A Girl Who Knows Her Rubies

By Donna L Greenwood

When the rubies come, mama tells her to sew them into her cloak, so others do not see their power. She wears her cloak to school even though mama warns her of the hyenas who prowl outside the gates looking for girls and their shiny jewels. She’s not afraid, she knows these streets well; she understands their steely greys and hard twisting ways. She walks past the graffiti-splattered half-houses and the spooling concrete giants, feeling the confidence of one who has only just discovered her rubies.

Lurking in the grim, granular morning is something with fur and teeth. It eyes her madly, drools and leaps in front of the girl who gleams with such obvious gems.

‘Let me walk you to school, cutie,’ says he.

‘Okay,’ says she and swishes her sparkle in front of his eyes.

The mist births more of these fang-toothed droolers, they slink in the fog, all cackle and gags, following the smell and the dazzle. The girl pays no attention, she is unafraid. She skips and trollops through the streets without a care.

‘Why don’t you jump in my car,’ says her companion, ‘We’ll get there quicker.’

‘Okay,’ says she and hops in his ride, not seeing the others already inside.

They drive away from the school to a place the girl does not recognise. It is a yard filled with rust and junk.

‘Why have you brought me here?’ she asks.

‘All the better to spend some time together,’ chuckles the hyena. His brothers are poised, ready to pounce. The girl smiles, ‘Good, I’m glad nobody can see us’ and jumps out of the car, laughing much louder than the hyenas.

They unfold their hairy legs and crawl out into the dusty yard, angry at the young girl’s insolence. They’ll teach her a lesson she’ll never forget. They form a snickering circle around her.

In the centre, the girl is still smiling. She twirls her red cloak and begins to spin. Around and around, she whirls, unfolding like a scarlet universe and one by one the rubies reveal themselves. They turn into a glorious, crimson liquid and gush from the girl. The sea of red pours into the eyes and ears of the monsters, clogs their nostrils and pulses into their throats until the red wet drenches their lungs and there is no more laughter.

The girl stops spinning and fastens up her cloak. She smiles and continues on her way to school. She hasn’t strayed too far from the path; she’ll soon find her way back. She skips along singing an old song about a bad wolf and doesn’t once look back at the pile of fluff and broken bones she’s left behind.

The Chattering

By Donna L Greenwood

Very honoured to have this short listed in the ‘Close But No Cigar’ category for Molotov Cocktail Magazine’s Shadow Award 2018.

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The Chattering

As the blissful unknowing rest weary, and sleep,

Dreaming of pointless and meaningless things,

From the edges of darkness, the Chattering creeps.

 

Shadowed and shapeless, it snickers and sneaks.

Into the minds of babies, it chatters and sings,

As the blissful unknowing rest weary, and sleep.

 

Its emptiness yawns, and milk-wet mothers weep

As their dreams unravel with the horrors it brings.

From the edges of darkness, the Chattering creeps.

 

It enters the innocent to sow what they’ll reap;

Nattering its promises of madness and sin,

As the blissful unknowing rest weary, and sleep.

 

The universe is pitiless; its secret it keeps,

But the abyss is opening; the end bell rings,

From the edges of darkness, the Chattering creeps.

 

The dark hallelujah of nothingness seeps

Into the splayed-out souls of the faithful and weak.

As the blissful unknowing rest weary, and sleep,

From the edges of darkness, the Chattering creeps.

We Are All Alone When The Dark Comes

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By D.L. Greenwood

In the dark it clicked. She knew from the sound it wasn’t human.  There was something insect-like about the way it skittered across the floor.  Sometimes it came so close to her that she could smell it.  It smelled like the drains when her mother needed to get a man round to fix them.  Mostly it kept its distance and just scuttled around the blackest corners of the dark which surrounded her.  She couldn’t find her feet or her fingers but she was free to walk around, avoiding the corners, of course.  She wasn’t frightened because most of the time she could hear the people talking and that made her feel safe.

There was a chink of light in her dark world and this also brought her comfort. The thing in the corner hated the light and so the girl huddled within this small bar of brightness, listening to the voices, smiling when she heard laughter, crying when the mood turned sorrowful.

She missed her mother’s face and sometimes tears would fall.  This excited the creature in the shadows and it would move closer to her, hissing and clicking and clattering.  One time, when her tears fell more heavily than usual, it came up close and she felt its hot and rotten breath upon her face.  And then with one spiteful hiss, it sliced her cheek with something sharp – A claw?  A talon?  Her blood had fallen as quickly as her tears.

She was lying within her small patch of light when she heard the voices talking once more.  Her mother was crying.  Yes, she was sure it was her mother.  She was pleading with someone,

“No, no, please, we need more time, we need more time.”

The girl frowned.  She had never been able to discern the words before.  Then a voice, male and authoritative,

“I’m sorry, Mrs Geddes, but we have done all we can.  Mary has been brain dead for some time now.  It is only the machine that is keeping her alive.”

The girl recalled that her name was Mary.  In the darkness, she heard the creature begin to stir.  From a distant world that was no longer her own, the sound of weeping was merging with the sound of a machine bleeping.

“Mary, my Mary!” howled the woman who was her mother.

And then the bleeping and the weeping stopped.

‘Mummy?’ whispered the girl in the silence, a solitary tear falling from her lash.

The light blinked out.

Behind her the thing in the dark grew large; the girl screwed up her eyes tightly and her face grew hard.  She wiped away her tears and turned to face her foe.  The darkness was her territory now, and she would fight for it.

 

The Innocent by Donna L Greenwood

People spoke of the witch in hurried whispers as though their words were spies all too willing to betray them.  Snatches of their gossip were woven into the wind and carelessly dropped by her ears. Of course, she paid them no heed because, but for want of a friend, the witch was happy.   The years had yawned a hole in her memory and she was no longer sure who she was but she knew that her cat’s name was Hecate and she remembered to water and feed her tomatoes most days.  Best of all, she still had one good eye with which to watch the rising of the sun each day.  She felt blessed and so the hard words of her neighbours did not take root in the softness of her heart.

One day, as often happens in these tales, a brave child walked past this garden that grew wild with tomatoes.  They looked so juicy and so ripe that the child could not help himself; he hopped over the fence and plucked one from its vine.

The witch was sitting on her porch when she spied the small child with her one working eye.  As quick as a snip-snap, she ran across her garden and yelled – for her ears were not what they used to be – Don’t eat the ones by the roadside, come and take one of the juicier ones further in.

Now this child had heard the tales carried by the wind and one look at this crooked crone with her sawn-up eye sent him running, all mouth and tears, to a neighbour’s house.  And the adults knew by his screams that there were far worse enemies of innocence than witches.

That night they came for her.  No mercy was shown.