Very little dialog again. This one is a bit rushed towards the end, but I love the idea behind it. IN any event, I've made it through an entire fortnight, one story a day. Every day.
This is another one in which I took the prompt image semi-literally, and had it appear within the story. Read, reflect, let me know what you think.
|From hill.josh on Flickr|
via a CC Attribution license.
L Czhorat Suskin
A whispered voice in the darkness, "Daddy, I need to use the bathroom." It wasn't quite real camping, but was as close as this father and son had come. The boy was old enough to be trusted with a small axe for cutting branches for firewood, but not much older. No journeys into the trackless wilderness for them yet, but this drive-up tent site in a lightly wooded state park made a nice waypoint between the back yard and the actual wilderness. The tent had gone up smoothly on the plat patch of earth they'd been assigned, they'd long since carefully doused the last embers in the steel fire ring with handfuls of earth.
The best thing, of course, was a little building with running water, showers, and real flush toilets a short walk away. The father took the lantern to walk his boy through the unfamiliar darkness.
The gravel path crunched underfoot as they walked quietly, beneath stars unfamiliar to the city-dwelling boy. By unspoken agreement they turned off the path for a shortcut, letting the trees obscure the night sky. They could almost feel that they were really alone in the woods.
The shortcut, of course, didn't take them to the bathrooms like they'd expected. If it had this wouldn't be much of a story. It twisted a bit this way, turned a bit that way. Brambles tore at their clothes. This was closer to the nightmare of being lost in the woods than the fantasy of losing oneself in them, but not by much. The path was still nearby. It had to be.
The lantern cast a little pool of light in which they saw only branches and brambles. Finally, at a point when both were a bit worried and the boy was whining about his need for the bathroom in ways that boys whine, the woods opened to the clearing.
It was the wrong clearing. Oh, a building was there, but nothing like the cheerfully painted restroom hut. This was an old shack, a working shack from the look of it. Cheap lumber indifferently nailed to a rough wood frame, paint of an undertermined color.
The boy's whispered wherearewewhatis that was interrupted by a bright light, brighter than their lantern, brighter than daylight, shattering the darkness. It was the kind of light that got your attention, light for road construction or a police barricade, not a rotting cabin in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere.
The light came with voices. Of course it came with voices. Shouted "we found em" and "we got you" and "if you know whats good for you".
Gnomish figures - that's what they were, little men with pointy-red caps favored by lawn ornaments - marched into the clearing. The glaring light gave them a solidity that belied the absurdity of the very existence. The father stared, felt the boy press against his leg, arm around him, huddled close. These were angry gnomes, beatbeatbeat on the doorframe, swatting the eaves with absurdly long poles, pulling nets from weird little gnomish sacks. There never appeared to be more than two of them, but in a frenzy of activity and blur of motion that made them seem so many more.
Then one pulled the fairy from the ramshackle hut.
She was everything you'd think a fairy to be after that fairy got a good thrashing by a solid chunk of gnome. Beautiful and delicate, diaphanous wings, torn like tattered scraps of cellophane. Her eyes - at least the eye that wasn't swollen shut - met the father's.
He put a protective arm around the boy, stepped back. into the woods.
The unnatural light faded, the lantern again illuminated ordinary woods, the edge of a clearing.
The bathrooms. The boy went in, did what he'd come there for.
They walked back, the long way this time, along the path. The boy started to question what they'd seen, but the father shushed him. His limbs felt heavy in a way that they'd not before. It's a heaviness he'd carry the rest of his days.
Morning came with a blush of dawn through nylon. They got up, remembering nothing of the night before.
The father still felt an odd heaviness, which he knew to be the cusp of old age.