Sticks and Stones, Part 2

Hello there. As with last week’s, the piece was written in one sitting (plus an edit or two after!) with no planning. I’m kind of enjoying just writing and seeing where the story takes me, if I’m honest. How it affects the final piece, well you can judge for yourself below! But, while I’m having fun, I’ll carry on doing it. Enjoy!

Sticks and Stones, Part 1

Sticks and Stones, Part 2

We speak, we die.

Bloody hell.

I slide out Clive’s office chair and slump into its cold leather. I rub my temples in a desperate attempt to stop the pounding beyond them. Something nudges my foot.

I look up and Clive has written something else on another sheet of paper. More this time.

IT’S ON EVERY CHANNEL
IT’S HAPPENING EVERYWHERE
I KNOW IT’S CRAZY
BUT WE MUSTN’T SPEAK
JUST IN CASE

I finish reading and give him a half-accepted nod. I mean, how does something like this happen? It’s too much to try to untangle on a Monday morning. I decide to write down my most immediate question.

WILL LISTENING TO THE NEWS HURT US?

Clive shrugs. We sit in silence for a few minutes, each contemplating our own thoughts. At least that’s what I’m doing. I really want to turn the television back on, despite not knowing what may happen after. Clive’s been listening to it for a while and he’s OK, so it could be fine. Then it dawns on me. Did I say something to cause that young boy outside to die? The very thought makes me nauseous again, although I know there can’t be much more inside to be brought to the surface. Still, my stomach is in knots. I probably just killed that boy.

Clive forces another sign in front of me.

WE SHOULD SWITCH IT BACK ON?

You know when you’re younger and there’s that place in your house your parents told you not to go to, but you did it anyway. A place you know you’ll get in trouble for going – like the basement or your mum’s make-up drawer – but you just can’t help yourself. This feels like that. The need to know what’s going on outweighs the fear of what may happen. So, as with even the most obedient of cats, curiosity gets the better of me.

I throw Clive an enthusiastic nod.

The television, long since lost in this era, chimes to life with a waning fizz. After seconds of warming up, the screen fills with…nothing. I flick to the next channel and get a “Programming Interruption” message. The following channel displays the same, as does the channel after that. I quietly curse Clive’s inability to find a comfortable place with the modern man by the fact he still doesn’t have Freeview. That’s when my phone vibrates.

I already feel silly for forgetting about it as I swipe it out of my cardie pocket. It’s a message from my sister, Ellie.

WTF is going on? Where are you? Are you OK?

We’ve always been close – sisters born only a year apart usually are, I think – but grew to rely on each other even more after mum and dad passed. It was obviously a tough time, but with no other immediate family, all we had was one another. We still meet up once or twice a week, despite her moving away last summer, to catch up and exchange stories.

I notice the message was sent over thirty minutes ago but is only reaching me now. The network must be suffering problems. With probably hundreds upon thousands of people all trying to text or call family and friends, I guess that’s understandable. I fire off a quick reply telling her I’m OK, that I’m safe in work, and tell her that under no circumstance must she speak. To anyone.

I hate the thought of her sat alone at home with my two-year old nephew, Lance. Unfortunately, he’s started speaking a lot lately. I guess the fact she has text me is good news, so I decide to take it as such. I force from my mind thoughts of children arriving at schools, all playing and laughing and shouting. Dropping dead. Not having the news suddenly seems a blessing.

Clive taps me.

WHAT NOW?

I shake my head. I decide to deal with something I know I can and make my way to the bathroom opposite. My knee is still throbbing from the fall and the cut needs to be cleaned. As I pass across the hallway I catch the front door burst open out of the corner of my eye. Two figures rush inside.

Sandra, a middle-aged lady who looks a hell of a lot older, usually arrives later than the rest of us as she has three children of school age. “Bloody traffic again!” she’s found shouting most mornings. Not today, I hope. Please God, not today.

I panic and wave my right hand around manically while covering my mouth with my left. She acknowledges my mad mime and gestures that she understands. While this makes me feel a little better, the sight of the person with her does not.

I can’t believe I didn’t see it right away, but the little girl with her must be her youngest daughter. She’s mentioned her many times before but her name alludes me. Right now the little girl is thrashing around with duct tape across her mouth and her hands bound together. As I get closer to the two of them it is clear Sandra has been crying. The fact she only has one of her three children with her is enough to tell me why. The girl’s pleading mumbles grow more intense and send a shiver right through me. The poor thing has no idea why her mum has done this to her.

I try to think of what my mother would do right now. She always seemed to find the right words at the right time whenever me or my sister were upset. If she were here right now, she’d know what to do. She’d have the girl laughing and smiling in no time, I’m sure of it.

What she wouldn’t do is shove me out of the way. I turn to see a furious Clive ripping the tape from the girl’s mouth, gesturing wildly at Sandra who promptly bursts into tears. Sandra tries to reach across to stop her daughter from screaming but Clive pushes her away. I’ve never seen him so animated, so angry. I go to move closer but it’s already too late. The girl’s shouts for help are quickly followed by two loud bumps and a suddenly silent room.

Only she and I are still standing.

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Author: jackkholt

Film graduate. Lover of lots of good films and quite a few bad ones. Reader. Writer. Novel in progress, obviously.

21 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones, Part 2”

  1. Had to go back to the original, as the opening of Part 2 here was way too confusing on me. The possible multiple unmarked narrators and getting my bearings about what was going on were the factors I could identify. Funny that the story gets more narratively comprehensible not just in content but in presentation as it goes along. Did you notice that as you were composing it, Jack?

    1. I did seem to find my flow as I went along, that’s for sure. Was it the signing that confused you, would you say? Although it is a Part 2, should I have clarified the situation again, do you think? Thanks, John.

      1. No, you don’t have to clarify the sign again, Jack. That was my job as a reader, going back to the previous part to make sense of it. Certainly as the start to one of many pieces of flash fiction on my day I couldn’t parse voice without clicking back. Though it’s probably perfect in your head, it’s difficult to assess voice early without many delineations beyond paragraph breaks. Para1 is actually him quoting the paper, Para2 is his commentary, Para3 and Para4 are more detached action, Para5 changes font-presentation and is a new note, and draws us into a pattern of notes Versus action/interpretation for a few paragraphs. None of that is necessarily bad writing, but it is very choppy, especially with the brevity of the initial paragraphs. I hope my comment didn’t come across as an attack.

      2. Fantastic stuff, John. I didn’t take it as an attack at all. This is all great stuff – I really appreciate you taking the time to comment in this way. I don’t think I’ll learn anything otherwise.

        I take your point about it all seeming more clear in my head. I wouldn’t say perfect, mind you!

        The choppiness, too, I guess comes from the notes and then the text message with action inbetween. It’s certainly something I’ll look at more closely next time.

        Thanks again. 🙂

  2. Interesting and another tense read. I didn’t expect the part with Clive ripping the duct tape off the little girl. Yikes! What is causing this? How is this going to be resolved? I have these questions and it makes me want to read more.

  3. Crap — if that actually happened, I’d be kaput pretty quick. Mason’s a chatterbox!

    I didn’t have the issue with remembering what happened before, once Clive handed her the note. Obviously there will be a part 3, and I’m looking forward to it. I wonder how our narrator will keep the kid from speaking…

  4. I still dig the concept, I think it has legs. It’s also a good sign that its flowing nicely. I have the feeling this might be turning into something bigger. It’ll need work though. 🙂

  5. This piece is full of tension, it expresses the dilemma they find themselves in and the inability to do anything about it. I found this piece far more dramatic than the first. The story develops! The piece about Sandra and her daughter add just the right touch.

  6. The thought of how kids would mix into this is incredibly chilling. I guess I’ve too often thought that they couldn’t shut up to save their own lives — hate to think mine would hang on their ability to hush.

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