This is my contribution to the inaugural edition of Write … Edit … Publish.
For more information on this monthly challenge check out the tab at the top of the page, where you can find out more about the host and how to get involved.
My story for this months theme of Vacation is called …
‘Shhh, I’m trying to listen,’ said Ben, concentrating.
‘I’m trying, but I can’t get comfortable,’ whined Simon, shuffling in his sleeping bag. ‘Everywhere I lie there’s something in my back.’
‘Shhh!’ Ben insisted. ‘I’m sure they’re in there now, I heard the zip go.’
Simon held his breath, not wanting to give away any sound. All he could hear was the breeze against the trees, and the pull of the guy rope.
‘Can’t you hear them?’ whispered Ben.
Simon strained his ears and found he could make out voices. ‘I can just about hear,’ he replied. Sitting up he shifted over to his brother, and they both sat as close to the tent wall as they could to listen.
‘Have you enough there?’ came the woman’s voice.
‘Yes, thank you mother.’
‘Mother?’ asked Simon, ‘I thought she was on her own.’
‘She is,’ confirmed Ben, ‘but every night I’ve heard two voices coming from that tent.’
‘What? You mean she’s leaving him alone in there all day?’
‘Must be,’ nodded Ben.
As they sat listening, the two voices were drowned out as their parents returned chattering and laughing. There was no hope of hearing anything more after that so the boys gave up their eavesdropping and laid down for sleep.
The next morning it was Simon’s turn to fetch the milk from the little site shop. Barely awake he hadn’t registered the two grownups talking by the till until he was standing behind them waiting to pay.
‘So, Mary’s back again this year?’ said the lady with the newspaper in her hand.
‘She’s been coming every year since the accident,’ replied the shopkeeper.
‘I don’t know if I could face it myself,’ said the lady, ‘too many memories.’
‘Her husband refuses, so she just comes on her own.’
‘Excuse me,’ interrupted Simon, ‘are you talking about the lady in the red tent? I think she’s here with her son.’
The two looked at him kindly. ‘That can’t be Mary, dear,’ said the lady, ‘her son left this world six years ago.’
‘Yes,’ said the shopkeeper, ‘a boating accident out on the lake.’
‘Oh,’ was all Simon could manage. He left his money on the counter and headed back, looking at the red tent warily as he approached. As he got closer the zip came undone and Mary stepped out.
‘Good morning,’ she said, smiling at him. ‘What a beautiful day.’
‘Yes, it is,’ he replied, as politely as he could. As she pushed the tent flap open he caught a glimpse inside, and saw only a single sleeping bag on one side and a rucksack on the other.
He quickened his pace as he tried to process what he’d heard in the shop.
‘But he can’t be dead,’ Ben was saying, ‘we heard him. He’s been with her every night.’
‘All I know is what the man in the shop said,’ insisted Simon, ‘and I only saw one sleeping bag.’
‘Hmmm, some thing’s going on here. We need to find out where she’s going. She always starts talking when she comes back from her walk and the suns gone down. What can she be doing on her own at night?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Simon, worrying that one of Ben’s schemes was about to engulf them. ‘Maybe she’s just taking a walk.’
Simon had no answer for that and knew Ben had already concocted his plan. All he could do now was go along with it.
‘Sorted,’ said Ben, returning to the tent. ‘I’ve told mum you’re sick and that I’ll look after you while they enjoy themselves.’
It wasn’t a complete lie, at least, thought Simon. He did feel a little sick at the thought of running off into the woods.
‘Quick,’ said Ben, excitedly, ‘there she goes.’
They let her get a good distance ahead before following. She led them through the woods on the outskirts of the camp, and eventually came out on the edge of a large lake that shimmered under the moonlight.
The boys remained behind the trees as they watched her go to the waters edge. She ambled up and down by the shore for a while, the moonlight high in the night sky casting long shadows around them.
Finding a spot, Mary crouched down and extended her fingers into the water, dipping them in and out as though looking for something underneath. Finally she stopped searching and pushed her hand further into the water and then stayed still for so long they didn’t know whether or not to be concerned. Her lips began moving as she muttered to herself, getting faster and more frantic.
Suddenly she stopped and in one fluid motion she stood up. Holding onto her hand and emerging from the water they saw an arm appear along with her own hand. It carried on until a shoulder appeared, alongside a chest and drooping head.
She walked from the water until what they saw was the figure of a small child, dripping from head to foot. She was turning with him towards the trees to head back, but the boys had already bolted by the time she’d passed their hiding place.
Word count: 863
A detailed critique of this story would be most appreciated, as would a critique partner who reads and writes science fiction and fantasy, as well as a little bit of horror.