Thursday, November 11, 2010

Flash Fic Party, Day 13: Me!

Bika's Flash Fic Party is winding to a close. Tomorrow's post by Verdus will be the last in this challenge, and I was so happy to host it for you all. I love seeing how you all wrestle your ideas onto paper (actually, it's probably more like cramming into a word processor, screaming--though it's possible it can be a gentle process? I've just never seen it happen that way).

Today's fic is another one of mine. I wrote about some of my NaNo characters; spoiler, Caleb dies even before the novel begins.

Author: Bika
Word count: 579

I didn’t want to be the one missing out, but some things can’t be helped. All the neighbor kids were older than me. They spent most of the summer nights out in Caleb’s tent with the glow-lamps Papa loaned them, shining them in each other’s faces or at their own. They looked like ghouls in the dark, my brother told me, and I wanted to see for myself.

But Papa wouldn’t hear of the wee one going out to fill her head with tales an’ nonsense, so instead I’d sit on my bed in the dark all through the warm seasons and listen to their giggles and shouts, the silences when Caleb or one of the others would tell a ghost story, the gleeful screams when the horrors came. They loved to be scared.

It was hard being the little one at night. The days, though, Caleb saved them just for me; when there weren’t chores to be done he would call me outside and I’d come runnin’, burst through the tent flap and flop down on the sleeping rolls left from the night before. We lay on our backs and looked up at the moving patterns of leaf shadows on the canvas, and it was too warm but we stayed in anyway, sweating while he talked about the other side, things he wouldn’t tell the others.

He told me the things Nana said to him out behind the field where the old barn burned down. “Be good, mind your Da', watch your sister,” he’d say in a gravelly old pipe-smoker’s voice. I could hear her in my head clear as day whenever he talked about her, though she died long before either of us were born. He said it was the real thing. I’d got the gift, he said, just as he did and Nana before us.

Later on I’d have my doubts, but back in those days nothing he did or said was ever wrong to my worshipful eyes. Caleb was my sun and moon and I would’ve given him the very last breath in my body if only he’d never leave me, never leave me.

When I was in my seventh year he packed his things and went to apprentice at the Llewellyn Museum Fellowship, leaving me alone with Papa and the cows. “Wisht I could take ya with me, Bobby,” he said in his deep, gruff tryin’-to-sound-grownup sort of way, and then he was gone. I cried, but not till he was well on his way and I’d gone out to Nana’s place, a place marked with a stake in the ground, to to be alone and drop my tears where it was safe. I dirtied my face with snot and cried into a hollow in the earth that held the charred stubs of her old butter churn, the relics of a generation lost he’d dug up himself when I was in still in clouts.

I cried because I loved him; I cried because I missed him even before he left; I cried because there’d be no more stories and no more Bobby, c’meres. Without Caleb, I was just Roberta, and even at seven I knew it all too well.

Out at Caleb's secret spot I begged Nana to comfort me, to protect my brother and promise me he’d be back. She never answered, and though Caleb wrote, he never came home again.

I guess there’s only so much the spirits can do.

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