My response to last Monday's flash image.
The Tale of Sandra McNeal
by: Dottie Taylor
word count: 1100
“Mer-rily we go a-long, go a-long, go a-long.” She skipped, her sing-song voice rang throughout the emptiness. It was always dark where she lived. “Mer-rily go a-long..all day lo-ong.” She danced, kicking up the forest ground cover, twirling, her short skirt flared out and twisted around her girlish thighs. Leaves drifted up and down like a small tornado of floating debris.
“Mer-rily we go a-long, all day lo-ong.” A shrill giggle fell from her pale cold lips. She tipped her head up, her short brunette curls floated around her face as she twirled, gazing into the foggy sky. It made her dizzy, it made her feel alive.
She used to be so different, before, back when she could leave the forest.
She glanced down at her bare ankles, bare legs, bare arms and then at the light brush of snow... at least she didn't feel the cold anymore. She was cold all the time, another giggle escaped her lips, and then another, until it sounded more like shrieks.
She wrapped her arms tight around her body, hugging herself, no one else could. She only got scared if she stopped to think about it for too long. No need to dwell on the past, it couldn't be undone.
Another giggle escaped her lips before she dashed across the forest.
A small family gather around the freshly turned mound of Earth. The woman wiped her eyes, bit her bottom lip, it quivered before fresh tears fell. They'd buried an empty coffin, after more a year of not knowing. Sandra's body had never been found, just the blood, so much blood. Police assured her, no one could survive.
Brian wrapped his arms around his mother's trembling shoulders, pressing his lips to her forehead.
“It'll be okay Mom.” He really didn't believe it, but he tried. “You'll see, one day, it'll won't hurt so bad.” She buried her face in his neck, and cried harder.
His father stood a short distance away. He was pale, sickly, Sandra's disappearance had been taken it's toll. He still didn't believe she was... he couldn't say it, she was only missing, she couldn't be.... No, it wasn't possible. This was only a signal, to follow, find her way home.
“Come on Mom, it's cold, lets go home.” Brian rubbed her arms, urged her to the car, but her feet were glued to the ground. “Mom,” he said softly, “come on, please.”
She glanced up at his turquoise eyes, and nodded her head. He shuffled her off to the car, and returned to the small site.
“Dad, we have to leave now. Mom's cold, so are you. Lets go.”
For a long moment, Brian wondered if his father heard him. He lifted his hand, but his father shrugged away.
“No, you go ahead, take your mother home.” He stared at the small grave without a body. “I'll be fine.” He gazed up at his son, “I'll be along.” He turned away to stare into the forest. They'd chosen this place to say goodbye because it was her favorite. He stared hard at the bare branches. Sometimes, if he tried really hard, he could still see her dancing through the leaves. He walked off, away from his son and the small stone, and into the hidden recesses, into the darkness of the leafless trees.
Brian watched his father go, thought about going after him, but instead he trudged back towards the car. It was going to be another long night. He didn't think it would ever end.
Sandra gazed longingly at her father as he made his way deeper into the forest. She missed all her family, even Brian and his smelly cat, Theo.
She walked beside her father, reached out to touch his arm, but her fingers slipped through his coat, flesh, and bone as if nothing was there. But, she knew it wasn't her father who wasn't there, it was her. She leaned in and whispered, “I miss you too Daddy, but you need to go home. Leave me to my forest.”
He stopped as if he heard her faint whisper, then something happened Sandra had never seen before, he started to cry. He fell to his knees. He begged. “Please come home Sandie, please come back to us.”
Sandra would if she could, she'd tried. She couldn't leave the forest. It was her home now. She was tied to it, to it and her killer. “Daddy, go home.” She whispered again.
Finally, her father stood and brushed his knees off. His pants were wetted with melted snow, his hands shook, he was sure it was from the cold. He'd leave, but tomorrow... he'd come back and start looking all over again. He gather himself, muttering as he left.
Sandra watched her father, wished he'd give up. They didn't need to find her body, didn't need to see what was left of her mortal remains. It was just bones now anyway. The huge hacking cuts were gone. The forest called her, and she forgot about her family, at least for now. Then, she grinned, and it split her face from ear to ear.
At least he'd never leave either. He'd hurt her, taken her from her family, and he'd paid. Her thoughts drifted deeper into the forest, to a place where few came, and fewer left.
“Mer-rily we go a-long, all day lo-ong.” She murmured the words to herself and she skipped her way back into the darkest part of the forest.
An old mausoleum rested in it's dark heart, and inside, he awaited for her return. Though, he'd never hurt anyone else... ever again. She'd made sure. She giggled again, more shrill than before. Her revenge was swift and just.
Locked doors no longer mattered, she slipped through the stone wall to find him patiently waiting for her. She rushed up to him, funny she could feel the hard press of his bones. His flesh, what was left of it, sagged loose, a fleshy ghost. He used to cry for release, when he still had a voice. She gazed up at his eye sockets that used to hold muddy brown eyes. He sat next to a coffin filled with forgotten bones, but he was forgotten now as well. No body searched for him, waited for him. No one cared. Except for her. She'd never let him leave.
Life and love, death and unending desire, two faces of the same coin, it only mattered which side the coin fell upon.
Rather dark, not at all what I had intended to write which was going to be a playful ghost story. Instead, murder, mayhem, death, and a haunting. Se la vie....
PS: Crescent Moon Press...ONE OF MY FAVORITE PUBLISHERS... is having a sale, and not only on their website, but through Amazon too. And it a great sale! Discounts on BOTH Kindle and Print editions (and the Kindle app for your computer is FREE!) So, hurry and order, then read! Some great stories being told......and it's only going to last until Halloween, October 31, 2011.....
Ciao! Have a great weekend!