It’s that time again! Wednesday briefs is a group of authors who write a piece of free flash fiction (between 500-1,000) words based off of either a visual or text prompt. I’ve linked the other authors, so if you could please go check out their stories and show them some support. I pulled Guardian of the Wolves because I’m working on cleaning it and expanding it further for potential publication.
This week I am introducing Darkest Before Dawn. Rose is a twenty-two year old woman who has taken custody of her younger brother Ben. The duo are fleeing cross-country, with something terrible and shadowy on their heels. They’ve come to rest in a farmhouse that’s been in their family for years–seemingly abandoned. Rose will do anything to protect her secret, and the secret that her little brother is unknowingly harboring.
I’ve used the: “This place makes the Bates Motel look like Disneyland.”
The sun was setting, the brilliant shades of orange and red illuminating the farmhouse from behind casting sharp shadows that spread and crept along the mole-hill laden front yard. The porch sagged, paint peeling off in large patches, the screen door slammed in the slight breeze, two of panes in the massive bay window were shattered, and taped over with plastic grocery bags. The roof was nearly bald in patches, the window box planters overgrown with weeds, and before she could stop him, Ben dashed from the car and up the rickety stairs to sit on the porch swing. It sank a few inches, the chain rusted and groaning with each enthusiastic push from the ten year old.
“This place is a shithole.”
“Language, Benji.” Rose said stuffing back a long suffering sigh. He was right, the place was a dump, and her mental list of repairs was quickly reaching the point of no return. “It’s all we’ve got right now.”
“It makes the Bates Motel look like Disneyland.” He jumped off the swing on the upward motion and landed solidly on his feet which cracked a slat of the porch. “Don’t call me Benji, Rose. I’m not a kid anymore.”
“That’s your own fault, get yourself out of it.” Rose carefully picked her way up the stairs and across the porch to the front door. She listened to her brother struggle with getting his shoe free from the hole he made, his cursing growing ever more colorful. “Where’d you learn how to talk like that?” She fished the key from her back pocket and inserted it into the lock. She turned it, not expecting the dull click of metal against metal, the door actually swinging open.
“Jerry Springer re-runs after you and Marco went to bed.” Foot free, shoe in hand he pushed past her and bounced into the house. “Fuck, there’s like eight inches of dust.”
Rose rolled her eyes and flipped the light switch, exhaling when the lights flickered, but came on, their light growing stronger. “You get an extra chore for every time a four letter word comes out of your mouth.”
“You’re being completely irrational and not fair!” He paused, and Rose could almost see the wheels turning in his head. “Damn.”
“Two more,” She said, ruffling his hair as she passed by him. The house was filthy, and the interior needed work as well. “Do me a favor, go grab the sleeping bags and pads from the car okay? We’ll camp out tonight.”
“Why can’t we sleep upstairs?” Ben whined, his arms crossing over his chest.
“Because you’re not sleeping on the beds that are in the bedrooms, and the lights upstairs don’t work.” She recognized the tone in his voice, and the threat of a world war three scale temper tantrum. “I’m tired of them too, kid. I want to sleep in a bed, and shower in a bathroom., I’m doing the best I can okay?” Rose rubbed the heels of her hands against her eyes. They had been on the run for weeks, and by a stroke of luck, they had found the property. “Just give me a couple more days please?”
Slim arms circled her waist, and he hugged her tight. “Don’t cry Rosie, please.” She ruffled his hair again.
“I’m fine.” She hugged him back, before disentangling. “Go get the stuff. I’m going to clear out a space for us okay?” The door slammed as Ben dashed outside. She took a deep breath, stuffing back the sob that rose in the back of her throat. They hadn’t had a chance to relax, to catch their breath. She had uprooted her brother and taken him on a wild cross country ride turning the nomadic by necessity lifestyle into a game. Ben had seen through the games on the second week of blowing through tiny one light towns. Rose hadn’t found the words to explain why they had left the comfortable life behind. Why their mother hadn’t come with them, and why they couldn’t let anyone–not even Marco, who she loved, who had become a stand in father to Ben, know where they were. She wasn’t sure how long they’d be able to stay here, but despite the condition of the house, she hoped on a tiny wish that they’d be able to settle down some roots. She crossed herself, kissed her thumbnail, the gesture comforting and routine.
By the time Ben had hauled their sleeping gear in from the car, Rose had cleaned an area on the floor, the inches of dust and filth revealing beautiful hard wood floors. There was a fireplace, but she didn’t trust that it would be clean, and since there was electricity on the main floor she plugged in the space heater. She heated up a can of soup, and handed the overflowing bowl to her younger brother, making sure he ate all of it. Not long after that he was wiggling down under his sleeping bag. She sat on her sleeping bag, knees pulled to her chest, listening for the tell-tale snores of a deep sleep before getting to her feet. She went out to the car, and retrieved the shotgun from the trunk of the car, and sat on the porch, front door propped open, shotgun on her lap.
She crossed herself, and kissed her thumbnail, before bringing her hands together, palms touching, willing her mind to empty. Pale green light spilled from between her hands, engulfing them in warmth, the light clinging as she pulled her hands apart, bringing them down onto the warmed wood of the porch. The light spread, grew, raced along the lines of the house. Her ward complete, she glanced back toward the open door just once, before turning back to the long driveway, and the threat she knew would soon find them.
Their elder brother had died protecting her from those who sought her gift. There was no way she’d let them take Ben.
To be Continued.
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