HumpDay Quickie #46

Posted: December 3, 2014 in Hump-Day Quickies
Tags: , , , , ,

by Nancy Chenier

Grandfather and Mama mouthed the words that coaxed the thorny bushes into an impenetrable fortress of vegetation. The sun’s rays, moon-shorn by a partial eclipse, failed to warm the lea. Gooseflesh crawled over Max’s skin.

Max knew that the brambles weren’t what held the Thing back. It was the spells. The brambles were supposed to keep outsiders from going in, from poking around and awakening something best left sleeping.

He let his gaze slide to his sister. Megan’s eyes were bright, her lips moved over the incantation. When she noticed Max watching, she slammed her lips shut. Her warning stare stabbed into his gut. A warning that reminded him of the late winter day in the attic, a place he hadn’t dared enter since. He shuddered.

Grandfather tried to buck him up with a smile that never managed to reach the sad wrinkles around his eyes. His smile had been like that ever since the Thing got Grandmother. Max’s memories of Grandmother consisted of wide warm lap and a hug just a little too tight.

Mama gathered him close. “Someday, I’ll teach you two the words to keep it contained,” she told him, her breezy tone belied by the concern creasing her brow. Megan’s glare found its way through Mama’s embrace and stitched his throat shut. His mother’s arms might as well have been coils of razor vine.

What the adults didn’t understand was that impenetrable brambles become invitations for summer-bored children, whose traded dares intensified as the days wear long. Megan never refused a dare.

With the truth sewn shut in his throat, he couldn’t warn them that it was probably too late. He’d needed that knowledge last winter.

The nest of baby squirrels his sister had secreted into the attic, their little mewlings and blind fumblings. The tiny heads squished between her thumb and forefinger. The way her eyes rolled back and her voice shifted between her own and two others. One that had a growling laugh too much like Dad’s. One that had a coo too much like Grandma’s.

No amount of adult assurances could erase the fear that Grandfather and Mama were now outnumbered.


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