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Friday, September 09, 2011

#FridayFlash: At Rest

This is a dark one for me. That’s what I get for looking for inspiration in a graveyard again. Like I said, this cemetery has been around a long time, and more than a few (very) young children are buried here. The grave below has a hole in the middle of it; I wondered what happened and the story once again wrote itself.

At Rest

Child's grave
Talia Hart glanced about her, but the others seemed inclined to allow her this moment alone. A wisp of autumn wind stirred about her, whispering comfort. The scent of turned earth mingled with the cut flowers she held, calling spring planting to mind.

“I won’t say I’m sorry you’re gone, Fredrick Hart,” she whispered. “I loved you the best a wife could. But whatever it was that happened, it was comin’ to you.”

A twinge of guilt washed over her, and unwanted tears came. Was she to blame? She cursed him that night, after all…

Fredrick paused in his drunken humping. “Won’t it shut the hell up?”

“She’s probably hungry. Babies get that way. Finish what you’re doin’ and I’ll go feed her.”

Her husband returned to business for a few seconds, then rolled off her. “Shit. Just take care of it.”

Talia stood, pulled her gown down, and made her stiff-legged way to their daughter’s cradle. “Hush now, Mary,” she said, shrugging one full breast out of her gown and offering it to the baby. Mary fussed for a few seconds, then latched on. Talia winced, but made no protest — Mary was just a baby after all. Life was pain, the preacher said, and that was true. Mary’s hunger, Fredrick’s meanness, the endless work in between, from pain to pain. Maybe she should take to hard drinkin’ the way her husband did. Was doing now, from the sound of it.

After a while, Mary slept and Talia returned to bed. Fredrick yanked her gown up and rolled on. “Saddle up, boys, this ride ain’t finished yet,” he chuckled, thrusting —

Mary started wailing again.

“That’s it!” he yelled, jumping to his feet. “I’m takin’ care of this, once and for all!” He stomped toward the cradle.

“Fredrick, no!” Talia screamed, grabbing his arm. That was all she remembered for a while.

Talia awoke on the floor, face on fire. Her husband sat at the rough table, whiskey jug at hand. Something’s wrong… “Mary!” She scrambled to her feet.

“Died in her sleep,” said Fredrick, staring at the ceiling. “Prob’ly choked on somethin’. I went and gave her a good Christian burial out back. You say anything different, and you’ll be there next to her. Understand?” He took a long pull from his jug, then laid his head on the table.

“The Devil take you for what you done, Fredrick Hart,” she hissed. “And may he do you ten times worse than what you did to an innocent baby, for all eternity.” Then she passed out herself.

Fredrick Hart had a still at the back of his property, shielded from sight by a rhododendron hedge growing along the creek. He got a fair income from whiskey, and might have got more had he not been so fond of his own makings. This new moon night was just right for the work: plenty dark enough to keep trespassers at home, no wind so the fire wouldn’t get out of hand. The wife was keeping the house… not like she’d done much else these last few months. Never spoke unless spoken to, and only one or two words if that. Which suited him just fine —

Snap went a twig, and Fredrick slipped into the bushes. He left dry twigs all around the still, to give him fair warning. He drew his boot knife, slow and silent, and listened.

A squall went up. Fox got a rabbit, but it kept on like a hungry baby.

“What the hell,” he muttered, slipping around the rhododendron and along the soft moist creek bank. The wailing kept on, leading him. “Died in her sleep,” he whispered, not realizing. Truth be told, he didn’t remember what happened to Talia’s brat. He must have buried it, though. He’d later paid good coin for a crude headstone:

B. JAN 26, 18—
D. APR 4, 18—

The wailing. Fredrick wrung the hilt of his knife and followed the noise up the bank. Too dark to see, but he knew where he was.

Now the noise was behind him. He trotted along the edge of the river bank —

Talia found him the next afternoon, just above the still. He’d slipped and fell onto one of his own traps; the sharpened stick went in between his legs and came out behind his shoulder. From the look on his face, he’d lived a little while. She nodded and took the wagon into town for help.

Wiping her eyes with her free hand, Talia walked to the wagon. Without a word to anyone, she rode away, still clutching the bunch of late-summer flowers.

At home, she went to Mary’s little grave. Something — maybe a gopher — had dug a hole in the middle of it. Talia slipped the flowers into the hole. She glanced at the headstone, but her tears hid a line that had not been there before:



  1. Very creepy, and I love the early details in the story that put us right in that horrible situation.

  2. Very creepy, but you do get a sense of righteous pride when he gets his comeuppance. Hopefully little Mary did find peace after all.

  3. Ooo...I got chills. That was awesome! Such characterization. Wonderful!

  4. Wonderful details and a nice story to boot. I like that Mary was able to let her mom know all was good :)

  5. Obviously that hole let the spirit come up and tell its story to you. It is a dark one.

  6. Wow, darker indeed, but masterfully done! You truly are great at any genre you choose :).

    I hope Mary's mom goes onto have a happier life.

  7. From grubby to pragmatic to tragic to creepy. This actually sports some of the best range in one flash that I can remember you doing, Mr. FAR. I enjoyed it a lot, insofar as these matters can be enjoyable.

  8. Hi all, and thanks much!

    Jen, a horrid ending deserves a horrid beginning, no?

    Anne-M, imagine how I felt writing it…

    Icy, that's one of the few times I enjoyed killing off someone.

    Cherie, thanks. I got chills writing it too.

    Michael, "At rest" appeared on a lot of the children's headstones. Made me wonder.

    Tim, that's as good an explanation as any. Brrrr!

    Craig, that's high praise. I do enjoy writing different genres. I left out the part where a nice young man offered to rent the still…

    John, thanks… I was just along for the ride. Like you said, as far as these matters can be enjoyable, I enjoyed writing it. Or at least seeing what happened.

  9. That is the perfect amount of darkness. I love it.

  10. Nicely done, FAR. It's sad and creepy in just the right mixture.

  11. Very dark and creepy. His crime was some powerful stuff, justifying the heavy response.

  12. It's dark but pretty damn good. Glad he got what's coming to him!

  13. Good afternoon!

    Raven, good to see you again! I guess you've been writing all along, I've just managed to miss you on Twitter or something.

    Chuck, sad and creepy is a good description, thanks!

    Tony, like I told Icy, this is one of the rare occasions I enjoyed killing someone in a story.

    Sonia, what he got coming to him is only beginning. :D

  14. I could almost smell the nastiness of that bedroom. Feel his dirt and sweat...

    Great story! I was going to put off reading this till later tonight but I wanted to know about the hole in the grave.

    My mind first wandered during the bedroom scene if the Mother was going to kill him and then maybe make off with the body of the baby... too creepy. So I'm glad that there was swift justice without the Mom having to lose her baby as well as her mind.

    See you in a few week my friend!

  15. A truly well-deserved demise for the man, hopefully a very slow death.

    The last line was a nice touch, Mary's message to her mother.

  16. Fred is a dark, dark man and his comeuppance is well-deserved. Love how quickly you paint Fred and how when you believe he can't top his depravity he rises to the occasion.

  17. Janet, ick, LOL! BTW, if I'm not mistaken, I'll be there in 10 days. (arriving at PDX Mon 7-something pm your time)

    Steve, agreed. I wonder if Mary showed herself.

    Aidan, he was a vicious but sorry excuse for a man. I'm glad to say I never knew anyone like that in real life.

  18. Oh very good and creepy, loved the ending. A gold star to you Mr. FAR this was an excellent story!

  19. Definitely dark, although the human elements, Fredrick at least, are for more disturbing than the supernatural.

    Speaking of which, the supernatural is played with just the right amount of deniability, perfectly judged. This is very accomplished writing, FAR. =)

  20. Great story, man! So dark and scary! So sad about the baby! Great ending!

  21. I'm a peace loving fool but that don't mean I don't savour it when the bad guy gets his ... and all the more gruesome the better. This tale is certainly one of your best, sir.

  22. Morning!

    Thanks, Helen. I loved the ending too, I'll admit. :)

    John, there was very little planning or judgement in this, it just poured out (good thing because it was Thursday night). I made a couple adjustments, fixed what typos I saw, and called it good. But thanks much!

    Thanks, Xanto!

    Wow, thanks Jason. I tend to be a peace-loving fool too, even if I think about taking a clue-by-four to someone who really needs it.

  23. A twisted tale of revenge. If anyone deserved that kind of death, he certainly did. The picture made the story even more creepy.

  24. Got the chills. Very dark but very well told.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  25. Morning, all…

    Stephen, agreed. The picture (or rather, the sight that I took the picture of) is what made the story happen.

    Thanks much, Adam!

  26. Excellent story, I love the way you let us know what happens, but leave the details up to our imagination. Well done.

  27. Oh gosh - emotional and packed a punch (literally!) Great work - again ;)

  28. Oh, so Edgar Allen Poe ;). Nice job!

  29. That I'm still getting comments coming in as late as Tuesday (not to mention the volume of comments) suggests I managed to write a good one! ;-)

    Michael, welcome to the free-range insane asylum! I think it's true that the scariest monsters are the ones you never see.

    Brainhaze, bad pun. ;-) I forgive you though!

    Wow, Wendy, that's some company you put me in!


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