Monday, 9 December 2013

Veiled Shadows, a short story by Barb Hunt

Second Quarter 2013 Flash 500 Winner

Snakes invaded her dreams the night after Mr Chesley took her into his shed to show her the puppy ‒ the puppy that wasn't there.

It was the echo of screams in her head that woke her and she sat up when Mama came running. "Whatever's the matter, child?"

She stared in a dazed, foggy haze.

"Snakes ... I dreamed of snakes ... slithery, slimy, sticky ... dirty ... snakes."

She wanted to tell about Mr Chesley and she was searching for the proper words, when Mama pulled the blanket from her chin.

"Look, silly ... 'tis the fringe of the blanket ... that's all. Go back to sleep."

In the weeks that passed, the dreams about snakes wouldn't go away and she started to hate the night-time, with its veiled shadows lurking in corners making the air heavy and hard to breathe. She would huddle in the space between her wardrobe and the wall, blankets tucked around her ears, and there she would stay until the sun came peeking through the mango tree outside her window to chase the shadows away.

One morning, hissing and popping woke her and she could smell bacon. Her stomach rumbled and she could taste its crispiness. Mama hardly ever cooked it any more since Dadda left.

Maybe now was the time to tell her about the man next door, but Mama spoke first.

"Mr Chesley's coming over for breakfast. I don't know what I'd do without him doing odd jobs around the garden for me. He's been my saviour since that lazy, good-for-nothin' father of yours disappeared."

Her stomach somersaulted and she felt a knife twisting in her belly."Can I eat  breakfast in my room ... please?"

"No, indeed not. Mr Chesley's been kind to us and I won't tolerate rudeness."

The man sat at the table, in her Dadda's chair. He smirked and raised his bushy eyebrows. "And how's the young lassie?"

Mama was too busy fussing and arranging food on Mr Chesley's plate and didn't notice when there was no answer.

She made a feeble attempt to pick at the bacon, all the time avoiding the man's narrowed eyes, instead, staring out of the window at the sky which started to change.

Shadowy clouds moved fast across the horizon, covering the sun. A grey gloominess filled the room, but Mama, in her ignorance, only had eyes for the man.

Flash 500 runs three competitions. We have an open-themed category for fiction up to 500 words. There is also a humour verse section, asking for any form of funny poetry, from a limerick to a poem of 32 lines.

Both of the above are quarterly competitions with closing dates of 31st March, 30th June, 30th September and 31st December.

The Novel Opening Chapter & Synopsis Competition is a new annual competition, opening for entries on 1st May and closing on 31st October.

For information on all three competitions, visit the Flash 500 website: 

1 comment:

  1. Great story and, sadly, true to life in too many cases