavy footsteps wisely stopped just outside sword range. The man noticed that as he traced the letters on his hand with a small knife.

“We don’t want you kind in here.”

“Then you best leave me be and I shall be on my way.”

“That’s right you will be!” The big man stomped his booted foot. The floor shook.

“I will leave.”

“Good.”

“As soon as I finish my ale.” The man stared at the writing on his hand as he took a large swig of his ale. Thou Shalt Not Murder. “Have you ever murdered anybody, Bill?”

There was silence. Then the big man answered. “No, by I’ll murder you if you don’t clear out.”

“Don’t lie to me, Bill.” The man had no idea how he knew his opponent’s name.

And soon Bill wondered as well. “How do you know my name?”

“Don’t lie to me, Bill.” The man repeated. He gulped down the rest of his ale and glanced at his hand. The writing still remained and it still burned. It burned worse than the strong ale rushing down his throat, forcing anger and power into his veins. Bill was lying to him. A crash echoed in the silent room as he shattered the clay mug on the bar.

“Hullo!” The bartender yelled and then there was confusion. But it only lasted a few moments.

The floor shook again and thunder rolled outside. Bill lay bleeding on the floor. The remnants of a shattered mug stuck from his throat. On the unbroken bottom of the mug which sat on Bill’s unmoving chest, over his useless heart, was a message. It was written with black coal dust. It read: Your sin was murder, William Patrick O’Reilly, Thou Shalt Not Murder.

“Bloody butcher…” the bartender muttered as he knelt over Bill. “Ever since that Johhny came here as a young boy I knew he’d be trouble.”

The next morning, after a fitful night’s sleep, the bartender, one Lloyd MacDougall, opened his front door and heard what he had always dreaded. His pub was on the town crier’s tongue. Indeed, the man kept yelling, “Brutal Murder at MacDougall’s.”  

Does he have to say “brutal?” Lloyd thought. It was not like the town had not seen murder before.

As Lloyd shut the front door he thought he had heard his back door open. He felt a chill on the back of his neck. Jogging down the hallway he peaked into the storage room. The back door sat firmly in its frame. The iron bolt was in its place, locking the door shut, just as Lloyd had left it that last night when he came home from the pub.

Lloyd’s stomach growled. He decided it was time to make some toast for breakfast. Walking into his kitchen, Lloyd set a skillet on his potbellied stove. He had pulled out a loaf of bread and had begun to cut it when a voice spoke. A voice he recognized as Johhny’s. “Good morning, Lloyd.”

“I would prefer you called me Mr. MacDougall, lad.”

“Or I could call you Father.”

“No,” Lloyd gathered some jam from the ice box. “You cannot call me that.”

“You and I need keep no secrets, Father.” Johhny said.

Lloyd cut his finger on the knife he was using. A drop of his blood fell unto one of his pieces of toast. He placed the toast on a plate and offered it to Johhny. “Toast?”

Johhny jumped up from his chair at the kitchen table. He raised his hands, “It frightens me, dear Father, that a man of God would ever offer another man tainted food. Does not the church forbid partaking of blood? Unless, of course, holy father, it is the blood of your savior,” Johhny stepped forward. “Or is it the blood of my savior?”

“Don’t ask me these things. I left that life years ago.”

“Oh, I know that, Father. But I did not hear that you left of your own choice. This is interesting.” Johhny stepped closer to Lloyd. “I heard that something terrible drove you away.”

“What do you mean?” Lloyd tightened his grip of his knife.

“What drove you away?”

“You know the answer to that question already.” Lloyd turned around. He felt a small trickle of blood run down his cheek. Johhny’s sword rested on his Adam’s apple. Sweat beaded on Lloyd’s forehead.

“Drop the knife please.” Johhny moved the sword a bit; giving Lloyd a miniscule cut and Lloyd dropped the knife. “We’re not here to fight only to talk and confess. Sit down, Father, let me confess my sins to you.”

“I know what you are doing. I’ve seen a scar like that before.” Lloyd gestured to the writing on Johhny’s hand.

“My sins are many, Holy Father. I have done things no man can be redeemed from. Shall I confess them?”

“If you wish, my son,” Lloyd folded his hands in prayer. He bowed his head. The sharp sound of Johhny’s sword being sheathed rang in his ears.

“I have spoiled my purity in shallow sexual debauchery. I have lied. I have cheated. I have denied the church and renounced Christ. And, Holy Father, perhaps the worst of all these things, I have murdered.” Johhny’s left hand burned as if thrust into molten steel. He bit his tongue but did not notice that new, fresh pain. Nor did he notice the salty taste of his own blood. He let his jaw drop. His shoulders hung as if his entire body stood exhausted. A drop of warm blood splashed on the floor. “Tell me, Holy Father, how many good deeds will my redemption cost me?”

“You cannot free yourself from this hell you’ve created, only God can.” Lloyd sat at his table. Johhny did the same. “And this mission you believe came from God via the writing on your hand; it is not from God at all. It is from Satan.”

“Your words are straight from the church seminary, Father.”

“No,” Lloyd laid his left hand out on the table, palm upward. “My words are from experience.” A faint white scar read Thou Shalt Not Murder.  “I once did exactly what you have done. That ‘incident’ was the night I had first received the mark; the divine command, as I thought. I went directly to the dirtiest part of town, found a murderer, and killed him with a gun I had hidden in my Bible.

“As that man fell to the ground I knew I had given Satan another soul before it had a chance to repent. I felt as if I was obeying God. But after I talked with the bishop I knew I was only obeying the tricks of Satan.”

“I received this mark from a Bible, Holy Father.”

“Stop denying what you know is true. Satan has many methods to ensnare mankind. And each method is designed for the specific type of people it is used on.” Lloyd jumped up from his seat, grabbed his own Bible, and then grabbed Johhny’s left hand. Pain shot through Lloyd’s right arm, numbing it. But he held on.

The Bible slammed down on Johhny’s scar. He roared in agony. His free hand grasped for his sword. But the pain gave him little control.

“I am a vigilant agent of God, destroying those who destroy!”

“Your vigilance is blind!”

“I admitted my sins, Father.”

“But you are not repentant of them. You are just as broken as the murderers you hunt.”

“I am an agent of God!”

“You are an agent of Satan!”

Johhny looked at the Bible on his hand. The pain shot in bursts through him, ripping at his nerves. “As were you.”

“I repented.” Lloyd leaned forward. “Can you?”

“No.” Johhny jerked his hand out from beneath the Bible. Splinters bit into it. Blood seeped from the writing. “I am too great a sinner.”

“There is no sin so great that it cannot be set aside. I can help you, Johhny. God can help you.”

“I don’t want to live like this, murdering people. I want a second chance, but I never gave those I killed one. How is that fair?”

“You are not responsible for justice against yourself or any other, only for your own repentance and to seek help in correcting your ways.”

“Thank you, Father.”

“What will you do now?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’ll pray that God will guide you.”

“God bless you, Lloyd MacDougall, for having the courage to talk to me.” Johhny stood, shook Lloyd’s hand, and left the house a changed man. He left his sword across Lloyd’s doorstep, leaving it as a changed man. The writing on his hand began to fade as he offered sent prayers of repentance to God.

 

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Silencing Stones

Silencing Stones

By Joshua A. Spotts

I have lost what was mine. I am a prisoner here where once I was a prince. I am but a whisper in this crowd of confusion. Terror has replaced joy. Hate has replaced love. I am only a thin container holding in an unfamiliar darkness.

I pray to the one ray of light in my lonely place hidden amidst the vastness of the world. I plead with it. “Save me!”

It never answers.

I plead with it. “Give me strength.”

It never answers.

I know it can hear me. I know because it eventually leaves me. And all things that leave me can hear me. I hate the light. It mocks me and I hate it. I can feel my container cracking as the light leaves now.

They are here now. I hear their feet invading my space and I am helpless to defend the darkness. Their shadows beat me to the ground. Their flickering lights whip my eyes. Their cruel voices burn my ears. I dig my fingernails into the stones beneath me and they cry out. “Stay silent, pet. Do not groan. Do not let them gain from your pain. We will take care of you. With us you are safe.”

I feel secure as I embrace the stones. They warm me. They comfort me. Amidst the burning babble of the invaders’ I hear my name. I ignore it as the stones speak to me. They pull me closer to them. I lay my cheek on their comforting warmth. Yes, this is where I belong. Here with the stones. I no longer need what I was. I no longer need to be a whisper. I no longer need to be a lord. I no longer need to find what I lost. I surrender myself to the rocks and their bewitching magic.

~

            “Where is he, Father?” The princess asked.

Her father just looked at her. His eyes were hollow. His mouth was full of turkey. Red wine ran like blood down the sides of the burnt animal before him. His spilled wine goblet rolled off the table and fell to the floor with a clatter that echoed throughout the dining hall.

“Where is he?” The princess screamed this time. Then they came. Those hooded men of the scroll entered the room. The princess whirled on them. She hated them. They had caused the hollow look in her father’s eyes.

“He, if you mean your brother, is resting, your highness.” The tallest of the hoods said.

“Is his fever gone?”

“No, my lady,” said the shortest of the hoods. He was the doctor. He was directly responsible for the care of the royal family.

“What have you done to him?”

They didn’t answer.

The princess looked at her father. He stared back at her with hollow eyes. He was like an animal, unaware of danger.

“My father went to you when he was weak with fever. This,” she gestured to him, “is how you returned him to us.”

“The fever is a terrible thing, your highness. It does things to men. We were lucky to maintain your Father’s life.”

“You call that life?” The princess pointed at her hollow eyed father again. Grabbing a knife from the table she waved it at the men. “If I find that your ‘cure’ has done anything to my brother, I shall have all of you burned alive in the grease of your own fat!”

Spinning, her red hair flowing out behind her like a cape, the princess marched away in the opposite direction of the men of the scroll. She had decided it was time for her to visit the Room of Stones to seek guidance.

~

            “The son?” The steam hissed and rose as it slithered along the floor.

A tall man answered. His black hair was oily and combed straight down to his shoulders. His dark eyes peered into the frosty mirror. “Worse than his father, my lord.”

“The daughter?” The voice came from within the mirror, as did the smoke. The ice spread across the floor and grabbed the tall man by the ankles. He tried to step away but the ice brought him down. A bone cracked. The cruel sound echoed and the voice laughed.

The ice crawled over the man. It sucked him down until he lay flat on the stone floor. It formed a coffin over him. His breathing became shallow. The sweat on his forehead froze there, forming a false crown. The smoke slithered unto the ice coffin. The ice moved away from the man’s face like the tendons of some horrid monster.

“You shouldn’t have upset it, slave.” The voice hissed. Hot steam burned away the man’s false crown. “Now, tell me of the daughter.”

“She is still strong, my lord.”

“Excellent! Is she on her way?”

“I don’t know, my lord.”

“That’s too bad, slave.” The smoke receded into the mirror and the ice coffin covered the man’s face, shutting off his bone-chilling scream from the world.

~

            I dream. I dream of a room filled with pillars of stone. I dream of blood running along a cold marble floor. I dream of a girl of royal bearing. I dream of her dead. This is the dream the stones grant to me. It is their gift.

The dream changes as I watch. The girl, covered in blood, rises from the marble floor. I can hear every stone in that room crying out in pain. They want me to save her. They need me, but I cannot escape from my dark space.

There is some dark purpose behind her. It slithers along like a snake. Smoke and ice are its garments. The stones plead with me to save them. Their anguished sounds fill my ears. Their pain seethes through my veins as the red haired girl approaches a large stone in the center of the room. As she lays her hands on the stone, the dark purpose rushes in and consumes it. I hear the last cry of the stones before they are silenced forever.

The room collapses in on her. There is no roar as the stones fall. There is no crack as they smash into the marble floor. There is only silence, terrifying silence. As my dark space falls in on me and the darkness flees from my body, I would only ask one question. How can the decision of one girl cause so much devastation?

Here the stones come. They are silent. It is as if they are grieving as they bury me beneath them. I do so miss their voices.

Copyright 2012 Joshua A. Spotts

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The Red Reasoning

The Red Reasoning

By Joshua A. Spotts

You are human. You are defined by your emotions. The shadow figure whispered in Rachel’s ear.

Blink…blink…blink…Rachel fought back her tears. She stood with her back against the cold wall. Her step-father paced in front of her. Her arms drew her two little sisters close. They laid their little blonde heads against her hips.

“You are useless!” Her step-father glared holes into her soul.

The shadow figure picked at those holes. He is right, but you can show him otherwise. Let your emotions go. Let the hate give you power. Stop suppressing it, Rachel. Don’t you remember your ninth birthday?

Rachel bowed her head. She blinked faster. Her fingers tightened on her little sisters’ shoulders. She bit her lip, stopping only when she felt the taste of blood on her tongue. She whispered, “Never again.”

“What?” Her step-father stopped pacing in the middle of his tirade. He turned toward her, took two loud steps forward, and roared in her face, “You don’t talk back to me!”

Rachel shook in fear. “Yes, fa…” she couldn’t bring herself to say it.

“What’d you say?” Her step-father shook her.

One of the little girls rushed forward and kicked her father in the leg. “Don’t hurt Rachel!”

Rachel’s step-father threw his daughter, his own flesh and blood against the wall. The little girl slid to the ground, curled into a ball, and cried. She suppressed her wails to sobs, fearing that her crying would anger her father more.

Don’t let him do that, Rachel. You can stop him. The shadow figure hissed in Rachel’s ear. You know where it is. Just three steps, you can shoot him. You can end this, my child.

“I’m not your child.”

“What do you mean?” Rachel’s step-father raised his fist. After shaking it at her, he pointed to the girl on the floor. “You’re not my child? Hah! I married your mother! I feed and clothe you. You’re just as much my child as that pitiful thing is.”

“I am not yours and never will be.” Rachel said through clenched teeth.

Now! Show him your independence now!

“Go to you room! Take those whelps with you.” Rachel’s step-father gulped down a long draught of whisky from a tin flask. “Go now before I change my mind and decide to give you bruises to show off at school.” The step-father laughed, coughed, cleared his throat, and then took another drink of his whiskey.

Defy him! Do it! Free the little ones. It is the right thing to do. The shadow figure whispered. Its voice was calm. Its voice was beautiful. Its long fingers rested on Rachel’s shoulders, seeking to comfort and manipulate her. She shook it off and guided her little sisters upstairs. Before she reached the top she glared through the shadow figure at her step-father.

The pink walls were dull. The paint was chipped and peeling. The whitewashed floorboards creaked underfoot. Rachel sat in the corner. Her arms hugged her knees to her heaving chest. She watched a starving mouse gnaw at the edge of its hole.

Her eyes snapped shut as grey claws dug into the side of the mouse’s head and pulled it from its hole. The cat with fur like fire stood over its prey. The grey claws retracted and the mouse tried to scurry away. The cat leapt, biting down on the mouse’s neck. She wasn’t a patient creature and did not play with her food.

Rachel glanced at her little sisters. She sighed. They were still asleep. She had sung them a soft lullaby. But her heart had not connected with its sweet words. The shadow figure lurked in the room’s corner, watching her. It was a patient creature and always played with its food.

The shadow figure glided across the floor. It curled its long fingers around Rachel’s wrists. It glanced at the little girls and something growled within it. It put its black lips close to Rachel’s ear. It panted. Why are you burdened with these things? They are his spawn. Why do you…love…? The shadow figure choked on the last word.

Rachel sat there on her bed. She was silent. The crunch of bones cracked through the still air. The cat purred, finding joy in the death of another creature.

The whitewashed trimming, greyed and yellowed with age, around the wooden door shook as Rachel’s step-father lumbered down the hallway. A beer bottle crashed against the door and was followed by a laugh as the footsteps continued on. The shadow figure whispered, look at me, my child.

Rachel turned her tear stained face toward the shadow figure. She wiped her hands on her torn jeans. Her blue eyes looked into the shadow figure’s red ones. She shuddered as it cast images into her mind.

One was of her mother, lying dead in the street right after she had been hit by a large truck that ran a red light. Red blood framed her limp form on the black street. In another image her step-father nursed his first bottle of beer the night after the accident. He lay curled on his bed, murmuring in his sorrow. The third image was of the scene downstairs. It depicted her step-father’s rash behavior. It depicted how close Rachel had been to ending the abuse right then and there. She watched as her hands trembled. She saw from the outside how much the shadow figure affected her.  Rachel broke.

She threw herself back unto the bed, pulling her knees to her chest. She lay on her side. The sobs ripped through her, forcing small whimpers to escape from her sealed lips. Pain pushed at her ribs. She hugged herself, sat up, and rocked back and forth. Her heart pulsed faster, faster, faster, then slower, slower, slower as the shadow figure wrapped itself around her. Rachel willfully drew the shadow figure closer to her heart.

In the morning Rachel awoke with the shadow figure hovering between her and her step-father. He reached out and slapped her. “If you cry, whelp, you’ll never cry again in this house.”

The shadow figure spun around and whispered in Rachel’s ear. Stay strong, my child, bide the time. Stay here. Tolerate him. I shall deal with him in my own time.

Rachel’s little sisters stirred in the bed behind her. She stood and the shadow figure hovered between her and her step-father, her body between him and the young girls. A passion grew in her bosom. One of the little girls called out her name. A tear trickled down Rachel’s cheek, sparkling with love. The shadow figure shuddered; gaps began to appear in its mass.

Turning around, Rachel flung herself unto her little sisters. She hugged them and kissed them. Her step-father pulled her off and threw her to the floor. Rachel jumped up, turned toward her step-father, and glared through the shadow figure which began to solidify more. Yes, child. Yes, you hate him.

Rachel looked toward her little sisters, “Father.”

“What?” Rachel’s step-father turned toward her.

Time stopped. The shadow figure drew close to Rachel. It hissed. It growled. It whispered. What are you doing, my child? He is not your father.

“There is only one way to stop him.”

Yes, child, but all in time. I shall be rid of him in time. Trust me.

“Mom would want me to take care of the little ones. There is only one way for me to do that.”

Dear one, I have been here since your mother’s death. I know what is best for you. Your mother’s death was his fault. He is the cause of all your pain!

Rachel ran a hand through her bedraggled hair. “You lie. You have blinded me. Mom’s death was an accident.”

No! He caused her death!

“Mom loved me!” Rachel whispered.

Yes, the shadow figure shivered and cracks began opening in its dark essence. But he took that away from you. Indeed, my child, that part of your mother caused you more pain since her death than the joy it ever brought you in life.

“Mom loved them.” Rachel gestured to her little sisters.

Yes, yes, but see their pain at her loss!

“Mom loved Jack, my father.” Rachel bit her lip. “And Mom loved Stan, my step-father, after my father died. I also loved Stan.”

Yes, you did once. But that was long ago. Think of all he has done to you.

“Stan loved my mom and her death was hard on him.”

No, no! He caused your mother’s death! He is the cause of all your pain.

“I love my little sisters and, despite all he has done, he needs my help in this time of pain. My little sisters need me in this time.”

No, don’t say it! Think of what he has done to you! The shadow figure flickered. It hovered on the brink of banishment. Its wispy fingers clutched at Rachel’s cheeks. They did so vainly. No longer could the shadow figure touch Rachel. It roared in pain.

“I love you, dad.” Rachel spoke to her step-father. He stared at her, dumbfounded. His entire body started to shake. The shadow figure screamed as its anchor of hate was banished from Rachel by the power of love.

Rachel’s step-father knelt before her. His brows pulled together. Rachel put her arm around his neck and hugged him. Warmth surged through her body and into his. He just knelt there in shock. Rachel spoke as her two little sisters hid behind her. “Dad, I know you must be in pain. I miss her too. I want you to know that I love you and I want to help you through this pain.”

“Thank you.” Rachel’s step-father managed to mumble in between his sobs.
Copyright 2012~Joshua A. Spotts 

 

 

 

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Filed under 2000 word limit, Short Stories