Suffer Little Children. Short Story.

The freshly fallen snow was invitingly unbroken. The world seemed to hold its breath in awe of the beauty. The skeletal trees which before had seemed dark and threatening now looked clean and fresh. The silence was only broken when two children ran into a clearing, the crunch of snow and their gasps for breath filled the air. Their eyes fill of glee and their cheeks red, they continued running, the boy in front stopped and scooping snow as he turned, threw a snowball at his sister. The cold seeped in through her jacket as she went to pick up snow to retaliate. Before she could aim the cold missile her brother set off again. She started to after him but she realised he was too far away. She looked around her surrounding, realising they were deep in the woods she called out to her brother “Joshua! We should go back, the snow will start falling again soon and we won’t be able to find our way back.” Her brother slowed but didn’t stop, wary of trickery. The girl looked at the grey sky, growing nervous.

She didn’t want to be caught in a snow storm, they were close to home, but if the snow fell as rapidly as before it would obliterate the markings along the path. She looked over to where her brother was running. He had disappeared from view. She muttered “idiot” under her breath and started to go after him. She walked carefully, she thought Joshua would hide behind a tree and would try and surprise her. Now aware of the cold she did not want her jacket to get any wetter.

As she got closer to the spot she had last seen him a sense of dread grew in her stomach. “C’mon Joshua, we have to go back” a twig cracked to her left, causing her to jump. She turned towards the noise “Joshua, I know you’re there, stop playing games, I’m getting cold.” Behind the trees he started giggling, she shook her head, he always giggled when he was about to get caught in hiding games. She looked for his footprints, figuring she would double around and catch him from behind. She followed his foot prints further down the path, trying to pretend she wasn’t following them. In doing so she nearly fell down the hole. Seeing it she stopped suddenly, fright causing her to stumble backwards.

Creeping carefully closer she looked into its inky depth. Standing once more she notices Joshua’s footprints stopped at the hole. Her eyes were drawn to a splash of brilliant red at the edge, she bent over again and called out “Joshua?” she could hear a faint moan. She was still unsure if he had fallen or if it was just an animal. She remembered hearing him behind some trees and realised he was probably just trying to scare her. Already a plan was forming, she too would pretend to fall by screaming and then she would hide and when Joshua came to investigate she would sneak behind him and scare him. As she turned she felt long fingers with sharp points rest on her back before being pushed into the hole. Her head barely missing the edge. She screamed as she fell, her hands flying out and grasping at the sides, hoping to grab a root, but her hands found nothing but smooth earth. The fall seemed endless in the darkness. The light from the opening failed to penetrate the darkness, no longer was she aware of which direction was up or down. She readied herself for the eventual impact.

Her screams which had died off started again as branches started to hit her face and body, her clothes tearing as they tried to protect her. She slowed as the branches were beginning to grow closer together, although they slowed her, the thud of the impact left her writhing in pain and trying to breathe.  When the pain had subsided she gingerly stood, remembering the way the ground had shifted as she had hit it. She could hear someone whimpering “Joshua?” “M-Martha?” as Martha moved towards her brother her feet sunk into the ground, she noticed that she seemed to be standing on a mound and, holding her hand outwards walked towards the sounds of her brother “Joshua keep talking, I can’t see anything” Joshua had once more started whimpering, following the noise she soon found him. Bending down Martha wrapped him in her arms “are you hurt?” “I-I don’t think so” relief flooded over her.

Now that she wasn’t concentrating so hard on finding her brother Martha became aware of a rotting stench that surrounded them. Behind her there was the sound of breaking branches before a thump. They could hear the ground shifting as whatever landed moved about. The thing started to giggle. Martha turned towards the noise “you’re the one who pushed me! Where are we? And how do we get out?”  the giggling stopped “wouldn’t you like to know” the creature giggled against, it’s voice was old and unused, the words sounded as if they had to fight to escape the clutches of the creatures throat “I’ve been alone so long. No one to play with. Its been so long” “maybe if you showed us the way out we could play together outside, in the fresh air with the snow” the creature sighed “but if I let you out, you might run away. I’ve been so lonely and so hungry” “I promised you we won’t run away and there is food at our house, we’ll happily share” Martha knew their only hope was to try and bargain with the creature.

As Martha felt warm breath caress her ear, she suppressed a shudder “so many have made promises, empty promises. They lied, like you are lying now. I can smell it on you. So many come here to visit, it’s so much fun, no one ever leaves” the stench of the creatures breath filled her nostrils. Martha though she might pass out from the wretched stench but the creature seemed to move away from her. She could hear it take a deep breath before it giggled again.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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