Cockroaches and Peeps- Friday Flash

COCKROACHES AND PEEPS

By Melissa L. Webb

I placed the small pink marshmallow chick inside the circle and backed up, a delighted chuckle escaping my lips as I stood back to admire my handy work. They would never see this coming. No one would, but they didn’t really think they could treat me like dirt and get away with it, did they?

My feet traced the outside of the circle, checking for any breaks in the chalk outline. This had to be done right. If I had learned anything walking where others refused to tread, it was that dark magic had to be done perfectly.

I picked up the book, tracing the ancient leather cover with my fingertips. I still couldn’t believe I had found this thing buried in my parent’s basement. It was a sign. I had seen my path clearly now. I must take up the old mantles and show them all the error of their ways.

I flipped through the book, the pages automatically turning to the ritual. The book was as hungry for retribution as I was. I lit the candles and traced etchings in blood as the book had shown. I worked quickly, but steadily. I knew time was fleeting.

I scanned the room, ensuring everything was in place. It was time. They would be sorry. Sorry for every slight they’d bestowed. Those kids who got to go places on their Spring Break. The ones who got gifts from their parents, like video game systems and the newest cell phones. How dare they think they were better than me. They would suffer for their luxuries.

As would my parents. They never even acknowledge me, let alone take me places and buy me things. Tonight would change everything. I would be the one in control. The old ways spoke of that.

I glanced down at the faded page, the forgotten words stark and fresh in my mind, and raised my voice to the unseen world around me. They flowed freely from my lips as if they’d been written for me before time began.

The candlelight flickered as the circle glowed bright, bathing the room in a tinted crimson. Chanting, my voice grew until it boomed like thunder. The marshmallow twitched as my words soaked into its sugar-coated flesh. The tiny chick shuttered and a roar emerged from deep inside that pink sugar.

My words cut off, the spell climaxing, sealing my fate forever. I watched as it grew, the pink chick dwarfing me as it filled the room with its marshmallow gooeyness. I stood there in awe as its red eyes glowed down at me.

A laugh burst from my lips, bubbling up in delight. I had done it. The ancient mantels had accepted me. The Easter treat would bring me my enemy’s demise. I would be immortalized and revenged at the same time. People would know who I was. They would care what I thought of them. They would beg me to be their friend.

As I smudged the chalk circle with my foot and pointed to the door, the chick nodded, knowing exactly what I wanted. We were both eager to see this through. I couldn’t hide my grin as I watched it go. I had chosen well in my demon’s host. Nothing could stop my new friend. Not fire. Not water. It was indestructible. After all, everyone knew that at the end of the world, the only things that would survive were cockroaches and Peeps.

© 2019 Melissa L. Webb

Happy Easter everyone!

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MAD WORLD is finally available on Amazon and AmazonUK! Right now to celebrate its release, it’s only 99 cents or get it free with Kindleunlimited.

The Sorrows is a place of monsters and mayhem. 

22-year-old Maddie Monroe thinks she is doomed to a meaningless life. She works a dead-end job at an all-night diner and dreams of the day her boyfriend whisks her away from it all. When she saves a scarred stranger from a pack of drunk locals, she has no idea it will end with her stuck in a strange world on a quest to find someone who can send her back home. 

Now she must rely on the odd group of outcasts she’s fallen in with to keep her alive while she’s in the Sorrows: The scarred stranger who used to be the Prince’s advisor, the thought form who shouldn’t exist, the elk who talks because of a head injury, and the angel who’s more suited for a padded cell than a battlefield. They are all that stand between her and the evil King whose reach stretches to all corners of the Realms. 

Can Maddie stay one step ahead of the Thorn King and find a way home or will she succumb to the madness of the Sorrows?

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The Day Bringer- Friday Flash

THE DAY BRINGER

By Melissa L. Webb

Gary stood in front of the mirror. His reflection frowned back at him as he studied the wrinkles lining his once youthful face. He ran a hand through grey hair, sighing heavily as he turned away. He hated what he’d become. He was nothing more than a worn-out shell, used up like an old, dead battery. Yet…he’d chosen this. His life had been stripped away because he had to prove he was right.

The old man turned, limping slightly as he shuffled down the hallway, every inch of him protesting from the arthritis that flared within. He chuckled to himself bitterly as the pain clenched nerve endings. He’d been correct, all right. His fear of the night had indeed proved valid.

Gary stopped as he reached the living room. He stared out the front window at the thick darkness beyond, remembering better days that had slipped away like smoke.

No, they’d been torn away from him with cold, detachment one horrible night a lifetime ago.

 How could the rest of the world sleep so peacefully when the truth was all around them? He tried to make them listen. He tried to explain how dangerous the night truly was, but no one ever takes a nine-year-old seriously.

But their denial hadn’t fazed him, hadn’t stilled the fear that crept in as the evening grew darker. He knew the truth. He had to sleep before morning would come.

His parents laughed at that. They explained he was only being silly and that lots of people stayed up all night and the morning still came despite it. Yeah, they were right. People did stay up all the time, but those people weren’t Gary. He was the one who had to fall asleep to reset the day. No substitutions. It really was that simple.

That final laugh from his mother was what made him decide to try it. He’d show her. It was true and he’d prove it. He’d show the world who the real Day Bringer was.

One night, after his parents had fallen to sleep, he’d crept downstairs and curled up on the window seat in front of the living room’s big, bay window. His eyes watched the world outside, observing the nocturnal gears that grind on while others sleep. He hadn’t budged from that seat, battling sleep even as it danced before his eyes.

Shortly before sunrise, time had frozen.

The world had come to a complete standstill because he was still awake. His suspicions had been correct all along. He was the one who controlled it.

Pleased with himself, nine-year-old Gary had climbed into bed and closed his eyes, eager for sleep to claim him and bring back the day to the world. He couldn’t wait to tell his parents what he’d done.

But sleep would not come.

It hadn’t come then, and it still wouldn’t come now.

Gary raised a wrinkled hand, wiping at the invading moisture in his eyes before he turned and shuffled back down the hall. He’d broken the balance to the universe by proving he was right. The world stayed frozen around him while he’d grown to be a broken, bitter, old man just because he was tired of being laughed at.   

He couldn’t let this continue. He’d wasted too much time already, feeling sorry for himself. He had to right this wrong. He needed to find a way to restore the balance.

He slipped into his parents’ bedroom and stared down at their sleeping forms. “I’m sorry, Mommy,” Gary whispered as he brushed the cobwebs from her face. “I’m going to fix this. I swear.”

He let his fingers linger in her hair a moment longer before shuffling from the bed. His stiff hands fumbled with the door to the walk-in closet, the knob refusing to give in for a moment. It turned and the door creaked open, the hinges protesting like the joints in his tired body.

Step after painful step, he neared the shadows at the back of the closet and stared up at the shelf a few inches from his head. A dark lockbox sat there, the metal bright and clean among the other dusty, web-covered items. With a groan, Gary reached up, his fingers wrapping around the cold, familiar metal. He brought it down and lifted the lid, staring at the metallic gunmetal inside. He scooped up the small box next to it and gave it a gentle shake. The jingling from the small shells brought a smile of relief to his lips. “Hello again, old friends.”

Gary silently stepped back out of the closet, his eyes once again on his sleeping parents. His heart swelled with the ghost of the life he’d thrown away. He’d give anything to be their little boy once more. But it was far too late for that. Only one thing could put an end to this.

He stared down at the box, caressing metal. “Maybe my eternal slumber will be enough to restart the world.”

© 2019 Melissa L. Webb

Creeping Beauty- Friday Flash

CREEPING BEAUTY

By Melissa L. Webb

The Prince stood in the overgrown woods. Weeds and roots had taken over, coating everything with a dark, slimy feel. He moved through it the best he could, but the plants seemed to squirm under his feet, creeping around his ankles every now or then.

He used the glowing white sword in his hand to hack through them, freeing himself once again. It was slow going and he never expected any less, but at least his destination was now in sight.

A castle loomed in front of him. Its dark shape illuminated by the moon above. The Prince shivered at the sight of it. Its aura was thick with the evil that had taken place inside so many years ago.

He heard a horse neighing in the distance and cringed when he realized it was his. He prayed to God Charger was alright. He hadn’t wanted to leave his stead alone when evil lurked so close, but it was all he could do to get through this overgrown hell. The horse would have never stood a chance this close to the castle.

Taking a deep breath, he chopped another root as it moved towards his feet. The closer he got to the place, the more he could feel it trying to keep him out.

As he neared the castle walls, thick with dark rotten vines, the ground shuddered beneath him, throwing him off his feet. His hands groped across the cloying dirt, ripe with mildew and age, looking for his sword. If he lost that, it would be all over.

The sword was the only thing that could ensure his triumph. Without it, he would become just another set of bleached bones tangled in the vines on the castle walls.

His fingers finally touched cold steel as a vine wrapped around his body. It squeezed him tight, trying to crush the very life out of him.

“Oh no you don’t,” the Prince growled as he swung the sword. It once again shone brightly in the darkness, taking strength from his life force. He brought it down, hacking clean through the vine. It screamed like a living thing, shrinking away from him. The cleaved edges smoking where the blessed blade had touched it.

Getting to his feet, the Prince hurried through the opened portcullis as fast as he could. He was so close now. He didn’t want to give anything else a chance to slow him down.

She was in there.

He needed to get to her. Awaken her from her dark slumber. The fate of his world depended on it.

The Prince raced across the shadowed courtyard. Skeletons grinned at him as he went. He turned away from them, setting his jaw, determination steadying him.

He couldn’t let himself think about all the lives that had been claimed here because of this evil. Sadness and grief would only distract him. There would be plenty of time to mourn for them later.

If he stayed alive.

Something scurried behind him and he quickened his pace. It didn’t matter what lay behind him, only in front of him. Ignoring the movement, he entered the castle, the light from the sword leading the way.

The stench wafting off the walls was enough to make the Prince gag and he shuddered to think what might be the cause of it. What secrets did the shadows keep around here? He wasn’t sure he really wanted to know the answer. It didn’t matter though. Once he awoke the girl this would all be nothing but a distant nightmare. Everybody could live happily ever after. Including him.

“Oh, look. Dear sweet Prince thinks he can save everyone.”

The Prince stopped, trying to find the source of the mockery, but there was nothing around him but cobwebs and rot. He let it go. It was only a distraction anyway. Digging at his fears was just another game. And he refused to play it this time.

“You can’t save anyone. Not even yourself,” the voice said with a chuckle. “Either flee or cower before me. Those are your only options.”

The Prince didn’t stop. Words would not get to him. Not when he had purity and truth on his side. The foul thing could dribble lies all it wanted, he would never fall for them.

Ascending a long staircase, he rushed down a hallway towards a chamber at the end. Candlelight flickered behind the door, spilling out through the cracks in the wood. The girl was in there. The ones who entrusted him with the sword had confirmed that. His quest was almost at an end.

A growl erupted from behind. Before the Prince could turn around, something slammed into him, pinning him to the ground. He squirmed underneath it, trying to free the sword from underneath himself. He managed to roll over and found himself face to face with a very large demon.

It snapped at him, its jaw only inches from his face. Its rough grey skin dripped a black substance which burned as it came in contact with any uncovered skin.

The Prince groaned in frustration and in pain. He didn’t have time for this. Not now that he was this close. He could practically hear her breathing from behind the door. This could be over in only a matter of minutes if the damned thing would just get off him.

He could only imagine what was going on in his kingdom right now. Or in other kingdoms. Hell, in all the lands. The demons and monsters which roamed the countryside because of this curse were destroying everything. He had lost so much already. He refused to lose anything more.

Pulling his free hand back, he punched the demon square in the face. It snarled and reared back, giving the Prince the chance he needed.

Lifting the sword, he drove it deep into the demon’s neck. It wailed loudly, shaking the walls around them, then pitched to the side, falling lifelessly to the floor.

The Prince got to his feet, wiping the gore from his clothes. Enough was enough. It was time to finish this.

He strode down the hallway, sword raised as his blood hummed for the victory.

More growling sounded behind him. It caused his step to waiver, but he kept the sword raised. If it was a fight they wanted, they could bring it.

Turning back to the chamber door, he met the first rushing body with a swipe of the massive sword. It fell harmlessly at his feet, the entire body cleaved cleanly in half.

“Who’s next?” he called as more demons rushed him. He laid them too out next to their friend on the floor. They were no match for the sword of glory. As long as it was in his hand, nothing would stop him.

The Prince pushed against the door. It didn’t budge. He lifted a booted foot and kicked out, knocking the thin door from its hinges. He stepped through, looking around the room.

Candles lit the darkness, making the room glow in a way the rest of the castle could never. A huge bed sat center, its carved wooden frame and plush bedding making it look more like a throne and less like a place to sleep. And he supposed in a way it was a throne.

For there before him, slumbering peacefully, was the Princess. Her long dark hair was fanned out around her head like a halo and her milky white skin gleamed in the candlelight. She was breathtakingly beautiful and the Prince yearned to reach out and touch her.

He moved closer to the bed and staring down at her. She looked so peaceful, so content in her sleep, it was hard to imagine she was the key to the curse. All he had to do was wake the Princess and it would be over. The world would be safe from the evil consuming it.

Taking a deep breath, he prepared himself for what was to come. His heart raced in a way it never had before as he stared down at this beautiful creature. He was responsible for her now. He must free her from her slumber.

“Are you really ready for what it means if you do this?” a voice called out to him.

The Prince moved from the bed, locking eyes with a creature on the other side of the room. It sat in a chair, watching him with curious red eyes. Its long dark robe hid the rest of his face. A black rusty sword sat across its lap.

“I suppose you are the Guardian? You’re here to stop me from doing what I must do.”

It rose from the chair, taking the sword into its hand. “I must prevent you from breaking the curse. That is my duty. I will kill you, unless…you turn around and walk away. Forget about this castle and the darkness it contains inside.”

“I can’t. People are dying out there. The world is falling apart. I can’t turn my back on that. I can’t give up everything I love.”

The Guardian raised its sword. “Very well. The castle will have a new set of bones when I am done with you.”

The Prince raised his sword as well. “This sword will have its triumph. But not from you.” He spun around, turning his back to the Guardian and stepped towards the bed.

“Are you too much of a coward to face me,” the Guardian called.

“No, I just know fighting you is pointless,” the Prince told him calmly, staring down at the beautiful girl in the bed. “You’re not the real threat here.” Lifting the sword of glory high above his head, he brought it down, straight into the heart of the girl.

She screamed, waking suddenly. Her dark crimson eyes locked onto the Prince as her hands groped uselessly at the sword in her chest. “You stupid mortal. How dare you slay me. Most men couldn’t have resisted my allure. They would have kissed me and burned to death for their forwardness,” she hissed. “But you, you knew the truth and you went right for the heart of it.” She glanced down as blood pooled around her. “My heart.”

The sword glowed brighter in her flesh, spilling fire into her veins. It consumed her, eating her body from existence.

The Prince stepped back, smiling as the Guardian faded as well. The castle was returning to what it had been before the evil Princess had invaded this kingdom and murdered his betrothed.

Justice had prevailed where it had failed before. The elders thought it would be enough to curse her into a never-ending sleep. But their compassion had been the world’s downfall.

The demon Princess had been more powerful than anyone could have imagined. She continued to plague the world through sleep, dreaming into reality monsters and demons to take over the world.

Her death was the only thing that could save them; and the Prince’s heart already belonged to someone else, even if she was dead. That love was armor enough to protect him where others had failed.

© 2019 Melissa L. Webb

Wet Work- Friday Flash

Wet Work

By Melissa L. Webb

The blood splattered the walls as if it was abstract art. I watched as the patterns danced around me. Damn, I wish I had my camera. The gory masterpiece before me should be documented for posterity.

I slide the blade from her skin as she moaned causing more blood to flow, staining the white sheets to a dark crimson. What little life she had left in her struggled against me as I worked, even as it ebbed away.

I tossed the knife aside, wanting to feel her fleeting life force against my skin. My fingers curled around the pale flesh of her throat, digging in. She gurgled against me, trying desperately to suck in her last remaining breath as I tightened my hold, watching the life fade from her eyes.

With a final failed gasp, her muscles relaxed. I grinned as her body went limp. All life had been spilled from her. I reluctantly withdrew my hands from her neck and got up; staring at the lifeless beauty sprawled across the bed. How exquisite she looked in death.

Everything always seemed more beautiful at the end. I don’t know why that’s true, but it is. I guess death strips away the pretenses and leaves us with nothing but honesty.

I stepped back, sadly drawing my eyes away from my dark creation. It was time to clean up. I got busy, removing all evidence I had been there. I am saddened by this part because the dance of death cannot be done without a partner, but I can’t let them find me.

I finished and quickly looked around the room, my eyes taking in the perfection of death one last time. My eyes linger on the blood splatters, taking in their whisperings of mortality. However, as I walk away, the sadness is fleeting, for I know, there are always more walls to paint.

© 2019 Melissa L. Webb

Ghost of the Moon- Friday Flash

full moon near snowcap mountain

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Ghost of the Moon

By

Melissa L. Webb

 

The moon reflected off the water, harsh and cold, like glass on a snow-covered day. A lone figured stood on the sand, staring out at the searing refection. He stayed motionless, his head cocked to one side, mesmerized by the sight.

It stirred a memory in him. One he couldn’t quite place. It nibbled at the edges of his sanity, threatening to resurface with the weight of a 20-kiloton blast.

He didn’t know why it stirred. He had no obvious memories of ever standing on this shore, staring out at the bright shape of the moon as it caressed the water’s surface. Yet, there was something inside him, screaming at the sight of it.

A ripple stirred in the water, branching out like a spider’s web in the cold moonlight. The strands reached the shore as the water shivered underneath their touch.

The man stepped back, frightened by the sight, but frightened even more by his desire to touch it, to see if it was as solid as his heart longed for it to be. The fluttering in his mind became more frantic, a wild rustling that strained at the confines of who he was.

He would never understand what the subconscious wanted if he clung to his reality. He was trapped. He wasn’t the only one, though. Everyone was as trapped as he was and they didn’t even know it. They lived in an illusion, confined by the turmoil of humanity.

But, that was the joke, the big sickening scheme. There was no humanity. Not at all. They were all prisoners trapped in the flesh of those who would play creator.

He sighed as the old memories became clear. He was never meant to be human. No one was ever meant to be human. The shell they’d shackled to him had suppressed so much, but he had finally seen the light and it was beautiful.

The world was as flat as a postcard, just a relic from the days when the soul wanted what it couldn’t have. They had thought that life could be caught, could be shaped and molded to give meaning to the pain. But they were wrong. They were so wrong and they all knew it.

The man smiled as his skin cracked and peeled, dropping off like strips of wrapping paper on Christmas morning. The body was nothing more than a dustjacket and just as archaic. It was time to toss it aside.

His body split open, falling to the ground in a sickly, wet thump as white light poured out, drifting up like tendrils of fog, eager to dance with the crashing waves.

A long, dark arm rose out of the refection of the moon, pulling the swirling light into itself. “Welcome home, my son,” a beautiful voice cooed as the arm dropped back into the ghost of the moon once more.

 

© 2018 Melissa L. Webb

 

 

The Message-Friday Flash

THE MESSAGE
By Melissa L. Webb

 

Three days ago, I made a terrible mistake. It was an honest one…one that anybody would have made. I know that. If I could rewind time, I know I would do it the same way. I can’t be blamed for my actions, but I can still suffer from them.

I made a mistake that altered my life.

I answered the phone.

I didn’t recognize the number when my cell phone rang. I wasn’t surprised by that. I get a lot of calls from people I don’t know. That’s what happens when you run your own business. There was absolutely no hesitation as I answered it, but the sobbing on the other end did give me pause.

I was speechless as my mind whirled with images of people who might be hurt or worse. That was the only reason I could imagine for this call. But when she spoke, I realized I didn’t know this crying woman. She was only a stranger weeping into my ear.

“I’m so sorry to bother you,” she told me through tears. “But…I need to talk to someone; to tell them this and it can’t be anyone I know.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. How could I turn away this woman when she was so distraught? So, with a sigh, I spoke, “What can I do for you?”

“Just listen, please. That’s all I ask. Just listen to what I tell you, it will only take a minute.”

I reluctantly agreed. She took a deep breath and began to tell me about a conversation she had the other day. A woman had stopped her on the street, asking if she could spare a moment. This woman needed to speak to her. She told her a story of how she had been asked to hear a tale of woe from a stranger and ever since that day, her life had been a nightmare.

This stranger on the street told her she was having nightmares; that her luck had changed for the worse, and she was being stalked by some unseen thing. She was sure some negative force had entered her life and now she feared for herself and those she loved.

The weeping woman on the other end of my phone took a shuddered breath. “I told her I didn’t know what to do for her. She said it was okay, just telling me this would be enough to help her. She just needed to talk someone. She walked away from me then. It was the strangest conversation I ever had,” she whispered to me. “I didn’t think anything more about it. It was just someone with problems.”

I took a deep breath. I could understand that. “Is there a point to this?” I asked.

“It’s happening to me,” she sobbed. “I’m having nightmares. I lost my job. Everywhere I look something is going wrong. And…” She stopped, letting the silence surround us.

I couldn’t help myself. “What?”

“Something is following me. I feel it,” she told me. “I’m never alone anymore.” She was silent once more and then let out a deep sob. “I’m sorry. I just randomly picked you. I had to tell someone. I’m so sorry, but this has to stop.” The phone clicked sharply as she hung up.

I didn’t know what to make of the story. I shoved it to the back of my mind and went on with my life. I should have taken what she said to heart.

It’s started now.

The bad luck and the nightmares, I have them both. The unseen force? It’s here, too. I feel its breath on the back of my neck even as I write this. It’s watching and waiting, looking for the next person to be infected by this story. This tale is no longer my burden. I have finished writing it and you have read it, so I am free.

My only thought now is, “Who will you call tonight?”

© 2017 Melissa L. Webb

Pink Tutus and Blue Cheese

Pink Tutus and Blue Cheese

By Melissa L. Webb

 

I first heard God speak to me yesterday. It wasn’t a “Greetings from the Exalted One!” type message, more like a “Hey, how’s it going?” I have to tell you, I was quite shocked. Here I was in my skivvies, getting a bowl of fruity flakes, when a voiced filled the room and said, “You’re overflowing the milk, Gary.”

I nearly jumped out of my skin. Not to mention my hard-earned fruity flakes went all over the floor. Which is a bummer, cause I really like them. They’re like the nectar of the breakfast gods or something.

I scurried for the paper towels, throwing them down on the rainbow-colored milk. I leaned over, ready to soak up as much of the liquid as I could when the voice spoke again. It told me, “You can do that later, Gary. I need to talk to you.”

Why God needed to talk to me was puzzling. Why would I be important enough to talk to? I was just your average slacker. I didn’t do much in this world, good or bad. It wasn’t as if I should have caught his attention for any reason.

However, when God comes a calling, you don’t say no. So, I sat down and listened to what he had to tell me.

He rambled on and on about the weather, his disdain for retail stores, and his love for pink tutus and blue cheese. God really seems to love blue cheese. He puts it on everything. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that’s what clouds in heaven are made from.

I listened patiently as he talked away the day. I didn’t mind. It wasn’t as if I had anything else to do. I think the guy’s lonely. Floating around all day, watching everything but interacting with nothing, will do that to you.

As the sunlight was fading from the house, God wrapped up telling me about the doctor who decided to treat only squirrels before asking a favor from me. I would have thought listening to him all day would have been the favor, but as I said before, you don’t tell God no.

I told him whatever he needed, I would see to it. It would give me something to do, and if it was God’s work, all the better.

He then told me about his dislike of white shoelaces. How he couldn’t stand them. He said it had something to do with an experience when both the world and he were young, but that’s all he would say. I think even God has things he would rather forget.

White shoelaces and those who were associated with them had to go. He didn’t care how I did it, just as long as I rid the world of them. So, that’s how I started this quest. I must make this world a better place for God. He has given me purpose. No longer will I waste the life I’ve been given. I will serve him.

My God of the pink tutus and blue cheese.

I will cleanse the world of those who wear white shoelaces. I will destroy them because God told me to. This is my purpose. This is my calling.

Now I must ask: what color are your shoelaces?

© 2017 Melissa L. Webb

The Puppy- Friday Flash

 

 

Warning: Due to disturbing content, reader discretion is advised.

 

 

 

 

The Puppy

 

By Melissa L. Webb

 

cute-little-puppy-eyes

 

More than anything the girl wanted a puppy. She’d listen to her friends talk about their dogs or watch people taking theirs for a walk, and think, someday that will be me.

Every chance she got she’d ask her parents for a dog.  “Please, can I have one? I’ll take very good care of it.”

But, no, they would not give in.

“A five-year-old is too young to be responsible for a dog. We’ll talk about it when you’re older.”

Day after day, that’s what the little girl heard. She wasn’t old enough. She wasn’t responsible enough.

Her parents were wrong about that. She was practically an adult. She could take care of a puppy. She could take care of anything. She needed to prove that to them.

So, the little girl came up with a plan.

Every morning, she would get up early and fix a small plate of leftovers. She’d take it out to the backyard and bring it back empty. She’d wash it until it shined and then put it away, better than before. She would do the same before bed as well.

“What are you doing?” her parents asked her.

“I’m taking care of my puppy,” she replied.

“Do you think we should worry?” her father asked one night after the girl was asleep.

“No,” her mother answered wisely. “She’s only doing this to prove she’s responsible. She’ll stop once she realizes we’re serious about no pets.”

The little girl did not stop.

She gathered blankets and stuffed animals and took them outside as well.

“What are you doing?” her parents asked her.

“I already told you,” the little girl said dramatically. “I’m taking care of my puppy.”

“Should we worry now?” her father asked her mother.

“I’m sure she’s only building a fort out there,” her mother replied, but inside she was beginning to wonder. Did her daughter really have a puppy? “Maybe we should go check on her.”

The parents made their way out to the backyard, looking for their daughter’s fort. The door to the shed stood open, light spilling out across the ground.  A soft whimper rolled across the lawn from within.

“Sweetie,” the girl’s mother called as they approached the door and peered in. “Are you in there?”

“Yes, Mommy,” the little girl called back. “I’m playing with my puppy. Do you want to see it?” Her words were punctuated with a thin, watery whine.

Her father frowned. She had gone behind their backs and brought home an animal. He wondered which neighbor she’d taken it from.

“Sweetheart,” her mother said as they came into the shed, her eyes scanning the rows of boxes and shelves. “Daddy and I need to talk to you.”

“Okay, Mommy. I’m back here. Come see how responsible I’ve been.”

They silently followed her voice to the back of the shed, each one contemplating a fitting punishment. She couldn’t go around taking people’s pets.

The girl sat with her back to the wall. Something small lay across her lap. A blanket covered it from the neck down. Above that, the girl had tied an old jump rope around its neck as a leash.

Her eyes lit up, a smile covering her face as she looked at her parents. “This is Cupcake,” she said, patting the small brown doggy head in her lap. “She’s a good puppy.”

Her parents leaned down, staring into the puppy’s glassy brown eyes. They held no sparkle, no trace of life at all.

“Sweetie,” her mother said, looking back up at her daughter. “This isn’t a real puppy. It’s the stuffed dog Grandma gave you last Christmas.”

“No, it’s not, Mommy,” the girl insisted. “Cupcake’s only borrowing its face.”

The blanket twitched as a whimper came from under the dog face.

“What do you have underneath it?” her father asked, reaching for the stuffed head.

“I told you. It’s cupcake.”

Her father pulled the dog’s mussel. The head lifted away, nothing more than a hollow mask.

“Oh no,” her mother gasped as she stared down in horror.

A baby looked up at them, its large, blue eyes pleading as it made another whimpering sound. Bruises covered its swollen face and a black tint settled over its neck where the makeshift leash dug tightly into flesh.

“See,” the little girl said, petting the baby’s bald head. “I can take care of something all by myself.”

 

© 2017 Melissa L. Webb

 

 

Way Station

I am a way station.

Not a person. Not someone.

I am simply a moment in time,

Here to be used as others pass through.

I am only a temporary stopping point for those in need.

The broken, the scared, the weak,

Those with the tattered souls.

They all find me sooner or later.

I am a reprieve from their pain,

A balm for the cutting edges of this world.

I don’t ask to be, yet my words soothe them.

Somehow, I pick them up. I dust them off.

I put them back together,

Replacing shattered pieces of them

Like they were a puzzle I didn’t even know I could see.

They become themselves with me.

They emerge, better, happier.

The who they were meant to be.

The strays of the world become free

And they move on, without a single glance back.

They return to where they belong,

To where they’re meant to be.

And this port shines a little less with each fleeting traveler.

I am a way station.

I am not a destination.

No one stays

And I end up broken and alone.

 

© 2017 Melissa L. Webb