The Ones is a writing blog game in which participants receive a story title, a little wrinkle to up the challenge factor and then must create a single draft story in no more than one hour from the prompt. The game was fun and I hope you enjoyed reading the stories as much as I enjoyed writing them. Since I had already written the next prompt, I figured I’d share it anyway. Here’s my last contribution to the One’s.
The wolf at…
The sound of my father arguing with the strange men in black suits at the other side of the house makes my heart jump like that big bullfrog who lives by the edge of the lake. I don’t like the way Papa’s voice gets louder.
“Where is she?” one of them yells. I can’t hear Papa’s answer but I know the tone. He’s mad. Really mad. It’s bedtime, they need to leave and they definitely don’t need to talk to my Papa like that. When I try to run to help, Momma wraps her arm around my stomach, lifts me up, and carries me away.
I consider arguing but Momma and Papa are always right and they always know what’s best. So I don’t. When she puts me on my feet, it’s in front of our screen door to the backyard. My eyes and ears focus on the hallway and wait for my father to emerge.
But the yelling is getting louder. With it are new sounds. Sounds of things breaking. Screams of pain. Papa’s screams of pain. I’ve never heard him sound like that before and try to run to him but Momma holds me.
He needs my help. Why won’t she let me? I might be a girl but I don’t fight like a girl. Ask Robbie or Tommy down the street, they’ll never call me a girl again.
“Papa needs me. Please Momma, I can help him.” When I try to go again, she grabs my arms and makes me face her. Momma squats down in front of me. “Marissa, you have to listen to me, okay. Those men are bad. If they get you, they will hurt you. Do you understand me?”
What sounds like a dozen firecrackers going off at once comes from the other side of the house. Momma closes her eyes, a tear falls down her cheek. “Honey, you have to go now and don’t look back.” She points out the door into the darkness.
My stomach flips like it did when Papa and I went down that really big roller coaster at the amusement park and I start to shake. “Momma, don’t make me go. Please, let me go help Papa. I can make it better.”
And I can. Every minute of the seven years I’ve been alive, I’ve known I was different. Grownups said it all the time. Always bigger, stronger than the other kids my age, I used to wonder if I was a boy would they notice as much. But I’m not and now the bad people are here.
No one was supposed to find out.
All this time, we’ve practiced. “You will play house and tea party with the girls. No wrestling, no fighting, do you hear?” she’d say every morning while she brushed my curly brown hair for school. I’m not sure why she kept saying it. I hadn’t hurt anyone since preschool and even then, Tommy showed up a week later with a cool superman cast on his arm.
Then on the drive to school, Papa would give his daily sermon. “You don’t want to make the teachers feel bad so don’t ask any questions and don’t tell them they’re wrong. Wait until you come home and tell me. OK, Princess?”
I did everything they told me to do. So how did the bad people find out?
Momma shakes me out of my thoughts. I stare at her. She’s scared. I can feel it. “Baby. You are never allowed to go to them. Do you hear me? No matter what happens, you have to stay away. Promise me.”
The voices get louder and footsteps pound our wooden floors. I nod my promise. She kisses my cheek.
“Momma and Papa love you always never forget that.” She slides the door open and shoves me out. “Go to the forest. You will find friends there. They will help you. Go.”
The glass shuts and locks. I watch as the curtains close. The shadows of the people approaching her grow.
I walk backwards until my bare feet are no longer on rough cement but prickly grass. When the loud firecrackers from earlier start again, I turn and run. The night is thick and black but I know where I’m going.
At the edge of our yard, is the forest. As I get lost in its trees, the voice of one of the men behind me screams, “There she is! Go. Go.”
My feet scratch against the rocks and other hard things on the ground but it doesn’t matter, I keep running. The moon shines into the darkness, sprinkling silver light along the way.
I zigzag through the trunks, crouching low to the ground, the way Papa and I practiced. One hand clutches the bottom of my pink unicorn nightie and the other the red ruby necklace around my neck.
“This will always keep you safe. Never take it off,” Papa used to say. “You are my brave and fearless Princess. Remember how proud I am of you.”
I wish I had given it to you, Papa. It could have kept you safe too.
But I will not go back and the bad people will never get me. I promised and I’m a good girl. I do what my Momma and Papa tell me.
When I get to the edge of the forest, I freeze.
The moon turns the black waters silver and almost peaceful but it still scares me. It has since I was small and almost drowned in there. Now I don’t ever get any deeper than my knees. With nowhere to run, I turn to the forest but stop when four grownups in suits step out from the trees and stare at me. They take a step forward, I take one back until my feet touch the cold water.
“We’re not going to hurt you sweetheart,” one says with a smile. But I can feel his heart – his evil. “Your Mommy and Daddy are waiting for you. We just want to take you to them.”
There’s no where to run. Squeezing the red ruby, I crouch to the ground, bundle into a ball and cry. I promised I wouldn’t let them get me.
I’m sorry Momma. Please don’t be mad.
Twigs snap. I squeeze my eyes and wait. Somewhere in the distance, a beautiful howl erupts. The sound of growls and screams hurts my ears and makes me press my hands harder into them. The noises become louder and louder until finally there is silence.
I stay in a ball, my eyes shut, ears covered, and shake.
Something cold and wet like my puppy’s tongue licks across my arm. When I crack an eye open, it’s to the silver fur of the biggest dog I’ve ever seen. My hands fall and I stare at the giant. Its forehead touches mine, sending warmth and peace into me. I feel its love. Eyes blue like mine stare back. Soon more come and lick and nudge.
Momma was right. My friends did come.