Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Tale of the Little Lost Girl

I've always enjoyed writing shorter pieces. Flash fiction, short stories and the like. But I've never really known what to do with them. I've published one short story and then a collection of even shorter stories, but I think I prefer to publish longer works. For now, I'm going to publish them here first and see what you all think.
So, here is the first one.  Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this one....
The Tale of the Little Lost Girl
Catherine stirred in bed. Her eyes slipped open.
She groaned. Not again. Third night in a row. Too frustrated and tired to be gentle, she dug her elbow into Mark's back. "Get up. Your kid wants you."
He didn't move. "Mark?" He was usually such a light sleeper. Usually the sound of his daughter's voice woke him from a dead sleep. Catherine pushed her herself onto her elbows, glaring at the lump beside her. "Mark!"
She scoffed, throwing the blankets off. "Fine! I'll do it myself." If I ever get my hands on those little shits…
Maybe this was a mistake, she thought. Not about checking on Maddie. She'd give anything to just have that kid quiet the hell down. It was moving in together that she doubted. Catherine had thought she was ready. That she could handle the commitment. That a little stability would do her good. But what could she do now? They'd bought the house together. He'd gone into debt. She'd spent most of her savings.
Dragging her feet across the smooth, chilly hardwood floor, she passed the few photos and paintings they'd had enough time to hang on the walls. The photos were mostly his. Father and daughter smiling happily. The paintings were all hers. The pieces she hadn't been able to sell or just loved too much to try.
Catherine came to Maddie's room and reached for the handle. She paused momentarily, taking another sour-faced look at the mysterious painting that had started it all.
The Little Lost Girl.
That's what they called it, but there was no name for it. Not technically. No one knew who painted it or even where it came from. A little blonde girl in a short, light blue dress. Blonde, tight ringlets. She stood far enough into the background that nothing else was distinguishable. The rest of the painting was black with shades of grey that gave the feeling that the little girl was in a darkened hallway or tunnel. Or void.
For Catherine, it had been the selling point of the house. She would have preferred buying the painting, but it was inexplicably attached to the house. The owner wouldn't sell it without the house.
Maddie had hated the painting from the moment they moved in. Now, thanks to what those snot-nosed brats had whispered to her on the playground, she was downright terrified of it. After three nights of this bullshit, Catherine's feelings for the painting weren't particularly warm either.
"She's not always so far," Maddie had reported three days ago, referring to the painting. "She doesn't stay put."
"They're just trying to scare you," Catherine had scolded her.
Every small town had its story. A town eccentric, a creepy house, a local legend. The painting was this town's story. The one everyone knew and never tired of talking about. The little lost girl. Both Catherine and Mark had gotten looks from people when they said where they'd moved. That house? they asked. Does she really move? But have you looked? I mean really looked?
Well, Catherine had. For hours. And what she'd seen…it didn't mean anything. An effect of light and shadow. Like the Mona Lisa's eyes following you around the room.
She sighed, sparing one last look towards the picture before turning the knob. She did a quick double take. For a moment it seemed like the little girl stood in the foreground. But when Catherine looked again, she was right where she was supposed to be. She rolled her eyes. Just a trick of the light.
"Okay, Maddie—" Catherine started before stopping short. The room was still. Completely quiet. "Maddie?"
Her bed sat under the window. Gauzy white curtains hung down. Moonlight seeped through. Maddie was tangled in her cover, her hair a dark mess over her face and pillow. She was out cold and had been for awhile. A chill crept over Catherine's skin. There was no way that Maddie had been awake and calling for her father only a few short minutes ago.
Catherine backed out of the room. Your imagination. You didn't hear anything. That happened sometimes in a deep sleep. You heard things. Saw things. She closed the door gently. The soft click was the only sound to disturb the quiet air. She didn't know why, but she looked again.
The painting.
The little lost girl.
She was gone.
She isn't lost. The words came back to Catherine in that moment. It had been a strange thing for Maddie to say. Out of the blue during dinner. She isn't lost. They put her there. Because she was bad.
Catherine's fingers grazed the place on the canvas where the little girl had been. Where she'd always been. It was empty now. Just as black and bare as the rest of the painting.
Just your imagination, she repeated. A culmination of three days of little sleep and the stress of moving. Perhaps she was still half dreaming as well. That happened sometimes. Just your imagin
"Mommy?" The voice was soft and cheery. Too cheery for the dead of night.
Catherine's heart leapt into her throat at the sound. She spun around.
Limp, stringy ringlets hung about her shoulders, any bounce and charm long faded. Hollow eyes. She cocked her head to the side. Her eyes wide. Almost innocence. "Where did you go, Mommy?"
Catherine shook her head. Her mouth hung open like a fish, but no sound came.
She's not lost.
The little girl stepped towards Catherine. "I didn't know where you were." A smile graced her face, pulling her lips back.
Catherine stepped back, pressing herself against the wall, against the painting.
The little girl took another step, reaching out her hand. "I missed you."
Catherine found her voice and screamed. But she was falling backwards, back into nothingness. A darkness so deep that it swallowed the sound as quickly as she unleashed it.
She kept falling.
Somewhere above, the little girl crawled in after her.

As a huge Are you Afraid of the Dark? fan, I've always wanted to say that! It's so dramatic and chilling....sqeeee!
So, what do you think of my flash fiction? In general, I tend to use slightly unlikable characters (can a character even be slightly unlikable? Or is it an absolute thing?). I think they're more interesting, but I know that some people disagree. What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know!

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