Several weeks ago, I posted a short story called “Broken Snapshots” here, which I wrote and which placed first in a prompt contest on a writer’s forum. Well, I’m back with some of my own writing, something you might call a ‘serial short story’. Basically, it’s an 11,000-word story broken up into six shorter sections. I’ll be posting one every other Monday from now until… [quick number crunching/calendar checking] mid-November.
Anyway, I give to you “Eyes”, part one.
[As a content warning, these shorts are darker in nature when it comes to some themes. This first one, especially.]
I whimper when I hear the door slam. Daddy’s home. I creep out of my room, not daring to even turn on the nightlight right outside my bedroom door. The carpet muffles my footsteps, but I tread as quietly as I can. My breaths come fast, my heart pounds. Daddy curses and kicks something – a chair or wall, maybe. I shudder. Momma screams something back at him. The blood pounding in my ears sounds like a thousand marching feet – Momma just says it’s blood, but I know it’s really feet – coming to get me. The dark hall stretches on forever, with the light from the stairwell at the end far, far away. I’m not afraid of the dark. Darkness is my friend. Daddy can’t find me in the dark. The kids at school are afraid of the dark. They don’t like me, either.
For a moment I close my eyes and the sounds seem to grow dim, far off. If only I could close my eyes forever and no one would ever see me again. Max, my black kitty, comes prancing down the hall, purring despite the ruckus downstairs. I shoo at him. Daddy might hear him. I reach the stairs and look down. All the lights are on in the living room, but the kitchen – where the shouts are coming from – is dark. The front door is open.
Something shatters and my mother screams. She runs out of the kitchen, shouting.
“Com’mere, you-!” Daddy shouts, spitting out a curse. Momma says I shouldn’t ever say that word; that only bad people use those words. He comes stumbling out of the kitchen, drunk again. I shudder and back away a little, hoping he doesn’t see me. I can’t run, he’ll see me for sure. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. For a moment the sounds fade again, like it’s just me. I open my eyes; Max rubs against my bare leg, purring. I give him a little shove down the hall. Momma screams again. She runs back toward the kitchen, Daddy is close behind her. There’s a cigarette in his mouth –there always is. He has a lighter in one hand, and a piece of pipe. Where did Daddy get the pipe? There’s more crashing and banging from in the kitchen, more shouting. I cringe each time Momma screams, whimper when something breaks or falls.
Momma runs out of the kitchen, bruises already forming on her face and arms. She doesn’t seem to see me as she dashes up the stairs and runs by me, huddled in the corner. She’s got her phone out. Is she going to call the police? Will they take Daddy away?
Daddy stumbles out of the kitchen, and totters toward the stairs, mumbling curses I’ve heard him use before. He starts to climb up toward me, but slips on the carpet and falls back down. Another shouted curse, and more muttering. He crawls up the stairs, grasping at the carpet with his fingers while still holding the lighter and the pipe. I press myself against the wall – maybe he won’t see me. Sure enough, he staggers right by me, although I’m sure he must be able to hear my heart beating like a drum.
When he vanishes into the darkness down the hall, I scoot forward and run down the stairs to find a better place to hide. There’s little pieces of glass all over the kitchen floor, glittering in the darkness. The light above the sink is broken, and the fan is on. I reach up and switch the fan off, shivering a little. The living room is all messed up – Daddy’s chair knocked over and the pictures from the mantle lie on the floor. More thumping and screaming upstairs. I whimper a little and huddle in a corner of the kitchen.
A moment later momma comes running back into the kitchen, phone clutched in one hand. Her hair is all messed up, and there’s a bobby pin hanging loose on one side. She glances at me, but doesn’t really see me for a minute.
“Vivian!” she hisses, “what are you doing here?”
“Daddy’s scary, momma,” I say, scooting farther into the corner.
Daddy barges into the room, holding the lighter and pipe loosely. Somewhere, he lost the cigarette, from all the yelling I think. He yells another curse – I haven’t heard that one before, but by the way momma cringes I know it’s one – and slams the door shut. The only light now is from the window. With a staggering lurch, he lunges at momma. She slips to the side, away from me, and slams her back into one of the cupboards. She lets out a soft moan.
“You’re a worthless little-“ he trails off in a string of curses again.
Momma shouts right back at him, using the same words. That makes him angry and he hits her with the pipe. I can’t hold back a scream as momma collapses. It’s then that Daddy notices me. He tries to get his cigarette lighter to come up, little sparks shooting out the end, but it’s dead or something. With another curse, he tosses it aside, and it clatters to the floor.
“You!” he shouts, the word slurring, “you did this to us!”
I cover my eyes with my hands. “It isn’t real,” I whisper. The faint darkness I can see grows black, and everything is quiet. I lower my hands and open my eyes, only to see father raising the pipe, still cursing.
I cover my face again. “Father isn’t real.” Again, the shouts vanish. This time, however, when I open my eyes, the pipe clatters to the floor. Father is gone, but his clothes lay in a pile on the floor, next to the pipe.
My hands shake as I reach out and touch the pipe. It’s still warm where he held it. I shiver and back into the corner, rocking myself and humming a little tune momma taught me. I’m still there when the sirens and lights come barreling down the street, and men flood into the room.