Here is a flash story I wrote from a writing challenge my critique group took part in a while back. I decided to dust it off and post it. This story was written from the writing prompt…You hear a baby crying, but you know you are alone… I didn’t stick strictly with the prompt as you will see when reading the story, but it got the wheels in my head turning and this is what I ended up with. Enjoy!
By: Cynthia Dawn Griffin
The wail came from everywhere and nowhere at once. The sound jerked me awake from a dead sleep. My blood froze as I looked about my darkened bedroom. The chilling noise came again, and it propelled me into action despite the fear twisting in my gut. I fumbled for the light by the bed, but my trembling hands refused to cooperate with the switch. I stumbled from my bed.
I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, and attempted to get my bearings. I had not meant to sleep the whole day away, but exhaustion caused me to lay down for a midday nap. Mourning a death could be more than a little debilitating. A lump caught in my throat as I thought of my dear Katie- a life taken much too soon. Another cry sent a chill through my body.
What was that? It came from downstairs.
The night pressed in close around me, as I tried to feel my way through my shadowy bedroom. Ouch! A sharp pain raced up my bare left big toe. Found my dresser. I reached for the old softball bat kept perched at the side- the extent of my home security. I tried to ignore the throbbing pain as I limped to my bedroom door.
The cry came again, ripping through the dark. The howl sounded primal and desperate, and I now could tell it came from the living room below. Who or what was down there? The possibilities paralyzed me. I peered into the darkness; the pitch black mocking me and my fear. A spurt of anger pushed me forward on trembling knees. My feeble courage waxed and waned as I descended the stairway in my tattered college debate team t-shirt and hot pink underwear.
I gripped the banister in one hand, while wielding my metal weapon in the other. The sweat of my palms left a slimy trail on the wooden railing. I took it slow. One misstep on the narrow steps might lead to a terrible tumble. My throbbing left foot finally found solid floor, and I breathed relief I’d made it without tripping.
I then stood staring into the dark abyss of my living room, contemplating racing back upstairs to the perceived safety of my bed. My breathing sounded deafening to me like a tornado descending onto an unsuspecting town. Whoever was down here had to hear it as well. Too late to turn back now. I gripped the bat tighter poised to swing at a moment’s notice.
Passing car lights illuminated the darkness, and I saw it- A shadow that did not belong. The rectangular shape sat low to the ground, barely shin high in the middle of the floor next to the coffee table and overstuffed chair. Another primal wail filled the air, raising the hairs on the back of my neck. What was it? What could it be? My mind raced for an answer as I took a tentative step forward. My heart pounded in my ears overpowering my heavy breathing. Thump. Thump. Thump. The urge to scream stuck in my dry throat.
I shuffled forward until I nearly reached the edge of the strange rectangular shape. I stretched up onto my tippy toes to see inside, but my eyes only saw more darkness. This darkness deeper somehow. And then I felt it. The presence of something else. A presence inside the box.
It moved. The deep shadow in the box moved. I jumped back. A shriek sounded in my ears and it took me a moment to realize the sound had come from me. But a louder noise added to my cry, as bright lights blinded me. I covered my eyes from the hurtful light. My brain finally able to recognize the assault to my ears as a chorus of voices.
What? Wait. Those voices sounded familiar. I slowly let my hands drop, and blinked away the glaring light. It took a moment, but my eyes adjusted to the blazing light. There near the opening of the kitchen stood my sister and two of my best friends. Each wore wide, silly grins. My sister held her hands together like she always did when expecting something.
What should she expect? Me standing there in my underwear trembling with bat in hand. Should I be excited? Should I be angry? But I mostly felt a deep feeling of relief as it washed through me. My knees had a distinct rubbery feeling to them as I sank into the overstuffed chair.
And then I remembered the rectangular shape. A box. A cardboard box. And inside the box… I gasped. The bat slipped from my sweaty grasp, hitting the floor with a hard thud. I reached down to the tiny thing in the box.
Its teeny mouth opened and closed. The once nerve-rattling cry, now a sound that melted my heart. So adorable with her white tipped tail and coal black nose. But the most striking thing about her, the blackness of her fur- the color of the darkest night. She looked so much like Katie, in fact, the little fur-ball could have been Katie’s twin.
Those perfect smoky eyes mesmerized me as I bent over to scoop a gentle hand underneath the little one. I held her to my chest. She nestled close, purring in contentment. I looked up with tears in my eyes. “You guys didn’t have to do this.”
“Yes, we did,” my friend replied, coming over to pat the tiny thing on head. “After you lost Katie, we knew we’d have to find another. You were so lost without her.”
“So what will you call her?” my sister asked.
I could hear the hopefulness in her voice. Only she truly knew how hard the last few weeks had been. Katie held a special place in her heart too. My sister almost a second mom to my darling feline.
I felt the warmth of my sister’s hope touch the coldness that settled into my heart after Katie passed with such unexpectedness. I looked to the little thing in my arms now, those delicate eyes wanting me as badly as I wanted her. And then I knew the answer to my sister’s question in a flash. “Shadow. I will call her Shadow.”