Chief sat up in the bed, trembling and dripping in sweat. The covers were tangled around his legs and there was a strong smell of piss. Rodger, the border collie, was barking at the foot of the bed.
“What’s going on?” his mother said, flying into the room and flicking on the light. Pink rollers poked out from beneath her pink head scarf. “Chief, are you okay? What’s going on?”
Chief felt the tears on his cheeks before he felt the choking cries that cut from his throat. A jumble of words exploded out of him as he tried to tell his mother what he had just seen.
The clown had been right there at the foot of the bed, smiling at him with a crooked crimson chasm of a smile. Chief could still see the knife and feel the blade as it went into his chest -- into his heart, into his lungs. His mother rushed to him and dropped to her knees beside the bed. She wrapped him in a comforting hug.
“It was just a dream, honey. Nothing but a nasty dream. Calm down. It’s okay.”
It took her a while to notice the piss, but when she only gave him a sad smile. Chief’s mother helped him climb out of bed and pull off the soiled sheets. With the dirty bedding was safely out of sight, she tucked Chief back in under a clean set of bedding. Rodger jumped back up to his spot at the foot of the bed and curled into a warm little ball at the boy’s feet.
“I told you those scary movies were a bad idea,” Chief’s mother chided him. “I told you that it was too late to be watching movies like that. I said you'd have nightmares.”
Her tone was loving. Chief nodded andwiggled down low beneath the covers as she pushed the edges in tight around him.
“Now go back to sleep,” she said in a soft coo, as she pulled the door from the latch and flicked over the light switch. “There’s nothing in here but that old dog and buckets full of my love, okay?”
Chief smiled as his mother flicked off the light and left the room, the door clicking behind her.
She’s right, he thought to himself as the darkness overcame him. Mama’s always right.
Mama wasn’t right, though.
The nightmares continued each night for weeks and weeks and each night they became more graphic and more gruesome in detail. Some nights Chief woke up in the yard, trembling and covered in small scratches.
“What do you see in your nightmares?” Chief’s mother asked him one morning as she drove him to school. It was warm out, but he was wearing a turtleneck to cover up the scrapes and the bruises. Dark bags hung under his eyes and his belt was pulled so tight that a long length of it hung down around his hips. Chief looked up at his mother with big empty eyes.
“It’s always the same thing,” he told her. “I go to bed and the clown's there, waiting for me. He’s not a clown, though. He’s a man. A man in a clown mask and he has a big knife. He laughs and he stabs me, over and over. Sometimes I run, but I never get far. He always catches me, and he always kills me.”
Chief’s mother frowned but she never took her eyes off the road. They drove in silence and she didn’t speak to him again until they reached the drop-off line.
“Let’s not tell any of your teachers about this, okay?”
Her voice sounded unsure, but Chief was so tired he didn't notice. He gave his mother a watery thin smile as he climbed out of the car.
“Sure, mom. I won’t tell anyone.”
He didn’t have to. That afternoon Chief’s teacher, Mr. Rutherford, called an urgent meeting with Chief's mother.
Betty Peterson didn’t show up until the school was all but abandoned and free of prying eyes. Chief was sitting alone in the corner, drawing, when she waltzed in with her cheap heels clicking and a cloud of dollar-store perfume billowing all around her.
“Ms. Peterson,” Mr. Rutherford said, rising from his desk and making his way to the door. The teacher held his hand out in front of him.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you at last. A pleasure.”
Chief's mother shook Mr. Rutherford's hand. Trig Rutherford was a small man, standing only a little taller than Chief's mother, with thick black glasses that made his eyes look oversized. A bald head sparkled above a speckled polyester blend sweater vest and matching oxford shirt tucked neatly into the pleats of his khaki slacks. The trousers folded neatly anove a pair of shiny penny loafers.
Next to him, Betty Peterson looked like a Hollywood starlet, her curled blonde hair and ruby red lips a shocker next to the teacher's pale facade.
“Thank you Mr. Peterson. I’m sorry for running so late. Single mother. It’s hard.”
The man fidgeted. No one liked to talk about the death of Eric Peterson quite like his own widow, who used it whenever she could to remind people that she did on her own what most people did in happy pairs.
Chief took a seat beside his mother. Mr. Rutherford perched on the edge of his desk and looked down over the thick rim of his glasses. He crossed his arms over his chest.
“Ms. Peterson, I’ll just get right down to it. I’m wondering if you’ve noticed any behavioural changes in your son?”
Betty gave Chief a sharp look. He kicked his feet and stared down hard at the shining linoleum. Chief’s mother looked back to the teacher.
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Behavioural changes?”
“Yes. In his moods and the way he interacts with others?”
Chief didn’t dare look up. Instead he kept his eyes glued to the floor and his head cupped in his hands.
“What are you talking about?”
Mr. Peterson sighed before shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
“Ms. Peterson, quite frankly, I’ve noticed that your son has become withdrawn at school. He’s falling asleep and he seems to have difficulty focusing. Chief is struggling to work with the other children, and the other children in the class seem to be...perterbed by him.”
Betty Peterson’s cheeks turned red and invisible waves off steam started billowing off of her. The last thing you wanted to tell Betty Peterson, mother of the year, was that her child was perterbing. She shot up from her chair, purse dangling from one arm, and pointed a finger right at Mr. Rutherford's chest.
“Are you telling me my kid is a weirdo?” She snarled.
Peterson recognized right away that he had overshot his bounds.
“No, no, no,” he said, throwing up his hands and waving them in defense. “I think you misunderstand me, Ms. Peterson.”
Something in his voice gave her pause and Chief’s mother resumed her seat seat, never taking her piercing glare off the mousey teacher. When Rutherford saw her relax, he leaned back and cleared his throat. When he spoke again, his voice was softer, more subdued.
“I understand that you and your son have suffered a great loss. I only wonder if perhaps Chief doesn’t need some extra help dealing with that loss. Losing a father is…”
“Let me stop you right there,” Betty interrupted. “Dont’ tell me how to raise my son, Mr. Rutherford.”
It was clear from her tone that she would brook no further argument.
“Is he passing this class, Mr. Peterson?”
“Y-y-yes,” stammered the teacher, taken aback once more by the woman's aggressive response. “He is.”
“Is he turning in all his homework?”
“Well, yes, but the last weeks have seen…”
“Does he have a passing grade?” Ms. Rutherford pushed again, planting her hands on the desk and rinching toward the cowering man. “Is he paassing this class?”
Rutherford's cheeks turned red and his jaw dropped in shock. He stammered something that Chief could not make out and reared back, as if trying to disappear.
“That’s good enough for me,” Betty Rutherford snapped, standing up and beckoning for Chief to get beside her. Mother and son stood beside one another like shadows, staring up down at Rutherford with blank gazes that said nothing and everything.
“Don’t call me again until his grades drop to a ‘fail’,” Chief's mother snapped as they made their way to the door. “And don’t you ever presume to tell me how to manage my son’s grief. You didn’t know his father and you sure as hell don’t know me.”
They ate chicken from a bucket that night and his mother didn’t even bother putting the box of biscuits in the oven.
Chief ate alone at the table as she paced the kitchen floor, the kinky pink wire of the telephone stretching in a frantic pulse across the narrow space of the kitchen as his mother snapped at her friend over the line.
“I’m not sending him back there, Charlene. That man is an idiot. He doesn’t know anything and he couldn’t find his head if his nose was sticking out of his ass.”
Chief bit down on another ear of corn and struggled to swallow the yellow mash. After a few more bites, he cleaned up and carried the leftovers to the kitchen island where he left them for his mother and her matching Tupperware containers. Chief dipped beneath the telephone wire and made his way down the hall to the quiet sanctuary of his room.
He still loved his bedroom despite the nightmares. The walls were painted blue and bordered with pictures of cowboys in all states of wild and frenzied action. A couple small posters of his favorite superheroes hung from the walls, and his bed lay perfectly made in the middle of it like a welcoming embrace. In the daylight, it was perfect. Only the shadows brought trouble.
Chief called Rodger in and shut the door behind them both, crawling up onto the bed beside the dog and settling down with a new book — a tale about pirates and the open sea.
When Chief woke, the room was dark. His mother's voice had gone quiet, but Rodger was still sleeping soundly at the foot of the bed. Chief lifted the book from his chest and reached for the bedside table, his brain filled with a fog.
He felt eyes before he saw anything else. The hair on his arms stood on end and his belly went cold. Rodger sat up and growled as his fur began to bristle.
“Mom? Mom!” Chief called out. He did not turn around. He couldn’t. He was frozen, one hand extended over the edge of the bed, the other clutching the book he had just placed on the bedside table.
A chill ran up his spine and the dog began to bark wildly.
Chief turned just in time to see the clown rushing at him, the knife wielded high in his fist. It fell over him in a flurry of stained striped silk. Rodger moved for the clown but was battered away. The knife plunged into Chief's chest over and over again as the blood gargled in his lungs and he struggled for air.
He tried to defend himself, but it was no use. Chief ripped and tore at the clown, but he was no match for his size and weight. Empty black holes stared down at him and smiling crimson lips split into an impossible chasm of hellfire above. Chief could feel his life slipping away as the clown stabbed him over and over again.
Somehow, in the chaos of it all, the knife slipped in the clown’s grasp and Chief felt his own small hand close around the handle. Without realizing, he began slashing at the clown, using every last bit of his strength to send his attacker back.
There was a scream, and the hot rush of blood and Chief felt the weight of the attacker disappear. There was another loud scream and a whine and Chief’s eyes flickered open.
The room was flooded in light and his mother was standing beside the bed, her eyes full of shock, gore splattered across the front of her nightgown. Chief felt something warm and looked down to see that he was kneeling on the bed in a pool of sticky red.
Rodger was beside him, twitching, a red hole gleaming bright and wide in his belly. Glancing down, Chief realized his hand was still clenched tightly around a bloody butcher knife. It was one of his mother’s knives, the red one with the silver handle.
“Oh my God, what have you done?” Betty Peterson whispered, looking at the scene in horror. “What have you done, Chief?”
Chief began to retch over the side of the bed. The clown was nowhere to be seen.
Chief and his mother stayed home the next day to clean up the mess.
He sat in the living room with an untouched bowl of cereal and watched the morning cartoons as his mother wrapped up the old border collie and hid him in a the shed behind the house. When it was dark, they would bury him in the yard, but until then his mother didn’t want the neighbors to see anything that might lead to questions.
When Rodger was dealt with, Chief's mother stripped down the bed once more and threw the bloodied linens into a large black bag. This bag she took out to the trunk of her car and locked away without saying so much as a word to her son.
Chief stared into the television screen. His brain was clogged, foggy. A feeling of sickness descended over him that he couldn't shake. The cheerful crackle of his cereal sounded absurd against the backdrop of horror that had become his life.
His mother showered and freshened herself up before coming to sit beside him in the living room.
“Well, kid. We’re going to have to make some plans.”
Chief looked up at his mother and his eyes were strange.
“Why don’t we start by you telling me what happened last night?”
Chief frowned. It had all been so real. He could still smell the blood and feel the weight and the heat of the clown on him. He could hear his breathing and feel the knife plunging into his body. Chief’s skin began to burn and tingle as he remembered the wounds, the wounds which had mysteriously disappeared. Chief began to cry, shaking all over with grief and terror.
“Shh. Shh. It’s going to be okay,” his mother said, reaching out and taking him in her arms. “We’re going to figure this out. Just tell me what happened. Why’d you take the knife into your room?”
“I didn’t!” Chief objected. “I promise that I didn’t! I was in my room reading and then the next thing I know…well, the clown was there and he was on top of me and stabbing me -- just like all the other times!”
His mother frowned and a dark shadow crossed over her. She suddenly looked very tired.
“Listen, baby. I know things have been hard since your dad passed away, but this has to stop. Why did you do that to Rodger? You can tell me. I love you, kid.”
She didn’t believe him.
Chief shook his head and let the cries come a little louder.
“Mom, it’s like I told you!”
His mother looked sadder than Chief had seen her since his father’s funeral. She let go of him, sinking back into the faded floral print of the couch. Her face him that she wished herself anywhere but that living room in that moment. She reached for the clicker and clicked the old television set off, filling the room with silence. They sat like that for a long moment before his mother gathered her thoughts and rose from the sofa.
“I want you to go pack a few things for a sleepover,” she told him, staring off with a strange look. “Get your coat and your toothbrush too. Hurry up. Go.”
It was an order.
Chief didn’t question his mother. Thirty minutes later, the two of them were making for the door with their bags in hand.
They climbed into the old Ford stations wagon and ambled out of the driveway, making their way down Brunswick Lane and onto the main road that led out of town. Chief’s mother didn’t speak a word as they passed through the town square or past the squat shape of the school. He was too tired and too scared to ask any questions, so they rode in silence. When they were clear of the town, his mother reached for the radio and flicked it over to the easy listening station.
The Cromville town sign appeared ahead, it’s yellow and blue paint bright in the afternoon sun. As they neared it, a truck pulled out behind them from a nearby service road, dark brown in color with a long white stripe that ran down both sides. It sped up behind them as they neared the sign, and when they were close enough to read the motto, it nudged them.
Chief’s mother lost control of the car, and the long wood-paneled station wagon spun onto the shoulder and then down into the darkness of the trees that lined the road on either side. Chief screwed his eyes shut. There was nothing but chaos as the sound of exploding metal and busting glass field his ears. He heard his mother scream and felt the car jolt back and forth as it tumbled down into the darkness of the forest floor. His skin burst as jagged splinters of wood and steel bored into him, and he felt the burn of the seatbelt as it tore into his neck.
The last thing Chief knew was a blast of heat and the sound of his mother’s voice as darkness overcame him.
We’re dead, he thought.
When Chief woke, he was in his bedroom. Everything was dark, and there was no noise except for the gentle clicking of the clock that sat on his bedside table.
Chief sat up, and winced as a shock of pain went lashing through his side. A loud giggle of glee split the silence, and Chief froze as he realized he was not alone.
“Poor little boy,” an icy voice whispered. “Poor little boy whose mommy doesn’t love him.”
He looked everywhere for the source of the voice, but he saw nothing but shadow. A numbing terror washed over him and Chief felt the sticky warmth of piss spread down his thighs. It was the clown. He knew it was the clown before he ever saw him.
The hulking shape came slinking out of the shadows, the knife wielded in his right hand and the same black-eyed mask with wild red hair stretched across his face. The monster cocked its head from one side to the other as it slowly approached the bed, giggles the only sound of its approach.
“Did you think you would get away, little boy? Did you think that you would leave me behind? You can’t leave Mr. Happy. You can’t leave Cromville.”
Chief tried to cry out, but the words were frozen in his throat. He threw up his hands, whether to signal for help or protect himself, he did not know. His bare arms were covered in dark bruises, welts and scrapes. The last thing he remembered was the spinning of the car and the sound of broken glass.
“And your mother’s screams. I’m sure you remember those too,” the clown giggled, as if reading his thoughts. “She’s dead, you know. I killed her first, this time. Left her in the kitchen. But not before I got what I wanted…”
The clown stopped a few feet from Chief’s bed and stared down. It raised the bloody knife to its lips and licked along the serrated edge. There was nowhere for Chief to go, no where for him to run. He was cornered. Behind him, there was nothing but wall and the clown stood between him and the only door. His eyes grew wide and terrified in the dark.
Chief looked wildly around the room in a desperate search for anything that might save him. He thought of Rodger and a surge of madness filled his chest. His brain stuttered back into gear and he found his voice as he unleashed an explosion of screams. Had the clown said this time?
“No crying here, little boy. It’s too late for that. Did you think you would leave this town? Did you think you would leave me?”
The clown dropped the knife, and as he did so a splatter of blood shot up the leg of his striped trousers. One white, shriveled hand reached for the mask and began to tug at the pallid white flesh of the eerie facade. Slowly, the macabre face folded away to reveal the real monster that was waiting underneath.
The bile came up in Chief’s throat and he retched violently all over the wrinkled top of his blankets. Images flooded his mind and the blood roared in his ears as his pulse raced.
Mr. Rutherford smiled wickedly and laughed so hard that his head fell back on his shoulders. He looked down at the young boy with a mad look, and pieces of memory began to fall into place.
The Mad Clown Murders the papers had called it forty-five years ago. It was the summer of 1954. Teacher kills 35, including himself, all in one night. It might have been drugs, they found a lot of them in his house, but mostly they think it was just the nerves. He was such a nervous man. Always twitchy around the kids he taught. No one ever expected him to do something like that, though. No one ever expects something like that. Slinking into houses in the middle of the night and slaying entire families? No. No one ever thinks of things like that.
Chief screamed over and over again as the memories came back to him. Mr. Rutherford laughed. Uncontrollable shaking came over him. No. No. No.
They had just finished dinner; Chief, his mother, his father and his two little brothers — George and Rodger they were called. One had blonde hair and the other red, just like their father’s. Mother had made Chicken Parmesan, her specialty, and father had joked about the local football team. They had all been smiling and mother had been wearing her rollers. What had Father been wearing? He couldn’t remember.
Chief had gone to bed that night but he hadn’t expected the clown to be there, waiting in the darkness with the knife. His child's brain had not been able to comprehend what was happening as the man in the mask had crawled up onto the bed and slit his little boy throat as easily as one sliced butter. Chief certainly hadn’t recognized Mr. Rutherford then, just as he hadn’t in the nightmares, as the madman had laughed and giggled with glee; his knife sliding in and out of the little boy’s corpse over and over again.
Chief screamed as the memories of his death flooded him, and a violent sobbing overtook him. Nineteen fifty-four. You’ve been dead for forty-five years.
“Cry, little boy. Cry,” Rutherford taunted, slithering closer. He picked up the knife again, but the mask was discarded and there was an evil look on his face. “Cry all you want, but it won’t do you any good. I’m your worst nightmare…for eternity!”
Chief looked up in horror as the shadow overcame him and the knife plunged into this throat.
“Mommy,” he whimpered. “Mommy, please. Help me.”
"Get them on the phone...now."
The Head Minister's office was in chaos. Aides and advisors ran frantically across the space, disappearing through flashing doors as new faces appeared in their place. The low rumble of hurried conversation concealed the heavy thud of the Minister's fists as he pounded them on the cluttered desk and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes. It was going to be a long day.
It took thirteen hours to get the Inchoate Nation on the phone. By the time they had worked their way up to the Supreme Head, Minister Stroud's patience was wearing thin and his confidence in their plan was running even thinner. The office went quiet.
"Supreme Head Oolantuy," Stroud said through a forced smile. "It is a pleasure to speak with you at last."
"Say what you will, Blasphemer," came the acid response. "Only begging for our mercy will save you."
Minister Stroud could feel the eyes crawling all over him. Every man and woman was frozen, transfixed by the scene unravelling before them.
When the Capital water supply had been poinsoned three days earlier, it had caused panic and pandemonioum throughout the country. The culprits, the Inchoate Nation, had taken responsibility at once, declaring their hatred for the wealthy Hunsdon Republic and their joy at the chaos the attack had caused. Only a few victims had been struck down, but every citizen in the Republic was scared. It was Minister Stroud they looked to now, and it was him that they depended on for justice in the wake of the attack.
Stroud took another breath and measured his words carefully. It was hard moving forward with people that saw only one way, but it had to be done.
"Very well," Stroud said with a firm grimace. "Let's cut the shit. You attacked us and that comes with penalties. We can make nice now, or we can get messy. Making nice will save us all a lot of time, a lot of money. It will save you a lot of lives. If you don't want to make nice...well, you know that will go badly for you."
There was silence on the other end of the line. Minister Stroud let his hope grow in the quiet. His voice had been strong, firm -- more confident than he felt. More than that, it had been true. The Inchoate Nation enjoyed a place at the Table of Nations. All it would take was one call from Stroud to make sure they never enjoyed that place again, and that would mean the complete collapse of its trade and economy.
The line crackled and the silence was broken by a low, strange noise. It grew louder and louder until it was the most sinister cackle Minister Stoud had ever heard.
"Give us your sanctions," Supreme Head Oolantuy hissed. "It will be the last order you ever give."
The line went dead.
Stround put down the receiver and lowered himself slowly into his seat. It was going to be an even longer day than he thought.
"Get the Chair of the Table of Nations on the line. We're shutting down the borders of the Inchoate Nation. No more trade, no more medical or scientific aid, nothing. They don't exist. Nothing goes in, nothing comes out. Let's see how long their resolve lasts when they have no resources or money to survive on."
The aide stared at the Minister blankly for a second and Stroud could see the fear in his eyes.
"Now," Minister Stroud barked. The aide scurried off to send the order and secure the line.
Thank god they don't have a military, Stround thought to himself as the low din of his advisors started up again. Thank God none of us have a military.
#challenge #fiction #new #future
have you ever felt
anything more brutal
than the cut
of a tear
in a quiet room?
in another tome.
#poetry #poem #new #inspiration #emotion
a demand of innocence
no responsibility for the sins
of yourself only others a
blindness that doesn't want
to be seen but refuses to
quit even when confronted
with the blatant lackings in
the department of truth --
that you might
n o t h i n g
-- we mean n o t h i n g --
#religion #challenge #poem #poetry
what should i write?
a million impossible things,
a million things
not good enough
all at the same time
these expectations are the worst
the ones between myself
and the unconquerable place
reminders and shadows
dreams and reality
drama on the edge of my pen
he kept them fragile
like butterfly wings
trapped beneath glass
he kept them hopeless
of the next big thing
a life lived
by his imagination
by his machinations
beholden to no master
he kept them tight
to keep them
close as bone
he wrapped them up
in petticoats of white
and called them “virgin”
a careless renumeration
of past sins
what a shameful
what a plausible explanation
©️ E.B. Johnson 2018
Are you hiding there
huddled hands behind
bricks of lies
formed in blood
built up in
as the restitution
Is this what they
Is this what they
the place we
stole and lied for?
in its transpondence.
Complications that are
fed like hope
the deluge of
Like a whisper;
We're fading too.
#poetry #poem #poets
Leanna awoke to a loud humming noise that filled her room and made her eardrums tremble. She pressed her back against the white slathered wood of the headboard and clasped her hands over her ears. Her big blue eyes searched the darkness for any sign of the noise.
Everything stood quietly. Nothing seemed out of place. Leanna pulled back the sheets and stepped into the fuzzy pink slippers that always stood at the ready. She shuffled over to her window and twisted the plastic wand that rolled up the flexible blades of the blind. That’s when she saw it.
It was the biggest most beautiful light she had ever seen in her whole life. It hovered just a few feet off of the ground and its color seemed to ripple with a translucent shimmer. First green, now red, it never kept one color for long, but seemed to be dancing to some unseen energy. Leanna clasped her hand over her mouth to stifle a cry.
The light dimmed suddenly and behind it Leanna could just make out the shape of a strange silver orb, wider than one of those big trucks she often saw driving down the dusty highways of Moriarty. Leanna watched in horror as the side of the orb opened and a sleek, chrome-like staircase extended from the side. Down it moved a dark shape, with spindly arms and long legs bent at strange angles. Leanna felt her stomach turn as the creature made its way down the stairs and stepped onto the dewey ground of Leanna’s backyard.
“Mama!” Leanna shouted out. She felt like her heart was going to pound through her chest. “Mama! Come here, quick!”
A few moments passed in silence and Leanna stood, frozen and horrified, as another creature descended from the interior of the strange silver orb.
“Mama!” Leanna screamed again.
“What? What it is?” she heard her mother’s familiar voice behind her. Marie Ledbetter shuffled in with a dazed look of dismay stretched across her face. “What is it Leanna?”
“Th-th-there!” Leanna shouted, pointing towards the window, horrified. “Outside! On the back lawn!”
“It’s just another bad dream, Leanna,” her mother started already moving toward’s the pink sheets of Leanna’s bed. “Come on now, baby doll. Let’s close those blinds and get you back in bed.”
“No,” her mother said sharply, cutting Leanna off. “Now get back into bed right this instant or I’ll make you get in this bed.” It was clear from her mother’s voice that there would be no argument. Leanna threw one last glance towards the window and the strange creatures who were even now probably making their way towards the house.
Leanna blinked. She could not believe her eyes.
The strange craft was gone, its blinking lights evaporated into the still night air. Leanna looked around for any sign of the strange creatures, but she could not find them. It had all disappeared as if shadows from a nightmare. Leanna let out a sigh of relief as she turned and made her way back towards the bed. She grabbed her mother’s hand as she raised the covers towards Leanna’s chin.
“Mama, there was something outside. Something strange.”
“Mmhmm…” her mother muttered as she planted a kiss on Leanna’s forehead. “It was probably just a raccoon or something, Leanna,” she told the girl dismissively. “There’s animals out there all the time. I see them. Your father sees them too. There’s nothing to be afraid of, we’re nice and safe in here.”
Leanna released her mother’s hand and let the woman tuck in the sides of the covers tightly around her.
“Now, you go to sleep,” her mother said, turning and making for the door. “And when you wake up, I’ll make you extra special pancakes with your favorite caramel sauce.”
Leanna smiled and snuggled down into the soft folds of her pillows, closing her eyes and letting a hazy exhaustion take over her. Her mother was right. It was just her imagination taking over her again. Things would be better in the morning. Things were always better in the morning.
Leanna waited until all her classmates had gone to rise from her seat and make her way to the front of the classroom. She pulled out the neatly stapled report and placed it down on the top of the pile, turning towards the door.
“Leanna, may I talk with you a moment?” she heard Ms. Kryzinsky ask. Leanna closed her eyes and took a deep breath before spinning around with a smile on her face.
“Yes, Ms. Kryzinsky,” she said happily, staring up at the portly, spectacled woman.
The other kids called Ms. Kryzinsky a the Crazy Cat Lady, or CCL for short, but Leanna didn’t like to make fun of her teachers or the other students. A string of failed marriages behind her, Ms. Kryzinsky had settled down in Moriarty after her last husband had left her for a waitress he met on one of his long haul trucking jobs. She lived in a little mobile home on the edge of town, and kept a strange garden of cacti that were protected by a gaudy wood carving of a cat with brown spots.
She was a plain woman, but sweet, and Leanna liked her more than some of the other teachers. She normally wore tight polyester skirt suits in horrid shades of pastel, but today, she had opted for a more modest rayon blend, in a color that was more akin to a vomit green than any other color on the visible spectrum.
Ms. Kryzinsky motioned for Leanna to take a seat in one of the desks on the front row and proceeded to walk around the front of her own desk, coming to rest her heavy weight on one paper-draped edge.
“I wanted to talk to you about the summer project,” Ms. Kryzinsky said, getting straight to the point. “We’re looking for a few more bright pupils to join the team and I thought that you would be a perfect candidate.”
Leanna’s stomach churned.
“I…I…I’m not sure,” she stammered, staring at the floor. One of the fluorescent lights flickered overhead and Leanna felt its buzz turn into a ring inside her ear. “I would have to ask my parents.”
“Well, I’m sure they would love for you to join. This is a very prestigious opportunity you know.”
“Yeah. Sure,” Leanna said, letting the lie come to her easy. “It’s just that we usually go away in the summers, to see our family in Florida, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to do a summer project. You know, just because I will be away with my family for so long.”
Ms. Kryzinsky narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms across her chest. Leanna could hear the rough rustle of the fabric as the woman’s heavy arms rubbed together.
“Leanna, this isn’t just about the summer project, you know. It’s about you and your place here in this school. I worry about you, young lady. You seem to have no friends, you seem to take part in no extra curricular activities. But you’re one of the smartest brains in the room, no matter what class you’re in, if the grades would have us believe it.”
Leanna’s cheeks burned and she had to swallow the bile that was rising in her throat.
To say she was an unpopular girl at school would be an understatement. It was almost the regular pastime of the girls at Moriarty High to make her life a living hell. Whether it was dousing her in wet garbage, or throwing her backpack out into the middle of moving traffic, the other girls loved to make life hard for her. It had started all the way back in kindergarten and hadn’t stopped, no matter what techniques Leanna had tried to use to deal with it. Leanna could feel Ms. Kryzinsky’s eyes on her, but she refused to look up.
She wanted friends more than anyone else, but it just wasn’t meant to be for her. She had made friends once with a girl that had moved there from New York, but it had only been a few weeks before her family had moved on again, this time to Los Angeles and the bright lights and sparkling beaches of the west coast. Leanna had begged her parents to move as well, even if only to the next school district, but they had refused. She had to learn to face her bullies, they said. She had to learn to be brave and learn to stick up for herself.
Leanna bit her lip.
“I understand, Ms. Kryzinsky,” she whispered. The tears were threatening to come now, threatening to choke her up. “I’ll ask my parents tonight, as soon as they get home from work.”
It wasn’t enough for the pudgy teacher.
“I think I really have to persist in writing a letter home to your parents,” she harped on. “I’m not sure if they’re aware of the full extent of your troubles here at school. I think that they need to be made aware that the social aspects of school are just as critical as the educational aspects. While your grades are fantastic, you could really benefit from taking part in a peer-based group like the one the summer project will offer. Not only will you be able to get some extra credit, but you’ll be able to meet a few new faces and hopefully make some friends that will greater round out your time here at Moriarty High School.”
Ms. Kryzinsky made her way around the desk and took a seat, pulling out a fresh sheathe of paper and pulling out one blue-inked pin from behind one ear.
“Now, should I address this letter to your mother, your father, or both?” the teacher asked her, her eyes faced down towards the desk. “It doesn’t matter to me. It’s whatever you’d prefer.”
Leanna’s heart pounded and there was a blinding roar pounding in her eardrums. If her mother got this letter, there would be no escaping the summer project. Her mind raced frantically.
“My father,” she said quickly, thinking of the last time she had brought home a permission slipped to be signed. William Ledbetter had barely scanned the document before slicing his lazy scrawl across the bottom. Leanna could only hope for that kind of leniency again. “Make it out to my father,” she said.
The room went quiet as Ms. Kryzinsky began to write. Leanna stared down at the rippling lines of the desk. Her stomach turned over again and again and she felt as though she was going to be ill.
“Here you are,” Ms. Kryzinsky said after several long minutes of awkward silence. She stood behind her desk and held the letter out in front of her. It was sealed in a clean white envelope. Leanna stood and took a few steps towards the desk. Her head began to swim and her vision wavered.
“Leanna,” she heard Ms. Kryzinsky’s voice say strangely, as if far away. “Leanna, are you alright?”
Leanna could feel herself stagger and threw her arm out to catch hold of anything; anything that might keep her from collapsing. She stumbled a few more times before her knees gave out beneath her.
“Leanna!” she heard her teacher scream as darkness enveloped her and the hard linoleum floor rushed up to meet her. “Leanna!”
Leanna let herself be swallowed up whole.
#YA #scifi #thriller #fiction
Title: Leanna's Tale
Genre: YA Scifi Thriller
Age range: 12 - 16
Word Count: (As Stands) 5,532
Author Name: EB Johnson
Why a Good Fit: This short, YA novel is a fast paced sci-fi thriller aimed at young adults. It's a quality story that draws you in from the start and doesn't let off the gas until the end.
The hook: An average, relatable girl experiences a terrifying encounter that begins to unravel the life she has come to know. While the story originally starts off as a relatively harmless sci-fi caper, it soon diverges into a dark, fast-paced psychological thriller.
Synopsis: Life in the small town of Moriarty, New Mexico turns upside down after a teenager, Leanna, experiences a blood-chilling encounter. As she searches for the truth, Leanna must confront reality, and the shadows of a past best-forgotten.
Target Audience: Early / Middle Aged Teen Girls
Bio: I'm a 27 y/o aspiring author with a penchant for history and poetry. I've written several manuscripts (adult fantasy, historical fiction, etc). My short stories have been published in eBooks and earlier this year I published my own (physical) collection of poetry on Amazon titled, Le Jardin.
I love sports, the outdoors and all things animals. I played rugby at an extremely competitive level and spent 2 years coaching men's and women's rugby in Scotland. I have a keen interest in social issues and politics, and also never turn down a good chance for adventure. I maintain a large and active social media audience (check me out on Tumblr, @TheHonestAuthor, I'm hilarious...) and consider myself to be an "every (wo)man" type of writer.
in frustration --
Worlds & Wounds
a drop of lye--
A new nation
Beating is not
#poetry #poem #life #poets #society
Rough hands --
It's a woman's work--
To plant the seed--
Cusped in July--
Write like wood--
It's a sad thing--
To the end of a pin--
I'd adore you--
Just to fill you up--
Make you whole--
I would touch the break of heaven
just to fill you up.
#poetry #poem #experimental