The Arrogance Will Be Costly

old swing

 

“Is this it? Is this…all that’s left?”  Jakob asked. The villagers stood among the remnants, stricken with fear, dumbfounded.

They gathered in the center of what was left the playground. The jungle gym—once only a few crossties with heavy, knotted ropes for climbing—was mostly gone; only the support beams protruded from the grass, the edges jagged and sharp, like broken toothpicks.

“And that—what is that over there?” said Josiah, his voice trembling.

“Is that…my god, is that a shoe?” someone deeper in the crowd exclaimed.

A blonde-haired woman broke from the throng to grab the shoe. “No, no, no! Not Kamyra! Not my baby…!” she screeched, clutching the shoe to her chest.  A man tore himself from the group and went to the woman, wrapping his arms around her and stroking her hair.  For a moment, there was only the sound of the wind cutting through the trees and the wails of the woman with the shoe.

Abruptly, a question cut through her grief.  “Where’s the sandbox?” The loud whisper came from Kaitlin.  She stood with her jaw set and her shoulders square, a pillar in the midst of chaos, but the shudder in her voice reverberated throughout the crowd, and the villagers pulled closer together.  “The sandbox?” she asked again, extending her hands beseechingly.

Heads turned left and right, but no one responded.

Another villager pointed to the clearing near the tree line.  “Is that…the swing?

Jakob pulled away from the others to an object that was half-rammed into the ground.  It was the old swing.  He pulled it up with a yank.  All that was left was a bit of chain attached to the fractured wooden seat.  Teeth marks had made an ugly, ragged curve in the wood, and it was splattered with fresh blood and bits of flesh.

Kaitlin whipped around to the village elder.

“Do you see now?  Do you believe now?” she shrieked, her fear turned to fury.

The elder remained motionless, unable to move or speak.

“Perhaps you will give the offering next season, Elder?” Jakob spat, his eyes ablaze in rage.  “And maybe you will not be so wise?  So callous?” He waved the broken, bloodied swingseat wildly. “Shall we appease them, next season, Elder?” he repeated, his voice rising.  “Or will you  imagine still that they do not exist?”

The elder threw himself on the ground and at the feet of his wayward flock, he screamed for forgiveness.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN

Light for the Damned

Light for the damned

 

“Will you be good?”

She nodded, whimpering.

He squinted his eyes, unconvinced.

He leaned closer.  “Will…you…be…good?”  He spat each word, his rank breathe filling her tiny space with dread.

“Yes, yes, a million times, yes!”  She trembled, sending tremors through the chains.

He straightened himself and nodded.  He turned the key in the lock, releasing the cuffs. “Alright then.  Go.”

She scrambled up the stairs, and then pushed up the cellar door.  As she curled her fingers around the edges of the opening, light touched them, and she sucked in her breath.  She boosted herself up through the door and rushed to the window.  Her shoulder scraped the teeth of the rake, drawing blood, but she didn’t notice.  Instead, she hurried to the window frame, and pushed her face against the glass. The brightness on the other side made her eyes water and burn, but she soaked it in.

She basked in it.

She pressed her palms onto the pane.  Oh, the light, she thought, the wonderful light

“It’s time.”

What?!” His voice cut through her reverie like a jagged, serrated knife.

He walked to her with a slow but deliberate steps.  “There’s blood on my window.”

“What?  No, I didn’t, I was good—“  she protested, but then she saw it.  Blood had dripped down from her shoulder and stained the glass.  Her eyes widened in horror.  “No, please, no!  I was good!  I was being  goo—“

His lips curled upward, revealing yellow, jagged teeth.  He moved in, bringing his face inches from hers.  “You know I don’t like mess, little girl,” he snarled.

Her skin puckered in goose-flesh at his dark declaration, and tears welled in her eyes. “But I just got here!” she shrieked.  “I just got some light!  Please—“

“It’s time.”

“Oh, god, please! Not yet, not again—“

He yanked her by the hair and the chains, and dragged her screaming back into the darkness.

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN

Song of Chains

Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink

Clank, clank, clank, clank, clank

 

There’s a song inside my head

That I’d like to sing:

‘Bout birds flying free

‘Bout lettin’ freedom ring

 

Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink

Clank, clank, clank, clank, clank

 

There’s a song inside my heart

That I’d like to sing:

‘Bout how I once stood tall and straight

When once I was a king

 

Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink

Clank, clank, clank, clank, clank

 

There’s a song deep in my soul

That I wish that I could sing!

‘Bout when I was a warrior

Not some property, not some thing

 

But that clink, clink, clink, clink, clink

And that clank, clank, clank, clank, clank—

That’s the song that’s in my ears:

That’s the sound that them chains make

 

Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink

Clank, clank, clank, clank, clank

 

That’s the song that’s all around

That’s the tune they like to sing:

How they’ll keep me here in bondage

‘Til my death when freedom rings

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN

 

In Lieu of Silence

There are moments when I crave silence.

 This is in no small part due to my job as a teacher.  Educating students is a loud, boisterous endeavor, and the constant, never-ending hum and thrum of student chatter and commotion can easily leave my nerves rattled and frayed.  It’s tough work, and so when the moment comes for a little peace and quiet, I gravitate to it, like a moth seeking the light, like a bee to honey.

 There are times when I crave quiet.

 This is also partly due to my own children.  I love them to pieces, don’t get me wrong, but after listening to kids jibber-jabber all day long, it’s not the first thing I want to come home:  more kids jibbering and jabbering.  I get a little crazy, but fortunately, my children are very attune to my sensitivity with noise, and tone it down accordingly when it’s clear I’m at my most volatile.

 There are those days, nights, and mornings when I crave stillness.

 The movement of sounds sometimes is just as jarring to me as people:  the scrap of chairs against the floor, the bustle and turn of papers being shuffled, the clink of silver against fine china, the clomp of footsteps up and down the stairs, the tap, tap, tap of fingers on a keyboard, the vroom and rush of cars passing by my window, the rush of water pouring out of the faucet while my husband does the dishes.  The list could go on and on, but ultimately, it all serves a singular purpose:  to get on my nerves.

You want to something funny with this post?  When I started it a while back, I really had no objective.  That’s not usually a big deal; sometimes, I latch onto an idea and start writing on it and figure the objective and the purpose will eventually come to me.  And so for this post, I had completed everything in italics before I finally stopped, intending to revisit it the next day, look at it with fresh eyes, and then continue on.  Except the next day turned out to be the day after that, and the day after that, and so on until it was kind of forgotten.

Lame, I know.  Until something not so funny happened yesterday and brought me back to this post here.

The elementary school shooting.

Because as much as I crave the silence, the quiet, the stillness, there was no sweeter sound to me this morning than everything but that:  my daughters laughing, my son watching TV, the commotion of them making breakfast, the step of their feet up and down the stairs, my husband in the bathroom shaving.

As much as I love to write, I don’t know that I have the sufficient skill or talent necessary to write about the horror that was witnessed yesterday.  The insanity.  The blackness.  And as a wife and a mother, no matter how horrible I imagine this unthinkable tragedy to be for the families of the victims, I know that what I imagine still does not even come close to their pain and suffering.

And at a time when for the families of the victims when silence means their homes are empty of soft chatter and giggles, bereft of energy, deprived of the hustle and bustle of children at both play and war, I pause to revel in the tiny chaos of my own home, and I am glad for it.

EMJ

My heartfelt prayers and sympathies go out to families of the victims.

The Evil Among Them

       

The news was tragic:  the girl had killed herself.

They talked about it in the hallways, between classes.

“All because of those rumors,” some said.

“But if they weren’t true, then why?” others countered.

Amidst the gossip and speculation, he giggled.  In his pocket, he stroked her locket.

    They’ll never know.  It’ll be our secret.

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN.

Like what you’ve read? Then visit Austin Briggs Flash Fiction Contest and give this story a “thumbs-up”!

Thanks for reading!

The Monster and the Ghost

 

“So, what do you think’s waiting on the other side of the door?” Tommy asked.

“I’m sure it’s scary, whatever it is!”  Jason’s voice quivered with fear and excitement.

The older boy looked down at the younger one.  “Think so?  Monsters, maybe?”

“No, no monsters.  Ghosts.”

Tommy squinted.  “Ghosts?”

“Yea, of those boys that went missing a few months ago.  No one ever found them.”

“Could be.” Tommy cocked an eyebrow at Jason.  “You sure you want to open it?  See what’s on the other side? You brave enough?”

Jason hopped from foot to foot.  Hesitating only for a moment, he nodded.

Tommy curled his fingers around the handle. He pulled it up, then down, but it didn’t yield.

Jason sagged his shoulders, and kicked at the door. “Damn it! We’re locked out!”

Tommy shook his head and shrugged.  Releasing the handle, he turned slowly to Jason.  “Doesn’t really matter, though.”

“Why not?”

“Because the monster isn’t on the other side of the door.” From his jacket, he pulled out a long, serrated knife.  “He’s right here.”  Even in the semi-darkness, the blade gleamed.  “And you’re gonna be the ghost.”

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN.

Not Even Death

photo credit: photo retrieved from Haunted America Tours

The hand he placed on her shoulder shimmered with an ethereal light, faint and pale.

She turned, startled.  Her eyes widened when she saw him.

“You’re…you’re here?

“You thought those pills would keep us apart?”  He exposed his wrists, revealed the ugly wounds. “Oh, lover, don’t you see? Now we’ve got eternity.”

She screamed.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN.

Like what you’ve read? Then visit  Austin Briggs Flash Fiction Contest and give this story a “thumbs-up”!

Thanks for reading!