Long Shadow makes me think of a shadow I always used to imagine was going to look around the corner of the landing and look at me in my bed. But the picture isn’t right for a story about him… the Dementors are very close to my imagined monsters. I wonder if JK Rowling had the same dreams?
This of course is my WEP+IWSG flash fiction for August. I enjoy the prompts, and also not having the pressure of doing them every week! This one runs to 500 words, and is inspired by the little boy in a house near the back of my garden, who seems to end every day in screams of frustration. Lockdown is hell with young children, even when you have a garden to let them loose in. If that’s you, you have my sympathies. But it might not be him, you know!
Bobby squatted down in the sand pit, digging with his plastic spade, making a new run for his marbles. The sun was harsh, he’d got his teeshirt and shorts on, and the floppy blue hat he liked. Mummy had spread suncream all over his arms and legs and face anyway, despite his protestations.
“If you can’t stay in the shade, Bobby, you’ll have to have suncream. And your hat. And you really should wear a long shirt. Stop squirming, you naughty boy.”
He’d managed to avoid the shirt, and now he was engrossed in a black beetle that emerged from his hole. It climbed up, struggling over a grain of sand that threatened to tip him backwards, and scuttled away.
A long shadow spread across the pit. It’d probably run from that. Oh. Bobby should have run from that too.
“Ow,ow,ow!” he yelled, standing up and pulling his shirt away from his back as the hot water reached his skin.
“Scaredy cat!” his sister said, sticking out her tongue at him, hiding the kettle behind her back.
“You did that on purpose!”
“Liar!” Her eyes were wide-eyed and innocent. He didn’t understand how his mother never saw her hard cruel eyes. She turned away and skipped off towards the shed. Bobby turned back to his pit, wondering what torment she’d got planned for him next. There was no use complaining to his mother. She would just punished him for whining.
“She just wants to play with you,” Mummy said. “Get involved with her games more, don’t always be playing on your own.”
Bobby used to play games with her, before he understood what they were, and that he didn’t have to. Being tied up in the shed, and having earwigs stuffed down his shirt wasn’t too bad. But then she started exploring sticking them in his ears… he tried not to think of the time she put them in his mouth. Or the other things…
When he could stand it no longer, when he screamed and ran away, Mummy turned into Shouty Mummy for the rest of the day. Only if he was lucky did he get sent to bed.
The shadows there would get longer, too, but usually his friend came out to talk to him.
Sometimes it wasn’t his friend.
Sometimes it was the long shadow with the tall hat, who told him how his sister was going to get him the next day, and the next, and the next…
And sometimes it was the horrible long shadow with the round hat and the gun, who told him over and over again, how his father had died. Not a hero, like his mother said. Not fighting the enemy, or rescuing some kids from a house. He went out for fun with his mates and a landmine blew them to bits.
Then he’d cry himself to sleep.
But the next day, Bobby would return to the sandpit, or climb the tree, anything to keep away from his sister and her games.
© J M Pett 2020
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41 thoughts on “#WEP+IWSG Flash Fiction | Long Shadow”
This is powerful and nasty and will undoubtedly haunt me tonight.
Cruelty casts a very, very dark and long shadow.
Sorry about that! Sweet dreams 🙂
Enjoyed digging sand pit with Bobby. HIs sister is annoying, though. Felt sad by shadow-speak.
Wow – creepy!!!! I hope Bobby can escape all of his nightmares. I may have a few of my own!
OOH, don’t do that! But the shadow did make me think of my own pre-sleep nightmares!
Very creepy and disturbing! Lockdown has been a special kind of hell for abused kids, I think.
Hell for abused anyone, I think. My neighbour who is a paramedic told us how lucky we are to have gardens to escape into….
Poor kid! You had me really worried for him.
Sometimes, children are cruel, but they grow up to be kind and decent adults. And sometimes, they don’t. I think Bobby’s sister belongs to the second category.
You may well be right. She’ll be sending cursed skulls to her ex’s girlfriend next….
Nightmares that repeat are the worst. This was a great flash! My older brother knew my fear of spiders, but that only egged him on. His torture knew no bounds, and yes, mom ignored my screams. He once threatened to light the box I was playing house in on fire. When we got older, he was my best friend. LOL
I had a similar problem with one of my brothers! He never tried to set me on fire, though!
I hope I’m not wrong for wishing for a bad end to come to Bobby’s sociopathic sister.
Actually, I don’t care if I am wrong. You created a perfectly loathsome character, and I applaud you! All the characters in this piece are very realistic.
~Cie from Naughty Netherworld Press~
That made me laugh! Yes, she turned out much worse than I imagined her. Thanks, Cie.
Somehow I feel the same way about his sister. It’s a wonder how his mother has never seen what’s actually happening.
Some mothers have a blind spot. Prejudice, past experience… who knows.
I feel so sorry for Bobby and do hope he can grow up in to a good human being even after his family experience. His sister, on the other hand, I have really nasty feelings about.
I hope so too! Thanks, Sally.
I do hope Bobby gets over his nightmare and also his mean sister. Poor fellow. I almost found myself in the back of your garden watching Bobby.
The inspiration did come from hearing the neighbours in the next street!
I feel sorry for Bobby – poor mite! How mothers can be so unfair baffles me. I do hope he is not overshadowed by all the bullying and abuse and can grow up to be a normal guy. Engaging and poignant, well done!
I think parents are either manipulated or misled by the ‘angel’. It’s easy to get blamed for cracking…
I’m glad everyone seems to have got really engaged with the story!
An engaging tale, Jemima. The shadow beings seem to be more protective of Bobby, than his own mother is at times. Well done.
That poor little boy! I feel so terribly for him. Having a sibling that enjoys tormenting you must be terrible. I also wonder about those shadows. Are they real, and if so, what are their intentions toward him? And if not, are they nightmares brought on by the abuse he’s endured? Either way, this is an engaging tale, and I hope Bobby finds happiness and freedom from the terrors that plague him.
I never considered whether shadows real or not… got me thinking now!
Jemima, this is the third story I’ve read this morning from a child’s POV and I thought, how charming. Until the sister arrived. How frustrating for that poor little boy where being sent to bed seems like a reward, not a punishment. Cruelty casts a very, very dark and very, very long shadow.
I would like to help with your book launch, but am snowed under. At the very least I could tweet or guest post you on my blog. Email me if that would help.
At least mine was different from the others 🙂 I’ve emailed you about the launch. Thank you so much for offering!
Poor Bobby. I hope his future is brighter than the current cruelty of his sister and dismissness of his mother. If his nightmares don’t drive him crazy, maybe all this will make him stronger. So sad. Emotional. Nicely done.
Fun and creepy at the same time. Loved it.
Beautifully rendered Jemima. Ah, big sisters ….. can be terrible tormentors. Lovely use of the prompts in the twists at the end. Will repost your book launch if you like. Give me a holler. email@example.com
Happy WEP week.
Thanks, Susan – I’ll be in touch!
It began so innocuously, rising to quite a crescendo. The sister’s torments were nothing compared to his own imagining. Skilfully executed.
Thanks, Kalpana 🙂
Poor Bobby. He’s going to grow up hating women because of his sister who torments him. He needs to give her a good scare that she won’t forget.
My heart went out to him.
Ah, yes, and the mummy who won’t listen. That’s how it happens, I suppose… Thanks, Pat.
Hi Jemima – sorry about the lockdown screaming kid … so difficult for families at the moment.
But you’ve really made his sister horrible – cruel to the core … I wonder if she’ll grow out of it. Poor kid – enough to make him want to leave home … but a bit young at the moment. Blind parent to her daughter’s cruelty – unless she’s set the tone for her daughter …
Take care – and I do hope things ease up vis a vis the noise aspect for your new home – stay safe – Hilary
Well, they are close, and loud, but not so close to cause me anything other than pangs for his distress. In fact it’s a nice quiet neighbourhood. Save for fireworks on random days. But the boys seem to cope with them now, too.
Thanks for the comments 🙂
This seemed to start as a tale of childhood innocence. How wrong was I? So much for such a young lad to be dealing with. And how alone he must feel, broke my heart.
I seem incapable of writing anything without a dark ending! Thanks for visiting, Donna 🙂
A very good, but so very sad, story. All too true all too often, it seems. Well done.
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