This little story is part four of the continuing saga, The Last Grain of Sand, which I began via a prompt at Bluebell Books’ Short Story Slam several weeks ago. It, part two, Hope, and part three, Like a Fairytale, can be read by clicking on the links below. There are links to the other stories and this one in each story, so you won’t have to keep coming back to this page if you want to read them all. I’m sneaking this chapter in via Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday. Enjoy!
Then There Were Three
The cut on my knee was still stinging, but the bleeding had stopped. I was embarrassed at how I’d gotten the one inch gash; tripping over a vine in the patch of huge pumpkins. But, hey, I was scared; the man took off after the girl, and I panicked; he was the only person I’d seen for three days. What’s a ten-year old boy to do?
I ran behind them, as he chased the girl—boy, was she fast—and when she fell, I ducked into the trees and crept closer so I could hear what they were saying.
The man held her upper arm, as the girl—between gasps—said, “Please, don’t hurt me?”
He cocked his head to one side and said, “What? Why would I hurt you?”
The woman relaxed then, and I listened as they talked about what had happened. He told her about his family in Arizona, and his hopes they might be alive. She said her parents—she lived with them on the farm where the giant pumpkins were—had simply vanished, along with, seemingly, everyone in the surrounding area.
The same had happened at my grandparent’s farm. I got up one morning, ate some cereal while watching Gram cook Gramps’ breakfast, then walked down the short drive to wait for the school bus. The bus never came, and when I got back to the farmhouse, Gram and Gramps were gone. The fire under the eggs on the stove was out, but the eggs were still in the pan; toast was sticking up out of the toaster; an empty plate and cup full of coffee was on the table.
I wandered around looking for them for a while. I wasn’t scared; just confused. I was sitting on the, thinking maybe I was dreaming when the crunch of footsteps on the gravel drive startled me. I snapped my head around to look out the window, and through the sheer curtain I saw the man coming. My first thought was one of jubilation that I was not alone, but my next was one of cold fear. I dashed out the backdoor and hid in the barn, picking a spot in the loft where I could see the house and the road leading to it.
He cooked something on the grill, and the smell nearly overcame my fear, but I stayed put, eventually drifting into a deep sleep sometime after nightfall. When I woke up the next morning, sunlight was streaming through cracks in the barn siding, and I leapt to my feet. Everything came flooding back to my mind, and suddenly, fear of being alone topped my fear of the man, and I scrambled down the ladder and ran to the farmhouse. He was gone.
I burst out the door, cleared the steps with one leap, and ran down the driveway to the main road. I looked west and there in the distance I saw him walking away. Hugging the fence line, where trees and brush grew wild and tangled, I followed him.
As I watched him now, talking to the girl, I knew from the things he was saying to her that he wouldn’t harm me. As I moved out of the cover of the trees and walked toward them, I said, “Hello?”
Copyright © 2011 C. Mashburn
Part one: The Last Grain of Sand
Part two: Hope
Part three: Like a Fairy Tale
Part five: Cinnamon
Part seven: Dearest Wife
Part eight: Dearest John
Part nine: L. Angel
Part ten: The Books
Part eleven: Play Money