The moon was shielded by a purple blanket of clouds that made the city walkers look like shadow ants scattering about on the hot sidewalk. I stood there absorbing the city as the warm rain fell on me and mixed with sweat until my clothing was drenched and my hair hung straight. A wind gust came from nothing, clearing the thick air and for a random moment, I could breathe deep. I was in my element—the dark element—that one hidden inside of me that rarely comes out to play, except in this place so alive with ghost stories and a breeding ground for dark tales.
I’ve always been a fan of Halloween and scary tales as well as steampunk, cyberpunk, and fantasy stories. I share here a short story I wrote over 10 years ago while on a business trip to New Orleans. I recently recovered it in one of my many journals. The Journal entry starts with the prologue above. Sounds like I was in a pretty dark mood that day.
The Stone Thrower
Fifteen-year-old Delia carries an apron filled with 15 stones across her backyard and into the place she calls her clubhouse. It’s nestled behind a Live Oak tree sprawling and fence falling, and all covered in kudzu so deep Delia must stay on her well-worn path. The clubhouse was built with strips of fir and knotted pine by her father before the demon creature took him—the one with the yellow eyes and foul breath. There were others—creatures of the world she could see and no one else could. She knew them and their desires for her.
If only her mother had not left for work that day leaving her alone. Her father was there, of course, he always was. He was never well enough to go to a job but he could build things of wood and assemble metal parts into glorious objects she could wear around her neck. And they would dance together—she and her father when her mother was out. He would make special treats for her, sweets for his little butterfly, he would say.
Don’t get too close, she tells anyone who comes. It’s not safe. Only I can invite you in. I am the queen now that my king is dead. The muffled sound of Delia’s mother is calling from somewhere, but Delia does not listen to her or anyone. Her mother’s voice sounds pinched and frightened, but Delia does not answer. She is arranging the stones on the ground outside the clubhouse as if it matters which one she will sling first.
Her mother is approaching stepping cautiously on Delia’s path and toward her clubhouse castle. The demon creature is with her and they whisper to each other, laughing and snickering. She can’t see them yet, but she takes aim and waits. It’s all her mother’s fault; she called her father lazy and facile. Facile? She didn’t know what that meant but she was sure it wasn’t good so she hated her mother for it anyway.
Her mother and the yellow-eyed creature approached. They walked together so close they seemed like one person. She thought she heard her mother whisper again. She thought she heard laughing.
Delia sits on a rock mostly hidden behind the kudzu, puts a stone in the sling, and takes focus of her line of sight. The stone flies true. If Delia knows one thing, she knows how to sling stones. She aims again and plucks the sling. Both stones hit her mother square in the forehead. Delia slings again and again until all the stones are gone and her mother falls.
Delia packs her red backpack and walks toward the street.
“Don’t look back,” Delia says to herself and smiles.
Behind her, laying on the wet path, Delia’s mother opens one eye—the only one not covered in blood. She feels her chest rise and fall. She hears the crickets chirp and the wind begins to sing in the oak.