Broken

sewers

We ran along the cold corridors of the underground sewer. We have to get away, we have to get away, was all I could think. I could still hear water splashing from where we had come. They would catch us.

I squeezed my oldest child to my chest protectively; he was whimpering from his injury. He buried his face in my shoulder to muffle his own cries. My legs trembled from fear and subconscious knowledge, which was screaming at me, but I didn’t have time to listen. I didn’t want to listen. I dragged along the youngest by his hand.

Fortunately, if there was one thing that the little one-year old had learned in the past two months, it was to run. Forget talking. He would probably never talk. He had changed from a normal noisy child to one that said nothing. The look in his eyes didn’t reflect things that a child’s eyes held. They were deep and sad and fearful. Even when I held him close, that look of fear never left his eyes. What would become of my children?

Turning a few more corners in the sewers, I finally heard no more pursuit. But my ears strained to hear what was not there. I knew something wasn’t right. It was too quiet.

I ducked into a drainage pipe. I slid on my back with my unconscious three-year old upon my chest, and the wet sludge gave me a chill. The youngest followed without a sound.

Sliding carefully, quietly, out of the pipe, I propped myself against the wall of the secluded sewer sections. Silence, even as the youngest crawled out of the pipe. Finally, perhaps, we were safe for a while.

Then, I turned to examine the oldest.

How many times can you keep a crying child quiet?

How many ways can you answer the question, “Where is my mommy?” How many times do you answer before you go crazy?

How do you hide your children, protect them, when they themselves are the one thing that puts them in the most danger? How do you protect them when you can scarcely protect yourself?

The answers are simple.

As many times as you have to.

As many ways as they ask. She’s dead. She was killed, She’s in Heaven. She can’t be here right now. If you be very quiet, you’ll hear her.

You don’t go crazy from the asking. You go crazy when they stop asking.

When alone in the effort, you do your best. You try to keep them alive. You try to stay alive, because your death means their deaths. You try…

Your damnedest…

I held the lifeless body of my three-year old child close. I felt as dark and broken inside as was the tunnel in which we hid. I felt the weight of a hundred thousand cuddles, kisses, tears. I could see his eyes, in thousands of shades, each painting a different emotion. All painting memories. The light in his eyes when he held his brother close. That light was always there, shining like a beacon in the dark. But now it was gone.

All of my body shook with pain and denial, but my soul spoke, saying that he suffered no more, that he had reached a place without fear and without danger.

I felt like a terrible father. I let him down. I didn’t even say a word to him. I didn’t tell him how much I loved him, how much I needed him. All I did was scoop him up and run. He deserved so much more than this. To laugh, to play. To see the sun again…

Dammit… Not like this… I…

I… didn’t even have a place to bury him. His little body…

Lying in the sewer… Such an injustice…

I took his little hands in mine. They were covered in dirt.

No I couldn’t do that… I couldn’t let that happen to him…

How did I let this happen to him… He’s just a little boy…

My one-year old shook his brother, and stared at me, as if to say, “Why won’t Bubby play?”

But, then those eyes became windows, windows peering into my being: a reflection of the emptiness and pain tearing at my soul.

He placed his hand on his brother’s face. “Bub-by.”

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27 Responses to Broken

  1. Akira Okihu says:

    Just marking this so I know to read it. I don’t have the time right now. Thanks!

  2. Akira Okihu says:

    This is sad! Why! I got a tear of my eye! Beautiful yet so meaningful,so lovely and so depressive… Feelings are battling inside me because of your story!

  3. This is heart-wrenching. It makes me want to go hug my kids.

  4. Wow. Sad and chilling. As a father to a small child this was really hard to read through.

  5. A dash-dare story of fatherly love. I wonder what they are running from? Surely not zombies, and perhaps the world is apocalyptic, and they’re running from others try to survive…? I guess it doesn’t matter who they’re running from, the point is the family is desperate. The father is desperate. He’s out of his depth. The ending caught me by surprise, I had to re-read to see if I was imagining it! so sad. You’ve created a stark picture, vividly portrayed.

    • vozey says:

      Thanks for reading Iain, I appreciate the feed back. The world is apocalyptic, i’ve decided that much. The rest of the pieces are still falling in place.

  6. Okay my previous message was like word-diarrhea, I just typed and didn’t look up. This story deserves more than this…

    You’ve captured the character’s tensions really well. The father’s need to protect contradicts with his need to survive. He finds himself trying to play the role of a mother to his two kids; yet, the threat bearing down on him means he can’t nurture and grow them to be all that they should. He feels helpless, but has to be helplessly strong.

    As the eldest says, “Bub-by,” the tension grows even deeper. Not only has a great light gone out of the world, but the danger following them could iend it for them all. He want’s to give his son a decent burial, but he’s in a sewer. He has to protect his other son, give his child the respect he deserves, escape unharmed, and then deal with the trauma at the other end.

    On top of all that, what will he say to his son when it comes to burying Bubby? What untold effects will this have on his life? How long will they run? Will they ever stop?

    Good stuff James.

  7. Saunved says:

    This is beautiful…deep and dark. You have an excellent way with your words…Kept me hooked on (i usually give up on reading short stories after two paragraphs, but this one had me on till the end!!).
    Thanks for the link 🙂

  8. Your writing is very discriptive. And thanks to you, I am now sad. Good job and keep writing

  9. Katie Hamer says:

    I agree with all the comments posted above, and it’s a daunting task to add anything new!

    Your story is very powerful and memorable, very haunting.

    It reads very well as the retelling of a nightmare scenario: every parent’s worst nightmare. It fits this scenario well, in that parts of it are vivid and other parts are shadowy and unexplained.

    My favourite bit was the question and answer scenario in the middle of the story. The repetition of “how many times” demonstrates quite clearly a parent’s frustration about how to provide answers and also protect their child from harm.

    What occurred to me, is that it’s not as self-contained as short stories often are. I think there is scope to expand it, into a revenge plot, for instance.

    I agree with the comments about the build up of tension. The pace and the urgency to escape are very believable, as is the way the younger child relates to his older brother. Just the simplest baby word shows how much he looks up to his brother.

    It reads very well as an experimental piece of writing. I have to admit I do often struggle with short stories as they can be too formulaic. You’ve done well to grab my attention. Therefore 10 out of 10 😉

    • vozey says:

      Thank you for your extensive comment. I do agree, that this story does beg to be extended into a more full blown story. And I’m still debated on doing just that. But, even as a short story, it does say a little with very few words.

      Thanks for commenting and stopping by Katie!

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