The kiddos are on school vacation this week, so instead of my normal rant about whatever is bugging me, I give you a short story instead. This was from a writing prompt. The first line was given to me, the rest I made up. It’s kinda depressing, but then, that’s kinda my thing.
The moon hung large in the sky waiting for their next move. They didn’t dare make sound, but the thought of staying put chilled both of them to the core. If they got caught, the punishment would be swift and hard. Terry’s breath was shallow, afraid to take in the much needed air for fear the tell-tale fog escaping his lips would give them away.
Beside him, his little sister, Heather, shivered against the cold. Fighting the crisp October air himself, he pressed her closer to his chest, willing his body-heat to envelope her instead of him. As they each tried to catch their breath before making their final move, they heard it. The distant snap of a fallen twig, several yards ahead of them. His sister stiffened in his arms. Each, poised to run if their father came into view.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” his voice slurred in the dark.
Terry lowered his head and whispered one word into his sister’s ear.
Holding fast to Heather’s hand, Terry pulled her behind him, running as quick as his long legs would carry them. Just make it over the hill, and we’ll be safe, Terry chanted. Just make it over the hill. Beyond that steep embankment lining their property lay the Walker house; and a phone.
“Where are we going!” Heather shouted behind him.
“To the Walker’s. I’m gonna call the police. I’m gonna make us safe, Heather.” He yanked on her hand again, harder. He was careful not to scratch her with is long, untended nails, still crusted over with blood from the mark he’d left on his father’s face.
Before they could reach the peak, however, a familiar sound echoed across the night sky, causing them both to stop dead in their tracks. He’d brought his shot-gun.
“Come back now, and I won’t have to use this on your mother,” he snarled.
The Walker’s house was just a few yards away. They could make it. They could…
“Terry,” Heather whimpered.
His eyes danced back and forth from hope to hell, then back to his sister’s teary eyes.
“We’re coming,” Terry shouted toward the devil himself.
Terry grabbed his sister’s trembling hand in his and started the long walk back. He could feel her small, deep blue eyes on him, begging him to reassure her that everything was going to be alright; that he would protect her. But Terry couldn’t meet her eyes. He was afraid the truth would be there.
“I’m scared, Terry.”
Instead of consoling her as he knew he should, he just squeezed her hand tighter, not wanting to admit that he was scared too. He needed to be the strong one. He needed to protect her. He needed to be the one that would save them all.
“The prodigal son returns,” his father says, a slow smile spreading across his drunken lips.
“Where’s mom?” Terry demands, trying to keep his voice from cracking.
He cocks his head, seemingly amused by his son’s bravery.
“Not here,” he spits.
Terry’s fists tighten.
“Ran off to her sisters,” his father continues, not noticing or caring about Terry’s building furry. His father bends down to look his son dead in the eye. The smell of booze and chew wafts over the boy. “And she left you two bastards here with me. Ain’t that swell?”
The man’s fat, red nose was just inches away from Terry’s. He noticed his father’s finger moved toward his belt loop; the tell-tale move before a beating was to begin. Terry had to make a choice.
But first, he needed to get his sister in the house, away from what he was about to do. Terry looked once to Heather whose eyes were wide with fear, frozen in place, then once to the gun. Then, finally, his eyes darted to the house. Get inside, he pleaded to her silently.
Before he got her answer however, he was hit hard across the face with the back of his father’s hand. Terry stumbled back, unprepared, then positioned his feet wide apart to take on the next blow. Closing his eyes, he waited for the inevitable follow-up, but it never came. When Terry opened his eyes, he saw his father’s back; and Heather. She had the shotgun and it was pointed straight at her own father.
“Get out of the way, Terry,” she said. The gun wobbled slightly in her small, frail hands. Hands that were barely strong enough to hold the weapon upright.
“Heather,” Terry began, moving from out behind his father in order to look into his sister’s eyes. He needed to talk her out of this. He just needed to see her eyes. But the moment he was clear, she fired.
The sound of the blast, just inches away from his head, was so deafening that, for a moment, Terry couldn’t hear anything save a sharp, incessant ringing rattling around the inside of his brain.
Terry watched as his father fell to his knees. There was an odd look of pride in his eyes, before he finally keeled over and landed face down in the dirt. Opened mouthed, but too terrified to move, Terry stood silently, looking at what was once his father.
“Is he dead?” she asked.
His sister’s voice sounded far away, muffled by the ringing.
“I think so.”
With trembling fingers, Terry knelt down beside the limp body and pushed at it a bit, ready to run at any sort of movement, but there was none.
Heather nodded slowly, then tossed the gun to the ground.
“Let’s go find mom.”
Terry stood frozen as he watched his sister disappear into the house. His father’s body still lay on the ground, a pool of blood growing ever larger. Before he could stop it, vomit came spewing out of him. As he crouched on the ground, retching in the bushes, his sister emerged with a backpack over her small shoulders.
“I’ve packed some clothes and any food that mom didn’t take. But I don’t know where Aunt Sally lives. Do you?”
Wiping the bile off his bottom lip, Terry looks up at his sister. She was only eight years old. How could she be so calm and logical right now? But a bigger question loomed. Why did she have to be the one to pull the trigger?
“I think remember where she lives,” he said after a long, quiet moment.
She nodded once before she took her brother’s hand and pulled him away from the house.