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 And The Children Shall Lead

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Steve Rogers
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Steve Rogers

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PostSubject: And The Children Shall Lead   And The Children Shall Lead Icon_minitime6/6/2014, 7:51 pm

This is a short story I wrote a few months ago. I thought you all might like it. It's a horror story, so be warned.

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Itís not so much insomnia as it is just nightmares. Well, I mean, itís not just nightmares. †Look, theyíre really not that bad. Iím fine. I promise! If anything, itís just the neighborís stupid rat-dog barking its head off all night. And, in the whole grand scheme of things, it doesnít really matter. Iím just worried that Iím gonna get lost tomorrow, because I tend have problems navigating the school campus when I donít get enough sleep. But, I guess donít really have to worry about it because I think all of my classes are in the 800s building, tomorrow.

The 800s building of the Waterford School Campus is located at the very edge of the forty-acre school grounds. Nestled up right in the corner of a residential neighborhood and an elementary school whose students donít talk to strangers, the 800s building plays host to Waterfordís performing arts. Weíve got choir, orchestra, band, dance, and most importantly (in my opinion) the theater department.

The theater department resides in the Black Box Theater, room 80Ö something. I donít remember. Itís the last room in the building and itís big enough to span the entire hallway. The theater itself is exactly as its name describes: Itís a big box with hardwood floors and the walls are all painted black.

The Black Box is sufficiently lacking in terms of furniture; theyíre a few fold-out chairs for students to sit on during lectures or performances, and a few wood tables and other flat surfaces stacked high with plays and books of poetry, or carefully cluttered with an array of masks- some that talk and some that donít. Sometimes, near the week a show goes up, there might be a simplistic stage and a couple of risers set up, but itís all taken down in a week or two. Complete with massive brick walls, thick, impenetrable doors, and a grand collection of prop swords and daggers backstage- basically, weíre all pretty sure that the theater was designed with the intention of surviving a nuclear holocaust or the zombie apocalypse.

Although, sometimes- late at night, when the light equipment howls and groans, and our bare-feet footsteps bark and growl in contrast to the silence of the empty stage- I wonder if the builders of the theater designed it not to keep something out, but to ensure that something stays locked insideÖ

Iíve been going to the Waterford School since kindergarten. Iím a senior now, and in those twelve years Iíve seen some pretty terrifying stuff: middle school dances, standardized tests, our Canadian principal wearing tight gold pantsÖ Heck, I had a Vietnam veteran for a math teacher. Twice. I know what fear is. And believe me, after twelve years of dealing with sarcastic teachers and a homework load so heavy that sometimes Iíd hallucinate due to lack of sleep, Iíve learned to question everything that doesnít seem logical. Iíve learned to live my life by a strict set of equations and calculations, to know exactly where the fire extinguisher is during chemistry class, and I can tell you a thousand different ways to reduce stress- none of which actually work.

But I canít tell you where it all went wrong; Iíve never been very good at checking my answers. And even if I could, itís not like I could do anything about it. Because if I could, believe me, I would.

Iíve always had an active imagination. I donít think I actually paid attention in a single class up until the 4th Grade when they told me that Iíd ďcaught ADHDĒ. Look, they can tell me what they want, give me pills, whatever. I donít care; you canít cure imagination. And thatís all it is: an over active imagination and sleep deprivation.

Besides, it only happened once- and that was nearly four years ago.

I was in 8th Grade. It was a Wednesday; I remember because the play, Macbeth, was going up in two days, on Friday. It was the week before Halloween, which was bad enough because I scare easily. But the fact that we were not only performing the Cursed Scottish Play, but that my only entrance was through the trap door, just made it that much worse.

Hereís the thing about the trap door: Itís terrifying. No, I take that back. Terrifying is an understatement. I mean, simply getting INTO the trap door is a feat in and of itself! It involves leaving the Black Box and going downstairs into the sketchy, concrete-walled basement. Then, you have to climb a creaky, steep, narrow set of wooden stairs, where you would then sit in a tiny, claustrophobic room, with nothing to do but listen to the ceiling groan as people walked over your head. But the worst part about it all? The staircase is located in the far back corner of the Prop Room.

How do I even begin to describe the sheer horror that is the Prop Room? Itís like somebody just sneezed out all of my nightmares; a chaotic disarray of mannequins and furniture and something else that just might be living.

Now imagine having to walk down there, at night, the week before Halloween, with three other people who happened to be dressed- in full costume and make-up- as bloody, mutilated ghosts. It would be an understatement to say that I was a little on-edge.

The Prop Room was dim, one of the lights flickering weakly and two others having gone out already. My three companions were already climbing up the narrow staircase, but I had stopped. Stopped to look behind me just to make sure one of the creepy angel statues hadnít gotten any closer. The wooden staircase barked as my companions continued on. Even from the basement, I could hear the wind howling, screaming at me.

ďDonít worry, master, I am still here. I am still staying. I will wait, master. I am obedient. I love you master,Ē

It was a smooth, quiet voice that came from behind me in the darkness.

That was when I panicked.

Iím fine now, though. And Iím not crazy- I promise. Even if I was then, Iím not anymore.

Itís the very and of November, now, and itís freezing cold outside, despite the lack of snow. The Black Box is too big to heat up without blowing the schoolís bills through the roof, so weíve got two plug-in heaters that we all huddle around when it gets too cold. Iím not cold, though. Iím too excited to be cold: I turn eighteen in two weeks. Iíll be a legal adult.

In all honesty, itís more about the title than anything else. I mean, sure voting is great, but I couldnít really care less about politics whilst the college application date looms just around the corner.

Iím so lost in my thoughts that I neglect to see the six-year-old girl sitting cross-legged in the middle of the hallways. I end up tripping over her as Iím leaving the Black Box after play practice.

She doesnít make a sound, doesnít even flinch. Sheís got an orange crayon in her little fist and sheís scribbling mercilessly inside of a flimsy, college-rule notebook. Worried that I may have hurt her, I frantically ask her if sheís OK but she doesnít seem to hear me. She flips to a new page in the notebook and begins scribbling, again. Sheís pressing down forcefully, her little knuckles turning white. I put a hand on her tiny shoulder and ask again, but the second I touch her shoulder, she whips around and lashes out at me. I fly to my feet and press up against the wall, squeaking in fear- but sheís already gone back to her scribbling.

Feeling numb, I lean over the kid again, trying to get a glimpse of what she might be drawing. It looks like a puppy with two jagged lines running down its chest. Two jagged lines that mustíve been fur. I keep telling myself that itís fur and not teeth because thereís no way that this little kid could be drawing something so evil and miscreated.

Okay, sheís really starting to freak me out, so I make the active decision to grab my backpack and go. I reach the end of the building and Iím pushing open the door when I hear the little girlís voice reciting what was probably the most disturbing nursery rhyme Iíd ever heard in my life:

I went out to go and play
But daddy ran away today.
I met a dog who loved me so,
He waited there for me to grow.
And those he knew would make me cry
He ate them and dressed in their hides.
He took their place for me, you see.
And now heís coming to get me.

What.

I turn around to ask her where in Godís name she learned such an awful nursery rhyme, but sheís still intensely scribbling on the floor and I am way too tired to deal with this so I decide just to leave.

But I canít stop thinking about her as I sit through my classes the next day in school. It bothers me. She bothers me. I canít concentrate, I canít pay attention. I donít take notes, I just doodle. To my horror, I realize that Iím scribbling. To my horror, I realize what Iím scribbling.

Sheís not there when I arrive at the Black Box at 3:30 for play practice, much to my disappointment. But my disappointment doesnít last long. Two hours later, Iím the last to leave and there she is, scribbling away.

Itís dark outside and the lights in the hallways are switching off as the school begins to shut down for the night. My heart clenches in my chest. I donít know why, but suddenly, Iím absolutely petrified by this little girl. I force myself to step forward, trying to work up my courage to talk to her, again.

Sheís got earbuds in her ears.

Oh thank God. I relax significantly with this new discovery. My legs wobble and I lean against the wall, giving a few breathy laughs. Somehow, these earbuds make her seem a little more human, a little more normal. Sheís just a little kid listening to music, thatís all. Sheís just distracted, lost in her own little world- Why do I hear barking?

Iím not crazy. I swear to God, Iím not crazy! I know I heard barking! I know I did, I know it! No... Iím not crazy. Oh God, no, itís her. I swallow thickly but my mouth is dry and sticking to my tongue. Sheís listening to a soundtrack of dogs barking. Sheís blasting it so loud in her tiny little ears that I can hear it from a good seven feet away.

Nope. Iím done. This kid has some serious problems and I donít really want to get mauled by a six-year-old tonight, so I hightail it out of there. But of course, sheís back the next night, and the night after that, and the next night, too. And, of course, nobody else can see her. Not that Iíd bring it up to anybody: I donít want them to think Iím crazy which, of course, Iím not.

Iíve gotten rather used to the presence of this little girl, always there waiting for me as I go home each night. But then, one night, sheís not. I panic. I shriek and pound my fists against the wall and scream curses which is OK because nobody was there to hear me. Not that it would matter, anyways. Everybodyís been ignoring, pretending Iím not there. Itís one of the reasons that Iím so upset! Iím the victim of a cruel, cruel prank.

And Iíve just about reached my breaking point when suddenly, the director mentions something about going to the Prop Room and getting a lantern or something. And then I realize that heís pointing at me. Iím so absolutely thrilled to finally be spoken to, that it doesnít really resonate what horror this task entails.

My blood runs cold.

Iím not insane. Iím not crazy. I swear to God I am just fine. Itís an irrational fear, I know, I know. Itís fine. Iím fine! Iím not crazy! I promise Iím fine but please, God, donít make me go down in that room! Please God! Please! Donít make me go down there! Please!

-No. Iím fine. Iím fine. It doesnít bother me. I shrug and nonchalantly take the keys. He looks at me normally as if he doesnít think Iím crazy which is just fine because Iím not.

I slip out of the bulky doors and flinch because I think I see a monster outside. Itís just a dog. Except its not. Itís †a nightmare. I meanÖ That it looks like a dog from one of my reoccurring nightmares. A boxer whose maw opens down its sternum. I take a step closer to the window, just to make sureÖ No, itís just a dog.

But then again, it all feels like a nightmare. Like the one where I find a scalpel in the Prop Room and dissect myself.

Odd. I donít remember taking a single step but suddenly Iím staring down the flank of a door in the basement. It takes me several minutes to gather what little courage I have and twist the door knob.

ďYou shouldnít have done thatÖĒ I hear the little girlís voice whisper inside my head.

The hinges shriek and I open the door
.
I wish I hadnít.

All I see is a massive, dark form. And teeth. Far too many teeth.

ďYou are almost grown up, master! And then we can be friendsÖ we can be friends foreverÖ I have been waiting, master. I have been waiting so long to be with youÖ I love you, master,Ē

I hear somebody scream. It takes me longer than I should to realize that itís me. The dark mass moves closer and all I can see are beady eyes, glinting in the hellish light of my nightmares. Iím frozen in the spot, too scared to move. I can feel it holding me down with its gaze.

I gasp for air and squeeze my eyes shut, desperately clawing at freedom. My limbs lash about with painful jerks as I try and pull myself away. I slam into a tiny form. Itís the girl. Sheís holding out something for me: my script. One of the pages is ripped and hanging out of the binder. Itís covered in orange, waxy scribbles.

This is the purpose of the Hell Child. She is nothing more than a slave to the monster in the Prop Room, forced to do its bidding. This is her task. Whatever she has written in this script is nothing more than what the monster wants me to see.

I donít want to know. I donít want it. No. No! NO! I donít want it! I donít want you! I run away from the Hell Child but she follows me. She follows me into the parking lot: I find my script on the dashboard of my car. In a desperate attempt to rid myself of the God forsaken thing, I throw it out the window of my car and run it over.

I find it sitting on my bed when I get home.

She wonít stop following me. Everywhere I go, sheís there, holding my script, offering it to me, tempting me to read her twisted story. I canít think. I canít breathe. I canít find any of my text books, I havenít gone to school in days- not that it matters. The teachers are still keeping up with that cruel prank of theirs. And whatís worse: My parents have joined in as well. My mother wonít acknowledge my existence and my father hasnít come home in three days.

Itís my birthday. I turn eighteen today. Iíll be a legal adult. Iím grown up now. Itís my birthday and thereís only one present for me. Itís sitting on the counter, waiting for me. I canít run from it anymore. Last I saw it, it was sitting on the nightstand, but now itís on the counter. I donít question it anymore. I pick up my script and flip it open. The Hell Child is watching me. I can feel it.

Her scribbles depict a story Iíve heard before. A nursery rhyme.

I went out to go and play
But daddy ran away today.
I met a dog who loved me so,
He waited there for me to grow.
And those he knew would make me cry
He ate them and dressed in their hides.
He took their place for me, you see.
And now heís coming to get me.

Her scribbles are haphazard. Forced. They disturb me and I want to stop looking but my actions arenít my own anymore. The Hell Child forces me to keep looking. She controls my every movement. My body is her plaything.

The final page makes me gag. Itís the dog. The dog from my nightmares. It was too accurate, too good to be drawn by anyone but a professional artist. It was finely detailed and all drawn in orange crayon.

ďMommy says I canít have a dog until I grow upÖĒ I think I hear the Hell Childís voice inside my head but then I realize that itís my own voice. My own thoughts. My own memories.

To my horror, the walls of my kitchen have deformed around into the Hell of my nightmares: The Prop Room. I find myself staring into the beady eyes of a dark, deformed mass of fur and teeth. Far too many teeth.

ďI missed you master,Ē The voice is smooth like oil.

The sickly yellow light flickers and burns and in the corner of my eye I see something that nearly makes me throw up. It looks like a costume. A full on skin-suit and mask.

It looks like my father.

I went out to go and play
But Daddy ran away today.

My father who abandoned my family when I was six.

And those he knew would make me cry
He ate them and dressed in their hides.

ďI didnít want you to be lonelyÖĒ The monster whimpered guiltily. ďI did it because I love you masterÖĒ

He took their place for me, you see.

Itís a dog. It whimpers for a moment then looks up at me. It stops whimpering. ďNow we wonít be lonely. Neither of us. Not ever,Ē

Panicking, I look around for the Hell Child- the little girl, desperate for her help. But sheís not going to help me. She canít. The only person in here is my reflection in a broken mirror.

ďI waited so long, masterÖ I waited so long for youÖĒ

I was six years old when my father left. And I went out to look for him. I never found him. I met a dog. A dog who was lonely tooÖ I promised him Iíd love him forever.

ďBut now youíre grown upÖ and we can be friends foreverÖĒ The thing smiles at me. His sternum begins to split open. Teeth. Far too many teeth.

Iíd seen that smile before. It scared me. I told him that mom wouldnít let me have a dog until I grew up.

And now heís coming to get me.

ďI love you masterÖĒ

The headline on the paper the next day had only nine words: SIX-YEAR-OLD GIRL FOUND DEAD: MAULED BY DOG.
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Doug The Turtle
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PostSubject: Re: And The Children Shall Lead   And The Children Shall Lead Icon_minitime6/6/2014, 7:57 pm

Oh my gosh. This is amazing. Write mooooree!
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Rhyolo
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PostSubject: Re: And The Children Shall Lead   And The Children Shall Lead Icon_minitime6/6/2014, 8:13 pm

Dido here bro
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Steve Rogers
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Steve Rogers

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PostSubject: Re: And The Children Shall Lead   And The Children Shall Lead Icon_minitime6/6/2014, 9:42 pm

I can't actually continue on this story, but I have a couple of other short stories I can post, if you want.
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Rhyolo
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PostSubject: Re: And The Children Shall Lead   And The Children Shall Lead Icon_minitime6/6/2014, 9:47 pm

go for it.
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Brastus
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PostSubject: Re: And The Children Shall Lead   And The Children Shall Lead Icon_minitime6/13/2014, 10:27 pm

I find this completely riveting and enticing. The narrator, first person which is my preferred one for stories, is brilliant with a good reflection of our society today, while the whole mysterious atmosphere of the short story leaves behind a feeling of yearning and desire to learn more. Overall, a marvelous piece of literature that left me wanting more. So sad it was this shortÖbecause I wanted to read a lot more.

8/10 becouse I wanted MOAR well, an eight and a half cuz it's that good.
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